Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I didn't sign up for this!

Did Moses choose to be the leader of the Hebrews?

Yes he did. When he was 40 years old. Self confident. Brash. Pampered. The best education. The best food. The best military training. The best of everything.

He stepped in and single handedly was judge, jury and executioner. (Not that they had our system of justice back then!)

The result was that he was banished from the land - hunted and with a criminal record.

Did Moses choose to be the leader of the Hebrews?

No he did not! Now he is 80 years old. He has been gnawing on sheep leg for food, with the odd bit of desert thicket for greens. He has no visions of grandeur, no grand plan, no confidence in himself or his abilities.

God meets him, tells him he is to lead the people, and almost has to force him into the leadership role.

He has weathered the amazing journey out of slavery into freedom.

Now God directs him back into an isthmus where they camp. And Pharoah and all his army are fast approaching. And they have no escape.

Exodus 14

1 "Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: 2 “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. 3 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ 4 And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.[e] I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told.

The Egyptians Pursue Israel
5 When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. 6 So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. 7 He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, so he chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. 9 The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’”

13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

The people immediately turn on Moses.

I love his answer: Don't be afraid. God will come through.

Then this:

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?"

Moses had his game face on for the masses. Then he got on his knees and said, "God, help!"

If you have been in leadership, that is a sequence which is probably familiar to you!

And you might be saying to yourself, "I didn't sign up for this!!!"

God's Timing. God's Direction

God's Timing. God's Direction.

We need the latter. We chafe under the former.

We love God's promises. In the story today, the promise was given to Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob. The Hebrews were going to be a great nation. They were going to possess the land.

However, they did not realize that they would be in Egypt for 430 years. Most of that time as slaves.That even after Moses was born, he would live in the palace for 40 years - with them still as slaves. That even after his desire to engage in their deliverance kicked in, another 40 years would pass. With them still as slaves.

Today - another kicker.

17 "When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle."

So now they are free. Would it not seem appropriate to finally, Finally, FINALLY take them to the promised land?

Well - NO, as a matter of fact. They had been slaves, so they were tough. But they were not soldiers. God would take ANOTHER 40 years to get that thing going.

20 "The Israelites left Succoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the wilderness. 21 The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. 22 And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people."

This is great! God Almighty was going to personally, and directly, guide them. All they had to do was follow, and everything would go just great! (Well, not exactly)

Exodus 14
1 "Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: 2 “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. 3 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’ 4 And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you.[e] I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord!” So the Israelites camped there as they were told."

Here is where God's direction comes in. God purposefully directed them into harm's way! Did you get that? GOD PURPOSEFULLY DIRECTED THEM INTO HARMS WAY!

So, if you have been reading along with us, God's timing is way different than ours. And God's direction is based on His grand plan for the world. It often does not make sense to us.

However, it certainly does make for a grand adventure!!!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Remember

Remember.
The times when you cried out to God, and eventually He did provide a way.

Remember.
The great spiritual victories.

Remember.
The blessings. Your wedding day. The birth of your child. That encouragement. The time God spoke so clearly.

Remember.

50 "So all the people of Israel followed all the Lord’s commands to Moses and Aaron. 51 On that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt like an army.

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me.”


3 So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. (Remember, eat no food containing yeast.) 4 On this day in early spring, in the month of Abib,[a] you have been set free. 5 You must celebrate this event in this month each year after the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites, and Jebusites. (He swore to your ancestors that he would give you this land—a land flowing with milk and honey.) 6 For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast. Then on the seventh day, celebrate a feast to the Lord. 7 Eat bread without yeast during those seven days. In fact, there must be no yeast bread or any yeast at all found within the borders of your land during this time.

8 “On the seventh day you must explain to your children, ‘I am celebrating what the Lord did for me when I left Egypt.’ 9 This annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the Lord: ‘With a strong hand, the Lord rescued you from Egypt.’[b] 10 So observe the decree of this festival at the appointed time each year.

11 “This is what you must do when the Lord fulfills the promise he swore to you and to your ancestors. When he gives you the land where the Canaanites now live, 12 you must present all firstborn sons and firstborn male animals to the Lord, for they belong to him. 13 A firstborn donkey may be bought back from the Lord by presenting a lamb or young goat in its place. But if you do not buy it back, you must break its neck. However, you must buy back every firstborn son.

14 “And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery. 15 Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the Lord killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the Lord—except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’ 16 This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.”

Remember.

The Showdown

This is a power encounter!
A couple of nondescript desert sheep chasers -

Versus the mightiest empire the earth had ever known!

29 "Then Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt and called all the elders of Israel together. 30 Aaron told them everything the Lord had told Moses, and Moses performed the miraculous signs as they watched. 31 Then the people of Israel were convinced that the Lord had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.


Exodus 5
1 After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.”

2 “Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the Lord? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.”

3 But Aaron and Moses persisted. “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.”

4 Pharaoh replied, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! 5 Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.”

I am the ruler of the world.
You are distracting me, and my slaves.
I don't know your particular silly little god, and I don't care about him...
Out! Out! Out!
6 "That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: 7 “Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! 8 But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.’ 9 Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!”

10 So the slave drivers and foremen went out and told the people: “This is what Pharaoh says: I will not provide any more straw for you. 11 Go and get it yourselves. Find it wherever you can. But you must produce just as many bricks as before!” 12 So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt in search of stubble to use as straw.

13 Meanwhile, the Egyptian slave drivers continued to push hard. “Meet your daily quota of bricks, just as you did when we provided you with straw!” they demanded. 14 Then they whipped the Israelite foremen they had put in charge of the work crews. “Why haven’t you met your quotas either yesterday or today?” they demanded.

15 So the Israelite foremen went to Pharaoh and pleaded with him. “Please don’t treat your servants like this,” they begged. 16 “We are given no straw, but the slave drivers still demand, ‘Make bricks!’ We are being beaten, but it isn’t our fault! Your own people are to blame!”

17 But Pharaoh shouted, “You’re just lazy! Lazy! That’s why you’re saying, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifices to the Lord.’ 18 Now get back to work! No straw will be given to you, but you must still produce the full quota of bricks.”

We know the end of the story.

God brings Pharoah, and the mighty empire, to its knees.

They let the people go...

Does God care?


When we pray, does God answer?
When we suffer, does God care?

Age old questions, to be sure.
Today's story puts perspective to those two questions.

God promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would become a great nation and possess the land of Israel.

Moses is raised in Pharoah's court, hearing the stories of his parents God and the promises made. But his people are slaves.

He may have had some visions of being the leader of a great revolt. But he killed an Egyptian, and became a fugitive from the law.

He fled as far away as he could possibly go. Out of the country, across a barren desert, to the end of the earth (so to speak).

Forty years pass. Any dream he may have had to be the "great rescuer" had utterly died.

And his people still suffer. Still groan. Still are enslaved...

23 "Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act."

And with that little introduction, one of the most amazing stories in the history of the world begins to slowly unfold.

Exodus 3
1 "One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,[g] the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai,[h] the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

“Here I am!” Moses replied.

5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father[i]—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God."

This incident has nothing to do with a fireproof bush. It has to do with an almighty God. He is getting Moses' attention. Reminding him that He (God) is holy. All powerful. And that he interacts with mankind. In the middle of history...
7 "Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering.

8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.

9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”

God cares!

But of course, Moses is washed up. He is a criminal. A "has been". It's too late now...
11 "But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

Do you have a checkered past? Things you are not proud of? Reasons why you are sure God could never use you?

Moses, the murderer, the fugitive, the broken old man, the guy raising sheep in the heat, scrubbing about for a few morsels of twig to chew on...

Moses was going to be used by God to create the biggest upset in the history of the world!

Blood on his hands

Moses had a unique but idyllic childhood.
Raised as a son of Pharoah. But clearly taught by his Hebrew mother about God and the promises of God to make them a great nation.

However his compatriots - the Hebrews - were still slaves. They were terribly mistreated.

Moses must have grown up with terrible internal conflict. Enjoying the priviledges of the upper class. But feeling the suffering of the slaves in a way the others in Pharoahs household would never understand.

One day that internal conflict becomes external.

11 "Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

13 The next day, when Moses went out to visit his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight.

14 The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”

Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” 15 And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian."

Killing an Egyptian elite to defend a worthless Hebrew slave? Unthinkable.

Moses had committed an unpardonable act in the proud Egyptian culture. Not the murder. That was fine. The object of the murder - an Egyptian. That was not fine!

Now he was on the run. He was a fugitive from the law. A man with a terrible stain on his otherwise impeccable credentials. Where could he go to escape from the Egyptian police, army and spy network?

Far, far, away. That's where...

Government pays you to care for your child

Sounds like welfare does it not?
The government pays you to take care of your own child?

Except this plan is different. Your child is taken into the palace of the mightiest empire on earth and raised as a son of the ruler. You are paid as the nanny to watch him. Except you are the mom!

What a story!

"She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.

5 Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. 6 When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.

7 Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked.

8 “Yes, do!” the princess replied. So the girl went and called the baby’s mother.

9 “Take this baby and nurse him for me,” the princess told the baby’s mother. “I will pay you for your help.” So the woman took her baby home and nursed him.

10 Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses,[d] for she explained, “I lifted him out of the water.”

God can accomplish his purposes no matter what the circumstances!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oppression! Outrage!

Joseph becomes a ruler. Is used by God to rescue his entire family. He later passes from the scene.

The Israelites grow. A new Pharoah comes along who knows nothing about Joseph. His command is to kill all Hebrew boys.

6 "In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. 7 But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.


8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.[b]”

11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. 13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.

15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver.[c] If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.

18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”

19 “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”

20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”


In that context a baby is born. He is placed in a floating crib. Desperate, to be sure, but better than certain death.

If you know the story of Moses, you know that he was put into a waterproof basket and placed into the Nile river. Did you know that technically, his parents were following the letter of the law? That is, to chuck every Hebrew boy into the Nile river?

1 "About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him."

How could mom and dad know that THIS little baby was going to be famous? Was going to be the deliverer of his people? Never mind. He was their baby and they loved him with that intense love that God puts into the heart of every parent.

They "throw" him into the Nile river, in the reeds where he won't go out into the sea, and send big sister to watch out for him.

The story is dramatic. We will pick it up tomorrow.

Don't forget. These folks were slaves. Their life was very hard.

Then, as so often happens to the desperately poor and oppressed, they were ordered to do the unthinkable. Kill their own baby boy.

Yet God was with them. Does that give you hope? Encouragement?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

God's Blessing

"God bless you."

A very popular way to end a conversation, an email, a letter. It sort of identifies you as a believer and puts a smile in the other person's heart as you end your interaction. In Spanish, the word for "Good bye" is "Adios". Literally "To God", or "May you go with God."
So today I read the following.

2 "The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did"

Really?
2 "The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did"

Let's see. So far, Joseph was sold by his very own brothers into slavery. He goes to a foreign land and is marketed like a big slab of meat. Later in today's story he resists his master's wife's advances and for that he is punished. He is thrown into prison.

He is there for a long time. We know it is longer than 2 years.

So the American idea of  "The Lord was with me, so I succeed in everything I do", is quite different than that. I call it, "bigger and better, bigger and better." Sequentially better paying job, bigger car, bigger house, bigger retirement account, more comfortable lifestyle, more amazing vacations, until we die. THAT is the definition of

2 "The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did."

Ofttimes the Lord's blessing has nothing to do with our comfort or pleasure or financial success.

Ofttimes the Lord's blessing has to do with accomplishing His mission worldwide. God's plan for Joseph involved the saving of the Israelite race and the preserving of the godly lineage over the next generations...

Is God's blessing on your life?

One month vacation in Haiti, anyone?