Friday, June 28, 2013

God Makes Another Request and Moses Has To Prepare the People for It -- Exodus 13:1-10


Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”  Moses said to the people, “Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.  On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth.  It shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month.  For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord.  Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders.  You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’  And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt.  Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.”
 
Exodus chapter 12 ends with God bringing the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.  And chapter 13 begins with God speaking only to Moses this time with another request (if that’s the right word) of the children of Israel.  This time, a request that perhaps requires a personal sacrifice of the Israelites and it involves their own “first-borns”.

I find it interesting that this whole account sometimes has God speaking to Moses alone and sometimes to Moses and Aaron together.  This is one of the former occasions when this rather ‘big ask’ from God comes to Moses alone because of its sensitivity.  We must remember it was Moses that God chose to be His instrument at this time and that Aaron his brother was appointed to help him because of Moses’ stuttering.  The vessel that God was using to accomplish His will was Moses and the responsibility and onus of getting God’s message across to the people of Israel were indeed his and no one else’s.  As Christian leaders, we can delegate a lot to others but not everything.  We have a responsibility to be in close communication and relationship with God ourselves.  It is our job to make sure we are getting the message right and then to seek His guidance and direction as to how we are to communicate to, and implement it for, those we are responsible for.

And what was it that God was asking for this time?  Simply this – each Israelite would be required to take steps in dedicating and offering each of their first-borns (both their own and the first-borns of their animals) to God.  That is, they would belong to Him and He could do with them as He liked.  The word “sanctify” is used to describe what that really means.  Each parent was to “set apart” these firstborns and to “declare them holy” for God’s use.  There was, however, no immediate loss or other consequence required except the realization that this newborn baby (in the case of firstborns still to come) or this oldest child (in the case of firstborns already born) was really God’s to do with as He liked and all the parents could do is provide this firstborn with the right care and nurturing so that he (later we see this applied only to sons) would be best available to serve the Lord.  This is a much less demanding sacrifice then what the Egyptians had to undergo when they lost their firstborns to the angel of death.  For the Israelite parent who truly believed in what God had done for the children of Israel in releasing them from their bondage, this was very doable.  All Moses had to do was to figure out a way of how to present it to them.  And he did.

His chosen words and his actions exhibit further his true leadership abilities and why God had chosen him for the role that he was given.  He commences his talk to the people of Israel, supposedly now some distance from “downtown Egypt” by telling them to “Remember this day that they left Egypt and slavery by God’s mighty hand.”  Clearly, there was no denying that.

Then he repeats again what God expects the Israelites to do during the month of Abib, the month in which they were led out of Egypt. This is the beginning of the “biblical” year when the first New Moon is seen after the barley in Israel reaches the stage of ripeness call “Abib” (literally, Hebrew for ‘ear of grain’).  And Moses tells them that they are to observe the rite of not eating anything leavened during this time once they get to the Promised Land that God swore to give to their fathers.  He very carefully and intentionally points out that this would be their land and they have a right to it as per God’s granting.  He adds that it will be a land of “milk and honey” making reference to the agricultural abundance of the land of Israel.  And finally, as they celebrate this feast for seven days, they are to tell their “sons” (and one presumes ‘daughters’ as well although not mentioned here) that all that they are (or would be) enjoying is “because of what God did when He brought us out of Egypt”.

At this point in the text, Moses instructs the Israelites to commemorate this event in what appears to be a very physically demonstrated way by signs on their hand and forehead, as well as by continuously talking about it and God’s Law.  Commentators, however, struggle with this idea.  David Guzik writes the following, “The Jews used this passage to institute the practice (of) the wearing of phylacteries – small boxes holding parchment with scriptures on them, held to the forehead or hand with leather straps . . ..”  But then in reference to the phrase “That the Lord’s law may be in your mouth” he writes, “This shows that God did not command for literal boxes to be tied to the hands and forehand, because to take (it) in this way means that there should also be a phylactery box to put in the mouth.”  Which there is not, being his point.

Another commentator, Robert Jamieson, adds to this interpretation:  Nor is it probable that either this practice or the phylacteries of the Pharisees--parchment scrolls, which were worn on their wrists and foreheads--had so early an existence. The words are to be considered only as a figurative mode of expression.”  And with reference to the phrase about “the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth”, he adds: “that is, that it may be the subject of frequent conversation and familiar knowledge among the people.”

I will leave it up to the reader to discern and decide for themselves what God intended for the Israelites with reference to this section.  What we do know for sure though is this:
i.  The Jews did at one point or another commence the practice of wearing phylacteries on their forehead and arms;
ii.  Jesus did, much later, condemn the abuse of (not necessarily the actual wearing) of phylacteries among the Pharisees (see Matthew 23:5) for they were making their phylactery boxes larger and more pretentious as, we assume, a demonstration of their greater spirituality;
iii.  In the end times, as David Guzik points out, using Revelation 13:16, “
there will be a Satanic imitation of this practice when the number of the Antichrist will be applied to either the hand or forehead of all who will take it.”  Whether or not that is a coincidence (I doubt it) or an ‘imitation’ as Guzik calls it, one does not know for sure.  Some Jews may well have used (and still do use) the phylacteries as they thought or think God intended them to be used; and
iv.  Finally, we do know that God wants us to remember, obey, and keep His Law in our minds (forehead), our deeds (hands), and in our witness (mouth), whether or not we choose to display that requirement physically.

This section of Scripture ends with “Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.”  So while we started with God’s new requirement of the Israelites concerning their firstborns, we end the portion with Moses still reminding them of the requirement for them to celebrate what God has done for them.  Only in that context is he ready to share God’s new request of them as we will soon see.  The lesson for us is simply this: We need to always remember, when God is asking us to obey Him, what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ and what we were saved from.  It is with that in mind that we choose to obey Him under all circumstances, serve Him better, love Him more, and accept His will for our lives.  I pray it is so with you and me.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Ordinance of the Passover -- Exodus 12:43-51


The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: no foreigner is to eat of it; but every man’s slave purchased with money, after you have circumcised him, then he may eat of it.  A sojourner or a hired servant shall not eat of it.  It is to be eaten in a single house; you are not to bring forth any of the flesh outside of the house, nor are you to break any bone of it.  All the congregation of Israel are to celebrate this.  But if a stranger sojourns with you, and celebrates the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near to celebrate it; and he shall be like a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.  The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger who sojourns among you.”  Then all the sons of Israel did so; they did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.  And on that same day the Lord brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
 
An “ordinance” as used in Scripture, is a “prescribed religious rite”.  Outside Scripture it carries the connotations of “an authoritative order” or “decree”.  It is also a municipal government level of legislation.  In our text, God gives Moses and Aaron a piece of legislation, a decree, or more exactly perhaps a prescribed way of observing the particular religious rite of the “Passover”.  That ordinance of God’s requires that no foreigner is to participate in this meal.  This rite was strictly for the households of the children on Israel.  The modern-day parallel for Christians is that our equivalent of the Passover – the Lord’s Supper or Communion is not to be shared with or partaken of by those who are ‘foreign’ if you like, to the Body of Christ.  One must be a believer in Jesus Christ as his own personal savior in order to take Communion.

So a traveler or passerby may not participate in this meal celebration.  Neither could a slave that is simply hired temporarily or rented on the long term.  However, if an Israelite owned a slave that had been purchased properly, and circumcised him (if a male) as an Israelite, then the servant could be a participant in this meal.  [One would assume that female slaves so purchased could also participate although due to cultural positions at the time, Moses in his writings omits mentioning this.  As a minimum, it seems to me those female slaves so purchased and whose husbands or fathers have been circumcised, would also be allowed to participate in this Memorial Meal rite.]   The person was deemed to have become part of the household of his Israelite owner.  The concept involved is one of “permanence” or “staying power”.  The idea then, as it is today with our Lord’s Supper or Communion Table is not to be exclusive in the end, but to be inclusive, subject to one being willing to first become part of the family or household then, or the Body of Christ today.  In either case, a lasting or forever relationship.  And of course, we note that the slave had to undergo (if he were male) a painful circumcision process.  There was a definite cost to joining an Israelite household.  We would do well to remember that there is a definite cost (though not in the form of circumcision) to join the Body of Christ today.  It is not like buying a ‘one-day’ membership to a fitness club in order to get you the discount.  There is a cost to becoming a Christian.  Too often we, in our efforts to convert the lost, emphasize only the benefits.  We say nothing of the costs of discipleship, sacrifice, and obedience to Christ that is required in our lives from that point forward.  Unwarned of these, many hastily make the decision, raise their hands to accept Christ, and then just as quickly abandon Him.  I regret to suggest that we may well have a major responsibility in that.

Given the above and given what God tells Moses and Aaron about this meal, and perhaps when we consider how Jesus celebrated the Last Supper (which is our model for the Lord’s Supper and the Communion table), there is some merit in having communion observed by churches in a separate service from the regular worship services.  Note that Jesus did not rent a synagogue to do so, but held it in a private room with his disciples.  I am not necessarily suggesting a day other than when our main “open to the public” services are held, but I am suggesting a separate portion of the service, perhaps at the end and after the general dismissal, where those who are not yet part of the Body are free to excuse themselves, if they wish.  As a minimum, the message must somehow be strongly communicated that the Lord’s Supper or Communion is only for believers.  I have sat through too many services where this is not even mentioned.  Can you imagine the confusion of those who are guests or not used to this observance?

Thirdly, the Passover meal is to be eaten inside a “single” house of the family or household.  I find that interesting.  God wanted this special meal to be eaten by His people together, as a family, and not in their various homes – the whole family under one senior patriarch was to eat together.  God wants us to celebrate Him and our deliverance from bondage as a family, perhaps a ‘local church family’ today.

Fourth, no part of the Passover meal is to be taken outside.  Matthew Henry suggests, “None of it must be carried to another place, nor left for another time.” This raises the issue of whether or not, “communion” as we know it was to “be taken to others” – say as in a hospital or prison much like some priests carried their consecrated ‘host’ or ‘communion bread’ form house to house.  While I understand the need for a prisoner or a sick person to take ‘communion’ I believe, if we were to be true to Scripture and take this ordinance as a prototype or model of how the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated today, then we would be careful not to let a prisoner or ailing person take communion alone, but that a number of others in the Body of Christ take it with him/her.

Fifth, no bones of the lamb that was used for the Passover meal were to be broken.  David Guzik suggests, “None of the bones of the Passover lamb were to be broken. This looks forward to Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, who had not one bone broken even in His crucifixion.”

Sixth, “All the congregation of Israel” were to celebrate this.  There were no exceptions for the Israelites.  Similarly, Matthew Henry writes, “The New-Testament Passover, the Lord’s Supper, ought not to be neglected by any who are capable of celebrating it.”  How many times do we opt to skip this Memorial Meal because “we’re running late, or have other appointments, or just don’t feel like it”?  While in the New Testament we are simply told, “For as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of Me (Christ),” we would do well to remember that in the Old Testament, this was indeed an ordinance that had to be observed.  We may not be required to do so today, but would God find it more pleasing if His Children considered it a privilege as well as a responsible act of thanksgiving to do so?  I believe He would.

Perhaps the seventh point being ‘ordained’ here is this.  Strangers would have to be “circumcised” then and “become part of the Body” today to participate in this Meal of Remembrance.  But once they do, they are to be treated like “one of us” or “native” to us.  That says a lot of how we treat fellow-believers who are passing through.  We, as believers, are to extend hospitality not only in our homes, but also in our worship, and in the activities of our church, to fellow believers who are part of the Body of Christ.

Eighth, whether they come from ‘next door’ or ‘from afar’ this law applies equally to them.  If they became circumcised and bonded with the Israelites as are part of their ‘family’ they could participate.  If they did not, they could not.  So, it is with us today with respect to who can and cannot participate in our Communion Table.

The chapter concludes reminding us that “all” the children of Israel did as they were told to do by God, through Moses and Aaron.  And the very next sentence, the last one, says, “And God did as He promised.”  God did for them – He saved them, He delivered them – because they obeyed Him.  And He did it “on that same day” – for all of them – “by their hosts” that is, “in their large numbers”.
David Guzik writes, “When Israel left Egypt, it was a nation born in a day. It was as if the 430 years were a time in gestation when the baby grew large. The plagues were like labor pains before birth and now the nation is born.”  And we look forward to studying their journeys from that point forward.   But for now, let us contemplate on how we view, and partake of, the Lord’s Supper.

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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Prescribed Law Concerning the Passover -- Exodus 12:40-42:


Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.  And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.  It is a night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.
We last looked at our Chronological Timeline we are developing back in Book 2 of this series when we were studying Genesis chapter 50.  At that point we wrote:
·      (Year) 3461           The meeting of Jacob and Pharaoh when Jacob’s family moved to Egypt (based on Genesis 47:9 and the dates we had arrived at above)(Jacob was 130 years old)
·      3478          Jacob’s death in Egypt at the age of 147 (based on Genesis 47:28,29)
To this we would, if we could, add the next event.
·      ????          Joseph dies at age 110
This presents our own “chronological timeline” with a problem.  While we know this occurred some time after Jacob’s death around 3478 years from the start of Genesis, we do not know exactly when. The reason is that we have information of how old Joseph was when he died, but not the year in which he was born.  We can only hope that later in Scripture, more information is given to us to allow us to continue down this avenue of time measurement through the Bible.

So, it appears to me, in the absence of more enlightened information, that we can start with the year 3461 (that is, 3,461 years from the beginning of our chornology) when Jacob first moved to Egypt, and based on our current text in Exodus, add 430 years to that number.  Thus we arrive at the following elapsed number of years:
·      3891          When the Israelites began their Exodus from Egypt           

It is interesting that our text says it is 430 years “to the very day”.  Why would God have Moses write that phrase?  Is there significance to it?  Perhaps there may well be.  There are two possibilities here.  The first is the literal interpretation – that is, it was exactly 430 years from the time Jacob’s family came to Egypt until the great Exodus.  Another possibility is that the phrase is interpreted as “on that same day” or “on the day it came to pass” – meaning that the whole actual start of the Exodus was all done in one day.  The rest of that sentence then makes sense if the phrase “to the very day” is understood like that.  What should matter to us is that God cares about time and exactness.  If we accept that, then we have a better chance of understanding His schedule for things.

The text then goes on to say, “… all the hosts of the Lord went out of Egypt”. That is, all the children of Israel, all the “armies” of the Lord if you like, left Egypt on that day.  The commentator David Guzik points out also that the phrase “out of Egypt” appears 56 times in the Bible after this reference here which to him indicates that God wants us to remember not just our deliverance, but from what (or where) we were delivered.  I believe that is central to living a victorious life for God.

And all of this happened during the day because once it is completed, that ‘night’ will be observed by all generations of the sons of Israel “for the Lord” and because He brought them out of the land of their bondage.  Fast-forward now several thousands of years and find yourself in modern Israel – the Promised Land.  There you will find a remnant of orthodox Jews that keep all the Old Testament commandments of the Lord. Then you will find the great majority of Jews going about their merry way remembering their history and the God of their Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but wondering what good such a God is doing them now as they struggle to survive against their enemies.  And then there’s a growing group of Jews in Israel who have already decided that they want nothing to do with that God and prefer to become, in their own opinion, truly free by being masters of their own fate, ignoring all truth, and pursuing their own evil and unnatural pursuits.  In fact, the Israeli city of Tel Aviv has become known as the mecca of homosexuality and lesbianism in that part of the world.  So much so that recently certain groups have begun promoting tourism to Israel using that characteristic as the main drawing card.  That’s a far cry from “this night of deliverance is to be observed by all generations”.

So, as a spiritual child of God, aware of Christ’s saving grace, where would you fall in this spectrum of modern-day responses?  Are you staying true to what He has asked of you?  Are you only a weekend Christian and just forcing yourself to simply going through the motions of Christianity for old times’ sake?  Have you managed to shut Christ totally out of your life to the point where you conveniently even avoid Christmas and Easter services with your family?  If you are in either the second or third group, having once considered or even tasted the grace of Christ, perhaps you need to go back and reconsider not just what He offered in the way of salvation, but more importantly, what He offered to deliver you from.  Because chances are you are slipping back to your own land of bondage, you’re slipping back to your own Egypt.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Exodus Numbers and Other Details -- Exodus 12:37-39


Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children.  A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.  They baked the dough which they had brought out of Egypt into cakes of unleavened bread. For it had not become leavened, since they were driven out of Egypt and could not delay, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves.
 
In this portion of the chapter under consideration, we are provided with considerable factual data – some which gives rise to more questions.  Based on what we have in Genesis 47:11 and in Strong’s Lexicon, we know that Rameses (Ramses) was indeed a city in lower Egypt built by Hebrew slaves; probably in Goshen.  Succoth was, according to Genesis 33:17 the place where Jacob had travelled to after he was reunited with Esau.  There, Jacob built a house and settled his livestock.  According to Strong’s Lexicon this was east of the Jordan and the first stopping place for the Israelites when they left Egypt.  The experts differ on how far the Hebrews could have travelled on their journey each day.  If we accept the Word as written, this first stop was about 25 miles from Goshen, or at least the Rameses part of Goshen.  Was this possible in one day?  Yes, but difficult to comprehend since they were not trained walkers.   One alternative was this was not done in one day and nothing in Scripture stipulates it was.  Another is that we are not exactly sure of where Succoth was located (and there are varying opinions on that as well).

The next fact of interest that we need to grapple with is the numbers of those leaving Egypt.  Our text says “about 600,000 men on foot, aside from children”.  I think we can safely assume that almost everybody departed on foot.  That means we are not talking about 600,000 men on foot and an unknown number riding.  One assumes that some who were disabled were carried or rode on animals or in carts of some sort, but for the most part – they all walked.  But we note there is no direct mention of “women” – only men and children.  So did the women not go?  They very much did, but in keeping with the culture and times, Moses chooses not to identify them specifically.  The assumption is that for a certain amount of men, there are a certain amount of women, on average.  On the other hand, some commentators believe the word “men” was used in a generic sense to imply “adults” and included women.  I personally prefer the former explanation, but I could be wrong.  Does it matter?  The fact is that anywhere between one million and two million (or perhaps higher) human beings, Children of Israel, left Egypt on that date.  Robert Jamieson says the following on this verse:  “It appears from Numbers 1:3 [which we hope to come to much later in our own study] that the enumeration is of men above twenty years of age. Assuming, what is now ascertained by statistical tables, that the number of males above that age is as nearly as possible the half of the total number of males, the whole male population of Israel, on this computation, would amount to 1,200,000; and adding an equal number for women and children, the aggregate number of Israelites who left Egypt would be 2,400,000.” And based on that thinking, even that upper number may actually be low.

We are also told “in addition (or ‘also’) a mixed multitude went up (out of Egypt) with them.  So, who were these people?  Matthew Henry writes about them, “A mixed multitude went with them. Some, perhaps, willing to leave their country, laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love to them and their religion. But there were always those among the Israelites who were not Israelites.”  And then Henry adds this stinger, “Thus there are still hypocrites in the church.”  Ouch, but true.

The Pulpit Commentary says this: “Kalisch [another commentator] supposes that these strangers were native Egyptians, anxious to escape the tyranny of the kings. Canon Cook [still another] suggests that they were ‘remains of the old Semitic population’ of the Eastern provinces. Perhaps it is more probable that they consisted of fugitives from other subject races (as the Shartana) oppressed by the Pharaohs.”  Some went because of inter-marriages that had taken place and they did not want to part with their loved ones.  Others saw that God was favoring the Hebrews and thus it was best to be with them than stay in desolate Egypt.  Robert Jamieson whom we have relied on before calls them “a great rabble” – “slaves, persons in the lowest grades of society, partly natives and partly foreigners, bound close to them as companions in misery, and gladly availing themselves of the opportunity to escape in the crowd.”  This all reminds me of the traveling group in the Canterbury Tales.  Could anything good come from, or to, this kind of crowd?

And let us not forget all the livestock – every flock, every herd, every animal.  Can you imagine either what the length of this exodus sight was or how wide it was in order to accommodate all those who wanted to escape for Egypt?

Regardless of how long or hard they had traveled; two things were bound to happen.  First they were going to get hungry.  Second the unleavened dough they had taken with them when rushing out of Egypt was eventually going to ferment.  And the question arises as to whether or not they felt they were still in that “first week” of the memorial talked about in Exodus 12:14 or was this only to be celebrated “once they arrived in the land” which the Lord would give them (Exodus 12:25).  Interesting.  In any case, it was felt that they needed to bake with the unleavened bread and thus had to do it quickly – probably over coals in the wilderness as no ovens were available.  In essence this was the first “Passover night” meal celebrating their freedom from bondage.

As Christians, we celebrate this Passover in the form of Communion remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as payments for our sins and purchase of our freedom from spiritual bondage.  One day, a Wedding Feast, a Royal Banquet, will replace all these Memorial Meals. At that time Christ will accept us as His Bride forever more.  I hope you’ll be there.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Plunder or Willing Turnover? -- Exodus 12:33-36


The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.”  So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.  Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
 
With their firstborns dead, the Egyptians urged the Hebrews to leave as quickly as possible fearing that if they remained in Egypt, all of the Egyptians would be killed.  Can you imagine the sorrow the Egyptians felt as their firstborns die?  Earlier today, a friend on a social media site I use, upon hearing of the recent death of my grandson, sent me this quote from C. S. Lewis, “The death of a loved one is an amputation.”  You do not need to be a Christian to feel that way.  The pain and the hurt apply to all who love those they have lost.   The wound may heal, but the scar remains forever as a memorial of the loss.  You learn to carry it alone.  Even though I now understand a little more about such a loss, I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like if the same loss was being felt by every household in a village, or town, or city, or entire country as it was that morning for the Egyptians.

Can you imagine the fear of the Egyptians, and I am sure that includes Pharaoh and his court, as they cried, “Go, for we will all be dead.”   They knew it.  They knew death and judgment would come if they fought the inevitable will of God any longer.  What baffles me is how so many do not know it today.  Some think they will live forever.  Others do not believe in a hereafter.  Still others do not believe in any consequences that go with being separated from God for eternity.  Becoming a Christian believer has a cost.  It is more than just ‘fire insurance’ – it is a commitment to a Savior.  It is becoming totally dependent on Him through obedience and faith.  But when you compare that to the alternative of living with the realization that one-day, “We will all be dead; and there is no hope,” it starts to look pretty good.

So the Hebrews hurry to take their unleavened bread with them, pack a few things they will need in the wilderness, and get ready to set out.  We need to remember that some time earlier (in Exodus 11:2,3) God had told the children of Israel to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold.  Now they were getting them.  The question often arises by skeptics as to whether God was telling the Hebrews to plunder or pillage the Egyptians, especially as that word is used.  But again we have to read Scripture in context and with its surrounding explanations.  In Exodus 11 we are told they were to “ask” their neighbors for these things.  In this chapter, the text says, “they let them have their request”.  Hardly a true ‘plunder’ as we understand the word.  In fact, the Scripture says God gave the Hebrews “favor in the sight of the Egyptians”.  Moses may well have seen it as plunder from a human perspective when he wrote about it later, but God tells us He arranged for the Children of Israel to ‘find favor’ with their neighbors.  Our western mind and a mind that is trying to place God in a trap may have trouble with that, but the eastern-, Jewish-, and believer-mind, has no problem with it. 
        
So what is the main lesson for us in these few verses?  As significant as this was, it is not that the Egyptians were now pushing the Hebrews out.  It is not that the Children of Israel followed all the instructions given to them.  It is not that the Lord caused them to have favor in the sight of the Egyptians.  Rather, it is indeed that God is in the process of delivering them from their 400 years of bondage.  The slavery is about to end.  And now, in order to survive in the desert that still surrounds them, they have to totally depend on Him.

And that is our story as well.  Some of us have lived too long in bondage; too long without God.  Now, through Jesus Christ, we have accepted His salvation.  His ‘blood’ has set us free.  But notice God did not lead His people from Egypt to the Garden of Eden.  He led them into the desert, into the wilderness – where He would continue to teach them, refine them, test them, and prove some of them worthy to see the Promised Land – the land He had set aside for them in His covenant with their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And God still does that with His children today.  We are freed from bondage, but we are not freed from difficulties, challenges, struggles, pain, tears, even physical death.  Yet, if we remain faithful, whether we live long or short, we will see “our Promised Land” that has been made possible through Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary.

The question I have for you is this: “Have you stepped out of your bondage, out of your personal Egypt, applied the blood on the doorposts of your life, picked up your unleavened bread, and headed for the desert, where you will need to be totally dependent on God?”  If so, and if you remain faithful, God has promised you eternal life with Him.   No one else has conquered death as God’s Son has and thus no one else can make that offer to mankind.  Yes, we may all be physically dead one day.  But no, we do not all need to be spiritually dead for eternity.  The choice is ours.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Friday, June 07, 2013

God Strikes At Midnight -- Exodus 12:29-32


Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.  Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.  Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said.  Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”
 
When I sit down to study each portion of scripture, I usually have already entered the text in the document and sometimes even given it a title – like the one above, “God Strikes At Midnight”.   I do that after I finish a preceding passage.  I had done it with this passage after I wrote the last blog.  And then the next day, God gave us for just six short hours, and then took to Himself, our darling little grandson, Ronin.  This past week has been, as you might imagine, a whirlwind of activities as we finally laid our grandson to rest and spent time with family and loved ones, and processed what happened.  God is Good and He is taking us through this pain, this dark valley.  He has strengthened us to be of more help to others in the future.  And He has given us a little guy to love forever more, knowing He is taking the best possible care of our baby.

So God struck, perhaps not at midnight for us, and through an old friend and colleague, we too, found comfort in the words of the poem below.  You will note the poet died at just 40 years of age, but it is clear he had experienced calamity:

"Bitter-Sweet" by George Herbert 1593-1633:

Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

I do not mean to imply that my circumstances these last few days are in any way like those of the Israelites on that night that God struck at midnight; not at all.  But my recent loss has helped me understand what the Egyptians may have gone through.  There really are few words to explain what parents (or grandparents) feel when they lose their child.  But I cannot help but note the difference between a parent who is truly committed to God and one who knows Him not.  For me, solidly in the first category, I can only thank God for allowing us to hold and kiss and love young Ronin for a few hours and then assure us, that for whatever purpose, He wanted him with Him, or He wanted him to be spared life on earth.  Either way, we rest in the fact that he is with his Creator, at peace, and without pain.

On the other end of the spectrum, and yet not so far away, because we all feel the shock of a loss, it just so happened that during these days I have been reading a book which describes in great detail the hate killings that occurred between tribes after the 2007 Kenyan elections in areas and towns where my wife and I had visited twice since then.  At one point, the author, Paul H. Boge, describes the emotion of a young mother who had seen one of her beloved sons killed before her with arrows and another with a machete.  Boge writes, “There were no tears.  Tears come with grief.  And shock is a long way from grief.  Her body was in survival mode, and for a brief moment she hoped that whatever was keeping her going would never leave.  For if she had to process what she just saw, she feared it would be the end of her.” 

For those back in Egypt, God was precisely on time, like clockwork, at midnight.  And there were no exceptions – every single first-born in the land of Egypt, from the household of Pharaoh on the throne, right down to the household of a prisoner in a dungeon, and even of every cattle, the scripture says, was impacted.  The extent and the timing were exactly as promised by God.  When He speaks about the future, one ignores Him at his or her peril.

In the middle of the night, everybody knew that something was wrong and as the tragedy was being discovered household by household, there arose a crescendo of crying in the entire land of Egypt.  That portion of the text bothers me for two reasons.  First, why did people then (Pharaoh, his men of government, others) and why do people now, wait until it is too late to hear the warnings of God the Almighty?  Did they then, and do people now, really think they would or will escape from what is supposed to befall them, if they ignore the Creator?

Second, I feel that this “great cry in Egypt” is indeed symbolic of what is about to arise in the earth when Jesus returns and that Day of Judgment comes upon the earth.  And oh, how I wish people could see that now.  No home will be left untouched one way or another – unto death or unto life.  That is why it is important for us to clearly state what we know to be true, no matter the cost.
Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and the Scripture tell us he literally sent them out of Egypt with all their belongings.  No more negotiating, no more hesitation, no more changing of his mind, at least for now – the evidence of defeat was all around him in the bodies of the first-borns of every household in Egypt.

But Pharaoh did not stop there.  He asked Moses and Aaron to bless him.  Some commentators translate that as “pray for me”.  Chuck Smith says it is interesting that “no matter how pagan a person is, they sure appreciate prayer when they are in trouble.”  Oh, how we see that over and over today.  People want the blessing without the obedience.  They want to survive without the training.  They want to live ‘for self’ but not die ‘to self’.  Pharaoh is no exception – with all his human power and authority, he had no resources capable of dealing the way he wanted to with the Almighty God.  And neither do our friends and relatives today.  Sadly, mankind in general continues merely existing and never learning the lesson.

Finally, at my grandson’s funeral recently, many unbelievers said to me, “Ken, I just don’t know how you do it?”  My reply was courteous and loving.   I would say, “But I think I told you in my talk how I do it. Did you get that part?”  And they would say, “Yes, I know, but.”  And I would say, “There really is no ‘but’ – it’s true.  And it’s worth considering.  Without God, I cannot have gone through what I and my family just went through.”  Pharaoh found that out the hard way.  You don’t have to.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.