Escape Plan

In 1848, William and Ellen Craft masterminded a creative and daring escape. The two had married in Macon, Georgia, in 1846, but were held in slavery by different masters.​​ Terrified of being separated, they devised an ingenious plan to flee the Deep South for Philadelphia. The light-skinned Ellen cut her hair short, dressed in men’s clothing and wrapped her head in bandages to pose as an injured white man. William, meanwhile, assumed the role of her loyal black manservant. On December 21, 1848, the Crafts donned their disguises and boarded a train to begin the long journey North. The scheme seemed doomed from the very start after Ellen found herself sitting next to a close friend of her master, but her elaborate costume prevented her from being recognized. The Crafts spent the next several days traveling by train and steamer through the South, lodging in fine hotels and rubbing elbows with upper-class whites to maintain their​​ cover. Since she could not read or write, Ellen placed her arm in a sling to avoid signing tickets and papers, but her ruse was nearly found out when a Charleston steamer clerk refused to sell the pair their tickets without a signature. Luckily for the Crafts, the captain of their previous ship happened to pass by and agreed to sign for her. The Crafts arrived in Philadelphia on Christmas Day and were sheltered by abolitionists before continuing on to Boston.

This couple had an escape plan, didn’t they? They wore disguises and anticipated some of the pitfalls of the journey that could have gotten them caught. This morning, we are going to see another creative and daring escape plan found in Exodus 12:1-13. God has devised an escape plan for the Israelites and he instructs Moses and Aaron on how his plan is to be implemented among his chosen people. The specifics of the plan must be kept to the letter because it is a matter of life and death. For the first time, both Egyptians and Israelites will be subject to a plague and its punishment because both are sinful. But God through his escape plan will make a way for those who believe in him to escape the punishment for their sin. And praise God, he does the same for us today which brings us to our big idea this morning that​​ God desires that his people escape the punishment for their sin.

Before we start to unpack God’s escape plan for his people in Egypt and ultimately for you and I in the here and now, let’s pray: Lord God, thank you this day that you have made​​ and thank you that we can gather together as a community of believers in your house. May your great name be praised and glorified this morning as we open your Word seeking nourishment for our souls that we so desperately need. In Jesus’ name. Amen ​​ 

Our first point this morning is Preamble. Found in Exodus 12:1-2. This is what God’s Word says, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.” In chapter 11, Moses tells Pharaoh that every​​ firstborn son in Egypt and of the cattle will die.

The final plague seems imminent but as we open chapter 12, Moses delays telling the actual event, heightening the drama, especially for the first hearers. But that wasn’t the only reason. Moses inserts very important preparations that are from the Lord to the Israelites that are essentially his escape plan for the people. It is imperative for the Israelites to follow these preparations precisely in order to make it out alive. The escape plan communicates​​ his present intentions as they prepare for the final plague and his future intentions as they remember his​​ mighty deeds once they leave Egypt. These preparations and the focus on their future would have given the people confidence in the Lord’s escape plan​​ and his promises to them.

We are reminded that Moses wrote the book of Exodus somewhat later, probably in the wilderness or in the Promised Land. “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt” means the following instructions from the Lord were spoken to them while still in Egypt. The preparations the Israelites were to make for the first Passover and later in remembrance of it started in Egypt. The Lord then institutes a new beginning to the Israelite year. While living in Egypt, they had probably been subject to an agricultural calendar which would have been dominated by the planting and harvesting seasons. “This month” literally means “this new moon” and suggests that the Israelites would now be following a lunar calendar. ​​ The present month was March/April, and from now on would be the “first” month of their year. The Lord was instituting a religious calendar based on what he is about to do for his chosen people. Their escape from slavery in Egypt would mark a new beginning for them and would be celebrated​​ in the years to come. Interestingly, this would not be the only time that God’s people would be freed from captivity on the first day of the first month of the year. In Ezra 7:9 it says, “He [Ezra] had begun his journey from Babylon on the first day of the​​ first month.” It is not a coincidence that the Israelites leave captivity in Babylon on the first day of the first month of the year. ​​ 

After the Lord instituted the beginning of a new religious calendar for his chosen people, he gave them instructions for their preparations for the coming plague. It would be vital that the people follow these preparations to the letter for his escape plan to be successful. That brings us to our second point this morning, which is Preparation, found in 12:3-11. This is what God’s Word says, “Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the​​ goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where​​ they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs. Do not​​ leave any of it till morning; if some is left till morning, you must burn it. This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

The first​​ thing we notice in this section is that Moses and Aaron are to give these instructions to the whole community of Israel. This was probably done by first informing the elders of the people who would then relay the instructions to the rest of the Israelites. This is the first of over hundred times that the term “community” appears in the Bible referring to God’s people. The church today is also a “community”; a community of believers and followers of Jesus Christ that share a bond with one another and worship the same Lord and Savior. Moses addressing the whole community would signal that something of great importance is about to be said. What he relays are very specific and precise preparations the people needed to follow to escape their slavery in Egypt. Previously, the Lord had made a distinction between his people and the​​ Egyptians, exempting them from the effects of the plagues. But now there would be no such distinction this time. The only way for the Israelites to escape the Lord’s judgment was to follow his preparations precisely.​​ (BIG IDEA)​​ The Lord’s preparations included the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the Lord’s escape plan. The “when” was the tenth day of the present month. The “who” was each man or father of each household. And the “what” was a lamb. Each man was to take one lamb for each household meaning this was not an individual meal but a communal one. It was also important that the men or fathers of each household did this because they were the spiritual leaders of their families.​​ This meal was to have spiritual ramifications for all time. The men were to choose the lamb that would be slaughtered that would save their family from death and deliver them to freedom. Later on, when this event was remembered, the father would also play​​ an important role. They were to pass down the story of the Exodus during the Passover seder meal. They were the ones who were to tell what the Lord had done for his people. If the fathers neglected their role in Egypt, his firstborn would have perished. If the fathers neglected their role in the future, the story of how the Lord saved his people would be forgotten.

This is exactly what happened in Israel from around 1050 to 620 BC. According to the account of King Josiah’s reign in the Books of Kings and​​ Chronicles, the Jews did not observe Passover for 400 years, from the time of the Prophet Samuel to the time of Josiah. 2 Kings 23:21-22 says, “The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.” Neither in the days of the judges who led Israel nor in the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah had any such Passover been observed.” And 2 Chronicles 35:18 says, “The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem.”

The Israelite fathers at some​​ point stopped obeying the Lord. They stopped celebrating the Passover and forgot to remember what God had done for them in bringing them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. Men, fathers, let us not neglect our Christian duty to be the spiritual leaders of our family. Let us obey the Lord in all things and pass these things down to our children and our grandchildren. And for those who do not have children, to pass them down to your nieces and nephews, and any other children you come in contact with.​​ It is imperative that we do not forget the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that saves everyone who believes from their sin and gives them eternal life. That brings us to our first next step found on the back of your communication card. It is for all​​ the men this morning: My next step is to​​ be the spiritual leader of my family, passing down the great things the Lord has done, especially the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

The preparations for choosing the lambs show that extreme care was to be taken. If a household was too small for their lamb they were to get together with their nearest neighbor and share it. We see the precision of the preparation the people were to take. They were to calculate exactly how much each person would eat so there would​​ be no leftovers. No one was to go without, and no one was to gorge themselves. The meat and the eating of it was important. The fact that more than one family could take part showed a communal aspect of the meal. But there was also a worship aspect to it.​​ The word “eat” appears thirteen times in Exodus 12:1-20. Hamiliton says,​​ “The OT seldom dissociates worship from eating. Dinner is not something that follows worship. Dinner is an integral part of worship.” It is interesting that when we are connecting with others, we are also connecting with God.

The animals chosen were to be year old males without defect. Verse 5 stipulated the animal could be a lamb or a goat. They were to be a fully grown but young animal in the fulness of its strength. The important thing was not that it was lamb or a goat but that it was without defect. It had to be the best they had. In Deuteronomy 17:1, we see these words, “Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.” The animal had to be a perfect sacrifice to be the substitute for their sins. This perfect sacrifice foreshadowed Christ as our perfect substitute, who would save us from the punishment for our sins. 1 Peter 1:18-19 says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” As sinners, we are unworthy before a holy God, and in need of a Savior. We need a substitute to take the punishment for our sins just like the Israelites did on the first Passover. The animal they chose had to be without defect to satisfy the wrath of God just as Jesus, the perfect “lamb​​ of God”, satisfied his wrath for us. This reminds us of our big idea that​​ God desires that his people escape the punishment for their sin.​​ (Big Idea)

The lamb or goat was to be taken care of by each household for four days, until the fourteenth of the month. This would give them time to ensure that they had chosen a perfect animal, without blemishes or defects. Also the lamb or goat would become part of the family and by the time it was slaughtered would have been cherished and mourned. The sacrifice would become precious to each family. This also would have been a public testimony of their faith in the Lord and his promise to free them from slavery. The entire community of Israelites were to slaughter the lambs or goats at the same time, at twilight on the fourteenth of the month. Twilight was the period between early evening and sunset giving them between one and a half to two hours to kill the animal and prepare the meal. The fathers acted on behalf of each family member just as the priests would later in Israel’s history. It would have been a solemn act as they sacrificed the animals as a community. It is interesting that in chapter 12, the plural “lambs” is never used, reminding us of Jesus’ sacrifice. Urquhart says, “There was only one before God’s mind—The Lamb of Calvary.”

Next, we see the “where.” They were to put the blood of the animal on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses where they would eat the lambs. A number of commentators say they would have actually tied the lamb or goat​​ in their doorways on the tenth day and would have slaughtered them right there on the fourteenth day. The blood of the perfect animal would have been on all four sides of the doorframe leading into their houses. Again, this would be a public showing of each family’s obedience and faith that the Lord would keep his word and protect them from this final plague. The applying of the blood ​​ highlighted the fact that this was a sacrifice and would save those who lived there. Milgrom says, “The things that receive​​ blood are extremities, the particular points of the object that a hostile force would strike first.” The blood on their door frames was to keep the Destroyer out of the house.

Next, we see “how” they were to prepare and eat the meal. It was to be prepared​​ and eaten on the​​ same night they slaughtered the animal. They were to roast the meat over the fire and eat it with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast or unleavened bread. They were not to eat it raw or cooked in water and the head, legs and inner parts were to be roasted, as well. Roasting the meat highlighted the sacrificial nature of the meal and that the Israelites were to be consecrated or “set apart” as God’s chosen people. They weren’t supposed to eat the meat raw, probably to keep them distinct from the pagan culture they will find themselves surrounded by in the Promised Land. They weren’t supposed to boil the meat either. Wiersbe says, “It was forbidden to be boiled because the bones would have to be broken and the meat in cooking would separate from the bones. It was important to see the wholeness of the lamb.” This reminds us that none of Jesus’ bones were broken on the cross. Roasting the animal with its head, legs and inner parts meant they didn’t have to fully butcher the animal. This preparation of the meat would have been the fastest and simplest way, saving time and demonstrating a readiness to leave at a moment’s notice.

Eating the meat with bitter herbs and bread without yeast also pointed to the quickness and ease of preparing the​​ meal. The bitter herbs could be eaten raw or roasted with the meat. The bitter herbs would remind them of the bitter experience of slavery in Egypt, that God was going to deliver them from captivity and remind them of their remorse over breaking God’s law.​​ Eating unleavened bread was often associated with sacrificial meals. Leviticus 2:5 says, “If your grain offering is prepared on a griddle, it is to be made of the finest flour mixed with oil, and without yeast.” Yeast was a symbol of impurity and sin. It​​ is hidden and works silently and secretly; it spreads and pollutes. Eating anything without yeast or leaven was so serious that in Exodus 12:15 anyone who did was to be cut off from the community. Eating unleavened bread signified they were ridding themselves of sin and impurity. 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 says, “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

The Israelites were God’s chosen people, and the Passover was to set them​​ apart as his special people to do his special work in the world. Paul urges the church to purge sin from among their midst and present themselves as set apart to the Lord to do his work in the world. It is only when we are considered righteous before a holy God that we can fulfill his purpose for our lives. That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to​​ Purge the leaven (sin) from my life so I can be set apart to do God’s work in the world. ​​ Since they had calculated the meat that each person would eat, there was to be nothing of the lamb or goat remaining. If there was any remaining, they were to burn it. This highlighted the sacrificial nature of the meal and pointed to their trust in the Lord for his provision in the desert. It was also​​ a sacred meal and was to be treated as such.

Then the Lord instructed the people how they were to eat this special meal. They were to eat it with their cloak tucked into their belt, their sandals on their feet and their staff in their hands. Cloaks were usually worn loosely indoors and tucked in their belts when they were traveling. Sandals were usually only worn outdoors and not indoors. And staffs or walking sticks were used when traveling from one place to the other. This showed their trust in the Lord​​ that he would deliver them from slavery, showed their commitment to go where the Lord would lead them and​​ showed their readiness to travel when the time came. Guzik says, “Faith was essential to the keeping of Passover.” Hebrews 11:28 says, “By faith he [Moses] kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Lastly, they were to eat the meal in haste. This was not to be a relaxing meal but one eaten in anticipation of being freed from slavery at any moment. They were to be fully ready to depart. The Lord then calls the meal the “Lord’s Passover.” This is the first use of the word “Passover” and describes the act of the Lord in rescuing and redeeming the Israelites as a community​​ from slavery in Egypt.

After giving specific and precise instructions for the preparations of the execution of his escape plan, the Lord tells Moses how the plague would happen and how those who believed the Lord would be protected from judgment which brings us to our third point, Protection, found in 12:12-13. This is what God’s Word says, “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the​​ Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.”

It is still the same night that the meal has been consumed. On that night the Lord would “pass through” Egypt and “strike down” every firstborn, of men and animals. To “pass through” meant judgment and to “strike down” meant to kill with a fatal blow. Because Pharaoh had tried to exterminate the Israelites, God’s firstborn, God would exterminate the firstborn of Egypt. But unlike Pharaoh, God’s “striking down” would be a quick and merciful judgment. The firstborn was God’s by right and he was exercising his right to do with them as he wished. When Pharaoh oppressed and killed the Israelites, he was setting himself up as “god” and trying to take away Yahweh’s right to the firstborn. The firstborn of the animals were to be “struck down” probably because so many of the Egyptian gods were represented by animals. Stuart says, “The gods were seen, above all, as the grantors of life and protectors of the living. The plagues, appropriately, were largely focused on death. The tenth and final plague showed that their gods could not save anyone or anything from death. If God can take the life of the​​ firstborn, he can take the life of anyone regardless of birth order.” By taking the lives of the firstborn of Egypt, God brought judgment on all the gods of Egypt. God then states that “He is the Lord.” This was his signature and emphasized his identity.​​ There would be no question who was “passing through” Egypt and killing the firstborn. He would be supreme over all other gods and has the authority to claim the firstborn of the Egyptians and Israelites alike. This would give further proof of his presence​​ in the land and his sovereignty over it.

As the Lord would go through Egypt killing the firstborn, the houses that had the blood applied to their doorposts would be “passed over”. It is important to not forget that the Israelite’s firstborn were also subject to this judgment. The Israelites were as guilty of sin as the Egyptians were and both needed a sacrifice to be saved. Each family’s lamb would die in place of their firstborn. The innocent would die in place of the guilty and God’s justice would be satisfied. Merida says, “The blood on their doors served as a sign that judgment had already fallen at that house. God accepted the blood of the sacrifice and passed over their sin.” This was the mercy of God. The blood would be a sign to the Israelites of God’s promise and that they trusted in the Lord to favorably intervene and free them from slavery. The power was not in the sign but in God’s word and promise to “pass over” the houses who had applied the blood to their door​​ frames. The Lord would see the blood of the sacrificial lamb or goat and even though they were eligible to be destroyed, no destructive plague would touch them when he struck Egypt. He would literally “stand watch over” and protect them from the Destroyer. It wasn’t their Hebrewness that​​ would save them but by trusting, believing and obeying God that the blood of the sacrifice would take their punishment for their sin.​​ (Big Idea).

On April 25, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union experienced a meltdown and created​​ an enormous tragedy. It is one of the worst disasters in the history of nuclear power. To make the best of a catastrophic situation, the Russian authorities decided their best plan of attack for resolving this mess was to dump hundreds of tons of sand and​​ concrete into the live reactor in order to seal it up and prevent its radioactive discharges. One helicopter pilot was decorated for his heroism in making dozens of passes over the hot reactor to dump the huge cargoes of sand and concrete. Each pass he made over the reactor increased his health risk, but the job had to be done or the reactor would keep bubbling out its deadly fallout for decades to come. This pilot exposed himself to the deadly radiation in order to save the lives of millions of people and​​ many more who had not yet been born. This one man’s sacrifice saved many lives.

Almost two thousand years before this, there was another sacrifice by one person which would save the lives of millions of people and many more who had yet to be born. Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on a cross to offer salvation for all humanity. Jesus was the Passover lamb foreshadowed by the lamb that was slain by the Israelite families in Egypt. It was Jesus’ shed blood that was foreshadowed by the blood put on the doorposts​​ that evening. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin.” However, for Jesus’ blood to be effective for us we must appropriate that sacrifice for ourselves. His atonement must be made personal for each one of us. Anders says, “Jesus’ sacrifice can be studied and contemplated, but until a person applies the blood of Christ by faith to his or her own heart, there is no hope of eternity in his presence in heaven.” Those who are born again have the blood of Jesus covering them. God sees his firstborn son’s blood on us and passes over us. He forgives our sins and see the righteousness of Jesus as our own. We need the righteousness of Jesus to be in a relationship with God. This can’t happen because of anything in us. So,​​ where does your righteousness come from? Are you trying to achieve salvation through “good works” or “going to church” or “giving to the poor”? Those are good things, but they can’t save you. Only by believing in Jesus and what he came to earth to do can you be saved. ​​ God has provided the perfect Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, and everyone who trusts in his blood will be saved. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to​​ Apply the blood of Jesus Christ by faith to my heart, trusting in Him for salvation.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings, let us close our time together in prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word. Thank you that it is truth and life and light. Help us to feed on your Word not only on Sundays but every day of the week. Lord, help those men who call you their Lord and Savior to be the spiritual leaders of the church and their families. And help us all to​​ purge the leaven or sin from our lives so that we are able to do your work and will in our communities and the world. Lastly, Lord, if there is anyone here this morning or listening that has not applied the blood of Jesus Christ to their hearts, trusting in Him for salvation. I pray that today would be the day and that your kingdom would continue to grow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Paint It Black

On August 1, 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew set sail from London aboard the ship Endurance. They were bound for Antarctica, where the famous explorer hoped to traverse the continent on foot. But Shackleton never made the trek because before the Endurance could reach land, the ship became hopelessly lodged in an ice pack. It was January 1915, and from this point on their goal was simply survival. The crew faced many hardships in the months that followed, including freezing temperatures and near starvation. But of all the frozen terrors they faced, none was more disheartening than the long polar night. The sailors grew uneasy as winter set in, and the light began to fade. In early May the sun vanished altogether, not to be seen again until late July. Shackleton’s biographer wrote, “In all the world there is no desolation more complete than the polar night. It is a return to the Ice Age—no warmth, no life, no movement. Only those who have experienced it can fully appreciate what it means to be without the sun day after day and week after week. Few men unaccustomed to it can fight off its effects altogether, and it has driven some men mad.” The bottom line is that humans need light and interaction to stay sane. Without light, we lose our sense of time, and without interaction, we become consumed with loneliness and boredom. With this sensory deprivation comes the strangest, most unimaginable psychological effects.

The Rolling Stones wrote a song in the mid-sixties called Paint it Black. At the end of the song it says – I wanna see it painted, painted black, Black as night, black as coal, I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky, I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black. In the song, the author has suffered a sudden loss, and can’t bear that life must go on without that person – his mourning has veiled his appreciation for the vibrant colors around him and he can’t even consider anyone else in his present state. There is little respite in the author’s grief, and as the song ends, he seems to sink deeper and deeper into his suffering saying “It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black.”

These words can also reflect a spiritual truth in our world today. When we are living in darkness our lives are black and we want everyone around us and even all of creation to be black as well. But if we only knew what true blackness was like, we would probably do a closer self-examination and long for the Light. Eternal “outer darkness” is how Jesus describes hell. He says it is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, and He teaches us that it is a real place where real people will be sent. But being sent there is a voluntary choice. Jesus has offered us light, life, and peace in place of that; taking all of the darkness of the world upon Himself so that we could see the true Light of God once again. This morning in our scripture found in Exodus 10:21-29, the Egyptians are going to be plunged into darkness for three days. It will be a total darkness that can be felt, and they will not be able to see anyone else or even have the ability to leave their homes. The three days of physical darkness with certainly effect the Egyptians emotionally, but the darkness is really symbolic of their spiritual state. God doesn’t want them to stay in darkness which is why he keeps imploring Pharaoh to repent and let his people go. He wants Pharaoh and the Egyptians to “know” that he is Lord and in knowing and accepting that fact they can be brought into the light which brings us to the big idea that God wants us to understand from this passage this morning that God desires his people to live in the light.

Let’s pray: Lord God, we pause to thank you for the study of your Word. It is a light unto our path and food for our souls. May we be attentive to your Holy Spirit this morning as we dive into your Holy scriptures. Let us be convicted, corrected and instructed in righteousness by it. Please do what only you can do in our hearts and minds and wills. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This morning there are two points. The first is No Warning found in Exodus 10:21-23. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”

This morning, we are studying the ninth plague of darkness. It is the third plague in the third cycle of plagues and most resembles the plague of gnats and the plague of boils in that there was no warning to Pharaoh that it was coming. Having no warning would have brought Egypt to a standstill making its impact all the more dire and frightening. God instructs Moses to act and from that action God will bring the plague upon Egypt. In this instance, Moses is to stretch out his hand toward the sky and God will bring a darkness that “can be felt” over all of Egypt. Once God gave Moses the instructions, he immediately obeyed. He stretched out his hand and his staff, which is implied, toward the sky and instantaneously total darkness covered Egypt. Mackay says, “three days emphasized the completeness of God’s control over the situation in Egypt.” Total darkness is literally translated as ‘the darkest of darkness’ or “pitch-black darkness.” Alter describes it as “the claustrophobic palpability of absolute darkness.” Pharoah and the Egyptians would have seen the darkness as judgment and an ominous sign of what was to come. Total or “thick” darkness is used in the OT for the devastating effects of God’s judgment. Isaiah 8:22 says, “Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” And Zephaniah 1:15 says, “That day will be a day of wrath—a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness.”

The darkness over Egypt was so intense that the Egyptians couldn’t see anyone else or even leave their house for three whole days. Can you imagine this? Imagine living in the same house with your family but it is so dark that you can’t even see them. Imagine not being able to even leave your house because it is so dark. This eerie darkness would have caused panic and foreboding throughout the land of Egypt. Some commentators say this plague was caused by an eclipse or a sandstorm that made light and visibility nonexistent. But think about this: they couldn’t even seem to light a candle and there were no outside lights such as the moon or the stars. God had made it so flint couldn’t be ignited, fires couldn’t be started, and the moon and the stars were no longer in the Egyptian sky. It was a true and total blackout sent by God, and the Egyptians could do nothing but “grope” around in the darkness. It would have been dangerous to move around because you could fall or run into things. It would have been easier just to be still. Again, for the third plague in a row it was unlike anything the Egyptians had experienced before.

But, surprise, the Israelites had light in the places where they lived. This was truly a supernatural darkness brought on by God and not some natural occurrence. Now we don’t know if the cycle of day and night continued in Goshen as normal, but certainly they were able to have light in their houses. The Israelites continuing to have light signified that the presence of the Lord was with his people. Guzik says, “Light is not only a physical property; it is an aspect of God’s character. What we see with the ninth plague is God, in judgment, withdraw His presence so significantly that the void remaining is darkness which may even be felt.” And concurrently, God is light for the Israelites as he is for us as well. Isaiah 60:3 says, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” And Revelation 21:23-24 talking about the New Jerusalem says, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” Physically, God made it so his people had light in order that the Egyptians and the Israelites would both know that he is the Lord. Isn’t that the way it should be? God’s people should be literal “lighthouses” in a dark world. (Big Idea).

The Egyptians were not only struggling physically in the darkness but emotionally as well. There would have been widespread panic and belief that the natural order of things had been stopped. It would have caused sensory deprivation, disorientation, depression and psychological distress. Since they believed that darkness brought death, they would have been terrified and had a sense of doom. They also worshipped the sun and the sun-god Ra. Every sunset represented death to them, but each sunrise offered them a hope of resurrection and the life-giving power of Ra. They had faith that the eternally rising sun could never be destroyed and each morning, they celebrated Ra’s victory over the forces of darkness and chaos. Darkness for three days straight was an attack by Yahweh on Ra and showed that Yahweh was more powerful than the most powerful god in Egypt. For Pharaoh it was even worse though. He was Egypt’s god, known as the son of Ra, the incarnation of Amon-Ra, who maintained the cosmic order. Quirke writes: “Within the reign of each king, he (Pharaoh) alone appears as the living representative of the sun god on earth and enjoys a unique sovereignty in the practical exercise of power.” Children in school were instructed to, according to Ryken, “Worship [Pharaoh], living forever, within your bodies and associate with his majesty in your hearts.… He is Re, by whose beams one sees, he is one who illuminates the Two Lands more than the sun disc.” They were to ascribe majesty and eternity to Pharaoh and even pray to him. Egyptian worship was deeply offensive to Yahweh as the Egyptians were worshipping a mortal man as the eternal god. Pharaoh was claiming attributes that belonged to Yahweh alone which was idolatry.

Idolatry is alive and well in our culture today as well. Origen wrote, “What each one honors before all else, what before all things he admires and loves, this for him is God.” Whatever we honor, admire, and love instead of God is our idol. The question is, what do we love most of all? Who is our supreme deity? Is it money, another person, a certain lifestyle, or ourselves. Walt Whitman’s famous poem, “Song of Myself”, says this: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself …the song of me rising from the bed and meeting the sun.… Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch.…If I worship one thing more than another it shall be … my own body.” We depend on our own abilities and admire our own accomplishments. We devote nearly all our attention to making our own plans, meeting our own needs, serving our own interests, and satisfying our own pleasures. We even complain about our own problems. It’s all about us. We idolize ourselves. Let us be a people who only worship the Lord and no one or nothing else. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card: My next step is to stop making myself the object of my worship and turn my eyes upon Jesus and worship him alone.

That brings us to our second point this morning which is No Compromise found in Exodus 10:24-29. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the Lord our God. Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the Lord our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the Lord.” But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” “Just as you say,” Moses replied. “I will never appear before you again.”

Again, Pharaoh summons Moses and seems willing to let the Israelites go to worship the Lord, even though the plague is likely already over. Moses was probably summoned after the three days of darkness had finished. First, this is evidenced in that during the three days of darkness Pharaoh would not have been able to send anyone to get Moses. Second, Pharaoh didn’t have to ask Moses to ask God to stop the plague. It had already come to an end according to God’s timing rather than a prayer from Moses. Pharaoh now gives permission for Moses to take the women and children with him but makes the stipulation that he can’t take their flocks and herds with them. Pharaoh again tries to bargain with God and Moses. He still can’t let go of whatever authority he thinks he has and wants to control and dictate what happens to the Israelites. But Moses was not willing to compromise. He didn’t compromise during the previous plagues, and he wasn’t about to compromise now. He tells Pharaoh that they will not leave without their flocks and herds because that is where their sacrifices and burnt offerings will come from in their worship of the Lord. The proof that Moses and the Israelites were living in the light was their unwillingness to make even the smallest compromise in their commitment to worship God and him alone. (Big Idea) Moses uses the phrase “not a hoof is to be left behind” meaning every animal had to go with them. They would need some of the animals in order to worship the Lord, but he didn’t know exactly which ones and he wouldn’t know until they got to the desert. We may think that Moses was just making excuses here but actually it was while the Israelites were in the desert that God started to unwrap how the sacrificial system would work. We see this in Leviticus chapters 1-10.

This was Pharaoh’s third attempt to get Moses and the Israelites to compromise their worship to the Lord. First, it was “go, but don’t go too far” which for us today translates to give God your Sundays but do what you want the rest of the week. Second, it was “go but leave your children behind” which translates to you don’t have to influence your children, let them make their own decisions about worship, the church and Jesus instead of leading them in the way of Christ. Third, it was “go, take your children but leave your flocks and herds behind” which translates to you don’t need to surrender everything you have to Lord. As long as you give him a little bit, he will be happy. ​​ The human will hates absolute surrender. “Not a hoof is to be left behind” reflects the response of God to every attempt we make to surrender less than everything to Him. Do you believe that everything we have belongs to the Lord? Do you believe that God has the title to all we possess. Everything we have is given to us by God to be good stewards of for him. Our time, our talents and our treasures must be placed in his hands. ​​ “Not a hoof” means, that all that I have and all that I am is held at the disposal of the Lord. Those who are living in the light are the ones who refuse to hold anything back from the Lord. (Big Idea) Let us faithfully recognize that God wants all of us, our heart, soul, mind and strength, and that he wants everything we own to be used for his glory and for his work in the world. Let us refuse to hold anything back from him. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to “Not leave a hoof behind” surrendering my whole self and all my possessions to the Lord for his glory and his use.

Pharaoh does not have an opportunity to respond as God hardens his heart and he was not willing to let the Israelites go. In this context, as in 10:20, this is again a self-hardening of the heart by Pharaoh, the Lord’s action is passive. Despite the pressure from his own people he would not voluntarily allow them to leave Egypt. Normally, the reference to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart would signify the end of the plague narrative but here we see further interaction between Pharaoh and Moses. This change in the narrative alerts us to pay attention to what’s coming next. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart causes him to respond in “violent fury” reacting angrily and irrationally expelling Moses from his sight, threatening him with death should he ever see him again. Ironically, after not being able to see anyone for three days, Pharoah tells Moses to get out of his sight. He is frantic, knows he is outmatched and not willing to admit defeat. We also see how much he has come to hate Moses as he threatens him with death. Moses agrees with and responds in the positive to Pharaoh’s ultimatum. He would never appear before Pharaoh again. Pharaoh has cut off his only means to salvation. Only Moses could help Pharaoh escape the spiritual darkness he was in, but he refused to listen and expelled Moses from his sight for good. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart should be a clear warning to all of us to examine our hearts regularly to make sure we are not hardening our hearts toward the Lord.

Pharaoh’s actions were outrageous in a number of ways. First, it violated the immunity Moses should have had as a prophet of God. Moses spoke for God and so Pharaoh’s anger should have been directed toward God and not Moses. This violation would have been a serious breach in the ancient world. Second, it was mean-spirited and vindictive. Pharaoh had been given many warnings to let God’s people go and even after agreeing to do so he continuously went back on his word. Now instead of admitting he was wrong he threatens Moses with death. Third, it was cowardly. He tried to get rid of Yahweh’s demands by preventing his messenger from bringing those demands to him. An impasse has now been reached and the stage is set for the final interaction. If Pharaoh wasn’t going to deal with Moses it meant he was going to have to deal with Almighty God, himself, which should have been a daunting prospect. This points to the plagues narrative soon coming to a conclusion.

My conclusion is from Christian author Kate Hannon. Johanna had lived her entire life in the dark cave, deep underneath the earth’s surface. She’d never seen light—not pure light, anyway. There were little glimmers of light that reached her here and there—a fish that glowed, a glimpse of the outside world if she wandered too close to the edge, and an occasional traveler with a headlamp. Johanna, and the thousands of others who lived in the gigantic cave, passed their existence in darkness. They stumbled along, making their way as best as they could in the blackness, often falling to their deaths in huge drop-offs, getting bitten by poisonous creatures, or twisting an ankle on a rock—all because they couldn’t see. They daily walked right over incredible crystal formations and jewels, only they didn’t know it, because they couldn’t see them in the darkness. They remained oblivious to the breathtaking colors and dazzling designs. As odd as it may sound, these people lived in the darkness by choice. I know that sounds crazy—who would choose to stumble in the fearful darkness? Who would choose not to see? And why would they choose that?

Well, although very few admitted this was the reason, the people chose the darkness because they didn’t want to see themselves as they really were. In the darkness, they’d convinced themselves they were clean and healthy, and they didn’t want to admit that wasn’t true. Light showed them things as they really were. It showed them the dirt all over them. It showed them the dried-up blood and the uncared for wounds covering their bodies. It revealed the sores and disease that ravaged their bodies. It showed them their mangled hair and weak eyes. In short, it showed them that they were a mess. Had they only realized the healing and life that could be theirs if they were only willing to step into that light, they wouldn’t have hesitated for one moment. Had they only really understood that their present life in the dark cave ended only in death, they would have raced into the life the light offered to them. But instead they refused, living in darkness—loving it actually—rather than in the light of life. John 3:19-21 says, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

Light is an amazing thing. Without it, we don’t know how to walk safely…nor can we see the beauty surrounding us. Light shows things as they really are—it reveals the truth about ourselves and the world around us. God is light and truth—and He reveals Himself in His Word, the Bible. Are we willing to let God show us the truth—even if it’s not initially pleasant? Are we connected to God through His Word and through prayer? Or are we trying to live this life on our own without God, “groping” around in the darkness? As I mentioned earlier, if we only knew what true blackness was like, we would probably do a closer self-examination and long for the Light. Jesus has offered us light, life, and peace in place of that; taking all of the darkness of the world upon Himself so that we could see the true Light of God once again.

1 John 1:5-7 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” And Ephesians 5:8 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” God doesn’t want any of his creation to stay in darkness. He wants everyone to “know” that he is the Lord, accept him as their Savior and be brought into the light that only he can give. God desires his people to live in the light. That brings us to our final next step this morning which is to “Forsake the darkness, accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and begin to live in the light.”

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and Gene and Roxey come to lead us in a final hymn, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you that we can study your Word and in that we can show ourselves approved unto you, workmen that do not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. Help us to stop worshiping ourselves and turn our eyes toward you and worship you and you alone. Help us to “not leave a hoof behind” and to ​​ surrender our heart, mind, soul and strength to you along with all of our possessions. Let it all be for your glory and use. And Lord, help us to forsake the darkness and to live in the light. And if there are some today that do not know you as their personal Lord and Savior I pray that today would be the day of salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.











Let’s Make a Deal

Let’s Make a Deal debuted on television in December 1963. The premise of the show involved guests wearing crazy costumes, winning merchandise and being offered the opportunity to take the items they had already won and trade them for items they could not see. The items were hidden behind doors or in boxes and the contestant had to make a choice. If they chose to trade the prizes they had already won, they might get something better, or they might get a “Zonk.” ​​ That is, they might leave with something worthless. The show succeeded because there was always someone willing to make a deal. There was always someone ready to compromise by trading what they already had for what they thought would be something better.

This morning we continue our study of Exodus in 8:20-32. God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, are in slavery in Egypt. God has sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand he let His people go. When Pharaoh refuses God sends plagues on Pharaoh, the Egyptians and the land. Through the first three plagues, water to blood, frogs and gnats, Pharaoh has hardened his heart toward the Lord and has refused to let the people go. In the second plague, Pharaoh outright lied saying he would let the people go if Moses would pray to God to take the frogs away. In the fourth plague, this morning, we are going to see a “Let’s make a deal” scenario play out, as Pharaoh offers to let God’s people go, but only on his terms. ​​ He will attach a condition or compromise to their leaving. He will in effect say to Moses, “I know God said to let His people go, and I will, but first, let’s make a deal.” He wanted Moses and Israel to compromise that which God had promised them, which was total freedom from slavery, for something much less.

The same goes for us today. Pharaoh stands for Satan, Egypt stands for the world and the children of Israel stands for the church, all those who are saved by grace. When we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and commit to lives to the Lord, we are called to leave the world and our old master, Satan, behind. The world and Satan are forever trying to call us back to our old selves and convince us to make a deal with him and to compromise our faith. But, with the Devil, there are no upgrades, only “Zonks.” Satan wants us to compromise by trading what we already have from the Lord, for something much less.

God wants us to lead a life of obedience that is Spirit-filled and blessed by Him. The Devil wants us to trade the blessings of God for the rubbish of this world and he will offer us every compromise at his disposal to attempt to lead us astray. Sadly, many people, Christians included, will fall for his tricks. But don’t be discouraged this morning. John 16:33 says, “I have told these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” By the cross, Jesus has conquered Satan and the grave. With the Holy Spirit living within us and helping us to obey all that Jesus commanded, we have the same power to overcome Satan and the world. We do not have to trade the blessings of God for something less. We don’t have to compromise with Satan or the world. That brings us to our big idea this morning that God calls his people to obedience, not compromise. And with the Holy Spirit within us it can be done.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to your Word this morning. Don’t let us leave this place unaffected or unchanged. Help us to be obedient to your commands and not compromise the great things we have with you for the trash of this world that Satan wants to give us. Thank you for your Holy Spirit within us. We worship you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Complete found in Exodus 8:20-24. Please follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them. “‘But on that day, I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’” And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.”

This is the beginning of the fourth plague, the second cycle of plagues that God has sent against Pharaoh and Egypt. The first cycle consisted of water turning to blood, frogs and gnats. The fourth plague is similar to the first plague, the fifth plague will be similar to the second and the sixth plague will be similar to the third. The first similarity is that Moses was to “present” himself to Pharaoh as he went to the water or the Nile River. Pharaoh and the Egyptians worshipped the gods of the Nile so it was probably his ritual to go to the river each morning to worship. The second similarity is that Moses was to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go so they could worship him. The third similarity is that Moses was to announce the fourth plague. The fourth plague would consist of swarms of flies being sent on Pharaoh and his officials, on the people and in their houses. It would be a complete infestation where Pharaoh, his officials and the Egyptian people lived; even the ground would be infested. There would be so many flies that Stuart says, “you won’t even be able to put a foot down without stepping on lots of them.” There would be no escape from them.

In verse 21 we see a play on words: If Pharaoh will not “send” God’s people out of Egypt, God will “send” the swarms of flies against Egypt. The language of “send against” was a sign of divine response and punishment to his people’s slavery in Egypt. The choice was Pharaoh’s as to whether the plagues stopped or not. Would he be obedient to Almighty God or not? (Big Idea) These swarms of flies were not your ordinary housefly. They were made up of many different kinds of insects including dog flies, sandflies, horseflies, March flies, fleas, mosquitoes, midges, and even gnats again. The Septuagint identifies them as biting insects. This plague would be a complete infestation of biting insects sent against Pharaoh, his officials and the Egyptian people. There would be nowhere where these insects could not to get to them and bite them.

We also see some differences with the first plague. First, Moses didn’t have to identify the Lord to Pharaoh. In Exodus 7:16, Moses identified the Lord as the God of the Hebrews. After three plagues, Pharaoh knew it was Yahweh who was sending these plagues. Second, Moses didn’t need to identify where the Israelite people would go. Pharaoh didn’t need to be reminded that God had commanded them to go three-days into the desert. Moses may have left that part out fueling Pharaoh’s compromising response later on in the narrative. Third, the magicians will not be present, and Pharaoh will not call them. He knew after the plague of gnats that his gods were defeated and that there was no reason to summon the magicians. Also, Aaron is absent signifying that this is now between Moses and Pharaoh. Fourth, no staff would be needed to perform this miraculous sign. This would be a direct display of God’s power. All the Lord would have to do is speak and the plague would happen. That brings us to our first principle that God is All-powerful. We have seen this time and time again throughout our narrative.

Fifth, the first and second plagues were an attack on the water as all water above the ground was turned to blood and frogs came out of the Nile. The third plague was an attack on the earth as the dust of the ground became gnats. But the fourth plague will be different. It will be an attack on the air as swarms of flies overtake Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Like the frogs, the fly was revered because they seemed to bring life out of death. Ross says, “As the maggots came crawling out of rotting flesh, only to fly away, they manifested a power over death that was very appealing to a people obsessed with surviving after death.” This plague seems to be connected to the ichneumon fly which the Egyptians considered a manifestation of the god Uatchit. There also seems to be a connection with “Beelzebub” which means “Lord of the flies.” Beelzebub was actually a tool of Satan and one of the representations of Satan’s power in Egypt. Luke 11:15 says, “But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he (Jesus) is driving out demons.” Dunnam says, “They depended on Beelzebub to guard them against ravenous flies, but this plague convinced them he was impotent causing them to look elsewhere for relief.” The Lord has complete sovereignty and power over the gods of Egypt. He is also in control of all nature. That brings us to our second principle that God is in control of all nature. He is in control of the water, the earth, and the air. He created all nature, and he sustains all nature, and we can worship him for that this morning.

Lastly, probably the greatest difference between the fourth plague and the others is that we are told explicitly that the plague of flies would not happen in Goshen, where his people resided. The question we may ask is: has Goshen been exempt from the plagues so far? Stuart says, “At this point Moses chose to make the distinction explicit. It will appear as a feature in some of the subsequent plague accounts as well (nos. 5, 7, 9 and 10), but not in all of them—indicating that the cases where the distinction is overtly described are intended to suggest to the reader the general pattern that prevailed in all ten plagues. It is possible that Goshen has been exempt and we are now only being told. Pharaoh may or may not have been aware, but he is also now being told and he will not be able to ignore the fact that it is the Lord God of the Hebrews that is bringing these plagues.

The Lord was going to deal differently with the land where his chosen people lived. The Lord was going to make a distinction between the Israelites – his people and the Egyptians – Pharaoh’s people. The complete infestation of flies that the Lord promised to send against Egypt would be non-existent in the land of Goshen where his people were living. The reason given for this was so that Pharaoh would know that the Lord of the Hebrews is in the land. Pharaoh thought he was the king of Egypt, and he was in control of his land, and wielded the power there. But the Lord was going to let him know that was not the case. Yahweh is the Lord of all the world even the land of Egypt and all power is his.

The fact that it would only happen in Egypt and not in Goshen would be a miraculous sign from the Lord. It would also be miraculous because it would have a starting time, which would be the next day. This would prove that the plague of flies was not be a natural phenomenon or something that happened by chance. This sign was supposed to change the heart of Pharaoh into softening his heart and letting God’s chosen people go. But it was also a sign to the Israelites that they were still God’s chosen people. Magonet says, “This degree of discrimination moves the events beyond a natural cataclysm into a precise divine intervention.” Here God is granting his people a serene immunity because they are, after all, his people. The language of “knowing” and “sign” should have been a “sign” to Pharaoh of future disaster. This same distinction will be made again in Exodus 11:7 with the death of the firstborn sons. Even the word “ruin” used in verse 24 points to something more disastrous than a fly infestation.

Pharaoh did not comply with the Lord’s command, and he sent dense swarms of flies into Pharaoh’s palace, into the houses of his officials and throughout Egypt. The land was “ruined” or “corrupted” by the flies. This corruption would have kept the Egyptians from worshipping their gods because of being unclean, as they were with the plague of gnats. The imperfect form of the verb “ruin” is used to signify that the ruining continued for a period of time. Ryken says, “These were blood-sucking bugs that tormented both man and beast.” Literally, the swarms are described as “heavy”, meaning they were so numerous they became a burden to the Egyptians. Psalm 78:45 confirms this, saying, “He sent swarms of flies that devoured them.” These biting flies terrorized the people and devastated the countryside. The flies fed on the people and devoured them. We again see the principle that God is All-Powerful as he is able to use the even the smallest of his creations with such destructive force.

Now that the land was completely infested with flies, we could expect Pharaoh to comply with the Lord’s demands to let his people go which brings us to our second point this morning, called Compromise, found in verses 25-29. Please follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.” But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the Lord our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.” Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.” Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”

We don’t know how long it took Pharaoh to summon Moses and Aaron, but once it happened they must have thought that Pharaoh was ready to let the Israelites go to worship the Lord. Pharaoh wanted relief and had seemingly started to crack under the burden of the flies. He was now willing to let the Israelites go but he was not willing to let them go to the desert. Instead, he was only willing to allow the Israelites “a holiday” in order to sacrifice to their God in the land of Egypt. This may have been seen as a capitulation on Pharaoh’s part, but it really wasn’t. They would continue to be under his jurisdiction, and he wouldn’t have to recognize their God’s superiority. Interestingly, Pharaoh now admits the existence and power of the Lord that He had claimed earlier to not “know.” But even now he only recognizes him as God of the Hebrews and not as God of all creation.

Pharaoh was offering to make a deal with Moses and Aaron to compromise that which God had promised them, which was total freedom from slavery, for something much less. Nothing but the complete release of God’s chosen people out of the land of Egypt and out of slavery was going to do. These were God’s people not Pharaoh’s. They were created to worship the one true God of the universe, the Lord God Almighty, not Pharaoh. This brings us to our third principle that God is pleased when we fulfill our created purpose to worship him and him alone. ​​ We see this in Psalm 148:5, “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created.” And in Psalm 86:9, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord, they will bring glory to your name.” And in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” We were created to worship the Lord and that is why God brought the plagues upon Egypt. It was so His people could be free to worship him and him alone. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Fulfill my created purpose to worship the Lord and have no other gods before Him.

Next, we see Moses’ response to Pharaoh’s compromise. This was not going to fly with God nor with Moses. Moses knows that staying in Egypt would violate God’s command and he refuses to compromise saying that sacrificing to the Lord in the land of Egypt would not be right. The sacrifices the Israelites would make would be detestable to the Egyptians and would cause them to stone them. Cole says, “Moses refuses on the grounds that to sacrifice in Egypt would be like killing a pig in a Muslim mosque or slaughtering a cow in a Hindu temple. In the sense that the Egyptians would consider the sacrifice of a sacred animal as blasphemous.” The Egyptians would stone the Israelites on principle. Then Moses reiterates that they must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord, as he has commanded them. Pharaoh knew this three-day journey meant that he would never see the Israelites again. He would lose his free slave labor force and that was something he wasn’t prepared to do. We see the truth that Pharaoh knew that the Israelites wouldn’t be able to get away with making sacrifices in the midst of the Egyptians because he didn’t argue with Moses about it. He immediately tried again to get Moses to compromise. He said that he would let the people go as long as they didn’t go too far. He seemed to be allowing them to leave but really, he was keeping them on a short leash. They could only go as far as he could send his army after them to easily bring them back. This was as far as Pharaoh was going to go even with the plague of flies ruining the people and the land.

This goes to show that it wasn’t about the Israelites worshipping their God. It was about the Israelites freedom and whose they really were. ​​ “I will let you go” shows that Pharaoh believed he still owned and controlled God’s chosen people. Spurgeon says, “They were not Pharaoh’s people; Pharaoh never chose them, he had never brought them where they were. He had not fought with them and overcome them. They were not captives in war, nor did they dwell in a territory which was the spoil of fair conflict.” As Christ-followers, we are called to be in the world but not of it. We can’t compromise by worshiping “in the land” or worshiping the way the world wants us to. The world would say “worship on Sundays but the rest of the week do whatever you want.” The world would say “go ahead and worship but don’t be extreme, God will be okay with a little bit of worship or half-hearted worship.” No, we are to be obedient to the Lord and leave sin behind completely. Satan wants Christians to mix the world and church to the point where there is no distinction between God’s people and his people. Instead of being hated by the world like Jesus was Christians are joining the world and blurring the lines. We want to offer sacrifices to God but remain within the friendly confines of Egypt. But our scripture teaches us that we must not settle for the deals that Satan wants to make with us and compromise with the world

Jesus said we would worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” and that means two things. One, it means leaving Egypt for the wilderness and ultimately the promised land. Two, it means total obedience to the Lord. ​​ We can’t compromise our faith; we must obey Jesus completely without compromise. (Big Idea) Spurgeon explained it like this: God’s demand is not that his people should have some little liberty, some little rest in their sin, no, but that they should go right out of Egypt.… Christ did not come into the world merely to make our sin more tolerable, but to deliver us right away from it. He did not come to make hell less hot, or sin less damnable, or our lusts less mighty; but to put all these things far away from his people and work out a full and complete deliverance.… Christ does not come to make people less sinful, but to make them leave off sin altogether—not to make them less miserable, but to put their miseries right away, and give them joy and peace in believing in him. The deliverance must be complete, or else there shall be no deliverance at all.” When it comes to obeying the Lord there can be no deals and no compromise. That brings us to our second next step which is to Obey the Lord completely, leaving Egypt (the world) and compromise behind.

Pharaoh then asked Moses to pray for him. “Now pray for me” shows Pharaoh knew exactly who the plagues came from, and how they could be stopped which was by humbly appealing to the Lord. Moses tells Pharaoh that as soon as he leaves him, he will pray to the Lord and tomorrow the flies will be completely gone. This would be proof to Pharaoh, the Egyptians and also to the Israelites that this plague was another miraculous sign from the Lord. The fact that the flies would leave at the precise moment that Moses said they would, would be all the proof Pharaoh needed to “know the Lord” and to let God’s people go. Pharaoh had already hardened his heart three times, so Moses warns Pharaoh to not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to make sacrifices to the Lord.

After the plague of the flies brought ruin to the land and Pharaoh tried to get Moses to compromise by not going too far from Egypt to make sacrifices, we now come to our third point this morning, which is Choice, found in verses 30-32. Please follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.”

Moses leaves Pharaoh and prays to the Lord just as he promised, and the Lord did just as Moses asked. The flies completely left Pharaoh, his officials and his people, not one fly remained. Now Pharaoh had a choice to make. He could choose to let God’s people go, or he could choose to harden his heart again. This brings us to our fourth principle this morning that God is pleased when we choose him as our Lord. God wants us to be obedient to him. He is long-suffering, not wanting anyone to perish and this was true of Pharaoh as well. God longed for Pharaoh to choose repentance and begin to serve and worship Him. God wanted to show his mercy toward Pharaoh instead of forcing him into submission, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he resolved to stand against God and his chosen people. Making choices is the privilege and price of being human. Every choice we make forms our character and the more choices we make forms a habit within us. As responsible human beings we need to make proper moral choices. When we become Christ-followers, God calls us to choose obedience to him, and every time we do it forms our Christian character. But if we choose to not obey the Lord and harden our hearts toward him then we form a different kind of character. No one knows when the “point of no return” will be, which was where Pharaoh found himself. Pharaoh had hardened his heart to the Lord and his people for so long and so many times that he was beyond that point of no return, and he would reap the punishment of his choices not only for himself but for the Egyptian people as well. Maybe that is where you are at this morning. Maybe you have been hardening your heart toward the Lord for a while now. He has been pursuing you and you have continued to put him off. If you are able to recognize this then you are not too far gone like Pharaoh was. We all have a choice to make when confronted by the Lord and you can still choose to soften your heart and bow before Almighty God this morning and accept him as your Savior and make him Lord of your life. That brings us to our last next step which is to Soften my heart, bow before Almighty God, accept him as my Savior, and live in obedience to Him and His commands.

I want to end with two short illustrations: In the early 1900’s through the 1960’s Broadway Presbyterian Church was a powerful witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Upper Manhattan, but from the 1960’s to the 1990’s a subtle change began to take place. A change in emphasis stole in as massive feeding programs for the homeless were undertaken. Church membership slipped from over 1000 to 120. In the soup kitchens, prayers were not even offered over meals out of concern that the clients might resent it. And it was discovered that the same people were coming through the lines year after year. There was no change taking place in their lives. What happened? The decisive point of the battle, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, had been surrendered. Free food doesn’t transform lives, The resurrected Christ transforms lives. (World Magazine, 26 January 2002).

The second comes from A. T. Pierson: Suppose you had a thousand-acre farm, and someone offered to buy it. You agree to sell the land except for one acre right in the center which you want to keep for yourself. Did you know that in some areas the law would allow you to have access to that one lone spot? And that you would have the right to build a road across the surrounding property in order to get to it? So it is with us as Christians if we make less than 100-percent surrender to God. We can be sure that the devil will take advantage of any inroad to reach that uncommitted area of our lives. (Encyclopedia of Illustrations #1775).

We have all heard Satan say at one time or the other, “Let’s make a deal.” He has tempted us to trade something precious for something worthless. He has tempted us to trade our testimony for empty promises and wasted years. The great thing about our God is his mercy, grace and forgiveness. When we fall, Jesus will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will restore us to life in Him. So I want to encourage all of us this morning that with the help of the Holy Spirit within we do not have to fall for Satan’s deals and compromises. And if we do our heavenly Father will let us trade in that which the Devil has given us for something more precious than gold.

As the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Word. It is true and tells us of your mighty deeds for your people. We can trust in it for our lives. I praise you because you are all-powerful and that you are in control of all nature. I also praise you for creating us to worship you alone and that we can choose you as our Lord. Help us to fulfill our created purpose by worshiping you and having no other gods before you. Help us to obey you completely, leaving Egypt and compromise behind. And Lord, I pray that we all would soften our hearts towards you, bow before you, accept you as our Savior and live in obedience to you and your commands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.






The Rumble in the Jungle was a professional heavyweight championship boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. It took place in Zaire, Africa on October 30, 1974, and has been called "arguably the greatest sporting event of the 20th century." It was a major upset, with Muhammed Ali coming in as an underdog against the unbeaten, heavy-hitting George Foreman. There were 60,000 people in attendance and some sources estimate that the fight was watched by as many as one billion television viewers around the world, becoming the world's most-watched live television broadcast at the time. Decades later, the bout would become the subject of the Academy Award winning documentary film When We Were Kings.

Even if you have never watched a boxing match, you may know that there is always a time or two where the two opponents are brought face-to-face with each other before the match starts. It may happen during the final weigh-in and or it may happen right before the bell sounds when the referee gives final instructions. (Picture) Right before the Rumble in the Jungle started, George Foreman recalls the words of Muhammad Ali during their intense stare-down in the ring. George Foreman said, "I looked him in the eye, to stare him down and he said - 'oh George you were in school when I was beatin' Sonny Liston." Stare-downs are meant to be intimidating, right? You make direct and uninterrupted eye contact with someone in order to intimidate them and cause them to yield. You want the other person to get the message that you are going to beat them and there’s nothing they can do about it. Each one wants the other to be the first one to flinch.

This morning, we are going to see another stare-down between two opponents. On the one side is Moses and Aaron and on the other is Pharaoh. The actual match will begin with next Sunday’s sermon but today is the “final weigh-in”, so to speak. The power of God is going to be displayed and the question is, will Pharaoh flinch? Will he flinch in the face of an all-powerful God and let his chosen people go into the wilderness to worship him? Will he flinch, saving himself and the Egyptians a lot of hardship and pain, which is coming around the corner? Or will his heart be hardened even in the face of God’s miraculous acts?

We can ask ourselves the same questions this morning. Because we have come and will come face-to-face with God’s miraculous acts many times in our own lives. How have we or will we react to God’s all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful sovereignty in our lives? Will we flinch and worship him for his miraculous wonders? Or will we just stare back, never backing down or allowing him to be Lord of our lives? Will we stop listening for and hearing the voice of God, hardening our hearts, as he is calling us to serve and worship him? Maybe you would say you haven’t noticed any miraculous acts done by the Lord. I would suggest that that might be a sign that you are hardening your heart this morning. God’s miraculous acts are all around us, and we must have eyes to see and ears to hear and respond in worship to Him. That brings us to our big idea this morning that When we harden our hearts it can cause us to miss the miraculous.

As we allow that to resonate with our spirit this morning, let’s pray: God, we ask for your Holy Spirit to dwell in us this morning. We ask for wisdom and insight as we open your Word. Let your Word dwell in us richly and let it be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path as we live our lives in worship and service to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is Obedience seen in Exodus 7:8-10. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake.”

In the past couple of weeks, we have seen a Moses who has been discouraged. His first meeting with Pharaoh did not go as planned and Pharaoh was able to turn the Israelite foremen against him, to the point that they cursed Moses and Aaron before God. Then the Israelite people would not listen to Moses because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. But the Lord again told Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites go. Moses responds twice with an excuse reminiscent of chapter 3, “I speak with faltering lips so why would Pharaoh listen to me?” But at the end of last week’s sermon, we see a more confident Moses. He has met with God and his lingering doubts seem to be answered and it says that Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded.

As Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh a second time, it is important to know that this was not a battle between two men, Moses and Pharaoh. Moses was God’s appointed person to lead his people out of slavery from Egypt. And Pharaoh was typical of the power of evil that was out to oppress and destroy God’s people just because they were God’s people. No, this was a battle between God and Satan. The purpose of this second appearance before Pharaoh was not just to repeat the message to let God’s people go. It was to specifically perform a miraculous wonder that would demonstrate God’s power and sovereignty over Pharaoh, Egypt, its gods and the entire world. The purpose of the miracle was to lead Pharaoh and others who witnessed it into worship of the one true God of the universe.

The first thing we see is the Lord giving instructions to Moses and Aaron. “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron” emphasizes that what is going to happen will not be the result of human initiative but divine action. Alexander says, “From beginning to end, YHWH is the instigator of all that takes place, underlining his sovereign authority.” This brings us to our first principle this morning that “God is sovereign.” He is in control of all things; he has the right to rule, and he rules rightly.

In giving these instructions, we see our second principle that “God is All-knowing.” God told Moses and Aaron that Pharaoh was going to demand they perform a miracle. He knew what was going to happen before it ever happened. This will be the only time that Pharaoh will demand a miracle and he demands it to prove that Moses’ God was legitimate and should be listened to. Then the Lord gave them instructions on how the miracle was going to be performed. When Pharaoh demanded the miracle, Moses was to tell Aaron to throw down his staff before Pharaoh and it would become a snake. ​​ 

After getting their instructions from God, Moses and Aaron go before Pharaoh and we are told again that they did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and it became a snake. We can ask some important questions here. First, why did God use a staff to perform this miracle? A staff was a symbol of Pharaoh’s authority and kingship. It was synonymous with his power. By utilizing the staff to perform the miracle, God was exerting his authority and sovereignty over Pharaoh. The staff also signified that God was the one doing the miracle not Aaron.

Second, why did God turn Aaron’s staff into a snake? First, we need to know that there are two Hebrew words for snake. In verse 10, the word is “tannin.” It is not the same Hebrew word used in Exodus 4:3 or even in Exodus 7:15, which will refer to the staff turned into a snake used here by Aaron. That word is “nakhash” which means just a plain “snake.” It seems that the author used the two words interchangeably and was nothing more than a stylistic variation. But it is interesting where the author used the word “tannin.” He made sure to use it in the stare down between Moses, Aaron and Pharaoh. “Tannin” means “dragon” or “monster” and can even refer to a “crocodile” which would be appropriate to Egypt. The word “tannin” was also used to emphasize a large, fearsome and venomous serpent type creature, possibly a cobra. The cobra was feared and worshiped in Egypt and was a symbol of immortality, which was why Pharaoh appropriated it for himself and made it part of his headdress. He was claiming to be immortal and used the cobra as a fear tactic to keep his people in line.

Second, we need to look at the theological meaning for the use of the word “tannin.” Fretheim and Enns says, “the word “tannin” was used for the chaos monster that the gods in various myths of the ancient Near East defeated in order to bring about the present cosmos. In Genesis 1:2, we read that “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The words, “without form”, “void”, “darkness”, “the deep” and “waters” speak of the primeval chaos that God created the heavens and the earth from. By using the word “tannin”, the author is making it clear that all of creation is under Yahweh’s control.

Also, Egypt’s kings were called the ‘great serpent,’ ‘dragon,’ or ‘crocodile.’ Ezekiel 29:3 says, “YHWH proclaims, ‘Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon [tannîn], that lies in the midst of his streams, that says, “My Nile is my own; I made it for myself.” ​​ A further allusion to an Egyptian Pharaoh is in Isaiah 51:9–10, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon [tannîn]?” Ryken says, “This background helps us to understand what Aaron was doing when he threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh. He was taking the symbol of the king’s majesty and making it crawl in the dust.” Aaron’s staff turning into a snake was nothing less than a direct challenge to Pharaoh’s power by the Lord. And by using the word “tannin”, the author was directly attacking his authority and sovereignty over Egypt.

I mentioned earlier that Moses and Aaron were obedient. It took a lot of courage for Moses and Aaron to return to Pharaoh after what happened the first time, but they simply obeyed and went trusting in the Lord. That brings us to our third principle this morning that “God is pleased when his people are obedient.” We are told twice that Moses and Aaron were obedient, first in verse 6 (last week) and again today in verse 10, because it is important that God’s people are obedient to what he is calling them to do. Imagine the miraculous things we would see from the Lord if we were just obedient to Him. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to be obedient to what the Lord is calling me to do, putting me in the position to see the miraculous.

So now that Moses and Aaron have obeyed and God has performed the miracle of the staff turning into a snake, we could suppose that Pharaoh would be intimidated by the power and splendor of almighty God, causing him to flinch and tremble before his majesty. But that is not the case as we come to our second point this morning, which is Obstinance, found in verses 11-13. This is what God’s Word says, “Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.”

Pharaoh was not impressed with God’s miraculous “wonder” even though it was actually what he had asked for. Pharaoh, seemingly not phased by the miracle, summoned “wise men”, “sorcerers” and “magicians” to join the stare down. The “wise men” would be Pharaoh’s counselors who had skills in various fields. “Sorcerers” would be the ones engaged in the widespread Egyptian practice of magic using spells and occultic arts. “Magicians” were scribes and interpreters of books that contained magic formulas. They were priests who were associated with rituals and incantations. Paul in 2 Timothy 3:8 gives us the names of two of these magicians who “withstood Moses”, Jannes and Jambres. Mackay says, “Throughout the ancient world magic was inseparable from religion, and in every court, there would be priests who practiced such black arts. By summoning the magicians Pharaoh called the priestly representatives of the Egyptian gods (particularly the moon god Thoth, who was the patron god of magic and divination) to deal with the representatives of the LORD.”

The wise men, sorcerers and magicians were able to perform the same miracle but with a couple differences. One, Aaron performed the miracle through the power of God whereas Pharaoh’s officials performed it through the “secret arts” or the power of Satan. These “secret arts” were demonic, reminding us of how powerful Satan is. The second difference was that Aaron’s snake was able to “swallow” or “gulp” up all the other snakes. This was a clear sign that God was superior to the gods of the Egyptians. The Egyptians would have believed that swallowing something was the way to acquire all its powers. By swallowing the other snakes, God was claiming that all their power and authority belonged to Him – that the God of Israel was also the God of Egypt. The swallowing of Aaron’s snake was something that the officials’ snakes couldn’t do. Interestingly, the word for “swallow” here is the same word used when Pharaoh’s army is “swallowed” up by the Red Sea which connects this passage with the later one.

The best Pharaoh’s officials could do was imitate what God had done. Ryken says, “Satan can only corrupt, never create. The Bible says that “the work of Satan [is] displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Satan is always a counterfeiter, never an innovator.” I like what Guzik says, “Miracles can prove that something is supernatural, but they cannot prove that something is true.” We need to be discerning so we know the difference between the miraculous that God is doing and the counterfeiting that Satan does. We also notice that Aaron was not even involved in his snake swallowing up the others. It happened completely by the power of God. Which brings us to our fourth principle that “God is All-powerful.” God’s miraculous power was displayed for Pharaoh to see along with his officials, Moses and Aaron. God’s power was far superior to that of Satan’s power. This is a reminder to us that although Satan’s power is real it is not absolute. He can only do what God allows him to do and there is nothing Satan can do to thwart the Lord’s plans. What should have been an opportunity to bow and worship before an Almighty God was wasted on Pharaoh. Instead, his heart became hard and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, and ultimately God. (Big Idea) God had told Moses and Aaron in Exodus 7:3, that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart and even though he would do many miraculous signs in Egypt, Pharaoh would not listen to them. This reminds us of our first principle that “God is All-knowing.” God knew ahead of time that Pharaoh would not believe even after seeing His miracle.

Even though Pharaoh had asked for a miracle and God had performed one, proving his power, sovereignty and superiority over Pharaoh, he still did not flinch. His heart became hard. Even though Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God, the verb used to describe this hardening is in the perfect tense, indicating a completed action. Pharaoh’s heart, meaning his will, was already set against God and his people. He had preconceived ideas about “spiritual” things and couldn’t give up his false belief that he was the divine ruler of Egypt instead of the Lord. This made Pharaoh stubborn and obstinate.

Ryken says, “If Pharaoh had realized how hard his heart was, he would have been terrified. The Egyptians believed that the heart was the essence of the person and thus the key to eternal life. Many of their temples and tombs depict a heart being weighed on the scales of justice. At the front stands the balance of truth on which the death-god Anubis will weigh the dead man’s heart. Anubis is joined by Thoth, who will record the verdict, and by the goddess Amemit, who waits to devour the hearts of the damned. Their hearts are weighed against the feather of righteousness and their eternal destiny stands in the balance. If a heart is too heavy, they will be condemned for their sins and thrown to the voracious monster. But if their heart is as light as the feather, they will receive everlasting life. According to the Egyptians, a man with a hardened heart could never be saved. The weight of his sins would drag him down to destruction. As John Currid explains, “Anyone whose heart was heavy-laden with misdeeds would be annihilated, while anyone whose heart was filled with integrity, truth, and good acts would be escorted to heavenly bliss.” This just shows how hardened Pharaoh's heart was against God and his people.

My conclusion comes from Anders' commentary: A shipping company had advertised a job opening for a ship’s radio operator, and the outer office was crowded with applicants for the position. They were waiting to be called in turn and were talking to one another loudly enough to be heard over the sound of the loudspeaker. Another applicant entered the crowded waiting room, filled out his application, and sat quietly for a few moments. Suddenly, he rose and walked into the office marked PRIVATE. A few minutes later, he came out of the room with a huge smile on his face. He had been hired; the job was his. Someone in the waiting room began to protest. “Hey, we’ve been waiting a lot longer than you. Why did you go in there before us?” The new radio operator replied, “Any one of you could have landed this job, but none of you were listening to the Morse Code signals coming over the loudspeaker. The message was, ‘We desire to fill this position with someone who is constantly alert. If you are getting this message, come into the private office immediately.’”

Pharaoh could have been in that same waiting room, and he wouldn’t have gotten the message either. He was a poor listener. In fact, we are going to see the great lengths God is going to go in order to get him to listen as we continue our study of Exodus. But for now, there was no code for Pharaoh to decipher, he was simply told, “to let God’s people go!” and was even given a miracle to prove that the Lord was the one true God. Pharaoh’s hardened heart is a warning to us. God has already revealed himself to the world with enough evidence to persuade everyone to trust in and follow him. Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” When you fail to listen to God or his word and fail to see His miraculous signs all around you, you are inviting trouble. Pharaoh didn’t learn that right away because he decided to “stare-down” God and harden his heart. What will you do when God calls you to do his work in this world and even shows you the miraculous? Will you be like Pharaoh and harden your heart or will you be obedient like Moses and Aaron. That brings us to the second and last next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to search myself, to keep from having a hardened heart, so that I can see the miraculous.

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and the communication cards and as the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, again, we thank you for your Word and for this time as a community of faith to study it together. Help us to have open hearts and open minds. Help us to not harden our hearts to your miraculous acts in our lives. Forgive us when we are stubborn and obstinate. Help us to be obedient to you and to search ourselves daily so that we will have eyes to see and ears to hear your awesome power and sovereignty. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire

In the story of the Cross and the Switchblade, a small-town minister, David Wilkerson, is called to help inner-city kids everyone else believed were beyond hope. In 1958, seven New York City teenagers, members of a gang called the Dragons, were on trial charged with murder. After hearing a clear call from the Holy Spirit telling him to go and help the boys, Wilkerson arrived at the courthouse in New York City. His plan was to ask the judge for permission to share God’s love with them. The judge refused his request and Wilkerson was removed from the courtroom. It became a huge media circus, and he left New York City in total failure.

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s story, The Hobbit, there is a chapter called Out of the Frying-Pan into the Fire which describes how Bilbo Baggins and his friends escaped from extreme peril, only to find themselves in an even worse predicament. The adventurers had been traveling through the tunnels under the Misty Mountains when they were beset by goblins. After a brief and bloody battle, they escaped by the narrowest of margins. But even after Bilbo and his friends got out of the mountain, they were not out of danger, for as they hurried through the forest on foot, they were tracked and surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. Although Bilbo and his companions managed to scramble up some trees, they were trapped. Soon the goblins tramped out of their mountain stronghold to take advantage of the predicament. They stacked combustible materials at the foot of each tree, and soon there was a ring of fire all around the dwarves. The flames began to lick at their feet, smoke was in Bilbo’s eyes, he could feel the heat of the flames. So it was that Bilbo and his friends escaped from one mortal danger only to find themselves in even more desperate straits.

These two illustrations describe our scripture this morning. Moses had been called by God to go to Pharaoh to tell him to let His people go. He must have been feeling like it was a done deal. And the Israelites were probably feeling euphoric, believing that they were on the verge of being rescued from slavery. But things aren’t going to go quite as planned. In fact, Moses’ first appearance before Pharoah will be a total failure. And seemingly because of Moses’ interaction with Pharoah, the Israelites’ situation will go from bad to worse as they will find themselves in even more dire and desperate straits. Moses and the Israelites are bound to be discouraged by what will happen. God had promised Moses his presence and he had promised the Israelite people that he would bring them out of slavery in Egypt. But like David Wilkerson, things did not go as planned for Moses and like Bilbo Baggins and his companions, things for the Israelites went from the frying pan into the fire. Discouragement can take over our lives and cause us to forget what God had made plain us through his Word and the Holy Spirit. We must be on guard because Satan will try to discourage us to make us forget and not believe in God’s presence and promises. That brings us to our big idea this morning that “We can be encouraged by God’s presence with us and his promises to us.”

Before we begin our study of our scripture this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, give us the power of your Holy Spirit this morning for discernment of your Word. Open our hearts and minds to it, convict us of our sin through it, teach us what you want us to know from it. Give us divine appointments this week to share it with those who need to hear it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This morning we will be studying Exodus 5:1-21. The first point is “Confront” seen in verses 1-5. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’” Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”

The first word we see is “afterward.” After what? This is referring back to Exodus 4:29-31 which says, “Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped.” Moses and Aaron must have been on cloud nine. They had received the full support of the elders which is what Moses was so concerned about at the burning bush. Things could not have started off any better than this. Now it was time to ride that wave of confidence, confront Pharaoh, and rescue the Israelites from slavery.

“This is what the Lord says” signifies that Moses and Aaron are the Lord’s messengers. We can notice a few things here. First, we are told that Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh not Moses and the elders. Jewish tradition states that the elders lost their nerve on the way and backed out or maybe it was just assumed that they did go. Second, Moses and Aaron don’t repeat word-for-word what God told Moses to say to Pharaoh. Exodus 3:18 in the NASB says, “say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’” Moses does not ask Pharaoh’s permission but demands he let God’s people go. “Let my people go” asserts that the people of Israel belong to the LORD, not Pharaoh, and they should be free to serve and worship Him. The message was direct and authoritative, almost arrogant probably because of the awesome response Moses had received from the elders and the people. Delivering this message would have taken faith and courage on Moses’ and Aaron’s part because it was not meant to pacify Pharaoh but to test him. The reason Moses gives to let the people go is so they can hold a festival or feast to the LORD in the wilderness. This was also not in God’s original words to Moses. But what Moses and Aaron communicated here was actually not too far off of what the Israelites would have done. Later on, God will establish festivals/feasts with his people, and many will involve sacrifices.

Pharoah responds with “Who is the LORD that I should obey him?” questioning God’s authority over the Israelites. The NASB says, “Why should I obey his voice?” This reminds me of what Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. Pharaoh was not one of God’s sheep. “I do not know the LORD and will not let Israel go” proved he was hostile not only towards God’s people but towards the one true God as well. We should not be surprised at this since, in Egyptian culture, Pharaoh was considered a god. In his mind, he was the final authority. Why should he listen to an inferior god? Pharaoh’s reply was scornful, prideful, arrogant, defiant, disrespectful and sarcastic. It revealed the attitude of his heart. Alexander says, “By stating twice that he has no knowledge of YHWH or the LORD, Pharaoh highlights the motif of knowing YHWH.

“Knowing the LORD” is not a matter of having information about him, but about being in a right relationship with him, recognizing his authority and acting in accordance with his requirements. Some questions for us this morning are “Do we know the LORD or do we only know the world?” “Do we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd or just the voice of the world?” “Are we in a right relationship with God or not?” If you know the Lord and are following him with all your heart, mind and soul this morning, that’s awesome. But if you are not, the great thing is that you can know the LORD today. Romans 6:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The first thing you need to do to know the LORD is admit that we are a sinner. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The second thing you need to do to know the LORD is believe in Jesus and what he came to earth to do. And Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The third thing you need to do is confess Jesus as Lord. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to “start ‘knowing the LORD’ by admitting I am a sinner, believing in Jesus as my Savior and confessing him as the LORD of my life.”

Moses and Aaron respond and this time it is almost word-for-word what God said in Genesis 3:18. Moses and Aaron don’t back down but now clarify their initial demand. They clarify that Yahweh is "the God of the Hebrews” which was a term that Pharaoh would understand and accept. They clarify that they are asking for a “three days’ journey” which was a reasonable demand. And they clarify that this journey is designed as a time to offer sacrifices to their LORD. Ryken says, “God began by giving his rival a simple opportunity to submit to his divine authority. Was Pharaoh willing to let Israel serve God for even three days or not?” Pharaoh would have no excuse for refusing this request and hardening his heart. They also add one caveat at the end that was not recorded in scripture. They wanted to clarify that they are trying to avoid having the LORD kill them off through plague or a sword.

There are a couple of ways that we can take this statement. Israel had been in Egypt for centuries and had lost contact with the God of their fathers. They were confessedly guilty and needed to be reconciled to the LORD. The only way for them to be atoned was through the shedding of blood, hence the sacrifices to the LORD in the wilderness. MacKay says, “Both plague and sword represent sudden death such as a judgment from offended deities.” Moses may also be appealing to Pharaoh’s greedy economic side. If Israel were killed, then Pharaoh would lose his free slave labor force. It could have also been a prophetic veiled threat. The irony is that the LORD will kill with plagues, not the Israelites but the Egyptians. God had told Moses that his “mighty hand” would strike the Egyptians with wonders and then he would let the Israelites go. This could have been a warning to Pharaoh of what was coming if he didn’t let God’s people go. Pharaoh needed to understand that it was Almighty God who was commanding them to let his people go to sacrifice and worship him and the LORD was not to be taken lightly.

Pharaoh responds by accusing Moses and Aaron of taking the people away from their work and he orders the people to get back to work. This may mean that the elders were actually there with Moses and Aaron, which is why he accuses them of stopping the people from working. It could also in addition mean, that once Moses and Aaron told the people that God was going to rescue them, they stopped working believing that the Lord’s rescue was imminent. We see Pharaoh’s disdain for the Hebrew people as he calls them “people of the land” meaning uneducated, common people or peasants. He knew what Moses and Aaron were proposing would be a major upheaval and was already causing problems. The Pharaoh of Exodus chapter one was worried about the Israelite’s population growth, this Pharaoh sees it as a benefit because it means more slaves to do his work. We can see Pharaoh hardening his heart right in front of us.

Scholars are somewhat split on this exchange between Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh. Most agree that they went into Pharaoh’s court highly confident of the outcome, maybe too confident and a little cocky. Some say that they went off script instead of retelling Pharaoh exactly what God said the first time. But others say that this would have been the negotiation technique of the day. But this is not the point of the narrative. The point of the narrative is “whom will the Israelites serve, Pharaoh or the LORD? The Hebrew word for “serve” and “worship” are the same. The struggle here was not between Moses and Aaron and Pharaoh but between God and Pharaoh. Ross says, “The purpose of the Exodus was to bring the Israelites from an oppressive, deadly servitude to Pharaoh into a freeing, life-giving servitude to God. Life is not a question of serving or not serving. It is a question of whom we will serve. Joshua 24:15 says, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We all have to decide whom will we serve and worship. Will we serve and worship the LORD or the world and its gods? It is an important decision for each one of us. That brings us to the second next step this morning which is to “commit to serving and worshiping only the LORD for the rest of my life.”

We aren’t told what Moses and Aaron were feeling after their audience with Pharaoh, but we can surmise that they were discouraged by Pharaoh’s rejection. Moses and Aaron had been called by the LORD to be his messengers and Pharaoh had pretty much thrown them out on their ear, dismissed and disgraced. They probably felt a lot like David Wilkerson when the judge had him removed from the courtroom. Moses and Aaron just needed to remember a couple of things. One, God said he would be with Moses. Exodus 3:12 says, “And he (meaning God) said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” Two, God had promised to bring his people out of slavery. Exodus 3:17 says, “And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’” Three, God was sovereign and omniscient. He knew what was going to happen. Exodus 3:19-20 says, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.” Moses and Aaron were probably discouraged by Pharaoh’s response, but they didn’t despair. They had God’s presence with them, his promises to them and they knew his sovereign plan, and they could be encouraged by that no matter what Pharaoh said or did. (BIG IDEA)

Once, Moses and Aaron had confronted Pharaoh with God’s message and he had rejected it, Pharoah makes a command decision which would move the Israelites’ predicament from the frying-pan into the fire. Our second point this morning is “Command” seen in verses 6-14. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” Then the slave drivers and the overseers went out and said to the people, “This is what Pharaoh says: ‘I will not give you any more straw. Go and get your own straw wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced at all.’” So the people scattered all over Egypt to gather stubble to use for straw. The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.” And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”

Pharaoh didn’t waste any time after his audience with Moses and Aaron. On that same day he commanded the slave drivers and the foremen over the Israelites to no longer give the people straw to make the bricks but to keep the daily quota the same. They would have to gather the straw themselves, which would require more time to make the bricks, making it impossible to meet the daily quotas. “On the same day” made it clear that the increased workload was Moses and Aaron’s fault. Ross says, “Pharoah had to break his opponents’ will in two ways: One, by making the oppression worse, and, two, by undermining Moses’s leadership.” It seems that the straw needed to make the bricks had previously been supplied for the Israelites, probably by some other slave populace, making brick production more efficient. This command shows how spiteful Pharaoh was toward the Israelites. He didn’t care about efficiency, only humiliating the people because they wanted to worship their LORD. We also see what Pharaoh really felt about the Israelites. He has already called them “peasants” and now he calls them “lazy.” In Pharaoh's mind they didn’t want to work which is why they were crying out to go and sacrifice to their God. His command was meant to make the work harder on the Israelites causing them to be too tired to care about worshiping and too tired to pay attention to Moses’ and Aaron’s lies. What lies? The lie that they would be allowed to leave Egypt to worship their LORD. The lie that their LORD was going to rescue them. This was a cruel and unusual punishment of the Israelites.

Interestingly, it would have been normal in that time for Pharaoh to allow the foreign slaves opportunities to worship their gods. They would have allowed them to go off to do this so as not to offend the religious sensibilities of the Egyptian people. The Egyptian people would have been put off by certain animal sacrifices that the Israelites would have performed. But we see that Pharaoh was in no way going to let Moses take the people to do what would have been considered normal. He didn’t hear the LORD’s voice and his heart was not inclined toward God, becoming more hardened by the minute. Pharaoh’s commands followed the chain of command from himself to the Egyptian slave drivers to the Israelite foreman to the Israelite slaves. ​​ Just like Moses and Aaron in verse one said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says”, the slave drivers and the foremen said, “This is what Pharaoh says.” This was another example of the conflict being between God and Pharaoh. Ryken says, “Pharaoh put himself in the place of God and explicitly attempts to usurp God’s rightful place. The Hebrew word for “foreman” literally means “to write.” The Egyptians kept meticulous records of everything including their building projects. The Israelite foreman would have been men who could write and keep the people producing the daily quota of bricks.

Because of the command from Pharaoh, the Israelites scattered throughout the land of Egypt to gather “stubble” to make the bricks. The people had to “scatter” to find their own straw which kept them from encouraging each other and getting their hopes up to go on a three-day journey to worship the LORD. By making them work harder and keeping them apart Pharaoh thought he could make them forget about their God and wanting to worship him. Most commentators note that this was not the season for straw, so the people had to gather the “stubble.” It would not have been the best stuff to make bricks with. There must have been good straw in storehouses that would be used in the off season, but this good straw would not be made available for their use. The stubble would have made bricks of inferior quality compared to the previous ones, but Pharaoh doesn’t seem to care. This is another sign that Pharaoh was just oppressing the people on his cruel whims and because he could. As a labor policy, this was completely irrational showing his hard heart. The Israelites were not meeting their daily quota, so the slave drivers pressed them to complete their work quotas like they had before. This led the slave drivers questioning the foremen about the shortfall and “beating” them for good measure. For the Israelites and especially the foremen, their life, their work, their enslavement had gone from bad to worse, from the frying pan into the fire.

Again, we aren’t told what the Israelite slaves and foremen were feeling after having to work twice as hard to make their daily quotas and then being beaten for not making it. But we can surmise that they were pretty discouraged. God had sent Moses and Aaron to them to let them know that the LORD had seen their oppression and was going to bring them out of slavery. And all they had gotten from it was exhaustion, working harder and harder day after day and being beaten. They were probably feeling like Pharaoh had gotten the last laugh. They probably felt a lot like Bilbo Baggins and his friends who had escaped from one mortal danger only to find themselves in even more desperate straits. In their discouragement they needed to remember a couple of things. One, that the LORD had seen them and was concerned for them. Two, that the LORD had promised to rescue them. Even though the Israelites were discouraged by Pharaoh’s barbaric response to Moses and Aaron’s request, they could still be encouraged. It had only been a short time since they had bowed down and worshiped the LORD. Now they needed to remember and be encouraged that God’s presence was with them, he had made promises to them, and his sovereign plan would be victorious no matter what Pharaoh did to them. (BIG IDEA)

After the people were not being able to meet the daily quota of bricks and slave drivers had beaten the foremen, we notice how the foremen reacted. Our third point this morning in “Complaint” found in verses 15-21. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Israelite foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.” Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.” The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

The foremen, after being beaten because the Israelites failed to make their daily quotas, complained and it is important to notice who they complained to. First, they took their complaint to Pharoah. The foreman seemed to have enjoyed a somewhat amiable and privileged relationship with Pharoah that they could just go and plead their case with him. But they must have been naïve to think that the slave drivers had given these commands on their own authority, and they blame Pharaoh and his people for the Israelites not making the quotas. Also, notice that they call themselves Pharaoh’s “servants” or “slaves” three different times showing how much power Pharaoh had over them. The real problem here is that instead of turning to the LORD, who they were just bowing down to and worshiping, they turn to Pharaoh. This reminds us of one of the major themes of this passage: Who were the Israelites going to serve, God or Pharaoh? They must have had a rude awakening as Pharaoh accused them twice of being lazy emphasizing that their laziness was due to their desire to sacrifice and worship the LORD. He was arguing that they didn’t necessarily want to worship; they just didn’t want to work. He was mocking and belittling the worship of their LORD as laziness. He was demoralizing them, and they were literally being beaten down. He ordered them to get back to work and reiterated that they would not be given any straw and must still produce their full quota of bricks. Pharaoh continued his ingenious plan to turn the people against Moses and Aaron. They were the ones who went to Pharaoh asking him to let the people go and make sacrifices to the LORD. They were the reason Pharaoh was being so harsh towards them. After bringing their complaint to Pharaoh and being ceremoniously rejected they realized they were in trouble because the beatings would continue. Talk about being discouraged as they realized things had gone from bad to worse, from the frying-pan into the fire, especially for them.

Second, we see that the foremen take their complaint to Moses and Aaron. Our scripture says that when the foreman left Pharaoh, they find Moses and Aaron waiting for them. The Hebrew is better translated that the foremen were “waiting” for Moses and Aaron meaning that they went “looking for a fight.” We see the heart of the foremen here. They attack Moses and Aaron, blaming them for their trouble. They also curse them calling down God’s judgment on them. They were hard-hearted believing that Moses was the reason for their oppression instead of believing that he was God’s instrument to end their oppression. Stuart says, “It is noteworthy that the foremen did not state that they had lost faith in Yahweh. They apparently thought that Moses and Aaron could not have properly represented the case or handled it well and thus had disobeyed Yahweh.” Pharaoh’s strategy to break the Israelites will and to drive a wedge between Moses and his people was working like a charm. The foremen were discouraged and had allowed bitterness to grow in their hearts. It caused them to sin against Moses and Aaron by lashing out and cursing them. Discouragement is a human emotion. It is not a sin to be discouraged but it can cause us to sin as it did to the foremen. It’s important for us today that we don’t allow discouragement to set in and cause us to sin. Discouragement can us to doubt God. It can cause us to doubt God’s people. It can even cause us to lash out at others and curse them. The foremen had been kicked out of Pharoah’s presence just as David Wilkerson had been kicked out of the courtroom and things had gone from the frying-pan into the fire for them just as it had for Bilbo Baggins and his friends. Discouragement caused them to forget God’s presence and his promises instead of being encouraged by them. (BIG IDEA).

The devil once had a yard sale. He put out all of his tools with a price sticker on each one. There were a lot of them, including hatred, envy, jealousy, doubt, lying, pride, and lust. Apart from the rest of the tools was an old, harmless-looking tool with a high price. One of the devil’s customers asked about this high-priced tool. The devil said, “Why, that’s discouragement.” The customer asked, “Why do you have such a high price on it?” The devil responded, “That’s one of my most useful tools. When other tools won’t work, I can pry open and get into a person’s heart with discouragement. Once I get inside, I can do whatever I want. It’s easy to get into a person’s heart with this tool because few people know it belongs to me.” It’s said that the devil’s price on discouragement is so high that he’s never been able to sell it. As a result, he continues to use it. And he often uses it with his oldest tool: “Did God really say that?” “Are you sure he’s called to do that?” “Wow, you sure have made a mess of things, haven’t you?”

Charles Spurgeon talking about the life of Moses concludes with these words: O servants of God, be calm and confident. Go on preaching the gospel. Go on teaching in the Sunday-school. Go on giving away the tracts. Go on with steady perseverance. Be ye sure of this, ye shall not labor in vain or spend your strength for nought. Do you still stutter? Are you still slow of speech? Nevertheless, go on. Have you been rebuked and rebuffed? Have you had little else than defeat? This is the way of success.… Toil on and believe on. Be steadfast in your confidence, for with a high hand and an outstretched arm the Lord will fetch out his own elect, and he will fetch some of them out by you. Only trust in the Lord and hold on the even tenor of your way.

There are going to be times where we don’t understand why things aren’t working out the way they should. We’ve been called by God to do his work in this world but we may be thrown out on our ear or our lives may feel like we are going from the frying-pan into the fire but don’t be discouraged and don’t despair. Don’t let discouragement cause you to sin against God or others. God timing and plans for our lives and this world are perfect. He promises to always be with us and to never forsake us and we know that his promises are true. That brings us to our last next step which is to be encouraged by God’s presence with me and his promises made to me when discouragement comes my way.

As the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: God, we thank you for Word. It is true and powerful. Let it transform us to know you better each day. Help us to commit to serving and worshiping you only. And when discouragement come our way, encourage us with your presence and promises so we don’t sin against you or others. In Jesus’ name Amen.



Calling Card

On the 2002 album, “Woven and Spun”, Nichole Nordeman sings a song where she is grasping for things to call God. She is trying to see God as everything she needed Him to be throughout her life and everything that she needed him to be in her present and her future. In the song, as a young girl, she called God “Elbow Healer” and “Superhero.” As she got older, she called him, “Heartache Healer” and “Secret Keeper.” After she was married and had kids, she called him, “Shepherd”, “Savior” and “Pasture-Maker.” As she thinks about her life as an older woman getting up in years, she calls God, “Creator”, “Maker”, “Life Sustainer”, “Comforter”, “Healer”, “my Redeemer”, “Lord and King”, and the “Beginning and the End.” Some other names of God that might be familiar to us are El Shaddai which means “God Almighty” and Immanuel which means “God with us.” And some other names that we’ve seen in our study of Genesis are El Elyon which means “God most High” and El Roi which means “the God who sees.”

Throughout my life, there have been a few names of God that have meant a lot to me such as Shepherd, Creator, Savior, Healer, Provider and Abba which means “father.” When you think about the names of God that have meant a lot to you throughout your lives, what names come to mind? Go ahead and shout them out. As Nichole Nordeman is calling on God using these various names, God spoke to her and said that the “I AM” was all she needed. She realized that there is only one name that meets her every need – “I AM” and it encompassed all the other names for God. “I AM” is God’s calling card to us, so to speak, when we are in need. This morning, we continue the narrative of Moses and his encounter with God. Last week, we saw that God arrested Moses on the mountain of Horeb from within the burning bush. He told Moses that he was the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He told Moses that he had seen the oppression and heard the cries of his people in Egypt, and he had come down to rescue them and lead them to a spacious land, flowing with milk and honey. He then tells Moses that he is the one he is sending to bring his people out of Egypt.

What we are going to see this morning is Moses’ reaction to God sending him to bring his people out of slavery. Moses is going to pose two questions to God and God is going to give him his calling card that will not only give him the confidence and power that he needs to fulfill his calling but to also convince the Israelites of who has sent Moses to rescue them. This calling card will be a witness to the people that Moses has had a personal interaction with the God of their fathers and that God has the power to do what he says he will do. It will not be Moses who will rescue the Israelites because he is inadequate and weak, it will be God because he is the great “I AM”, the almighty, all-knowing and all-seeing God who will rescue his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them into the Promised Land. I like this quote from Jon Bloom: “God does not need you to be strong. He wants to be your strength.” God did not need Moses to be strong. God wanted to be his strength. That brings us to the big idea this morning which is “In our weakness God is strong.”

Let’s pray: Lord God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning. Open our hearts and minds to your Word. Let it be a lamp for our feet and a light on our paths as we live our daily lives on this earth. May it feed us, heal and cleanse us from sin and give us the strength to overcome the tests and trials and difficult circumstances in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

This morning we continue our study in Exodus chapter three looking at verses 11-22. The first point is called the Credentials of Moses found in verses 11-12. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

God has just told Moses that he is sending him to Pharaoh, so he can bring his people out of Egypt. The first word we see in our scripture is the word, “but.” If your parents told you to clean your room or your boss told you they needed this or that by the end of the day and your response started with the word “but,” what would that signify? It would signify reluctance on your part probably followed by an objection. “But I cleaned my room last week” or “but I am too busy to do that.” Moses responds to this call from God to rescue his people with reluctance and a series of objections. This morning we are going to talk about two of those objections. The first is “but, Who am I?” Some commentators say that this was humility on Moses’ part because he didn’t think he had the credentials to go to Pharaoh and bring God’s people out of Egypt. Others believe it was simply a lack of self-confidence or unwillingness to obey. No matter which is true, Moses felt he was inadequate to do the job that God was calling him to do. “But” I am just a shepherd. “But” I had to run away from Egypt. “But” I am the wrong person for the job. “But” they won’t believe me. “But” I am not capable. Have you ever been reluctant to do something that the Bible commands us as Christians to do? One area I think about is evangelism. Have you ever used the excuse “I can’t do that” or “I’ll let someone who has that gift do that” or “What if they make fun of me” or “I’m not the person for the job.” So did Moses.

God’s answer to Moses’ question of “Who am I?” was it didn’t matter who Moses was or if he was capable or not of doing the job. Notice that God didn’t deny that Moses was inadequate for the job. What mattered was that God had called him and would equip him with what he needed to get the job done. God did not need Moses to be strong. God would be his strength. (BIG IDEA). In the NASB it says that God would “assuredly” be with him. God promised his presence would be with him as he went to his people and to Pharaoh. “I am with you” is found throughout the Bible as the way God encouraged his people as he called them to his work in the world. We see this with Jacob in Genesis 31:3, with Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:23 at his commissioning, with Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:8 and Jesus with his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 when he gave the Great Commission. He promises his presence to us as well.

God then gave Moses a sign that he was the one sending him to bring his people out of Egypt and would confirm his divine calling. The sign would be that Moses, when he had brought the people out of Egypt, would worship God on this same mountain. There are some curious things about this sign: One, it was a sign that wouldn’t be fulfilled for quite a while and, two, it was meant to build up Moses’ faith. Moses was going to have to exercise faith in God that he was going to be with him and give him the power to do what he was calling him to do. When the people would arrive on this mountain to worship God then Moses and the people of Israel would truly know that it was God who had called him and that his presence and power had been with him as he had promised. Three, this mountain was not in a direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land. Since this mountain was out of the way, it would make God’s promise more miraculous when he led them back to it. Moses and the people would have to exercise their faith to believe in God’s sign and when they arrived back at this mountain, their faith would be strengthened. This exercising and strengthening of their faith in God would help them as they later traveled in the wilderness.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7, God’s people are called to live by faith and not by sight. Where in your life do you need to exercise faith this morning? If you will exercise faith in God, as he fulfills his promises in your life, your faith will also be strengthened. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Exercise faith in the Lord as I wait on him to fulfill his promises in my life. By coming to the mountain and worshiping God, it would signify that the Israelites were no longer under the Pharoah’s control. They would now be under the care of the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He would be their covenant God and their deliverer and worship would become a major part of their future as God’s chosen people. Delivering his people out of slavery in Egypt was the beginning of bringing them into a living, personal relationship with himself.

Moses didn’t have the credentials to carry out this calling from God, but God did, which brings us to our second point this morning which is the Credentials of God found in verses 13-15. This is what God’s Word says, “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.

Here we see the second objection from Moses. The first objection was, but “Who am I?” The second is essentially, but “Who are you?” Moses was concerned that when he went to the Israelites and said that God appeared to him, they would want to know who this God is that sent him. What is his name? This was actually a pretty good question on Moses’ part for a couple of reasons: One, the Israelites had been living in Egypt for a long time with their plethora of gods. Second, they had not had a new revelation from the God of their fathers in a long time. Joseph, Jacob and his other sons had been dead for generations by this time. It is possible that many Israelites had forgotten the God of their fathers and had started to worship the gods that influenced the culture around them. Third, in the ancient world, the names of gods were important. They provided information about the nature, reputation or character of the god they worshiped. To be able to truly worship and pray to the gods, you needed to call on his name and to do that you needed to know his name. Since there had been generations of divine silence the people would naturally wonder exactly who is this God that Moses says sent him? ​​ 

God graciously responds to Moses’ question giving him his calling card, which would be a witness to Moses’ personal interaction with him. God says four very important things in this section. First, he is speaking specifically to Moses when he said, “I AM WHO I AM” which could also be translated “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” or “I WILL BE GOD.” What did God mean by this? It spoke to his character and reputation. He was saying that he is the self-existent creator and sustainer, the unchanging and eternal One. He is the sovereign Lord and without equal. He is the active, personal presence and covenant God of their fathers. Williams notes, “Contextually, the name “I AM WHO I AM” may well be taken as ‘I will be to you as I was to them.’ This would encourage Moses that God would be with him and for him just as he had been with and for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Second, he told Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM” has sent him to them. “I AM WHAT I AM” told Moses about his character and reputation, “I AM” was his name which spoke to what he was going to do now and in the future. “I AM” has been translated “Yahweh”, which was the name of God that was known to their Israelite ancestors. Enns says, “This name would verify to Moses and the people that the God of their fathers is now going to rescue them as he promised long ago.” Third, he told Moses to also tell the Israelites that ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—has sent me to you.’ The LORD was the equivalent of Yahweh and “I AM” which connected the God who was sending Moses to free his people from slavery as the same God of their forefathers. By using this name God was calling the Israelites back to the faith of their fathers.

“I AM” was going to be for the Israelite people whatever they needed or lacked. This reminds us of the Nicole Nordeman song from the opening. She had all these names for God throughout her life but the only one she truly needed was “I AM.” When we need a deliverer, “I AM” is all we need. When we need grace, mercy and forgiveness, “I AM” is all we need. When we need guidance, “I AM” is all we need. When we are worried about what is happening in the world, “I AM” is all we need. When we are weak, “I AM” is strong. (BIG IDEA). What do you need God to be for you, today? You can call on the “Great I AM” for whatever you need. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is “Call on the “Great I Am” to __________________. How would you finish that sentence this morning? What do you need “I AM” to be or to do for you today?

Fourth, God told Moses that this name, LORD, was to be his name forever, and was the name that the Israelites were to call him from generation to generation. The covenant God, the LORD, Yahweh, I AM was the name they were to call God for eternity. Later, Jesus would identify himself as one and the same as God by calling himself “I AM” which clearly identified him as the God of the burning bush. In John 8:28, it says, “Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am [He], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” And in John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” And in John 8:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I Am [He], you will die in your sins.” Jesus Christ is God. He is the God who saves, and if you do not believe in him today, you have no hope of salvation. A Christian is a person who believes that Jesus and God are one and the same, the “Great I AM.” Jesus wants us to put his faith in him, going where he sends us, trusting in his promise of everlasting presence and believing that he is the God who saves. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” If you have never put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then the third next step is for you and today will be the day of your salvation. My next step is to “declare Jesus is Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead and accept his free gift of salvation.” If you take that next step, please mark your communication card so we can be in touch with you to talk with you about that decision.

So far, the questions and answers had been from Moses for Moses. Now that God had given Moses his “calling card” to prove that he had been sent by him, he gave him the content he was to relay to the Israelite people. Which brings us to our third point this morning which is Content found in verses 16-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

Moses was to go the elders of Israel and talk with them first. Why? The elders were the older men of the Israelite community who through age and experience were looked up to. The word originally meant “bearded ones” and were leaders in the community, promoting the standards of right living and arbitrating disputes. Also, it would have been impossible for all the Israelites to gather around and hear what Moses had to say. So, God commanded Moses to go before the elders and be the divine spokesman of what God wanted his people to know. The elders would then disseminate that to all the people. Referring to God as the LORD, the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, meant that the message to follow came from the covenant God who had committed himself to and made promises to their forefathers. Moses was to tell them that God had been watching over them and had seen their oppression. Stuart says, “God had noticed, seen . . . paid attention to . . . his people and was not merely aware but was going to do something about it.” It would not happen by human means but through God’s power. “Watched over” is the same verb as “come to your aid” in Genesis 50:24 where Joseph told his brothers that “God will surely come to your aid.” God had always cared for his people and had always been aware of what was happening to them. He was now going to keep the promise he made to their fathers that he would bring them out of their misery in Egypt and into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.

Next, we see the all-knowing omniscience of God. He gives encouragement to Moses by telling him that the elders will listen to him, and that he is to take them along with him to confront Pharaoh. God also gave Moses the words to say to Pharaoh. He was to tell Pharaoh that the LORD, the God of the Hebrews met with them. We can notice a couple things here. One, they are to refer to the LORD as the God of the Hebrews because Pharaoh would not have known or cared about their fathers – but he would understand that they were talking about their God. Second, they told Pharaoh that the LORD “met with them.” “Met with us” would indicate that this request was a divine obligation. They were to request that Pharaoh allow them to take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD their God. Now we know that what God had in mind was not just a three-day journey but a full-blown, permanent leaving of Egypt. Was Moses trying to deceive Pharaoh? No, this was actually the way that bargaining took place in the Near East at that time. Stuart says, “Those in the Near East preferred to use suggestive, gentle, restrained, and limited ways of making requests as opposed to simply coming right out and asking for what they wanted.” This made me think of a few things we say today that don’t really say what we mean. Like “Would you please hand me the remote?” is actually a way of saying, “I’m going to control what we watch, if you don’t mind.” Or, “Dad, can I have the keys to the car?” usually means, “Dad, may I use the car for the next several hours, with no one else being able to use it?” Or, “Have you got a second?” is not literal at all but really is a way of saying, “I’d like to take an indefinite amount of your time,” and “He’ll be with you in a moment” is not literally true but can mean “Keep waiting; he’ll be free whenever he’s free.” Pharaoh knew and understood full well what Moses and the elders were asking. But what was more important was the purpose for their leaving. They wanted to go to offer sacrifices to their God in order to worship him. In Egyptian culture Pharaoh was considered “god” therefore this would have been a blasphemous request on the part of the Israelites. Pharaoh could have allowed them to worship in Egypt but letting them leave Egypt to worship would have challenged Pharoah’s claims to be god and ultimately who had control over the people of Israel.

God displayed his sovereignty by knowing the future and the future going exactly according to his plan. God knew that Pharaoh would not want to lose the slave labor force of the Israelites much less give in to their request for the freedom to worship their God. He knew that Pharaoh would not let the Israelites leave Egypt unless a “mighty hand” compelled him. The “mighty hand” refers to God and what he will do to bring his people out of slavery. Pharaoh was known as “one who destroys his enemies with his strong arm” so this deliberately pitted Yahweh against Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s arm would be no match for God’s mighty hand as God would show his superiority over Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.

God goes on to tell Moses how he will compel Pharoah to let his people go. He will “stretch” out his hand and “strike” the Egyptians with “wonders” that he will perform among them. The word “strike” means “to beat” and is translated “destroy” in describing the impact of the flood in Genesis 8:21. God would strike the Egyptians with “wonders” which would be extraordinary acts done by God’s supernatural power. We know these as the ten plagues. After these “wonders” Pharoah will let God’s people go. In fact the Hebrew phrase “let them go” means that Pharoah will “expel” them from Egypt. He will kick the Israelites out because of the “wonders” God’s mighty hand will do. God will make the Egyptians “favorably disposed” toward the Israelites and they would not leave Egypt empty-handed. Just as God would compel Pharaoh to let his people go, he would also compel the Egyptian people to give their valuables to them on the way out the door. This would fulfill the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:14 that his people would come out of captivity “with great possessions.” God goes on to explain how this would be done which would show God’s power. “Favorably disposed” means that it would be in the Egyptian women’s best interest to give their valuables to the Israelite women. Remember the “angel of the Lord” would pass over killing all the firstborn sons. The women would be willing to give anything they could to get them to leave.

The Israelite women were to “ask” the Egyptian women living in Goshen and the Egyptian women they worked for as domestic servants for silver, gold and clothing. The verb for “ask” actually means “to demand.” Most commentators say this was the equivalent of asking for wages they should have received for the slave labor they were forced to do. The gold and silver would be used in and for the tabernacle in the wilderness. The clothing was not ordinary clothing but valuable ones that were to be put on their sons and daughters. God knew that their generation would grow up in the wilderness, so this was to prepare them for the future. This is the first mention of the second generation of wilderness Israelites in the narrative. The emphasis is on women for two reasons. One, the Israelite women would have had direct contact with the Egyptian women in contrast to the Israelite men who would not have had contact with the Egyptian men because they were doing the slave labor. Two, the power of God would be displayed in it was women who plundered the Egyptians. The word plundered conveyed “conflict” and “war.” Imagine the stigma of the mighty warriors of Egypt being plundered and conquered by women. This would be a complete and decisive triumph of Israel over Egypt in the most peaceful way imaginable. All orchestrated and led by the “Great I AM.”

A house servant had two large pots. One hung on each end of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. The other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. For two years the servant delivered each day only one-and-a-half pots full of water to his master's house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable over accomplishing only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the servant one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "What are you ashamed of?" asked the bearer. "For these past two years I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you don't get full value from your work." The servant said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." As they went up the hill, the cracked pot noticed the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path. When they reached the house, the servant said to the pot, "Did you notice the flowers grew only on your side of the path, not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walked back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table." Each one of us has flaws and I would add weaknesses. But if we allow it, the Lord will use our flaws and our weaknesses to grace his Father's table. God doesn’t need us to be perfect, only obedient to what he is calling us to do. So like Moses, let us embrace our flaws and weaknesses, acknowledging that in our weakness he is strong and become obedient to what he is calling each one of us to do. That brings us to our last next step, which is to Acknowledge that I am weak, but God is strong and be obedient to what God is calling me to do.

As the ushers prepare to collect the offering and comm. Cards and as the praises team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we know that in our weakness you are strong. Give us your power to be able to exercise our faith as we wait on your promises. Give us your strength to call on you, the “Great I AM” in our time of need. Fill us daily with your Holy Spirit, so we can be obedient to what your are calling us to do in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen. ​​ 


Whispering Jesus

My opening illustration is from Three mean-looking guys on motorcycles pulled into a truck stop cafe where a truck driver, a little guy, was sitting at the counter, quietly eating his lunch. The three thugs saw him, grabbed his food, and laughed in his face. The truck driver didn’t say a word. He got up, paid for his food and walked out. One of the bikers, unhappy that they hadn’t succeeded in provoking the little man into a fight, bragged to the waitress, “He sure wasn’t much of a man, was he?” The waitress replied, “No, I guess not.” Then, glancing out the window she added, “I guess he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just ran over three motorcycles.” The familiar saying, “Don’t get mad, just get even” sums up the world’s philosophy of how to deal with someone who wrongs us. But in contrast to the world’s way, God prescribes a radical approach when we are wronged: Ephesians 4:32 says, “We are to be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ has forgiven us.” It’s easy to say that, but it’s a lot harder to do. The difficulty increases in proportion to how badly we’ve been hurt. When we’ve been badly hurt, we don’t feel like forgiving that person, even if they repent, at least not until they’ve suffered a while. We want them to know what it feels like and to pay for what they have done to us. Maybe some of us are struggling with those feelings this morning. Maybe it’s something that happened to us recently, or maybe from a while back. If we’re bitter and unforgiving, we’re not obeying the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love others. Bitterness not only displeases God; it spreads to others, defiling many as we see in Hebrews 12:15. So if we want to please God, we must ask ourselves, “How can we root out bitterness and truly forgive those who have wronged us?”

We have been studying the life of Joseph and he had to find a way to avoid bitterness and learn to forgive. He had been repeatedly hurt: His own brothers had planned to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery at the last moment. As Potiphar’s slave, he was faithful and upright, but was falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife. He spent years in prison and was forgotten by a man he had helped, who could have pled his case to Pharaoh. Yet in spite of all this, Joseph never grew bitter toward God or toward those who had wronged him. In fact, he was able to forgive his brothers for what they had done to him; forgiving them even before they apologized to him. When he revealed himself to them, he embraced, kissed, and wept over them. He then brought his entire family to Egypt, setting them up in their own land, and providing for them in every way. Joseph’s actions toward his brothers proved that he had forgiven them.

Joseph, because of the way he lived, his actions and his words, has been called a type of Christ. Typology is a form of symbolism that is prophetic. In the Old Testament, there are people and objects that pre-figure, foreshadow, or “whisper” of, something that is yet to happen or of someone (most often Jesus) who is yet to come. Joseph is clearly seen as a type of Christ throughout his life presenting a remarkable whispering of Jesus Christ. The typology between Joseph and Jesus highlights God's sovereignty and providence in ordaining events and individuals in redemptive history and serves to deepen the understanding of God's unfolding plan for us and the world. In Genesis 45, Joseph acknowledges God's sovereign hand in his suffering, betrayal, and eventual exaltation. This strikingly parallels the narrative of Jesus, who, as recorded in Acts 2 & 4, was betrayed and crucified according to God's predetermined plan. In both cases, God's providence ordained the evil intentions of men to bring about the deliverance of His people. Joseph, like Jesus, suffered unjustly at the hands of his brothers, yet ultimately saved many of those who initially sought to harm him. So far, in Genesis we have seen numerous typological connections with Jesus. First, betrayal and hatred: Joseph was betrayed and hated by his brothers, foreshadowing Jesus' betrayal by His own people. Second, temptation and sinlessness: Joseph resisted temptation and remained sinless with Potiphar’s wife, reflecting Jesus' sinless nature. Third, false accusation and condemnation: Joseph was falsely accused and condemned, mirroring Jesus' unjust trial and crucifixion. And lastly, exaltation and salvation: Joseph was raised to a position of authority beside Pharaoh, becoming the savior of many, prefiguring Jesus' resurrection and ascension as the ultimate Savior.

We will continue to see more typological connections this morning as we study Genesis 50:15-21. Just as Joseph was the whisper of Jesus by his life, as Christ-followers we are also to be whispering Jesus by our lives, our actions and our words. In order to be whispering Jesus in our everyday lives we must become more like Jesus. As that process of spiritual growth or sanctification happens, we will live as Joseph lived, as a whisper of Jesus. So our big idea this morning that God wants us to understand is that we must become more like Jesus. This is also our theme for the year as we strive to become more like Jesus in our devotion to prayer, to scripture, to serving others, to generosity, to fellowship, to evangelism and to worship. Those are all talked about in this year’s Spiritual Life Journal which can be found on the Information Station Wall in the foyer.

Before we start our study of how Joseph was the whisper of Jesus and how he is our example of becoming more like Jesus, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word this morning pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Give us wisdom and insight into what you what us to learn and obey. Open our hearts and minds to what you want us to share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is Appeal, found in Genesis 50:15-17. This is what God’s Word says, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

A couple weeks ago, we studied the death of the patriarch, Jacob. He had his sons promise to take and bury his body in Canaan and the last we saw the brothers they had returned from Canaan carrying out that promise. We don’t know how long they were thinking about what was going to happen to them after their father died but we now know that they did not believe Joseph when he said, in Genesis 45:5, 7, “And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” They did not believe that Joseph could forgive them for what they had done to him, so they are now afraid, wondering if Joseph had been holding a grudge all these years. Was he going to get payback now that their father was dead and buried? The phrase “pay us back” shows they were dreading what Joseph might do to them but they also realized that they deserved whatever payback they might get.

It seems their father, Jacob, had told the brothers to let Joseph know that he wanted him to forgive his brothers for their “iniquity, transgression (crime) and sin” against him. They sent word to Joseph asking him to forgive them based on this message from their father. They used the phrase, “your father” as opposed to “our father” because they wanted Joseph to think about his obligation to forgive them based on what Jacob would want him to do. They were trying to play on his emotions to get his forgiveness. At face value, it sounds like the brothers are trying to pull a fast one on Joseph in order to convince him to not take revenge on them for what they had done. What they failed to understand was that Joseph had already forgiven them and had moved on long before they showed up in Egypt. When Joseph named his first son, Manasseh, he was praising God for allowing him to “forgive and forget” his suffering at the hands of his brothers. We don’t know for sure if they were lying to Joseph or not but here are a few things to think about. First, if you remember, Jacob on two occasions talked with Joseph about burying his body in Canaan and not in Egypt. He could have mentioned forgiving his brothers then, but we don’t read that in scripture. Two, Joseph and all the brothers were with Jacob when he died and again nothing is mentioned. Three, if their father had really said this to the brothers and they were to relay it to Joseph then why not go and meet him face to face. You know it’s always easier to lie behind one’s back than it is to their face. Now on the possibility that this was true: it would not be the first time in Genesis that something had been brought out later that was never mentioned earlier. So, I will leave it up to you to decide. Nevertheless, the brothers are afraid of what Joseph might do to them now. Interestingly, after they recount what their father said they actually confess that they sinned against him. They refer to themselves as “servants of the God of your father” hoping Joseph would act like their father’s God who is the one who “forgives iniquity, transgression (crime) and sin.” (Wenham). ​​ But again, we are reminded that Joseph had already forgiven his brothers and the proof is seen in his actions. He wept because he was saddened that they didn’t believe that he had forgiven them and didn’t trust that Joseph wouldn’t punish them now. He wept because reconciliation had not been fully realized which is what he had hoped for.

So how was Joseph able to root out bitterness and truly forgive his brothers who had wronged him?” He had to have the proper attitude towards his brothers in order to truly forgive them. He had an attitude of humility before them and he didn’t keep score of their wrongs. And he didn’t easily take offense when they had hurt him yet again. He didn’t get upset at them and yell and scream “Why can’t you believe me?” No, he wept because he realized that all these years, they had continued to live with the guilt of what they had done. The problem was that the brothers had never confessed their sin to him until now. So how can we model Joseph and move toward becoming more like Jesus? We must forgive the wrongs done to us by others even before they come and ask for forgiveness. This humility before others is important. If we dwell on the wrongs done to us for too long, we become bitter and filled with hate. It will eat us up inside and if we don’t take care of it, will cause us to plot revenge on those who have hurt us. We need to remember that Jesus forgave others even while he was on the cross. In Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” ​​ Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t wait for us to confess what we had done before he forgave us. He forgave us, and showed us how much he loved us and then he pursued us into a relationship where we can come to repentance and salvation. So maybe this first next step on the back of your communication card is for you and will help you to become more like Jesus (Big Idea): My next step is to forgive those who wrong me before they ever ask for forgiveness from me.

That brings us to our second point this morning, which is Assurance found in Genesis 50:18-21. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Once his brothers had sent the message from their father to Joseph, they then followed up with a face-to-face visit. They threw themselves down before Joseph and announced that they were his slaves. This would have been another fulfillment of Joseph’s boyhood dreams. But we notice that Joseph didn’t say “I told you so.” He told them that that was not necessary, and they were not to be afraid. He assured them he wasn’t holding a grudge against them and he wasn’t going to take revenge on them. To prove this he said to them, “Am I in the place of God?” This was the same question that Jacob had asked Rachel when she complained to him that she was barren. But there are differences between these two questions. Walton says, “When Jacob used the same rhetorical question in response to Rachel’s barren condition, he was confessing his inability to assume the role of deity. In contrast Joseph’s use of the question reflects his own commitment to restraint. He refuses to take on the role of deity. Hamilton says, The Septuagint renders his question “for am I God’s (surrogate)” meaning they had no fear of retribution for Joseph had God’s view of things and therefore is above retribution. Joseph denied that he was in God’s place. He refused to cross that line. Joseph will only be God’s instrument, never his substitute. That is important for us to remember, as well.

Joseph knew that to forgive others we must realize our proper place before God. We must allow God to be the judge and not ourselves. We must humble ourselves before the sovereignty of God and believe that God is good in all his ways, as we see in verse 20. Joseph didn’t sugarcoat what his brothers had done to him. They intended to harm him, and he told them so. This was not to make them feel bad, he was just telling them the truth. He wasn’t going to sweep it under the rug, but he wasn’t going to rub their noses in it, either. Joseph saw the sovereignty of God in what happened to him, and he embraced it. He also called it good because God had used it to accomplish the saving of many lives. Joseph not only forgave his brothers before they had even asked for forgiveness, he also humbled himself before Almighty God. As we follow this example of Joseph we will become more like Jesus (Big Idea). This brings us to our second next step on the back of your communication card which is to: Allow God to be the judge, humble myself before his sovereignty and believe that God is good in all his ways. ​​ 

He told them again to not be afraid and he promised to provide for them and their children. And he assured them that he had forgiven them, speaking kindly to them. He literally “spoke to their heart” reassuring them by his words and his deeds. “Speaking to their heart” is mostly used in the Bible in cases where there are feelings of guilt and there is a need for forgiveness and/or repentance. There was no malice in his tone at all and he was still going to provide and care for them as he had since they first came to Egypt looking for food. Joseph again in this section exhibits many attributes that we need to emulate in order to become more like Jesus. He didn’t remind his brothers about the fulfillment of his dreams even though it happened numerous times. He spoke the truth in love. He didn’t give them a free pass for what they had done to him but he knew it wasn’t his place to judge. He had provided for his family and would continue to do so. He was following God’s sovereign plan for his life. When we take our proper place before God it is easy to express the proper attitude towards others and we can forgive the way that Joseph forgave his brothers and the way that Jesus forgave us for our sins that nailed him to the cross.

My conclusion is adapted from a John Stott article called “Becoming More Like Christ.” What is God’s purpose for His people? God wants His people to become more like Jesus. We see the biblical basis for becoming more like Jesus in three scriptures. The first is Romans 8:29 which says that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son. Becoming like Jesus is the eternal predestinating purpose of God for his people. The second is 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness, from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” It is by the indwelling Spirit Himself that we are being changed into becoming more like Jesus. Third is 1 John 3:2. “Beloved, we are God’s children now and it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” We don’t know for certain what it will be like in heaven, but we do know that we will be like Christ. We will be with Christ, like Christ, forever. These three biblical perspectives—past, present, and future – for becoming more like Jesus is the purpose of God for the people of God.

In what ways are we to be like Jesus? First, we are to be like Jesus in his incarnation. 1 John 2:6 says, “He who says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way as he walked.” In other words, if we claim to be a Christian, we must be Christlike. We are to be like Christ in his Incarnation meaning we are to be like Christ in the humility of Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped for his own selfish enjoyment, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” We are all called to follow the example of His great humility in coming down from heaven to earth. Second, we are to be like Jesus in His service. In John 13 it says, “He took off his outer garments, he tied a towel round him, he poured water into a basin and washed his disciples’ feet. When he had finished, he resumed his place and said, ‘If then I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet, for I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.” To be like Jesus in his service means that just as Jesus performed what in His culture was the work of a slave, so we in our culture must regard no task too menial or degrading to undertake for each other.

Third, we are to be like Jesus in His love. Ephesians 5:2 says, “walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We are to walk in love, meaning that all our behavior should be characterized by love, but we are also to be like Jesus in his death, to love with the self-giving Calvary love. Fourth, we are to be like Jesus in His patient endurance which is talking about his suffering. In 1 Peter 2, Peter urges Christian slaves, if punished unjustly, to bear it and not to repay evil for evil. We have been called to this because Christ suffered, leaving us an example so that we may follow in His steps. This is a call to us to be more like Jesus in suffering unjustly as he did. Fifth, we are to be like Jesus in His mission. In John 20:21, Jesus prayed, “As you, Father, have sent me into the world, so I send them into the world.” He is talking about his disciples but also about us. The disciple’s mission in the world was to resemble Jesus’ mission. As Jesus was sent into the world by his father, we are sent into the world by Jesus. As we put these into practice, we will become more like Jesus and be whispering him into the world.

There are three practical consequences of becoming more like Jesus. First, there will be suffering. Suffering is part of God’s process of making us more like his Son. Whether we suffer from disappointment, frustration, or some other painful tragedy, we need to see this in the light of Romans 8:28-29. God is always working for the good of His people, and this good purpose is to make us more like Jesus. Second, is the challenge of evangelism. Why do Christian’s evangelistic efforts often end in failure? One main reason is that we don’t look like the Christ we are proclaiming. John Poulton’s book, “A Today Sort of Evangelism”, writes: The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message. Christians need to look like what they are talking about. Christians must be authentic. The Reverend Iskandar Jadeed, a former Arab Muslim, has said “If all Christians were Christians—that is, Christlike—there would be no more Islam today.” WOW. If Christians would just be authentically Christlike in every way imagine what this world would be like. Third is the indwelling of the Spirit. In our own strength, becoming more like Jesus is clearly not attainable, but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within. So, God’s purpose is to transform us to become more like Jesus and God’s way to make us like Jesus is to fill us with his Spirit. This enables us to become more like Jesus: in His Incarnation, in His service, in His love, in His suffering, and in His mission. That brings us to the final next step on the back of your communication card this morning: My next step is to become more like Jesus in His humility, in His service, in His love, in His suffering, and in His mission.

As the praise team comes forward to lead us in a final song and as the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and communication cards, let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Word. As we go about this week, help us to remember and obey what we’ve heard. Help us to be able to forgive others who have wronged us even before they ask forgiveness from us. Help us to allow you to be the judge, help us to humble ourselves before your sovereignty and believe that you are good in all your ways. ​​ And help us to become more like your Son in His humility, His service, His love, His suffering, and in His mission. I pray all this is your son’s precious name, Amen.


Welcome Home

Play Video of “Taps.” “Taps” is a highly recognizable tune that dates back to the American Civil War. Before “Taps” there was a traditional bugle call the Army used to let troops know it was time to sleep, but some believed this didn’t fit the somber reality of war. General Daniel Butterfield thought this bugle call should be more melodious after a long, tiring day so he reworked an existing call and had his brigade bugler play it for the Army men. Soon, buglers from other units spread this 24-note tune. It was so popular it even caught on with the Confederate troops. The tune is probably called “Taps” because of the tradition that was commonplace before this new bugle call which was to play a series of three drumbeats or drum “taps.” Soon after “Taps” was created it was first played for the military funeral of a Union cannoneer who was killed in the war. His commanding officer decided the bugle call would be a safer way to honor the loss instead of the traditional firing of three rifle volleys over the grave of the soldier which could have been seen as an attack by any nearby enemy. “Taps” didn’t become a mandatory part of military funerals until 1891 though it was likely used unofficially long before that. Since then, it’s become a way to honor all those who fought for our country. The song was a way to send troops to sleep after a long day and has become a call for the ultimate rest. There’s something beautiful about having the same tones and notes lingering through the centuries.

I wanted to play “Taps” this morning because we are going to be talking about the death of a patriarch today. Jacob is going to say his final words and people are going to pay their final respects to the grandson of Abraham and Sarah and the son of Isaac and Rebekah. He has lived a long life full of ups and downs, triumphs and hardships and happiness and sadness. He held on to his brother’s heel as he was born, and he held on to God and wouldn’t let go as he wrestled with him. He fought for a birthright and for a blessing, and through it all, in the immortal words of Frank Sinatra, he “did it his way.” But he also was a man of faith, and he was steadfast to the end. He trusted that the blessing of God handed down from Abraham and Isaac to himself and his descendants was something so important that he would not let it go even in death. And in his dying moment he transferred that important faith in God’s blessing and instilled it in his twelve sons. Jacob knew that Egypt was not his home, and that Canaan was the Promised Land of God’s chosen people. But Jacob also believed that there was more to this life than this earth and he wanted his sons to believe it too. He knew that the earth was not his home and that ultimately his home was where God dwelled and where his fathers were residing now. So when he died, he believed at that moment his fathers would say, “welcome home.” The death of his physical body would not be the end of his existence and it would not be his final note. That brings us to our big idea this morning that Death does not have to be your final note.

Before we start our study of this passage this morning let’s offer our time together to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, please pour out your Holy Spirit on all that hear your Word. Let it satisfy our souls and refresh us for the week ahead. Use it to teach us, rebuke us, correct us and train us in righteousness for your name’s sake. In Jesus name, Amen.

There are two points this morning, the first is Final Words found in Genesis 49:29-33. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then he gave them these instructions: “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob had finished giving instructions to his sons, he drew his feet up into the bed, breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”

These are the last words spoken by Jacob to his twelve sons before he died. They were very important words that he saved until the very end. These final words were his living will instructing them about the final disposition of his body. He tells them that he is about to be “gathered” to his people and then he gives them instructions about where to bury his body. Being “gathered” to his people and the burying of his body were two different things. The first was spiritual and the second was physical. When he said he was about to be “gathered to his people” it was his statement of faith and hope in a life after death. He believed that when he took his last breath he would be reunited with his grandparents, Abraham and Sarah, his parents, Isaac and Rebekah, and his wives Rachel and Leah and others who had “believed by faith” in God and his promises. We see this same expression being used all the way back to Abraham in Genesis 25:8, Ishmael in Genesis 25:17, Isaac in Genesis 35:29, Aaron in Numbers 20:24 and Moses in Deuteronomy 32:50.

Then Jacob gave instructions about the burial of his physical body. He instructed that his body was to be buried in Canaan not in Egypt. This was the third time he gave these instructions. The first two times were to Joseph in Genesis 47:29-31 and Genesis 48:21-22. This time it was to all his sons. He wanted to make sure that they all knew they had the responsibility of obeying his final wishes and keeping this promise after he was gone. But there was more to it than that. Jacob believed in the blessing and promise of the land given to his fathers. He believed that Canaan was the Promised Land that God would give to his descendants. Again, this was a statement of faith in the promises of God. John Calvin wrote that Jacob “did not wish to be carried into the land of Canaan, as if he would be nearer to heaven for being buried there; but that, being dead, he might claim possession of a land which he had held during his life…because it was profitable that the memory of the promise should be renewed, by this symbol, among his surviving sons, in order that they might aspire to it.” Jacob believed God and the promises that he made, and he wanted his sons to believe in them too. But he also knew that his descendants would spend the next 400 years in Egypt and in slavery. His burial in Canaan would be a visible sign to the sons of Israel that God would one day deliver them from slavery, lead them out of Egypt and into their Promised Land. He wanted to give his sons and their descendants hope that no matter how bad their lives would become, God’s promises would be fulfilled.

Jacob also gave them a very specific and precise location as to where to bury his body. Look at the number of times he repeats certain phrases. He mentions a cave, a field and Ephron the Hittite three times. He mentions that Abraham bought it from Ephron the Hittite twice. He mentions Machpelah, Mamre and Canaan one time each. He tells them that Abraham and his wife, Sarah, Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, and Leah are all buried there. This is the first time we are told where Rebekah and Leah had been buried. This description and explanation were for two reasons. First, it was to prove that the place he wanted to be buried was his family’s burial place that was bought by Abraham from Ephron the Hittite in front of witnesses. We saw this in Genesis 23. It was legally owned by Abraham and his descendants, of which Jacob was one, and he had the right to be buried there. Baldwin says, “Land tenure in the ancient near east was dependent on the ability to make proper reference back to the original forefather who held the title authenticating the registration, and from then on transmitting the deeds. By naming the ancestors Jacob reinforces the necessity of his burial in the same location as Abraham and Isaac.” Second, his sons would be able to take his body to the exact place he was to be buried. He had given very specific directions to the cave at Machpelah: In Canaan near Mamre, in the field that his grandfather Abraham had bought from Ephron the Hittite. Hamilton says, “As he lay dying, he still remembered the covenant and thought about his post-death rituals in terms of the promises that have been made to his family by God.”

Once Jacob was done giving instructions to his sons “he drew up his feet into the bed,” “breathed his last,” and was “gathered to his people.” He “drew his feet into the bed” meaning he calmly accepted his physical death and his strong faith allowed him to face it satisfied and unafraid. That he “breathed his last” meant that his physical body was now lifeless. But we never see the words “and he died” as we did with others, such as Abraham and Isaac. The emphasis here was not on dying but on “rejoining.” The author of Genesis wants us to realize the confidence and hope that Jacob had in a life after death with his family and with the Lord. Hebrews 11:39 tells us that Jacob and the other great men of faith died without realizing the promises of God, but Jacob’s faith gave him that confidence and hope in God’s promises which sustained him as he “breathed his last.” As I have already covered, he was then “gathered to his people.” Jacob believed what Paul would write some 1600 years later in 2 Corinthians 5:8: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” As Jacob faced his death, he exercised his faith in God’s promises. He had never died before and gone beyond the grave. He didn’t know what was waiting for him there, but he had faith, he had hope and he trusted in his God and the God of his fathers. He believed that God was a God of the living and not the dead.

Do we as Christians today have the same unwavering faith, hope and trust in God’s promise of life after death? We have the further knowledge that Jesus resurrected from the grave and is alive in Heaven as we meet here this morning. Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope in our future resurrection, but do we live our lives like we believe it? Do we tell our family, friends and others that we believe it? Do we share this faith, hope and trust with others who do not know Jesus and are in desperate need of a Savior? If we don’t, we should and we must. We are commanded to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. Our mission as Christ-followers is to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to share my faith, hope and trust in an eternal life with God and Jesus in Heaven. We need to be sharing this with our family, friends and especially those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

This brings us to our second point today called Final Respects found in Genesis 50:1-14. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days. When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’” Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.” So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt—besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company. When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim. So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.”

When Jacob breathed his last, we see a perfectly human and real emotional response from Joseph. He was so overcome with emotion that he threw himself on his father and he didn’t just cry, he “wept”, and he “kissed” him. The NASB literally translates it as he “fell on his father’s face” reminding us of God’s promise to Jacob in Genesis 46:4 that “Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.” This was the fulfillment of God’s promise that Jacob would be reunited with Joseph and he would be present at his death. We can rejoice in the fact that God is a good God and he keeps his promises. He kept his promises to Jacob and Joseph and the Israelite people and keeps his promises to us today.

This is the only time in the Bible that it is mentioned that someone kissed the dead. Such an emotional response reminds us of the strong familial bond between this father and son. We aren’t told that Jacob’s other sons wept at his death, but we can believe that they did. Joseph’s response is the only one recorded since he is the main focus of the narrative. This is the sixth time we have seen Joseph cry and it is interesting that we only ever seen him cry for others and never for himself. The five times he has cried before this was in happiness. This is the first time he has cried in sorrow. Joseph was grieved over his father’s death, but he was not crippled with sorrow. He had promised his father that he would bury him in Canaan, and he immediately sets out to carry out his father’s last wishes. In this way he paid his final respects to his father and showed his faith in God.

Joseph, of all the brothers, with his official position in Pharaoh’s court, would have had the ability to make his father’s wishes happen. So he personally took charge of his father’s funeral arrangements directing the “physicians” to embalm his father’s body according to Egyptian practices. It would have taken forty days to complete the procedure. Jacob is only one of two Israelites that were embalmed in the Bible, the other being Joseph himself. Jacob’s body would have had to be embalmed in order to transport it to Canaan. Joseph employed “physicians” or “healers” to do the procedure instead of the professional embalmers of the day. This procedure involved considerable surgery so the physicians would have been familiar and capable of performing it, but it was usually done by “mortuary priests.” Embalming usually included numerous pagan religious rituals conducted by a trained group of mortuary priests which reflected a particular view of the afterlife. Joseph would have wanted to avoid these pagan rituals while still embalming his father’s body for transport to Canaan. This would have been in accordance with Jacob’s and Joseph’s faith in the one true and living God. Pharaoh commanded the Egyptians to observe an official mourning period of seventy days for Jacob. This mourning period would have included the forty days it took to embalm him. This period was exceptional in the fact that the time of mourning for a Pharaoh was seventy-two days. Jacob was so highly thought of and honored that he was mourned almost as long as a Pharaoh would have been. This was Pharaoh and the Egyptian people’s way of paying their final respects to Jacob. In contrast, the mourning period for the Hebrew people usually lasted seven days but there were exceptions such as Moses and Aaron who were mourned for thirty days each.

After the mourning period had ended, Joseph respectfully petitioned Pharaoh's court to speak on his behalf to Pharoah. “If I have favor in your eyes” emphasizes the importance of the request to him personally. The reason Joseph couldn’t go directly to Pharaoh was probably because he was considered unclean from coming in contact with his father’s dead body and wouldn’t be allowed in Pharaoh’s presence. He wanted Pharaoh’s court to speak to Pharaoh about being able to take his father’s body back to Canaan to be buried. He had made an oath to his father that he would fulfill his final wishes, but Joseph needed Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt. Joseph leaves out two things from the oath he made to his father. One, he doesn’t mention putting his hand under his father’s thigh to make the oath because it wouldn’t have made any sense to Pharaoh. It was a Hebrew custom not an Egyptian one. Two, he didn’t mention that Jacob under no circumstances wanted to be buried in Egypt. Joseph was diplomatic and didn’t want it to seem that Jacob was ungrateful for all that Pharaoh had done for his family. Joseph stresses that Jacob wanted to be buried in the tomb that he had “dug” himself in the land of Canaan. Now, we know that Jacob didn’t dig out the cave at Machpelah but Joseph used this nuance to appeal to Pharaoh who would understand wanting to spend eternity in a tomb of his own preparing. According to Hamilton it is possible that the word translated “dug” or “hewn” could also mean “bought” which is what Abraham did. Joseph waited till the end of his plea to ask permission to go, adding that he promised to return to Egypt. Jacob’s insistence on being buried in Canaan with his fathers was a statement of faith to where his children and their families really belonged.

Pharoah agreed to allow Joseph to go and bury his father’s body in Canaan just as Jacob made Joseph swear to do. Pharaoh was impressed by Joseph’s devotion to his father. He repeated Joseph’s words to “go and bury your father as you promised” but he didn’t repeat Joseph’s promise to return. This was an indication that Pharaoh implicitly trusted Joseph to keep that promise. Joseph then “went up” to bury his father along with a very large entourage. This entourage was made up of three different groups. The first were high ranking officials in Pharaoh’s court and in Egypt. This would have included elders of Pharaoh’s household and elders of the land. This showed great respect for both Jacob and Joseph. The second were members of Joseph’s household, his brothers and those in his father’s household. The third was the equivalent of a military escort consisting of chariots and horsemen which was also a sign of respect and honor. They would have also offered protection from bandits, thieves, and foreign countries along the way. The word “all” is mentioned three times reinforcing the largeness of the entourage. All who were able and necessary accompanied Joseph. The only people that did not go were Joseph’s and his brother’s families’ children. They also did not take their livestock. These would have been a sign to Pharaoh that Joseph and his family would return to Egypt according to his promise. We continue to see the fulfillment of the promise of God to make Abraham’s name great. All of Egypt stopped and mourned the passing of Abraham’s grandson and Pharaoh sent this huge funeral procession to Canaan to bury him. Walton says, “The attention paid to one’s death is often considered an indication of the greatness or significance of one’s life. Contrast the death of Jehoram, king of Judah found in 2 Chronicles 21:20: “He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” Jacob believed in the promises of God and God fulfilled his promises in and through Jacob in his life and in his death.

Joseph led his father’s funeral procession to Canaan until they came to the threshing floor of Atad near the Jordan. The location of this threshing floor is unknown except that it is near the Jordan River either right inside or just outside the land of Canaan. This would have been an appropriate spot to stop and observe a more private seven-day mourning period for his father. A threshing floor was chosen because they were usually outside the city, elevated and offered a large clear space for many people to gather at one time. This mourning period was specifically Hebrew and was marked by loud and bitter lamenting. After all this family had been through, they were broken by the death of Jacob and came together to honor him properly. Mathews says, The Hebrew is literally “they mourned there a mourning great and very grievous (or bitterly).” This mourning must have included actions as well as words because it was something the Canaanites in the area “saw” rather than “heard.” Along with the weeping and lamenting there was probably the tearing of clothes and the wearing of sackcloth. Some may have shaved their heads and others may have been walking around barefoot. All of which were visible signs of mourning. The intensity and conspicuousness of their grief is seen in the mention of the word “mourning” three times, as well as the Canaanites of the area taking notice. When the Canaanites saw this, they named the place, “Abel Mizraim,” which means, “the mourning of the Egyptians.” They falsely thought they were Egyptians holding a solemn mourning ceremony which would have been understandable because the coffin and the clothing they were dressed in would have been distinctly Egyptian.

Because of where the entourage stopped scholars believe they did not take the direct route to Canaan. There may have been some upheaval in the countries surrounding Egypt that made they go out of their way. But there are too many similarities to another journey that will be taken by God’s chosen people four hundred years later. Their route was much the same as the one the Israelites will take during the Exodus as Moses leads them out of Egypt and a lot of the same phrases in this narrative occur then as well. Goldingay says, “Joseph’s request “to go up” to Canaan anticipates Moses’ plea for the Israelites to take a trip out of Egypt.” Walton says “His burial procession is seen as a pledge or acted prophecy of the nation’s future move.” That the Canaanites acknowledge the event foreshadows their submission during the conquest. In effect this was a rehearsal for the future homecoming of the nation in fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel.

We are told that Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them. This is the first mention of the other brothers since Jacob died and it is the first and only time we see all of Jacob’s sons doing anything together. Their obedience is emphasized as they participated in their father’s burial just as the sons of Abraham and Isaac participated in theirs. No matter how much brothers are at odds with each other during their lives they are expected to come together to bury their fathers when they pass away. From this spot, Jacob’s sons acted as pallbearers carrying his body to the land of Canaan indicating they were the only ones who entered Canaan to lay his body in its final resting place. This would have been a highly personal journey carried out by the sons of Jacob as they paid their final respects to their father. The text confirms that they buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as the burial place from Ephron the Hittite. We are again given these very specific details to prove that this burial ground was owned by Jacob’s family, and he had the right to be buried there. It also renewed to the people of Canaan that Abraham’s family had ownership of this land and that they would one day return to possess it.

After they finished burying their father everyone returned to Egypt. Joseph had kept his promise to his father and to Pharaoh. Although the text states that everyone returned the emphasis is singular not plural. Joseph proved trustworthy and faithful to his promise to return. The twice mention of the word “burial” in our final verse points out the magnitude that the author felt about Jacob’s death and burial in the Promised Land. It was supremely important for the future of the Israelite people and the plans and purposes of God that Jacob be buried with his fathers in Canaan.

Play “Reveille.” Winston Churchill planned his own funeral and it included many of the great hymns of the church and used the eloquent Anglican liturgy. At his direction, a bugler, positioned high in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, played “Taps,” the universal signal that day is done. But then came the most dramatic turn. As Churchill had instructed, as soon as “Taps” was finished, another bugler, placed on the other side of the great dome, played “Reveille”: If you don’t know the words to “Reveille” they are “It’s time to get up, it’s time to get up, it’s time to get up in the morning.” The author of this story didn’t know if Churchill was a true believer in Jesus Christ, but by following “Taps” with “Reveille,” he seemed to be testifying that death is not the final note in history. There will be that “great gittin’ up morning,” when the dead in Christ shall rise. When a loved one dies, there is the sorrow and grief of loss, but for the believer, there is also the hope of eternal life that overcomes the grief.

If you are a Christian this morning, this passage teaches us how to finish our journey of faith. Death is not the final note because as Christ-followers we have hope in God’s promises. We are reminded that there is a place that God is preparing for us, and he will surely come back for us and welcome us home. So how do we live out this journey of faith? How can our lives and our deaths point our family and friends to the Lord? How can we be faithful to our word as God has always been faithful to his? We can forgive others because through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we have been forgiven. We can live in hope because the promises of God are true and sufficient for us. We can die in faith because God offers us eternal life in Christ. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card this morning which is to finish my journey of faith forgiving others, living in hope and dying in faith.

But if you are not a Christian, this passage teaches us that death does not have to be the final note in your life. One day, we will all die and every one of us will be gathered to our people. We will either be gathered to our people in heaven or gathered to our people in hell. There will be no exceptions. Believers and unbelievers alike will be gathered to their people. How, then, can we be sure that we will be gathered with God’s people? The key to being gathered to God’s people is to be gathered to Jesus Christ here and now. It is only as you are saved by the person and work of Jesus Christ that you can be sure of being gathered one day to His people. Those who will be gathered to His people at death are those who are identified with His people in life. So the question is who will you be gathered to when you die? You can only know for sure if you are gathered by Christ to His people in the here and now. Those who know for sure where they are going when they die are those who admit that they are sinners and believe that Jesus Christ died on a cross for their sins and rose again and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior this morning, I urge you to Admit, Believe and Confess and not let death be your final note. That brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card which is to Admit I am a sinner, believe that Jesus died for me and rose again, and confess him as Lord so that when I die I am gathered to God and his people.

As the Praise Team comes to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offering and communication cards, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I do thank you for your Word and I thank you for your son, Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost. Help us to be bold to share our faith, hope and trust in an eternal life in Heaven with you and your son Jesus. And Lord, as Christians, give us the strength to finish our journeys of faith having hope in your promises for ourselves on this earth and for heaven. And Lord, I pray that those who do not know you as their Lord and Savior will Admit they are sinners, believe that Jesus died for them and rose again, and confess him as Lord so that when they die they will be gathered to you and your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.











The Blessings of God

I want to open with two stories this morning. You will hear the first part of both stories now and the rest of the two stories at the conclusion. The first story comes from Mark Batterson’s book “A Double Blessing.” During his celebrated career as a composer, George Frederic Handel wrote forty-two operas, twenty-nine oratorios, and 120 cantatas. Of Handel, Beethoven said, “To him I bow the knee.” Handel certainly ranks as one of history’s greatest composers, but he hit a point of diminishing return later in life. At age fifty-six, Handel was past his composing prime. He was depressed, in debt and a stroke hindered the use of his right hand. Handel was struggling to stay musically relevant, which is rather ironic given the fact that he was about to score one of history’s most iconic pieces of music. On August 22, 1741, George Frederic Handel started composing. He would not leave his home for three weeks. In fact, he rarely left his composing chair. Twenty-one days later, Handel emerged from his writing room with a 259-page masterpiece called Messiah. The opening act prophetically points to the coming Messiah. The middle act is Handel’s commentary on the passion of Christ. The final act celebrates the risen Savior, who “shall reign forever and ever.” Finally Handel inked three letters on the last page, SDG—soli Deo gloria—“To God alone be the glory!”

The second story comes from the website “” Second Kings 7 tells a fascinating story of four lepers who sat at the gate of Samaria at a time when the city was under siege. Things had gotten so bad inside the city that women were eating their own children to survive. But Elisha the prophet had predicted something that seemed utterly impossible, that the next day food would be plentiful and affordable in Samaria. Meanwhile, the four lepers evaluated their dismal situation. If they stayed at the gate of Samaria, they would starve. If they went over to the enemy camp, they may be killed, which would be no worse than starving. But there was the outside chance that the enemy would take pity on them and give them some scraps of food. So they took their chances and went over to the enemy camp. When they got there, they were shocked to find the camp deserted. The Lord had caused the enemy to hear the sound of a great army of chariots and horses so that they fled in a panic, leaving all of their supplies behind. The four beggars ate all that they could eat. They hauled away and hid several loads of silver and gold and clothes. Those are the backstories and we’ll hear the rest at the end of the sermon.

What do those stories have in common? Both are stories of God’s blessings poured out on his creation. Handel was depressed, in debt and had had a stroke that hindered the use of his right hand. But God blessed him to still be able to write the Messiah, one of the greatest pieces in the history of music. God blessed the four lepers by miraculously supplying food and causing the enemy to flee in a panic in the face of a perceived army. Last week, Jacob, who was also called Israel, offered sacrifices at Beersheba and God spoke to him in a vision there. Jacob was given the ok from God to go down to Egypt and he promised to go there with him and to bring him back to the Promised Land one day. He also again promised to make him into a great nation. Then Jacob, his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters – all his offspring set out for Egypt. This morning we will continue to see God’s blessings poured out on Jacob and his family, but these blessings were not given to them to be hoarded. These blessings were given to fulfill Genesis 12:2-3 which says, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God’s blessings to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel were to be used to bless all peoples on earth. God’s blessings to us are also to be used to bless those on the earth around us which brings us to our big idea this morning that God blesses his people so that they will be a blessing to the world. Later on, we will talk about ways that we can be a blessing to those around us, especially those who are far from Jesus and are in need of a Savior.

As we think on that big idea and before we study our scripture this morning, let’s pray: Good and Generous Heavenly Father, we thank you for the many blessings that you pour out on us every day. Just waking up and taking our first breath of the day should cause us to worship you and give you praise. Fill us with your Holy Spirit this morning and give us insight as we open your Word. May your Word transform us and may we obey your commands found in it. I pray that we would not hoard your blessings for ourselves or for our church but that we would take your blessings given to us and pour them out on others especially those who do not know you which in turn would cause them to look to you as their Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There are two points this morning. The first is Preparation found in Genesis 46:28-34. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to guide him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared to him, Joseph threw himself on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.” But Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls for you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock since our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ so that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.””

Jacob and his family have made the journey to Egypt and are ready to enter Goshen. At some point in the journey, Jacob sends Judah ahead to let Joseph know when they would be arriving. We continue to see Judah assuming the leadership and taking responsibility amongst his brothers. Back in chapter 43, it was Judah who talked Jacob into letting Benjamin go to Egypt with his own life as surety. At the end of chapter 44, it was Judah who begged Joseph to allow himself to take Benjamin’s place as his slave so that the favored son of Jacob could return home. We can now assume that Jacob and Judah are on good terms. The incident between Judah and Tamar is forgotten and Judah’s role in enslaving Joseph seemingly confessed and forgiven. Judah has proven faithful and is given the responsibility by his father to prepare the way for Jacob to meet Joseph in Goshen. This morning, I want to highlight God’s many blessings as they come up in our scripture and here is the first blessing we see. Blessing #1 is that Judah is given the leadership role and responsibility by Jacob. This leadership role would continue and culminate in Jesus Christ the Messiah coming from his tribe.

The sending of Judah to Joseph was probably some predetermined arrangement that was set up. Judah would come to Joseph and let him know that Jacob and the family had arrived in Goshen. Then Joseph would come to them and make arrangements for their settlement in the region. We notice the urgency of Joseph to see his father. He literally “harnessed” or prepared his chariot himself. Joseph was in a hurry to be reunited with his father and couldn’t wait for the servants to get his chariot ready so he did it himself. He then made the trek to Goshen to meet his father, Israel. Jacob is called Israel here because he is bringing the entirety of his family down to Egypt. The family that would, in Egypt, become the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.

Next, we see the reunion between Jacob and Joseph. As soon as Joseph appeared to Jacob he embraced his father and wept a long time. This showed the strong attachment he had for his father. The word “appeared” subtly conveys the presence of God in this reunion which was twenty-two years in the making. Blessing #2 is Joseph being reunited with his father. There was really no expectation that they would ever see each other again, and when they do Joseph weeps for the fifth time in the narrative. Now we aren’t told that Jacob cried but we can imagine that he was probably as emotional as Joseph was; how could he not be. But we are given some insight into what was going through Israel’s mind at the time. He was now ready to die because he had seen Joseph’s face and knew that he was alive. Mathews says, “This recalls the vision of the Lord at Peniel and alludes to when he meets Esau saying “to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” This reunion with Joseph bears for Jacob the same divine significance as his reunion with Esau.” Earlier in the book of Genesis, Jacob said that he would go down to his grave in sorrow meaning that even in death he would not have peace. Jacob has been talking about death and dying for a while now but before it was all negative, now his death would be a positive thing. Jacob was resolved to see Joseph again and now that God had blessed him with this reunion he could now die in peace. Blessing #3 is that Jacob could now die in peace.

Have you ever had a desire for a resolution of something in your life, especially before you die? Maybe it’s a place you would like to visit or an activity you would want to do while you are still living. Or maybe it’s a person you would like to see one last time before you die. Maybe you have a close friend or family member who is not “born again.” They have never committed their life to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And before you die you would like to see that resolved in their life before they die. We can all probably think of that someone right now. The question is what are we waiting for? In Matthew West’s song “While I can” he talks about the things he would do if it was his last day. The chorus goes like this: “What am I waiting for? It ain't like I'm gonna live forever I don't wanna miss it anymore So from now on it's now or never I'm gonna hold on to what matters And let the rest slip through my hands What I would do Is what I will do While I can.” This is true for that place you would like to visit or that person you would like to see one last time. Or for your friends or family members who don’t know Jesus yet. Do you really know what matters in life? What are you waiting for so that you can be at peace? That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to go to that place, do that activity, see that person, go and tell my friends and family members about Jesus so that I can be at peace. It may be now or never so don’t wait to do the things and see the people that matter to you in this life.

Joseph informs his family that he is going to go and tell Pharaoh that they have arrived in Egypt from Canaan. He will tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds, they tend livestock, and they have brought all their flocks and herds and everything they own with them. Joseph prepares his brothers how to answer Pharaoh when he asks them what their occupation is. He tells them to say they have tended livestock just as their fathers have done before them. Joseph had an ulterior motive for having his brothers answer Pharaoh in this way. It was so Pharaoh would allow them to settle in Goshen. There were practical reasons for this, but Joseph was also thinking long term because God had given him divine insight. Practically, Goshen was the lushest part of Egypt and the perfect pastureland for their flocks and herds. Long term, it would keep the Israelites isolated and insulated from the culture and religion of the Egyptians. It was also closer to the Red Sea, so that later when the Exodus came, they would be able to make preparations to leave without prying eyes and would be closer to their “escape” route. God in his sovereignty and providence had worked out every detail. And the reason why Pharaoh would be in agreement with letting them settle in Goshen was because shepherds were detestable to Egyptians. The civilized Egyptians were mainly farmers, very good at agriculture and so looked down on nomadic shepherds. They may have considered shepherds ceremonially unclean just as the Israelites did in Jesus’ day. Pharaoh would have ample reasons to let Jacob and his family settle in Goshen.

That brings us to our second point this morning which is Presentation found in Genesis 47:1-12. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, “My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.” And he took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” So they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” They also said to Pharaoh, “We have come to reside in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.” Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my living abroad are 130; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their living abroad.” So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. Now Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them property in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. Joseph also provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to the number of their little ones.”

Joseph informs Pharaoh that his family has arrived in Goshen with their flocks and herds and everything they own. Pharaoh would have the last word on whether or not Joseph’s family were allowed to settle in Egypt. Joseph chose five of his eleven brothers and presented them before Pharaoh. We don’t know what five he chose and why he chose them but there are theories. He may have picked five instead of eleven so Pharaoh wouldn’t have any fears of a growing tribe. Five would remind the first hearers of five times the portions given to Benjamin and or that there were five years left of famine. Hamilton quotes Speiser saying, “He may have wanted to make a good impression on Pharaoh so chose the most outstanding brothers.” Hamilton goes on to say that “Rabbinic tradition says the opposite. That he took more inferior and less formidable brothers so that Pharaoh would not possibly conscript them into his army. According to that tradition, Joseph took Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Benjamin and Issachar.

Just as Joseph prepped the brothers, Pharaoh asked them what their occupation was. The brothers say they are shepherds as their fathers were before them. They added that they have come to Egypt to live for a while because the famine was severe in the land of Canaan and there was no pastureland for their flocks and herds. They humbly asked Pharaoh to allow them to settle in Goshen. The brothers would not be a burden on the state as they brought their own flocks and herds. They just wanted to be able to live in Goshen during the famine where they would have enough food for their families and their animals. Once they were finished addressing Pharaoh, notice that Pharaoh did not answer the brothers but addressed Joseph. Joseph was his second-in-command and would be the one to implement whatever decision Pharaoh made. He told Joseph that the entire land of Egypt was open before him and he could settle his father and brothers in the best part of the land which was Goshen. Blessing #4 is Pharaoh allows Joseph to settle his family in Goshen. But God’s blessings to the brothers didn’t stop there. If any of his brothers were capable men who had special ability, they were to be put in charge of Pharoah’s own livestock. This was Blessing #5. It was important that Pharaoh was the one who made this decision to settle Joseph’s family in Goshen. Ross says, “The detailed presentation of his family to Pharaoh was to show the settlement of Jacob’s family and the provision made during the famine was done expressly on Pharaoh’s guarantee. Pharaoh provided land and food for Jacob’s family attributable to Joseph’s wisdom.”

Joseph then presented his father Jacob to Pharaoh and we see Blessing #6 as Jacob immediately blesses him. Blessing was usually given by the greater to the lesser as in father to a son or king to a subject. God allowed Jacob to bless Pharaoh who would have been considered superior. Jacob expressed his faith in God’s promises and acted on the promise that all peoples on earth would be blessed through him and his offspring as seen in Genesis 12:2-3 and 28:14. Jacob would have been extremely grateful to Pharaoh for what he had done for Joseph and his family and it was only appropriate for Jacob to bless him. Gangel & Bramer quoting Oswalt says, “To bless someone is “to endue with power for success, prosperity, fertility, longevity, etc.” After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh, out of respect for Jacob’s long life, asked him how old he was. People did not live that long in the ancient Near East and Pharaoh had probably never seen anyone as old as Jacob. Pharoah would have been fascinated and impressed with his old age. Jacob replies that the years of his living abroad have been 130 years. God had blessed Jacob with long life just as he did for his father before him and his father before him. In the NIV, Jacob calls his life a pilgrimage meaning he didn’t have a place on this earth to call home. He had moved from place to place all his life. But he was looking forward to the Promised Land that God had given to his descendants. The patriarchs were pilgrims and strangers on the earth just as we are. This world was not their home just as this world is not our home. Heaven was their eternal home and one day will be ours, as well.

Jacob described his pilgrimage as few and difficult. Few because his father and grandfather lived longer than he was old at the time. Jacob unbeknownst to himself would live for another 17 years for a total of 147 years, but Isaac lived to be 180 and Abraham lived to be 175 years old. Jacob also described his pilgrimage as unpleasant or difficult which literally means “evil.” As Jacob looked back upon his life, he remembered the difficulties that he lived through. Some were of his own making, some were of other’s making and some were just part of living in a sinful world. Jacob then blesses Pharaoh again and leaves his presence. Joseph fulfilled Pharaoh’s directive for his family and settled them in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses. Most commentaries say that this reference to Rameses was an editorial note by the author distinguishing Rameses as the name for Goshen in Moses’ time. Joseph not only settled them in the best part of the land; he also granted them property there which is Blessing #7. It was like having a deed to the land; a permanent inheritance, which was above and beyond what Pharaoh had directed. Lastly, Joseph also provided his family with food as well as land. This is Blessing #8. Joseph did this according to the number of children in each household, meaning he was looking ahead to future generations. The people of Israel would spend the next four hundred years in Egypt before Moses would bring them out of slavery into the Promised Land.

As I conclude I want to tell the rest of the stories from the beginning of the sermon. The rest of the story from Mark Batterson about Handel’s Messiah is this: Messiah debuted as an Easter offering at the Great Music Hall in Dublin, Ireland, on April 13, 1742. The music mesmerized its listeners, but it accomplished so much more than that. It wasn’t just a concert; it was a benefit concert. That inaugural performance raised £400—$86,000 in today’s dollars! And that £400 was used to free 142 men from debtors’ prison. That is what qualifies Messiah as a double blessing. The first blessing was beautiful music that inspired the soul. The second blessing was setting 142 captives free!

The rest of the story from and 2 Kings 7 is this: But then their consciences began to gnaw at them. They said, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent” (2 Kings 7:9). So they went and told the starving city where they could find abundant supplies to satisfy their needs. That story illustrates the main message of Zechariah 8, summed up by the Lord’s words in verse 13: “I will save you that you may become a blessing.” God’s people are blessed to bless others. God pours out His grace on us so that we will slop it over on others who are starving and dying without hope.

An African proverb states, “There is only one crime worse than murder on the desert, and that is to know where the water is and not tell.” God has led us to Christ, the living water. He has blessed us with His salvation and He promises to bless us even more abundantly in the future. But He didn’t save us so that we can sit in the lifeboat feeling warm and cozy, oblivious to the lost of the world. He saved us so that we may become a blessing to others. If you’re saved, but you don’t have your focus on blessing others, you’ve only got half the picture. He blessed you so that you may become a blessing.

What are some ways that we who are blessed by God can be a blessing to others? Here’s ten: The first way you can bless someone else is with words of encouragement. Our words can bring someone down or lift someone up. The second way is by helping someone who is going through a tough time. They may be going through the loss of a family member, loss of a job, a difficult pregnancy or birth, surgery or treatment for a disease. You could make and take them a meal, pick up and or pay for their groceries, offer to clean their house or babysit for them. The third way is like the second which is to also make an effort to listen well and be compassionate to those who are going through a tough time. The fourth way is to give your companionship or company. There may be someone you know who is lonely and needs someone to just visit with them. It may be an older family member, or someone in the hospital or someone who is shut-in and can’t get outside for whatever reason. The fifth way is to share your bounty with others. You may have had a big harvest in your garden or have received an unexpected bonus at work. You could share your bounty with others.

The sixth way is to teach someone something they want to learn. It may be teaching someone how to can or sew. It may be teaching someone how to use the internet or how to use a smartphone. It may be teaching someone how to play an instrument like the piano, guitar or drums. The seventh way is to pray with or for someone. Praying with and for someone can be comforting and encouraging to them. The eighth way is to give your undivided attention to someone. We can put down whatever is distracting us from paying attention to the person who is in front of us. The ninth way is to provide support for the journey someone is on. They may be trying to lose weight or find a new job. They may be going back to school or recovering from a long illness or an addiction. You can give words of affirmation and help to keep them accountable on their journey. The final way is to forgive and give grace. We are all human and fail and fall into sin. God forgave us and showed us grace and mercy. We can extend forgiveness, grace and mercy to someone who has let us down or sinned against us as well. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card this morning which is to choose one of the ten ways to bless someone and bless them this week.

As the Ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings and as the Praise Team prepares to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Lord, as we leave this place may we hide your Word in our hearts and may we allow it to transform us according to your will. Help us to resolve to go to that place, do that activity, see that person and especially go and tell our friends and family members who don’t have a relationship with your son about your son Jesus so that we can be at peace. Also, help us to not hoard the blessings that you give us but to choose to bless others the way that you have blessed us for your honor and your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



The following is from a November 29, 2022 article on A Texas woman who was kidnapped as a baby more than 50 years ago has been reunited with her family members thanks to a home DNA testing kit. Melissa Highsmith was just 22 months old when a babysitter allegedly kidnapped her from her parents’ Fort Worth apartment in August 1971, according to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. Highsmith's mother, Alta Apantenco, who was working as a waitress at the time, placed an ad in a local newspaper to find childcare for her daughter. After a woman answered the ad, Mrs. Apantenco hired her without meeting her first. The woman allegedly took her daughter and never returned. Alta, and her husband, Jeffrie Highsmith, and her family members spent the next five decades searching for the missing child, even turning to social media in the digital age by creating a Facebook page called “Finding Melissa.” After a recommendation from a genealogist, the family decided to use the home DNA testing kits Ancestry and 23andMe in an effort to track down Melissa. The idea worked: A promising DNA match turned up on 23andMe. Melissa Highsmith's sister Victoria told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that the DNA matched samples from Melissa Highsmith’s children. Her parents then provided their own DNA samples. Within three weeks, the Highsmiths were reunited with their long-lost daughter, now age 53. “It was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom,’ we found her,” Victoria Highsmith said. “I couldn’t stop crying. I was overjoyed and I’m still walking around in a fog trying to comprehend that my sister is right in front of me and that we found her,” she added. “It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s amazing meeting her. It was like looking into myself; she looks like me, like us. She’s overjoyed to be in our lives.” According to NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, Melissa Highsmith, who grew up believing her name was Melanie, lived most of her life in Fort Worth and had no idea she had been kidnapped. A spokesperson for 23andMe told NBC News that the company had never heard of an account like this one. “There are really no words to describe how incredible this story is. We are so grateful Melissa and her family were able to reunite after such a long period of time, and we wish them all the best in getting to know one another.”

This morning we are going to see another family reunion with a similar theme. It’s been twenty-two years since Joseph’s brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. Their father was shown his bloody robe and thinking he had been killed by a ferocious animal, had no hope of ever seeing him again. Over the past several weeks we have followed the story as Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt looking to buy grain during the worldwide famine. They unknowingly encountered their brother, who was now the second-in-command of Egypt. The brothers were put through a series of tests, by God through Joseph, to remind them and convict them of their sin and bring them to repentance. These tests have reminded them of their guilt believing that God was punishing them for what they had done to their brother. Last week, Judah made an impassioned plea to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s slave. Judah showed how much he cared for his father, wanting to keep him from having to deal with the loss of another favored son. Judah, as the spokesperson for himself and his brothers, proved that they had changed and were sorry for what they had done to Joseph all those years ago. This morning we will see a family reunited with embracing, kissing and tears made possible because Joseph had forgiven his brothers for what they had done to him and because his brothers had repented of their sin against him. They were able to be reconciled and have true fellowship with each other once again, which brings us to the big idea this morning that Forgiveness and repentance bring reconciliation and fellowship. When we are willing to forgive and repent, we can be reconciled and have true fellowship with other human beings. And when we repent of our sins God forgives us and we can be reconciled and have true fellowship with our heavenly father.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we open your Word today, give us wisdom and insight from your Holy Spirit. Help us to grow in love for you and your Word and in wisdom and knowledge. Give us a heart for all your creation as we navigate our everyday lives on this earth you have placed us on. Help us to fall deeper in love with you as we surrender our lives to you and follow your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Pardoning Grace found in Genesis 45:1-4 and 14-15. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.

As I already mentioned, Judah makes an impassioned plea on behalf of his father. He refers to him fourteen times in a loving and caring manner at the end of chapter 44. “Simply, Judah so feels for his father that he begs to sacrifice himself for a brother more loved than himself.” (Sternberg). Joseph realizes that what he has hoped for has come true. His brothers have changed. Judah is willing to become a slave to Joseph in Benjamin’s place and they care for their father, not wanting to see him hurt anymore. They have also seemingly treated Benjamin differently than they treated Joseph and there is repentance for what they had done to him. Speiser says, “Joseph’s brothers have passed a critical test which is all the more revealing since they did not know they were being tested.” That’s important, isn’t it? This showed that a true transformation had taken place in his brother’s lives. Once Joseph was convinced of their transformation, he could no longer control his emotions. In order to keep this a private family matter, he commands his Egyptian attendants to leave, and he reveals himself to them. Joseph is so overcome with emotion that he weeps tears of joy and love because he could now be reunited with his family. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians in his household, outside the room, could hear him and the news of his weeping even reached Pharoah’s household.

Joseph tells his brothers that he is their long-lost brother. He then asked them if his father was still living. This question showed his compassion toward his brothers. He didn’t want them to feel more guilty about what they had done to him, so he directed their thoughts to their father, not focusing them on himself or what they had done to him. Now this question about his father may seem strange because right before the feast in chapter 43 he had asked if his father was still living, and they answered that he was alive and well. And Joseph knows they never made it back home before being stopped and questioned about the silver cup. But this time he asks about “my father” as opposed to “your father.” He didn’t want to know literally if his father was alive or not because they had already told them he was. He wanted to know all the intimate details about his father that he had missed in the last twenty-two years.

His brothers are stunned by this revelation and are left speechless. They are terrified of him because if this is really their brother that they sold into slavery and if he is really the second-in-command of Egypt, they are terrified that he will have his revenge against them. Their guilt is brought to the surface again. Joseph, seeing the panic in their faces, tells them three things to encourage them. First, he tells them to “come close to him” so they would feel more at ease. This was in the plural meaning all his brothers. They may have been reluctant at first because Egyptians and Hebrews didn’t have close intimate contact, but he needed them to see that he was sincere and that he was one of them. Second, as they came closer to him, he again tells them that he is Joseph, and adds that he is their brother. Third, he qualifies his previous statement that he is “the one you sold into Egypt.” He didn’t do this to make them feel more guilty but to further identify who he was. This would prove who he was because no one else would have that particular information.

Moving down to verses 14 and 15, we see the pardoning grace that Joseph extended to them. He started with his full brother Benjamin. He embraced him and wept over him. And Benjamin reciprocated by embracing him and weeping over Joseph as well. He then kissed all his brothers and wept over them. His weeping showed them this was not a trap and that he held no resentment, bitterness, or grudge toward them. He had already forgiven them, and they didn’t need to feel guilty or be afraid anymore. Lastly, they were able to fellowship together and even speak to one another, which was important. Genesis 37:4 says that his brothers hated him so much that they couldn’t speak a kind word to him. Now that Joseph had forgiven them and they had repented, they could be a family again, being reconciled and enjoying fellowship together. (BIG IDEA).

Our second point this morning is Preserving Grace found in verses 5-8. This is what God’s Word says, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

Joseph didn’t want his brothers to be distressed, meaning grieved, and he didn’t want them to be angry with themselves for selling him into slavery. There was no reason for them to keep feeling guilty for what they had done to him because God was in control, and it was part of his plan all along. He mentions four times that God was behind the events of his life. In God’s preserving grace he sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of his family to save lives. This was why Joseph was sold into slavery and rose to second-in-command of Egypt. This was why God gave him the knowledge of the seven-year famine and the plan to save Egypt, Canaan and the world from starvation. The famine has been in effect for two years and there will still be five more years of no significant harvesting taking place. Yes, the brothers hated Joseph and sold him into slavery, but God used their hatred to further his plan to preserve a remnant on the earth and save their lives by a great deliverance.

This great deliverance speaks to this present saving and the future saving of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It also speaks of the future coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Joseph’s family, who would become God’s chosen people, were the remnant from the earth, that would deliver the world from death and sin through their descendant, Jesus Christ. Jesus would save lives by a great deliverance by dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world and resurrecting on the third day. This was why God made Joseph father to Pharaoh, meaning he was Pharaoh’s advisor, and made him lord over his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. It was to fulfill his plan and purpose to save the world. It was the sovereignty and providence of God that sent Joseph to Egypt not his brothers. We don’t know exactly when in Joseph’s journey he realized the hand of God in his life but when he did, he was able to extend forgiveness to his brothers for what they had done to him.

Sometimes I believe that we don’t give God enough credit for what he is doing in our lives and in the world. We feel like we are in total control of our lives, and he is not influencing us at all. Now do not get me wrong. We are not puppets to God the puppet-master. We still have free will and can make our own decisions. And we still have a human responsibility for our actions. But I can fully testify that God’s hand has been all over my life from the day of my birth and he has directed my paths even as I have sinned against him. I believe that he still does every single day and wouldn’t want it any other way. I also I think we are fearful and anxious about what is going on in our lives and the world because we feel God doesn’t really care about us. We don’t fully believe that he loves us and wants to be in fellowship and in relationship with us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

When we realize that God loves us, wants a genuine relationship with us and wants to move in our lives we can truly have fellowship with him and an abundant life on this earth following his will. When we totally surrender our whole lives to him, we will see the events of our lives in a different way and will be able to go through life with hope and peace instead of fear and anxiety. Maybe you struggle for some reason with these concepts this morning that God loves you, cares for you, and wants to be in fellowship and relationship with you. Maybe you struggle with the idea of God’s sovereignty and providence in your life or in the world. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to totally surrender to God, embracing his love and care for me and his sovereignty and providence in my life.

Our third point is Promised Grace found in verses 9-13. This is what God’s Word says, “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’ “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”

Joseph tells his brothers to hurry to Canaan and bring their father and their families back to Egypt. But he realizes that Jacob may have a few problems with this message from his sons. First, Jacob will probably not want to leave the Promised Land. He did that once before at the urging of his mother after Esau threatened to kill him and he ended up being gone for twenty years. Now that he is again living in the Promised Land that God gave his grandfather Abraham as his inheritance, why would he leave? Canaan is where he is supposed to be. Joseph’s brothers will need to make a compelling argument for Jacob to realize his need to leave Canaan and that God’s hand is in it. They are to tell their father about the honor that God has given Joseph. He is lord of all Egypt and because of that he has a place for them to live. “Part of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3), especially the promise of a great name, was being fulfilled in Jacob’s son, Joseph, because God had made him lord of all Egypt.” (Gangel & Bramer).

In Goshen, Jacob, his children, his grandchildren, their flocks and herds and all they have can be comfortable and safe. Goshen was the best of the land and was unpopulated because it was reserved for royalty. They would also be able to be near Joseph and would not lack for anything. He promised to provide for them for the remaining five years of famine and he could make this promise because God put him right where he needed to be, right when he needed to be there. They were also to tell their father that if he didn’t come down to Egypt his household and all who belong to him would become destitute. During times of famine families would have to mortgage their lands and even sell themselves and their family into slavery causing them to become destitute. Joseph didn’t want this for his family.

Second, Jacob may not believe them that Joseph was alive. He would probably be a little skeptical. Joseph’s brothers were going to have to do a hard thing. They were going to have to tell their father that Joseph didn’t die but that they had sold him into Egypt. Then they would be able to testify that they had seen him with their own eyes, and had heard him with their own ears. Joseph had sent everyone out in verse one including the interpreter, so he has been speaking Hebrew to his brothers during this whole time. This was evidence that he was truly their brother. Joseph singles out Benjamin because their father would more readily take his word for it, being Joseph’s full brother by the same mother. All of this would be compelling evidence for Jacob to believe that Joseph was still alive. Lastly, Joseph tells them again to tell their father about all the honor, status and power, he has in Egypt and that they have seen this with their own eyes. He finishes with “bring my father down quickly.” This reunion with his brothers has been sweet, especially with Benjamin but now what he really wants is to be reunited with his father. He thought he would never see his father again and Jacob thought he was dead all these years but now a full family reunion can be had, and fellowship can be rekindled because there has been forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation. (BIG IDEA).

Before I close this morning, I want to pass on four principles of forgiveness we can glean from these last couple of chapters. One, forgiveness should be done privately. Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Second, forgiveness should be given freely and unconditionally. We may ask how can this be done when someone has hurt us or wronged us badly? Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We must forgive others because we have been forgiven by God. Three, forgiveness seeks correction and restoration of the offender. Too many times restoration never happens because either the offended or the offender doesn’t want it or doesn’t think it’s important. Reconciliation and restoration are what can bring us back into fellowship and relationship. Four, forgiveness must be permanent and not brought up again. It may not be humanly possible to forget the sin perpetrated against us but in order to have true forgiveness and reconciliation, once the offense if repented of and forgiven, you must live and act like you have forgotten it in order to have fellowship with that person.

A father and his teenage son had a stormy relationship. So the son ran away from home. His father began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven. I love you, Your father.” The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office eight hundred “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. Joseph didn’t require that his brothers make the first move in seeking forgiveness. Even before their repentance Joseph had treated them generously and graciously when he had every right to treat them with bitterness and vengeance. He wanted to be reconciled. Once he knew their hearts were ready, he revealed the truth to them. He held nothing against them but desired to hold them close and to see his father again.

Our families and churches are full of many broken relationships that beg to be mended. But reconciliation requires the conviction that something is wrong, the confession of that wrong, and forgiveness offered and accepted. So what are you prepared to do to repair the broken relationships in your life? Are you willing to take the first step? What is your desire – to be vindicated or to be reconciled? May we be like Joseph, seeking reconciliation. That brings us to our final next step this morning, which is to forgive and seek reconciliation in the broken relationships in my life.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song and the ushers prepare to collect the tithes and offerings, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you this opportunity to be in your house with your people learning from your Word. Help us to be willing to surrender our lives to you. Help us to embrace your love and care for us and your sovereignty and providence in our lives. And I pray that we would be willing to forgive other first seeking reconciliation in the broken relationships in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.