Archives For March 2007
Yahweh is our master and Lord. But he is not like Pharaoh; he does not make us produce bricks without hay. He is not deaf to our pleas. God always hears our prayers, and he gives us all that we need. He gives us our daily bread. We are his servants; therefore he does ask us to follow him. He asks us to obey him. But his law is freedom; his yoke is easy and his burden is light. But we are called to this life in faith. You are called to believe the promises of God, plead the promises of God to God, and to come here to receive the strength of God for all your tasks. Here, God gives himself to you, his life to you, for strength for blessing, for all your tasks, for all your labors. Eating here means that you are strengthened to obey out there. So come and eat as servants of Yahweh. Come drink as the subjects of the King of Heaven and Earth. And believe the Word of God that says come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, all wisdom is found in you. In you are all the depths and mysteries of all wisdom and knowledge. And yet we know that you are near to us; and your word is not far off. It is right here in front of us. Therefore show us your favor now by feeding us with your Word. Give us your Spirit who searches the deep things of God, and feed us with your good Word, O Lord. Through Jesus Christ, and Amen!
Many things in life are exciting at the beginning. The first few years of marriage, a new baby, a new job, a new home, etc. But every good gift comes with challenges. Maturity means growth which means growing pains. But God calls us to faithfulness even in these growing pains; he calls us to faithfulness we hit those first bumps. Moses’ experience here with Pharaoh is no exception.
To Feast and Sacrifice
Notice that the dialogue here is set up to present Yahweh speaking directly to Pharaoh. They speak as the mouth of Yahweh. Pharaoh even understands this in his response by questioning why he should listen to his “voice” (5:2). Aaron/Moses is the voice of Yahweh (cf. 4:16). This is why the church has always taught that preaching the gospel is the word of God (Rom. 10:14, 2nd Helvetic Confession). This is why a “quiet time” is not enough. God works through his Church.
The reason given to Pharaoh for letting Israel go is initially so that Israel can go “feast” before Yahweh (5:1). After Pharaoh’s rebuff they elaborate that they are to go only three days’ journey into the wilderness to have a sacrifice (5:3). This second request is more closely the actual wording that was given by God (3:18). Their reasoning is that they must obey Yahweh lest you strike them with sword or pestilence (cf. 9:3, 15). But the Pharaoh immediately changes the subject: why are Moses and Aaron interrupting the work of the Hebrews (5:4)? We assume that the elders of the people were with Aaron and Moses (3:18), and therefore Pharaoh was not just referring to Moses and Aaron.
Bricks without Straw
Pharaoh’s strategy is actually quite brilliant. His plan is to turn the people against Moses and Aaron. He does this at two levels: first he assigns the taskmasters not to give the usual rations of hay for making the bricks without lessening the number they have to make. He accuses them of laziness (5:8-9). They have too much time on their hands; that’s why they are listening to Moses and Aaron, “gazing on false words” (v. 9). The task masters go out and call the people together and announce “thus says Pharaoh” which is the exact same words that Yahweh has brought to Pharaoh (5:1). This is a battle for authority; whose word must be obeyed? This takes us back to the garden (Gen.3:1). The text says that the people “scattered” to gather straw over the “whole land” much like God scattered the nations at Babel (Gen. 11:4-9). Secondly, Pharaoh knows or suspects that this won’t work out very well and the officers are beaten for not producing the same number of bricks, for not completing the “ordinance/command” of Pharaoh (5:14). Not only are the voices competing, but there are two competing laws (e.g. 12:24, 15:26). The officers respond by pleading with Pharaoh as abused “servants.” Pharaoh has made Israel “serve” him (1:13-14), but Yahweh demands that his people “serve” him (3:12, 4:23). But the officers are pleading with Pharaoh as though he is their rightful master. Pharaoh’s response reveals what kind of master he is: he is a cruel taskmaster (5:17-19). This not only turns the people against Moses, but it also turns their officers against him (5:21).
Let Yahweh Judge
When the officers come out of the presence of Pharaoh, they “meet” and “encounter” Moses and Aaron, the very same words used to describe how Yahweh has or will come to Israel (v. 3). This is exactly what will happen shortly: Israel will go out from Pharaoh and “meet” and “encounter” Yahweh, but in the mean time, Moses is God to them (4:16). Their pleas for mercy having been rejected, they utter what is probably meant to be a curse, asking Yahweh to look on Moses and judge given what has happened to them. They say that their “smell stinks in the eyes of Pharaoh.” This will not be the last time God causes Pharaoh to be offended with foul smells (7:18, 8:14). In fact they have become such a bad smell they fear that there is sword in the hand of Pharaoh’s servants to slay them (5:21). Interestingly, the very things that Moses and Aaron warned of in verse 3 are symbolically fulfilled. The sword and pestilence have come.
Conclusion & Application
Moses immediately returns to Yahweh and asks why he has done evil to this people and why he has sent him (5:22). And his final complaint is that Yahweh has not delivered his people since Moses has gone to Pharaoh and things have only gotten worse (5:23). Of course we remember that God has already promised that Pharaoh will need lots of convincing (3:19, 4:21). One good thing to remember is that this whole story probably took place over a considerable period of time. The Exodus was not over in two weeks. The entire story is probably a period of at least a number of months. Time has a way of making us doubt the Word of God.
While Moses uses very strong words, his prayer assumes a deep faith. The officers pray that God look and judge their case against Moses. And Moses turns and brings the lawsuit against God. Moses is the prosecuting attorney. This chapter presents the struggle between masters, between laws, and ultimately between words. Whose word is Israel bound to obey? Moses pleads with God according to God’s Word (cf. 3:8). The application is two fold: First, you are called to patience. Wait on the Lord. Do what is right today. Be faithful with the task in front of you, and wait on the Lord. Secondly, as Christians we must learn to pray biblically. Prayer is speaking to the judge of earth and heaven on behalf of the world. We stand in the righteousness of Christ by faith, and therefore we must learn to plead with God and bring our cases before him confidently.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Great judge of heaven and earth, you are good and righteous and holy. And we are your people. Therefore we plead with you to be true to your Word. Plant your Word deep in our lives, produce fruit in our lives that is lovely and pleasing in your sight, and deliver us from all evil.
We live in a culture that hates sex. Our culture disdains this good gift of God in many different ways. But they do this most insistently in how they present what a woman is to be. The world invites women to dress like prostitutes, and it makes fun of those who seek to protect their wives and daughters and sisters. The world presents one night stands as normal, exciting, and fulfilling. Television, movies, and magazines present men and women who are barely clothed hanging out as though they were happy, as though they were having fun. But these are all lies and slanders. All of these treat women as objects to be used and sex as a mindless fling.
Sex is a good gift of God, but it was given to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. God gives beauty and loveliness to women not to be cheaply displayed: hawking wares as though their bodies were some kind of cheap, drug store trinket. The Scriptures exhort every husband to cherish his wife, and to rejoice in the wife of his youth, and Solomon says; let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Men, no other woman’s breasts are your business. Women, your beauty is for your husband and not to be sold for attention or security. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; it is claimed by the Word of God. It is for his service and his glory.
As Christians we are called by God to hate the slanders of our culture. Every skanky picture in the mall is an affront to Christian marriage. Every cheap, lust-filled date mocks and dishonors the marriage bed which has been sanctified by God. As Christians we are called to honor the marriage bed. And we must teach our children these things.
This ain’t about chicks and bunnies.
This ain’t about springtime.
This ain’t no phoenix myth.
This is about the world made new
when the Lord Jesus walked out of a grave
2,000 years ago.
Thus we must party.
Thus we must dance and boogy down.
Black tie invited, Jane Austen attire–even better.
$15 for individuals,
$25 for couples and families
Live music, Hors d’oeuvres, Psalm singing, brewed libations, and copious amounts of peeps.
Bring your children, bring your parents, bring your friends: This is an event for the whole family of the Triune God.
When: 6pm April 14, 2007
Where: The Davenport
230 Trade Street
My brother Andy just left for Trujillo, Peru for a week. I don’t know all the details, but this is an exploratory trip to meet some of the folks at the Peru Mission. Good friends of our family, Charlie and Ray Gibson are down there now for several months before Charlie heads up to Covenant Seminary for a year or two. His plan is to end up back in Peru.
Andy is spending his Spring Break serving down in Peru this week, and the thought is to perhaps go back for a longer stint if things look promising for him.
From what I’ve read and heard, the Peru Mission seems like an excellent approach to missions. The wholistic approach to evangelism and parish ministry is something more “home” missionaries would do well to adopt.
At any rate, keep my brother in your prayers as he travels and attempts to use his freshly aquired knowledge of Spanish.
The Christian Almanac records that on March 21st, 1685 Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenarch, Thuringia (modern day Germany). Bach was a master composer who is remembered for his artistic brilliance as well as his diligent labor. After the 45 years it took to compile and organize the fruit of Bach’s labors, his musical compositions filled some sixy volumes, all work done while filling the occupations of organist, conductor, musical director of church services, and teaching lessons to boys. Throughout his life, Bach received no widespread fame or fortune. He faced the struggles of the death of his first wife, death of children, difficult financial circumstances, not to mention various conflicts with church officials and eventual blindness. Nevertheless, Bach’s prodigous productivity proves a life of faithfulness and diligence. When asked about his work, he replied, “I worked hard.” And from his labor came some of the best-crafted and most lovely music in music history. “The Saint Matthew Passion,” “Mass in B-minor,” “The Brandenburg Concertos,” and hundreds of other pieces were written and crafted throughout his life. But it would be some 80 years after the master artisan’s death before his music would gain renown, influence, and fame proving Bach’s conviction that honest work is blessed simply by being done before the Lord and for his glory. And thus he always noted at the end of every composition, “Soli Deo Gloria,” To God alone belongs all the glory.
May God give us diligence in our labors and bless us as we work before him and for his glory.
The sermon text for this Sunday will be Exodus 5, and our other lessons will be from Phil. 3:8-14 and Luke 20:9-19.
Every time we gather at this table we are celebrating the great and glorious Passover of Jesus Christ. We lift up the blood and body of Christ, reminding God that we are covered in the blood of Christ. And as we do this, proclaiming our Lord’s death, the Angel of Death passes over us and does battle on our behalf. God is at war with all our enemies.
Therefore, this is our Exodus meal. And every week we prepare once again to enter the Promised Land, to take dominion, to follow God’s law, and to plunder the Egyptians. But we do not rule by might or by power. We rule in the power of the Spirit. And that does not mean that we do not rule. It means that we believe that the most powerful force in the history of the world is resurrection, and we will not settle for anything less.
In battles, great generals have sometimes made their troops wait until nearly the last minute before firing, making sure that the first volley gets the greatest effect. In the gospel we proclaim the death of Christ as the death of death. Therefore our General bids us lay our lives down, to become servants and slaves of all. For the last shall be first. The least shall be greatest. He who gives his life up will find it. This is the power of the resurrection, the glory of Passover, and the authority of the Spirit of God who does battle on our behalf and gives us the glory and the victory.
Opening Prayer: Almighty and gracious Lord, we humble ourselves before you now and ask that you would deal with us. We thank you that you do not deal with us only where we should have been, but you come and meet us where we are. Empower your word and remake us. And as we are humbled before your word, lift us up and exalt us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
Jesus says that the man who wants to be great must become a servant. (Mt. 20:25ff).
The Signs for the Elders
Notice that both of the first two signs have to do with healing and making useful. The serpent is the same word for serpent in Genesis 3 suggesting that Moses will lead the people to reverse the dominion of the serpent (“dragon” in 7:9ff). Remember, that Pharaoh is a “seed of the serpent” at war with the “seed of the woman” who is being “fruitful and multiplying.” Notice also that both signs have to do with the hand. The hand of man is his tool for work, the most basic technology. The rod of course is an extension of a man’s hand, a tool for shepherding sheep. As we noted with the burning bush, these signs are probably also meant to picture something fundamental about Israel and her situation in Egypt. Under Joseph, Israel had exerted great influence for the blessing of Egypt. Israel, under Joseph’s leadership had been a “helping hand” and a “shepherd” for Egypt and even all the nations around them. But Israel has fallen from this high calling. Leprosy will always have strong associations with Egypt as a plague (Num. 14:3, 37, Lev. 13-14). The final sign shows how God is going to accomplish his work. Through Moses, not only is God going to tame the serpent-Pharaoh and heal the uncleanness of his people, but Yahweh will also do battle with the gods of Egypt. The Nile was the most important source of life in ancient Egypt and one of their principle gods. But Moses will pour out the Nile on the ground and instead of being fruitful and giving life it will turn to blood and death. Remember, that it has already been a source of death to the Hebrew baby boys. The Nile god has killed the sons of Israel. Idolatry is death.
Moses and Aaron
We should notice that Moses is a little more than reluctant to take up God’s call on his life. But this is somewhat understandable given how his leadership was taken 40 years ago (2:14). Yet, Moses’ persistent reluctance is not excusable finally resulting in Yahweh’s anger (4:14). He has gone from asking “why me?” (3:11) to “what is your name” (3:13) to “what if they don’t believe me?” (4:1) to “I’m not a good public speaker” (4:10) and now finally “send someone else, please” (4:13). This passage could also be described as a battle of the “I’s.” The Hebrew first person pronoun for “I” is used repeatedly back and forth between Moses and God (3:6, 11, 12, 13, 4:10, 11, 12, 15, 23). While this is not particularly strange, it seems significant given the name God has given himself of “I AM” (3:14). Moses may have any number of excuses for being reluctant, but the fact is that God doesn’t care. God is the God of our fathers, the God who rules nature, the God who is with our words, and the God who is determined to accomplish his purposes. We are not sufficient of ourselves, but we are not by ourselves. “I AM” is with us and with our mouths (4:12, 15). Finally, God allows Moses to share the task with Aaron, but this concession is not a relenting of God’s purposes; it only lessens Moses’ glory in the Exodus.
After asking for Jethro’s blessing to leave, God speaks to Moses once more and makes even more explicit his interest in his people. Israel is his son, and he will take Pharaoh’s son if he does not let His son go to serve him (4:22-23). This is to be a battle between lords. Yahweh requires the service of his son, and Pharaoh is usurping Yahweh’s authority. Then, on the way into the land, Yahweh comes to kill Moses’s son (4:24). We know it is his son because it is the circumcision of his son that turns away God’s wrath (4:26). This is a somewhat mysterious event, but given the context we should be able see what God intends to teach Moses here. Evidently, Moses’ son had not been circumcised. Circumcision is the sign of God’s covenant promises. This display of blood reminded God of his promise to Abraham to be his God and make him into a nation (Gen. 15). Here, Zipporah circumcises her son and touches it to her son’s legs (4:15). Many translations do not get this right. The point is that Zipporah is displaying the blood of the circumcision to turn away the “angel of death.” She calls him a “bridegroom of blood” reminding us that the covenant is a marriage to God. What we have here is yet another preview of the Exodus in the life of Moses. Yahweh will deliver his son by providing Passover blood, and all who are covered in the blood will be “passed over” and delivered.
Conclusion & Application
Moses and Aaron call the elders of the people together. Aaron speaks and Moses performs the signs (4:30). The response of the elders is worship (4:31). We should remember that this is the driving motivation for bringing the Israelites out in the first place (3:18). Of course God knows (and Pharaoh knows) that the freedom to worship would turn into freedom in life. Worship drives culture and society. We’ve previously noted that the Israelites had fallen into idolatry in Egypt (Josh. 24:14). We’ve also pointed out how far the Israelites have fallen in society: from Joseph/Jacob as rulers/shepherds and Israel as an upper class in the Egyptian society to slaves. These two realities are not unrelated. Liturgical idolatry is slavery and leads to a slave culture.
We are called to worship God faithfully and in faith; this is the single most important thing that we do. But this worship is not unrelated to the rest of our lives. Freedom here necessarily creates freedom out there. But freedom is never just doing whatever we want. Freedom is receiving the law of God with faith and joy. Freedom is the ability to rule through service. Freedom is the opportunity to lay our lives down for the sake of others. This is true authority. This is not a gimmick, a joke, a play on words. It is real authority, and all other attempts are fakes.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we bow and worship before you now as the only true God, the high king of heaven and earth. To you belongs all glory, all honor, and all majesty. We worship you now in the power of your Spirit and in the truth of your Word. In this humility we ask you to exalt us; as we serve, make us to rule.
As we seek to build covenant community here, we are seeking to be involved in each other’s lives. This is good and right and as it should be, but whenever people get together, even Christian people get together, sin occurs. People will say and do things that are not true, good, or lovely. This is a fact. The question is not whether but when this will happen. And the only question after that is how will you deal with these situations? How will you respond when someone snubs you? How will you respond when some says something untrue or belittling about you? The gospel requires that you respond with love and kindness. This is not an option. This is not for “super-Christians.” This is the basic duty of every Christian. It is a sin to take offense even when you have been legitimately wronged. To take offense is to refuse to extend forgiveness. To take offense is to consider yourself more important than even God, who in his infinite kindness forgives us over and over and over again. When you are wronged you may not take offense, and your only options are to cover that sin with love which means to forget it and never bring it up against them again. Or your only other option is to confront the person in a spirit of gentleness and humility. You may not take offense ever, but sin must always be dealt with. Either it is covered with love or it is confronted in love. But it may never be dwelt upon, pondered, or shared with others. This must grow into a Christian reflex, returning good for evil, blessing for cursing, and kindness for wrongdoing.