Hope Chapel Blog
Learning and living the Way of Jesus!
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 13, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Don’t Presume”
Text – Exodus 17:1-6, Numbers 20:1-13, Deuteronomy 34:1-4
Call to Worship – Lamentations 3:17-26 – “His Mercies Are New Every Morning!”
We make presumptions daily without even realizing it. I sit down on a chair because I presume it will hold me up. I flip the switch, presuming that it will turn on the light. I don’t give it a second thought except on the rare occasion when I discover I have a burnt-out bulb. Some presumptions are normal and good.
Can you imagine how strange it would be for a person to mistrust a chair every time they sat down for fear it was going to collapse? Or imagine the person who breathes a sigh of relief every time the light comes on in response to having flipped the switch? For the most part, these are realistic and healthy presumptions. We shouldn’t go through life paranoid!
Unfortunately, we also make presumptions that we have no business making. We may not be quick to express them or even recognize them, but they come out nonetheless. Have you ever said or thought any of the following?
· ‘I’ve experienced this before. I know exactly what to do.’
· ‘Meh, close enough.’
· ‘It’s not my fault. I was having a bad day.’
· ‘Give me a break! I said I was sorry.’
· ‘My life sucks. Why does God hate me so much?’
Each of these sentiments is indicative of the fact that you and I may hold to some common underlying and problematic presumptions.
And today we are going to find hints of each in Moses’ life as well…now at the ripe old age of 118 years. It appears that no matter how old we get, or how long we have lived as a faithful follower of God, we are never immune from making false presumptions that can leave us vulnerable. But first, we must go back to where we left the Israelites last week, with God providing for the people in the middle of the wilderness, and Moses still just a mere 80 years of age.
BACKSTORY – WATER FROM A ROCK
Exodus 17:1-6 - “At the Lord’s command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. 2 So once more the people complained against Moses. “Give us water to drink!” they demanded. “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?”
3 But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!”
5 The Lord said to Moses, “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. 6 I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.”
This miracle happened within the first two months of the Israelites having escaped Egypt. The people are desperate for water…again. The people accuse Moses of bringing the Israelites into the desert only to kill them, their children and their livestock with thirst…again. Tensions are running so high, Moses fears for his life. God directs him to strike the rock of Mount Sinai and water comes gushing out for the people and their animals. Chaos averted. But this is not the first or last time that the people will experience a shortage of water during their time in the desert.
Fast forward 38 years and we come across an almost identical situation, but with a twist.
SAME OLD PROBLEM…NEW SOLUTION
Numbers 20:2-8 – “2 There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The people blamed Moses and said, ‘If only we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! 4 Why have you brought the congregation of the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all our livestock? 5 Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place? This land has no grain, no figs, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink!’
6 Moses and Aaron turned away from the people and went to the entrance of the Tabernacle, where they fell face down on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, 7 and the Lord said to Moses, 8 ‘You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.’”
Thirty-eight years later and nothing has changed. The people again find themselves desperate for water and once again Moses finds himself in the line of fire. Moses is blamed once more for having brought them out of Egypt into the desert to die—the same old tired accusation since day one. Thirty-eight years have done nothing to change these hard headed and hardhearted people. Moses goes before God and he is given a new set of directions for this same problem he faced nearly four decades earlier. Now, rather than hitting the rock as he had done so many years ago, God instructs him to simply speak to the rock with his staff in hand.
Same old problem…new solution. Simple enough. But this is exactly where things go wrong for Moses in a single, unguarded, moment.
AN UNGUARDED MOMENT
Numbers 20:1, 9-13 - “In the first month of the year, the whole community of Israel arrived in the wilderness of Zin and camped at Kadesh. While they were there, Miriam died and was buried…
So Moses did as he was told. He took the staff from the place where it was kept before the Lord. 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. ‘Listen, you rebels!’ he shouted. ‘Must we bring you water from this rock?’ 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.
12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!’ 13 This place was known as the waters of Meribah (which means “arguing”) because there the people of Israel argued with the Lord, and there he demonstrated his holiness among them.”
Moses has just lost his sister, Miriam, and would have been grieving her loss. Just once, couldn’t these people have held their tongues…recognized the pain that Moses was in…allowed him to grieve the loss of sister in peace? Nope!
Moses goes before God, receives his instructions and appears to be intent on obeying God as he has so many times before. But there’s a ‘hiccup’ in Moses’ long history of unwavering obedience to God, a hint of a presumption that Moses held to.
PRESUMPTION #1 – “GOD IS PREDICTABLE” – Moses had been here before and in the almost exact same situation. Surely, when God told him to speak to the rock and take the staff, the staff was to be used as he had used it before…to strike the rock. But when he does, God accuses Moses and Aaron of not trusting Him to bring deliverance. It didn’t matter how God had worked in the past; God had intended to reveal Himself in a new way.
As much as we might like to think we understand God and how He works, we cannot predict how God will choose to act at any given time. He must be treated as the limitless Sovereign that He is…always. We must avoid putting God in a box, expecting Him to always answer in the same predictable way. In our sinfulness we try to ‘figure God out,’ to make Him understandable to our finite human experience, but in so doing we reduce the person of God and what we believe about Him. When we put God in a box, we limit the ways that we will accept His help and in the way we will serve Him…to our own detriment!
PRESUMPTION #2 – “GOOD ENOUGH IS GOOD ENOUGH” – Notice, too, what Moses says to the people, “Must we bring water from this rock?” God accuses Moses of not honouring Him before the people. The way I read this is that Moses misrepresented God. Yes, the people were going to receive water through the instructions provided to Moses, but it was God who was going to perform the miracle…through His servant. Even if Moses hadn’t hit the rock, had simply spoken to it and water come pouring out, he would still have been guilty of not giving credit where credit was due, of not honouring God and demonstrating His holiness. God expected full obedience and humility from Moses; but, Moses only ‘mostly’ obeyed God and it cost him.
PRESUMPTION #3 – “A ‘BAD’ DAY EXCUSES BAD BEHAVIOUR” - Most of us would be tempted to excuse Moses. Afterall, his sister had just died, he’s grieving. Give the guy a break. But that’s the world’s thinking, not God’s. Problem is, we’ve all been there…and none of us wants to be held accountable for the things we do in our ‘knee jerk’ reactionary moments.
When I was preparing my notes, I couldn’t help but think back to a ‘knee jerk’ reaction of my own from Bible college days. I awoke in the middle of the night to an incredible pain in my lower back and side. My dorm roommate drove me to the hospital where I spent the next few hours in pain as the medical staff attempted to ascertain the source. It became clear that what I was suffering from was a kidney stone…which put me in hospital for a week and regularly sedated on pain killers.
Prior to my admission, however, I was repeatedly asked if I knew why I was there. Apparently, there was some concern over my ability to recollect events during this painful episode under minimal pain medication. At one point, under non-stop pain, I became overly frustrated with this question. About the sixth time I was asked, ‘Do you know why you’re here?’ I responded in a loud and clear voice, “I’m here to piss out a rock.” I was not asked the question again.
But my poor roommate. She was utterly shocked by what she had just heard. I didn’t talk that way normally, but it’s amazing what the combination of pain, exhaustion and frustration will bring out in even a normally well-spoken Bible college student. All excuses aside, it was not a good response, even if it brought about the desired results. My poor choice of words, despite providing a somewhat relatable story today, should not be excused just because I was having a bad day.
PRESUMPTION #4 – “SAYING ‘SORRY’ REMOVES CONSEQUENCES” – I am certain that Moses was immediately repentant when God pointed out his error, quick to confess his sin and humbled by God’s rebuke. That attitude of repentance did not, however, remove God’s judgment, “You will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” We don’t read in Scripture that Moses tried to change God’s mind, though some of us might be quick to argue Moses’ case: “Give him a break, God. He said he was sorry. He won’t do it again.” Some of us are working from a false presumption.
Let me ask a question. Why do we say ‘sorry?’ We may be genuinely apologetic; we’re sorry we got caught; or to get out of consequences. The presumption that consequences can be reversed, for wrong choices made, simply because we regret the consequences, is wrong. I am convinced that God forgave Moses, yet at the same time He didn’t change His decision to bar Moses from entering the promised land. The same is true for us. God will forgive us when we repent, but there are often consequences that we must live with for our wrong choices—needed restitution, broken relationships and damaged reputations.
PRESUMPTION #5 – “CONSEQUENCES MEAN GOD DOESN’T LOVE ME” – Nothing could be further from the truth! God uses consequences for wrong doing to ‘discipline’ us as our loving heavenly Father. God forgives us and He extends His grace and mercy to us, but He has no interest in having His children develop into spoiled and entitled brats. Even though Moses had committed an act God deemed worthy of barring him from the promised land, Moses continued to hold a special place in God’s affections. Before he dies, God gives him one final gift.
GOD’S GIFT TO MOSES
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 - “Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; 2 all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; 3 the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.’”
Moses is given an opportunity to see the promised land before he dies in the wilderness. Moses is the only Israelite who is refused entry into Canaan, who God permits to still see it with his own eyes (aside from the ten spies who have toured the land for forty days and then died of plague when they discouraged the people from obeying God). This was a final gift from God to His friend, Moses.
So why not just let Moses enter and retire? Because to do so would have been to deny the severity of what Moses had done. Rebellion against God had cost the original Israelites who had been brought out of Egypt their chance to enter into the land—everyone twenty years and older had died in the wilderness. Joshua and Caleb—the two spies who encouraged the people to enter God’s promised land four decades earlier—were the only ones left of the original adults who were permitted to enter into Canaan.
What Moses and Aaron had done at Kadesh may not have appeared like such a big deal, but God had expected more of the two men chosen to represent Him to the people. He couldn’t let their disobedience simply slide. Jesus pointed out this principle when he taught that, “But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:48). Moses had been entrusted with much, had enjoyed a privileged position in his relationship with God, but when it came time to prove his loyalty once again, he had failed.
God forgave Moses, but the consequence remained. He had lead the Israelites for forty years and like all of them, apart from Joshua and Caleb, he would die in the wilderness as one of them.
So what can we learn about the wrong presumptions we make from this brief moment in the life of Moses?
· Even faithful Christians, those who are considered spiritually mature, can be vulnerable to making mistakes. No one is immune.
· It is important that we consistently represent God well to others. We must give Him credit for the things He does. We must remember who is in charge and responsible to give the orders that we are called to obey.
· We have to resist the urge to define the parameters within which God can and will work. We must be willing to have Him surprise us…to reveal Himself in new ways.
· Partial obedience still contains within it the act of disobedience. When God gives us a task, we need to obey it fully.
· Always be on the defensive against ‘knee jerk’ reactions. One of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to us is self-control…a gift needed every day, but especially when our natural defenses are down.
· God will 100% forgive us when we ask Him to, but that doesn’t mean that He eliminates the consequences that result from our wrong choices. And because of His great love for us, He will help us manage the consequences when we seek His help.
· Always be willing to check your presumptions. Do they have a basis in reality or wishful thinking or any other source? Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you with His knowledge and wisdom each and every day.
References & for Further Study
Sunday, June 20, 2021- “Accept Help” (Exodus 18) – In-person and Online – Father’s Day
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” - Go to our website: hopechapelcollingwood.ca and click on the Youtube icon or click on the link below https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, June 6, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “God Provides”
Text – Exodus 15:22-16:36
Last week, we left the Israelites in the wilderness, just having crossed the Red Sea, miraculously opened up for them and then having swallowed the threatening armies of Pharaoh. They break out into song lead by Moses’ sister, Miriam, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea” (Exodus 15:21).
How long do you think this attitude of praise of God is going to last? [3 days]
LIFE IS A WILDERNESS - Exodus 15:22-27
“22 Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).
24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. 26 He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.”
27 After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.”
In three days flat, these people went from praising God for His miraculous intervention, to doubting God’s ability to keep them alive in the wilderness. They had experienced firsthand God’s miraculous power as He divided the Red Sea, with walls of water on both sides, having safely crossed to the other side, then witnessed those same walls come crashing down on the Egyptians, once and for all putting an end to the threat they posed. The people were free…but in just three short days, we find them grumbling and threatening Moses. The pattern is quickly set for the people of Israel. As they wander in the wilderness, they face natural hardships, but each and every time, rather than turning to God for rescue, they turn on Moses and Aaron. Rather than looking to God for help in the wilderness, they simply look for a target to blame.
The thought that God might actually be using their experiences in the wilderness for their direct benefit appears never to have even crossed their minds. It might explain why God chose to have them live in the wilderness for over a year prior to their self-imposed extension of forty years. God needed to transform this group of pagan ex-slaves into His chosen people—capable of trusting Him, faithful to His commands, ready to respond in obedience whatever life brought their way. These were the people God was choosing to work through to convince the nations of His Lordship…but they just weren’t ready yet.
If we’re honest, we will recognize ourselves in the Israelites. Those who choose to follow Christ must also go through a time of transformation, a process that lasts a lifetime. None of us is ever rescued out of slavery to sin, perfectly ready to let go of control and to follow God’s leading with absolute trust.
Too often we buy into the notion, now that God is with us and has promised to take care of us, that all our troubles will vanish…we’ll never have to spend another moment in the wilderness. But that’s just not how life on this planet works. Our future home in heaven promises to be one of incredible and never-ending joy. Revelation 21:3-4 tells us that, “God’s home [will be] among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” But that’s future tense…our present is all about getting ready for that eventual day.
Life on planet earth is a ‘wilderness’…it is not the wonderful land God has promised to those who believe in Him and live to obey Him. But the wilderness is not an easy place to live. Three days into their lives as freed people, the Israelites have hit their first crisis—there’s no drinking water and they need water. Their desperation is growing and in their panic they turn hostile.
In the face of the crisis, the people complain. What does Moses do? [he prays] And God provides the solution: throw that piece of wood into the bitter water and it will become fresh enough to drink. Problem solved. The real question is, why this need to purify the water in the first place? God knew the people were getting thirsty, He knew that the water in its current state was undrinkable, so why not sort it out before they even showed up? Because He was up to something far bigger than simply quenching their thirst by providing water. He wanted to grow their faith and trust in Him.
It is an indisputable fact, that as much as we enjoy times of sunshine, ease and comfort, those are not the times we grow. In fact, it’s during those times that we have a propensity to become lazy and self-indulgent. It’s during difficulties and challenges that we grow in our character and faith. We can resist the lessons, grumble and complain, looking for someone to blame or we can turn to God, like Moses, and seek His solution.
Thankfully, God has no intention of crushing us during crisis, and He never gives us more than we can handle with His help. Don’t get me wrong. He will allow crisis into our lives capable of crushing us if we try to manage them on our own, but He has promised to help us when we ask for it. And so it is with the story of the Israelites. God never gave them more than they could handle without His help; He knew that they needed the motivation crisis would bring, for them to shift from trusting themselves to trusting Him.
So after getting nicely settled at the oasis in Elim and enjoying some semblance of comfort it was time to move on again to a new home…and a new crisis.
GOD ALLOWS AND EVEN ORCHESTRATES CRISIS – Exodus 16:1-5
“Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. 2 There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.
3 ‘If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.’
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.’
We find an interesting thing now happening in the Israelites’ thinking. In this crisis over food, they begin pining away for ‘the good old days.’ Hello…only one month ago these same people were slaves, now they’re looking back at their time in Egypt as somehow preferable? I’m sure in their minds eye it was better to have food in Egypt than to be starved to death in the wilderness. They still don’t get that there’s a third option. God was again providing an opportunity for them to grow in their trust and, instead, they turned on Moses and Aaron.
What about you and I? Do we ever find ourselves wishing for the ‘good old days’ in the midst of a crisis? How about the crisis of a worldwide pandemic? Anyone find themselves wishing we could just go back to the way things were? What are the things that we miss most? [someday, we will be able to once again enjoy no masks, be able to sing in public, gives hugs, eat out; but there is no going back to exactly how things were and, in many respects, we shouldn’t want to]
Looking back is not the solution. Perpetually looking in the rearview mirror prevents us from seeing what God wants to do in the days ahead. God has a purpose for allowing crisis and simply trying to eliminate all discomfort on our own or trying to find solutions that sidestep our need to change, rob us of the good things that God wants for us. Our refusal to seek Him in the midst of hardship, leaves us blind to His plan. And even in this we must be careful that our ‘seeking’ is simply us making demands of God to do our bidding—“Take this away so we can go back!” Instead we should be asking what God’s way forward is…what is His third option.
The Israelites had been in the wilderness for a month by this point and they are beginning to run out of food. God promises to provide quail that night and ‘food from heaven’ each morning from now until they reach the promised land; but His provision comes with a test. He doesn’t just want the Israelites to turn to Him in crisis; He now also wants them to learn daily obedience. So, God provides them with an opportunity to learn the necessity of obeying His directions. For five days in a row, they are to gather about two quarts (eight cups) of manna (which literally means, “What is it?”) per person and then on the sixth day they are to double that amount and not collect any on the seventh.
Pretty straightforward, right? That’s such a little thing. But not for the recently released slaves. They’re used to having food stuffs on hand, now God is asking them to trust Him, quite literally, to provide “their daily bread.” Think of it this way. How many of us would be willing to go and empty our cupboards, pantries, fridge and freezer of all food today and trust God to supply us with our meals for tomorrow? Puts it into a little different perspective, doesn’t it?
Understandably, some of the Israelites have trouble with even this baby step of obedience and on the first day, they keep some to be eaten the following day. But it doesn’t work out for them. This stuff has a shelf life of exactly one day and it turns wormy and stinks terribly. So, lesson learned everyone makes certain that none is left over on the days that follow. But here comes the second test; on the sixth day, they are to collect enough for two days, so that they can enjoy a complete day of rest on the seventh day. But again, some can’t resist the urge to disobey. And I can’t help but think the ones who failed the second part of the test were the exact same ones who failed the first—they had experienced the wormy stinking mess on the second morning and they weren’t about to go through that again. But when they went out the seventh morning, there wasn’t any manna and those same people now had to go the day hungry, unless there were others who were willing to share.
Obedience leads to further obedience. Disobedience often produces more of the same. It really is no different for us. It is only as we obey God’s leading that we experience growth, through the lessons that He has allowed and even designed for our good.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNED IN CRISIS – Exodus 16:33-35
“33 Moses said to Aaron, ‘Get a jar and fill it with two quarts of manna. Then put it in a sacred place before the Lord to preserve it for all future generations.’ 34 Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded Moses. He eventually placed it in the Ark of the Covenant—in front of the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant. 35 So the people of Israel ate manna for forty years until they arrived at the land where they would settle. They ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.”
Why bother collecting a sample of the manna? So that future generations could hear about God’s miraculous help and believe, without needing to go through a similar crisis. The lessons we learn are to be passed down to the next generation, and the next…and so on.
It is obvious that God was allowing these crises to be experienced by the Israelites because they needed a transformation of heart and mind. They needed to learn how to trust God, to give over control to Him and allow Him to lead. But He has many reasons for allowing crises in our lives and the reasons are not always so clear.
What are some of the reasons that God allows crisis? I believe that there are many reasons why God allows us to experience crisis in this wilderness of life; I do not pretend to know every reason, but here are some I’ve been able to identify over the years:
· To grow our reliance on Him. God does this for us throughout our lives—as new believers and as spiritually mature. Think of our need to grow in our trust of God as a multi-level course that spans a lifetime.
· Some of the crisis we experience in life are as a direct result of sin—our own and that of others; ours is a sinful world and much of what happens is as a direct result of the sin that is so pervasive. God continues to honour His gift of freewill to us and we often make choices that hurt ourselves and others. God never promised to eliminate all consequences for humanity’s wrong choices, but He will help us make restitution and/or forgive when we seek His help. He can give us peace, even in our world of turmoil, when we turn to Him for direction. Instead of blaming God for the bad things that happen, we should be thanking God for any good that we experience which is as a direct result of His intervention.
· So that we don’t get overly comfortable here—planet earth is not our home; we are God’s Ambassadors, called to represent Him and tell others about the new country we now belong to.
· To recognize our need to help others. I believe that Hope Chapel as a congregation has been in a crisis of sorts, even before the pandemic, to show us that we needed to change our focus. God has been using crisis to get Hope Chapel, and much of His Church, back on track.
· A crisis can be the first step to providing a solution to a bigger problem. It can force us to acknowledge that, even though we’ve been able to keep our nose above water, we are officially going to sink if we don’t reach out for help. Again, we have been experiencing that first hand at Hope Chapel and I thank God that He is providing us with the means to stay afloat even during this pandemic, when on our own we could not.
So what are the lessons that we can learn from our spiritual ancestry, the Israelites, as God’s chosen people?
· Life on planet earth is a wilderness—but we are heading to a land of ‘milk and honey,’ the land of God’s promise, His heavenly Kingdom.
· This life is filled with crises, but rather than trying to avoid all hardship, God can use each crisis He permits in our lives to transform us.
· Crisis can cause us to resist God further as we look for someone to blame, or it can draw us closer to God as we learn to trust Him. It is entirely dependent on our choice.
Jesus, Himself, warned us that, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
References & for Further Study
Sunday, June 13, 2021- “Don’t Presume” (Exodus 17, Numbers 20:1-13) - ONLINE Only
Weekly lessons are now being made available on Youtube – “Pastor’s Study” https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrF8GWFnLjTmRyXjYnq1Ytw
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 30, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Never Forget” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Text – Exodus 12-13, 15:1-21, Matthew 26:17-30, John 14:23-29
In preparing for this morning, I was reminded again of the strong connection between God’s rescue of the Hebrews from their slavery in Egypt and of the rescue from enslavement to sin that Jesus has provided the world. On this Communion Sunday, it is good for us to recognize the precursor that God provided of His ultimate plan of salvation that this morning’s story from Exodus provides us with. Last week we left Moses and Aaron in the palace of the Pharaoh being ordered to, ‘Get out. Take everything and everyone with you!”
This morning, I want to begin by taking a step back to an earlier event that immediately preceded Pharaoh’s final expulsion of the Hebrews from Egypt.
PAY ATTENTION…AND REMEMBER– Exodus 12:1-14
“While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: 2 “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. 3 Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. 4 If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. 5 The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
6 “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. 7 They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. 8 That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. 9 Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. 10 Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.
11 “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. 12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! 13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14 “This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.”
God was about to bring the final plague upon the land of Egypt—the death of the firstborn. He chose this time not to simply prevent the plague from impacting the land of Goshen, but required the Hebrews to host a special meal in order to participate in God’s rescue. Their act of obedience was to serve as a tangible reminder, to be enacted annually, of how God had worked on their behalf to bring them out of Egypt.
The Hebrews are told to celebrate the Passover with a meal, but with very specific directions. They are to eat their meal in haste—a roasted lamb or young goat, with bitter salad greens and flat bread—fully clothed and ready to travel. The blood of the animal is to be painted on the sides and lintel of the door as it will serve as a protection for all those inside. When the Lord sees it, He’ll “pass over.”
When you think about it, it wouldn’t have made much sense to them. Eating, but prepared to make a run for it. Why the hurry? No yeast in their bread. What’s God got against yeast? Bitter greens. Yech! The death of an animal to prevent the death of a loved one. How does death stop death? They could have simply refused. Yes, they have Moses’ instructions, but they didn’t fully know how things were going to play out or even why these precise directions were necessary. However, the Bible doesn’t record any hesitancy on the parts of the slaves to comply…at least not this time. They have witnessed the last nine plagues—whether directly experienced or observed from afar—which have given credence to Moses’ instructions. So, they obey. And when the order is given to leave immediately, they may have experienced some organized chaos, but they’re ready.
But how does this story directly connect to Jesus, beyond obvious ancestry?
Matthew 26:17-19, 26-30
“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?’ 18Jesus told them, ‘As you go into the city you will see a certain man. Tell him, “The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.”’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus told them and prepared the Passover meal there…
As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘Take this and eat it, for this is my body.’ 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, ‘Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which confirms the new covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.’
30 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Jesus himself lead the disciples through the Passover meal, but applied it, not to their ancestors’ miraculous escape from Egypt, but directly to what was about to happen to and through him. Through the Passover meal, he was providing them an ongoing means of remembering the sacrifice he would make for the world. He was the final sacrificial lamb that would ever need to be offered up to secure humanity’s salvation. It was his body that would be killed and his blood that would be spilled so that those who obey Him will be protected from spiritual death. You may not have considered this fact, but in the Church, we are in actual fact celebrating a spiritual Passover remembrance each time we partake in communion.
But first back to our story…We know from last week’s lesson that the Hebrews had been protected from the destruction of their firstborn and were now hastily evicted from Egypt, but they still weren’t ‘out of the woods’ so to speak. God wasn’t done with His plan for Egypt and her king. There were still those who refused to acknowledge His supremacy. So, shortly after having told the Hebrews to, ‘get out’, the Pharaoh and others once again had a change of heart and set out to kill and/or reclaim their property—the Hebrew slaves.
Word had gotten back to Pharaoh that the Hebrews appeared to be lost, walking around in circles, and had hemmed themselves in, the Red Sea blocking their escape. With hearts once again hardened, the Egyptians rushed to exact their vengeance. As the dust of their approaching chariots rose in the air, the recently freed slaves’ horror also rose with it.
REMEMBER…AND TRUST THE PLAN – Exodus 14:13-31
“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.’
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!’
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. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.
21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side! 23 Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the Lord looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. ‘Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!’ the Egyptians shouted. ‘The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!’
26 When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the Lord said to Moses, ‘Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.’ 27 So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 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.
29 But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 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.”
Despite the evidence of the plagues and their enacted Passover feast, the Hebrews still hadn’t learned the crucial need to ‘remember.’ Each new crisis took them back to ground zero—this would be just the first of many such times. Their seeming incapacity to remember, prevented them from learning to trust God, and left them fearful when faced with obstacles. God had a plan that He shared freely with Moses, but the enemy barreling down on them exposed their lack of faith. Their refusal to recall what God had done for them in the recent past, would continue to dog them throughout their years of wandering in the wilderness. Each time the people faced a crisis they panicked, got angry or grumbled.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want my faith in God to resemble that of the Hebrew slaves—perpetually moving from panic to praise and then back again. We too are called to remember and trust ‘The Plan.’ We are children of our heavenly Father, who has a plan—He wants us to trust Him without reservation.
“Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
27 I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.”
Just as God revealed His plan to the Hebrews through Moses, God has already revealed His plan to us through His Son. Jesus is coming back! In the meantime, Jesus has given us his gifts of peace of mind and heart, and in His place we have the Advocate—the Holy Spirit—to guide us, just as the angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud and fire guided the Hebrews throughout their time in the wilderness.
Remembering what God has already done and has promised to do should fill us with hope for the future, no matter what obstacles we may find ourselves facing today. We know from Scripture, from Church history, and even from our own testimonies that God is good, He rescues and He fulfills His promises. Amen? [Amen!]
We need to remind ourselves that we are no longer slaves—neither to sin, death nor any of the evil influences of this world. Our daily challenge is to remember what Jesus has done on our behalf so that we can continue in freedom—from fear, anxiety, the need to control and all manner of enslavements that act as barriers between us and God.
Remembering also provides us with the ability to trust in God more fully and can give us strength to endure, even in seasons of uncertainty and persecution. Because today is ‘Communion & Sharing’ Sunday, I wanted to share two quick stories of fellow believers who know persecution for their faith firsthand:
Voice of the Martyr – The Church in China – It is reported, that persecution of Christians today in China has reached and is surpassing the level of persecution experienced during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.
Story #1 – Zhao Weikai, Church Leader in China
“Zhao Weikai is a leader of the Xuncheng Reformed Church in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, China. The church had been raided in November 2020 and again on December 30th, when security officers disrupted a Bible study in the home of Pastor An Yankui (see this report).
In the early morning of May 17th, Zhao's home was raided by approximately 20 police officers. Without providing a warrant, the officers seized computer equipment and books. Zhao and his wife Li Xin were taken for questioning under charges of "proselytism." Li was released that evening, but Zhao was ordered to serve a 15-day administrative detention. Several times in the past, Zhao had been "invited" to "talk" with police because of his refusal to abide by the religious mandates of the Chinese Communist Party.” Would you continue to live your faith so bravely as Zhao and his wife do under those circumstances?
Story #2 – Dr. Bob Fu, founder of ChinaAid
“For many years, ChinaAid, an organization founded by Dr. Bob Fu, has been a significant voice for Christians in China. As a partner of The Voice of the Martyrs, they have worked to expose the abuses of the Chinese government, encourage the persecuted, and equip leaders to defend the rights of citizens so they can experience the blessings of faith and freedom.
This week's story from China (Zhao’s) is only one of the many that have come to our attention through the tireless work of our friends at ChinaAid. It is for this reason that we extend our heartiest congratulations to Dr. Fu upon receiving the 2021 Wilberforce Award. The words of VOMC's Chief Executive Officer, Floyd Brobbel, aptly describe Dr. Fu's tenacity: "Bob is an example of one who uses his freedom to serve those who are bound. There is no 'quit' in Bob when raising a voice for his persecuted brothers and sisters in China."
The Wilberforce Award was established in 1988 to recognize distinguished Christian leaders who exemplify the principles and commitment of William Wilberforce, an English statesman who waged a 40-year campaign which led to the abolition of slavery in Britain. VOMC joins in acknowledging the significant impact Dr. Fu has made throughout the world. To learn more about the work of ChinaAid, go to www.chinaaid.org.”
Bob Fu has dedicated his life to serving God and His Church. Do we live lives that demonstrate that we are God’s Ambassadors—planet earth is not our home? Do we refuse to ‘quit’ when working in and for God’s Kingdom?
Never underestimate the value of remembering God’s obvious work on our behalf and recalling to mind the promises contained in Scripture.
What do we do in the face of crisis? Does our story read like the Hebrews? Or will we follow the example of our brothers and sisters in China and other parts of the world who refuse to forget who it is they serve?
As we move to our time of Communion, I want to encourage you to remember what Jesus’ has done on your behalf. It is because of Him that we now celebrate His great “Passover” deliverance for all who follow and obey God.
References & for Further Study
“Remind Me” – Ginny Owens – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO6JREQlV_M
Voice of the Martyrs (VOMC) – Monthly publication available - https://www.vomcanada.com/subscribe.htm (free within Canada)
Voice of the Martyrs (VOMC) – Weekly persecution and prayer alert available - https://www.vomcanada.com/about-emails.htm (free)
Sunday, June 6, 2021- “God Provides” (Exodus 15:22-16) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 23, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Saying ‘NO!’ to God”
Text – Exodus 5-11, 12:31-42
Last week, we left Moses having reluctantly agreed to return to Egypt to serve as God’s appointed leader to bring the people out of Egypt. God had heard their cries and seen their misery. Moses was now prepared to take on the task for which he had been born and trained up for—in the palace of Pharaoh and in the fields as a shepherd. It was now time for God to enact his perfect will on behalf of his people. He was going to take their side against a brutal king determined to keep the Hebrews enslaved and He was going to lead them out of Egypt just as he promised so many years ago to their ancestors.
PHARAOH THE BULLY – Exodus 5:1-9
“After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.’
2 ‘Is that so?’ retorted Pharaoh. ‘And who is the Lord? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.’ 3 But Aaron and Moses persisted. ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us,’ they declared. ‘So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.’ 4 Pharaoh replied, ‘Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! 5 Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.’
6 That same day Pharaoh sent this order to the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: 7 ‘Do not supply any more straw for making bricks. Make the people get it themselves! 8 But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before. Don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy. That’s why they are crying out, “Let us go and offer sacrifices to our God.” 9 Load them down with more work. Make them sweat! That will teach them to listen to lies!’”
I want you to try and picture the scene that takes place in the Egyptian palace when Moses and Aaron show up and make the first of their demands to Pharaoh. But first, something you should be aware of, is that this is no mere king; in the eyes of the ancient Egyptians, the Pharaoh was the supreme representation of the gods to the people, a god himself, descended from Ra, god of the Sun. Now these…*shepherds* (you might want to say that with a hint of disgust given the attitude of Egyptians toward the Hebrews) are attempting to tell Pharaoh that there is another God, one capable of giving him orders, and this God is telling him to release his entire enslaved workforce at His bidding. Can’t you just hear Pharaoh’s retort, “’Scuse me? You can’t possibly be serious.”
How does he initially respond to Moses and Aaron? [who is the ‘Lord’ and why should I care?]
We don’t know which of the Pharaohs had this conversation with Moses and Aaron, but it doesn’t much matter. Having been raised to see himself as ‘god,’ he wasn’t much threatened by the notion that these Hebrews were claiming that another God had rights to their loyalty and worship. His next move shouldn’t surprise us at all.
What action does the Pharaoh then order against the slaves? [increase the workload – don’t provide straw, but demand the same production quota; his play was to beat them back into submission]
Pharaoh was the worshipped and unchallenged lord of the land. And when given a demand, he did what many do in his position; he attempted to bully the people further into submitting to his authority out of renewed fear. In essence, he simply responded, “You want to complain? I’ll give you something to complain about!” In his mind, the slaves obviously had too much free time on their hands. They have forgotten their place…time to fix that!
He gives no credence whatsoever to the idea that he ‘must’ do anything at the bidding of the Hebrews’ God. Of course, God knew all along that this would be Pharaoh’s response and had even warned Moses beforehand. It is now time to show Pharaoh just exactly who the Lord is. God’s plan is to prove his superiority over all the gods of Egypt, including Pharaoh himself.
TEN PLAGUES – DEITIES OF EGYPT
There is quite a bit of scholarship that connects each of the plagues to one or more of the many gods of ancient Egypt. Much scholarship, but lots of variance. To say definitively that this or that plague was directed at one particular god or goddess goes beyond the biblical text. It would definitely appear, however, that through the plagues God was intent on demonstrating His superiority over all the gods of Egypt…and their complete inability to protect the Egyptians from His punishments.
Exodus 7:14-25 – Plague #1 – All the water of the Nile turned to blood—including the water that had been collected into jars in people’s homes. The fish died and the river stank. It lasted for a week. The Egyptians had to dig pits along the riverbank to find water to drink. But because the magicians were able to also turn water to blood, Pharaoh’s heart was hard.
Exodus 8:1-15 – Plague #2 – Frogs, frogs, everywhere! The magicians were again able to have frogs come up out of the Nile as Moses and Aaron had, but the problem was so bad that Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to remove them. Frogs were in the palace, in their homes, in their beds, ovens, bread-making bowls…yuck! Imagine waking up covered in frogs…gross! So, the next day, the time chosen by Pharaoh, no living frog remained on the ground, only in the Nile. The frogs died en masse and had to be gathered into huge piles, which caused the land to reek. When Pharaoh saw that they had relief from the infestation, he reneged on his promise to let the people go and he further solidifies his stubborn resistance.
Exodus 8:16-19 – Plague #3 – Gnats/Lice cover everything after Aaron struck the ground. This time the magicians are not able to conjure the gnats as Moses and Aaron had. They tell the Pharaoh, “This is the hand of God!” But he refuses to listen and remains hard hearted.
Exodus 8:20-32 – Plague #4 – Thick swarms of flies cover all of Egypt…except the area inhabited by the Hebrews in Goshen. God has allowed everyone in Egypt to suffer as a result of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, but from this point forward He begins to make a distinction. The Hebrews will no longer be forced to endure any further plagues brought on by Pharaoh’s hard heart; they will experience, firsthand, the loving protection of their God. Pharaoh agrees to release the Hebrews, but again reneges when the plague ends and relief comes. His obstinance and determination against God grows.
Exodus 9:1-7 – Plague #5 – A deadly plague kills much of the Egyptian livestock—sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, horses and camels. When Pharaoh sends someone to check out how the Hebrews have fared, he discovers that none of their animals have been affected. In his growing resentment, his heart remains unmoved.
Exodus 9:8-12 – Plague #6 – Painful boils inflict the Egyptians. The boils are so bad that the magicians cannot even fulfill their function as advisors to the king before Moses and Aaron. This is the first time in all of the plagues, where the Bible tells us that God himself now hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
Exodus 9:13-35 – Plague #7 – A devasting storm of rain, huge hailstones and continuous lightning destroys the crops of barley and flax (used by the Egyptians to make cloth) and kills people and animals that had not been brought into protected spaces:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh. Tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 14 If you don’t, I will send more plagues on you and your officials and your people. Then you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. 16 But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. 17 But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go. 18 So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm more devastating than any in all the history of Egypt. 19 Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields to find shelter. Any person or animal left outside will die when the hail falls.”’
20 Some of Pharaoh’s officials were afraid because of what the Lord had said. They quickly brought their servants and livestock in from the fields. 21 But those who paid no attention to the word of the Lord left theirs out in the open.
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Lift your hand toward the sky so hail may fall on the people, the livestock, and all the plants throughout the land of Egypt.’ 23 So Moses lifted his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed toward the earth. The Lord sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. 24 Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such devastating hail and continuous lightning. 25 It left all of Egypt in ruins. The hail struck down everything in the open field—people, animals, and plants alike. Even the trees were destroyed. 26 The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.
27 Then Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he confessed. ‘The Lord is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong. 28 Please beg the Lord to end this terrifying thunder and hail. We’ve had enough. I will let you go; you don’t need to stay any longer.’
29 ‘All right,’ Moses replied. ‘As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the Lord. Then the thunder and hail will stop, and you will know that the earth belongs to the Lord. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.’ 31 (All the flax and barley were ruined by the hail, because the barley had formed heads and the flax was budding. 32 But the wheat and the emmer wheat were spared, because they had not yet sprouted from the ground.) 33 So Moses left Pharaoh’s court and went out of the city. When he lifted his hands to the Lord, the thunder and hail stopped, and the downpour ceased. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again became stubborn. 35 Because his heart was hard, Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the Lord had predicted through Moses.”
Notice at this point in the story, that while Pharaoh’s heart remains hard, some of the other Egyptians had begun to acknowledge God’s existence and believe the words of Moses. They feared this plague, rightly so, and acted immediately in response to Moses’ warning.
In verse 15, God makes it clear to Pharaoh, through Moses, that it is only his patience and His long-term goal that has kept Him from simply reducing Egypt to nothing in one blow.
What is God’s goal in sending the plagues? Is it just to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go? [that the Egyptians will recognize His power and that word will spread that He, the Creator of the universe, still holds sway over the nations of the world.]
I firmly believe that even now, if Pharaoh had repented, truly recognized the Lord as God and released the Hebrews as instructed, he and his whole country could have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God Almighty. But again, the text tells us that Pharaoh hardened his heart and he stubbornly refused to let the people go…even after confessing his sin…even after declaring the Lord more righteous…even after agreeing once again to do what God had told him to.
Exodus 10:1-20 – Plague #8 – Locusts covered the land, destroying anything green; everything that managed to survive the hailstorm was decimated by the locusts. When God tells Moses to warn Pharaoh of this imminent threat, He also reveals another reason for the seemingly endless plagues, “I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord” (10:2). God is not just demonstrating His power for the enemy, but also for His people.
This time Pharaoh’s officials plead with him to relent before the promised plague arrives: can’t he see that the country lies in ruins? If this plague of locusts comes, the worst one in the history of Egypt, they will be beyond hope of recovering! Pharaoh calls Moses back appearing to be ready to negotiate, but ends up refusing yet again. The swarms come devouring everything, Pharaoh confesses, asks for Moses’ forgiveness and God’s deliverance (now there’s a switch!), promises to release the slaves…then again refuses once the locusts are blown into the Red Sea by a strong west wind sent by God.
Exodus 10:21-29 – Plague #9 – Darkness so intense you could feel it! For three days, the whole land of Egypt, aside from Goshen, was enveloped in darkness so dark that the populace could not see one another and were forced to remain stationary. Pharaoh again promises to let the slaves go…if they leave their flocks behind. When Moses refuses, Pharaoh decides he has had enough of this game. If Moses shows his face again in the palace, he’ll have him killed. Moses, equally frustrated with Pharaoh’s obstinacy, pronounces the final plague…
Exodus 11:1-10, 12:28-33 – Plague #10 – The angel of death kills all the firstborn in Egypt—human and livestock. In the palace, Pharaoh may have been spared the same level of suffering that some of his people had had to endure in the previous plagues, but this one hit home. God took his firstborn son, Egypt’s heir to the throne, the next in line to claim the title of son of Ra. Despite his earlier threat, he summons Moses and Aaron and tells them in no uncertain terms to, “Get out! And take everything with you.” He then proceeds to ask Moses for his blessing. He has seen the undeniable power of God at work; he recognizes that Moses is His servant; and even though his heart has been hardened first by himself, then by God, he wants a blessing—though we’re left uncertain what he was actually wanting. Finally, we get a sense that Pharaoh is at long last conceding the match to God; at this moment, he can’t be rid of these Hebrew slaves quick enough.
Those of us who are familiar with the story know it isn’t over yet, but that’s for next week.
PHARAOH’S HARD HEART
One question is still left to answer this morning. I have heard it asked, “How could God punish Pharaoh for his hard heart, when God was the one hardening it?” Good question. In my preparation for this morning, I came across a study of the Hebrew verb translated “became hard” (pronounced, khazaq). It is a stative verb not passive, which should be understood as a state of being rather than an action. When the Bible does not identify either God or Pharaoh doing the hardening, it is just a statement as to the current condition of Pharaoh’s hard heart. So, while the Bible does state that God actively does the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart after the plague of boils, locusts, darkness and in his refusal to change his mind under the threat of death for all the firstborn of Egypt, the other cases of Pharaoh’s heart being hard are attributed to his current state or to his own increasing belligerence toward God. Here’s the breakdown as provided by Tim Challies.
The Ten Plagues and Pharaoh’s Heart
1. Blood: Pharaoh’s heart “became hard” (7:22)
2. Frogs: Pharaoh “hardened his own heart” (8:15)
3. Gnats: Pharaoh’s heart “was hard” (8:19)
4. Flies: “Pharaoh hardened his own heart” (8:32)
5. Livestock die: Pharaoh’s heart “was hard” (9:7)
6. Boils: “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (9:12)
7. Hail: Pharaoh “hardened his own heart” (9:34)
8. Locusts: God announces that he has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (10:1,10:20)
9. Darkness: God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (10:27)
10. Death of the firstborn: God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (11:10)1
Notice that God only hardens Pharaoh’s heart after He has already provided him with ample opportunities; opportunities to repent, acknowledge God’s existence and power as demonstrated through the first five plagues and release the slaves as instructed. But each time, Pharaoh adamantly refuses. It would appear that God was exceedingly patient, but that Pharaoh’s persistent denial of God and refusal to obey…all the while disregarding the well-being of not only the slaves, but his own people…last longer than God’s patience. In his mind, Pharaoh saw this as a contest of wills he could win; but he was thoroughly mistaken.
Not that God was surprised. He knew beforehand what the outcome would be, yet still gave Pharaoh opportunities to change his mind. As He told Pharaoh, He could have wiped him and his whole country off of the face of the planet, but had chosen instead to create a set of incentives to encourage compliance. Many of the people of Egypt had been persuaded, “Now the Lord had caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the people of Israel. And Moses was considered a very great man in the land of Egypt, respected by Pharaoh’s officials and the Egyptian people alike” (Exodus 11:3)…but not the man, Pharaoh, who had been raised to view himself as a god; he remained hard towards God.
What can we learn from Pharaoh’s obstinacy and God’s completion of His promise?
· God is patient with us…even as He is forced to watch our own self-destruction; He will use whatever means necessary for us to make the best decisions, while at the same time not forcing us to make those decisions.
· God’s permissive will allows us to make our own choices, but the exercise of our own freewill in direct opposition to God never results in our victory. We will never win against God.
· God honours our freewill, even though he knows that when we set it against him it is to our own detriment. He may permit us to ‘have our own way,’ but he will never cede his perfect plan.
· “God will always graciously offer us chances to turn back (would you have given Pharaoh so many chances?!). But sometimes a person can cement themselves in a destructive path and reach a point of no return. God can and sometimes will allow our evil to destroy us.”2
· Like Pharaoh, we can simply refuse to believe all the evidence for God; we, too, can refuse to give up the notion of being in control, even when all things point to the contrary.
· Those who desire to obey God, even when they fail to do so well, can rest assured in God’s willingness to forgive when we repent of our own hard-heartedness.
References & for Further Study
1 The Bible Project – When Pharaoh’s Heart Grew Harder https://bibleproject.com/blog/pharaohs-heart-grew-harder
The Bible Project – Exodus 1-18 Overview -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jH_aojNJM3E
Zondervan Academic: What the Bible Tells Us About the Ten Plagues of Egypt -https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/what-the-bible-tells-us-about-the-10-plagues-of-egypt
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 2, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “God’s Great Reversal”
Text – Genesis 39-50
In our journey through the Old Testament, we have come to the place where Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob, is sold by his brothers to some Midianites, who then sell him as a slave in Egypt. Those of us who know this story from Sunday school days, know that Joseph will be reunited with his family and will be made second in command of all Egypt. …And they all lived happily ever after. The end. However, when we begin to put the timeline together, this neat little story is given a whole new perspective!
Joseph was first purchased by Potiphar who recognizes how his household has been blessed by the addition of this young slave and he eventually puts him in charge of everything…aside from planning his meals. But Potiphar isn’t the only one who takes notice of this good-looking young man. Potiphar’s wife develops quite an obsession—she wants to treat him like a sexual play toy—but Joseph adamantly refuses. In her indignation over being repeatedly rejected, she lies and accuses Joseph of trying to rape her. Her enraged and disgraced husband, sends Joseph to prison.
While in prison, the prison warden recognizes, too, how everything within Joseph’s care is blessed and puts him in charge of all the other prisoners and all the workings of the jail. At some point while in prison, Joseph interprets the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s staff who have fallen out of favour and his interpretations prove true. Two years later, Pharaoh himself has dreams that disturb him and the staff—the cupbearer who had been reinstated as Joseph had said—tells the king of this young man who could interpret dreams. Pharaoh has Joseph brought from the prison, who after hearing the king’s dreams, is able to interpret them and suggests a plan of action. It is at this point that Joseph is elevated to second in command over all of Egypt…and we gain comfort from his story that God obviously had a plan all along.
But have you ever taken the time to calculate how much time passed between Joseph’s enslavement to his elevation? Joseph spent thirteen years of his life first as a slave and then as a wrongfully accused prisoner. Thirteen years or in other words somewhere in the margin of 4,745 days! Thirteen years to not know why God was allowing these unjust circumstances. Thirteen years during which time Joseph quite probably wrestled with bouts of depression, wavering between faithfulness and doubt, desperately pleading with God to tell him why but being met with silence. Thirteen years—the blink of an eye for God, but a potential eternity for Joseph who had to endure it!
Joseph’s life contained incredible highs and lows. By piecing the Scripture together, we know that Joseph received his father’s gift of an ornate coat at the age of seventeen (Genesis 37:2-3). Shortly thereafter, he is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers; he is called into the courts to serve as the second-in-command over all Egypt at the age of thirty (Genesis 41:46). By the age of 37, he is well established in his position in Egypt, is married and has two sons (Genesis 41:50-51). At the age of 39, he reveals himself to his brothers and invites them to take up residence in the land of Goshen (Genesis 45:3-6). At the age of 66, his father Jacob would die, and once again his brothers reveal their unresolved fear of Joseph—fear that now that their father was no longer around, he would finally take out his revenge (Genesis 50:14-21).
His brothers had lived with the ‘secret’ of their treachery for 22 years…all the time blaming anything bad that happened as punishment for having sold Joseph into slavery. So, despite the seventeen years of having the secret outed, they still feared reprisal. They offer to become Joseph’s slaves in an attempt to sway him from killing them. Joseph is deeply wounded by their offer. He weeps…for the passing of his father…for his brothers’ fear and distrust…for the lack of true restoration and harmony that he had been hoping for. I truly feel for Joseph as he grieves for an acceptance by his brothers that he has not experienced still, almost fifty years after being sold as a slave.
We could spend months unpacking all the various lessons that we could learn from the life of Joseph, but this morning I have chosen to highlight a couple of things that we can learn with regard to how we should understand the hardships in life that we all experience. Like Joseph’s brothers, we often assume that hardship is brought on as God’s punishment for sin. At one point in the story the brothers are getting panicky, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us” (Genesis 42:21). While it is true that our suffering or difficulties in life can be the result of self-inflicted consequences for disobedience, that is far too simplistic an understanding of why we experience hardships as we will see from these chapters in Genesis.
For starters, we must consider Joseph’s hardships. His thirteen years of enslavement and imprisonment were as a direct result of sin…but not his own! His hardships were not of his own making, but rather the result of his father’s favouritism, his brothers’ murderous jealousy and the lustful desire and false accusation of Potiphar’s wife. So, here’s a question for us to consider. How are we to understand the hardships that are experienced by the innocent?
EXPERIENCING HARDSHIP FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS – Genesis 45:3-8
“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. 4 “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. 5 But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. 6 This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7 God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. 8 So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.”
In the twenty-two years that transpire between being sold into slavery and when Joseph declares himself to his brothers, he is able to find some satisfaction for his earlier difficulties. The brothers had intended harm, but God had orchestrated the events of Joseph’s life to unfold as they did for their ultimate salvation. Joseph suffered, so that others might be saved. In our modern thinking, we might not so easily accept this. We argue against the unfairness of it all. Couldn’t God have saved them another way? We recoil at the idea that God would allow Joseph to suffer for the benefit of others. Would God, too, ever make us suffer in a similar fashion—not for any fault of our own, but for the benefit of another?
But before we slam down the gavel for judgement against God let’s not forget one very important thing. If nothing else, Joseph’s story should remind us how unfair it is for us to experience salvation through the hardship brought on to another innocent—God himself, Jesus, put to death on a cross, not for himself, but solely for our benefit…
Here’s another thought that came to me as I was preparing for today…perhaps God’s allowing Joseph to be sold and then imprisoned, actually were of benefit to Joseph, too, by protecting him from both his brothers’ hatred and from Potiphar’s wife’s seduction. Both situations presented obstacles that Joseph could not have countered on his own—far outnumbered by his brothers and lacking the status to resist his master’s wife. And wherever Joseph finds himself, Scripture makes it clear that he was never abandoned.
God blessed all his work and the promotions were quick in coming—first from Potiphar who put him in charge of his whole house as a slave; next by the prison warden who put him in charge of the running of the jail and all the prisoners as a prisoner himself; then finally from Pharaoh who made him second in command over the whole country as a foreigner (Genesis 39:1-6, 19-23, 41:37-40).
It’s also interesting to note Joseph’s response. He appears not to waver in his efforts to do his best. He gives credit to God for being able to interpret dreams (Genesis 41:14-16, 28-32). And while he appears to struggle with himself when his brothers first come back into his life, just over twenty years after condemning him to slavery, during the months that follow he is able to embrace them with open arms and invites the whole family to come and live in Egypt as his guests (Genesis 45:12-15).
While we may resist the idea, Joseph’s story does teach us that the hardships we experience may be for the benefit of others as well as our own; however, even so, we can know God’s presence and blessing, as we continue to live in obedience regardless of difficulties.
But there are other reasons for hardship. We see that God was most definitely at work to relocate Jacob and his family to Egypt, but it took some persuading to get Jacob to see it. What Jacob considered the worst possible scenario, was in fact God’s good plan! After they had visited Egypt once, the families’ food situation again became desperate. Joseph (still unknown to his brothers) had made it clear that they were not to return unless they brought his youngest brother with them—only then would they see their brother Simeon released from prison and be able to buy more food. Jacob, who had earlier refused any thought of allowing Benjamin to go to Egypt with his brothers, thereby condemning Simeon to an Egyptian prison, is now facing probable starvation along with his whole family if he doesn’t change his mind.
ALLOWING GOD TO GUIDE US THROUGH HARDSHIPS – Genesis 43:1-14
“But the famine continued to ravage the land of Canaan. 2 When the grain they had brought from Egypt was almost gone, Jacob said to his sons, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”
3 But Judah said, “The man was serious when he warned us, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you send Benjamin with us, we will go down and buy more food. 5 But if you don’t let Benjamin go, we won’t go either. Remember, the man said, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”
6 “Why were you so cruel to me?” Jacob[a] moaned. “Why did you tell him you had another brother?” 7 They replied, “The man kept asking us questions about our family. He asked, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ So we answered his questions. How could we know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”
8 Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones. 9 I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever. 10 If we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have gone and returned twice by now.”
11 So their father, Jacob, finally said to them, “If it can’t be avoided, then at least do this. Pack your bags with the best products of this land. Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks, as it was probably someone’s mistake. 13 Then take your brother, and go back to the man. 14 May God Almighty give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return. But if I must lose my children, so be it.”
God does not ‘force’ us against our freewill, but he will permit circumstances to persuade and direct us. In this case, God was allowing hardship through the possible starvation of his whole family, to help change Jacob’s mind. God wanted to give him a wonderful gift—the salvation of his family and to restore Joseph to him—but Jacob couldn’t even begin to fathom God’s intentions. If Jacob had known and could have seen God’s greater plan, he wouldn’t have hesitated, but Jacob had not learned to trust God as his grandfather Abraham had; despite seeing God face to face and speaking with him on numerous occasions, Jacob still relied far too heavily on his own ability to solve his problems. God knew that nothing short of this incredible hardship would cause Jacob to budge.
Once Jacob gave way and quit trying to have any control over the situation, things fell quickly into place. The next time he sees his eleven sons, they are bringing wagons, donkeys loaded down with provisions, an invitation to relocate to Egypt to wait out the famine and, most shocking of all, word that his favourite son, Joseph, still lives and has become second in command over all of Egypt. The hardship that forced his hand has now produced his rescue from starvation and reunion with his son whom he thought long dead over two decades earlier.
How does Joseph’s story relate to us?
UNDERSTANDING OUR HARDSHIP @ Hope Chapel
Our congregation is currently facing a crisis of sorts and I can’t help but see some parallels in Joseph and his family’s story to our own.
With few exceptions, we are all new to this congregation named Hope Chapel, the majority of us having begun attending together within the past five years. When Pastor Tim and Jackie accepted the role of pastor couple here in Collingwood, they stepped into a dying church. Denominational leadership had advised the church to close up, but members of the congregation were determined to see it continue. Since beginning to attend this church in the fall of 2016, I have seen God do some things which have been nothing short of miraculous.
So many good things have happened during that time—organizing and clean-up of our building and administration; Youth for Christ’s relocation to the church; greater partnership amongst the Collingwood churches, with our building serving as a catalyst for ministry to high school students; the development of a strong-knit community that has survived our need to go online and the relocation of many of our family and friends for health, work and retirement reasons.
Of course, we know it hasn’t all been easy. We have seen significant conflict. We have also seen God shifting us. I believe that he has been using hardship to get our attention and to cause us to change. And we have begun the process. I have also seen God’s blessing in the midst of our hardship—brought about in large part by our small, but willing group to serve God in the ways he makes available. God is allowing us to experience financial hardship at present—hardship that can bring about benefit to others as we seek to move beyond our four walls; hardship that can cause us to give way to our need to control and allow God to put his plan together; hardship that is not a punishment for wrong-doing, but is rather moving us in the direction of his choosing.
What might God be trying to teach us and in what ways might he be trying to lead us? Do we need to have greater faith in our ‘right on time’ God—never late, but never early either? Do we need greater generosity and consistency in our offerings to him for his work being done in and through Hope Chapel? Do we need to release an unsustainable financial burden and make way for God to do the unimaginable and astounding, even by relocating us to a whole new way of being Hope Chapel?
My encouragement for us today is to be like Joseph
· quick to acknowledge God
· resolute to give our best effort
· willing to embrace others, even those who have caused us harm
· quick to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and need God’s help if we are going to experience God’s great reversal
· Pray. Pray. Pray!
· and follow his leading…wherever it may take us
It may take time—just as it took 22 years before Joseph was able to reveal himself to his brothers. Will we trust God to do what only God can do? Will we look for his opportunities in whichever path he leads us? I hope your answer is a resounding ‘Yes, Lord’ just as mine has been!
Sunday, May 9, 2021- “A Baby Is Born” (Exodus 1-2:10) - ONLINE Only
Happy Mother’s Day!
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, April 25, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Guilty Conscience” – Communion & Sharing Sunday
Text – Genesis 37-38
Have you ever done something and experienced regret—whether instantaneously or over time? I would be shocked to find out that there is one single person who hasn’t! And when it comes to moral failures especially, when that moment of regret happens, we are left with one of two choices: fess up or feel guilty. When we choose to own up there is often ‘fallout’—embarrassment, need for restitution and potentially years of rebuilding a reputation and trust. This sounds too hard for many and they choose the route of living with their secret guilt feelings, but there will always be those who know—possibly accomplices, victims, God…and of course yourself.
Two weeks ago, we were in Genesis 34 and learned how Jacob’s sons had taken revenge on an entire town as recompense for their sister Dinah’s rape. Unfortunately, a couple of chapters later in Genesis 37, we will soon discover that their ire and harsh responses were not reserved solely for strangers, but were also directed at times at members of their own family.
Theirs was a family divided by competition and favouritism—conditions that only seemed to grow worse as they aged.
How many wives did Jacob have? [four]
Who was his favourite? [Rachel]
Therefore, who do you think his favourite son was? [Joseph, Rachel’s son]
And Jacob’s favouritism wasn’t even subtle. He has a fancy coat made specially for his seventeen-year-old Joseph; and either in his naivety or parental-endorsed entitlement, this favourite son appears to have no real clue as to the depth of his brothers’ hatred for him. Some time later, his father sends him out to the field to check on his brothers and when they see him coming a suggestion is made that they should kill him. I have my suspicions that this idea may have originated from Simeon or Levi, given what we know of their temperament, but Reuben, as the oldest, suggests a different plan. He isn’t in agreement and tries to sort out a way to rescue Joseph without angering the others. “Let’s not kill him ourselves. Let’s toss him in this empty well and let the desert do the job for us.” All the while planning to rescue him later.
All agree until lunchtime, when another idea comes to Judah, who appears also not to have the same bloodlust as some of his brothers. They see a caravan of Midianite traders heading their way and the decision is made to sell Joseph to them—no murder, no need to cover-up any incriminating remains…and the best part of all, he won’t be around to irritate them any longer. They had thought of everything…done!
But they hadn’t. Almost instantaneously we hear the regret. When he finds out what his brothers have done, Reuben is distraught; as the oldest, he is sure to bear the blame for Joseph’s disappearance. And it’s at this point that the lies begin to pile up. They plan to deceive their father by ripping apart Joseph’s signature gift—his fancy coat—and kill one of the flock to smear it in blood. They’ll just say that they found the coat and let Jacob assume the worst. As long as no one goes and blabs they’re in the clear.
What they don’t count on is Jacob’s reaction. Genesis 37:33-35 tells us, “Their father recognized the coat immediately. “Yes,” he said, “it is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces!” 34 Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time. 35 His family all tried to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning for my son,” he would say, and then he would weep.” If the brothers had hated the favouritism their father had shown Joseph when he was alive, they completely miscalculated how additionally undervalued they would become in the eyes of their father at the news of his death. Not one of his family was able to console him.
At some point, I suspect all regretted their decision. They were faced with a choice—fess up or live with the guilt. It appears that each and everyone of them chose the latter. We don’t know much about how most of the brothers dealt with their guilt. Next week, we will discover that it haunted them for the rest of their lives. But how did they choose to live with it until it finally came out in the open? Genesis 38 follows Judah into adulthood and we can gain clues from his life how a guilty conscience can have a long-range impact on many aspects of our lives.
POOR CHOICES – Genesis 38:1-5
“About this time, Judah left home and moved to Adullam, where he stayed with a man named Hirah. 2 There he saw a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua, and he married her. When he slept with her, 3 she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and he named the boy Er. 4 Then she became pregnant again and gave birth to another son, and she named him Onan. 5 And when she gave birth to a third son, she named him Shelah. At the time of Shelah’s birth, they were living at Kezib.”
I imagine Judah couldn’t get away from home fast enough. His father’s mourning and his brothers’ guilty looks would have acted as constant reminders. Did Judah think that a little distance between himself and his family could alleviate his own feelings of guilt? Quite possibly. But what does he do in the process? In trying to outrun his guilt, he makes some very poor choices. He separates himself from his family and makes some alliances that his father would not have approved of…nor God either. He distances himself from the family, becomes partners with Hirah and marries a Canaanite woman.
Had he begun to do what many do who suffer from a guilty conscience, but have no intention of admitting error, which is to blame others? “If Joseph hadn’t paraded himself around!” “If Dad hadn’t played favourites!” “If my brothers hadn’t talked me into it!” It appears that Judah desperately wanted a fresh start, but chose to go about it the wrong way…by compounding his bad choices. Ever found yourself in that situation? Digging a deep hole for yourself in an attempt to get out? It never works!
LOSS OF CREDIBILITY/
INEFFECTIVE ACCOUNTABILITY – Genesis 38:6-11
“In the course of time, Judah arranged for his firstborn son, Er, to marry a young woman named Tamar. 7 But Er was a wicked man in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord took his life. 8 Then Judah said to Er’s brother Onan, “Go and marry Tamar, as our law requires of the brother of a man who has died. You must produce an heir for your brother.”
9 But Onan was not willing to have a child who would not be his own heir. So whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he spilled the semen on the ground. This prevented her from having a child who would belong to his brother. 10 But the Lord considered it evil for Onan to deny a child to his dead brother. So the Lord took Onan’s life, too.
11 Then Judah said to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, “Go back to your parents’ home and remain a widow until my son Shelah is old enough to marry you.” (But Judah didn’t really intend to do this because he was afraid Shelah would also die, like his two brothers.) So Tamar went back to live in her father’s home.”
In the culture of Judah’s day, he was to be the leader of his family and the role of training his sons up after a certain age was his responsibility. But, Judah’s guilty conscience appears to have robbed him of his ability to keep his sons in line. We don’t know why Er was condemned as “wicked in the Lord’s sight,” but we do know that Onan refused to abide by honourary customs of the day, which also appear to have been an expectation of God’s. [Deuteronomy 25:5 “If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.” For more information on the laws surrounding levirate marriage check out the link under ‘for further study’. The laws were given to Moses long after Jacob’s time, but there may have been a longstanding moral code in regards to widows and the continuation of a dead man’s lineage.]
I’m left wondering if Judah provided his sons with any knowledge of God? I suspect he had erased God from the equation of his life while attempting to get away from his family. We can be quick to give up on our families, our values and even God under the torment of a guilty conscience. We want to find relief from the thoughts and feelings that plague us. We want to downplay moral failure. And, as is apparent in Judah’s life, any attempts to hold others to a moral standard defeats our efforts to relieve our own guilty consciences. Easier to ‘live and let live,’ then to deal with the stuff in our own lives so that we can help others in their ability to discern right from wrong.
How do you see this kind of thinking in our world today? [‘I don’t tell you how to live, so you can’t tell me how to either.’]
But it gets worse…
HEARTS HARDEN – Genesis 38:12-26
“Some years later Judah’s wife died. After the time of mourning was over, Judah and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went up to Timnah to supervise the shearing of his sheep. 13 Someone told Tamar, “Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.”
14 Tamar was aware that Shelah had grown up, but no arrangements had been made for her to come and marry him. So she changed out of her widow’s clothing and covered herself with a veil to disguise herself. Then she sat beside the road at the entrance to the village of Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. 15 Judah noticed her and thought she was a prostitute, since she had covered her face. 16 So he stopped and propositioned her. “Let me have sex with you,” he said, not realizing that she was his own daughter-in-law.
“How much will you pay to have sex with me?” Tamar asked. 17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” Judah promised. “But what will you give me to guarantee that you will send the goat?” she asked. 18 “What kind of guarantee do you want?” he replied. She answered, “Leave me your identification seal and its cord and the walking stick you are carrying.” So Judah gave them to her. Then he had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant. 19 Afterward she went back home, took off her veil, and put on her widow’s clothing as usual.
20 Later Judah asked his friend Hirah the Adullamite to take the young goat to the woman and to pick up the things he had given her as his guarantee. But Hirah couldn’t find her. 21 So he asked the men who lived there, “Where can I find the shrine prostitute who was sitting beside the road at the entrance to Enaim?” “We’ve never had a shrine prostitute here,” they replied. 22 So Hirah returned to Judah and told him, “I couldn’t find her anywhere, and the men of the village claim they’ve never had a shrine prostitute there.” 23 “Then let her keep the things I gave her,” Judah said. “I sent the young goat as we agreed, but you couldn’t find her. We’d be the laughingstock of the village if we went back again to look for her.”
24 About three months later, Judah was told, “Tamar, your daughter-in-law, has acted like a prostitute. And now, because of this, she’s pregnant.” “Bring her out, and let her be burned!” Judah demanded. 25 But as they were taking her out to kill her, she sent this message to her father-in-law: “The man who owns these things made me pregnant. Look closely. Whose seal and cord and walking stick are these?” 26 Judah recognized them immediately and said, “She is more righteous than I am, because I didn’t arrange for her to marry my son Shelah.” And Judah never slept with Tamar again.”
I don’t know how much more ‘righteous’ Tamar was than Judah, but she obviously took a really big gamble…and could have lost; she would have too if she hadn’t thought through how this could all play out. Many in their day would have applauded Tamar for her commitment to preserve the family line, just as Judah ends up doing…once they knew the whole story.
But when Judah first gets the word that his daughter-in-law is pregnant through prostitution, what does he decree? “Bring her out and let her be burned!” He was in his full legal right, but totally ignored the fact that it was he who had put her in a very desperate position. Living for years with a guilty conscience does not make a person empathetic; it makes them intolerant and hard hearted.
Judah’s refusal to give Tamar to his son Shelah as a wife had probably been adding to the guilt of his already tormented thoughts. Now, Tamar had provided him with an easy out—killing the unfaithful daughter-in-law would have rid him of a problem that I am certain had the neighbours talking. By not having Tamar marry Shelah, Judah was not living up to his obligation to his dead son, his daughter-in-law or even his own family line.
Fortunately for Tamar, she had thought ahead. She needed to be able to prove that the father of the child she was carrying was Judah himself, which she wisely revealed to him in a manner that didn’t further shame or call him out, until he was ready to admit the role he had played.
What do you think of Judah’s responses? How many times have we heard of some very vocal anti-whatevers being guilty of the very thing they profess to be against?
It might interest you to know, if you don’t already, that Tamar would give birth to twins—Perez and Zerah. They would grow up in Judah’s household as his sons/grandsons and travel with the whole family to Egypt years later.
We often believe, falsely, that living with a guilty conscience is better than having to face up to our failures. But while we can play pretend for others, keep the secrets hidden and appear to get on with our lives, we cannot get away from our own condemning thoughts. And if we allow ourselves to become impervious to the constant pounding of our consciences by undealt with guilt, it is likely that the hardness of our hearts will lead us into deeper regrets.
· Unresolved regret over moral failure leads to guilt feelings; these lead to further poor choices, the inability to receive or provide wise guidance and lack of empathy.
· We are all prone to making mistakes and moral failures—we are after all sinful; however, as believers we have the Holy Spirit to help us. It is not okay to simply do wrong without considering the consequences, nor is it wise to ignore our lapses. Honesty, humility and reliance on God are the keys to living a life that is free of guilt and free of damning secrets.
· God has a way of redeeming even our very bad choices. Perez, one of Judah’s twin boys with Tamar, would become one of the many ancestors of Jesus. So, rather than getting eaten up by guilt, I would suggest humility and making things as right as can be, allowing God to help us through the process.
· God has made a way for us to experience forgiveness; we would be wise to take him up on his offer.
Jesus has made the final sacrifice required by God’s Law, but we still need to keep a pliant heart toward God—allowing Him to break us so that we can know restoration and acknowledging our sin and being repentant so that we can experience His forgiveness.
Jesus died to make it possible for us to live without a guilty conscience!
Further Study –
“What is Levirate Marriage?” https://www.gotquestions.org/levirate-marriage.html
Sunday, May 2, 2021- “God’s Miraculous Reversal” (Genesis 39-50) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel, Collingwood
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, March 21, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Can’t Run Away from Your Problems”
Text – Genesis 28-33
We left Jacob last week heading off to his uncle Laban’s in Haran with Isaac’s blessing to find a wife from amongst his cousins, a deployment orchestrated by Rebekah to save Jacob from Esau’s revenge for having been cheated of his father’s blessing. The maneuver may very well have saved his life, but it did not come without its consequences. Jacob must now travel to Haran leaving not only his revenge-seeking brother, but also his mother and father and everything he has ever known up to this point in his seventy years of life.
This week, I was struck by the fact, that though we find Jacob running away at this point in the story, twenty years from now he will still need to ‘face the music’ so to speak, as he comes face to face with his brother. How like all of us at times. Haven’t we all wanted to run away from our problems? Conceal mistakes we’ve made? But Jacob’s story reminds us that there really is no true running away. Consequences follow us in the form of guilty conscience, regret and even in the repetition of the same mistakes.
In Jacob’s story we find God ‘popping in’ at times—revealing Himself through dreams, providing guidance and blessing, even appearing as a man for a night-time wrestling match; but in much of Jacob’s story, God’s engagement is buried under the surface as the characters of the story scheme and compete in their attempts to come out ahead. However, I believe God was working out three aims unbeknownst to the human players in the life of Jacob—knowledge of God, development of character and the need for restoration and restitution made possible only through humility.
As we go through our lesson this morning, I would encourage you to think of a situation in your own life that may hold some similarities. Is there an event in your past that you have run away from or buried, but that continues to have a hold over you in the form of a guilty conscience, regret or where there is still a balance owing in the way of restitution and /or restoration? God absolutely forgives us when we ask him to, but that does not negate the consequences in human relationships. As you think about that, let’s begin…
GOD’S AIMS—KNOWLEDGE OF HIM – Genesis 28:10-22
“Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.’
16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!’ 17 But he was also afraid and said, ‘What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!’
18 The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. 19 He named that place Bethel (which means ‘house of God’), although it was previously called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made this vow: ‘If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.’”
We often assume that the people of the Bible were Christians or Christian-like…that’s a mistake.
We live in an incredibly privileged point of history. Living on this side of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, we have been granted a much fuller manifestation and understanding of God and his purposes in this world. Not so in the time of the patriarchs, which may be why God appeared to them far more frequently it seems that he does to us. Whereas we have the Bible, theirs were the stories that would direct the narrative we have such easy access to. Nothing would be written down until the time of Moses, a number of centuries after Jacob lived. Sure, they may have had some oral stories passed down through families, but it is unlikely that those revealed very much of the actual person of God or of the notion of having a relationship with the One who had the power to create and/or destroy.
In this night-time dream, we see how little Jacob knows of God. He believes he has stumbled onto the doorstep to God’s house. And he is terrified at the prospect of having trespassed inadvertently onto God’s domain. He sets up a memorial stone, makes an offering of olive oil and promises to give God a tenth of all he acquires, should God keep his word in the dream to prosper him and bring him back. In essence, he is making a business transaction with God…‘help me and I’ll give you a commission.’
Have you ever found yourself making deals like that with God? You’re in trouble, but if God will help you out of this jam, you’ll do something in return…like serve Him better, read his word more faithfully, try to be a better person, give up a particular habit. Bargaining with God, however, shows up the immaturity of our faith. Sometimes he will honour our request despite our manipulation, but placing conditions like these on our relationship with God, as though we can coerce a desired response from him, demonstrates a weak faith and lack of understanding of God entirely.
As we read about Jacob’s life and those of his family, their partial understanding of God is also revealed through their worship of false gods and their superstitious beliefs. We read how Jacob believes he can influence the look of the sheep and goats born by placing strips of bark in their drinking troughs (Genesis 30:37-40). And when God calls Jacob to return to Canaan, one of his wives can’t part from her family’s household gods and ends up stealing them from her father, Laban, and bringing them with her (Genesis 31:30-35).
Speaking of Laban, let’s move onto our next scripture reading.
GOD’S AIMS—DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER – Genesis 29:13-30
“3 As soon as Laban heard that his nephew Jacob had arrived, he ran out to meet him. He embraced and kissed him and brought him home. When Jacob had told him his story, 14 Laban exclaimed, “You really are my own flesh and blood!”
After Jacob had stayed with Laban for about a month, 15 Laban said to him, ‘You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.’
16 Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. 17 There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face. 18 Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, ‘I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.’
19 ‘Agreed!’ Laban replied. ‘I’d rather give her to you than to anyone else. Stay and work with me.’ 20 So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.
21 Finally, the time came for him to marry her. ‘I have fulfilled my agreement,’ Jacob said to Laban. ‘Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.’
22 So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. 23 But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her. 24 (Laban had given Leah a servant, Zilpah, to be her maid.)
25 But when Jacob woke up in the morning—it was Leah! ‘What have you done to me?’ Jacob raged at Laban. ‘I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?’
26 ‘It’s not our custom here to marry off a younger daughter ahead of the firstborn,’ Laban replied. 27 ‘But wait until the bridal week is over; then we’ll give you Rachel, too—provided you promise to work another seven years for me.’
28 So Jacob agreed to work seven more years. A week after Jacob had married Leah, Laban gave him Rachel, too. 29 (Laban gave Rachel a servant, Bilhah, to be her maid.) 30 So Jacob slept with Rachel, too, and he loved her much more than Leah. He then stayed and worked for Laban the additional seven years.”
One of God’s aims in Jacob’s life was to further develop his character and his uncle Laban acted like a mirror for Jacob. It appears that conniving and manipulation were family traits on his mother’s side, including his uncle Laban. Jacob had left home to get away from trouble, but in some ways ended up jumping out of the pan and into the fire. Early in their acquaintance they strike a deal. Jacob will work seven years for Laban in lieu of a dowery for the hand of his beautiful cousin, Rachel. He works hard and this man who ‘was content to stay at home among the tents’ (Genesis 25:27), finds himself working hard outside contending with the elements and wild animals as he tended to his uncle’s flocks of sheep and goats.
I suspect that as the time of the seven years was nearing completion, Laban sought a way to keep Jacob in his indentured servitude. This would explain the switching of the brides on the night of the wedding. When Jacob complains, Laban explains that it is not their practice to have a younger daughter married ahead of an older one, but I think that was just his excuse to keep Jacob working for him longer. He tells Jacob that everything can be easily sorted out. He is to spend the wedding week with Leah and at the end of it, he can have Rachel too…in exchange for another seven years of work. The deceiver becomes the deceived.
Jacob agrees, somewhat reluctantly to this arrangement I’m sure, and marries Rachel in addition to Leah…and sets himself up for a lifetime of family strife. The sisters, every bit as rivals as Esau and Jacob had been, give him a bit of a taste of how he had treated his own father—as a means to an end. He had deceived his own father in his bid to gain the upper hand over his brother by stealing the blessing and now found himself treated as the means to an end in a contest between his sister-wives.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with their story, let me read Genesis 29:31-30:24 for you.
“31 When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he enabled her to have children, but Rachel could not conceive. 32 So Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, ‘The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.’ 33 She soon became pregnant again and gave birth to another son. She named him Simeon, for she said, ‘The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son.’ 34 Then she became pregnant a third time and gave birth to another son. He was named Levi, for she said, ‘Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!’ 35 Once again Leah became pregnant and gave birth to another son. She named him Judah, for she said, ‘Now I will praise the Lord!’ And then she stopped having children.
30 When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I’ll die!’
2 Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. ‘Am I God?’ he asked. ‘He’s the one who has kept you from having children!’ 3 Then Rachel told him, ‘Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.’ 4 So Rachel gave her servant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her. 5 Bilhah became pregnant and presented him with a son. 6 Rachel named him Dan, for she said, ‘God has vindicated me! He has heard my request and given me a son.’ 7 Then Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son. 8 Rachel named him Naphtali, for she said, ‘I have struggled hard with my sister, and I’m winning!’
9 Meanwhile, Leah realized that she wasn’t getting pregnant anymore, so she took her servant, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Soon Zilpah presented him with a son. 11 Leah named him Gad, for she said, ‘How fortunate I am!’ 12 Then Zilpah gave Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah named him Asher, for she said, ‘What joy is mine! Now the other women will celebrate with me.’
14 One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben found some mandrakes growing in a field and brought them to his mother, Leah. Rachel begged Leah, ‘Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.’ 15 But Leah angrily replied, ‘Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrakes, too?’ Rachel answered, ‘I will let Jacob sleep with you tonight if you give me some of the mandrakes.’
16 So that evening, as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him. “You must come and sleep with me tonight!” she said. ‘I have paid for you with some mandrakes that my son found.’ So that night he slept with Leah. 17 And God answered Leah’s prayers. She became pregnant again and gave birth to a fifth son for Jacob. 18 She named him Issachar, for she said, ‘God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband as a wife.’ 19 Then Leah became pregnant again and gave birth to a sixth son for Jacob. 20 She named him Zebulun, for she said, ‘God has given me a good reward. Now my husband will treat me with respect, for I have given him six sons.’ 21 Later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.
22 Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by enabling her to have children. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. ‘God has removed my disgrace,’ she said. 24 And she named him Joseph, for she said, ‘May the Lord add yet another son to my family.’”
As you listened to this portion of the story, what did you notice?
In the battle for status between Rachel and Leah—a contest to be won by having the most sons for their family—Jacob is treated as a ‘stud for hire.’ We know that he loved Rachel, but did his wives love him back? Leah had given up trying to earn his affection and, in her rejection, contented herself with the possibility that he would at least have respect for her as the mother of six sons.
It’s a messed up story for sure! And the familial favouritism that was responsible for wrecking his own upbringing—with Isaac and Rebekah dividing their sons through favouritism—now divided his own family, as he showed overt favouritism to Rachel and her sons, over the others. History has a way of repeating itself when we attempt to run away from problems rather than address them.
Which brings us to God’s third aim…
After twenty years of serving his uncle Laban—14 years for his two wives and 6 years in order to build up his own flocks—God tells Jacob to return to the land of his upbringing, which will now bring him face to face with the unfinished business of his past—Esau.
GOD’S AIMS—RESTORATION and/or RESTITUTION – Genesis 33:1-11
“Then Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming with his 400 men. So he divided the children among Leah, Rachel, and his two servant wives. 2 He put the servant wives and their children at the front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph last. 3 Then Jacob went on ahead. As he approached his brother, he bowed to the ground seven times before him. 4 Then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. 5 Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, ‘Who are these people with you?’
‘These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,’ Jacob replied. 6 Then the servant wives came forward with their children and bowed before him. 7 Next came Leah with her children, and they bowed before him. Finally, Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed before him.
8 ‘And what were all the flocks and herds I met as I came?’ Esau asked. Jacob replied, ‘They are a gift, my lord, to ensure your friendship.’ 9 ‘My brother, I have plenty,’ Esau answered. ‘Keep what you have for yourself.’ 10 But Jacob insisted, ‘No, if I have found favor with you, please accept this gift from me. And what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God! 11 Please take this gift I have brought you, for God has been very gracious to me. I have more than enough.’ And because Jacob insisted, Esau finally accepted the gift.”
We don’t know what was going on in Esau’s mind when he heard the news that Jacob was returning, but the fact that he gathered an army of 400 men to meet Jacob on the way, strongly implies he was not intending on the kind of reunion that took place. Finally, here was a chance to get even! Strike the blow before Jacob had a chance to reach Isaac and Esau’s revenge would be complete without his father being any more the wiser. The liar had finally returned to assume his position as the birthright holder and Esau now saw his chance. But something took place that changed his mind.
Jacob set about making amends immediately before they met, sending gifts of 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys, all with a carefully crafted greeting, “When my brother, Esau, meets you, he will ask, ‘Whose servants are you? Where are you going? Who owns these animals?’ 18 You must reply, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob, but they are a gift for his master Esau. Look, he is coming right behind us’” (Genesis 32:17-18).
Esau’s plan for revenge twenty years earlier had been to kill Jacob after their father, Isaac, passed away. However, upon seeing one another, with Jacob bowing in abject humility, Esau runs to embrace him. His act of unbegrudging restitution has demonstrated for Esau that his brother, whatever he may have been or done, has changed. And because of the restitution that Jacob made to his brother and the resulting restoration of their relationship, we read that both brothers were there to bury their father when he dies at the age of 180 years (Genesis 35:29), now being 120 years old themselves. I don’t know how close they ever were as brothers, but I suspect that in their final years they enjoyed a much healthier relationship than they had had in their first 90 years. It really is never too late to make amends!
Is there a situation from which you’ve been running away or someone to whom you need to make amends? When we are wronged Jesus calls tells us to forgive—whether the individual in the wrong ever chooses to make amends or not; however, if we’re the one who has perpetuated the wrong, it is on us to make restitution. We cannot change another’s heart, but tangible demonstrations of humility can go a long way. It’s what made the difference for Esau and Jacob, and can for us as well.
God’s aims for Jacob as seen in this episode of his life, are the same that he has for each one of us…
· A growing understanding of who he is, and a relationship that is based on faith and trust.
· Ever-increasing development in our character – God does not wipe away consequences just because he forgives us; if he did, it is unlikely that we would learn the lessons we need to help us mature in our walk of obedience to Him.
· The people in our lives are at times God’s refining tools—those we appreciate and especially those we struggle to.
· God’s forgiveness does not eliminate our need to work to bring about restitution and restoration of our relationships as God makes possible; restoring trust between people is a work of forgiveness, humility, timing and God’s mercy.
For further study:
Sunday, March 28, 2021- “Palm Sunday – The King is Here!” - Communion and Sharing - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, March 14, 2021
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!