Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 11: Getting out of Egypt
February 28, 2010
· Skim Exodus/plagues, Romans 12:1ff
Scripture reading: Exodus 1:8-14 (Sarah Dunn)
Charlton Heston is moses
This week we started to read Exodus. I think for many of us, Exodus and Charlton Heston are pretty much synonymous (he was famous for something other than the NRA).
Between that and Sunday school, many of us are familiar with the basic story of the Exodus: Israel is in slavery in Egypt and God calls Moses to free them, and through a series of 10 plagues, Pharaoh is “persuaded” to let them go.
· Studying it, I’m struck by how much our story is like theirs.
No water being turned into blood, but the story of their exodus mirrors our exodus. But (and here is the cool thing) we keep going where they stopped. We have a chance to succeed where they failed and fulfill God’s purpose for Israel.
As always, help us learn from those who have gone before. Erase the distance of culture and years and teach us.
400 years in an incubator
We read through Genesis about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we saw that God was leading and watching over them, but then it seems that he just forget about them.
· There is a 400 year gap between Genesis and Exodus, and not until in chapter 2 does it say God “remembered them.”
· Four hundred years is a long time – that’s how far Galileo and Shakespeare are from us.
Was God busy on a side project? “I’ve got a star going super nova on me; can you just hang out for a little while?” “Sorry, that took a little longer than I thought, whoa – 400 years?!?”
Hardly, when you look at the bigger picture you see God’s plan. God knows exactly what he is doing:
God has got this fledging nation, Israel, his chosen people. They are part of a bigger picture (“salvation history”) – through them he will save all humanity from the Fall.
· God promised Abraham that he would be blessed and that all nations would be blessed through him.
Q What is the greatest danger that Israel faced?
Assimilation – there were only 75 of them, surrounded by pagan nations. Abraham found a non-Canaanite wife for Isaac, and Isaac for Jacob. But now, Jacob’s sons are starting to intermarry.
· Do you know many nomadic tribes were in Palestine? A lot.
· Do you know how many survived as an ethnic group? One.
Q How could God protect them from the surrounding nations and have them grow into a nation that would fulfill their purpose?
God took them out of Canaan where they could blend in and put them in a nation where they stuck out like a sore thumb, a nation that was (frankly) a little racist: Egypt.
It would be like putting a handful of Chinese in a town in the deep South, circa 1950. They would have to band together as a tight-knit group.
· In Egypt, they were able to grow and flourish while maintaining their ethnic identity.
After the 400 years, they were now a crowd of perhaps 2 million, and this is where Exodus picks up. They have been in an incubator for all this time and now it is time to get going.
In the beginning of Exodus, Israel is enslaved by a “Pharaoh who did not know Joseph.” Interestingly, we know that for awhile Egypt was ruled by foreigners, but then Egyptians retook control, explaining why the new rulers wouldn’t know him.
· Long story very short, God raises up Moses to deliver them.
Exodus 4:29-31 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
They’re happy, God is good, life is great, but we hit a snag:
Exodus 5:1-2 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
And it gets worse: You know how your dad responded when you said you were bored? “Go do some chores!” Same idea, Pharaoh figures they have too much time on their hands and greatly increases their quotas and beats them when they fail.
Israel’s not so happy, life is not great. Now they blame Moses (amazing how quickly it goes from “our idea” to “your idea”).
NIV Exodus 5:21-23 ...they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”
That is a very good question: Why? I mean with friends like these... I don’t know how much more of God’s help I can handle!
I think there is a really good reason:
Q You know how you hard it is to move after living somewhere even for a couple of years? How about for 400?
Egypt had become home; they were settled in. Yeah, they were slaves, but they could own property and work side jobs.
They had their little herb gardens in the back yard, had some investments in the Egyptian stock market, and just signed a lease on a new chariot.
· The problem was that Egypt was never meant to be home.
God had promised them Canaan. It was the crossroad of three continents, where they could have the most impact upon the world, and fulfill their purpose as the chosen people.
· God has to remind them that Egypt is not their home.
Starting in chapter 1 with the enslavement and now Pharaoh’s harsh treatment, God is driving in the point – this isn’t home.
· God allowed the suffering so they would really want to leave.
Exodus 6:6-8 “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.”
Happy in Egypt
Is this starting to sound familiar yet? Are you starting to see how their story is our story?
Q Where do we live? This world.
Q Is this meant to be our final home? No.
We were made to outlive the stars and outrank the angels, yet we seem perfectly happy to call it home. This is not what we were meant for; this is a staging ground, not our home.
· The story of the Exodus is God getting his people out of Egypt and Egypt out of his people.
Our story is God getting us out of this world and getting the world out of us. But unlike the Israelites, our story doesn’t stop there – back to that in a minute.
Egypt is a picture of “The World.” But I need to clarify, it is not the physical earth around us, but a world’s system when God is not honored as king, as Pharaoh said, “Who is this LORD? I don’t know him.” That is what this world is.
· You can live on this earth, but not be part of this world, in fact you have to.
God’s of Egypt
Like Israel, we need some “encouragement” to leave Egypt. How does God do this?
1. God lets us feel the pain of our slavery
First and most importantly, the exodus is a picture of freedom from sin, it’s salvation, and this only come through Jesus – we will talk about this next week when we talk about the Passover.
The short version: We have to learn that what we think is freedom is actually slavery to sin, and being a slave to Christ is true freedom.
· Feeling the suffering of our slavery to sin is a key way God calls us to freedom.
get the egypt out of us
But once they are out of Egypt, their story doesn’t stop. As we will see as we read through Exodus, they kept acting they belonged in Egypt. And that too, is our story.
Have you ever noticed that even after we are freed, we still prefer the slavery of sin and dysfunction to the freedom of holiness and health? Likewise, God allows us to feel the suffering of that slavery.
· As it has been said, “Change only happened when the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same.”
2. God reveals himself
The Exodus is a benchmark is God’s revelation of himself to Israel. They had been in Egypt for 400 years, with no revelation. Though separate ethnically, they were influenced by the Egyptian culture and especially their religion.
· A key part of this revelation was the plagues.
God is revealing what he is like, the almighty, powerful, and above the gods of Egypt. The plagues are far more than a magic show – they are a contest between the gods of Egypt and the true of God of Israel (and they get this butts handed to them).
Exodus 12:12 ...I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.
Some scholars think that each of the plagues was direct challenge to a different god of Egypt. At least some of them were: They worship the Nile, it was turned to blood, they worshiped the sun, it was darkened.
This is still our story: We may not worship frogs anymore, but now we worship money, science, health, fame, and sex.
We need God to reveal to us just how weak and worthless these things are, which is not easy because we grow up in this world and naturally adopt it’s ways, values, and perspective without knowing it.
· We are like children growing up in a dysfunctional home that don’t realize it’s dysfunctional.
How can God reveal himself?
1. When we spend time in his Word (“transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 2:2)
2. When we spend time in worship, being refocused on him.
3. When we spend time in community, being reminded and exhorted.
4. When we spend less time in the things of this world – unplug.
Back into Egypt
I’ve been saying we are the Israelites: God wants to get us out of the world and the world out of us, but I’ve hinted there’s a twist in the story: We get to go further than they did.
Q Have you figured out what that twist is?
Here’s a hint: How can Israel be a blessing to all the nations and to the world if they are never in it?
· Jesus wants to take us, as Christians, out of the world, get the world out of us, and then get us back into the world!
Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
Again, this was God’s plan from the very beginning, but Israel wasn’t able to do it – their history is a ping-ponging back and forth between being corrupted by the world and being isolated from the world.
Q What makes the difference so that we can be “in the world but not of it,” and not be corrupted?
The Spirit changes us from the inside and gives us the power to be a blessing by bringing Jesus to the nations.
· Prior to the Spirit, God had to protect his people from the outside, now Satan needs to protect them from us!
The Gathering’s mission statement is that we are a Christian community striving to glorify God and engage culture, meaning we “go” into our culture like missionaries who speak the language.
There is a constant tension between “community” and “engaging Culture.” As we grow in community, there will be a constant temptation to stay there. This is how the Christian subculture is created. We want to be with those who are like us.
· So even as we build community, growing closer to each other, we must be continually reaching out to the world around us.
As your pastor, I want to challenge you (and me): Are you getting so comfortable that you are not engaging your culture?
Q When was the last time that you interacted with a non-Christian in a way that pointed them to Jesus?
Just partying with them doesn’t count – simply showing a non-Christian that you aren’t a fuddy-duddy isn’t engaging culture! We must be helping them see the slavery of their sin, and show them the surpassing greatness of knowing God.
putting it into action
While the Bible says that some of us have been gifted to be evangelists, all of us are still called to “be a blessing.” Here are some key ways all of us engage our culture with the Good News about hope in Christ:
1. We have to live a life that brings glory to God and makes the Gospel attractive (Titus 2:10) – “We may be the only Bible some people read.”
2. We need to look for point of contact and ways that we can share the Gospel where people are at.
3. Answer questions when asked and to respectfully and rationally disagree when needed; not pretending it’s all the same.
4. We must look and pray for opportunities to share then obey.
5. Invite people to church or church events – people come and stay because of a personal connection.
6. Include them in your life – this is evangelism in community, sharing life and faith.
7. Create opportunities – think creatively about how to engage culture.
To put it all together: God wants to take us out of the world, take the world out of us, and then put us back into the world.
Q Where are you at in this process? Are you stopping short?
Objectives of sermon:
· Let God get us out of the world, the world out of us, and the put us back into the world.