By Simon ManchesterSunday 25 Oct 2015Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
Gracious God, we thank you for the truths that we have sung. We believe that you are very great and gracious and we pray that you would help us in the word that we think through this morning to see this more clearly – that we would come from this gathering today with a new and grateful devotion to you.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.
Now friends, I want to begin this morning by reading to you a very interesting sentence which I hope will introduce a short series on Exodus. It is a little series of 6 or 7. This quote is from an American philosopher, a man called Thomas Nagel. I never begin talks like this so you have to humour me when I tell you that I am about to give you a little quote. This is a quote from an American philosopher reflecting on life as it’s being lived today in the world without God and he doesn’t want to acknowledge God himself but he is conscious of the gap. He is actually impressed with people who are living without God but he is conscious of the gap and the sentence says this:-
“Existence is something tremendous – day to day life seems insufficient response”
I think what he is saying here is that the life that we have been given has great weight and significance and we are aware of dimensions which are massive but so much of our life is trivial and shallow.
This week as we know it a TV personality took her life and I read many of the tributes to her and her closest friend said “I am going to remember her carving the turkey at Christmas”!
A very thought provoking movie which is showing at the moment has a dozen clever people in a room sitting around talking until finally one of the men interrupts and says – “Let’s admit that we are all on the brink of despair but let’s support one another and inject a joke when we can”. Existence is something tremendous – day to day life seems an insufficient response. I think you will agree that we are breathing in a great deal of trivia and shallowness in the world that we are in.
And then you open the Bible and you see the great contrast even in a Book like Exodus. May be especially in a book like Exodus where we see God saving people (this is a historical fact) and he does it miraculously and he changes the world and you discover that all the people that he brings to himself are going to exist for him and they are going to exist forever with him. And we discover as well that all the details, all the tiniest details from travelling from Egypt to Canaan, the very sandals on their feet are going to be governed and looked after and all the details are going to be under God’s care and control.
So the contrast is massive I think between closing the Bible and being in a kind of a darkness where you just really have to do your best and grope around or opening your Bible and lights come on and you see the plan of God.
Now because Exodus is all about God, you can be pretty safe when you say the book of Exodus is about God. The Sunday school question is right – it’s about God. We see in the book of Exodus – and for those of you who don’t know the book very well – we see what God did taking people out of slavery in Egypt across the Red Sea through the Wilderness to the Promised Land of Canaan – turning slaves into sons and daughters. We see what he did – but we also discover that it’s a Blue-Print of what God is doing – taking people out of a much more serious slavery called sin and death and judgment into a much more wonderful life which is called fellowship with God, adoption and a future in glory and he does it through Jesus.
So Exodus tells us what he did and in a way it tells us what he does and what he is doing and you will find it on Page 55 in your Bibles and I hope you will open it up.
This morning we are going to try and do a quick look over Exodus chapter 1,2 and a bit of 3. These slabs are in a way too big but it’s a way of doing the book in chunks. And once you get the big picture of what Exodus is all about and you realize that God is powerful and loving and that he controls everything, and that he saves unworthy people, you begin to get a handle on the book. So just hear me when I say at the beginning – we are going to think about God – we are going to think about God in the book of Exodus and I want to especially take two Attributes of God –
His Power and His Love
And I want to show you the power of God in chapter 1,
The love of God in chapter 1,
The power of God in chapter 2
The love of God in chapter 2
The power of God in chapter 3
The love of God in chapter 3
And see if this doesn’t warm your heart as it warmed mine.
So the first thing in chapter 1 – we are going to look at the Power of God to keep his promises and the Love of God to save his people.
Now you may not realize how significant it is as you read Exodus chapter 1 so that it’s all about numbers – numbers – numbers – numbers. We begin to realize that the Israelites are breeding like rabbits! We are told in the first couple of verses that there were 70 of them who went down into Egypt. You remember Joseph (technicolour coat) and his 11 brothers and they all went down into Egypt with their families – 70 of them – they are not a global force, they are not going to impact the world – 70 in the wrong country and God has made sensational promises.
So we discover in verse 7 that they were soon exceedingly numerous.
Verse 9, the Pharaoh was worried because they are so numerous.
Verse 10 ‘The Israelites may attack us’ says the Pharaoh ‘they are so numerous’.
Verse 12 – ‘the Egyptians are frightened – they are so numerous’
Verse 20 – ‘they become more and more numerous’.
Now friends why is that so unusual to be reading about this again and again and again in the book of Exodus? And I will tell you that Genesis is full of infertility.
Abraham’s wife was too old to have children.
Isaac’s wife, Rebecca, is barren.
Jacob’s wife, Rachel, is barren.
These are the Patriarchs. So God makes these wonderful promises and then it all seems to stall because Abraham’s wife is too old and Isaac’s wife is infertile and Jacob’s wife is infertile and yet you have got these promises. So God said to Abraham ‘I am going to make you a nation from you. Look up at the stars and try and count all those little dots in the sky – that’s how many your descendants are going to be’.
And then we read Genesis and its struggles, struggles and struggles and you think to yourself – why would God do this? The answer I think is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are going to learn 2 things. They are going to learn that if God makes promises, they come true, slow but surely they come true. And the second thing they are going to learn is that they don’t have any human answers – they cannot make the promises come true but they will come true.
So there is this promise of a great nation which was true in the book of Genesis even though they had to walk by faith not by sight. They couldn’t see all the numbers. Then we get to the book of Exodus and the promise becomes visibly true. There is a baby boom in front of them. At the end of Genesis there are only 70 Israelites and they are in the wrong land but by Exodus there are hundreds of thousands of Israelites. Our guess is that by the time they walk out the door of Egypt there are a million or two million. So God is at work you see with great power bringing his promises to fruition.
Now the question in chapter 1 is “Where do we see the Love of God? And I wonder as you think about chapter 1 where you basically just see Israelites producing Israelites and Egyptians oppressing Israelites – where do you see the Love of God? I don’t think it is obvious until you think about it.
We know that God goes on being a loving God even when we don’t see it. Everything he does, he does from his loving heart. And the surprise in chapter which reveals the love of God is that he reveals his love in their suffering. The Egyptians are oppressing them (see that in verse 11). They put slave masters over them to oppress them. Verse 12 ‘the more they are oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread’.
Incidentally Archaeologists have discovered that these truths in Exodus 1 are real and there have been discoveries of the records of the Israelites as a defeated enemy of the Egyptians. And they have discovered on tombs in Egypt slaves making bricks, exactly as we read here in chapter 1.
Why is this suffering however proof of the love of God? And the answer is because the Israelites could be rejoicing that they are in Egypt and they have a job and they have a family and they have a booming family but they are having to learn through the hard things – some things that they would never learn if life was easy and good. They are learning lessons that will actually save their souls. Because if God did not organize the oppression of the Egyptians on the Israelites, these Israelites would settle in Egypt and their hearts would go down into Egypt and they would miss out on all the great promises of God.
In other words, it’s because they are being oppressed by the Egyptians that they will long to escape Egypt. If things were easy and successful, they would settle down and die. I think this is the principle of Romans chapter 5. I always get thrown when things go wrong and I suffer, especially physically. And we read in Romans chapter 5 “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God”. And we all say “Amen” – you know we sing the hymn “Rejoice in the Hope of the Glory of God” – yes we do but actually we are so sinful that we could forget the hope of the glory of God when things are difficult and many of us (all of us I think) could sell the hope of the glory of God if the right offer came along. It’s one of the things that frighten me about myself.
So God in his wisdom (Romans 5) as Paul goes on to say “we rejoice in our sufferings because suffering makes us persevere as believers, and perseverance brings character and character develops hope and the hope doesn’t disappoint us. And, says Paul, not only do we have the hope ahead which won’t disappoint us but God has given us his Holy Spirit in the present. So he has been good to us in the present and he is good to us in the future.
So the love of God which is invisibly at work in Exodus chapter 1 is causing these Israelites to abandon the idea of saying to God – ‘thank you so much for the blessings, we love being here, we love the work, we love our jobs, we love our families, we love all the new children – now please don’t bother me – I will call you if I need you’. And the sufferings and the oppression is forcing from the Israelites a cry to God because they need him. And that’s where they come to sanity.
Some weeks ago we looked at Psalm 40 (you may remember) and we saw that God actually puts people in the pits so that he can get their ears back listening. We keep thinking – no God, just give me a really easy life – just make everything easy and I will keep listening – we won’t. If things get too easy our sinfulness takes us into dreadful paths. So God in his love causes enough to make us keep calling to him and looking ahead for the hope.
The other things of course here is the Israelites are going to learn eventually is that God is working on a massive scale that they could never dream of. By the time they leave Egypt, all Egypt is going to know that God is God. That’s not a bad lesson is it? Do you think God cares about the Egyptians or he just hates the Egyptians? – NO he loves the Egyptians. By the time the Israelites leave Egypt, all Egypt including the Pharaohs are going to know that God is God – Yahweh is Yahweh – Yahweh is God.
And Egypt and Israel are going to learn that the only person who can unlock the key of the Egyptian door is God. If they had settled in Egypt, happily and successfully comfortably then Israel and Egypt would die – that’s it – they would live and die. If they got out easily there would be no proof of the sovereignty of God. God is going to work through things with great power and great love so that Israel will seek God and Egypt will discover the truth. This is amazing power and amazing love from God in Exodus chapter 1.
Now the second chapter which is a little bit of what we read this morning where Moses (everybody knows this) is put into the river in a little basket. And then in the second half of the chapter, he has to run for his life to the desert. This chapter is going to show us the Power of God to mock a Pharaoh and is also going to show is the Love of God to make a servant. So this is how the power of God is going to be seen – mocking Pharaoh – bringing down an ungodly ruler, a rebellious ruler and making Moses into a servant.
So does the God of the Old Testament (here’s my question) have a sense of humour? I read a book on humour that said the God of the Old Testament had no humour. But the God of the Old Testament does laugh. In Psalm 2 we read that God laughs and he laughs at opposition which is exactly right. He doesn’t laugh carelessly, sadistically but he laughs rightly at opposition. This is like you going out to the back garden and discovering that there is a new little anthill on the bricks of your backyard and the ants are standing on the top 45 of them shaking their little legs at you! This is just silly, just laughable.
God laughs at opposition. And we see in this section that God laughs at or mocks Pharaoh because Pharaoh is trying to block God’s plans and God’s plans cannot be blocked. So in chapter 1 verse 11 remember Pharaoh tries oppression. He causes the Israelites to be worked so hard – I think the implication is that they won’t have children but the Israelites, we read in verse 12, increase all the more.
So I think maybe Pharaoh said to himself “if we exhaust these guys, they will go home and say to their wives ‘I am sorry I am too tired!’” But actually what is happening is that the Israelites are going home and saying ‘I have had a terrible day, I’ve thought of something that will cheer me up’!
So it’s just all going wrong for Pharaoh and then Pharaoh tries blatant murder (chapter 1 verse 16). He orders the midwives, I guess the supervisors of the midwives to kill Israelite boys. And you remember this famous incident – the midwives (verse 17 chapter 1) they feared God – and that’s the beginning of wisdom “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and so they didn’t obey Pharaoh’s word but they obeyed God’s word – and God’s word is coming true.
When they say that the Hebrew women gave birth very quickly (verse 19) that may be true too. So Pharaoh (verse 22 of chapter 1) tries blatant murder again. This time he says “throw all baby boys into the Nile River”. And this famous incident in chapter 2 verse 3 of Moses’ mother loving her little boy (I mean who wouldn’t love their little boy?) where she puts her little boy into the Nile (technically she is doing what she is told) but she puts him into a little basket and the word for “basket” is the Hebrew word for “ark”. So exactly the same word in Genesis chapter 6 – for Ark is here in Exodus chapter 2 for basket. And I wonder whether in the back of her mind she didn’t say to herself “I wonder whether as the Lord saved some people in the water in the past, he might do it again”.
And this little boy in a basket in the Nile River becomes the instrument in God’s hand for destroying Pharaoh and becomes the instrument in God’s hand for achieving his purposes. So I love these verses. They are dripping with humour and irony.
Here is Pharaoh – he wants the boys in the river.
This boy is in the river.
But then gets rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter
(that must have been very frustrating for him)
His daughter raises him in the Palace
His daughter pays Moses’ mother to raise him.
So Moses’ mother is on Pharaoh’s Payroll.
His daughter raises a boy who is going to destroy Pharaoh.
There’s the irony!
Now where do we see the Love of God in chapter 2 of Exodus? The power is there completely overpowering everything that Pharaoh decides. Where do we see the Love of God? I think we see it in the way he makes a servant (verses 11-24). Moses has to run for his life because although he has grown up in the Palace, he has a fight with an Egyptian and kills him and he has to run for his life into the desert. It doesn’t look again obvious that God is exercising his love but he is because just as the Israelites were in danger of settling down in Egypt and losing their salvation, Moses is in danger of settling down in Egypt and losing his salvation.
He is a very privileged boy. He’s got lots of position – everything is laid on.
Yesterday Bob Glenn was speaking at the Men’s Convention about how when the heart of a man is captured by the world. It doesn’t make the man just in danger – he is in danger – his heart belongs to the world. That’s where he is headed. But Bob said the man has become useless – it’s terrifying in the long term but it’s quite terrifying in the short term. The man who has given his heart to the world and is just toying with Christianity is actually useless in the purposes of God. And God is at work to make sure that Moses is not useless.
So he very lovingly humbles him. It’s a great thing that Moses is a Hebrew at heart but his methods are pagan.
In chapter 2 verses 11-13 he attacks a man,
He kills him – that’s Moses’ style.
He has got no great regard for the will of God.
It suits him to fight
And he is not fit to lead the people of God.
He doesn’t care for the purposes of God.
He does not understand the purposes of God.
He is not ready for the purposes of God.
But 40 years in the desert is going to teach him a little bit of helplessness
And while he is in the desert he marries and has a little boy and you see in chapter 2 verse 22 – he names the little boy “Gershom” because he says “I am an alien”. I am alien in a foreign land.
Now you may think I am reading too much into this when I say that God is at work to make Moses into a good servant but we are told in Acts 7 in the speech of Stephen that Moses thought his aggression was the way that God would rescue the Israelites. Well it isn’t – he was mistaken. And then we are told in Hebrews 11 that Moses learned to look beyond Egypt to the reward which is Christ.
Of course if you ever watch a movie – a Biblical movie – I always find biblical movies quite boring myself – I am ashamed to say. But if you ever watch a biblical movie they will make a great thing of Moses because that’s all they can see. But the one who is working behind the scenes is the sovereign God, full of power and full of love bringing Pharaoh down and bringing Moses up to be useful. And the reason God is doing this is because he loves Moses and he loves his people.
Moses could not seriously bring the Israelites out of Egypt –
he couldn’t –
he couldn’t get through the sea –
he couldn’t feed the thousands –
he couldn’t do the miracles –
he couldn’t get into Canaan
he would be a nightmare if God didn’t knock the stuffing out of him
and take out of him all the arrogance that is necessary –
until eventually when Moses turns up at the bush in chapter 3
he has NO confidence
he has NO power
he is perfect for leadership.
I know a man who was travelling in Russia once and he found that his Guide, his Interpreter was a Christian. He said to him “O you must be from a Russian Orthodox family”. The guy said “Not at all, I am from an atheist family”. He said “I was a school teacher and the headmaster asked me to go and deal with one of the pupils who was causing havoc in the school because they were a Christian”. He said “it was very embarrassing for me to go and find that this person was a 7 year old girl. She was very clear about her faith; she was very vocal about her faith. She asked me some questions that I couldn’t answer. She told me how to be saved and I was saved” – A 7 year old girl.
And then a Minister friend of mine was conducting a service one evening and he had invited the Treasurer to come up and give his Testimony. He wanted to sort of launch the guy and he had never spoken in public before and he was quite a new Christian. He said that sitting in the side of the building he saw the Deputy Headmaster from the nearby school who was a ferocious, cynical atheist. A few days into the week he got a letter from the Headmaster saying – ‘it wasn’t your sermon, it wasn’t the hymns but the Testimony of that Treasurer that convicted and converted me’.
God, you see is pleased to use the weak vessel and works to make people either weak or know they are weak. And we read in 1 Corinthians 1 that God chose the weak and foolish to shame the strong and the wise. And in verse 23 of 1 Corinthians 1 ‘we preach Christ crucified, the power of God, the wisdom of God’.
So God’s power is at work in chapter 1 bringing the promises to fruition and making sure that the Israelites don’t settle in Egypt.
The power of God is at work in chapter 2 bringing Pharaoh and all his plans down and making Moses into a really effective servant.
And very quickly in chapter 3 we see the Power of God in that he is terrifying and we see the Love of God in that he is merciful. In the first 10 verses of chapter 3 (we are going to look at the rest of chapter 3 next week) we see Moses come to the famous non-burning bush. And this is where God confronts Moses because if God doesn’t take the initiative, it’s never going to happen. And Moses is going to learn first of all that God is terrifying, unapproachable and dangerous.
Dangerous is the friend of a very wise pastor friend of mine. It’s a good word – God is dangerous. He just cannot be domesticated. If you have domesticated him, you haven’t been dealing with him or he will teach you another lesson.
We discover in chapter 3 verse 5 that God is unapproachable – that’s what the Old Testament tells us and the New Testament. He lives in unapproachable light. You cannot march up to God and do business with him. You need a Mediator – you need Jesus. And we see in the rest of the Bible that whenever people do come face to face with God – you know their first reaction? They say when they meet God “I am going to die”. I have come face to face with God and I am going to die.
It’s not the size of God that terrifies them but it’s the holiness of God. Somehow they realize that the distance between God’s character and their character is so great that they are finished.
Deep in my heart (and I think I’ve said this before but I will say it to you again – it’s a little bit embarrassing for me to say this to you but I think you will understand and it’s quite a frightening thing), deep in my heart is the strange perverse idea that I can control God, that I can actually play a game where I draw him to myself when it’s useful and I ask him to withdraw when I don’t need him!
The worst part of this is the insanity of thinking that I could fool him. The insanity of thinking that he would even play the game. And the even worse part is that the heart, my heart, would be so loveless as to treat somebody like him like that.
So God reminds me regularly, sometimes through the word and sometimes through failed enterprises and he reminds you as well that he is terrifying, fearful and dangerous. He is as the Bible says a consuming fire. That’s what Moses is going to have to learn. The first thing Moses needs to learn is that God is absolutely impossible.
And then he is going to learn amazingly that God is love.
He has a plan for his people (chapter 3 verse 6) –
he says “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and I am the God of Jacob” –
I love these men,
they are sinful and they don’t deserve to be saved
but I saved them and
I have kept them and
I have still kept them and
I have preserved them and they belong to me and
they will always belong to me.
I married them in a Covenant and
I married all my people in a Covenant and
I am going to preserve all my people and
I am going to make my people fruitful.
So just as God brought life out of death by making Abraham have a son and Isaac have two sons and then Jacob have 12, just as God brought life out of death, he is going to bring Israel to usefulness and Moses to usefulness for his own glory and for the good of his people. By the time Moses leaves the bush he knows that God is eternal – because he goes right back through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and beyond. He knows that God is holy, a fire that cannot be approached, he knows he is faithful and keeps his promises. He knows he is powerful – he can do whatever he wants. He knows that he is compassionate – he is going to save his people. He cares about their groaning. He is generous – he is going to give them more than they have ever dreamed.
And Moses gets commissioned at the age of 80. So for those of you who are getting to the age of 50, 60, 70, 80 the Lord still has plenty for you to do if you are here.
I got a letter from a friend this week and he finished off by saying “Simon when you’re pensioned off and nobody is listening to you, keep doing something”. I don’t know whether it was a prophesy or not but there we go.
So do you see in Exodus 1, 2 and 3 that the Power of God is evident in all the chapters? He fulfils his promises, he brings Pharaoh down, he shows himself to be terrifying – that’s his power.
And then the Love of God is in all the chapters – he makes sure that the Israelites don’t settle in Egypt. He makes sure that Moses becomes a useful leader and he shows that he has a plan to rescue his people. Therefore friends go away remembering that the power of God and the love of God are in these chapters, but go away especially remembering that the power of God and the love of God are in the Gospel of Jesus which has saved you if you have put your trust in Jesus. Because God is so powerful that he can save the worst sinner and he is so loving that he wants to save. And if you walk out of this building today and you say to yourself “well what I learned today I want to remind you, you’ve been reminded in Exodus, but the whole of the Bible that God is a God of power and love – he is in charge of all the circumstances and all the details and he is doing it lovingly so that even when we cannot see everything taking place exactly as we would like to, he is working his perfect purposes in love for our good. And therefore because you live in a society that doesn’t understand any of this, pray for lost people. People don’t know in my street or yours that there is a creation behind, a fall, the cross, solution and a future. That framework of C F C F —
Creation Fall Cross Future
That framework which is in your heads is not in the heads of the lost. They don’t understand and they have nothing of a backdrop to live lives. Their existence is tremendous, their day to day life does not do justice and they need the Gospel. They need the Gospel of the power and the love of God which is seen most clearly in the person of Jesus. So pray, be a good witness, rejoice and live the Christian life, walk close to the Lord.
Let’s Pray –
Our Father we thank you this morning for these wonderful chapters and the wonderful truths as we see your power and your love in each one. We especially thank you for extending your power and your love to us in the person of Christ. That he would come and die in our place, rise from the grave, and give to us a life which is forever.
We pray that you would help us to rejoice this week in the truths of the Gospel and we pray that you would make us in your providence and kindness a signpost for others.
We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.