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letthewordreveal

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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October 2015

“The Great Escape” Exodus 14

I’ve enjoyed on various holidays visiting old prisons. Fremantle jail was creepy and eerie. Port Arthur especially is rich in history and intriguing.The thing that captures my attention the most in these places is the escape stories. Some disturbing, some sad, some mysterious.

Jailbreaks like ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ or POW movies like ‘The Great Escape’, stories of people overcoming the odds to escape spike our interest, and the Red Sea Crossing falls into this category for sure.

This part of Israel’s history, and maybe more than any other in the bible, is alluded to explicitly and implicitly in numerous ways in both OT and NT passages.

Passing through the water, and being ‘baptised into Moses‘ as Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 is just one example of many.

The Exodus tells us the story of Israel’s redemption, and we are invited to read it and study it ourselves as our own story of redemption also, as 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, ‘this all happened to them as an example’ for us.

Their story is the same as ours.

“ I was in a foreign land, under bondage in slavery. But I came out, by the blood of The Lamb. Our Mediator lead us out and we crossed over. We’re now on our way to the Promised Land, but we’re not there yet. Until we get there, we will follow the commandments we have been given, we know God will tabernacle with us, and will lead us safely there.”  – Alec Moyter

1 – Escaping Deep Bondage v. 1-12

The Israelites had been ‘let go’ by Pharaoh, they left Egypt rejoicing in their freedom.Their rejoicing was short lived though. They had been set free, but their bondage went much deeper than just the physical title they had as ‘slaves’.

The bondage of the Israelites had ‘layers’ ( Tim Keller). They had been functionally freed, but their freedom wasn’t real to them.

Like a slave after the abolition, they had rights, they had a new identity, but they were, by reality of their own hearts and the power of their old master, still in bondage.

  • v. 5-9 Pharaoh wants them back: ‘serve me or die’. ‘if I can’t have you, no one will’. “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy” ( John 10:10)
  • v. 10-12 they want to go back:  we have short memories, just as they did. “Didn’t we tell you we wanted to stay?” Ah, no, they didn’t! ( Exodus 4:30-31). They had believed. They had left Egypt – they had been marching defiantly, until they looked back and saw their old master coming to claim them again and all was forgotten in an instant. They forgot the power of God that He had shown them in the plagues. They had forgotten how God had guided them to this precise point by the pillars of fire and cloud. They forgot, and they wanted to go back to Egypt.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

“We have been saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the power of sin. We will be saved from the very presence of sin.” – Tim Keller

It takes a deep work to deliver us from our deep bondage. Our salvation is achieved in a moment, but the rest of our lives is a process of renewal and repentance.

2 – Crossing Over By Grace, Through Faith and For Glory v. 13-29

Moses’ response to the people’s ridiculous statements are well worth meditating on whenever we are feeling like our escape from the bondage of sin isn’t going so well.

  • fear not
  • stand still
  • see the salvation of The Lord
  • the Egyptians you see you will never see again
  • The Lord will fight for you
  • you only have to be silent

Incredibly challenging for us to think of in light of our salvation and the new life we are now in, and the Gospel message is so clearly and beautifully  presented to us in these words.

They were only going to cross over by the sheer grace of God. There was nothing they could do. They were dead, just as we are outside of Christ. ( Ephesians 2:1).

They crossed over, walking by faith, not by sight.

The ‘sight’ that confronted them would’ve been unbelievable.

Doubtless, there would’ve been many that walked through the waters, second guessing every step, in fear, inching forward.

Others maybe boldly and triumphantly walked, ran, jogged, skipped, over the dry land, praising God and celebrating their great escape together.

I would most likely be in the first group. All I’d be able to think is, “ I can’t swim!”.

But they all crossed over all the same. They all saw the deliverance of The Lord.It wasn’t the size or quality of their faith. They were saved because of the object of their faith, who doing all of this, not just for their salvation alone, but ultimately for His glory.

God gets glory through delivering His people – v4

God gets glory hardening the hearts of Egyptians – v17

The only reason Israel was saved was because God is God, and He wanted everyone to know this – not only His chosen people, but also His enemies.

If you have come this far in the story and you think God should let Israel through simply because He owes them, you’ve seen it all wrong so far.

If you think by now Egypt has been punished enough and anything further would be sadistic, you have missed the truth of the righteous and just judgement of God.Egypt and Pharaoh had had every possible to repent, to turn to God. Instead they chose destruction and death.The Israelites, meanwhile, crossed over, from death, to life.

Any who come to Jesus find Someone who can either save them or judge them, depending on their faith in Him, and the grace that has been revealed to them. The Israelites believed and were saved. The Egyptians refused to believe, and were judged by the God who fights for His people and for His glory ( v.14, 25).

3 – The True Baptism v. 30-31

How did they get over? 

They had a mediator who was appointed by God to lead them out of bondage and into freedom. A mediator who could be used as a channel for God’s saving power. Someone God could use to command the wind and the waves. Someone who could rid them of the slavery of their past by standing in their place, taking the power of God, both for saving deliverance, and for righteous judgment at the same time.

You cannot face this kind of grace and leave the way you came.

There’s two ways out of the water. Forward, into faithful obedience, following where the grace of God has enabled us to go, or the alternative is to try to turn around and go back to Egypt, which ends in destruction.

Christianity is unique. All other religions are built on what we can do. It’s about a step by step process to building a bridge over the water and chaos of life and death, we build, ‘pylon by pylon’ ( Tim Keller) crossing over in your own effort. But Christianity isn’t about us building the bridge that we have made. It’s about trusting the bridge that has been given. God gives Himself to save us.(v30).

Water, and passing through water is seen so often in Scripture as an analogy of death. Water, from the very start of history, in Creation, was seen as chaos, as nothing, as void, de-creation would be a world with nothing but water – hence Noah’s flood, which was God ‘de-creating’ His Creation.

In Jesus Christ, we have the Creator made flesh, de-created on the Cross for us, so we could be re-created in Him. – Tim Keller

We have that greater Noah – He took the flood of wrath for us.

We also have that ‘greater Jonah’ – thrown overboard into the depths for us.

We have a Mediator who not only claims the blame for our sins, like Moses does for the Israelites, but takes our sins on Himself completely.  

We have the Saviour Who commands the very winds and waves, and brings peace.

We have the Mediator Who stands between us and God and says to us, “Stand still. See the salvation of The Lord.” 

You can only pass through the water and enter new life after a price has been paid for your safe passage. For the Israelites and for us, that price is the blood of the Lamb.

There is no escape without the shedding of blood.

The death of the firstborn or the blood of the Lamb.In Jesus, we get both. The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, the only begotten Son of the Father, Firstborn of all Creation. His blood was shed for the sins of the whole world, Egyptians and Israelites alike. But the only way to be delivered by that blood is to take your place under it.

Where are the Israelites headed?

There are on their way to Sinai to receive the law. They didn’t get the law before God saved them. He saved them, then gave them the law. The more you see what He has done, the more you will want to live to please Him.

Standing firm in the salvation of The Lord does not mean being literally stationary. We are told to move forward into that salvation.( v.15).

If you know God has called you out, why would you remain where you are?

Sin’s bondage has a way of dragging us back to old habits, behaviours and lifestyles that destroy our freedom. We are called out of bondage, into freedom. Out of darkness into light. Out of death into life.

If your life feels like you’re  a slave to your desires, if your relationships seem like they’re crumbling all around you, if your past seems to be always lurking – wanting to drag you back where you don’t want to go, if you find yourself in a tight spot and you can see no escape and while you blame God for not delivering you, remember that you have already been delivered.

Come ever further out of your bondage, sorrow and shame. Move forward into more of your new life given to you in Christ.

Maybe you have never ‘crossed over’ – now is the time. Death awaits those with hard hearts and blind eyes to what God has already done to save you

“Getting Busy, Getting Ready – Together” – 1 Thessalonians 3

There is one question that many of us may get asked nearly every day that can elicit several responses ranging from happy to depressive.

How was work?” , or “How was your day?”.

Simple enough questions, usually asked in innocence by someone who actually cares for us, but sometimes the best we can manage is an audible grunt or even inaudible shrug.

Work can either make us feel liked our talents and gifting have been well utilised or that we have just been used. It can frustrate us, or it can make us strive for more success and accomplishment.

Here, Paul has some very clear commands to give us in regards to our work, especially our work among other believers.

1 – Some Work Against Us. v 1-2

It doesn’t take us long at all as we step out into the world to realise that not everyone is on our side.

Our first reactions to enemies is attack or retreat, but the first response Paul asks the believers to have is one of prayer (2 Thess 3:1) , because you are in a spiritual battle.

Paul recruits these new believers to pray for himself and the other apostles as they do their work of evangelising the lost, and seeking to spread God’s Word to as many as they can.

He outlines what they can pray for:

  • that God’s Word would ‘speed ahead’
  • that it would be received with approval and reverence 
  • that the team doing the work would be protected from wicked men

It seems like an obvious thing for Paul to say that ‘not all have faith’, but how often do we look at unbelievers behaving badly, especially in relation to God’s Word being clearly presented, and we are surprised or shocked at their attitudes towards God?

That some work against us while we seek to work for God is a fact, but is not something that should occupy our time other than our praying about it.

Prayer is first call of every outreach opportunity, and the first thing we request of every believer we are seeking to work with in the work of God.

Each member of the church, not just church leaders, are in need of your prayers for them. They should be able to depend on them.

2 – God Is Working For Us. v 3-5

One of the results of praying for God’s Work and for others who are involved in it is that we will, ourselves, mature and grow in our own faith as we interact more with the God Who is not only doing a work for others as we pray, but He is also doing a work in us.

He is faithful, and when we face opposition and unite around the Gospel, we will see Him establish us, and guard our own hearts against spiritual attack. (3:3).

We know what is like to use muscles we didn’t know we had, and how they can give us grief, at the same time, the more we do, the more we can do.

Pray seems to us like a small thing, but it is the greatest. It leads us to a confidence in the God Who works for us and through us.

As we pray and commit to God’s Work, we see Him directing our hearts towards His. (3:5)

To have a direction in life that leads you towards God’s love and the steadfastness of Christ is an example and an encouragement to those around you that can clearly see where your allegiances lie.

Where would people say your heart is directed?

Would people say you have way of communicating who Jesus is that shows God’s love, or do people see our fickleness, our indifference, our lack of spiritual growth?

It challenges us to pray all the more for God’s Word to not only have free course in the hearts of those who have never heard it, but we must not think we are past our need for it to have free course in our hearts also.

3 – We Should Get Involved In God’s Work, Together. v 6-18

3:4,3:6a,3:10, 3:12 all list commands…

There is something else Paul repeats through chapter 3 that shows why it’s so important. 3:1a, 3:6a, 3:6b, 3:13, 3:15b all mention the word ‘brother’. Twice in the singular, when referring to the disorderly/idle/lazy/irresponsible brother, but other times in the plural when speaking to the main body of believers.

The two words repeated ( command/brother) tell us that not only is there a brotherhood/family/community dynamic to the church, but also that that family has some rules that all members of it should abide by.

We don’t like rules. We don’t like being told what to do. We do however, like telling people they shouldn’t tell us what to do. We like making rules about how people shouldn’t make rules!

  • don’t let anyone be disorderly/lazy/irresponsible ( 3:6)
  • support yourself where you can and don’t become an unnecessary burden (3:7-10)
  • don’t be a busybody, always messing with other people’s business and disrupting their lives, mind your own business (3:11-12) 
  • keep doing good, don’t let the lazy people get to you ( 3:13-15)

Paul is building on an instruction he gave them in his first epistle ( 1 Thess 4:10-12) that Christians should stand out in the broader community as being of excellent reputation. The hardest working, but doing their work without drawing attention to themselves. Providing their own way, not sponging off others when they would be capable themselves of contributing and doing it well.

He gives them an illustration – himself. ( 2 Thess 3:6b-10).

They knew how he was when he was with them. He owed no one anything. He paid his own way, so as not to burden the congregation.

His example he was reminding them of was one not just of hard work, but of work without distraction. Commitment to the task. Taking responsibility for your own actions. Not being lazy while everyone else is active. Not getting in people’s ways with unimportant and burdensome requests for things you should be doing for yourself.

There is saying ( said in jest, of course!) a little too often said in our home when someone is asked to do something for another, “What did your last slave die of?”  to which the usual speedy reply is, “He’s not dead yet!”. 

Paul is challenging the church to not place burdens on one another by being disorderly, irresponsible or lazy. Do your own work, and do it well, expecting nothing in return for your labour, while seeking to free other people up to do the work they have to do also. Stay out of one another’s way as you do God’s work, or as a direct paraphrase might say, “Mind your own beeswax!”.

Other places in Scripture teach us that if someone doesn’t want to work, they shouldn’t eat either. It’s common sense, but we forget it so often, especially in a church setting where so often a small percentage of the congregation does a large percentage of the work while the larger percentage of the congregation openly critiques or outright hinder the work that is going on.

Disorderliness and idleness are not character traits that belong in a church that is seeking to be as effective as it can be for God’s glory, and Paul rightly says we need to warn those who seem insistent on having the world revolve around them.

We do need to care for one another, we do need to bear one another’s burdens ( Galatians 6:2), but we should never be creating burdens for others by being immature or irresponsible.

Most times, we just stop at Paul’s first note of not having anything to do with them (3:14b). We’re good at ignoring the problem people in our churches, we don’t usually need to be told twice to steer clear. We’re not so good at warning them though ( 3:15), and this is what we should ultimately be doing – aiming for their restoration to full fellowship and contribution to the congregation.

Warn that brother or sister who is being disorderly. If we consider them part of our church family, we should warn them.

Sanctification is partly a community project. We are responsible for our brothers and sisters, and if we see them straying, if we see them falling away, especially in instances like this, we are told to extend love to them( James 5:19-20). Never to endorse their sin or behaviour, but to lovingly confront them and say, “This is wrong, this is not glorifying to God.”

Other people not pulling their weight should not discourage us either. (3:13).

Don’t grow weary, keep up the work you are doing for God. Keep looking to Him as your reward, not around you to see if others are doing their bit. Shake off those that would seek to distract you from your work, if they won’t listen, they won’t listen. Haters gonna hate, shake it off, get on with your task at hand, which to focus on becoming more like Jesus. You are only responsible for your own actions, and if you want to please God, you will follow His Word, not your own agenda.

Issues like this can cause conflict. We don’t like it when the dynamics are negative, but we are called to be in community with other believers. We want peace from outside opposition (3:2) and internal indifference (3:6-15), and that peace only comes from the Lord of peace(3:16).

Yes, church would be great if it wasn’t for other people, but seeing as there are other people there, we had better spend some time in prayer and meditation on Scripture figuring out how we are all best meant to get along.

Christ’s example, of course, is always the best to follow, and in Philippians 2:1-8 we are shown what the mind of Christ is, and how we should apply that specifically to our relationships with other Christians.

The message of Thessalonians is clear, Jesus will return and He is looking to find us faithful when He returns.

What will He find in us when He comes back?

Busybodies – more interested in sharing gossip than sharing burdens?

Disorderly and irresponsible people – more interested in making work than doing any?

Or will He find people who are confident in His love, enduring in Christ’s work, while actively living in a community with one another that builds up for God’s glory?

Taking steps towards being ready for Christ’s return is as easy as asking Him for help, and then seeing how you can help the person next to you become more like Jesus.

Anticipating the return of Christ is a community project that every believer should get busy with.

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