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 16, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Leadership Development”
Text – Exodus 2:11-4
There is much about how God works in our lives that is simply beyond our understanding. However, that does not mean that we are without glimpses of his hand at work. There are some things we can know, and lessons we can glean from the stories of the people in the Bible. Take for instance our story today. God had a plan for the baby Moses—the timing seemed wrong, but God knew that it was perfect. Moses would be raised as a privileged son of the Egyptian princess, but would retain his connection with the Hebrew people—his people. By the age of forty, Moses is fully aware of the Hebrew’s situation as mistreated slaves and, as an unofficial ‘prince’ of the people, wants to take some action of their behalf. Unfortunately, his actions were his own and not yet directed by God. Over the course of the next forty years, we will see a dramatic change in Moses—from a self-confident member of the royal family to a humbled servant fully reliant on God’s wisdom and direction. We discover that it took until the age of eighty for Moses to finally be prepared to do the great work of God for which he was born!
But first, let’s go back forty years and see why taking matters into our hands is never a good idea…
TAKING MATTERS INTO HIS OWN HANDS – Exodus 2:11-22
“Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. 13 The next day, when Moses went out to visit his people again, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight. 14 The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?” Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” 15 And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian.
When Moses arrived in Midian, he sat down beside a well. 16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came as usual to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. 17 But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds. Then he drew water for their flocks. 18 When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, “Why are you back so soon today?” 1 9They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks.”
20 “Then where is he?” their father asked. “Why did you leave him there? Invite him to come and eat with us.” 21 Moses accepted the invitation, and he settled there with him. In time, Reuel gave Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife. 22 Later she gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom,[a] for he explained, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.”
Moses had left the palace to visit the slaves at work. He had seen an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and had reacted by killing the man and then trying to cover up the crime. But word spread quickly and he was forced to run for his life. His attempt to stand up for the Hebrews had entirely backfired. He ends up settling in the land of Midian—away from everything he had ever know, more Egyptian than Hebrew, a foreigner. Looking in on Moses’ story, we might be tempted to think that he has totally blown any chance he had to help his people. He is a wanted man and now must live the rest of his days banished.
But not so. In forty years time, God will show up and direct Moses to return to Egypt. We could view the forty years that Moses spends in Midian as banishment…or as a training ground. God had plans to use Moses as a leader, but he needed to undergo a life transformation before he would be ready to do so.
Moses, the prince of Egypt, must learn the lessons of a shepherd—patience, self-control and humility—before he will be ready to lead the vast nation of the Hebrews out of Egypt. God knows that the freed slaves will at times bear an incredible resemblance to an obstinate flock of sheep and Moses will be called upon to use all the skills he gains in his forty years of tending his father-in-laws flocks.
Have you ever noticed times when previous life experiences have prepared you for future life events?
Time must have felt like it was moving very slowly for Moses during those forty years in the Midianite wilderness. In the waiting, we sometimes feel like God is moving too slowly, if he’s taking any action at all. But once things have aligned themselves, God often moves swiftly, forcing us to try and catch up. Such was the case with Moses…
GOD CALLS MOSES – Exodus 3:1-10
“One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” Moses replied, “Here I am!” 5 The Lord warned Moses, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
God determines that the time is right. The Hebrews are desperate to escape Egypt and his chosen leader has been readied. But first God must get Moses’ attention. What does God do? [shows up as a burning bush]
I can’t help but wonder if God is taking this opportunity to introduce himself to Moses. How well does Moses actually know God at this point in his life? God shows up in a way that Moses can’t ignore. However, Moses’ curiosity turns to instant dread when God identifies himself, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Oh, and by the way, take your sandals off; you’re standing on holy ground.” God isn’t just back in Egypt with the enslaved Israelites, he’s also in this place where Moses has lived in banishment for the past forty years. And he has a job for Moses to do.
God has not been deaf to the cries of his people; he is aware of the suffering they have experienced at the hands of the Egyptians. And Moses, who had been so keen to come to their aid forty years earlier, is God's chosen servant to lead them into freedom and the land he promised their fathers so many years ago.
Forty years earlier, the self-confident ‘prince’ of Egypt might have been quick to accept the challenge. But Moses, who has been undergoing a transformation of his leadership style and character, isn’t overly eager for this opportunity at the age of eighty. He’s going to need some convincing.
MOSES NEEDS CONVINCING – Exodus 3:11-15, 4:1-17
“But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” 14 God replied to Moses, “I am who i am.[f] Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you…
But Moses protested again, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?” 2 What is that in your hand?” the Lord asked Moses. “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. 3 “Throw it down on the ground,” the Lord told him. So Moses threw down the staff, and it turned into a snake! Moses jumped back. 4 Then the Lord told him, “Reach out and grab its tail.” So Moses reached out and grabbed it, and it turned back into a shepherd’s staff in his hand. 5 “Perform this sign,” the Lord told him. “Then they will believe that the Lord, the God of their ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—really has appeared to you.”
6 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out again, his hand was white as snow with a severe skin disease. 7 “Now put your hand back into your cloak,” the Lord said. So Moses put his hand back in, and when he took it out again, it was as healthy as the rest of his body. 8 The Lord said to Moses, “If they do not believe you and are not convinced by the first miraculous sign, they will be convinced by the second sign. 9 And if they don’t believe you or listen to you even after these two signs, then take some water from the Nile River and pour it out on the dry ground. When you do, the water from the Nile will turn to blood on the ground.”
10 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” 11 Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
13 But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.” 14 Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. 15 Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. 16 Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say. 17 And take your shepherd’s staff with you, and use it to perform the miraculous signs I have shown you.”
How much evidence does one man need? It is abundantly clear, that Moses did not want this assignment! Five times he protests and even pleads with God to choose someone else…anyone else! After Moses’ first objection, God makes a promise to bring him and all the Israelites back to Mount Sinai where they will worship God.
But that isn’t enough for Moses; he protests again. “Who will I say sent me?” What is Gods’ answer? [“I AM” has sent you; the God of your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]
Again, Moses protests, “What if they refuse to believe that you sent me?” What miracles does God demonstrate and tell Moses to use? [staff turns into a snake and then back again; hand is made leprous then healthy; water from the Nile poured on the ground will turn to blood]
God has shown himself capable, but Moses doubts God’s ability to work through him. “I can’t speak…I’m no good at putting the words together!” What does God remind Moses of? [it is God who gives the ability to speak, to hear, to see] What promises does God make to Moses? [“I will be with you and I will give you the words to speak”]
But Moses is still desperate not to be chosen for this task and pleads with God to send someone else…anyone but him! And it’s at this point that we see another side of God. Moses’ unwillingness to acknowledge that God is sufficient to help him with this task causes God to show an entirely different emotion. How does he now respond to Moses’ refusal? [he gets angry; God relents and allows Moses a partner, but because God knows Aaron’s heart he refuses to give him equal responsibility and authority with Moses]
We find God going from calmly reassuring to perturbed…Moses is testing his patience! But rather than letting him off the hook, God offers to supply Moses with a helper—his brother Aaron. This brings a measure of relief to Moses and he finally relents, but for those of us who know the story, I can’t help but wonder if there may have come a time when Moses regretted Aaron’s help—like when he made the golden calf or when he and Miriam became jealous of Moses’ position. Definitely a reminder for all of us to be careful what we wish for!
What can we take from this biblical narrative from the life of Moses?
· God is not blind to our struggles, just as he was not blind to the Israelites’ enslavement, but often his timing is beyond our understanding – One thing we can know for certain is that he sees, he hears and he’s working all things together to fulfill his plans
· Our own solutions to problems often fall short and/or fail miserably – Moses was initially eager to help his people and he even killed for them; but his ill-planned intervention resulted in his needing to run for his life
· God is capable of redeeming our mistakes – Moses was forced to flee Egypt and landed in Midian where he would complete his training for his future position of leadership
· View your life circumstances as God’s training arena – In Pharaoh’s palace, Moses learned much about how to lead; but it was in the lands of Midian as a shepherd that Moses learned the lessons of patience, self-control and humility
· Rely on God not your own abilities – Moses went from being overly confident in his own ability to solve problems to recognizing his complete inability…and doubting that he was fit for the job at all. God had to convince him that, while he was incapable on his own, with God’s help anything was possible.
· God often directs us to complete tasks that go beyond our own limitations so that we recognize who should get the credit…so that he receives the glory – God was choosing to work through Moses, a man who had settled into the life of a shepherd and told him to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt—an entirely impossible task without the help of God; but because it was impossible for Moses, he was God’s perfect pick—the Hebrews would have to acknowledge that it was God who had done the impossible
· When God calls us to do a task, he will supply what we need – Moses knew he didn’t have the skills or confidence to do the job God wanted to accomplish through him and it made him reluctant; God promised, however, to provide Moses with the ability to do miracles and would give him the words to speak. Moses’ lack was not an issue for God…and could even be viewed as an asset. An entirely confident and competent person may not have relied on God the way that Moses did
· Be careful about trying to set the parameters within which you will serve God – Moses wanted another human companion to help him in the task God was giving to him, but what he didn’t know was that Aaron would end up causing him grief on a sizable scale more than once during the next forty years. How might things have turned out differently, if Moses had fully trusted God right from the beginning?
Sunday, May 23, 2021- “Saying ‘NO!’ to God” (Exodus 5-11,12:31-42,14) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, May 9, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “A Baby Is Born” – Mother’s Day
Text – Exodus 1-2:10
Have you ever noticed how many stories of babies there are in the Bible? [Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Perez and Zerah, Moses, Samson, Obed, Samuel, Joash, John the Baptist, Jesus… to name but a few] And in each story, we also hear the intersecting stories of women—mothers, sisters, aunts and others who showed courage, faith and sacrifice. If the biblical accounts were strictly works recorded by men, babies would be in large part excluded. Our stories from history often highlight brave men who excelled in military glory, leadership and sacrifice. God does not judge our significance on the same criteria the world uses—not our age, gender, race or social status—so His-story looks quite different. Today, being that it’s Mother’s Day and that we have landed on a story of one of the Bible’s most famous babies, it is good for us to remember that God can use anyone and everyone when it comes to working out his plan for the world. And when it comes to God’s plans, we should take note that he has been known to do the completely unexpected! Just as in our story today…
Today, we are beginning our walk through the book of Exodus. Last week, we finished the book of Genesis with Jacob and his family having relocated to Egypt. The book of Exodus picks up their story and introduces another main character of the Bible, Moses, some 350 years later.
INCREASINGLY DESPERATE SITUATION – Exodus 1:1-22
“These are the names of the sons of Israel (that is, Jacob) who moved to Egypt with their father, each with his family: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, 4 Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 5 In all, Jacob had seventy descendants in Egypt, including Joseph, who was already there. 6 In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. 7 But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.
8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. 9 He said to his people, ‘Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. 10 We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.’ 11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became. 13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.
15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 16 ‘When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.’ 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. ‘Why have you done this?’ he demanded. ‘Why have you allowed the boys to live?’ 19The midwives replied, ‘The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women. They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.’ 20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: ‘Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.’”
The Egyptians forgot their own history and saw the expanding population of the Hebrews as inherently threatening; underlying this fear was their own prejudice toward the Hebrews in the forms of discrimination, racism and classism. They kept written records just as we do, but the fact they ‘forgot’ all about Joseph shouldn’t surprise us. The events we read about occurred roughly 350 years after the Jacob’s family had moved to Egypt.
Before we’re tempted to judge Pharaoh too harshly for not knowing about Joseph and all he did for Egypt, I have a little activity for us. How well do we know the history of the Christian Church over the course of the past 350 years?
· 1611—Publication of the King James Bible
· 1652—George Fox founds Society of Friends (“Quakers”), gathering 50,000 followers in just eight years…all without social media!
· 1678—Jailed Baptist preacher John Bunyan writes Pilgrim’s Progress—next to the Bible, the most-popular English-language book of all time.
· 1735—George Whitefield is converted and soon begins dramatic open-air evangelism in the U.S. and England within Calvinism.
· 1738—John and Charles Wesley Experience Conversions - They were ordained ministers and missionaries; their changed lives gave rise to a worldwide movement, Methodism.
· 1807—William Wilberforce’s efforts lead to the abolition of the British slave trade.
· 1845—Phoebe Palmer writes The Way of Holiness, spurring the Holiness movement, while strengthening women’s ministries and encouraging the Prayer Meeting Revival.
· 1878—William and Catherine Booth found the Salvation Army, soon a worldwide thrust for social and spiritual salvation.
If we don’t know these facts about significant events that happened in the Christian Church, we dare not judge Pharaoh and the Egyptians for having forgotten the work that Joseph did on their behalf.
One thing is clear. The Egyptian Pharaoh was desperate to hang onto power. He saw the growing numbers of Hebrews as threatening to overwhelm his own people; if they made an alliance with an enemy nation, Egypt would be hopelessly outnumbered. The sophisticated Egyptians were repelled at the idea that they would ever have to share power with these low-class farmers—the Hebrews were shepherds, which we know from Joseph’s story was an occupation the Egyptians despised. Wouldn’t you say that this story contains elements that sound strikingly familiar to some of our current day attitudes?
However, at the same time, part of Pharaoh’s motivation was to see them remain in the country. Despite the Egyptians disdain for shepherds, they saw the benefit of the labour and commerce provided through the Hebrews. Pharaoh didn’t want to see them go, as it was beneficial to the whole country that they remain; he just didn’t want to see them become an overpowering force. Pharaoh and the people of Egypt grew increasingly desperate to avert what they perceived to be a threat and so attempted to regain control by enslaving the Hebrews.
How did the Hebrews respond? I can’t imagine they passively gave up their freedom, but as a society they specialized in growing crops and animal husbandry; they may have found themselves defenseless against the military prowess of their Egyptian hosts. However, the harsher the treatment they were forced to endure, the more they appeared to prosper. So, when enslaving the people and treating them ever more harshly didn’t produce the desired results, Pharaoh resorts to a partial genocide—the killing of all the baby boys.
First, he instructs the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys at birth; but they refuse. He then orders all of his subjects to do the deed—all Hebrew baby boys are to be killed with only the baby girls being permitted to live. The Jewish people would understandably be growing increasingly desperate under slavery and the threat to their very lives and the lives of their children.
How could this be part of God’s plans? You may recall that God had already told Abraham many years earlier that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars; however, they would also find themselves enslaved for a time, but that God would rescue them and bring them into the land God was promising them as their inheritance. Prior to being enslaved, I suspect the people had become comfortable. Their Egyptian enslavement would act as a powerful motivator to leave their adopted country.
But, what God does next doesn’t make any sense at all!
DO OR DIE – Exodus 2:1-10
“About this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married. 2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She saw that he was a special baby and kept him hidden for three months. 3 But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket and laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile River. 4 The baby’s sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him.
5 Soon Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe in the river, and her attendants walked along the riverbank. When the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it for her. 6 When the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This must be one of the Hebrew children,” she said.
7 Then the baby’s sister approached the princess. “Should I go and find one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked. 8 ‘Yes, do!’ the princess replied. So the girl went and called the baby’s mother.
9 ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me,’ the princess told the baby’s mother. ‘I will pay you for your help.’ So the woman took her baby home and nursed him. 10 Later, when the boy was older, his mother brought him back to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. The princess named him Moses, for she explained, ‘I lifted him out of the water.’”
What a terrible time for God to bless any Hebrew family with a baby boy! What sense does it make to have a child born into a time when there is literally a death warrant on his head? It doesn’t make sense to us, but it made God-sense and was part of his greater plan that would take an additional eighty years to see accomplished. This little boy, would one day be tasked by God, to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt; however, at the time of his birth, had God revealed it to anyone, the suggestion would have been met with unbelief. It would have seemed entirely impossible.
In the meantime, what to do with this small one? How can a mother go about protecting her son from the orders of a malevolent king? At three months old, it becomes apparent that the family cannot keep his existence a secret any longer. If you’ve ever tried to keep a baby happy and entertained, you understand the struggle it would have been as he got older. The baby’s mother enacts a desperate plan in a bid to save her son. They are forced to make a gamble—if he is put in the river where the Egyptian royal women are known to come and bathe, someone may find his small basket and have compassion…or order his immediate drowning. But, if his mother tries to keep him hid herself, it will only be a matter of time before he is found and murdered. She has no real option. Keeping him will ensure his death; if one of the Egyptian royal household takes pity, he might stand a chance. The safest place for her son is with the enemy!
So, a special basket is prepared, made water-tight, and placed in the river with the baby inside. Some of you may be familiar with Dreamwork’s depiction of this scene--the basket is pushed off into open water by his tearful mother; at points we see it caught up in a fishing net only to fall back into the water, fought over by hungry hippopotamuses and crocodiles, being tossed around in an angry river, nearly crushed by shipping vessels…until it finally floats into a peaceful estuary. This is where the queen has come, fishes out the basket and after removing the lid is met by a smiling baby who coos at her; she disappears into the palace with Moses in her arms, never to mingle with the Hebrews from whom he came until much later as an adult.
This fanciful edge-of-your-seat depiction misses the mark in many respects, not the least being the mother’s very careful planning. If she must give him up, she wants to give him the best possible chance at survival she knows how. The section of the river she places her baby in is shallow water, among the reeds, near to where she knows the royals come to bathe…and she sets her daughter, Miriam to watch over the basket. Could it be that she was not actually looking for anyone to find him, but rather was hoping she could use the river to hide him? We don’t know what exactly she was hoping for, but we do know what happens next.
The Pharaoh’s daughter comes down to the river to bathe with some of her attendants and she notices the basket in the shallows. She has it brought to her and is met by a baby’s cries and she feels sorry for him. The baby’s sister, jumps out of hiding and offers to find a wet-nurse for the princess. It appears that the princess chooses this moment to conspire against her father. Was it any ‘coincidence’ that a little Hebrew girl was watching over the basket? Or that she offered to find the baby a nurse? Highly unlikely. Surely, too, she knew her father’s edict, yet she finds herself unwilling to comply with his demands, even though she recognizes this baby is one of the children of the Hebrews. Her compassion for this crying infant, regardless of race, caused her to act in direct disobedience to her own father.
And God, who had blessed this family with the birth of a baby boy, rewards this mother with the salvation of her son. She will be permitted to continue to raise Moses until he is weaned…and be paid to do it—the first historical record of a mother getting paid to work at home! And even though she will have to eventually give him over to the care of Pharaoh’s daughter, she is now assured that he will live when so many others are dying, sheltered under the protection of Egyptian royalty from even the Pharaoh’s dire threats and mistreatment.
God’s poor choice of timing, from our perspective, caused a desperate mother to devise a plan and take a risk that would not have been required of her at another time. God knew that the future leader of the Israelites was going to need protection and specialized training, so had him raised in Pharaoh’s palace—safe from harm, learning to lead, never being beaten down by the trauma of slavery. And apparently, Pharaoh tolerated his daughter’s decision; after all, what harm could one little boy bring to the entire nation?
The desperation of a mother, the pity of a princess and the courage of a little sister, all worked together to fulfill God’s plan to one day use this little one, Moses, to accomplish what Pharaoh feared and had tried so hard to prevent—that the Hebrews would leave Egypt.
What can we take from this biblical narrative?
· What the Egyptians did to the Hebrews bears some resemblance to apartheid in South Africa, the reserve system for First Nations in Canada, the powerplays being currently exercised in many countries around our globe and other instances where one group of people has attempted to assert wholesale control over another group. Just as we are horrified by this partial genocide by Egypt of the Hebrews in the biblical record, we must condemn and work against all underlying forms of discrimination that have the potential to lead to great atrocity in our own day. Pharaoh’s mindset still exists.
· Even when it appears otherwise, God is the master of perfect timing.
· God’s plan is always best—it may not be easy and we may never understand all the ‘whys.’ Moses’ mother would not have lived long enough to see her son at the head of the Hebrews, leading them out of Egypt. But we can trust the One who is working in the background bringing about the greatest good in our world that has been thoroughly corrupted by sin.
· God’s plan is never stopped—he can use everyone and every situation to bring about the fulfillment of his will. What might be impossible for us, is not for God.
· God uses some of the most unlikely people to accomplish his plans—in this case a desperate mother, a disobedient princess, a little girl and even a murderous king.
Sunday, May 16, 2021- “Leadership Development” (Exodus 2:11-4) - ONLINE Only
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, April 11, 2021
Teaching Series - “Our Family Tree–Through the Bible in 2021"
Weekly Topic - “Revenge!”
Text – Genesis 34
What does God tell us about revenge? [Romans 12:9 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”] Why? [none of us is perfect; we tend to go overboard; God is just, He is the only Righteous Judge and knows what is best]
This morning I want to begin our look at a very difficult portion of Scripture with a news article from earlier this week that I believe can give us insight into today’s biblical account from Genesis 34. I want to warn you, this will not be a comfortable topic for most of us and it may contain triggers for others.
Kyrgyzstan: Fury Over Death of 'Bride Kidnapping' Victim - Angry protests have broken out in Kyrgyzstan after a woman was abducted and killed in a case of "bride kidnapping"
“Aizada Kanatbekova, 27, was snatched on Monday by three men who pushed her into a car. It is believed one of them wanted to marry her by force. Security footage showing the abduction spread widely on social media but police could not track the vehicle. Ms Kanatbekova's body was found in an abandoned car on Wednesday. A shepherd came across the vehicle in a field outside the capital, Bishkek, and raised the alarm.
The young woman's kidnapper and suspected murderer was also found dead. Police said he died from knife wounds, which were thought to have been self-inflicted. Ms Kanatbekova's family said she knew the man, and they had asked him before not to hassle her. Another of the three men was detained by police, according to state TV. The illegal abduction of women for marriage is thought to be widespread in the country.
Many believe bride kidnapping is an ancient Kyrgyz tradition, but some researchers argue it became popular in the Central Asian country only a few decades ago. It was outlawed in 2013, but convictions are rare and women are often unwilling to report it for fear of reprisals. UN figures suggest one in five marriages in Kyrgyzstan happens after a woman has been kidnapped. Parents and relatives relentlessly pressure young men in Kyrgyzstan to marry after they reach a certain age. For many, especially those from poor families, bride kidnapping is the cheapest and quickest way.
About 500 people gathered to demonstrate in front of the interior ministry on Thursday, shouting "Shame!" and demanding the minister's resignation. "It is impossible to be quiet and observe the violence that our women, who lack any rights, must endure," local journalist Mahinur Niyazova told the AFP news agency. Prime Minister Ulugbek Sharipov urged the crowd to "have patience" while police investigate, but several called for him to be fired too. Some of the signs carried by protesters read: "Who will answer for Aizada's murder?" and "Who still thinks that murder is a tradition?"
Writing on Facebook, Kyrgyzstan's President Sadyr Japarov described Ms Kanatbekova's death as "a tragedy and pain not only for her family, but also for our entire state". The incident should be "the last bride kidnapping in history", he said. Kyrgyzstan has been here before, however. In 2018, a 20-year-old medical student, Burulai Turdaaly Kyzy, was stabbed to death at a police station, as she prepared to file a statement against her kidnapper. Her killer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and more than 20 police officers were punished.”
This story reminds us that we live in a sometimes very ugly world where sin is allowed to flourish, people are abused and those with authority to serve justice are often reluctant. Many are demanding change to practices that degrade women and others, some want to sweep the problems under a proverbial rug, others seethe with a desire for revenge and some may take matters into their own hands. How are we to respond to injustice? And how can this current event possibly have any bearing on a story from the Bible?
A HEINOUS PRACTICE/ATTITUDE – Genesis 34:1-12
“One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area. 2 But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. 3 But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words. 4 He said to his father, Hamor, ‘Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.’
5 Soon Jacob heard that Shechem had defiled his daughter, Dinah. But since his sons were out in the fields herding his livestock, he said nothing until they returned. 6 Hamor, Shechem’s father, came to discuss the matter with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done.
8 Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. ‘My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,’ he said. ‘Please let him marry her. 9 In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. 10 And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.’
11 Then Shechem himself spoke to Dinah’s father and brothers. ‘Please be kind to me, and let me marry her,’ he begged. ‘I will give you whatever you ask. 12 No matter what dowry or gift you demand, I will gladly pay it—just give me the girl as my wife.’”
I would like to make one thing clear from the outset: Dinah is not to blame for her rape. For some of us that sounds like a no-brainer, but as I prepared for this morning, I became aware of an all-too-common trend in the biblical commentaries. I can’t tell you the times that I became aware of some scholars’ attempts to blame Dinah for her own rape—a practice we now recognize as victim blaming and shaming. As the only named daughter of Jacob, many reasoned, she was obviously spoiled, disregarded safety measures, possibly going to observe the ‘daughters of the land’ to discover the latest in fashion trends without her parents knowing her whereabouts. Others wanted to blame her father and mother who doubtless pampered her and allowed her to go visiting without a chaperone; they should have known it wasn’t safe for her on her own.
Let me offer just a couple of corrections. We do not know that she was Jacob’s only daughter, only that she is the only one named. The Bible often leaves out the names of daughters in genealogical records. It is likely that the family had been living in the area for roughly eight years and would have developed some friendly relations with the locals—for both socializing and trade. Jacob learns that his daughter has been raped, but from whom? It appears that Dinah did not return to her family until later, so it is likely she had an escort who came and delivered the news to Jacob. From the text, it appears that Dinah, a teenaged girl between the ages of 13-17 years, had gone to town to visit with friends with at least one other and found herself overpowered by a man, one of the local leaders, and raped.
If there is any individual of this story who was overly-indulged by parents it is likely the perpetrator of the crime, Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the local prince. After his rape of Dinah, whom he calls a ‘young girl’ he demands that his father make the necessary arrangements with her family so that he can marry her, effectively making her his property. The Bible says that after raping Dinah, Shechem then ‘fell in love with her and spoke tenderly to her.’ This is not love as we understand love. This is not a romance between two young people. Shechem is old enough to be recognized as the ‘local prince’ or in other words one of the influential rulers in the area. He has raped a young girl and decided he wants to keep her. Given the culture of many ancient and current day societies, it is likely that Dinah felt she could not return to her family as she was now ‘spoiled goods’…better to stay with her rapist, then never to marry at all or to expose her family to shame.
When Jacob finds out what has happened to his daughter, his sons are out in the field tending the herds and so he stays silent, maybe feeling powerless to confront this local prince on his own. Word of their sister’s defilement reaches Jacob’s sons and they come immediately back to their home, shocked and furious. The Bible does not indicate which of the sons became deeply upset, but it is safe to assume that none were apathetic to the news. Was their reaction for their sister? In part. However, I suspect a considerable amount of their indignation centred around the fact that someone dared mess with their family and they had been treated dishonourably as a whole. They each took the affront personally.
However, you may have noticed that there is no apology or even admission to the act by Hamor or his son, Shechem, that Dinah has been raped. It may be that they thought Jacob and his sons were unaware—so why upset them—or that they would accept Shechem’s actions as a culturally acceptable practice. They were wrong…
The desire for revenge is a natural knee jerk reaction for people, like a default setting in our sinful humanity. There is a place for righteous anger, but not revenge. How would you explain the difference to someone? [righteous anger seeks to right an injustice – revenge seeks to extract payment]
ULTERIOR MOTIVES – Genesis 34:13-24
“But since Shechem had defiled their sister, Dinah, Jacob’s sons responded deceitfully to Shechem and his father, Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We couldn’t possibly allow this, because you’re not circumcised. It would be a disgrace for our sister to marry a man like you! 15 But here is a solution. If every man among you will be circumcised like we are, 16 then we will give you our daughters, and we’ll take your daughters for ourselves. We will live among you and become one people. 17 But if you don’t agree to be circumcised, we will take her and be on our way.”
18 Hamor and his son Shechem agreed to their proposal. 19 Shechem wasted no time in acting on this request, for he wanted Jacob’s daughter desperately. Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, 20 and he went with his father, Hamor, to present this proposal to the leaders at the town gate.
21 “These men are our friends,” they said. “Let’s invite them to live here among us and trade freely. Look, the land is large enough to hold them. We can take their daughters as wives and let them marry ours. 22 But they will consider staying here and becoming one people with us only if all of our men are circumcised, just as they are. 23 But if we do this, all their livestock and possessions will eventually be ours. Come, let’s agree to their terms and let them settle here among us.” So all the men in the town council agreed with Hamor and Shechem, and every male in the town was circumcised.”
While it is not clear what Jacob’s response to their suggested arrangement was, the two men entirely underestimated the reaction of Jacob’s sons. We don’t know if it was all of Jacob’s sons or just Dinah’s brothers, Levi and Simeon who later take center stage, who had no intention of dealing honourably with the perpetrators. The scheming behaviour of Rebecca and Jacob, Laban, Leah and Rachel is also evident in this next generation of Jacob’s sons. They had grown up in a divided household, filled with intrigue, competition and favouritism. Asking God’s help in dealing with this situation probably didn’t even cross their minds. They set upon a plan to get even, but pretended to be in agreement…if their condition that every man be circumcised was met.
Hamor and Shechem are entirely oblivious to the fact that they are walking into a trap. The plan is proposed to all the leaders at the town gate and because Shechem was a highly respected member of his family, they are easily persuaded. It seems that Jacob and his family had lived sometime in the area and had made a favourable impression. Alliances were often made to increase the strength of a community. This was a transaction that would bring obvious benefit to the town. Why not amalgamate with this powerful family? Hadn’t they proven themselves reliable and trustworthy? What did they have to lose?
What the townspeople did not know, however, was just how untrustworthy this family had been in the past, even to their own, and what level of cruelty they were capable of.
WANTON REVENGE – Genesis 34:25-31
“But three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there, 26 including Hamor and his son Shechem. They killed them with their swords, then took Dinah from Shechem’s house and returned to their camp.
27 Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons arrived. Finding the men slaughtered, they plundered the town because their sister had been defiled there. 28 They seized all the flocks and herds and donkeys—everything they could lay their hands on, both inside the town and outside in the fields. 29 They looted all their wealth and plundered their houses. They also took all their little children and wives and led them away as captives.
30 Afterward Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!’
31 ‘But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?’ they retorted angrily.”
It appears that Jacob had no idea what at least two of his sons had been planning and the rest of his sons later participated in. I suspect that Jacob would have preferred to let the whole affair slide. He may have himself seen some advantages to creating an alliance with Hamor’s people, or at the very least not antagonizing anyone living in the land against his family. I find Jacob’s response self-serving and cowardly. “What after all is the sacrifice of a daughter to maintain the peace?” may have been part of his reasoning.
But when the men of the town were still incapacitated from their recent wholescale circumcision, Simeon and Levi saw their chance at revenge and killed all the men. Whether it was for Dinah’s sake or for the ‘family’s honour,’ Simeon and Levi were incensed, “You cannot simply take something that is ours.” After killing the men, they retrieved their sister from Shechem’s house where she had been held as his captive wife during this whole time. After they took their sister back to their camp, things went from bad to worse.
The other brothers—which ones specifically we don’t know—arrived to find all the men killed and proceeded to loot the place—the herds, the houses, the women and children. All in all, the sons of Jacob ended up perpetrating a greater harm than was originally committed—the killing of all the men, the enslavement of all the women and children and the ransacking of a whole town and surrounding countryside.
Later in the laws God provided Moses, we read that “an eye for an eye” was permitted, and even very specific consequences around what should serve as justice when rape occurred, but this is wholly other. This is out of control revenge—blood lust and greed disguised as ‘justice.’ Some biblical commentators have attempted to vindicate Jacob’s sons, but that is nonsense. How would we react to a similar act of retaliation in Kyrgyzstan today in response to Aizada’s kidnapping and murder that we read earlier? Neither a Jacob-like response of silence or taking matters into our own hands like his sons will provide a lasting solution.
How could this story have had a more just ending? [discussion]
What does Jesus tell us is required? [forgiveness and love – this in no way diminishes the guilt of the perpetrator or removes consequences, but it frees us from acting out in sin or allowing the harm to be replayed in our own lives]
What can we take away from this story?
· Imbalances in power result in abuse.
· Victim blaming has a long tradition, one we must renounce.
· Some cultural practices should never become normative / accepted.
· Neither staying silent nor revenge seeking provide sound solutions.
· There’s good reason God has prohibited us from taking revenge.
· Those who seek revenge are no better than those who do the original deed!
· We are called to forgive and allow God to provide judgement.
Sunday, April 18, 2021- Guest Speaker: Donald Peck - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, April 4, 2021
Easter Sunday – “Unbelievably Good News”
Weekly Topic - “Easter Promise Hunt”
Text – Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20 and other Easter promises
On ‘Good Friday,’ we left the events of Easter with Jesus having just died on the cross and been buried in a tomb, the disciples cowering in fear, his followers confused and overwhelmed with inexpressible grief. The next 36 hours would be for many of them the longest they had ever experienced—eyes swollen from crying, head aching from lack of sleep, nerves frayed, dazed and confused. It’s at this point that the story continues, with the women, scared and tired, but determined to honour their Lord in the only way they knew how…by properly preparing his body for burial, already laid in the tomb for a day and a half. They are about to receive some news that was unbelievably good.
UNBELIEVABLY GOOD NEWS – Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20 (harmonized)
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise while it was still dark, they went to the tomb taking the spices they had prepared.
Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.
On the way to the tomb, the women had been asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When the women arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. Mary ran and found Simon Peter and John. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
Peter and John started out for the tomb. They were both running, but John outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then John who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.
But Mary remained standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.
That same day two of Jesus’ followers, one who was named Cleopas, were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him… After spending the afternoon talking with him, suddenly, their eyes were opened at their evening meal, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem.
That evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost! As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched. Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.”
One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
There was a lot of disbelief that surrounded the news that Jesus was once again alive—the angels carried the message, but the terrified women struggled with the news; the women carried the message and the doubting disciples thought they made no sense; the disciples carried the message yet Thomas refused to believe his friends; Jesus himself showed up and the disbelief remained for some—it was such unbelievably good news!
Jesus knew that his resurrection was a difficult thing for his followers to understand and believe, even though contained in the prophetic writings years earlier. For most of them, believing required seeing and even then it wasn’t enough for some to accept that the man they saw crucified was really living again. Jesus made it clear that seeing him should not be a requirement for belief in his resurrection, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
We live in a time when ‘believing without seeing’ is the common means to faith in Jesus, but we have something they did not. We have God’s word complete with the promises made to us as a result of Easter, something not available to Jesus’ first followers.
This morning, we’re going to go on an Easter Promise Hunt…
EASTER PROMISE HUNT (NLT)
John 11:25-26 “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” – Jesus is our resurrection source
1 Peter 1:3 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation.” – we live with hope for the future
1 Corinthians 15:21 “So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man.” – we all experienced death through one man, Adam, but now all experience eternal life through one man, Jesus
Romans 10:9 “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – belief in the resurrection is essential
1 Corinthians 6:14 “And God will raise us from the dead by his power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead.” – God will raise us just as he raised Jesus
Romans 6:9 “We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.” – once resurrected, there is no more death
Romans 8:34 “Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” – Jesus is in heaven interceding for us
1 Thessalonians 4:14 “For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.” – all those who die before Jesus’ return, will come with him
John 14:3 “When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” – he is preparing a place for us
Colossians 1:13-14 “For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” – we belong to a new kingdom of life, made possible through Jesus
Luke 9:23 “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” – allegiance to Jesus is required to enjoy the benefits he offers
1 Corinthians 1:18 “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” – the cross only makes sense to some
Revelation 21:4 “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.” – life eternal will be perfect, never having been infected with sin or death
The tears and the fears of Jesus’ early followers had turned to utter amazement. Gone is the confusion, replaced by fierce loyalty that will help them face uncertain days. 2000 years later, have we lost some of the amazement at Jesus’ resurrection? Have we heard the story so often that it has become commonplace? If we have ever tried to share the fact of the resurrection with a non-believer, they will soon remind us just how extraordinarily unbelievable the events of Easter are. But that should not stop us. Yes, we know some unbelievably good news and we have been called to share it.
Let’s never forget Jesus’ final words to his disciples—including us—from Matthew 28:18-20, “Jesus came and told his disciples, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
Further Study – 1 Peter 1
Next Week – Sunday, April 11, 2021- “Revenge!” (Genesis 34) - ONLINE Only
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
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!