fredag 30. januar 2015


søndag 25. januar 2015

Exodus 15:1-21 Praise the Lord!

Exodus 15:1-21

Music expresses the soul. When things are too big to put into words, we put it to music, to song. When things need to be shouted, to be cried, when we just need to FEEL – we sing, or listen to someone else sing.

I remember going to the London Mens Convention a few years back. It was at the Royal Albert Hall. 5000 men. And we sang praises to our God. Oh my. It was electric. 5000 strong voices echoing around the magnificent hall – that was singing. We rejoiced at the mercy and grace of our God. I remember singing “In Christ Alone”. Wow. The joy was almost tangible – I could almost reach out and touch it.

Now take that experience and make it bigger – much bigger. 600 000 men, plus women and children, standing on the shore of the Red Sea, just after a most miraculous rescue. A crowd of about 2 million people crying out in song “Praise the Lord!” A whole city shouting and praising God. Wow!

Today I want us to travel back in time, 3500 years ago. To stand on the shore of the Red Sea and FEEL what it was like to sing this song this morning. Let us let Moses lead us in praise.

Are you ready? Get into your time machine. Time circuits set for around 1500 BC. Location Red Sea, near what is now the Suez Canal, Egypt. Ready? But wait. Remember how this time machine works? We don’t go as observers... we lock on to an Israelite in that time, link up with his mind, and we will see with his eyes, and hear with his ears, and feel his emotions, and remember his memories. Are you ready to experience the Red Sea rescue as an Israelite. Yes. Engage!

1. V1-10 Praise the Lord for he rescues his people

1 Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD:
“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
2 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
3 The LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!

We’ve arrived! We’ve been transported back in time. This morning, you are now an Israelite, standing on the edge of the Red Sea. You can feel the sand under your sandals, the weight of the pack on your back filled with everything you own. It is the day before the Red Sea crossing. You are camped between Egypt and the Red Sea, and some of the older men are not too happy about, muttering words like “caught in a trap” and “what is Moses playing at”. There is a sense of unease, discontent and murmuring in the camp.

And then you heard a scream, a cry of terror: “They are coming!”. No! It cannot be! Your eyes wide you look towards the rear of the camp – and the sight strikes terror into your heart. The Egyptian army bearing down on you. The huge dust cloud raised by the chariot wheels. The flash of the swords and armour in the sunlight. The shouts of the soldiers and the whinnying of the horses fills your ears. Fear grips you, and 300 years of slavery kicked in. “I’m sorry master”, you shout, as you stumble back towards Egypt, towards your old, familiar life. Back towards slavery and the crack of the whip across your back.

And then suddenly you hear the sound of a rushing wind as the pillar of fire blazed past you overhead. The LORD! You had forgotten him in your terror. “How could I forget?” you think. Moses had just been telling us how we will celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread every year in the Promised Land to remember what God had done for us. And how every firstborn son will be redeemed, bought back, to remind us how God had redeemed us, Israel, his firstborn son; and how he had judged the Egyptians because of their rebellion against him. How could I forget? Have I so little faith?

You see in the pillar of fire the angel of the LORD, a human-looking figure, like a Son of Man. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. (Rev 1:13-16) And he stands, stands between you and Egyptians. He is your protection and your shield. Your enemy cannot break through. And you cannot run back to slavery. Praise the Lord!

And then suddenly you hear the voice of Moses, loud and strong. “Men of Israel, see today the salvation of the Lord! Be still, and let the Lord fight for you!”

And then you see him raise his staff into the air. And the sea... the sea beings to churn. And the wind starts to blow, stronger and stronger. But you don’t notice the wind, you just stare in wonder at the sea, transfixed. The wind blows, and the sea writhes, waves crashing back and forth – but there, there in the middle, right in front of Moses, the water level is noticeably lower. The wind howls and the sound of rushing water fills your ears, salt spray hits your face, and the sound of shouting – no, of praising is all around you. “Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!” People are shouting. Because now they can see two great pillars of water rising up – and there, there in the middle of the sea a road. A straight road to freedom.

8 At the blast of your breath, the waters piled up! The surging waters stood straight like a wall; in the heart of the sea the deep waters became hard.
11 “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD— glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?

Can you picture it? Can you see it? Can you feel it? Walking through the sea on dry land. The waters standing like great battlements- huge walls standing to attention as the people of God walk by. The pillar of fire behind your back, and freedom, a new life, the Promised Land ahead of you! Praise the Lord, for he is good, and his mercies endure forever!

But then suddenly the pillar of fire vanishes, and with a great cry the Egyptian army rises up and rushes forth. No!

“Quickly, come on!” you shout. “Move! Run!” You grab the hand of those with you stumbling, running towards the light. You can hear the whinnying of the horses, the clanking of armour, the creaking of the chariots – and the voices of your slave masters. “9 I will chase you. I will catch up with you. I will plunder you. I will consume you. I will flash my sword; my powerful hand will destroy you.’

Terror grips your heart again. Someone screams behind you. You can feel fear all around you. “We’re going to die!” someone shouts. You gasp for breath, your legs burning. “No, I don’t want to go back” you hear yourself. “Save us, O Lord” someone cries out. You push on... and suddenly you’re on the beach, on the other side – you made it! And you collapse in exhaustion, gulping in great lungfuls of air. You feel the sand against your face, feel it between your hands.

And then you thing in despair: “This is where I will die, on a beach, run through by an Egyptian sword or trampled by an Egyptian warhorse.”

6 “Your right hand, O LORD, is glorious in power.
Your right hand, O LORD, smashes the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty, you overthrow those who rise against you.
You unleash your blazing fury; it consumes them like straw.
8 At the blast of your breath, the waters piled up! The surging waters stood straight like a wall; in the heart of the sea the deep waters became hard.
9 “The enemy boasted, ‘I will chase them and catch up with them. I will plunder them and consume them. I will flash my sword; my powerful hand will destroy them.’
10 But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them. They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

As you lie there on the beach, expecting at any moment to feel a cold hard blade pierce your back, and the harsh laugh of an Egyptian soldier – instead you hear a shout of terror from the Egyptian soldiers. “The Lord! The Lord fights for them against us!”

In wonder and hope you stand and turn to look behind you. You see the Egyptians in fear and confusion. Their chariots are stuck in the mud. Their horses are whinnying in fear, trying to turn back. Then suddenly a great blast of wind sweeps in from behind you, pushing you to the ground. You hear a great roar of rushing waters, like a thousand waterfalls, and you see – you see the sea crashes down upon the enemy of God’s people.

1 “I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.
2 The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.
This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him!
3 The LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!

Praise the Lord because he rescues his people!

But that is not all. We don’t just praise him for what he has done. We praise him for who he is. And the great crowd raises its voice in song and praises the Lord for he is the Most High.

2. V11-13 Praise the Lord for he is the Most High

11 “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD— glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders? 12 You raised your right hand, and the earth swallowed our enemies. 13 “With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home.

Praise the Lord for he is the Most High.

Throughout this Exodus story one thing has become vbery clear: the Lord is immensely powerful. There is no-one like him. He is not an equal amongst the gods – he is far above. Egypt was the world superpower of the day – and the Lord God showed that he was far superior to their gods. Many commentators have wondered about the plagues – why specifically those? And one of the most plausible explanations is that the plagues were all showing God’s power over the different gods of Egypt. Egyptians worshipped many gods, each god with its own little area it ruled: like the sun god Ra, or Khnum the river god of the Nile, and so on. Each plague showed God’s mastery over these little gods – he was more powerful even in their area of power. He is the one true God over all the others. Yahweh is his name – or as he now has fully revealed himself: the triune God; Father, Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. Who is like our God, indeed? Other gods are stone idols or ideas made up out of nothing. Only the Lord speaks, only the Lord acts, only the Lord comes to live with his people.

It is not a surprise that Christianity is the only religion based on verifiable history – things that have actually taken place. Real events, real people, real experiences. And when God speaks through his prophets, it’s not just vague suggestions about things that may or may not happen: it is about specific events – even the names of the people involved - that then take place. In fact, a prophet in Israel whose words did not come true was a false prophet and was put to death!

There may be gods of stone or wood, there may be philosophies and worldviews, there may be evil spirits – but there is only One God above all, seated high and mighty on his throne. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Christ.

11 Who is like you among the gods, O LORD.

Praise the Lord for he is the Most High.

3. V13-18 Praise the Lord for he controls our future

13 “With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home. 17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain— the place, O LORD, reserved for your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established. 18 The LORD will reign forever and ever!”

This is the point of remembering what the LORD has done. It is to give us confidence for the future. It builds our faith. Remember that Biblical faith is not “just believe”. Biblical faith is believe based on the evidence. Based on God’s past actions we know that he is able to save, willing to save, and powerful enough to not be stopped. Praise the Lord for he saves his people; praise the Lord for he is the Most High – there is no other; and therefore, praise the Lord for he controls our future. Our future is secure. If he saves us, then we are truly saved.

As an Israelite set free, there would come a time after all the excitement has died down when you think: “what now?”. We’re 2 million people... in the desert... not much water... not much food. Where do we go? Oh, there’s the promised land, but last I heard it was occupied.

And then you hear Moses’ voice leading the people in song. 15 The leaders of Edom are terrified; the nobles of Moab tremble. 17 You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain. 18 The LORD will reign forever and ever!”

And you remember he is in control. Just like he has shown in the past. Our lives are in his hands. Do not be afraid.
And we, dear friends, as “time travellers”, have the benefit of knowing that their hope was not in vain. That they did not die of thirst or of starvation in the desert. That the people of Canaan and surrounding lands really were terrified of them. That God did safely deliver them to his holy mountain just as he had promised. Praise the Lord for he controls the future.
And so, that gives us confidence, because we

4. Praise the Lord for he is our Lord

Do you feel the emotions of Moses and the Israelites this morning? Do you feel the joy of being rescued, the wonder of a God, high and mighty and lifted, who cares for his people, little us down here. Do you feel the hope of the future, a new life, knowing that he will take you there?

If you feel it, good, for this, Christian, is YOUR experience, your emotion, your joy.

For we have been rescued, we have been set free. We are known, intimately known by the one true God and we know him. And he has given us a hope and future, we are headed to the New Creation, and it is secured, guaranteed by His blood and by the Holy Spirit, the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. He is with us.

So we can sing a new song to the Lord.

Daniel and the people sang this song to the Lord: “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has defeated death and sin on the Cross. The Lord is my strength and my song, he has set me free. This is my God and I will praise him – the God of Moses and Israel and I will exalt him. The LORD is a warrior; Jesus is his name.”

To sum up then. We, like Israel have been set free. Our old sinful life is behind us. We have been taken through the Sea, washed clean, made new. We are headed for heaven and he is before us and behind us, his holy fire is all around us, keeping us safe. The enemy cannot get us, and we cannot go back to our old life. Remember this! Remember when you are tempted. Do not fall. But if you do fall, if you do sin – remember that the price has been paid to forgive you. And stand up, put your pack back on your shoulders, and keep following Him. One day we will see him there face to face, either when we die, or when he returns, whichever comes first. And our journey will be complete. We will be home. Praise the Lord!

11 “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD— glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders? 12 You raised your right hand, and the earth swallowed our enemies. 13 “With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home. Amen

18 The LORD will reign forever and ever!” Amen

He fought for us on the cross. This is what we celebrate now in the communion. That night in the garden, agonising in prayer, sweat like drops of blood in anguish on his face, as he prepared to take the cup of punishment our sins deserved. As he stands and says “The hour of darkness is here. Here is my betrayer.” At a word he speaks and the whole crowd come to arrest him falls down. Oh, he had power! And yet, he fought for us not with a great display of power, but with a great display of love. Love held his power in check. Love caused him to cry out “Father, forgive them!” as they nailed him to the cross, instead of calling down a legion of angels. Love held him on the cross, nails in his hands and feet. Love took him through the darkness, as he became our Passover Lamb. Love, was why he cried out “It is finished” and gave up his life so that you and I might live.

søndag 18. januar 2015

Exodus 14 The Lord will be glorified

Exodus 14

There are people in this church who have lived through the Exodus.

I don’t mean that they’re 3500 years old! What I mean is, is that they have been fantastically, wonderfully, dramatically rescued by the Lord – and their entire life has been turned upside down. Everything has gone wrong – and belonging to Jesus has seemed to make things worse, not better.

Some of you sitting here today feel like the Israelites did 3500 years ago. Some of you feel like you’re being chased through the desert by an army of problems and are crying out to the Lord “Why Lord! Why did you bring me to this place? Did you save me just to kill me? Why are you taking me through this?”

It’s a good question, so let’s see what the God’s answer is from Exodus 14.

1. The Lord will be glorified when he tests you

2. The Lord will be glorified because he protects his people

3. Glory to God in the highest

1. The Lord will be glorified when he tests you

14:1 Then the Lord gave these instructions to Moses: 2 “Order the Israelites to turn back and camp by Pi-hahiroth between Migdol and the sea. Camp there along the shore, across from Baal-zephon. 3 Then Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are confused. They are trapped in the wilderness!’

The Lord sets up a test. He tells the Israelites to turn back, to make it look like they were trapped and confused. The test was for Pharaoh and his officers. Israel are seemingly vulnerable, confused. How will he respond? Will he remember what happened when he stood against the Lord and his people? Does he remember the death of his very own son? Does he remember the cost of standing in rebellion against Almighty God?

Has he learned his lesson? Does he fear the Lord?

But the test is not just for Pharaoh. It is also for Israel. What will they do the first time they seem to be in danger? Will they remember what the Lord has done for them already? That’s what the previous chapter was all about. Remember the Lord. Remember what he has done.

So there is a test: Pharaoh and Egypt, and Moses and Israel. How will they respond? And what does their response reveal about them, about the state of their hearts – who they really are.

And more to the point, when we are tested, what does our response reveal about us, and about the state of our hearts.

As we go through life’s ups and down, our character, our heart, our true nature is revealed. Particularly when we go through difficult times – how do we respond? Do we cling to the Lord? Do we respond in faith? Do we doubt? Do we cry out to the Lord “Why did you bring us into the desert to die?”.

We’d all like to say we respond in FAITH. But if we’re honest I think all too often we’re like the Israelites. Or even like Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is a fool. He is blinded by his own arrogance, his own power. 5 When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. 6 So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. And off they go to destruction.

Pharaoh, it seems, has learned nothing. His country lies in ruins, and yet he still rebels against the Lord, he still rushes blindly towards his own destruction. Why? Because he wants to.

I find verses 4 and 8, and verses like it, some of the most terrifying in the Bible. It is when God says I will give the people what they want. I will allow them to do what they want to do. They will not repent, but will be hardened in their sin, and there will be no escape. It is God’s righteous judgement on a rebellious man, a rebellious people, and it is terrifying. 4 The LORD says “And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. 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!” and v8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, so he chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. The result is v28 Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.

It is a humiliating defeat. The once proud slave-masters, now just corpses washed up at the feet of those they once ruled. The first will be last and the last will be first. It is foolishness to stand against the Lord. You will be broken. You will not stand. God will be glorified.

Now considering what we’ve seen Pharaoh do in the past, his actions are not entirely shocking. Just more of the same. God told us quite clearly that Pharaoh would never respond to him, that he would rebel and that Pharaoh’s rebellion would serve God’s purposes. So, not a surprise. The shock comes in v10. Are the Israelites mad? Do they not remember what God has just done for them, like a day ago? Do they not remember the terrible darkness which covered the land for three days? Do they not remember the terror of the Angel of death passing over their houses and passing through the houses of the Egyptians?

No, they do not. 10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’ ”

It is a shocking response. It is a terrifying response. They have responded in unbelief. They have mocked the Lord. They do not trust his word. They have rebelled against him.

And so the Lord wipes them out, as he wiped out the Egyptians. “Foolish worms!” he cries, as his holy fire consumes them and this rebellious people are purged from the land.

Well, that’s what he should have done. If he was a God who was only just. But who is this LORD, this Yahweh who made himself known to Moses at the burning bush? He is the Lord, the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God.

The shocking thing is that he rescues these ungrateful, unfaithful people. And God is glorified. God is glorified in judgement over Pharaoh. God is glorified in saving Israel, in saving his people.

What’s the difference between them and Pharaoh, then? Nothing – except that the Israelites are God’s people, covered by his promises, his word, and Pharaoh is not.

You will be tested. You will fail the test. The real question is not what you do when you are tested. The real question is what will God do? Do you belong to the Lord or not. Are you one of His people?

2. The Lord will be glorified because he protects his people

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

Actually v14 is better translated “Yahweh fights for you. You be silent” In other words, shut your pie-holes, Israel!. Stop your whining and complaining. Stop longing for slavery in Egypt!

The contrast is stark: the Israelites say in v12 “We want to serve these Egyptians”. God says in v13 “You will never see these Egyptians again.” You can’t be the slave of a dead person. You cannot serve the dead!

So it is with us as Christians. However tempted we may be to go back to Egypt, go back to our old way of life, to be enslaved by sin, to serve our old masters. We cannot. They are dead to us. And one day sin and evil will be destroyed forever.

One of my Dad’s friends said that the biggest change in becoming a Christian was that he couldn’t sin properly anymore!

There is much truth in that. We cannot sin properly anymore because we are aware of our sin! We are aware of this whole other world, this battle ground that we never even know existed before we came to Christ. How many of us thought that we were pretty ok, pretty good people – until the Holy Spirit started shining His light on us. Oof. What a reality check. Is this really me? Am I so full of sin? Do I so easily give up and want to go back to “Egypt”?

Yes. It’s a big temptation for us, and continued to be for the Israelites. It’s easier to be a slave and be like everybody else, than be different, have faith, and follow Christ. But if he is God, what alternative is there? Say no and end up washed up on the shore, our dead eyes looking up at the sky as the people of God walk by to new life! No! Save us, O God, we cry. I already have he says.

You see, while the people were moaning in fear and wanting to rush back to Egypt, the angel of the Lord is on the move. 19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps.

The angel of the Lord moves between the people and their enemies. He stands between the slave drivers and the people. They wanted their slaves back – but the Lord stands in the way.
But little did the Egyptians know that the Israelites also wanted to come back! “We want to be slaves.” So the Lord stands between the people and their old life, their slavery. He will not allow them to go back, to be enslaved again. They have been set free.

That’s what Jesus does for us. He stands between us and Satan. We once belonged to Satan, following his commands, his ways. We belonged to him because we have sinned against God. And he is coming for us. In wrath and fearsome anger he comes for us. And Jesus moves between us and Satan and shields us with his own body. The sins are paid for. We are free.

But our hearts still long to be back under Satan’s rule. Because our hearts are sinful – we want to disobey God, we want to follow our own way, do our own thing, and ignore God. And so we long to be like everyone else. We long to be back in Egypt in “safe” slavery. Where we can sin again and not feel guilty. When we are not called to forgive, to lay down our life for your wife, to lead our families, to share the gospel, to serve in the church. Wouldn’t it be easier to be lazing about in bed now instead of being here? Oh, my hearts longs for such foolish laziness instead of being here, hearing the word of the Lord, being with my Christian brothers and sisters. Praise the Lord that he stands between us and Satan and he does not let us go back to slavery. I thank the Lord that you are here – it is a miracle of his Holy Spirit that you are here this morning.

Our Lord Jesus stands between us. Satan might beat upon him, but he cannot break through. Jesus did not sin. He did not yield. He is alive! And we are forever protected by the power of his indestructible life.

He stands between us. God purposes will be fulfilled. We will be saved. Remember that, when times are tough, when you are tempted to give in, when you want to sin, oh you want to so badly. Be quiet, tell your sinful heart to shut up! And say Lord, please fight for me. This is a battle I cannot win.

And you can be confident that the Lord will answer that prayer, not because you are special or deserving or good enough – the Israelites certainly weren’t – but because he is special. Because he keeps his promises. Because he will be glorified both in judgement – and salvation.

Be still. And let the Lord fight for you.

3. Glory to God in the highest

4 And once again I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after you. 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!”

Can you take away from God’s glory by rebelling against him? We were created to serve him, to reflect back to him his majesty and glory. All of creation shouts with joy: “God is great, God is great, God is great”.

So can we stand against that, stand against our destiny, stand against all of creation, stand against the Living God and say “God is not great”. I will not bow before this God. Remember Pharaoh’s words way back in chapter 5 when Moses and Aaron first appear before him “Who is this “Yahweh”? I do not know him. Why should I listen to him?”

The answer is, of course, no, you cannot take away from God’s glory. God is using Pharaoh’s rebellion to give glory to... God. He is not affected by our puny rebellion. He is not worried when we raise our little fist in his face. His plans are not shuffled about, rearranged. There is nothing outside of his control.

Oh Pharaoh’s making his choice, and it is a real choice – but God is already there, has already fixed him in his course, and Pharaoh’s will will be made to serve the will of God. Don’t be afraid, dear friends, of any man. For what is man compared to God? Pharaoh chooses to rebel against God, to spit in his eye – and he becomes the very glory of God and God responds in righteous judgement and destroys the Egyptian army in great power.

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. 18 When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord!”

Glory to God who protects his people, and judges the wicked. Praise the Lord! Those who rebel against him will not stand. God will be glorified.

God is glorified in judgement.

But God is also glorified in rescue. Oh unfaithful, disbelieving Israel, see now the salvation of the Lord. See the Lord fighting for you. See the waters rising up like great towers as you walk across dry land. And see the glory of the Lord as he rescues you from your enemies. Praise the Lord!

30 That is how the Lord rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord and in his servant Moses.

There are only two ways to live.

One. You live like Pharaoh. You live for yourself. You ignore God. You rebel against his word. You are the captain of your destiny. And God will glorify himself in judgement over you, as he hardens your heart so that there is no escape and you will choose hell rather than bow the knee to the Lord.

Or you can cry out to him for mercy. Tell him you want to serve him, to belong to him. And if you do that, you will find that he has already rescued you, that you belong to him, that you are his. And he will be glorified as he saves you, as he protects you.

So, dear friends, if you belong to Jesus, when the tests of life come – do not be afraid, hang on to God, and watch his salvation. Don’t run back to sin, but stand firm, obey his commands, no matter how hard it seems – and you will see what the Lord will do. And like the Israelites you will put your faith in the Lord. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Glory to God.

søndag 11. januar 2015

Exodus 13 Remember

Exodus 13

About two weeks ago, just after Christmas, I was walking along a seaside path. The sun was blazing down with its summer warmth, the sea was glistening – and I saw a strange sight. I was in the coastal town of Hermanus, just outside Cape Town, and there in the centre of town, on the seaside path were two old World War 2 guns.
They had been kept as a monument. There was a stone pillar, and on the pillar was a plaque with the names of all the soldiers who had given their lives during the war. And there was one sentence on the plaque: Their names live forever.
In other words: Remember.

We remember their sacrifices during the war and we are thankful. I remember what my grandfather went through to win the freedom we take so for granted. We remember those who fought and died for freedom. And we remember what that cost: our freedom came at a great price. Let us never forget, say these monuments, what horror war brings, what terrible price it exacts on us, and what it costs to stand against tyranny. Remember.

Today’s passage is Israel’s “war monument”. Remember. Remember what God has done. Remember how he brought you out. And remember what it cost.

1. Remember: the Lord rescues his people with a mighty hand (slavery and rescue (yeast)) v3-10

2. Remember: the Lord redeems his sons from death with a sacrifice (death, redemption, and the costly sacrifice) v11-16

Redeem means buy back, exchange, transfer, swap (å bytte ut)

3. Remember: the Lord is with his rescued, redeemed people v17ff

1. Remember: the Lord rescues his people with a mighty hand

Remember what God has done. Well, what has God done? Well, I’m glad you asked, since it’s been about a month since we were last in Exodus, and we’ve probably all forgotten!

God saved a tribe of whiny, ungrateful, weak slaves (that’s Israel), by choosing as their leader and rescuer an escaped murderer hiding out in the desert wasting his life (that’s Moses). What an inspiring story! What a bunch of losers. These are the people God chooses? Seriously? Yes, seriously. These are the people God saves!

3 So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the LORD has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand. And in case the Israelites (and us) are slow Moses reminds us again at the end of his speech v9 Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the LORD: ‘With a strong hand, the LORD rescued you from Egypt.’

The hero of the story is not us, the people. It is not Moses, or Aaron. It is God. He is the Rescuer, the Saviour of his people. It is his power, his action, his love, his mercy on a small insignificant bunch of slaves. Why?

Because his word is true. 400 years earlier the Lord told Abraham what would happen: that his descendants would be enslaved, and that when the time was right he would rescue them and lead them to the land he had promised Abraham and his descendants.
The Lord God keeps his promises. His word is powerful.
We remember what the Lord has done in the past – because it reminds us that he keeps his promises. What he has done in the past gives us confidence that he will do what he has promised to do in the future: to judge the living and the dead, and to rescue all those who receive Christ Jesus as Saviour and as Lord. Remember! And have faith.

Again we see that faith is not just “believing without evidence”. We talk about a “leap of faith” as being a blind jump – but that’s not Biblical faith. Faith in the Bible is based on evidence. We trust the evidence of what God has done in the past, so we can then live confidently, with faith, trusting that he will do what he has promised. Faith is based on the evidence of what God has revealed already. So remember what he has done, and have faith.

So we remember the Exodus. Great. Nice story. Ah, but there’s more, remember. As we’ve seen as we’ve gone along in these chapters, God’s eye is on the future, on the real Exodus, the real rescue, which this one is just foreshadowing: the Cross of Christ.
That’s why in v3 So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever. Forever. Forever is a bit excessive isn’t it, for the rescue of a bunch of slaves. But not for remembering the Cross. The point of Exodus is the Cross. Exodus is just a shadow of the real rescue to come. That’s why it’s such a big deal. That’s why the need to remember it forever.

We, like the Israelites, are slaves. But not slaves to the Egyptians, we are slaves to sin – our rebellion against God. We have ignored him, our Creator and King. We have broken his laws and done our own thing. We have insulted him by not giving him glory. We have sinned against him. The evidence of sin is all around us: broken relationships, arguments, hurt, greed, poverty, divorce, locked doors, wars, sexual abuse, terror attacks – all these come from our sinful hearts turned towards ourselves instead of towards the Lord. And because he is just, he will not allow us to hurt and destroy each other and ignore him forever. He has set a day of judgement and warned us about it. Just as Pharaoh was warned of his day of judgement. Pharaoh was arrogant and refused to repent, and brought ruin, destruction, and ultimately death on himself and his people. Learn from his mistake!
A day of judgement is coming, a plague of death when darkness will cover the whole earth and everyone will meet the angel of death face to face. We are in Egypt, waiting for the final plague.

So, how do we escape? How do we live instead of dying? Remember that the Israelites had the Passover lamb, sacrificed in their place. Then they had to leave with the people, following the Lord, in faith, out into the desert. They would remember this with a feast, the feast of unleavened bread (unleavened means bread with no yeast). 6 For seven days the bread you eat must be made without yeast. Then on the seventh day, celebrate a feast to the LORD.

There was no yeast because there was no time to bake bread with yeast – yeast needs time to rise, and they had to leave quickly – they were rescued. Bread without yeast also keeps longer – it is bread for a long journey, the journey to the Promised Land. Eating bread with no yeast was a symbol, a symbol that you were following the Lord into the desert, trusting him to take you to the Promised Land.

That finds its fulfilment in the Cross. Where our Lord Jesus won for us our freedom by taking our place as the Passover lamb. He took our place, taking the punishment of death our sins deserved, in order to break the power of sin over us and set us free. We are no longer slaves to sin, but now are free to follow our Lord God to the Promised Land of the New Creation.

Romans 8:1-2 So now there is NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. You are free! Just like the Israelites. So remember what Christ has done. If you belong to Jesus – if he is your Saviour and Lord – then the power of sin is broken in you – particularly the power of sin to kill you. You will not die spiritually. You will not face the darkness of God’s righteous anger. You are sinless because Christ has taken your sins. I am free!

So when we are tempted to sin: to lie, to gossip, to get proud and arrogant, to answer back harshly, to hurt, to steal, to give in to lust, or anger, or hatred, or prejudice, whatever it is – we must remember what Christ has done. Remember that I belong to him.

The Israelites were commanded to look back at the Exodus, that great event where God rescued them from slavery in Egypt and lead them safely to the Promised Land of Canaan.

We are commanded to forever remember the True Exodus the great event where God rescued us from slavery to sin, through the cross, and will lead us safely to the New Creation.

I am free. Remember it.

Remember that the Lord rescues his people with a mighty hand.

2. Remember: the Lord redeems his sons from death with a sacrifice

11 “This is what you must do when the LORD fulfills the promise he swore to you and to your ancestors. When he gives you the land where the Canaanites now live, 12 you must present all firstborn sons and firstborn male animals to the LORD, for they belong to him.

All the firstborn sons belong to the LORD? Why? The answer is in v15 Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the LORD killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the LORD—except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’

Remember the final plague. The final plague was the plague of death. Remember it. Remember that your sons were redeemed, saved by the sacrifice of the lamb. Remember that any son not redeemed by the lambs was killed.

It’s very dramatic, isn’t it? In fact the whole 10 plagues thing is quite dramatic. God could just have blown Pharaoh away with a little flick of his wrist. So why the drama? Why the big event? Why the dramatic memorial?

Because the Firstborn Son before all firstborn sons is Jesus. And he is the great redeemer – the one who buys back sinful men and women, like us, like Israel. He pays the price, a price paid in blood: his own life.
Exodus is a drama, a big event because it is an echo of the death of the Firstborn Son. The death of Jesus echoes throughout time and space, through all of history – a massive cry “It is finished!” as the universe itself is turned upside down. God the Son became a human being and tasted death in order to He who knew no sin became sin for us. It is the biggest event in time. There is no bigger, there will be no bigger. That God Himself would stoop to take our form, to taste our suffering, to even taste death in order to rescue us.
Some say the gospel is unbelievable and I would say they’re right. In fact, if you don’t think it is unbelievable I don’t think you fully grasp the wonder of the gospel. Have you ever just sat in wonder and thought “Jesus died for me”. Jesus died...for me!

I was in chains, enslaved by sin. I was in darkness, under the judgement of death. And Jesus saved me. He saved me by redeeming me: paying the price to set me free. He took my place.

And that is the symbol that the Israelites were to remember, and to tell their children. Here is the firstborn son. He is under the sentence of death. But God has said “redeem all your firstborn sons”. So instead of the son being placed on the altar, a transaction takes place. A price is paid, normally 5 shekels, and the son is redeemed, bought back, set free from death. Someone else paid his price.

But now the firstborn donkey is brought forward. There is no redeemer for this donkey. No-one to pay the price. No-one to take his place. The donkey’s neck is broken, and its body falls lifeless in the dust.

Remember: see the price being paid to redeem the life of the son. The price is paid. The son lives.

Remember: see the donkey. There is no-one to pay his price, no redeemer is found. His neck is broken because there is no redeemer. No redeemer = death.

We are all under the sentence of death. We will all die. Eternal death. Unless there is a redeemer: Christ Jesus. Only he can pay the price to save us: not 5 shekels – that was only a symbol. The price to be paid is a life for a life – one perfect life to redeem your imperfect life. Life for death. And so Jesus gives his life for us, paying the price. He is the firstborn son, the firstborn son who goes to the altar and who is not redeemed, he is not bought back, so that he can redeem, by back, all of us.

Is he your redeemer? Have you been bought back by him? Remember! Be redeemed. Or will your neck be broken like a donkey, your body lying in the dust for all eternity?

Remember: the Lord redeems his sons from death with a sacrifice.

3. Remember: the Lord is with his people

21 The LORD went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. 22 And the LORD did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.

The Lord did not abandon his people after he rescued them. He did not say You’re free, good luck.

If he’d done that, they would have gone the direct route: through the land of the Philistines. And they would have faced battle, become terrified, and run back to slavery in Egypt.

But God called them to follow him. You see, they were set free not to do their own thing, but set free to follow God.

We know that we are saved from our sins – but what are we saved for? We’re not just saved FROM sins, but saved FOR service to God. We are set free not to do our own thing, but set free to be who we were born to be: people who glorify God. We are set free to fulfil our destiny.

Freedom to do our own thing is sin: we do what we want without referencing God – we’re acting like we are God, like we are in charge. What we value so highly as “freedom” the Bible calls sin. And actually, that’s slavery. When we do what we want, we find soon that we can’t do anything else. We become enslaved to our own selfish desires and motivations and we can’t do anything else. We are slaves to ourselves. If the Israelites had been “free” to do what they wanted they would have landed back in Egypt!
I remember a friend of mine at University who had cheated on his girlfriend – and he loved his girlfriend. He said “I couldn’t stop myself”. He was helpless. His “freedom” had trapped him and become his master. That’s sin. Sin enslaves us, ensnares us. Only Christ can set us free. Only in following him can we be truly free.

So remember. Remember what he has done. Remember that he has saved you with his mighty hand. Remember that he redeemed you with a costly sacrifice. And remember that he is with you – the Lord is with his people. So decide today to follow him. No matter what the road, follow him. Obey him. Put him first. Sacrifice your time, your money, your relationships, your reputation, your stuff – give it all up to him – and you will be amazed at what he will do. Don’t stay in Egypt, hanging on to your things – mine. But give it up, head out the door, and trust Christ.

At the beginning of this new year, the Lord is challenging us to trust him. To have faith. Remember what he has done. Remember who he is. And do not be afraid to trust him. Obey him. No matter how difficult it is. Amen? Amen.