LEARNING FROM A PAGAN PRIEST

January 18, 2012

Everyone can teach us something. Everyone…even a pagan priest!

When Jethro, a pagan priest who was Moses’ father-in-law, “heard of all that God had done”, he ventured out to the wilderness to meet Moses and hear about it first-hand. There, we read that Moses “told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardships that had come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done…and said ‘Blessed be the Lord…now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods…” (Exodus 18:1-11)

Let’s break down “all the good which the Lord had done” for his people up until that time and compare it to all the good which the Lord has done and is doing in our lives as Christ followers:

God sent the plagues and delivered His people from Egypt. (Exodus 3-13)
God “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13)

God protected them as they crossed the Red Sea, and destroyed their enemy. (Exodus 14)
God protects us and destroyed the enemy!  Jesus came “that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1st John 3:8)

God made their bitter waters sweet. (Exodus 15:22-27)
God took our bitter lives and made us new in Christ. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5;17)

God sent them bread from heaven. (Exodus 16)
God gave us Jesus, “the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32,33)

God provided water from the rock. (Exodus 17:1-7)
God gives us living water. Jesus said: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13,14)

God gave them victory over the Amalakites. (Exodus 17:8-16)
God gives us His victory! “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

When Jethro heard about “all the good which the Lord had done, he burst out into praise, convinced of the one tru God’s greatness. And THAT is the lesson the pagan priest teaches us by example. We, who have experienced all of God’s goodness, should do nothing less than Jethro! Let’s learn from his example, letting the awe of who God is motivate us to spontaneous praise to our Lord who Jethro discovered is “greater than all the gods”!

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WHAT MOSES FORGOT

October 1, 2011

The last few months, a friend and I have been studying Exodus. That’s why the past few blogs have been about some things we’re learning. Here’s another one, and we have more to share!!

Moses was chosen by God to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land, and on a number of occasions leading up to their freedom, God laid out His plan and strategy to Moses. One of the recurring themes was the fact that God would Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let them go.  (Exodus 3:19; 4:21) After the first encounter that Moses and Aaron had with Pharaoh, he cracked down on the Israelite slaves even harder, confirming that his heart was, indeed, very inflexible. The people’s logical response to his intense severity was rebellion. The entire group that Moses was to lead to freedom was worse off than before; they were very angry with Moses and Aaron, and let them know it!

So Moses had some very big issues on his hands. His first and biggest problem was Pharaoh; the second was the people, and the third was that God didn’t deliver His people as He had promised. Moses complained to God: “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.” (Exodus 5:23) Moses was so disgruntled with the situation, that he forgot a lot of the conversations he and God had leading up to that moment. He forgot:

  • God’s compassion: “I heard their cry…I know their sorrows…I have seen the oppression of My people…He looked on their affliction.” (3:7, 4:31)
  • God’s plan: “I have come down to deliver them.” (3:8)
  • God’s presence: “I will certainly be with you.” (3:12; 4:12; 4:15)
  • God’s person: “I AM…this is My name forever; the Lord God of your fathers.” (3:14-15)
  • God’s power: shown in the miracles He did with the rod. (4:2-17)
  • God’s provision: He provided Aaron as a spokesman for stuttering Moses. (4:11-16)
  • God’s promise: “I WILL bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt…to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ((3:17)

Finally, after a very frustrated Moses vented, God assured him: “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh” (6:1). He patiently reminded him that He was in total control of the situation, and that His plan would be fulfilled “to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” (6:6-13)

Aren’t we all a bit like Moses sometimes? Don’t we get overwhelmed by the situation at hand that seems to engulf us and fail to see who God is, what He is doing, and that He has a perfect plan He’s working on? Don’t we, too, whine and complain when we make our problems bigger than our God? God give us the grace to remember often that He does have a plan; He is compassionate; His presence is with us; His power can overcome any obstacle; His provision is our daily bread; His promises are true; and that he was – and forever will be – the great I AM! AMEN!


WHEN IT GETS WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER

September 26, 2011

“But I will harden his (Pharaoh’s) heart so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21)

In God’s first conversation with Moses, He identified Himself as the God of his fathers, assuring Moses that His covenant with His people was still in effect. God saw their oppression in Egypt, knew their sorrows and heard their cry. Now the time had come to release them from their bondage and head towards the land flowing with milk and honey that He had promised Abram centuries earlier (Genesis 12:7; 15:12-21).

Among all the wonderful promises of deliverance that God gave Moses, there was a warning that wasn’t so encouraging; in fact, it was discouraging! …yet it was part of God’s plan. God said “But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go…I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go…and I will harden Pharaoh’s heart…Pharaoh will not heed you…” (Exodus 3:19; 4:21; 7:3,4) Just as God warned, when Pharaoh was presented with the request to let God’s people go, his heart was hardened. He increased the workload of the already-suffering Hebrew slaves and they were savagely beaten. When the officials went in to Pharaoh and he didn’t let up, they met with Moses and Aaron to vent. Moses, in turn, went straight to the Lord with his complaint: “Why…why?…You didn’t make good on Your promise. You didn’t deliver Your people at all.” (Exodus 5:22-23) Caught up in this difficult situation, it was hard for Moses to remember a few truths. Here are some truths that Moses did not remember.

1. God had a plan. His plan was to deliver His people.

2. God would keep His promise (Genesis 12:7)

3. God warned Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart.

While all that was true, at this point God assured Moses: “Now you shall see what I do to Pharaoh…I AM THE LORD (6:1,2) God proceeded to reassure Moses with a series of “I WILL” promises:

I WILL bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

I WILL rescue you from their bondage.

I WILL redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.

I WILL take you as My people.

I WILL be your God.

I WILL bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

I WILL give it to you as a heritage.

God started and ended the conversation with “I AM THE LORD.” (Exodus 6:6-8) Things would get worse before they got better, but GOD was still the “I AM”, and He nestled a series of “I WILL!” promises between two “I AM” declarations to remind Moses Who the Promise Giver was.

God has a plan for our lives, too that He will fulfill. That plan is to take us to that place He’s preparing for us. (John 14:2) We also have a warning we must not forget. Jesus said that it would get worse before it gets better: “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) Unfortunately, when things get tough for us, like Moses, we forget that warning; we get discouraged and whine “Why?…why?…” That is when we need to hold on to the “I WILL” promises of the Great I AM who assured us that He will be with us every day until our final breath. One day we’ll look back and say, “Yes, it did get worse before it got better…but God – the Great “I AM” –  was with me even in the worst situation, and He kept every “I WILL” that he promised!”


Do You Know Who You Are?

September 2, 2011

Moses did. Moses knew exactly who he was. He was born into a Hebrew family during the time of their bondage in Egypt, and he knew it. He was hidden by his God-fearing mom, because Pharaoh’s plan was to have all the male Hebrew children killed. Through a series of God-planned events, Moses was discovered by the pagan princess, who allowed Moses’ own Mom to care for him for some time, then later the Egyptian princess “brought him up as her own son.” (Acts 7:21) In the courts of Pharaoh, Moses “was learned in all the wisdom of the Eqyptians” (Acts 7:22) and he was trained and educated with the best education in the world at that time. .. but he never forgot who he was, and God carried out His plan through Moses.

From the events that follow, and other passages that refer to Moses, we see that he knew that the suffering Hebrew people were his brothers and sisters, and he identified with them. In the book of Hebrews we read that “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt…” (Hebrews 11:24-26) Moses belonged to God’s special people and he never forgot that. Even being raised in a foreign, pagan country, separated from his family, friends and faith, Moses knew who he was! When he fled to the desert and lived among semi-nomadic people for forty years, he still retained his identity. God was glorified in Moses’ life because he knew who he was, and he never forgot that.

One day, many years ago, I was born into God’s family. By His grace and faith in Jesus’ death in my place, I took on a special identity. I am a child of God, loved and forgiven, justified and accepted, complete in Christ, a new person who is dressed in His righteousness, sealed with the Holy Spirit and I have eternal life because of Jesus. I look at Moses’ example and pray that I would really grasp who I am in Christ; and like him, I want God’s plan to be carried out in my life so that HE can be glorified. Do you know who you are?


THE CLOUD…THROUGHOUT ALL THEIR JOURNEYS

April 7, 2011

Reading in Exodus about God’s presence in the cloud, (see “Is God a Cloud?” posted April 4, 2011) I researched different passages about the pillar of cloud. Reading the last verse in Exodus, in awe of our faithful God, all I could whisper is “WOW!” Here are the thoughts that led me to that expression of praise…

At the beginning of their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, it is written that “He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” (Ex. 13:22). The last verse of Exodus reads: “For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” (Ex. 40:38)

What’s so amazing about that? God’s people miserably failed Him time and time again. They doubted Him; they fussed, complained and whined. They sinned and disobeyed Him. God even got so frustrated with them after the Golden Calf Incident that He would have destroyed them had it not been for Moses’ intercession. Yet in all of this, that cloud representing God’s presence was up there! It was within eyesight of every person, every day! God NEVER departed from them. He was with them “throughout all their journeys”, NOT because they deserved His presence, but because HE WAS FAITHFUL to His plan to get them to the Promised Land, and to be with them every step of the way.

Then I thought about my life. Like the wandering Israelites, I doubt, complain, sin, and disappoint God way too often. Even with all of my failures, because God is faithful to keep all of His promises, He is with me! In fact, the promise that Jesus made to His apostles in Matthew 28:20 is still valid and applicable to all of His followers:  “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NOT because we deserve it, but because HE IS FAITHFUL to His plan. He will fulfill the promise of His presence with us “throughout all our journeys”, until we see Him face to face. Now isn’t that something to praise Him for??


IS GOD A CLOUD?

April 4, 2011

Recently one of my co-workers told me that her four-year old, TJ, asked her: “Mommy, is God a cloud?”, and she related more of the questions TJ had in the course of their conversation: “Why can’t we see God?…Where is He?…Who made God?…” The concept of our all-present, eternal, invisible God was quite mind-boggling to little TJ….in fact, sometimes it is for us, too! An answer that the Bible gives us is that “No, God isn’t a cloud, but sometimes He used a cloud to represent His presence to His people.” Here are a few examples from the book of Exodus, when God’s people were heading towards the Promised Land:

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A CLOUD FOR GUIDANCE: “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way….He did not take away the pillar of cloud…from before the people.”(13:21-22)

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A CLOUD FOR PROTECTION: As they were “stranded” between the pursuing Egyptian army and the Red Sea, God moved that pillar of cloud to protect His people: “And the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud of darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near to the other all that night.” (14:19-20)

GOD’S GLORY REVEALED IN A CLOUD:  “Now the glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days…” (24:16-18)

GOD’S PRESENCE IN A CLOUD MOTIVATED WORSHIP: “…when Moses entered the tabernacle…the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses. And all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped…” (33:9-11)

No, TJ, God is not a cloud, and today we don’t have a special cloud to guarantee God’s presence with us; but like thousands of years ago, God’s presence still guides us and protects us; His glory is revealed through His presence. We don’t see a special cloud with our eyes like His people did back then, but by faith we believe His words: “…He Himself has said ‘I will NEVER leave you or forsake you.’ “ (Hebrews 13:5) …and THAT motivates our worship!


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