Tag Archive: Moses

Stock photo. Pyrmids . Proverbs 3.3

This week, we look at Miriam (Moses’ sister)  in our Unsung Heroes of the Bible sermon series. Karen Kennedy, Director of Publicity and Promotion, shares her thoughts…

In Exodus, Miriam was first introduced—not by name, but by the description of “his sister.” As she watched her baby brother, Moses, float down the Nile, we gain glimpses into this courageous, resourceful and smart young girl.

Pretty impactful, first impressions, don’t you think?

In retrospect, we understand Miriam’s monumental role in God’s upper story because of whom she rescued. But there is a lot more to her life than this one-time deed. As I piece together the few references concerning this woman, I see a beautiful and quiet faithfulness emerge.

Faithfulness is more than a one-time action.  It is a minute-by-minute, day-by-day, year-by-year commitment to being loyal to a person or a cause.  It takes stamina, guts, and faith to remain faithful when every circumstance cries out, “Forget this person; time to pitch your tent somewhere else!”

I don’t see Miriam forsaking her brother.

For forty years, Moses lived in the palace while she lived in slave quarters.

For another forty years, Moses lived free in Midian while she suffered as a slave in Egypt.

Eighty years. Eighty years is a long time to build a case against this “fine” brother named Moses.

But it doesn’t appear Miriam harbored those thoughts because she quickly rallied behind Moses as he spoke God’s commands to Pharaoh for six months. When the unforgettable night came for Israel to leave Egypt amid the mourning cries of the Egyptians, Miriam was there. She was also there when they reached the impassable barrier of the Red Sea, walked on dry ground across the sea and saw walls of water swallow up the Egyptians.

Miriam, Moses’ sister, then became known as a “prophetess,” who led a group of women to direct their praise to the Lord.

“Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15:20-21

In those eighty years, she remained faithful. Personally, I know I would not have passed this 80-year test. In fact, sometimes I don’t pass the 80-second test. Hardships, temptations, resentments, you name it; I tend to turn to the left and to the right before I finally (and I mean finally) center on the One who faithfully opens His arms to me at every turn.

He is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4b

He is faithful. And I need to be faithful as well. It is a requirement.

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:2

How about you? Are you at an 80-second faithfulness level? 80-minutes? 80-days? Or are you on track for Miriam’s record? No matter where you are, would you please share some practical steps that help you stay faithful?

Photo credit: Stock photo: Pyramids


Looking Back at God’s Provision

Photo credit: Greenfleet Forester, May 2013

Have you ever noticed it’s sometimes difficult to see God’s provision until after the fact?

After we walk through the valley or make it to the other side of the land between, that’s when it’s easier to look back and see where God was at work. But while we’re in the exhausting day-to-day of the land between, it can be harder to see the ways God provides for us.

We know what we’re looking for. We already have in mind what we need or want God to do, and when we don’t see it, it’s easy to assume He’s not doing anything.

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. In that time, God supplied everything they needed. The obvious was food and water. They were looking for it, and they saw God provide it.

But I wonder if during those years anyone said, “Hey, have you noticed how long these sandals have lasted? And our clothes—seems like they should be worn out by now.”

God provided what they needed, whether they noticed it at the time or not. But as Moses prepared to die, he looked back over those years…

Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them:

Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet. You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 29:2-6

The Israelites weren’t getting it—all that time God took care of them. He wanted them to trust Him for everything and know that He would continue to provide.

Are we any different?

We get bogged down and miss seeing God’s ways, but when we look back, our vision of God’s provision is clearer. We’re able to see that God knew just what we needed, even when we didn’t.

The perfectly-timed phone call from a friend that turned a bad day around.

The utility bill we dreaded receiving, but turned out to be less than expected.

A good night’s sleep that enabled us to deal with the events of the next day.

The direction we needed and found in His Word.

It’s so important to look back at how God has provided because it allows us to see the full picture; where before we could only see one piece at a time.

Looking back strengthens our trust. We see how God provided then…and our trust that He will continue to take care of all of our needs grows stronger.

And the more we experience and know we can depend on Him, the more confident we are that God will provide…even when it’s not in the ways we’re looking for.

When you look back, is there a time in your life when you didn’t recognize God’s provision, but you see it now?


In Christ,
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

Emotional Meltdowns

The Land Between…life has been interrupted. What was normal is gone, and the future is unclear. Even in our grief, we must adjust to a time of transition and uncertainty.

We grieve over death, but we also experience sorrow and regret when there is a loss of a relationship (breakup or divorce), an unwanted change in lifestyle (loss of finances or home), or a change in family structure (child grows up and moves away).

Even when we know the change is coming, we grieve for the past. But there can also be regret over what might never be.

We may feel sadness or anger when what we hoped for in life doesn’t appear to be in God’s plans, and our dreams go unfulfilled…especially if we thought the dream was God’s plan.

Frustrated, discouraged, maybe even feeling lost in life, we have complaints and questions for God.

God, I thought this was Your plan for my life. Now what?!?

Really, God? One more thing?!? I can’t take any it more!

I’m barely staying afloat here, God. Where are You?!?

I miss ______. Why did You have to take ______ (him/her/it) away?

After a while, we are emotionally drained with nothing left to give.

Emotional meltdowns are not new to God. He knows there is only so much we can deal with—especially if we’re trying to cope all on our own.

Moses had reached his limit with leading the Israelites and listening to them complain against God over the manna He had provided.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:4-6

With nothing of himself left to give, Moses cried out to God.

He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors?Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.” Numbers 11:11-15

Don’t miss the difference in their complaints. The Israelites complained against God, discontent over what He had provided for them. While Moses, in distress, bared his heart and complained to God, in need of His comfort and help.

There is also a big difference in how God responded. The Israelites continued to make God angry with their complaints. But, for Moses, God responded by helping him.

The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you.  I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone. Numbers 11:16-17

God knew what Moses was capable of and how much he could handle. He didn’t get angry because Moses was worn out and emotionally exhausted. He had mercy on Moses and lifted a share of the burden.

He wants to do this for us, as well. He invites us to let the walls down and come to Him—with open, honest hearts and emotional meltdowns—where He will lift us up and give us rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

The invitation has been extended. How will you respond?


In Christ,
Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith

Chp 6- Wandering (Bible Study)

They traveled up from Mt. Sinai to Kadesh

The people don’t believe they can take out the giants so they wander

After the 40 years of wandering God leads them to the place where Moses will die

Chapter 6 Recap

Within days of receiving the Law, Israel began a downhill slide into all kinds of sin.  The golden calf and the accompanying immorality were just the beginning.  After spending a year at Mount Sinai, the cloud lifted and Israel began her journey toward the Promised Land.

From Kadesh Barnea, Moses sent out twelve leaders to spy out the land.  They returned with a negative report that spread fear throughout the populous.  Only Caleb and Joshua believed God’s promise to give them the land by overtaking their enemies.  God’s anger became a major motif in this chapter sparked by the sin and unbelief of His chosen people.  He punished Israel by confining them to the desert for 40 years until the unbelieving generation died out.  They would never enjoy the benefits of the Land.  Those 40 years were marked by cycles of sin and God’s anger.  We see that, from the Garden, sin leads to physical death.  Understanding the connection between sin and death helps us to understand the magnitude of Christ’s resurrection and the hope of our own.

After the old generation died in the desert, God and Moses began to prepare the new generation to enter and conquer the Land.  This new generation continued in the same cycles of sin as their fallen fathers including idolatry and immorality at Shittim.  Israelite men were indulging in immorality and Baal worship with Canaanite women.  But unlike his grandfather Aaron who willingly participated in the golden calf incident, Priest Phinehas was zealous for the LORD and put to death the idolaters.  Again, their sin was directly tied to the plague that killed 24,000.  This helps set the foundation to understand Moses’ farewell address to Israel.  We see from their example that being righteous under the Law was impossible.  This nation was far from holy.

Israel is God’s chosen nation by covenant.  They were chosen to be a blessing to all nations.  Moses had to remind the new generation of all that God had done for them since Abraham’s call.  After leading this people through the wilderness and investing his life in them, Moses imparted his God-inspired message:  Choose life.  They were to believe and obey God.  Belief and obedience carried with it covenantal benefits of prosperity and life in the Land.  Unbelief and covenantal disobedience carried with it the consequences of cursing and death.  Two choices, but only one leads to life.

There are three separate themes that run through the chapter this week. We will take each one separately. There is also some bonus material on Miriam at the end of the lesson.

Freedom vs. Familiarity

No less than six times in the chapter, the people pine for “the good old days” in Egypt:

a)      “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord” (p.57)

b)      “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost…” (p.58)

c)      “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” (p.58)

d)     “If only we had died in Egypt!” (p.61)

and 40 years later…(!)

e)      “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place?  It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates.  And there is no water to drink!”  (p.63)

f)       “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  There is no bread!  There is no water!  And we detest this miserable food!”  (p.65)

It’s always striking to watch how people cling to the familiar, however damaging and unhealthy, over freedom from that bondage.  A poorly fitting shoe, over time, conforms to the foot so that when you try on a properly fitting shoe, it feels foreign and out-of-place.  In fact, when given an opportunity to choose health or disease, the unhealthy is often chosen because it involves far less risk and engagement.  Why take a chance on a potentially positive relationship, when a poorer choice would remove any possibility of future disappointment?

Why do we naturally long for the things of the past instead of focusing on the future?

Satan convinces us that no matter how traumatic our wounds, the sting of an antiseptic is not worth the long-term effect; no matter how heavy our baggage, we dare not off-load it.  It’s the old devil-you-know ploy that traps people in a closed, spiraling loop of faithlessness.

Wandering was this chapter’s manifestation of God’s concession to their self-absorption.  A couple of practical applications:

Who among us has not experienced an “in-between” time of aimlessness and lack of direction?  Is it possible that unbelief in God’s grand Upper Story is the source of our wandering no less than it was for the Hebrews?

Ecclesiastes, the Gospels and Romans, to name a few, all deal with retreat to the comfortable yet unhealthy.  The Bible is full of examples of the cycle of deliverance and then relapse…victory followed by defeat…freedom overshadowed by recidivism.  How great the grace of God that His salvation is perpetual, enduring, and new every morning.  Aspects of these cyclical patterns, and the power of grace over them, can be much more deeply explored. What can you do to help remind yourself of his ever-present mercy?

Leadership Issues

The chapter illustrates not just the burdens of leadership, but its pitfalls:

  • Lesson #1:  Moses, predictably, gets fed up with the whining, fussing and griping of the people.  If this is my burden, just kill me, he says.  But Lesson #1 for leaders is that even when you reach exasperation trying to “herd cats on linoleum,” trust that a) God gets no less fed up but never fails to apply mercy, and b) he will often allow the consequences of the people’s misery to be visited upon them “until it comes out of their nostrils.”  Thus, they become their own punishment, so you, as a leader, can take that off your plate and focus on mercy.
  • Lesson #2: This leadership lesson is about leading in the role God gives you.  Aaron and Miriam were leaders, but did not have Moses’ mantle.  They begin to sound a lot like James, John and their mother in the NT:  “What about us??”  Lesson #2 on leadership is to bloom where God plants you.
  • Lesson #3: The same story contains the next lesson: let God do the defending.  Moses’ humility was the key, and as far as Scripture records, he let God do all the talking – in fact, p. 59 says after the Lord heard Miriam and Aaron, “at once” the Lord jumped in the fray.  We must focus on humility and leave the defense to God.
  • Lesson #4: The the conventional wisdom of a leadership community is frequently off base.  Of the twelve spies (a leader from each tribe), ten of them responded in fear, and only two in faith.  The “road less traveled” – an out-of-the-box approach – is especially applicable to those who have the responsibility of leading others.
  • Lesson #5:  If you’re in a leadership role, God’s expectations of you go way up.  You’d think Moses’ striking the rock instead of speaking to it could have been explained by exuberance and maybe a little grandstanding…but as the leader of the people, his example sent a message that no other person’s disobedience would – and so he lost the capstone of the journey: crossing the goal line.  In the NT, Jesus talks about servant leadership, and James warns teachers (influencers) as well about the gravity of authority.  As this story demonstrates, we dare not take it lightly.
  • Lesson #6: As a final tribute to his humility and leadership ability, Moses saw the absolute necessity of Succession Planning.  Real leaders never fail to equip their people to do without them, and so his prayer on p. 67 is especially poignant:  “May the Lord, The God of every human spirit, appoint someone over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”  He knew his work wasn’t completed without ensuring sound leadership for his flock after his departure, even in the face of his punishment.  No wonder God thought so much of him.

From the list of leadership lessons to learn from, which ones are the ones you want to never forget? Which ones do you struggle with? Which ones would you leave behind?

Parting Words

This can be the most personal part of the lesson.  If you were leaving a church or a company or a family for the last time, what would you say?  What words would you want echoing in their ears long after your departure?

Read Moses’ final speech to the people Deuteronomy 33

Moses’ final words were those of great encouragement:  the Lord is God and trustworthy; love him completely; teach your family to do the same; remember his chastening; and finally, in a very Messianic tone:  as you enter into the Promise, be of good cheer, for God has overcome already.  In John 17, just before Gethsemane, Jesus said basically the same thing.

What would be your closing statement or farewell address?

Words to Live By

Identify who said these words and when:

  • Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.—John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 20 Jan 1961
  • Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal.  Abe Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 19 Nov 1863
  • From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.  Sir Winston Churchill, Westminster College, Fulton, MO, 5 March 1946
  • I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.— Martin Luther King, 28 Aug 1963
  • Love always hurts.—Mother Teresa, Nat’l Prayer Breakfast, 4 Feb 1994

Few people’s words are truly, historically memorable.  Fewer yet affect true change in others.  From the 40 years that Moses led Israel in the desert, only his final speeches/sermons are recorded to live on in history, changing hearts as God’s inspired Word.

I.       Wrongdoings to die for

Israel spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness for their unbelief.  God told Israel to go into the Land that He would give them.  But they did not trust Him.

A. Israel grumbled about their hardships  ->  God’s anger burned.

B. Israel and the Egyptian rabble complained about the manna  ->  God’s anger burned.

C. Israel wanted meat so God gave them quail and a plague  ->  God’s anger burned.

D. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses  ->  God’s anger burned.

E. Israel’s leaders brought back a bad report from the Land and refused to enter as God instructed  ->  God’s anger burned.

– Because Israel refused to go into the Land that God had given them, He disciplined them with 40 years in the desert.  The unbelieving generation would die in the desert and never enjoy the benefits of the Land given to Israel by covenant.

– The new generation would be led into the land by Joshua and Caleb, the only two leaders that believed God was able to take the Land.

F. 40 years later, the new generation was repeating the sins of their fathers.

– They grumbled for lack of water.

– They grumbled for lack of food  ->  God sent snakes.

– They worshiped Baal and indulged in immorality  ->  God sent a plague.

II.    Words to live by

A. Moses had spent 40 years investing his life into the Israelites.  He had faced down Pharaoh and seen God face to face!  He listened to their grumblings with exasperation.  He watched the old generation die in the desert with grief and frustration.  His unchecked frustration resulted in God’s discipline so that even Moses would not be permitted to enter the Promised Land.  But Moses was a faithful leader to the end.

B. Moses had begun his ministry worried about his inability to speak well.  Through his 40 years of leadership, only his final three sermons are recorded in the Bible.  (These make up the Book of Deuteronomy.  In The Story they are summarized on pp. 68-70.)

C. Knowing that he would die soon, Moses must have had a heavy burden on his heart for these people.  He needed to impart wisdom and instruction to his children.  He needed to pass on to them their own history so that they could learn from their fathers’ mistakes.  Most of all, Moses desperately needed to convey to them the work of God on their behalf and encourage their appropriate responses of trust, love and obedience.

D. The message is summarized as follows:

– There is only one God, the LORD.  He loved you and redeemed you.  Therefore, believe and obey.

– Obedience from the heart will result in prosperity in the Land.

– Loving God results in obedience; obedience results in life.

– Turning away from God results in disobedience; disobedience results in death and you will not live in the Land.

– The LORD is your life–choose life!

III. Implications and Applications

A. I should learn from the Israelites’ examples and not grumble, commit idolatry or immorality.

B. God provides for my needs.  I should be thankful.

C. There are consequences for my choices of unbelief.  I choose wisely.

D. Sin leads to death, but Christ overcame death!  I should trust Him for my life.

E. Moses’ final words were God-inspired and important.  Therefore, I should listen carefully to the message.

F. There are still only two choices, but only one leads to life.

G. I choose life when I believe and obey God.

H. Obedience is an outward expression of an inward faith.  My motivation is from my heart that loves God.

My Words to Live By

With a small group, or with a partner, share what you might say if you knew this would be your final opportunity to speak with your family and friends.

  • What would be your message to your spouse?
  • To your children?

After you have done that, consider this:

  • If this is the most important message that you could pass on, are we communicating that message now in either word or deed?
  • How could your “words to live by” help guide your priorities in the present?

Bonus material if you want some more study on a character:

Chapter 6 of THE STORY reveals Miriam as a qualified leader whom God provided, along with Moses and Aaron, to deliver His people from bondage.  But God showed Miriam that he was deadly serious when he taught her a most important lesson about his leaders.  Their relationship with Him is what matters.

I. Miriam as a leader.

1.  What do these events from Miriam’s life reveal about the kind of person she was?

Exodus 2:4- She watched her baby brother in his basket in the Nile.

Exodus 2:7- She offered their own mother to Pharaoh’s daughter as a nurse.

Exodus 15:20- Miriam was called a prophetess.

Exodus 15:20, 21- All the women followed her with tambourines, dancing, and singing.

Numbers 12:1- Miriam led in speaking out against Moses.

Numbers 12:15-16- The Israelites waited for 7 days when Miriam was confined outside of camp.

Numbers 20:1- Her death is recorded.

Micah 6:4- Miriam is named with Moses and Aaron as leaders that God sent to the Israelites.

2. Word Study:

Exodus 2:4- The term “stood at a distance” implies taking a stand, or positioning oneself.  What would that imply about how the young girl, Miriam, watched her brother.

Exodus 15:20- The word prophetess in ancient literature refers to a woman.  It can mean a poetess, or an inspired woman.  How do we know that both things apply to Miriam?

Numbers 8- Levite refers to the descendants of Levi.  This tribe was assigned by God with the task of caring for all the duties of the Tabernacle.  As a descendant of Levi, what duties did Miriam perform that might correspond to the Tabernacle worship?

II. Miriam and Aaron criticize Moses.  Numbers 12

The opposition of Miriam and Aaron to Moses came at a difficult time in the life of the Israelite nation.  Chapter 6 of The Story relates the events from Numbers 11, just preceding the challenge to Moses’s authority. The constant complaints had angered God so much that he sent fire from heaven and consumed some who were positioned at the edges of the camp.  Only Moses’s prayer on their behalf saved the rest of them.  Next they drove Moses to distraction because they were hungry for meat.  God sent such a quantity of quail that measured three feet deep around them, and then he served a plague for dessert!  The truth is they had replaced the respect and honor that they’d had for God during the building of the tabernacle with disrespect and scorn.  Even with these images fresh in mind, Miriam and Aaron added to Moses’s burdens with their personal criticism.

What did Miriam and Aaron challenge? (v. 1)

What was the real reason for the opposition? (v. 2)

How did Moses react? (v. 3)

What did God do? (v. 4-5)

What was the consequence for Miriam? (v. 9-13)

What was the consequence for the Israelites? (v. 13-16)

The friendship between Moses and God was foreign to Miriam and Aaron.  They were uncomfortable with it. Describe this relationship from the following passages.

Exodus 33:17-23

Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:6-9

III. Leadership Challenge

Miriam and Aaron started their opposition with an excuse.  But the complaint reveals the real problem.

The Complaint:  Consider Miriam’s grievance in Numbers 12:2: “‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked.  ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’”

  • What do these words imply about how Miriam and Aaron had been used by God?
  • What do these words reflect about Miriam and Aaron’s attitude toward God?
  • What would it mean to you if you knew that God had spoken through you?
  • To what extent do we have the right to evaluate how God chooses to work with those who serve him as Lord and Master?

Both Miriam and Aaron had demonstrated great leadership.  They had also shown terrible lapses of judgment.  Moses too, had led well and he had made grave mistakes. Each one had an important role in God’s plan.  To our knowledge, God had not distinguished Miriam’s nor Aaron’s contribution as less meaningful than Moses’s.  But there was a difference.

Key Question for us:  In what areas are you prideful in your position rather than pleased to contribute in God’s Kingdom?

Be a blessing this week as you have been blessed!

What Is So Special About The Rock?

God’s people have been wandering in the desert for 40 years and they are pretty thirsty. So this is what God tells Moses to do, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water…” (Numbers 20:8). The instruction to “speak” to the rock is in contrast to 40 years earlier, when Moses followed God’s instruction to hit the rock – and water gushed out (Exodus 17:6).

This time, Moses is supposed to speak and yet he again hits the rock. Nothing happens, so Moses hits the rock a second time, and water comes out. God’s response, “Since you HIT the rock rather than speaking to it, you will not lead the people into the Land of Israel” (Numbers 20:11-12).

I don’t know about you, but I read this story and thought, here’s the mighty Moses, who confronted Pharaoh, arranged the Ten Plagues, split the Red Sea, brought the commandments down from Mount Sinai, and defended the people through the difficulties in the desert. Now he makes what seems like a tiny-tiny mistake and God takes away his dream of entering the promised land. The consequence doesn’t seem to match the crime.

Let’s think through this a little. The people were at the critical juncture of transitioning from desert life to a land that God had promised. At the rock, God’s instructions to Moses are carefully chosen to reflect this transition. Forty years earlier, when Moses was told to HIT the rock, the people had just come out of brutal slavery in Egypt – and “hitting” was a language they understood. But this time, Moses was called upon to lead a generation who’d grown up in freedom; a generation which required the softer approach of “speaking.” God can communicate with his people in different ways. It is amazing to the see the subtle difference over the 40 years of wandering.

God wanted it done a particular way because as we just saw it was a teaching moment. Moses didn’t think it was the way it should be done. He was angry with the people and struck it twice before we see the water flow. After the first hit God was still giving him some room for error. But then he swings again because he is trusts in his own ability. God needed someone at that time and place to listen and follow directions. Moses had lived a long life of disappointments and frustrations and was at a point that he trusted in own decision, before trusting in God.

How many times has God led you to a place and given you a direction, only to have you go and do it your own way? This is a trust issue. We have a hard time trusting that God’s plan will be the right one or in the right way. God will not lead us to a place only to let us down or abandon us. He gives us every reason to trust and yet we fall short.

It all goes back to the rock. The rock was the source of nourishment for the people. Even when Moses failed to do it right, God still provided them with the water they needed. In Moses farewell speech (Deut. 32) to the people he references the rock six times (someone never let it go). There are two kinds of rocks, one is God, and the other is false gods. Moses recalls the nourishment from the rock but people have abandoned that rock and leaned on another rock.

Fast forward to the New Testament when Paul is talking about Moses and the history of Israel.

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” 1 Cor. 10:3-4

Paul has a warning for the Corinth church. He says don’t end up like those people who ended up leaning on another rock. The Rock, Jesus Christ, is the salvation you need to lean upon. It is awesome how the Old Testament story gets tied into the New Testament church as we are united by the one Rock. Praise God!

What kind of rock do you like to run to for security? Which rock motivates you in life?

Chp 6- Wandering (4 Perspectives)

Perspective 1- Dan Petrak

Perspective 2- Barb Miles

Wandering … For so many years the Israelites wandered away from God’s promises, and at other times followed God’s promises. They seemed to complain to God through Moses more than they praised God!  How disappointing!

For God, He repeatedly provided them with food, land to live on, meat to eat, commandments for them to live by, but they could only be content for a short time.  Throughout these years, God was giving the Israelites a chance of having a relationship with Him.  That relationship mostly brought God’s anger down on them.  God was not playing out a game of chance with them, he was deliberately time after time giving them the chance to find Him.

Think about when we seek Him.  God has opened His heart for us to seek Him at any time.  Once we have done that, we must continue to seek Him through prayer, time spent in His word, and total commitment.  Praise God for His undeniable love!  No more wandering for me!

Perspective 3- Pastor Ron

Wow, did Moses have to put with a lot!  I know God had to show incredible mercy and compassion toward the Israelites, but he is after all……God!  Moses on the other hand is a mere man given the same weaknesses as any other person.  Each time that I read the story of the people wandering through the desert I cannot help but feel sorry for Moses.  It seems like every time he turns around the people are complaining.  We need water, we don’t like the Manna, we want meat, we don’t like the Manna, when will we get there, Benjamin is touching me, Judah just called us names…..okay I made the last couple up.  The truth is they were relentless and I cannot imagine the frustration level of Moses.  He has the loneliest and least appreciated job on the planet.

Yet, when God strikes his sister with leprosy because she and Aaron were complaining about Moses and questioning his authority what does Moses do?  He asked God to have mercy on her and heal her.  When God is ready to destroy the whole nation and start over with Moses what does Moses do?  He begs God to forgive them and He does.  Time after time Moses goes to bat for the people and all he gets in return is grumbling and complaining.  Is it any wonder that at the end of his life it is recorded; “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt…” (Deuteronomy 34:10-11)

Indeed no ordinary prophet was like Moses, but there was the one who was prophet, priest, and king.  Jesus who as they nailed him to a cross asked His Father to forgive them.  Jesus who took on the sins, complaints, and grumbling of me and you.

Moses put up with a lot – Jesus puts up with even more, yet he has a never-ending love for you and me.

Perspective 4- Karen Kennedy

This was a challenging chapter to read. I keep on thinking that I must be missing something. It’s brutal to see the reality of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.  It saddens me and then caused lots of questions to surface.

Nothing was making sense until I read Moses’ farewell speech in Deuteronomy and then most of my anguish left as I read these words:

“You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth.” (Deuteronomy 32:18)

So, the wilderness experience was mostly due to their neglect and disobedience to God. Duh, no wonder it was painful to read about. Sin is ferocious and should cause me to cringe.

Then after this realization, a sweet insight followed: God is and will always be on the throne whether they (or I) acknowledge him or not.  He is and will always be.

“There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heaven to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor. The eternal God is your refuge and his everlasting arms are under you.”

“How bless you are, O Israel! Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is your protecting shield and your triumphant sword!” (Deuteronomy 34:26-27 and 29)

And to think, this powerful God, who could have dwelt anywhere, decided to dwell among his people as a Father, a protector, a refugee and with Moses, as a friend.

And despite all of Israelites unfaithfulness during the 40 years, God’s faithfulness comes shining through in Moses’ last words.  And for me, I rejoiced that God got the last words in this section!

Recap of chapter 5 (Spoiler alert if you have not read the chapter yet)

The journey had begun. And, like all journeys, there is a “from” and a “to”.  God saved Israel from slavery, and He saved them to become a holy nation – set apart for His purposes.  Israel was to be different from the pagan nations surrounding them; they were called to honor God and to point others to this LORD.  Just weeks after the exodus, God inaugurated a new covenant with Israel that, if obeyed, would shape them into the holy nation that He intended them to be.

God had worked through Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and now they were assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai in the desert wilderness.  A holy God requires a holy people, so they were to consecrate themselves (p. 47) to prepare to meet with Him.  When God’s presence filled the top of Mount Sinai with thunder and fire the people were terrified.  They were invited to a direct relationship with the LORD, but opted for Moses to act as an intermediary on their behalf.  Moses met with God on the mountain and received the Ten Commandments written on tablets of stone.  These commands and ordinances revealed God’s expectations for His covenant people.  This covenant was sealed with blood and ratified by Israel’s full commitment to obey.

That commitment, however, did not have the spiritual character to back it up.    Just days after Israel agreed to obey God’s laws, they were up to their earrings in idolatry and then some.  While Moses was on the mountain with God, the people traded their golden opportunity for a golden calf.  When Moses caught sight of their depravity, he shattered the tablets and took immediate action.  He assembled the faithful and put to death the corrupt.  Sin, as always, was pricey, painful, and never worth the cost.

When God proposed to send Israel on to Canaan without Him, Moses prayed for God’s presence to remain.  God graciously agreed and promised He would remain with Israel, in the form of a cloud over the Tabernacle.  God then graciously answered another prayer of Moses to “Show me Your glory.” (p.54)  God  passed before him allowing Moses to only see His back because “my face must not be seen.”  What an expression of God’s compassion and grace!  After spending forty days with the LORD on Mount Sinai, Moses came down with two new tablets of the covenant law.  Moses’ face was so radiant after time with God that he had to be veiled because the people were afraid.

God’s grace compels a devotion to Him alone.  He is a jealous God for our benefit; all other gods lead to sin and death.  His people are free – not to act anyway they want, but free to become who He created them to be – holy, different, and designed to point the world to him.  God didn’t just redeem Israel from slavery; He redeemed them for holiness.  Their freedom did indeed carry a purpose.

Focus of this study

The study for this week will focus on two main lesson points: Point 1:  The focus is on the pattern of sin and the presence of God.  God’s visible presence as the Shekinah glory was extremely important to Israel.  It represented His favor upon them.  It was visible in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  Though the editors of “The Story” only touched on the tabernacle in this chapter, His visible presence in the tabernacle was equally significant.  In the Garden, God dwelt with Adam.  After sin in the Old Testament, God dwells above the people.  In the New Testament, God dwells in the people.  When Christ returns, God will again dwell with the people and the pattern of sin and restoration will be no more!

Point 2:  The focus is on the relationship between the Old Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant.  Many Christians find the relationship between the covenants confusing so this will attempt to briefly clarify them.  The New Testament sheds light on the Mosaic covenant so this lesson uses New Testament cross references.

The Pattern and God’s Presence

God has certainly been at work.  Over the last few centuries, he has identified and cultivated a nation for himself – a people singled out not just to receive special blessings as God’s chosen, but charged to be a blessing in return.

Through a series of dysfunctional families, inter-generational battles, years of famine, and now foreign captivity, God has proven faithful to preserve his people and keep his promises.  After their deliverance from bondage, they are ready to receive the precepts of this sovereign God, showing how they will distinguish themselves among all the people of the earth.

But a pattern, or cycle, begins to emerge; one that will be seen over and over again throughout their history:

SIN.  No sooner has God given these ordinances to his chosen, than their patience wears thin and they fall into disobedience, starting at the very top of the Ten Commandments and flaunting rule #1:  “You shall have no other gods before me.”  They choose an artificial image of their own making over God.  The cycle begins as sin rears its head; and as we see through the present day, nothing really changes.  Through the ages, we have built deities of affluence, power, adulation, busyness, and addiction.  As much as the Israelites wanted freedom, they wanted familiarity more.  Such is the nature of the gravitational force of sin.

INTERCESSION.  Moses, as a very clear forerunner of Christ, was the intermediary that brought the will of God down from Sinai (after 40 days alone with God – sound familiar?)  After their disobedience, he again fills this ambassadorial role by passionately interceding for Israel.  Moses reminds God of his oaths, and then after destroying the golden calf, goes back to the Lord and, in another messianic act, intercedes again by offering himself to be “blotted out of the book you have written.”

PRESENCE.  Once intercession is made, and God’s anger at the idolatry subsides, he gives his people the most valuable gift he could possibly give:  his presence.  This becomes the third element of the repeating cycle throughout the Bible.  A tent of meeting, or Tabernacle, is constructed where the Lord would be seen and heard.  Thus inaugurates the post-intercession promise of God:  “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  This is echoed again in Matthew’s account, where Jesus invites all into his presence, “and I will give you rest.”  Immanuel, God with us.

Just as the tent of meeting ushers in the actual presence of God among his people, we begin to see a permanent, eternal template being established that points clearly 1,500 years hence:  the problem of sin, an Intercessor who, with a radiant face on a mountain, descends to usher in not a set of laws but a Kingdom of grace, by taking the people’s sins himself.

And as Moses the Intercessor led the people through their wanderings until they reached home, so our Intercessor today does the same through Holy Spirit to live in us.  And so, the Tent of Meeting is transformed:  it is no longer a crafted edifice made with hands, but something much more: by the Holy Spirit’s residence, we are now the Tent of Meeting – God living in, and talking to, us.  The cloud has become a voice within, so that “your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”  (Isa. 30.21)

Such is the great grace of the Almighty:  a God who doesn’t just hand down edicts, but extends his own hand.  Because it’s not just about restrictions; it’s about redemption.

What do the Ten Commandments reveal about the nature of God and his desire to have a relationship with us?

What does it mean that God is holy? What are the implications of God’s holiness as we seek him?

Moses said, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” How does the fear of God restrain sin?

After a while in the same cycle of sin, intercession, presence you would think the people would learn. Why do you think this cycle continued for so long in these people? Does this same cycle occur in the lives of people today? What is the same and what is different? 

After punishing the Israelites for the golden calf, Moses immediately sought reconciliation with God. How should believers today hold one another accountable? How can we do this gracefully?

If we see God as a cosmic killjoy (Giving the commandments) just waiting for people to do something wrong so he can catch and punish them, how will this impact our relationship with him?

The Old Covenant and the New Covenant

The people of Israel had spent 400 years immersed in the pagan culture of Egypt.  Now they had been redeemed to become the shining nation of God.  On Mount Horeb or Mount Sinai, God gave Moses the ordinances and commands that would identify them as God’s unique people.  These would help them to recognize the absolute holiness of God and their need for a Savior as sinners.

I.       The Purpose of the Old Covenant

A. The Old Covenant is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments.

B. The purpose–to reveal sin.  The New Testaments gives us important insight into its purpose.

– The Law teaches us what sin is.  “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”  (Rom. 3:20b)  The Law reveals   sin because it reveals God’s holiness and our inability to be holy apart from grace.

– The Law served as a tutor to lead people to Christ.  (Gal. 3:24)  It was external—written on stone.

– Gal. 3—Paul’s point in Galatians 3 is to demonstrate that salvation has always been by faith.  He uses Abraham’s faith to make his point.  Abraham was justified by faith 430 years before Moses received the Law.  Therefore, the Law was not a means for salvation but rather a tutor to further show our need for a Savior.  By trusting in Christ’s righteousness rather than one’s own ability to be righteous by keeping every Law, believers are justified by faith.

– The annual sacrifices reminded them of their sins.  Their sin was always there.  Those sacrifices did not take away their sins. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.  For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeatedly endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.  If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?  For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.  But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb 10:1-4)

C. The problem—people could not keep the Law

– The problem was not the Law.  The problem was with the people.  They couldn’t and wouldn’t keep the Law.  “For finding fault with the people, He says, … ‘Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; For they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.”  (Heb. 8:8a, 9)

What is the role of the law? How have you viewed the law differently in the past?

What was the role of the 10 commandments for the Israelites? Do they play the same role in our lives today? Why or why not?

How can the 10 commandments be used if we know we can’t follow them perfectly?

II.    The Promise of a New Covenant to Come

A. When God sent Israel into captivity for their continued sin, He gave them the hope of a New Covenant to come.   God communicated this through both prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel in about 584 BC.

B. In Jer. 31:31-34, God promises a new covenant to Israel and Judah that will be different from the covenant at Sinai that they broke.  In this new covenant, God will:
– Write the Law on their hearts within them;
– Forgive their sin and remember their sin no more;
– God will put His Spirit within them which will cause them to obey (adds Ezek. 36:27)

C. What hope God graciously offered Israel through the promise of a New Covenant to come!

III. The Preeminence of the New Covenant

The author of Hebrews (who authored this book after Christ’s life) makes the case that the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant for several reasons.  He quotes Jeremiah’s promise of a new covenant to support His argument that the New Covenant in Christ is not a surprise, but rather another piece of God’s redemptive, well-planned puzzle.  (Heb. 8:6-13; 10:1-18)

  1. The New Covenant is based on better promises listed in Jer. 31.
  2. This covenant takes away sin because Christ is a better sacrifice.
  3. This covenant gives the indwelling Holy Spirit so that worshipers can obey God.
  4. All will know the Lord.

God showed his love for people and his desire to connect the Upper and Lower Story by moving into their neighborhood. He settled in, right in their midst. God is still seeking to connect with us on a deeply personal level. What are ways you experience the presence and care of God breaking into your daily life? 

IV. Applications and Implications

  1. Because I am a partaker in the New Covenant, I am now free to obey God.
  2. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, I can come boldly to God.
  3. I can trust Jesus’ blood to forgive all my sins—past, present and future.
  4. I have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guarantee my full future redemption.
  5. I can trust God more because of His great plan.  Nothing is an after-thought.
  6. Although His Spirit now in me prompts me to obey God, my “flesh” or my “sin nature” still exists.
  7. I am holy because Jesus’ righteousness has been given to me, not because of anything I have done or can do.

God describes himself as compassionate, slow to anger, gracious and abounding in loving-kindness. Where do you see these qualities in the new covenant and the old covenant?

God is compassionate, What does that mean? Does he call us to the same compassion for one another? How can we show that to others?

The Sub-cultural Re-write of the Ten Commandments

God is gracious enough to communicate with His people in language that we understand.  This is a fun little activity to think about communicating to different groups of people. For this activity I want you to think through the meaning behind each of the Ten Commandments and to communicate it to another group in their “language.”   I want to challenge you to choose a sub-culture from the list and re-write the Ten Commandments in such a way that group would understand.  Then share with the rest of us.  If the sub-group you were thinking about is not on the list please tell us which sub-group you choose. Below is an example (commonly found on quilting and cross-stitching patterns) of the Country Ten Commandments, and some subculture possibilities.  Have some fun!

Country Ten Commandments                                        Possible Subcultures to focus on

Only One God                                                                                                   Harley Riders

No Idols                                                                                                              Marines

Ya’ll don’t cuss                                                                                                 Cyclones

Go to Sunday meetin’                                                                                    Hawkeyes

Honor Ma and Pa                                                                                             Pre-schoolers

Do not kill                                                                                                            Surfers

Adultery Forbidden                                                                                        Teens

Must Not Steal                                                                                                   Artists (no words)

Mustn’t Fib or Gossip                                                                                      Nascar Fans

Don’t Hanker for Friends Things                                                                Quilter’s/Scrap-Bookers

Questions to consider during the week:

1. Israel’s complaining is a reminder of how easy it is to become ungrateful. List five things you are grateful for.  How does gratitude change you perspective?

2. Moses charged Israel to keep God’s commandments and diligently teach them to their children?  How can you, whether as a parent, or a member of your church community, pass on God’s commandments to the next generation?

3. As God has blessed you, how can you be a blessing to the people around you? Start with your family and move out from there, by thinking of concrete ways to show care and concern for your neighbors.

Let me know your thoughts. Do you have questions about something in the chapter that was not covered here?

Have a great week!

“The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD.” Exodus 19:8

Can you imagine telling God that you are willing and ready to do everything he has commanded…and say it with a straight face?

The Israelites are free from Egyptian rule, free from slavery, and free from brutality. They left Egypt and have been out in the desert for weeks. The people are tired, thirsty and hungry. They start to wonder if God brought them out to the desert to kill them. Then they start longing for home…not the home God is leading them to, but their homes back in Egypt. They would rather return to a place of slavery and brutality because it is what they know versus staying in the desert with an unknown future ahead. They would rather trust in their slave masters than trust in God who delivered them. Sounds like a sad place to be.

Finally we come to the base of Mt. Sinai as Moses goes up to talk with God. Moses comes to the elders and the people and reminds them of what God has done for them. He tells them all that the Lord had commanded. Instead of taking time to think over the proposal and think about the cost of their decision, they jump right in and say they are going to do everything that God has commanded. Huh?

The question is, can we trust these people? They only stopped grumbling for a moment after being freed from slavery, how long will this relationship last? Let-down after let-down God still chooses this people because of his Upper Story. In the lower story we see whiners and complainers, but God sees a people who will be used to proclaim his message to all nations, a people who will eventually bring forth his Son.

I learn a lot about myself from these people in the lower story. I think how easy it would be to long for the security of what is known, instead of listening to the call into the unknown. How easy it is to trust in my own ways and means instead of the plans that God has for me. I even think about the life of sin that was formally my master. When sin was my master, I indulged every temptation. It was a life that looked like ease, but in reality it was a life being ruined by sin.

Christ has freed us from the chains of slavery. He has set us free, so why would we ever long to return to it. But the reality of this is that we are a people no different from the Israelites. It is a different time and a different setting, but we continue in the same pattern. We have moments of pure clarity where following God is the only thing we want to do and will whole heartily say I will do everything…but we have moments that following God is the furthest from our minds. How do we get to that place?

We have a God that even when we turn our back, he never will. No matter how many times we turn away, he will continue to pursue us. God has been reckless with his grace. Time and again in the scriptures, God shows his reckless grace for all of his people, even those that were enemies of God’s people. It’s amazing that God takes us back…but that’s why grace is so amazing!

Be blessed today as you are a blessing to others!

Perspective 1- Barb Miles

I seem to be impatient with Chapter 5.  It didn’t take long for the Israelites to lose their faith in God.  They wanted their lives to move faster.  Why was God willing to give them chance after chance?  Exodus 32:7

Aaron excused their behavior, collected their gold items and created a false god.  Moses was on the mountain at this time for forty days and nights.  Why did Aaron do that?  Exodus 32:22-26

They were struck down with a plague because of the gold calf Aaron had made.  Exodus 32:35  Were plagues a form of correction, like if they would not listen to God, then the outcome was assumed to be a plague?  So did the Israelites think about that before they gave up on Moses?

Perspective 2- Pastor Ron

“…then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  (Exodus 19:5b-6)

Theses words from God that Moses is to say to the people really jumped out at me when I read the fifth chapter of The Story.  Just let them sink in for a minute……treasured possession……..the whole earth is mine, you will be for me.   It is hard to imagine the impact those words would have on the people if they truly understood them, if they would focus on God instead of themselves.  God has singled them out from all of creation, from all of the other nations, in spite of their continued sinfulness.  Yet, when you continue to read the story you get the impression that either they have short memories or they didn’t get it in the first place.  Moses is taking too long on the mountain so they take matters into their own hands and have Aaron cast a golden calf, a god they can see and touch.  A god that will give them what they want, a quick fix to a complicated situation.  It almost seems unreal to me that they could do such a thing.  Then of course, I think of myself.  Did not God say to me; “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Those are pretty powerful words as well.  The God of the universe would give up his one and only son for me.  He was willing to do that, then certainly everything else in life will fall into place according to his plan.  Ahhh, but not quite fast enough for me sometimes.  So I take matters into my own hands, come up with my own solutions, and now I wonder…have I constructed my own gods?

The take away for me as a first impression of the chapter is that I want to keep my eyes and ears open to the love and grace that God exhibits in my life.  To be constantly aware that He wants to have community with me and that He has a plan for me in the same way he had a plan for the Israelites.

Perspective 3- Dan Petrak

Perspective 4- Jade Miller

In Chapter 5 of The Story, God showed his incredible patience with His people. The Israelites broke His laws several times not long after He freed them from Egypt. At first, the Israelites agreed to consecrate themselves at the base of the mountain for God’s coming. When God came, they were filled with wonder and followed Moses’ rules for a little while. However, once Moses went up on Mount Sinai to speak with God, the wonder the Israelites experienced soon wore off, and they had Aaron build a golden calf for them to worship.

God is still incredibly patient with all of us today.  I sin so many times that I lose count, and sometimes I sin even without realizing it. God knows that I can never be perfect, and He is always willing to forgive me when I apologize. I want God’s forgiveness to help me remember to forgive others when they hurt me. God said “I am holy, therefore you are to be holy” (pg. 70). I’m always amazed by God’s outpouring of love, and I want to be as loving as He is.

Chp 4- Deliverance (Bible Study)

I don’t know about you but I have a ton of questions about this whole Israelite situation. Why would God promise Israel a land only to take them to Egypt?  Why would God allow this covenant community to become brutally enslaved to a pagan world superpower? Why make them go through all of this, plus 400 years, to get back to the same land they inhabited before Israel (Jacob) went down to Egypt to be with Joseph? I am sure there are many more questions…but we’ll get to those as we go. One thing is for sure you don’t want to miss this part of the story. This epic adventure stands out as the central story of the Old Testament. Missing it would be like trying to make sense of The Wizard of Oz without the yellow brick road. So get some courage, brains, heart and whatever else, as we journey through the Exodus story.

A lot has happened since Joseph was second in charge of the land of Egypt. It seems as though there is a new ruler in town many, many years later that has no clue who Joseph is or what he did for Egypt. All we know is that the Egyptians are afraid of the Israelites because they have grown to a number that far surpasses their own. Instead of coming to a peaceful agreement on living terms Egypt thought it would be better to enslave them and treat them harshly so they would feel broken and dejected. This is the state in which we find the people of Israel in the book of Exodus.

Read Exodus 1:8-22 to get a good idea on what the situation was like and how the Egyptians wanted to handle it.

People often react out of fear when there is an unknown. What reaction was set in motion because of Egypt’s decisions? Is there a time in your life when you reacted out of fear and later learned that it wasn’t the best way? What did you do?

At a stroke all the Israelites’ privileges vanished, but it was harder for them than for the mass of the Egyptians, for they had been accustomed to privilege for a couple of hundred years. It is always harder for the one who loses privilege, rank and freedom than for the one who never had them. At first, however, the shock of loss and their resentment prevented the Israelites acquiescing in their new condition, which in their fellow-serfs had led to early physical collapse and death. It was probably this that gave the impression of rapid increase of population.

Then steps in God…

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” Exodus 2:23-25

God heard the cry of his people and did something about it. We hear about a lower story plan that has upper story implications.

Read Exodus 2:1-10

It always amazes me that God would hear the cry of these people in Egypt. What made them so special that the God of all creation would hear them? We are only one book away from reading about God creating everything. We know our universe is big, but when we think of other universes it boggles my mind to think that God created all of this and yet still hears the voice of his people. I am amazed and humbled daily by the thought of this.

I am sure that some might have thought it was 430 years too late, yet God’s plan for deliverance was right on schedule. His servant Moses was born during the rule of a tyrannical Pharaoh whose infanticide program was aimed at annihilating the nation of Israel, or at best keeping them small.  Ironically, baby Moses was delivered from danger when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him from the Nile, she hired his mother to nurse him, and raised him as a royal son.

Moses grew up in the palace but always knew he’d been born a slave. Feeling sympathetic to the plight of his people, he killed an Egyptian task master and was forced to flee.

What connection did Moses have with those people? Why would he feel the need to stand up and defend them? His family had him back only while he was nursing, was that enough time to instill in him a deep sense of connection?

As a member of the royal family, why did Moses run? Could he not find a way out of this problem?

Moses became a refugee in the far off land of Midian where he married and began tending his father-in-law’s flocks. Moses spent the next 40 years hiding from Pharaoh and like the Hebrew people, assumed this would be the way he’d spend the rest of his days.

Then he met up with a burning bush. God spoke from the bush and commissioned Moses as Israel’s deliverer. Not a bad promotion for an 80-year-old man with only “ex-prince” and “shepherd” listed on his resume. God revealed Himself to Moses as I AM, the covenant-keeping Redeemer of His people. Moses doubted his own qualifications and abilities, but God responded with the guarantee of His presence.

Read Exodus 3:13-14

Why does Moses want to know the name of God? Because that is what the Egyptians did with their gods. Once you had a name you could create a story with background information. This was important because once you had their story you could have a sense of control over that god. You knew what you needed to do to please that god. Once they were pleased you could get what you wanted out of them.

Now think about that as you re-read the story again. Moses says to God, “Tell me your name, so the people will know who is sending me.” Translate that to, tell me your name so that I can have a sense of who you are so that I can give you a story and background and have a sense of power. God says, “I am who I am” or better translated from the Hebrew “I will be who I will be.” God is telling Moses that he will not allow him to define him, predict him or have any power over him. God will be God with or without Moses. So tell the people I am has sent you.  God is showing himself to be in charge.

What does I am mean to you? What does that say about God and his character?

Moses returned to Egypt with the promise of God and the support of his brother Aaron.

This Lower Story is best understood through the Upper Story of God’s unique power to redeem.  He allowed Israel to be stripped of any reliance upon human strength to show a helpless Israel that He could be trusted to save them from any earthly or “heavenly” power. Their redemption would come by God’s mighty hand and their faith response to His revelation.  God showed Israel that His covenant with Abraham was still in effect.  Therefore, He cursed the Egyptians who had been cursing Israel.  But with every judgment of God comes a way of escape for those who believe.  The blood of the Passover lamb would protect believers from the judgment of God.  The two main events of the whole Bible are the Exodus and the Christ.  The importance of either should not be underestimated.  The first event points directly to the second.

Throughout Chapter 4, some key repeated phrases stand out.  God said repeatedly that His actions were so that “they may know that I am the LORD.”

How often is your goal to make sure people know your name, your work, your deeds? God repeatedly wants his name known, what do we do to make God’s name known? 

Israel was to see God’s mighty deliverance so that in the future they could trust Him to deliver from any circumstance.  If God could smite Egypt, then there would be no enemy that could threaten Israel.  God graciously revealed Himself to Egypt as the One True God with each plague.  These were not random plagues. Each one specifically targeted an Egyptian god, and Pharaoh who was thought to be on his way to becoming deity. Thus, the God of Israel is the only God to know and fear. The LORD’s power over their Egyptian gods had shown them that He was worth following.  These ten object lessons could also remind Israel that there is no other god and no earthly power that could oppose the LORD successfully.  God alone delivers. As expected, Moses’ demands of freeing the Hebrews were met with Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal.  So God sent a series of plagues and a cycle of challenge began: The plague strikes; Pharaoh relents; the plague stops; Pharaoh recants.

I have always found it helpful to understand the plagues and which Egyptian gods were being targeted. Below you can find a list that you might find helpful.

             1. Nile turned to blood             2. Frogs

             3. Gnats

             4. Flies

             5. Death of livestock

             6. Boils

             7. Hail

             8. Locusts

             9. 3 Days of Darkness

             10. Death of Firstborn

           Hapi & Isis, god and goddess of the Nile           Haget, goddess of birth with a frog head

           Set, god of the desert

           Re, sun-god, or Uatchit, possibly represented by a fly

           Hathor, goddess with cow head; Apis, the bull god

           Sekhmet, goddess of disease; Sunu, pestilence god

           Nut, sky goddess; Set, god of storms

           Osiris, god of crops and fertility

           Re, the sun-god; Horus, a sun-god

           Min, god of reproduction; Isis, goddess who protected children;

           Pharaoh’s firstborn son, a god

Then God presented a shadow of what would be the “ultimate deliverance” with the final plague. All the firstborn in the land would die in a single night, and there was only one means of rescue.

I.       The Feast of Passover– The Passover is a major event in the Exodus story. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Nine times God had warned Pharaoh to let His people leave Egypt.  Nine times God had demonstrated His power over Pharaoh and Egypt’s pagan gods.  The plague of death would be God’s final judgment upon Egypt and show His obvious favor for the nation of Israel.  The Great I AM was moved to continue to fulfill His covenant promise to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”
  2. Moses warned Pharaoh that this final plague would strike down the firstborn of every family and livestock, including Pharaoh’s.
  3. The LORD instructed Moses and Aaron to prepare.  Their obedience to do exactly as God instructed demonstrated their belief.
    1. First, God told Moses about the timing of the Passover.  This would become the 1st month of the year for them, even though it was the 7th month on their calendar.  This gave them a fresh start and a new beginning.
    2. On the 10th of the month, each household were to take a 1 y.o. lamb without defect and slaughter it at twilight.
    3. The blood from the animals was to be placed on the door frames.
    4. They were to roast the meat and eat it with bitter herbs and bread without yeast.
      1. Meat was to be roasted, not eaten raw as some pagans did.
      2. Bitter herbs symbolized sorrow for past sin or the bitter life in Egypt.
      3. Unleavened bread symbolized their leaving in haste.
    5. They were to eat the entire meal dressed ready to travel, with their tunic tucked into their belts.
  4. God would pass judgment upon Egypt and their gods that night by striking dead the firstborn of every household.  But the homes with the blood, He would Passover.
  5. With every judgment of God comes a way of escape.
  6. As a result, Egypt sent Israel away.  God showed all His power to redeem His people.
  7. God instructed them to remember His great redemption with a Passover Feast every year.

What parallels do you see in the Passover and the last supper of Jesus? Where are the similarities and where are the differences?

I.       Christ, Our Passover

Jesus perfectly fulfilled the meaning of the Passover ritual.

  1. According to Paul, Jesus is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) who has been sacrificed.  Therefore, we are to clean out the sin in our lives.
  2. John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29)
  3. Peter reminds us that we are redeemed “with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”  (1 Pet. 1:19)
  4. He was tested for four days and found to be without sin.  Then he was crucified during the annual Feast of Passover in Jerusalem while the other sacrificial lambs were slain.
  5. The blood on the cross looks eerily like the bloodstains on the doorposts.
  6. Jesus’ blood is the way of escape from God’s judgment of sin.

II.    Applications and Implications

  1. The appropriation of Jesus’ blood is a new beginning, a new life for me.
  2. God brings judgment upon those who refuse Him, but provides a way of escape for those who trust Him. Jesus is God’s ONLY provision for salvation.
  3. All other so-called gods are not gods.
  4. I am helpless to save myself.  God alone can deliver me from sin.
  5. Nothing in God’s plan is by accident.

I have been redeemed from sin, but also redeemed for God’s glory.

After learning about both of these events, can you see why I said that the Exodus event is one story you don’t want to miss?

The Hebrews left Egypt that same night, and later, an enraged Pharaoh took off in pursuit.  Trapped between his powerful army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, Egypt’s victory appeared certain.

How scared do you think the Israelites were when they saw Pharaoh’s army closing in on them? Would that fear have been enough to want to go back to slavery? Have you been in a situation that you were uncertain of the future and past was creeping up on you? Were you ready to give up hope and go back to what you knew?  

But God split the sea in two and the people walked to safety on dry land.  They celebrated when Pharaoh’s army drowned in the same sea…but only for a moment.

Israel says to God “What have you done for me lately?” Why is that such a dominate thought in the lives of human beings today? Why can’t we remember what God and others have done for us?

Their jubilation quickly turned to complaint when Israel forgot what God had done. They grumbled over the lack of water and food, but God again proved Himself faithful by providing water, manna and quail to sustain them, this time from their fears and inability to provide for themselves. God will have to figure out how to rule over and govern these people because things could get out of hand. Tune in next week!

When talking about Moses we should point out that Moses didn’t believe that he was the right person to go speak for the Lord. He came up excuse after excuse why he shouldn’t be the guy, but God responded to every objection and said you are the man, now go and set my people free.

Why are we so reluctant to go to the places we have been called to go? Why do we always feel like we are not the right person for the job? What are the places you are called to go or who is the person you are called to talk to that you have been avoiding?

Another noteworthy aspect of this chapter is actually the obedience of Moses.  Throughout the Exodus story it repeatedly says Moses “did just as the LORD commanded.”

How often are we willing to do just as the Lord commanded?

Important things for you to remember: Israel’s redemption required the blood stained door—a faith response to God.  So important was this event that God instituted the Passover as a perpetual, annual reminder to Israel that He alone delivers.  This Feast and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are fulfilled in Christ centuries later.

What other questions are you wrestling with in this chapter? Let’s talk about them.

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