søndag 28. september 2014

Exodus 1:11-2:25 Slavery…and a saviour

Exodus 1:11-2:25

In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes there is a character called Mo. He is the biggest boy in Calvin’s class at school, and is a bully. He pushes Calvin off the swing, takes his lunch money, shoves him in the dirt, etc. Calvin is powerless against Mo – he’s so much bigger and stronger. Help!
Calvin needs someone bigger than Mo to protect him against Mo. He needs someone to rescue him from Mo.

The Israelites need someone to rescue them from their bully, the Pharaoh (ruler) of Egypt.

And we need someone to rescue us. You see, we are just like the Israelites: enslaved. We are enslaved to sin. We cannot stop rebelling against God, and that rebellion is seen in our lives. It is seen every time we lie. Every time we sin sexually. Every time we gossip or are ungrateful or say hurtful things to those we love. Every time we are impatient or selfish or mean or arrogant. And every time we kill our unborn children, every time we steal, every time we murder and rape and destroy.

To be a sinner living in a sinful world is to suffer. Watch the news. We are enslaved to sin. We need a saviour.

And thankfully we have a God who keeps his promises. A God who is the saviour of the world.

1. God keeps his promises despite opposition (1:11-22)

Israel is in trouble. The Egyptians have turned against them, and the Pharaoh (king) of Egypt sees them as a threat.

11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labour.
13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.
16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”

The Pharaoh was a wicked and cruel king. He was wicked and cruel because he was afraid. And the more his plans failed, the more wicked and cruel he became. 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”

So he first attempts to work them into the ground. When that fails, he tries to get the midwives to kill them. When that fails he gets the whole county involved in his evil plan.

But we know that his plan to wipe out the Israelites will fail. Why? Because, as we were reminded last week, God keeps his promises. Gen 12:1–3 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

No matter what Pharaoh does, he cannot stop the promises of God. Did you notice the irony, as the narrator basically makes fun of Pharaoh’s impotence in the face of God’s majestic power. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became.
The more he multiplies the oppression, the more the Israelites multiply!
17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.
Pharaoah’s subjects do not obey him – he has no real power - and so 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful.

So Pharaoh says “Drown the baby boys in the river!”. And what happens? His own daughter finds a baby boy in the river, and promptly drowns him, in obedience to her father. No! 2:6 When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said. 7 Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked. 8 “Yes, do!” the princess replied.

Deep irony. Even within his own family, Pharaoh cannot stop God from keeping his promises. Pharaoh will fail. His wickedness will end in his own destruction. No matter what he does, he cannot stop the promises of God. Because it is God who guarantees his promises.

This is the message of Exodus, indeed the whole Bible. God is powerful enough to keep his promises and faithful to keep his promises. His word is trustworthy.

Whether we are an Israelite in exile in Babylon, a Jew living in the 1st century, or a Christian in 21st century Norway – this story reminds us that God keeps his promises.

And so no matter how much Pharaoh tries to destroy the Israelites he will not succeed. And no matter what the world does, the Church keeps on going. Its death has been predicted many times. We have almost destroyed it from the inside out, but each time it is reformed, renewed.
The church in Norway is in a huge mess. Maybe 2% go regularly to church, and most of what they are being taught is not the gospel but moralistic niceness. But even in this mess people still become true Christians. New churches are planted. There is still hope because the Spirit of Christ is active. As Jesus says “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matt 16:18)

God keeps his promises.

2. God protects his chosen saviour against opposition

So, we know God will save his people. The question is not “If”, but How? How will God save his people?

2:1 About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son.

This boy was Moses, the future saviour of Israel. But we know that his life is under threat. This “special” baby’s life is threatened. He is to be killed by the law of Pharaoh.

His mother manages to keep him hidden – but babies, as those of us who are parents know, are not quiet little things (particularly at 3 am!). And Moses is no different. In desperation, Moses’ mother hatches a cunning plan. She will obey Pharaoh’s decree to throw the baby in the river – she’ll just build him a little boat!

Interestingly the word for boat there is ark, like Noah’s ark. To rescue him from the judgement of the water, Moses is placed in the ark. The future rescuer is rescued.

This seems to be working well – Moses is floating happily in the river, and his sister is watching over him. But then, horror of horrors, Pharaoh’s daughter approaches.

Think of the tension. Oh no. They are walking here! Why here? Oh no, they are getting closer – what if they see him or hear him? Oh no she’s SEEN the basket.
Can you imagine the despair? The princess has seen the basket. This is the end. It certainly looks like the end for God’s promises, doesn’t it. His chosen deliverer is threatened with destruction.

But for no reason whatsoever, she has compassion on the baby. She disobeys her father’s command. And not only that, she decides to ADOPT the baby as her own son. And in a wonderful little picture of the grace of God, Moses’ mother gets him back (and even gets paid to look after him).

9 “Take this baby and nurse him for me,” the princess told the baby’s mother. “I will pay you for your help.” So the woman took her baby home and nursed him. 10 Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses, for she explained, “I lifted him out of the water.”

The stage is set. The people need a saviour. The saviour has been born. God has protected his chosen saviour: he was rescued, raised as a Prince of Egypt – he has been prepared for leadership, for power.

Israel, here is your saviour! Or is he?

3. God is the only true saviour, not Moses (11-22)

11 Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work.

Many years later Moses goes to visit his people. According to Acts 7:23 he was 40 years old. What was he doing for 40 years? Living it up in the palace? I wonder what his people thought of him. I’m sure he carried the hopes of the people – one of ours is in the “White House”! He will bring the government around. “More straw less bricks.”
But it appears that Moses is a disappointment. 40 years of silence. 40 years of nothing, as Moses, the saviour, doesn’t save.

Until finally he “goes to visit his people”.
And what he sees appals him. Seeing the brutality of the “Egyptian” slave driver he suddenly becomes all patriotic towards his own people and decides to rescue this Israelite from the evil Egyptian. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.
His rescue is sneaky (he looks around to see if no-one else is watching), and brutal. He murders the Egyptian without warning, and literally tries to bury the evidence.

Is this the great rescuer of God’s people? At best he is a vigilante. At worst, a murderous sneak.
And what’s he going to do? Kill the Egyptian slave drivers one by one? It’s laughable. It’s so small, so pathetic.

And things don’t get better the day after. Buoyed up by his show of patriotism, he visits his people again. As one commentary put it “The champion of the oppressed and underdogs went forth the next day—this time to settle a dispute between two of his own people. Expecting to be heralded as a leader he is shocked – shocked! - when his people, the people he is born to lead (or so he thinks), totally ignore him. V14 Who appointed you to be our prince and judge?
Who, indeed. It seems Moses is self-appointed. Moses has not spoken to the Lord. Moses is not following his commands. Moses is doing his thing, his way. I’ll do it my waaaaay! Sings Moses.

But his song is brought short by the next sentence that comes out of the man’s mouth “Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”

Uh-oh. His crime has been discovered. Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” 15 And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses.

So Moses’ rescue attempt is short-lived. He runs away, away to the land of Midian. There he rescues seven girls from the shepherds – Moses really did see himself as a rescuer, didn’t he? – but irony of ironies, they recognise him as… an Egyptian. 19 “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds,” they answered. “And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks.”

Poor Moses. He tries to hide his murder – but EVERYONE knew about it. It was the front page of the Egyptian Telen!
He was born to be the leader and ruler of his people – but he is immediately rejected by his people ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’.
And as he’s running for his life from the Egyptians because he finally accepted that “I am a Hebrew, a Jew” and tried to set his people free – he’s recognized as…an Egyptian

Moses is hated by the Egyptians, rejected by his own people, an exile in a foreign land.
Moses names his son v22 Gershom, for he explained, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.”

Moses is a picture of his people – they are foreigners in a foreign land. Yes, they are multiplying, yes they are a people – but God’s promise of land is not fulfilled. They are not home. They are away.

Ironically enough it is Moses, the foreigner, the leader rejected by his people, who would be their saviour, their deliverer, their rescuer. Who appointed you leader and judge – well, in time, the answer to that question will be Yahweh, God Almighty! But Moses must first learn humility and patience.
He is the rescuer of God’s people, yes, but in God’s way, under God’s authority, and in God’s time.

Because Moses is not actually the saviour of God’s people. God is.

4. God, and only God, is the true saviour of his people (v23-25)

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

God keeps his promises. His word is trustworthy. As persecution multiplies, blessing multiplied all the more. His people were being preserved. A rescuer was born! And he was protected – raised indeed in the very palace of Pharaoh. But when Moses tried to rescue his people in his own strength… well that ended badly: murder, rejection, utter failure and exile.
Moses was not the one to rescue his people.

God is the true saviour. He is the one who will rescue his people and bring them safely through the desert to the Promised Land. He is the one who will keep his promises. He is the one who is strong enough to save his people and protect them.

And he is strong enough to save Moses. Because Moses needs a saviour. The one born to save is not good enough. He is weak, he is sinful. He ignores God and does things his way – that’s sin. And because he is a sinner, ignoring God, he sins in his actions too, and ends up murdering a man. Moses needs a saviour.
Moses’ failure forces us to look forward to the day when a perfect saviour will be born. A saviour who, like Moses, was threatened at birth, as Herod tried to destroy him by murdering the baby boys of Israel in Bethlehem. A saviour who, like Moses, was protected by the Lord God, not by an ark in the reeds, but by an angel telling his father Joseph to “Get up and flee!”. A saviour who, like Moses was rejected by his people: a crucified Messiah – yaaa, as they jeered and spat at him.
But a saviour who, unlike Moses, never failed, never faltered. He never went beyond his Father’s will. At each stage he prayed, waiting on His Father’s word. He obeyed perfectly. He had no sin to cover up. He did not need to run away from justice. He was innocent. And yet he took our punishment in order to rescue us.

Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God.

Maybe you are feeling like Moses. Alone. A foreigner in a foreign land. Maybe you’ve really messed things up. You were destined for greatness, but now…. you are a reject, unacceptable, exiled.

Take comfort. God rescues the broken, the unacceptable, the foreigner in a foreign land. He keeps his promises. You can come to him, just as you are.

Maybe you are feeling like the Israelites. Under the whip. Enslaved. Can’t get free. You need a rescuer.

Don’t be a fool like Moses and try to rescue yourself. You know, self-help books. Yoga. Meditation. Religious practices. Fitness. Life coaches. Going on a trip to “find yourself”. None of these work. Even Christianity does not work - unless you come to CHRIST. Otherwise you’re just like Moses, rushing out with half the picture, “I’m the saviour” until you trip and fall flat on your face.
There is one Lord and one Saviour, and his name is Jesus.

Run to him. Cry out to him. Take comfort in him. For he keeps his promises. And he is powerful to save.

søndag 21. september 2014

Exodus 1:1-14 Aliens and strangers

Exodus 1:1-14

How does God work in the world today?
Does he wind up the world like a clock and then let it run down?
Does he send down a bunch of operating instructions (the Bible, for example) and then wait and see what happens?
Does he play with us like dolls, like a child, and we are mere puppets in his play?

What we learn in Exodus is that none of those are correct. The reality is that God is sovereign (in control) and active in His world. And we are not puppets but real people with real choices and real responsibility, and somehow our choices and God’s sovereignty go hand in hand. God is active, for his glory – and we can be part of his glorious salvation plan!

Exodus takes place in history. These are historical events with real people and in real places. The Bible is not embarrassed by this, this dependence on provable (or disprovable) events. God reveals himself to us through time and history, through events that human being experience. This is not a book of dry philosophy, thoughts we must thing about God. Greek philosophy and Oriental mysticism always seek to remove man from nature, from creation. Matter is dirty. From Buddhism to Zoroastrianism to Hinduism to Star Wars (“luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” says Yoda) we are spiritual beings, and we must seek to throw off the shackles of the material.

The other extreme is of course our Western materialism which assumes that there is only a material world, that the spiritual does not exist.

The Bible is an embarrassment to both. Materialism is revealed to be only part of the picture – but spiritualism has a faulty view of the material. Remember that the end of the story is not that we become a bunch of floaty angelic spirit beings, sitting in white light playing harps – but a new heavens and a new earth, with new imperishable bodies (that is, bodies that cannot be destroyed).

So in Exodus we see great material events with great spiritual significance. It is what is called theological history. Theos is the Greek word for God, so theological history is history in relation to God or history through God’s eyes.
This year we’ve spent a long time reading theological history in the book of Acts. In Acts we’ve been reading the events of the growth of the Christian church, and at each point we are shown how it is God who is behind these events, how it is He who is growing his church, sending out missionaries, converting people. He is the Prime Mover of church history.

And we find the same revealed here in Exodus. It is God who orchestrates these events in order to reveal to us who he is: his character, his power, his glory, his Name. A refrain throughout the Old Testament is this “that you/they may know that I am the Lord (YHWH)”. He is the Prime Mover in all of history for one purpose: that we may know him. John Piper, based on Jonathan Edwards work, sums up the Bible, and indeed all of history, to be about one thing: the glory of God.

Ex 14:4 I have planned this in order to display my glory through Pharaoh and his whole army. After this the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD!

We are not the hero of the Bible stories. It is Christ. He is the hero of the Bible. Remember Jesus’ words to the Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 (ESV))

And remember what we learned from Colossians: Col 1:26–27 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret (or mystery): Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

Exodus is about Christ, and reveals to us the glory of God.

With that in mind, let us turn to the introduction to the book.

1. The people of Israel are blessed 1:1-7

These are the names of the sons of Israel (that is, Jacob) who moved to Egypt with their father, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, 4 Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 5 In all, Jacob had seventy descendants in Egypt, including Joseph, who was already there. 6 In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. 7 But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.

Here we have listed the twelve tribes of Israel, named after the twelve sons of Jacob (called Israel). And look how numerous they have become. V7 In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.

The opening verse of Exodus remind us that God keeps his promises. What promise, you may ask? Turn back to Gen 12:1–3 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

It’s an echo of the covenant (promise) God made to Adam Gen 1:28 Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it.”

The Lord is keeping his promise, Abraham’s descendants filling the land, becoming as numerous as the starts in the night sky, or sand on the seashore (Gen 22:17, God’s promise to Isaac, Abraham’s son). V9 is the first time Israel is called a “people”. The Lord is keeping his promise.

But not all of the promise is fulfilled, is it? They’re not in the Promised Land, are they? They are in Egypt! And so Exodus opens with a problem – how to get the people of God to move from their comfortable houses and good lands in Egypt, and get them to the Promised Land.

The start of God’s fulfilment of his promise to Abraham is surprising: the plan to bless Israel started with a declaration of slavery! (v11)

How powerful God is. How majestic. How surprising. How different. His ways are not our ways, his thoughts not our thoughts. He is a master at using our evil for good.

How often does something terrible happen to us – which later we see is of such a deep blessing to us. When I was at Sagavoll (here in Gvarv), one of my classmates killed himself – hanged himself in the cellar of our dormitory. And I discovered his body. That experience was like a wrecking ball whistling through my carefully constructed life. At one moment I was laid bare – and I realised that, at the end of the day, there is nothing but me and God. I stand before him, alone. Nothing else. It shook me up, and was the beginning of God’s saving work in my life (he saved me 9 months later in Drammen. Bing, the lights came on!). But that experience, terrible as it was in seeing my friends corpse, is not something I would ever give up. God used that to save me. God used that to show me where I stood with him. He knocked away all my other support structures to show me that He is enough.

The Israelites found themselves enslaved. And so what do they do? They cry out to the Lord. They realise they are helpless, that they need him. And they experience the most amazing rescue that history has ever seen – other than the cross of Christ.

God keeps his promise. His people will be blessed in slavery and in rescue. They will know that he is the Lord, and his name is glorious.

But before we carry on, let’s take a quick step back through the chapters of Genesis we skipped over, and get ourselves up to speed. Context is key to understanding the Bible, so what have we missed?

2. Genesis 22-50

Earlier on this year we covered the life of Abraham. If you’ve missed that series, download it and listen to it. What we saw was how God chose this man Abraham to be the start of his salvation plan for the world. We’ve already read the promise God made to Abraham in Gen 12:1-3, and the rest of the Bible follows the fulfilment of that promise: land, people, and blessing. The land of Canaan (Israel), the people of Israel, and the blessing of knowing God, and sharing that knowledge with the nations (Israel was a kingdom of priests, a light to the nations – at least, they should have been!). All this finds its fulfilment ultimately in Christ. We know Israel mess things up – sinning at every turn and generally behaving like…well, a lot like us if we’re perfectly honest! The Old Testament ends with the Abrahamic Covnenant still unfulfilled, and carries the tension “how can a holy God forgive unholy people”.
All that is solved in Christ. His death covers our sins and we receive his righteousness. And he fulfils the Abrahamic Covenant: we are his people, the church from every nation and tribe and people-group; we are blessed, his Holy Spirit is with us and in us; and our land is the New Creation, promised and guaranteed.

But that’s the end of the story. We’re still at the start. We saw how Abraham lived in a “bubble” of blessing – the Lord had promised to bless him and so he was blessed, even though, as we saw, he certainly did not deserve it, as he sinned against the Lord, a faithless, cowardly, adulterous man. Yet God forgave him and loved him. Gives us hope doesn’t it! If Christ can cover the sins of Abraham, he can cover our sins.

When we left Genesis, in chapter 23, Sarah had died and been laid to rest. Abraham bought a burial plot because of his faith in the Lord. It is the first piece of land he owns in the land promised to him by the Lord. He buys it, instead of accepting it as a gift, because he trusts that the Lord will keep his promises. For Abraham, it is a deposit guaranteeing (looking forward with certainty) his inheritance (the land). In the same way the Holy Spirit is our deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. We know that we will be with Christ upon the new Earth because the Spirit is with us now. (Eph 1:13-14)

In Chapter 24 which we hopped over, the story starts to focus in on Isaac and Rebekah, his wife, provided by the hand of God, and we see that God is blessing Isaac, just as he had promised. As we read in 25:11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who settled near Beer-lahai-roi in the Negev.
Because the story has now moved on from Abraham to Isaac. Chapter 25 spends a few verses on the final years of Abraham – and that’s basically it. Abraham’s part in this tale is over, his job is done – but God’s plan – oh, that is just beginning! Wait and see what God will do! After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac.

Isaac marries Rebekah, the bride given by God. A bride who is once again barren – oh no, what will happen to God’s promise? Ge 25:21–22 Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. And God remembers his promise: The LORD answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins.

Those twins were Easu and Jacob. Jacob was a conniving sneak, as was Rebekah! And yet God chose him, despite the fact that he was the younger twin, despite the fact that he was a cheat and a thief and a liar, and Jacob receives the promises of God and birthright of the firstborn. God forgives and blesses sinners! Are we getting the message yet?
Jacob has two significant experiences: In Gen 28, in a dream he sees ladder between heaven and earth, and the Lord confirms the Abrahamic Covenant with him. The Covenant is the bridge, the way from earth to heaven, the Covenant which is fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord, whose outstretched arms ont eh Cross bridged heaven and earth as he gave his life so that sinners like us could be made righteous to be with the Righteous One, God Almighty.

Jacob’s second experience was when he received the name Israel. In a rather strange tale, Jacob wrestles with God (in Gen 32), and is renamed “Israel” which means “God fights” or “fights with God”, and is blessed, receiveing assurance that the Lord is with him and the Covenant is reaffirmed.

Israel then has twelve sons (unsurprisingly his wife Rachel was barren – oh no! But God again steps in to honour his promise). One of these sons was Joseph, and that brings me to my final point in setting the scene for Exodus.

3. Joseph, saviour of the world

8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done.

What had he done? Well, we already know that Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, from which come the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph was Jacobs favourite son because he was Rachel’s son, and Rachel was his true love – his other wife Leah, and their two servants he slept with…out of duty, I suppose? The books of Israel’s history hardly ever stop to condemn what the characters are doing – like polygamy and adultery is bad. No, it just tells the story, unfolds the consequences of those actions. Jacob’s multiple sexual partners ended up with a bunch of brothers who hated Joseph, because he was the favourite. It didn’t help that Joseph had a dream that they would all bow down to him, including their father and mothers. This made them furious and so they plotted to kill him.

Out in the fields Joseph came to them, and they attacked him, tore off his coat of many colours – the special coat given to him by his father Jacob, and threw him into a pit while they decided how to kill him. At that time a group of traders just happened to pass by, and the brothers thought “why kill him, when we can make a bit of money”, and sold him into slavery. The traders took him to Egypt. Little did they know that there evil actions, their prostitution of brotherly love – even that God would use, and turn into salvation for the whole world, including them!

Joseph learned humility as a slave, and worked hard for his new master, Potiphar. But Potiphar’s wife wanted to have sex with him, and when he refused, running away (good job Joseph), she falsely accused him of sexually assaulting her, and so he was thrown in jail, wrongly accused. But God had not forgotten him. At the right time he was brought before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, because of a dream he had. None of the wise men of Egypt could understand it, but God gave Joseph understanding: there would be a famine in the land, and this is how they were to prepare for it. Pharaoh was so amazed that he raised Joseph up to the highest position in the land, and gave Joseph charge over the preparations for the famine.

The severe famine came to the lands, lasting for seven years, but because of Joseph, Egypt was blessed and suffered no ill effects of the famine. People from the lands around came to Egypt for food, including, would you believe it, Joseph’s brothers! They came to ask him for food, but they did not recognise him, until he told them who he was. Joseph forgave them, understanding that what they had intended for evil, God had worked for good. There was great joy as the family was reunited by the love of God.

So that is what v8 is talking about: Joseph, the saviour of Egypt, and indeed, the world. But there is more to Joseph’s story.

Joseph was rejected by his own people, betrayed by his brothers for twenty pieces of silver, unjustly punished by the Gentiles for crimes he did not commit, but he was not forgotten by God, but exalted to the highest place in all the land where he saved the whole world. Sound familiar?

Philippians 2:6–11 Though [Christ Jesus] was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God gives us these patterns, these foreshadowings, so that when Jesus appears we will recognise him as the Christ. Here he is, the man of sorrows, rejected, unjustly condemned, but now raised up, the saviour of the world!

God reveals his glory to us through real events and people in history. Abraham, Joseph, now Moses and the people of Israel – and supremely in Jesus of Nazareth, his son, our Lord and Christ (Messiah).
So have no fear, the Lord is in control. He is ruler of history, and all things are moving towards one goal: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. Eph 1:10

søndag 14. september 2014

The Message of the Bible

Some notes from the Bible Overview from the last two Sundays :

The Message of the Bible

Why Bible overview.

Bible is not like other holy books. Khoran – suras arranged in order of longest to shortest. No narrative between them. Principle of abrogation. Where they contradict, the later abrogates (replaces) the earlier.
But Bible is a single story, told over multiple books, different types of literature, with different authors. But like any good story, it reveals more and more of the “mystery” as Paul calls it on Colossians – the mystery of Christ. So as we read we need to think “where are we” in the overall story the “meta narrative” (biblical theology) of the Bible.

Who is Jesus?

We’re going to start off this Bible overview by looking at the Resurrection.

Now, that might be a strange place to start, but as God says through Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:17-18 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If Christ was not raised, then the whole pack of cards falls down, and we might as well go home right now.

Of course, if you DO investigate the resurrection, you will discover a wealth of evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that Christ was raised from the dead. Eyewitness accounts, from hundreds of people, testify to this. And no other theory is plausible. No other theory fits the facts. If Christ was not raised, how did a frightened little band of disciples suddenly stand against the might of the Roman empire, in the midst of persecution and death, and begin a world-wide religion? If he was not raised, why did they die for a lie, when they could have saved themselves? If he was not raised, why was his body not produced by the authorities, or – if stolen by the disciples, another betrayer like Judas?

And how do you explain the mass sightings of Jesus – hallucination?

No, to continue the passage we started:

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Jesus rose from the dead, as he said he would.

Therefore, he is who he said he is: the Messiah, the King, the Christ, the Holy One of Israel – God incarnate.

Therefore, his words are God’s words, and his actions are God’s actions.

So, what did Jesus have to say about the Bible?

What did Jesus say about the New Testament?

New Testament: Gospels, & letters

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

The disciples were empowered to remember the words of Jesus and to teach others those words (the Gospels). They were also empowered to interpret the work of Jesus on the Cross, and the work of the Spirit in the early church, to complete the theological framework which Jesus had outlined (the Epistles).

The Apostles (including Paul, the Apostle “born abnormally” themselves regarded their letters to the churches as inspired by the Spirit).

What they wrote was what the Spirit inspired them to write, which was to glorify Jesus.

The New Testament is about JESUS – his person, his work, his return.

Therefore we ask of the New Testament – what does this teach me about Jesus?

But is the Old Testament different?

What did Jesus say about the Old Testament?

John 5:39 Jesus says to Pharisees: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Luke 24:25 And <Jesus> said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Therefore it is clear that the Scriptures (Old Testament – the New wasn’t written yet!) are, like the New, ALL ABOUT JESUS! They bear witness about him, he fulfils them, and they are about him.

What does this then mean for the way we read the Old Testament?

What questions do we need to ask?

- What is does this reveal to me about Jesus?

- How does he fulfil this passage?

- How is this passage about Jesus?

But let’s not forget that the Old Testament was written to people before Christ as well, and had meaning and application to them (and not just wait for Christ – although it often was!).

Both the Old and New Testaments are about Jesus - – his person, his work, his return.

Therefore we ask the SAME questions of the Old and New Testaments – what does this teach me about Jesus…..

CASE STUDY: David and Goliath

Let’s apply these questions to the well-known story of David and Goliath (1 Sam 7), and see if it helps us.

Let’s first start with the application to the original hearers:

God always has a rescue plan, often from the most unlikely place imaginable! David is the unknown king, who saves the Israelites, God’s people.

Respond in faith to God’s promises no matter what’s happening!

Apply the other questions:

What does this reveal to me about Jesus?

How does he fulfil this passage?

How is this passage about Jesus?

So the application to us on this side of the Cross is:

David is a type of Christ – he is the unknown King who rescues his people from certain defeat.

God’s unlikely rescue plan is to send his son, the Lord Jesus, to die, and thus defeat the Goliath of death. Jesus is the rejected, unknown King, who saves Christians, God’s people.

Respond in faith to God’s promises in Christ no matter what’s happening!

Bible History

The Bible can basically be divided into the following different types of books:

­ Historical: 5 books of Moses (Genesis to Deuteronomy); Joshua; Judges; Kings; Samuel; in fact, the first 17 books of the Bible from Genesis to Esther, document the history of the Tribe of Israel. [Isaiah and Daniel also have some historical portions]

­ Prophetic: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and all the other smaller books near the back of the OT that we forget about.... (Hosea to Malachi)

­ Poetic: Psalms and Song of Songs (but also have moments of prophecy)

­ Wisdom literature: Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Job

­ New Testament Historical: Gospels + Acts. Also contain much directly applicable stuff, like the Epistles (such as the words of Jesus - but again we have to look at the context: who was He talking to, why, etc.)

­ Epistles: Letters to Christians written by the apostles. Contains much that is directly applicable. Explains the Gospel more clearly. (Context.... who’s it written to....)

­ Apocalyptic: Revelation, Daniel, Mark 13, Isaiah... (Message: God wins)

He’s not talking to you….!

Q1. How would you summarise the whole Bible story in a sentence?

The unfolding revelation of God’s promise to restore creation through Jesus, the Christ.

Q2. What is the main theme of the Bible?

Salvation from judgement through Jesus, foreshadowed, promised, fulfilled.

Timeline – helpful to summarise using framework of promise to Abraham: people land blessing

Creation: God’s people (Adam & Eve) in God’s place (Eden) under God’s rule (God walked with them and spoke with them).

Fall: God’s people out of God’s place under judgement

Abraham: God’s person, chosen to be under God’s rule, going where God tells him.

From him will come a people (Israelites), land (Canaan), blessing (they will be God’s people)

Moses: God’s chosen people (descendants of Abraham – Israelites), redeemed from slavery in Egypt (Exodus), and then taught how to live under His rule (the Law), and brought to God’s place (Canaan).

David: God’s king foreshadowed (in David) and promised (to David) – this future king will rule as God’s ruler, over all the nations, bringing God’s blessing.

Jesus: Fulfilment: God’s chosen King revealed, who calls out a new people from all nations, saving them and ruling over them by his word and Spirit.

Heaven: Final fulfilment: The King revealed, come to judge, and restore all creation: God’s people (Christians) to live in God’s place (Heaven) in God’s blessing (with God)


In one sentence: What would have been the application to the original hearers of the passage?

In one sentence: How does this passage relate to Jesus?

  • Noah – Genesis 6:17-22.

Original: God does not let sin go unpunished, but he will always provide a rescue from judgement.

Jesus: The Ark is foreshadow of Jesus’ rescue from judgement

  • Abraham – Genesis 17:1-22

Original: A promise that they (Israelites) were God’s people, in God’s place (Canaan), under God’s rule (the Law, by faith)

Jesus: It applies to Christians today as well, having been fulfilled by Christ: God’s people (the descendants, now Christians), in God’s place (the land, once Canaan, but actually Heaven), under God’s rule (circumcision of the heart - which is a heart devoted to God and His purposes).

  • The Law – Ex 23:16-19 cf Gal 3:24,25,28.

Original: Obey God from a grateful heart because he is merciful to save us and be in a relationship with us, and it is the right expression of our status as His people.

Jesus: The fulfilment of the Law is found in Christ, and now written in our hearts – we are to obey the Law out of gratitude to Christ, and because it is the right expression of our new nature.

  • Sacrifice – Lev 5:14-19

Original: Have faith in God’s method of forgiveness.

Jesus: Jesus is perfect sacrifice who empowers all the other sacrifices – have faith in him, who is God’s revealed method of forgiveness

  • Hosea – Hosea 2:9-20

Original: Repent and accept the mercy offered.

Jesus: Respond in repentance and rejoicing that God can offer mercy yet still be just because my sins have been paid for on the Cross.

  • Temple – 1 Kings 8:3-11

Original: Rejoice that God has chosen to dwell amongst us, and provide a way for us to meet with him in the Temple

Jesus: Rejoice that Jesus came to dwell amongst us, that we can meet with God through Jesus, the True Temple, and rejoice that he, even more amazingly, has made us the Temple by dwelling in us in the person of his Holy Spirit.

Why should we bother to understand the Bible?

Because it is the word of God, our Father, our First Love.

Because it is the words of Christ, about Christ, that will save people from the wrath to come.

Because Jesus is Lord of all of life, and only by submitting to him in all areas of life (money, job, friends, marriage, sex, time, etc.) will we experience true life and ultimate happiness.

Because if we understand the beginning and the middle, we will understand the certainty of the end: the Return of the King.