Tag Archives: Life of Moses

Numbers 14:13ff Grief and Justice

Life of Moses
Grief and Justice 
Numbers 14:13ff

Introduction…When someone commits an egregious act or sin, how does one balance mercy and forgiveness with truth and justice? Though this might seem like a simple question, it is far from that. Observe how both the LORD and Moses wrestle with it, each on their own terms. Can you see both the mercy and the justice? Have you experienced one of these moments lately? How does Christ’s death, as well as the Spirit’s conviction and discipline address both these issues for us as God’s children (for help, read Hebrews 10:19-12:13). Is God both merciful and just with his children? Now, for the real kicker, how might this affect our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ? 
Heaven’s Grief…
Teacher’s Note:  You might want to briefly review what has just occurred. Remember the 12 spies, one from each tribe has just returned. While Joshua and Caleb, believing God, fight to take the land, the other ten persuade the nation that taking their rightful inheritance would be too risky. Panicked that they have come all this way from Egypt for nothing, the nation wants to stone its leadership. God, feeling utter contempt, seeks to destroy Israel and renew his promises to the line of Moses.
General Introduction…

The third book of the Old Testament and the OT Law, the book of Numbers, gets it title from a census, by tribes, of the Children of Israel, which begins the book. Ultimately, Numbers takes the Children of Israel, under Moses’ leadership, from the Sinai Penisula to the Promise Land. Along the way there are some dramatic plot twists…
Along with some of the more pivotal movements of the OT Law, including…
• Beginning with Genesis (Beginnings), the story of Creation, the First Murder, the Flood and the Construction of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 1-11)…
• Yahweh God’s choosing to bestow his magnificent blessings through the biblical patriarchs (Gen. 12-50). 
• beginning with Abraham (the father of nations), 
• his son—Isaac–and 
• Isaac’s son–Jacob (or Israel) and 
• Jacob’s twelve sons and their descendents…who will, while exiled in Egypt for over 400 years, eventually become the 12 tribes of Israel… 
• Then beginning in Exodus (A Way Out), the story of Moses, including…
• Yahweh God’s calling of Moses at the Burning Bush to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery…
• the Ten Plagues upon Egypt that Yahweh God uses to break Egypt’s grip of the Children of Israel… 
• particularly, the last and most devastating Passover plague
• Yahweh God’s parting of the Red Sea to deliver Israel from Pharaoh’s pursing chariots, then 
• Yahweh God returning of the Red Sea’s waters to where they were before in so doing, drown Pharoah’s charioteers… 
• Moses’ return to Mt. Sinai where he was first called by God… 
• Israel’s entering into a covenant relationship with Yahweh God through the Law… 
• Israel’s immediate breaking of her covenant when she constructs and worships a golden calf…
• Both Yahweh’s just discipline and his gracious mercy after Israel’s disobedience…
• (And now, beginning with the Book of Numbers)
…the story of Israel’s failure at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13) to boldly claim and take what had been promised to her—her Promise Lands—forms yet another major plot development… 
…for forty years Israel will pay for her tragic indecisiveness. Two generations of Israelites will die off before the nation is allowed a second chance at claiming her Promised inheritance. 
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Read Passage several times…
Ask Questions…
 13 Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them.   

That God destroyed the Israelites? That they died in the wilderness? 
v. 12 I will strike them (the children of Israel) down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you (Moses) into a nation greater and stronger than they.” 
14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.   

That the inhabitants of the land that they had been about to conquer, had they not balked to do just that, might here would hear from the Egyptians how Israel finally failed in the desert? 

15 If you put these people to death all AT ALL ONE TIME the nations who have heard this report about you will say,   

Interesting to note that Moses makes a point of the Israelites being destroyed all at once as opposed to be gradually wiped out generationally, which is exactly what will take place, and not just one generation, but two…

16  `The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.’   

In other words, YOU, YAHWEH, could not deliver the goods. You could not get them to their Promised Land.  This is about your honor, glory and majesty that is at stake here, not Israel’s disobedience in the end. Note: This is the second time that Moses has desperately interceded on behalf of a disobedient Israel. The first occasion was at Mt. Sinai when Yahweh God wanted to destroy them for having built and worshiped the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain with God receiving their Law. 

17  “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared:   

18  `The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’   

Moses uses God’s own character to reinforce Moses’ argument that God is both extremely compassionate, while at the same time being just and fully willing to be disciplinary. He is patient, patient, patient, but then his patience runs out, and there is pain to pay for several generations. While the Creator is patient, his glory will not be devalued…

19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”   

Thank God for Israel’s having a mediator, a go-between, in Moses, between her sinful self and her righteous, offended Creator.  

20 The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.   

That was quick and to the point!

21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth,   

Oh, here is where the other shoe drops. These are two sure things: he does live and his glory fills the earth.

22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times–  

My patience has run out. It is Spiritually or logically inconceivable that someone could have witnessed my glory and doubt that they would have not witnessed my glory again. No earthly way!

23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.   

Contempt for God’s glory and majesty will not go unpunished!
24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.   

But not everyone will be punished. The few…the noble, courageous, obedient few will be honored! 

25 Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea. “

A change in plans? Back to the desert? Back towards Egypt? But the Red Sea is both south and west? 
(Review of the Most Recent Events…)
• Led explicitly by the fiery cloud (the presence of the LORD), the children of Israel leave Sinai, the place where they tied the marriage knot to their spiritual groom, Yahweh God, experienced their greatest moral failure in constructing another god, the golden calf, were severely disciplined and finally received their law/contract which they will live by in the land they are traveling to. Num 9-10.
• The people begin to complain: first about their hardships, then about their food. The Lord hears both complaints. The first time he sends fire from the sky around the outskirts of camp. The second time he instructs Moses to gather 70 of the leaders from the nation to come before him so that the can place his Spirit upon them as he has done with Moses in order to help him with the burden of leading his people. Num 11.
• By not only giving Israel more than what they want in quail, God disciplines the nation for having complained against his provision and wishing they were back in Egypt. He also chastises them with a plague.  Num 11.
• God defends his humble servant, Moses, from an attempted sibling coup when he strickens Moses’ sister, Miriam, with a snow white leprosy and requires her to remain outside the camp for seven days. Num 12.
• It is now time to explore the land; they explore it, but are intimidated by the size of the people. Despite Caleb’s protest they spread their report to the rest of the people. Num 13.
• Despite Caleb and Joshua’s attempts to remind them that God’s will will accomplish what he has promised for them, the disobedient children of Israel, now trusting the majority of spies, grieve the spies’ negative reports, wishes, as a nation, that they were actually dead, seek to stone Moses and Aaron and replace them with a leader that will lead them back to EgyptGod then intervenes and seeks to destroy Israel and bless Moses.  Num. 14.
Summary…The LORD accepts Moses’ plea bargain for the nation. He will not destroy them, but those they have repeatedly disobeyed will never into the Land. Only his faithful servant, Caleb, will receive the Promise. Now they are to turn back towards the Sea.
Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)
• God is our protector. 
• Just as Israel had one who interceded for them so that God would not destroy them for their sin, so we have one who has interceded on our behalf so that God would not destroy us for our sin in Jesus Christ. 
• Perhaps we are too intercede on behalf of others as well. 
• God’s love and patience is overwhelming. At the same time he is just and will not leave the guilt unpunished. 
The Cross was a demonstration of both God’s Mercy and Justice…
• Just as righteousness has long term effects, so sin’s consequences bleed over into the following generations as well. Our long-term deeds make a difference. 
• God does live and his glory does fill the earth.
• Men can be stubbornly stupid, disobedient, selfish, self-centered and short-term in their thinking, fear and memory.
• God will not be dishonored. There will be a price for his dishonor.
• God rewards those who are willing to stand against the crowd and do the right thing. 
• God follows through on his word….bottom line. God’s word is his decree…his will. 
So What? 
2016 Application…
Thanksgiving…I am alive! Good week; challenging week filled with several “todays” that were indeed made by God and that because they were made by him, that one truth…that they were made by God and God only, caused me to dance and rejoice! One praise…I am witnessing second hand, a Spiritual reconciliation, and that is wonderful! 
Struggle…My temptation to lose focus and be discouraged by my seemingly failures or weaknesses as an administrative shepherd.  
Truth and Application…I cannot only imagine the failure that Moses must have felt when Israel balked at taking the Promised Land. He had to live with that moment for another forty years. I have had to live with my own for twenty years. I not only feel my own pain and the pain that Moses must have felt, but Yahweh God’s own pain, obviously in an anthropomorphic (viewing God in human terms) sense.  We all want things to go so well. No problems. Everyone obedient. But we forget, the struggle is with sin, and that battle never ends. Play the game as dictated. No one fully knows the earthly decrees of the Father for his children’s individual ministries. 
Your servant,
Joseph M. Cross

Your Struggle?

Your Truth? 

Your Application? 
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 23:1-13 Defending Truth; Maintaining Rest

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Life of Moses
Ex 23:1-13
More Laws: Defending the Truth; Maintaining Rest.
9/21/3; ed. 8.29.15


What is peer pressure? Why can the mob or crowd or social media today seem so intimidating? What are people afraid of?

lady justice

When’s the last time you found yourself pressured to NOT stand up for the truth…or what you felt to be the truth? What was the subject matter? Did you stand up for the truth? Were you ridiculed? How did it feel? Were you frightened? Did you lose some friends over the matter? Or did you give in and not stand up for what you believed to be the truth? Again what was the subject matter? Why did you not stand up for the truth? How did it make you feel to not stand up for the truth? Did someone else stand up for it? How were they treated? Did you speak up later? Continue reading

Exodus 14:1 While You Keep Silent 3-1-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 23
While You Keep Silent…
Ex 14:1ff

Introduction… Ever had your back up against the wall or against the sea with no retreat in sight? Ever felt like you might have been put there unfairly by the Almighty’s providence—like this is NOT FAIR, God? I did everything I was supposed to do or what I felt led to do or thought was right, and yet here I am smack up against the eight ball and about to be run over? Not a fun feeling to have, is it?

How did you handle it? Did you cry, run, scream, groan, pout, numb out? How did it eventually turn out? Was it as bad as you thought? Did you live? Are you still alive? Did God see you through? What did his deliverance ultimately look like? Looking back, did you see perhaps that God had a greater, perhaps even more unpredictable and paradoxical plan or purpose that you could have never dreamed of?

In this story, God tells Israel to make a seemingly wrong turn—a wrong turn that puts the nation at great peril and causes its members to think that they were right to begin with in questioning the wisdom of God’s plan as expressed by Moses. It would seem that much like Israel, we want our salvation fully laid out with no unexpected twists and turns, even if the twists and turns save us from a far greater future danger.

One confusing, questionable turn that God has a far greater purpose for. Threat does not equal destruction, or at least our destruction, but rather evil’s. Our response to the overwhelming threat–to NOT fear, but to trust, be confidently still or silent and watch God go to work. Trust in God is a magnificent state of mind by which to sustain all of life’s many unexpected and overwhelming threats. In fact, trust is God’s great equalizer. Try it. Trust enough to be still in the midst of a great threat…

Your Servant,
Continue reading

Exodus 9:13-25 Early in the Morning 11-30-14

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 17
Early in the Morning
Ex 9:13-35
(Orig. 3/23/3 ed. 11.30.14)

Introduction…When things don’t always go according to plan or the way you would have liked for them to have gone or as easily as you would have liked or hoped for them to have gone, how do you react? Do you see these problems or resistances as meaning that you don’t have God’s blessing, or that you are being punished for not having done something right or correct, or even for some past sin or miscue? Do you not expect to see resistance or do you expect resistance? Can God allow resistances to bring him greater glory? If so, why would God do something like this? Also, why can’t life just be tough and we be overly optimistic at times? Why can’t we live or be in denial about just how hard or difficult things can be sometimes…because we want what we want, and therefore, we ignore life’s challenging realities? What about just not being perfect or God enough, and therefore not being able to see the future perfectly? Is all our suffering because we have done something wrong or not completely perfectly? Could God have other purposes…even greater purposes… by allowing things to be difficult? So what’s the key when things are difficult, challenging and painful? Quit and give up, or prayerfully persevere?



Your servant,

Joe Continue reading

Exodus 4:18-31 Redemption… 9-28-14

Exodus Studies Pic
©2003; 2014
Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 8: Redemption…
Ex 4:18-31
(1.12.03; 9.28.14)
Intro…Can God both give you an assignment to do and it be hard? Yes. Why? Why would God do this? Why would a parent, teacher, coach or employer do this? To see the mettle of his student? To expose their strengths and liabilities. If we come to the table already fit, what’s the point? What do we have to learn? How will we grow? Sometimes we are given a difficult, challenging assignment that we may or may not be able to accomplish, particularly in our own wisdom and strength, as Moses sought to do when he intervened on behalf of the Hebrew slave that was being beaten by the Egyptian steward. Moses in his own strength and wisdom ends up killing and burying the harsh steward. When he finds out that others know what he has done, he panics and flees Egypt, and then spends forty years in a self-imposed exile. Moses had talent, no doubt about it, but he needed what only God could do through him, if he was to pull off the impossible. This is true of all of us. Pretty good, on our own, perhaps, but not good enough…not God enough. God is our only hope and salvation.  With God, always greater than.
How might you demonstrate or expose this truth to your students. Good, bad or indifferent without God; invincible, called and empowered with God.
Series Introduction: You make a mistake…perhaps even a huge mistake; you think your life has changed forever–that there is no going back. In exile, you take your flock of sheep, which you have been pasturing for these past forty years to an out-of-the-way desert valley that seems to symbolize your exiled existence. You see something strange in the distance—it’s a fire…an inextinguishable flame. 
You bravely venture forth for a closer inspection of the undying flame. As you draw closer, something happens–you begin to experience something that will change your entire understanding of your human existence—you encounter God of the Universe. 
Out of all the people on the planet, the Creator of the Universe has chosen YOU–a wandering, lonely, exiled, imperfect shepherd–to free and lead an exodus of what will become an emancipated people group of over two million strong from the oppressive grip of a much stronger nation that enslaves them—a nation that does intend to just allow you to walk in and then walk out with all its slaves. And even after you pull off this miraculous emancipation, you must now lead or shepherd this massive new nation across a vast desert with little food or water resources to a land that, while flowing with milk and honey, only somewhat briefly belonged to your forefathers over four centuries ago and is now currently occupied by many wicked or evil tribes that just don’t intend to hand you back your ancestors’ tribal lands. 
Impossible, you say? Ridiculous? Utterly insane, if you ask me. Unless the God of Creation is the one doing the calling AND the work of liberation and deliverance. Do you have the guts or crazy faith to be obedient, to trust, to put one foot in front of the other no matter the costs?
I write all this to encourage all of you NOT to minimize what is about to take place in this, one of the great stories of human history. It is one of gargantuan proportions. And yet, our faith…your faith, born in heaven itself, is a faith of gargantuan implications. If God could do this with Moses, what might he still have planned for you? 
Read the Passage three times…
Ask questions…
18 Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”   
Was it respectful to ask the father-in-law to leave or cultural? Jethro seemed very trusting of Moses. But after 40 years, this kind of trust makes sense. Now Moses knew that his brother was coming to him because of the previous passage, but did he think he was coming to tell him that his family was dead? Why did Moses not tell Jethro what God had told him? Was his father-in-law not a believer? Was this the reason? He was a Midianite priest? Who and what did the Midianites worship? 
19 Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.”   
A new wrinkle that we were not told of earlier in the LORD’s conversation with Moses, so we don’t know everything that might have been said. Does this mean that the nation has forgotten Moses? He is a non-issue? 
20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand. 
Now it has become the staff of God; no longer is it the staff of Moses. How long a journey was it across the Sinai to Egypt? Was it a difficult journey? Would this journey be difficult on his family? Would it be safe? How old were his sons?   
21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.   
Was this a second conversation or from the previous conversation? If from the previous conversation, why did the writer, presumably Moses, choose to use this approach to tell us more of what was said? Why is God going through all this—the miracles and the hardening? What is the purpose to defeat your purpose? To cause a greater miracle? To severely discipline the Egyptians? Did he have a reason? Was it for enslaving Israel? Was it due to their polytheism? 
22 Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,  
How is a nation his first-born son? I thought Jesus was? Was this because of Abraham? First-born, usually means eldest and by which the family land, name and authority were handed  down? Is this a metaphor? Does this mean that Israel is special?
23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'”   
Here is the discipline? Intervention to allow them to go? Why so severe? Makes God sound vindictive? Is this literal—Pharaoh’s son or the entire nation’s firstborn sons?
24 At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met [Moses] and was about to kill him.   
Where did this come from? This sounds extreme? Why is Moses in brackets? How was he going to kill him? It would seem that the same God that is sending Moses to Pharaoh to tell him that he is about to lose his first born son—no small act…to take the life of a prince of Egypt—certainly means business and is NOT afraid to take the life of the servant he is sending…
25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched [Moses’] feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.   
Why did Moses’ wife act so fast? How did she know what to do? Why now had the LORD chosen to do this? Is this something that Moses had been instructed to do, but had failed to follow through on? Why does this event come so out-of-the-blue? Why did she touch Moses’ feet? Why had Moses failed to circumcise his son? Why was it important now? Because they were getting closer to the nation once again? Would the LORD actually have killed Moses? What would he have done to find a leader to lead the nation out of Egypt? Did Israel’s redemption hang so narrowly in the balance? What does this say about God? That he will not be disrespected? That he does not play favorites? Did Zipporah resent having to circumcise her child? What was the custom of circumcision all about in the first place? Was this the symbol or sign of God’s covenant or contract with Abraham? All his male descendants would have the foreskin of their penis removed? Why this painful symbol? At one time we thought it was hygienic? Easier to clean? This does not seem to be the case today? Was it a symbol of the flesh that needs to be removed in our lives? A symbol that says that our biggest struggle with sin will be through the male’s reproductive organ? It allows us to have children, but at the same time because it is a source of great pleasure, mankind finds it difficult to stay within godly, healthy limits? (Okay enough. Just some wild thoughts.)
26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)   
27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him.   
Is this Mount Sinai or Horeb where Moses was first called to the burning bush and later where he will receive God’s covenant with Israel or the Law, the code of ethics of how Israel was to live and worship God in the new land they were traveling to—their constitution so to speak?
What was running through Aaron’s mind? Did Aaron know what was going on? Did God speak to people often then since they did not have many or any Scriptures?
28 Then Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform.   
29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites,   
The story jumps immediately forward to their being in Egypt? Did people remember or know who Moses was? That he was raised in the house of the Pharaoh when other infant boys were put to death? That he traded all that for the role of an exiled shepherd via his coming to the defense of a fellow Israelite that was being beaten and the murder of an Egyptian who was beating him? How many elders? 
30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people,  
So Aaron becomes Moses’ mouthpiece. All the people or just the elders?  
31 and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
Who’s? Moses, Jethro, his father-in-law, my own people, any of them, all the men who wanted to kill you, his wife and sons, Pharaoh, the people, Israel is my firstborn son, your firstborn son, Zipporah, her son’s foreskin, Aaron, elders of the Israelites, the people, LORD
Where’s? went back to Jethro, to my own people in  Egypt, in Midian, to Egypt, in his hand, before Pharaoh, at a lodging place on the way, into the desert, at the mountain of God
When’s?  then Moses went back, still, when you return, then say to, then Moses told, and when they heard
• Moses asks his father-in-law if he can go back to his people. 
• Jethro has no problems with this and wishes him well.
• The LORD reassures Moses that all those seeking his life have passed on—kind of like King Herod with Jesus, just in reverse. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt.
• Moses loads up the family and heads back to Egypt with the staff of God in hand.
• The  LORD reminds Moses that his task will not be easy. Despite the miracles, God will harden Pharaoh’s heart and refuse to let Israel go.
• At this point, God will severely discipline Egypt, taking their first-born sons, because Pharaoh refused to allow God’s first-born son, Israel, to leave Egypt and worship him.
• On his way to Egypt a strange episode occurs. The LORD almost takes Moses’ life when his wife intervenes and circumcises Moses’ son.
• The LORD instructs Moses’ brother Aaron to meet Moses in the desert.
• They meet at the previous mountain where God had called Moses.
• Moses tells Aaron God’s plan for the both of them to lead Israel out of Egypt.
• They meet with the elders of Israel, and after performing the miracles before the people, the people fall down in worship because God has seen their plight is about to deliver them.
• Moses must return to Egypt.
• God reminds Moses that Pharaoh’s heart will be hard, but that God will take care of this—he will take his firstborn son. 
• Zipporah spares Moses’ life by circumcising his son. 
• Aaron is directed to meet Moses in the desert where he learns of God’s plan to liberate the Israelites.
• The Israelite elders, back in Egypt, respond worshipfully to Moses and Aaron’s message of God’s intended redemption. 
Bottom line…
Despite a serious bump in the road, Moses, equipped with a seemingly impossible mandate from God—to lead Israel out of slavery, now makes it back to Egypt.
Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself? 
• Despite his great call, Moses is still respectful of his father-in-law.
• Eventually, our enemies…God’s enemies… will be destroyed. 
• God can be and is multi-purposed. He allows Moses to perform the miracles, but at the same time, he hardens Pharaoh’s heart–two seemingly contradictory objectives. And yet in the long term this will all make sense. In the short run, Pharaoh’s lack of a positive response, despite the miracles, could seem discouraging. But don’t be discouraged that things don’t always go the way we would like them to, even if God has called us to the task. Both the task and the resistance are allowed by God. God has something bigger up his sleeve.
• Despite Moses’ call, God was still not going to bend the rules for his especially-chosen leader. Moses had failed to circumcise his son—something all the children of Abraham were supposed to have experienced (Gen. 17:9ff). Moses’ failure to recognize God’s covenant had almost cost him his life. God must make it clear to his servant—if you work for me as my holy instrument, you will be holy…no exceptions. I am not afraid to take the life of Pharaoh’s son, and I am certainly not afraid to take your life. Get holy. Do the basics. Do what you have failed to do. Circumcise your son. 
• Zipporah’s shrewd and quick acting spared her husband’s life, though it cost her as mother to inflict pain upon her son. But she did it anyway because she knew it was the right thing to do, albeit painful and costly, as she admits. (Why Moses did not do this or why she took it upon herself to circumcise her son is not clear.)
• God can work in two different peoples lives at the same time. in very separate ways He did this with me and Rhonda in order to bring us together and he still does this in people’s lives today. 
• The proper response to the news of God’s merciful intervention, such as his sending of his Son to Spiritually intervene on our behalf, is always worship.
So What’s? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share or confess it with the group.) 
2003 Application…
This week’s struggle: Just a lot to do, the chief of which is to prepare to present to the Body the elders’ ministry/financial goals for the upcoming year. There is also a renewed emphasis of work going on the church this week to finish up left over construction projects, as well as my message to prepare, etc. Just feeling a little nervous about getting it all done or managing it. 
Principle/Application: Just because God may have called us to do something doesn’t mean that it will be easy, or there won’t be divine resistance involved. In fact, there probably will be. But this is what builds up our Spiritual muscles. 
Just because he may have called us to build a church facility or to strengthen our ministry via an increase in staff, does not mean it will be easy. But you step up to the plate, honestly present your case and allow the Body to respond how they are going to respond. So far they have always come through very solidly, particularly, in these last seven years. My part is just be obedient. God is responsible for the results. 
2014 Application…
Thanksgiving…It was an amazing Sunday, especially my teaching, lunch and a picnic afterwards and a baptism and walk. I was actually better prepared than I had been in awhile. I had taken the previous week off, which no doubt helped, but I was still late in the process. And yet, even late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the passage, illustrations and application all came together. It felt truly of the Lord–As we experience, trust and walk or live in the divine Light of the Son’s atonement for our sin and the Spirit’s words, truth and power, we are becoming children of Light to those who are lost in a ever-darkening world. We become light. We are light in a dark world. We give out hope and truth to those lost in the dark. It’s an amazing Spiritual process and journey—one not to be taken lightly or for granted. Amen! (John 12:33ff).
In addition, one of the Spiritual grandparents of one of the children I had the honor of baptizing into Christ, it turns out, attended my church over a quarter of a century ago…as a college student! In addition, they want to get together. They are from out of town and our meeting for reasons I can’t elaborate right now is absolutely crucial. I am telling you, you can’t make this stuff up…modern-day hints of God’s miraculous working in the life of Moses and the Children of Israel so long ago…
Struggle…A lot to get done seemingly. A lot of study, reading and writing…this revised lesson, this Sunday’s teaching and filling in some gaps in SLove. And yet there are still lots of sheep to shepherd, check on or look after, including wayward sheep, as well as, administrative, facility and grounds and personal tasks to get done. God give me the grace to pace myself. Grace, Lord. Grace. In your strength…your tasks…your time…your leading…your power…your truth…
Truths…God’s multi-tasking purposes within our lives; God’s call does not exempt the called from even the very basics of the Covenant’s demands. In other words, the messenger is NOT above the message he is to deliver; Zipporah quickly and shrewdly moves to save her husband’s…the messenger’s…life; the message of deliverance validated by God’s power ought to inspire worship of the Deliverer.
Application…Because I am seeing evidence of God’s eventual deliverance and power, I will worship Him. I must thank Him. I must look forward to the battle…the struggle…the war…understanding that he is constantly weaving individual destines and plot lines together to accomplish his greater will…even plot lines that seem resistant or contrarian to the task he has given us. So therefore, even if something is difficult, that really means very little. Expect it. As the writer of Hebrews, quoting the Proverbs, reminds us: “As a father disciplines his son for his own good, so God disciplines those he loves for our own good.” We can be called to a Spiritual task, and yet, there may be divinely allowed obstacles strewn within our path. It has certainly been true of my life. Both are critical for our growth…the call…and its acceptance, and the resistance that must be overcome in order to fulfill the call. For me, this week, it is balance, patience, insight, trust, perseverance. 
Your struggle?
Principle/Prayerful application?
What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?
Which principles seem to relate?
How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)
Special Note on the “LORD”: Notice that I AM WHO I AM as well as LORD  are in all caps in the NIV. Why is this? 
The reason for this is that both phrases or words are one in the same. LORD in all caps becomes a substitute for I AM (or Yahweh, pronounced Yah-way in Hebrew) for God’s personal name. That is why we call him LORD. When “Lord” is not in all caps, it is the Hebrew word for “master” (adonai).
Why LORD  for I AM? Good question. Because God’s personal name, I AM or Yahweh, was consider sacred and not to be taken in vain (Ex 20, one of the ten commandments), scribes substituted the vowels for “Lord or master” (adonai) underneath the consonants for the Yahweh (I AM) within the biblical text since there were no vowels to begin with (Jews did not need them; we did). Rabbi’s knew they were to substitute “adonai,” Lord, for “Yahweh,” I AM, thus not profaning the LORD’s name. But what we, later readers did was to come up with an entirely new word, one that did not really exist, one that combines the consonants of Yahweh with the vowels of adonai–Jehovah. 
In fact, for the most part, I will seldom use it. It does not really exist. We have made it up. Either use LORD (Yahweh, I AM ) or  Lord (adonai, master or Lord).
So now you know why LORD is in all caps. Remember it stand for I AM or Yahweh, God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Joe or Joseph.
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.


Exodus 4:1-17 Overcoming the Excuses 9-21-14

Exodus Studies Pic
© 2003; 2014
Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 7: Overcoming the Excuses…
Ex 4:1-17
(1.12.03; 9.21.14)
Introduction…Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to anyone’s Spiritual growth is the insecurity to risk the attempt or responsibility to lead others… be it one’s marriage, family, Sunday School class, Bible study or just about anything in life that involves others. I have seen it over and over again. Sheep without a shepherd. Great sheep. Talented sheep, and yet none of the sheep takes it upon themselves to risk shepherding or leading the other sheep in the very real need that needs to be met or the assignment that needs to be carried out. Someone take charge. Someone risk leadership, even imperfect leadership…even the complaints and grips of others. Seen a family or marriage without a leader? … Tragic. Seen a Bible study, small group or ministry project without a leader? … No direction. 
Now you can’t be a jerk…I mean… all the time…and be a good leader as well. Sometimes the kids think mom or dad are jerks, we all understand this, but good leaders are teachable…trainable. They want to become better leaders, not so much for their own personal glory in leading, but to get the task done and done right, and this involves people…it involves a wise, expedient expenditure or allocation of time, manpower and resources. 
What can I say? People need leadership. Not necessarily dictators, but definitely leadership…leadership and responsibility. Good leaders are willing to face their insecurities to become a better leader in order to meet the need or get the assigned task done. 
And bottom line…no leadership risked, Spiritual growth and maturity, I promise you is arrested. NO WAY around it. Even servants must eventually risk leadership. 
Exodus coach-own-child-2
So how does this relate to kids or students? I think a good teacher or leader seeks to identify, encourage and equip others, including students, to own the process of meeting the need or accomplishing the assigned task, as well as, constantly meeting the need or accomplishing the assigned task better. In other words, a leader seeks to build leaders. It is this easy? Heck, no. There are lots of pitfalls and nuances that must be navigated, but are we just teaching children for the sake of teaching or are we equipping students to think, lead and make difficult, complex and morally courageous decisions? What is our ultimate goal? 
If I was exposing this study to children, I would probably attempt to get them to recognize a moment in time in which the kids interpreted a moment when a situation needed leadership and NO ONE stood up to the plate? Or perhaps, I would get them to talk about moments in which they felt someone was being too bossy and why? Now contrast that with a situation in which there was no direction? Where’s the balance? Why didn’t they step up to the plate? Why don’t most people? Just get them thinking about the concept of leadership and why many are fearful to risk its desperate plea.  
Life of Moses’ General Introduction: You make a mistake; you think your life has changed forever; that there is no going back. In exile, you take your flock of sheep, which you have been pasturing for the past forty years, to an out-of-the-way desert valley that seems to symbolize your life. You see a fire in the distance that refuses to die. You decide to take a closer look. As you draw closer to the inextinguishable flame, suddenly your life does change forever… 
The God of the universe has plucked YOU, out of all people, a wandering shepherd, to lead your entire nation, numbering well over two million people out of the country where they are currently enslaved, across a barren wasteland with little water or food resources, to a land which their forefathers had previously shepherded their flocks for a seemingly brief three hudred years, but has been now been abandoned for over four hundred years and is currently occupied by inhabitants who have no intention of giving that land back up to their forefathers’ descendents. 
Impossible you say? Ridiculous? Sounds like it to me, unless the God of creation is the one doing the calling and doing the work. Do you have the guts to be obedient no matter what…no matter the price?
Read the Passage two or three times…
Ask questions…
Exod. 4:1   Moses answered, 
“What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, `The LORD did not appear to you’?”   
Who is they? The elders of Israel? The Egyptians? Believe about what? That it was God or I AM or the LORD sending him to lead the children of Israel (or Jacob) out of Egypt and slavery? This is a great question. I would be asking it. Who would believe him?
2 Then the LORD said to him, 
“What is that in your hand?” 
“A staff,” he replied.   
Why a staff? Was it because it was just convenient? Or was the particular tool of validation that God wanted to use? A staff to shepherd sheep. Fend off wild animals? Count sheep? Gently nudge or guide them? Lean on?
3 The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.” 
Moses threw it on the ground 
and it became a snake, 
and he ran from it.   
How did God do this? How does God transform a wooden staff into a living snake? Was the snake hissing at him? Was it a dangerous snake? I still jump at snakes. This does come across as a bit humorous as Moses runs from his staff-transformed-into-a-snake.
Exodus Moses_rod_turns_snake_BBL72-139
4 Then the LORD said to him, 
“Reach out your hand 
and take it by the tail.” 
So Moses reached out 
and took hold of the snake 
and it turned back into a staff in his hand.   
That took courage. Why the tail? I would rather take hold of it right behind the head, so that it could not bite me. And yet, I watch snake handlers grab the tail, and then use a stick about half way down the snake’s body? How is God doing this…changing the snake back into his staff and vice versa? 
5  “This,” said the LORD, 
“is so that they may believe that the LORD, 
the God of their fathers 
–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac 
and the God of Jacob 
–has appeared to you.” 
Proof. Validation. Would they think this trickery? Only something God or a god could do?
6 Then the LORD said, 
“Put your hand inside your cloak.” 
So Moses put his hand into his cloak, 
and when he took it out, 
it was leprous, like snow.  
Did this scare or frighten Moses? Is this what leprosy look like? Like snow?
 7  “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. 
So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, 
and when he took it out, 
it was restored, 
like the rest of his flesh.   
Moses had to be shocked.
8 Then the LORD said, 
“If they do not believe you 
or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, 
they may believe the second.   
Makes sense, but would they still think it gimmickry?
9 But if they do not believe these two signs 
or listen to you, 
take some water from the Nile 
and pour it on the dry ground. 
The water you take from the river 
will become blood on the ground.”   
A third sign. It’s as if God expects Israel’s skepticism or lack of trust in Moses. And yet, God can do anything as he is about to do. He is sparing no price at accomplishing his promise or objective of placing Abraham’s descendants back into their forefathers’ promised lands. God is keeping his word. And this is only a small token of the miracles or supernatural that he is about to perform.
10 Moses said to the LORD, 
“O Lord, I have never been eloquent, 
neither in the past 
nor since you have spoken to your servant. 
I am slow of speech and tongue.”   
Another obstacle anticipated. So despite three signs, Moses is still insecure. Does he mean that he is struggling even just communicating to God at the bush? Why was this important to Moses? Even then did leadership seem to require a mastery of words?
11 The LORD said to him, 
“Who gave man his mouth? 
Who makes him deaf or mute? 
Who gives him sight or makes him blind? 
Is it not I, the LORD?   
Why or how does God do this—make one blind and one not? Or is it that he simply allows the laws of genetic and disease run their courses?
12 Now go; I will help you speak 
and will teach you what to say.”  
God has answered his objection. I will do it for you. If I can turn a stick into a snake, and water into blood. 
13 But Moses said, 
“O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”   
Despite everything God has equipped him with, Moses still hesitates. It doesn’t surprise me. Moses still struggles. Why was he so afraid? Was his speech (such as the king’s speech in the film the King’s Speech) this bad? Did he stutter? Why would God use or allow his servant to be such a poor communicator? What was he afraid of? Would people laugh or not take him seriously? Is Moses really still asking out of the whole project?
14 Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses 
and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? 
I know he can speak well. 
He is already on his way to meet you, 
and his heart will be glad when he sees you.   
God seems to have had enough of Moses’ excuses. Why was Aaron already on his way to meet Moses? Had God put something on Aaron’s heart to go to Moses? Had God planned this anyway? Why did he become angry at Moses, if Aaron was already coming? Or had God picked Aaron for a different supporting role, but not a primary mouth-piece role?  When it says that God’s anger burns, just how mad is God? Is he really mad? Impatient? Or is Moses really pushing the envelope here?
15 You shall speak to him 
and put words in his mouth; 
I will help both of you speak 
and will teach you what to do.   
So Moses will speak after all? But Aaron will be the primary mouth piece?
16 He will speak to the people for you, 
and it will be as if he were your mouth 
and as if you were God to him.   
What an interesting expression—“God to him.” Moses would carry this much influence? 
17 But take this staff in your hand 
so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”
(Note: for a change of pace, sometimes try skimming the passage looking for nouns or naming words, then verbs or action words, or color words such as adjective or adverbs. Or look for stated questions or commands. Don’t get caught up in perfection either. Remember, the goal is to use any legitimate observing device to read or skim through the passage enough times that the student becomes more and more familiar with the passage and its narrative or argument. The more you observe the passage, the better will be your interpretation of the passage, and the better your interpretation of the passage, the better your application of the passage’s embedded truths or meanings.) 
Who’s? Moses, the LORD, they, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, man, who makes…who gives…I, the LORD, someone else, your brother, Aaron the Levite, the people, 
Where’s? on the ground, inside your cloak, from the Nile, on the dry ground, on his way, in his mouth, in your hand
When’s? then the Lord, then the Lord said, then the Lord said, and when he took it out, in the past, nor since, then the Lord’s anger, already on his way, when he sees you
• (Review) vv. 1-11  God calls Moses for the mission of his life—to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt and to take them back to the land, which was promised their forefathers.
 • (Review) vv. 12-22 God not only answers Moses question that he will be with him to help him accomplish the mission God has given him, he tells him his eternal name and gives him the message he is to take of freedom for Israelites from the Egyptians via God’s mighty hand. They will also not leave empty-handed.
• 4:1-17…
• Moses asks another question, “What if they don’t believe me?” v. 1
• The LORD gives him three signs:
a) his staff that turn into a snake and back 2-5
b) his hand turns to leprosy and back 6-8
c) water from the Nile River turning to blood 9
• But this is still not enough for Moses; he informs the LORD that he is not an eloquent speaker. v. 10.
• The LORD reassures Moses that he is capable of handling this and helping Moses. Vv. 11-12.
• But Moses protests and still asks for the LORD to send someone else. V. 13.
• Though the LORD becomes angry, he gives him his brother Aaron, to help him speak. Vv. 14-16
• He reminds him to take the staff; it will be the tool that God will perform his miracles through Moses. V. 17.
Summary…3:1-11: God calls Moses for a special mission; 3:12-22: God tells Moses he will not go alone and gives Moses God’s special name, I AM. 
4:1-17: But Moses, still fearful, asks about two problems: 1) what if the leaders of Israel don’t believe me? And 2) what about my lack of eloquence?
God answers both of these concerns: 1) along with two other signs, your staff will be a special staff that will manifest God’s powers; 2) Your brother Aaron will speak for you. 
Bottom line…I am not sending you back to your people empty handed. I am giving you a special powers and your brother Aaron’s voice. 
Note: Despite all this, Moses still does not seem secure or desiring of this call.
Special Note on the term “LORD”: Notice that I AM WHO I AM as well as LORD  are in all caps in the NIV. Why is this? 
The reason for this is that both phrases or words are one in the same. LORD in all caps becomes a substitute for I AM (or Yahweh, pronounced Yah-way in Hebrew) for God’s personal name. That is why we call him LORD. When “Lord” is not in all caps, it is the Hebrew word for “master” (adonai).
Why LORD  for I AM? Good question. Because God’s personal name, I AM or Yahweh, was considered sacred and not to be taken in vain (Ex 20, one of the ten commandments), scribes substituted the vowels for “Lord or master” (adonai) underneath the consonants for the Yahweh (I AM) within the biblical text since there were no vowels to begin with (Jews did not need them; we did). Rabbi’s knew they were to substitute “adonai,” Lord, for “Yahweh,” I AM, thus not profaning the LORD’s name. But what we, later readers did was to come up with an entirely new word, one that did not really exist, one that combines the consonants of Yahweh with the vowels of adonai–Jehovah. 
In fact, for the most part, I will seldom use it. It does not really exist. We have made it up. Either use LORD (Yahweh, I AM ) or  Lord (adonai, master or Lord).
So now you know why LORD is in all caps. Remember it stand for I AM or Yahweh, God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Joe or Joseph.
Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself? 
• God can do anything. Nothing stops him. He has no limitation, even turning water into blood or wood into a snake.
• Humans, even God’s servants, initially can be very insecure, not only doubting God’s call upon their lives, but their ability to truly accomplish the task God is giving them to do. 
• In human terms, God can and does become impatient with our doubting his provision for the task ahead.  
• God is not afraid to answer all our fears/requests, nor to give us the power, truth and tools we need to accomplish the job. 
• In the end, God can and does direct man, including his mouth, ears and eyes, including his being deaf, mute and blind. 
• God uses what we have as his tools.
• God can use our families to help us, as Aaron with Moses (not that there weren’t problems. In fact, there were.)
• God was already providing the answer to Moses’ rebuttals in Aaron’s coming to Moses before Moses had even brought up his speech impediment. 
So What’s? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share or confess it with the group.) 
2003 Application…
This Week’s struggle: I started off strong, but in the middle of the week, along with Jordan, I started watching the DVD of 24, a television series that allegedly takes place in a real time of 24 hours. It was so addicting–like a book that you can’t put down. Each episode—an hour—ended as a cliff-hanger, so it was hard to STOP watching it! Once you were finished with one DVD or episode, you wanted to go on to the next to see how the previous cliff-hanger was resolved. So I watched the entire 24 hours–actually about 16 hours (commercials had been edited out). Needless to say this really shot my productivity at the time. While it was fun, I fell behind, lost sleep and am not feeling well right now, and all this with a lot to do, as the weekend is coming up. 
Principle/Application:  Despite all that God attempts to provide us with to do the job, we can still doubt that he can help or resource ME to do it.
Can God get me through the next 36 hours? In fact, quite often, my life does seem like a 24 hour drama, especially as each weekend arrives. 
God can do anything. I only need to be sensitive to the tools and support he provides and walk in faith. He will give me the illustration, examples, editing and rehearsal I need to finish preparing my teaching. 
And in my various meetings, draw from the people God has brought me. Pull the answers from them. Empower them. In other words, everyday, be aware of God’s answers and resources as I am living out my life’s drama.
2014 Application…
Thanksgiving…I have young adults whom either I remember being born or knew shortly after they were born, independently coming to me saying I see a ministry need and I am not only willing to meet that need but am willing to lead it, if called upon. Tell me, who gets to see fruit like this in a lifetime of ministry? I am blessed beyond measure! 
And guess what? After a stressful and sustained drought, the Fall rains have returned. Something symbolic here, if you ask me. 
Struggle…an irritating fly in my joyful ointment, or perhaps as the “Beloved” cries out to her “Lover” in the Song of Songs, Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyard—for our vineyard is in floom bloom (Song of Songs 2:15). 
After seemingly a good, long run of not really having to think too deeply about finances—which has NOT been the case in previous years—we came up somewhat short here recently. It kind of caught me by surprise. My real concern is whether there is a gradual trend in which our financial output has been exceeding our financial input and that trend is just now getting exposed. We shall see. 
Truth…There are a thousands reasons something seemingly impossible will or cannot work, and yet if God calls for it to be done, and for whatever purpose, he can and will provide the resources, tools, truth and power necessary to accomplish or bring about his divinely-inspired decree or will. And despite all our seemingly reasonable human objections, there comes a point in time when the only alternative left to us is to merely trust God and step out in faith. And if God wants it done; He will do it. We are just the tools. And if he wants it done immediately, it will occur immediately, and if not, it will take longer, and longer is okay, maybe even better, because over time, it builds a stronger, more sustainable Spiritual confidence, faith, trust, backbone and relationship with our Creator…as opposed to miracles, that come and go so quickly, that as time goes by, we are tempted to question Why is God Not working in the same way as he did in the miracle? 
Note: I have seen people step out in denial. In other words, it was NOT trust in God, but their own selfish denial. And how do I know this? 1) long-term fruit or the lack thereof, and 2) they failed to take advantage of all the Spiritually supportive checks and balances that Scripture provided for them within the local church because God, it seemed was only talking to them…in a room of not just cold-hearted saints, but very godly men and women that just as passionately sought the will of God as well. 
This is not to say that God can’t or doesn’t call out the individual, as in the case of Moses, here (although Moses does have Aaron), or perhaps a Joan or Arc (France) or Gideon (Judges) or Christ himself, to go against the general public or cultural grain, and in so doing, establish a new Spiritual direction, trend or paradigm. But in those cases, history or Scripture usually makes it clear, that those surrounding the individual being led or called by God are NOT sincerely seeking the LORD as well. 
In the cases I am referring to, there are no checks and balances, and the person who is advocating that they are being led or called upon by God to do something special can’t even answer some basic motivational whys or validation of God’s direction. In this case, God over-abundantly validates Moses’ call and leading, and in fact, it is Moses who doubts the call. And in fact, I would probably be much more willing to listen to or trust someone WITH a speech or some other impediment who inwardly probably doesn’t want to do what they or others feel God is calling them to do. 
Application…Stick to the present general trend or course. I have been doing this a long time…listening to, sensing and courageously seeking to be obedient to God’s leading within my life. I feel fairly confident of the message he is giving me now, and the human resources (or Aarons) certainly seem to be stepping up to the plate and validating this direction. Stick to the course and message…Boots on the Ground…regardless of the proverbial flies in the ointment or annoying little foxes that will seek to ruin the crop. And what does Boots on the Ground  mean? More to come…It’s a metaphor for where I believe God is leading or taking our Spiritual family. Time will tell. It always does. 
Your struggle?
Principle/Prayerful application?
What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?
Which principles seem to relate?
How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 1:1-14 400 Years Later & a New Season 8-3-14

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses Excerpted Lessons…
Lesson 1: 400 Years Later and a New Season…
Ex 1:1-14

8/3/14 (orginal lesson date: 11/10/02)

Introduction…Anyone ever had an experience where, despite pain, suffering, injustice and oppression, you still prospered? Talk about it. Why would God do or allow such blessing in the midst of injustice?

After listing the names of the sons of Israel and telling how many of them that made the sojurn to Egypt, the book of Israel’s Exodus (or way out…of Egypt) opens with these words… “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” Ex. 1:6-7. Four hundred years after both Jacob and Joseph pass away, Moses, the author of both Genesis and Exodus, tells us that a new pharaoh sits on the throne, one who did not know about Joseph or his salvific exploits on behalf of Egypt and Egypt’s throne, and thus begins our drama. We move from the lives of Israel’s early partriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph to the lives of a nation—a nation led by one man, Moses. We move from Genesis, where we learn how Israel came to be in Egypt, to Exodus, where Israel will miraculously leave Egypt to take possession of her previously promised lands back in Canaan. The sins of the Amorites have reached the full measure. It is time for a change.

As you read, notice Moses’ simple beginning structure, which stylistically ties nicely with his previous book…the Beginnings or Genesis:

1) Moses list Jacob or Israel’s sons, vv. 1-5;
2) eventually, they all pass away v. 6;
3) but many more, a potential nation in fact, takes their place, v. 7;
4) which threatens Egypts’s reigning king or pharaoh, vv. 8-10;
5) who then comes up with a harsh plan to suppress, contain and enslave their vast growing numbers, vv. 12-14.

I wonder will it work.

Read the Passage three times…

 Exodus 1 

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob,
each with his family:

2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;

3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;

4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.

5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all;

Joseph was already in Egypt.

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died,

7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly
and became exceedingly numerous,
so that the land was filled with them.

8 Then a new king,
who did not know about Joseph,
came to power in Egypt.

9 “Look,” he said to his people,
“the Israelites have become much too numerous for us.

10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them
or they will become even more numerous and,
if war breaks out, will join our enemies,
fight against us and leave the country.”

11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

12 But the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and spread;
so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites

13 and worked them ruthlessly.

14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields;
in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

Ask questions…

Exod. 1

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, 
each with his family:   

2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;   

3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;   

4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.  

Are Jacob and Israel the same person? Why are both names used here? Did God not change Jacob’s name? Did he still use both names?

5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; 
Joseph was already in Egypt.   

Did this include wives and children or just children? So 12 sons had 70 children? Did this include Joseph’s sons because Joseph is mentioned after the mention of the seventy descendents?

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died,   

How long did it take them to die? Did they live long like their ancestors did? Didn’t they live to be like over a hundred? How old was Joseph when he died? His brothers? Did everything go well with them until his death? How about their children? Did they all get along? All the cousins? Then second and third and fourth cousins?

7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly 
and became exceedingly numerous, 
so that the land was filled with them.   

Sounds like they flourished to me. Is this why God took them to Egypt in the first place, to give them a place to prosper? To prosper off of Egypt’s great wealth? And to give the Amorites—the peoples living in the Promised Land—to build up more sins and therefore more judgment, because God was not unjust in taking their land away? (See Gen 15:12-15).  How many? Some say, several million. Where do they come up with that figure?

So because they were multiplying so rapidly, does this mean economic times were very good for them? Were they wealthy or just prosperous—ate well, flocks multiplied?

8 Then a new king, 
who did not know about Joseph, 
came to power in Egypt.   

I could see where after four centuries, everyone would forget about the past? That is twice as long as the history of our country, or it would be like going back to the Pilgrims? And we have certainly after almost 400 years thrown away most of their values. It’s illegal to talk about God in school. Pray to him. Post the Ten Commandments. Adultery is acceptable. We are working on homosexuality. So I could see where in 400 years, people might have forgotten where these people had come from in the first place. After all there were only about 80 in all to begin with. Nothing in Egypt.

This all leads to another question: how did they maintain their ethninticity all this time, that is their nationality? Did they all intermarry cousins, etc.? Did they ever marry Egyptians?

9 “Look,” he said to his people, 
“the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 

Were they becoming more than the Egyptians?

10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them 
or they will become even more numerous and, 
if war breaks out, will join our enemies, 
fight against us and leave the country.”   

So he seems to be using intimidation? Will this work out? Is this the best strategy? Is this smart? Who were their enemies? Usually it was kingdoms from the other side of the Fertile Crescent. In later centuries it will be the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Persians. After that the Romans? Who cares if they leave? How would they leave? There are so many?

11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.   

12 But the more they were oppressed, 
the more they multiplied and spread; 
so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites  

13 and worked them ruthlessly.   

How long a period of time was all this? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years? How did they work them ruthlessly? Did they not let them tend their flocks? Did they work long hours? No time with their families?

14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; 
in all their hard labor 
the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

They were slaves?


Whos?  the sons of Israel, who,  Jacob, his family, 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;   Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher, descendants of Jacob, seventy in all, Joseph, all his brothers, all that generation, Israelites, them, new king, who, his people, Israelites, we, us, they, them, our enemies, slave masters, Egyptians.

Wheres? went to Egypt, in Egypt, the land, in Egypt, leave the country, over them, Pithom and Rameses, store cities, in the fields

Whens? Now Joseph, then a new king


• Jacobs’s sons all die off. vv. 1-6.
• But as their descendants replace them, and they become numerous. v. 7.
• Their sheer numbers threaten a new pharaoh who seeks to harshly repress them to keep them under control via work as slaves. vv. 8-14

Summary… A new pharaoh, having no knowledge of Joseph and what he did to save Egypt and prosper the royal dynasty, is threatened by the growing numbers of the descendants of Joseph’s father, Israel, and so in an attempt to keep them subdued, via forced labor, he enslaves the children of Israel.

Bottom line…a new day, a new king, and a new set of circumstances result in the sons of Israel being oppressed as opposed to protected as their forefathers were.

Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?

• Most big things started out small, such as a savings or retirement account, a business, a country, an illness, such as cancer or even addiction. Everything has a beginning somewhere. The children of Israel started out with one couple, Abraham and Sarah. From there was added one son, Isaac. Then Isaac had two sons, only one of which, Jacob, did God extend the same promises of a people, land and blessing to that he had extended to Jacob’s father and grandfather. Then, via 12 sons, Jacob’s family, four hundred years later, as grown into a subdued people group suffering under the harsh hand of Egyptian rule. The church also started out small. One shoot from the stump of Jesse, Jesus, calls out 12 to follow, trust him and build his church. Surrounding those 12 is another hundred plus. At Pentecost, God’s Spirit liberally pours himself onto thousands who repent of not having trusted the Savior’s sacrifical atonement for their imperfection, and from there, over the next almost two thousand years, millions and billions come to trust, follow and obey the name of Jesus. Most big things started out small.

• Despite, persecution, repression and injustice, God’s blessing prospered.  Persecution will not stop the will of God. God’s will always trumps man’s misguided plans to thwart his plans and will. Nothing was going to stop the Children of Israel from growing into a people group, not even harsh, repressive slavery. God wins this one. He always does.

• God allowed the king of Egypt to make his natural choices. Pharaoh saw numbers and naturally saw threat. In his own way, he attempted a solution. Little did he know his flawed, insecure solution would be used by God to bring about the very thing he feared. His lack of knowledge or trust in Yahweh or I AM God resulted in his and his nation’s own downfall. One pharaoh trusted many years before and is richly blessed; another does not, and is cursed by the God he refuses to bow down to. He chose the wrong god and wrong methodology. This is the story of man. Again and again, foolishly kings, man, rulers attempt to disprove the Creator of the Universe, and again and again, they are brought to their broken knees. Litle does man realize that all will bow; those who do so because by faith and trust, they see or believe in an invisible Creator find the salvation they so desperately were seeking; those that refuse choose their own required destruction. To submit or not to submit, that is the question. It makes all the differene in the world. In fact, you could say, it’s the only difference that really counts when ALL is said and done.

• Despite God having chosen and blessed the children of Israel, in the shorter term, just as he had with Jacob and Joseph, he allowed his beloved to suffer at the hands of an unfair earthly judge and ruler. We tend to think that if we suffer, something is wrong, and perhaps it is, but not in the way we think. Things have been wrong since the beginning of Creation, or at least the man and the woman’s choice to not trust God and instead believe the half-truth of the Deceiver. So definitely things are wrong. Yes, there is sin, injustice, crime, poverty, suffering and misery but, due to sin and man’s flawed choices. And as a part of this, God’s people, from time to time and in different seasons, will suffer in the midst of man’s chaotic unrighteousness. And sometimes, God’s people will even suffer because they are God’s people. The Scriptures have foretold us this, and we know even from the onset, as the righteous Job learned, there is a spiritual war that is being waged within the eternal heavens and that has spilled over into time and space, including earth itself. And yes, God does allow his people…those that do believe in him…to suffer injustice in the midst of this. Sometimes, we even suffer, due to our own sins and the sins of the righteous. No one is perfect. And yet, God will use the cries of the suffering to demonstrate the contrast between good and evil, salvation and destruction. So yes, for a time, God’s people are allowed to suffer in the midst of evil, but justice delayed will never be justice denied. And we have a Savior.

• Threat is natural element of a fallen, imperfect world, and thus Pharaoh felt threatened by what he perceived he might not be able to control. His security was not in God, but in what he could do. Well, what he does turns into a royal failure.

So What? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share it with the group.)

Note: While I may not include 2002’s application every time, perhaps for the sake of truth in time or a longer-distance Spiritual perspective, from time to time, I may mix it in with 2014’s application.

Struggles (2002): I have been really dragging lately–got my nights mixed up with my days and would rather work and study through the night and sleep in the mornings. Things are pretty quiet around the house (without Jordan home and gone off to college) and the church (since, we have finally completed constructing our new church home). I find myself struggling to prepare or study ahead. Not sure if its burnout or PBS… post-building syndrome or what? There is still a lot to do—much of which I can’t do or don’t want to do by myself. So I am kind of in the middle—unfinished. It is something I am very uncomfortable with, but am trying to accept on a daily basis.

2014 Update…We had begun planning to build with the purchase of 26 acres back in the early to mid-90s. After several church fractures in sucession where one church became three, we were forced to put our building plans on hold for quite a few years. Finally in 2000, after some healing and Spiritual rebuilding, we raised up a mortgage buffer fund of $50,000. In 2001, we began building a church of our own. We moved in during the summer of 2002. So in some ways, 2002 represented the completion of an almost decade long dream.

Thanksgiving (2014)…We are still alive, and at times, in ways perhaps not measured by man, we are thriving. Over the years, what many within the church growth world thought was God’s blessing at the time, now, many years later, appear more like cheap man-made imitations. Numbes, expansion, buildings, monies given, even evangelism and outreach can all appear like signs of God’s growth, and they may well indeed be at times, but NOT always. True growth begins from the inside out…a mind reborn, a love sustained, a flesh slain, a flawed human instinct crucified, Spirit-driven counter-intuitive obedience and discomfort, truth courageously spoken and confessed, Spiritual stones becoming a Spiritual one, working through conflict and differences to accomplish a Spirit-inspired greater good. What a broken, dysfunctional and flawed family of believers failed to accomplish in the way of outward, artificial and superficial numbers it has more than made up in attempting to create a real, bibical and Spiritual enviromentf for growth, one characterized by more than your average or typical Spiritual depth, truth and honesty.

This week. It has been a good-time, another good month. June was focus, and a lot had to get done and was done. July was about balancing ministry with some time off with my family. We did pretty good. I think we experienced a happy medium, and now the pedal has once again begun to be pressed ever more aggressively. Thank you, God. Now please, bless all my Spiritual endeavors, including writing and ministry.

Principles: 1) Big things start out small and can grow very large. Sometimes, the growth can even be exponential as it was in the case of Israel and later the church, which means in the beginning, there is slow growth over a long period of time, but then suddenly there comes an explosion of growth over a very short period of time. We typically refer to this as overcoming the learning curve, and in many ways, with respect to humanity, it would seem that in the last few centuries, and especially with respect to technology, we have become the beneficiaries of previous generations’ long, slow climb up the learning curve’s more horizontal section. Thus, we are now screaming up the vertical section of the learning curve with explosions of knowledge. Perhaps, we only think we are on the vertical section? Perhaps we are still in the midst of a long slow climb? But with the ability to destroy ourselves many times over via nuclear annihiliation, it would seem we are peaking with respect to knowledge and technology. And in fact, what does come next on the learning curve because afterall, you can’t grow at this rate forever? Eventually comes a recession or bust, with the learning curve morphing downward again and thus becoming a bell curve.

2) Only God can defeat bell curve.  What does that look like? Heaven, I suppose. Unlimited growth. Unlimited blessing? I am not sure how it all works. I do know that despite suppression and ruthless oppression, both God’s old covenant people and later on God’s new covenant people experienced exponential growth and blessing. Therefore, don’t discount both God’s provision and blessing even in times of great sinful hardship. God can and will bless and reward his people for their faith-based obedience, hope, love, trust and service.

Prayerful application: I don’t have all the answers. I know that there seems to be seasons in my life. “For every time there is a season.”

Eccl. 3:1   There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil?

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for men
than to be happy and do good while they live.

13 That everyone may eat and drink,
and find satisfaction in all his toil –this is the gift of God.

14 I know that everything God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.

God does it so that men will revere him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

When I read Solomon’s thoughts on time, I realize that I have only begun to skim the surface concerning the manifold seasons of life. I would venture to say that just about nothing about life or ministry has ever been predictable. It’s never been the same. I would even venture to say that while yes, the earth’s hemispheres move from cold to hot back to cold, even within the designated seasons, while there is some similiarities, even these similarities seem to vary from year to year. Some summers are cooler than normal; others hotter and dryer; some wetter. So what is Solomon actually saying? What is he trying to tell us and why? That life is not static; it’s always in a constant state of flux or change. That you can’t hitch life’s wagon to any one thing, time or season because things will change. A baby will be born, someone dies; someone is healed, another dies; there are moments of both joy and tears. But in the midst of life’s seemingly constantly unpredictable chaos, one thing stands for certain…God exists. God is in charge; God is in control, so Solomon concludes, we all might as well take a chill pill and, within divinely-guided moral boundaries, enjoy this life because it’s all going to happen, whether we want it to or not, anyway.

So whether I or we are at the small of something that could become very large, recapturing the Bible’s essence of just what Christ’s body, the church, was really supposed to look and act like, in the first place, or if we are done with our large with the church in general and things are about to become increasingly worse as they have just become for the children of Israel within our story, or we are somewhere in between, it just doesn’t make any difference. Our hope is in God regardless of the outward circumstances and he can still bless his church in the midst of great oppresion.  Thank you, God for the imperfect ministry you have allowed and are allowing me to attempt today,

Your servant,


Your struggle?


Prayerful application?

What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?

Which principles seem to relate?

How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)

Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Versio‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.