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Apr 16 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 15, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 14

Stand Still and Watch

When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. . . . The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.
As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. The cried out to the LORD, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? . . .”
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
 Exodus 14:5-14

Intro: Years ago I bought a book about getting to know God

The “Introduction” was inspiring and promising
– but the author quickly shifted from relational knowing to theological knowing
• his message as I understood it: we can know a lot of things about God
– later, another book was published
• this author’s impression of the first book was the same as mine
• however, he concluded we really cannot know God in the relational way we desire
• his message as I understood it: we can know a lot of things that we can do for God

If you desire God, many religious experts tell us to learn more and do more
– are you reading your Bible enough? studying your Bible enough? is your doctrine sound?
• praying enough? going to church enough? volunteering? (are you helping in the nursery?)
◦ are you tithing? supporting missions and other religious organizations?
◦ are sold out enough? (100% isn’t enough, you must be a fictitious 110% sold out)
• the implicit promise: learn and do all this and you will be rewarded with an intimate knowledge of God
◦ but that never happens – there’s always one more thing to learn or to do
◦ this is the reason thousands of evangelicals are disenchanted, burned out
– what you seldom hear, from the experts is Be still and know that I am God
• or Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today
• we do hear this, however, from Moses in this climactic moment of Exodus

Let’s run through the story

• 1-4, God led Israel into a trap
his intention: trick Pharaoh into pursuing Israel
his purpose: display glory and let Egypt “know” he is Yahweh
• 5-9, The Egyptians changed their minds about letting Israel leave
◦ the army was mobilized and chased after Israel
◦ note that the Egyptian army had “tanks” (chariots)
◦ an enemy with chariots was an Israelite phobia
• 10-14, The people saw the Egyptians and panicked
◦ they began whining to Moses
◦ Moses reassured them that Yahweh would defend them
• 15-30, God told Moses and the people to get moving
◦ he repeats his again intention and purpose
◦ God’s angel was present in column of cloud and fire, moving strategically
◦ Yahweh opened a path through which Israel escaped and in which the Egyptian army drowned
• 31, the effect that seeing this had on Israel – “fear” and “trust”

– that’s our bird’s-eye-view – now we’ll move in for closer look

The most dramatic moment is also the most instructive

read more…

Apr 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 8, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 13

What to Do with the Past

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Dedicate to me every firstborn among the Israelites. The first offspring to be born, of both humans and animals, belongs to me”
So Moses said to the people, “This is a day to remember forever—the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the LORD has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand” 
Exodus 13:1-3 

Intro: The Book of Exodus has an odd way of telling its story

After ten chapters of conflict and suspense, we come to the final showdown
– but instead of rushing into it, the action is interrupted with an interlude
(Ex. 12:43-13:16, which highlights Passover, the feast of unleavened bread and the dedication of firstborn males)
• this is hard on us Attention Deficit readers
• we feel bogged down with this “boring” stuff
– but the magic of Exodus is, that it is not merely telling a story
• it’s helping us to write a story – our own stories
• or perhaps more accurately, to re-write our personal narratives

So what part of our stories are we working today?
– chapter 13 has us looking at the past and what we can do with it
• preparing this message I was tempted introduce it with a poem
◦ something Dr. Seuss-like, “Oh the Fun we Can Have with Our Past”

Oh the fun we can have with our past!
We can grieve it and leave it
Or hold to it fast.
We can strum it and drum it
And have us a blast!
Oh the fun we can have with our past!
Make it a chain,
Pretend it’s a train
A chain on a train,
Oh what a pain!
We may claim it or blame it
And see how long that will last.
Oh the fun we can have with our past!

• however, I realized my time would be better spent reading commentaries
– verses 1-2 are God gives instructions to Moses
• in verses 3-16, Moses delivers God’s instructions to the people

Some things from the past we must never forget

This is a day to remember – there are defining moments in life
– turning points – we wouldn’t be here today if not for what happened back then
• in our spiritual journey, this include our God-encounters
◦ God was disappointed with Solomon because he forgot their encounters

The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (1 Ki. 11:9)

• if I refresh my memories of those events, I am reassured and encouraged
– “remember” is “to be mindful of,” to hold in our thoughts
• in a sense, remembering is to make presence in the here and now

Of course, the “day” Moses was talking about was long time ago
– but this is important too
• the first thing Moses said at the burning bush was, “Who am I?”
◦ this was a rhetorical question that implied, “I am a nobody”
◦ this a typical response to God’s call
“I am a nobody and come from a family of nobodies” (cf. Jdg. 6:15; 1 Sam. 9:21)
• I may have some special or cherished memories,
◦ but there’s nothing in my background big enough to produce greatness
– do you see what God is doing here?
• he ties us to a past that is bigger than our own
◦ it is not only my past that defines me,
◦ but God’s past, and his past with his people
• our story is a continuation of this much larger story
◦ our past includes the life of Jesus and all that he did and taught

How will we remember this past? with rituals and reminders
– that’s what this “boring” part of the chapter is about
• Moses repeats God’s instructions for an annual memorial
◦ this will refresh Israel’s collective memory
• but God adds another ritual that will refresh personal memory
◦ and this will occur with every birth of a firstborn male
Dedicate means to set apart as holy
◦ God marks a person or object, so that it belongs to him and one else
– those are the rituals
• the reminders bring us to our next point

Some things from the past provide an education (14-15)

Verses 8-16 are framed by four statements:
– tell your children, left Egypt, a mighty hand, and wear it
(on your hand and between your eyes)
• we have already gone over the importance of passing the story on
• so let’s look at that part about wearing it

This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the LORD’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt (v. 16)

– in scripture, body parts refer to the functions they perform
• for example, “in the eyes of God” means “in God’s sight”
◦ eyes represent the entire range of sight, physical and mental
◦ perception of things, focus of attention, insight, understanding and so on
• the hand is a person’s power to do things
◦ the active agent of the will

read more…

Apr 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

April 1, 2018 – Luke 7:11-15

“Don’t Cry”

Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. Luke 7:11-13

Intro: People were constantly coming to Jesus for a miracle

Some of them hoped he would heal them
– others begged him to heal a friend, a servant, a child
• in this same chapter a group of Jewish elders argued on behalf of a Roman officer,

If anyone deserves your help, he does, for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us (vv. 4-5)

• when John describes first miracle Jesus performed in Cana,
◦ it is as if his mother Mary practically had to coerce him to intervene
– however, when Jesus saw this widow, no one had to ask for his help
• his own heart compelled him to go to her
◦ he did not need to hear her story
◦ she did not need endorsements
• he could see her desolation
◦ and his heart would not allow him to leave her in that condition
◦ he was right there, he had to do something

We have all heard someone say, “Don’t cry”

What logical assumption would a person have for saying this?

  1. If crying weren’t necessary
    (the situation is not as bad as it looks)
  2. If your circumstances are certain to change
    (everything will soon be better)
  3. Or the opposite
    (if everything could be a lot worse)
  4. A lame attempt at comfort
    “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what else to say”
  5. If there is no use in crying
    (“It doesn’t help to cry”–although we knot that’s not true)
  6. If someone think’s the other person needs to toughen up
    (typically, these people don’t know the difference between tough and strong)

In this instance, the logic of Jesus is this:

“Don’t cry, because I am going to remove the cause of your sorrow”

– Jesus is only person in world who could say this to her

This year, March has been a harsh month

I met Bill Goodrich when he was caregiver to a quadriplegic man
– later we worked together
• Bill became a good friend to myself and my family
• he joined us on mission trips and Israel tours
◦ he worked the entire time that we travelled
◦ Bill and I also worked on lots of projects
(more than once working through the night)
– two weeks ago I learned he was killed in an automotive accident
• he’s been living in Thailand for the last couple of years
• the last time we corresponded he told me about his fiance
◦ together they were saving enough money to come to the States
◦ he asked if I would perform their wedding while here

RJ Prescott and his wife Polly were bikers
– one Sunday morning they rolled into the parking lot of our church
• they were the perfect illustration of “Don’t judge a book by its cover”
◦ the looked “biker bad,” but they were loving, generous people
◦ they were also very smart people
• RJ, Polly and their daughter Lindsey knew hardship and physical pain
◦ but through everything, they remained deeply devoted to God
◦ did a special favor for me by sharing their story publicaly
– Polly died last year, and RJ followed her last week

I learned Friday about another person,
– whose name I will respectfully keep to myself
• he was also involved in a church I once led
◦ his wife worked with us on staff
◦ my oldest daughter was close friends with one of his daughters
• he died unexpectedly a few days ago

I am grateful to put the month of March behind me
– but I will never forget those who have passed

A friend of mine sends me poems occasionally

read more…

Mar 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 25, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 12

Bigger Than Time

While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the LORD gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and ow much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eat before morning. Exodus 12:1-10

Intro: When I was a child, Dad would occasionally play one of his vinyl LP’s

A favorite was Tennessee E. Ford’s gospel songs album
– the first time I heard, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
• I thought, “No, I don’t remember! I’m only seven years old”
◦ I did not yet understand that sacred history can alter time
• we’ll learn something about this today
– in our journey through Exodus, we have come to the climax of the plagues
• but something odd happens
◦ the main event is overshadowed by a different sort of narration
◦ a bit of story telling is surrounded by a lot of instructions
• God has his own ideas about what is most important

1-13 What was about to happen had a meaning

Where the chapter begins: While Israelites were still in … Egypt
– but the narrative won’t stay here
• it will move forward in space and time (cf. v. 25)
• for now, they have not left Egypt; they have not been liberated
– Regardless, God’s instructions point to the future
• this moves them forward
◦ and they’re able to live in the reality of it, even here and even now
• there’s a way for us to do the same
◦ asking for something we know is God’s will, then give thanks
◦ if we can feel gratitude, it becomes real for us now

From now on…first month – this line is one of several indicators of newness
(spring is the beginning of nature’s new year)
– in previous plagues, they weren’t asked to do anything,
• other than keep themselves out of harm’s way
• now they’re not automatically protected just because they’re Israelites
– what God points to is bigger than the plague event
• it’s their salvation – a revelation and the beginning of a tradition
• God is creating a nation, a people
◦ at the heart of its origin and foundation is his salvation
“I’m not freeing you for the sake of freedom;
I’m buying your freedom for you to become Mine”

Instructions for their protection – a ritual that includes:

  • selection of a lamb or goat
  • killing it at twilight
  • apply blood to sides and top of doorway
  • preparing the meal (vv. 8-10)
  • what to wear (v. 11) – not dress-up, but for travel
  • what will happen (read vv. 12-13)

– two thoughts before moving on:
1. Liminal space (from: Latin for “threshold”)

read more…

Mar 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 18, 2018 – Exodus 9:13-chapter 11

An End to Oppression

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says,: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you don’t, I will send more plagues on you and your officials and your people. Then you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth. By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. But I have spared you for a purpose–to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go. So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm more devastating that any in all the history of Egypt. . . .’ “ Exodus 9:13-18

Intro: At this point in the story, Israel is not yet a nation

They are a slave people – their identity is tied to Egypt
– oppressed and exploited, they cried out for relief
• Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, has heard them
◦ he has stepped into the world to rescue them
• at first he sent a request to Pharaoh to release them to him
◦ but Pharaoh responded by tightening his grip on his slaves
– now God has launched an assault on Egypt; the infamous plagues
• the first few plagues were annoying, the next were painful
◦ we observe this increase in magnitude and danger
• preparing Pharaoh for the worst, God reveals his purpose:

to spread my fame throughout the earth
Robert Alter points out, “The Exodus story is conceived as an establishing of the credentials of the God of Israel for all humankind.”

◦ of course, the story is more than Yahweh making his name known to the world
◦ the primary theme of Exodus is a complete salvation
(“complete” is not only out of, but is also into
i.e., a fuller, richer life and a better place in life)

9:13-35 The seventh plague: thunder, lightning, hail and fire

This time, God not only announces plague,
– but he gives the Egyptians instructions to avoid its deadly force
• they will be protected by finding shelter indoors
◦ in two previous plagues, God made a distinction

For example, God told Pharaoh, I will make a clear distinction between my people and your people (Ex. 8:23)

• in this instance, the Egyptians given opportunity to share Israel’s protection
◦ as a result, Egypt is divided — some are beginning to take Yahweh seriously
◦ the others paid no attention to the word of Yahweh
– in verses 27-28, Pharaoh makes a confession and requests prayer

This time I have sinned, he confessed, The LORD is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong. Please beg the LORD to end this terrifying thunder and hail . . . .

• although this looks like a good sign, verse 34 exposes the truth

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again became stubborn.

◦ confession and prayer alone do not effect change
• a person can say righteous words from an evil heart
◦ if I do not own my confession with my whole body and soul, nothing changes
◦ I remain the same obstinate person

10:1-21 The eight plague: An invasion of locusts

10:1-2, The men and women of Israel were just getting to know God
– what they learned through God’s display of power was foundational
• passing it on from generation to generation,
◦ would guarantee Israel’s life with God into the future
◦ it was in knowing God that they came to know themselves
(they would no longer be defined by slavery)
• as important as this knowledge is, future generations will need more than information
◦ they will need to experience this salvation for themselves
◦ we will get to that part next week

In verses 7-11, Pharaoh’s officials have had enough
– they went to Pharaoh and tried to reason with him

Let the men go to worship the LORD their God! Don’t you realize that Egypt lies in ruins?

• Pharaoh listened to them, but being suspicious, he asked Moses for details,

But who exactly will be going with you?

◦ the last thing he wanted to hear was, We will all go
◦ and to insure there was no misunderstanding, Moses specified,

read more…

Mar 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Something Extra – Romans Chapter 6

I am providing these notes (Nancy!) as a supplement to the message from Sunday, March 18, 2018 (Exodus 9:13-chapter 11). In the first five chapters of Romans, Paul explained how God has given us access to himself through Jesus Christ and the grace we receive through him. In the following three chapters (6-8) of Romans, Paul details the necessity of breaking our addiction to sin, pointing out the difficulty of the struggle and finding supernatural help from the Spirit of God. These notes take us deeper into the point I wanted to make in the Exodus message.
I presented the first half of Romans 6 in typical Bible study fashion. The rest of the chapter, however, I presented as if it were an email from Paul, hoping to make it easier to follow the development of his thoughts. All things considered, Romans 6 is an important portion of scripture for Christian know, understand, and live. C. S. jr.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. Romans 6:1-4

Intro: Paul develops the theme of this chapter by raising, then answering two questions

Verses 1 and 15, are responses to potential misunderstandings regarding his message of grace
– the questions are posed by an imaginary person as if in dialogue with Paul
• this person wants to know if Paul’s message means we are free to sin
• Paul answers both questions with a resounding NO!
◦ then he answers each question with an explanation
– the first question in verse 1 relates refers to a statement chapter 5:

. . . where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Ro. 5:20)

• so the first question is, Does this mean we can continue to sin so grace will increase?


Notice how quickly and forcefully Paul shuts the question down
– Grace does not condone, justify, or promote sin!
• Paul reveals a radical idea no one had ever heard: “We died to sin”
◦ if we’re dead, we cannot go on sinning
◦ but when did we die? we had not heard that we died to sin
•. Paul tells us, “Go go back & read the fine print”–it happened at your baptism
– Baptism is the initial rite-of-passage into the Christian faith
• the baptismal rite-of-passage takes us from the life of our old self in this world
◦ and into the life of the Spirit
◦ there is a supernatural dimension to baptism that people often miss
• Paul says baptism places us with Jesus Christ in his death and burial
◦ but the objective of baptism is life, not death
◦ resurrection life calls for dynamic language — we walk in the newness of life

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Romans 6:5-10

Paul knows he may have rattled his readers

So he further explains our union with Jesus, using a graphic Greek word, sumfutos
– the King James Version translates it, “planted together”—two trees that grow into each other
• Christians are joined to Jesus in such a way that where He goes, we go; His experience is ours

In verse 6, what, or who, is the “old self” that was “crucified”?
– Paul had traced our human ancestry back to Adam in chapter 5
• he also traced the outbreak of sin to Adam
◦ the spiritual DNA we inherited from Adam is the “old self”
• what is the result of its crucifixion? the body of sin is done away with
◦ the New International Version suggests an alternative translation: “rendered powerless”—disabled
◦ our internal engine that drives sin is desire

Think of the freedom we would enjoy if the desire for our pet sins was “disabled,” switched off. You may know of people who are addicted to doing things that do not appeal to you in anyway, such as gambling, gossiping or shoplifting. Others may agonize over the way they are controlled by these behaviors, but not you. Because you do not enjoy them and have no desire to engage in them, you are free. You avoid those addictions with ease. Freedom from the desire for sinful pleasures or pastimes is a wonderful psychological and spiritual state.

– if verses 6 and 7 emphasize death, verses 8-10 emphasize life
• Paul reminds us in verse 8 that we’re traveling “with” Christ
◦ his experience is our experience — he carried sin to the cross, then died to it
◦ the mastery of sin’s power is broken
• Jesus will not have to deal with sin or death ever again
◦ from now on, He lives to God without distraction

Is freedom from sin the experience of most Christians?

Yesterday I was reading in Psalm 34 and came across this line, “to those who fear Him there is no want.” What does that mean? “No want” means that nothing is lacking; it describes a state of contentment. The verse gave me the impression of an end to wanting. In Revelation 9:1, hell is referred to as a “bottomless pit.” That is exactly the nature of desire, a desperate and insatiable craving. A person could descend into desire forever without ever coming to the end of it. The words, “dead to sin” thrill me. The flip-side is “alive to God.”

– a problem with old school Christianity was its legalistic interpretation of Paul
• we were told it was our duty to kill our pet sins
◦ as if by sheer will power we can beat down our desires
• which do you find to be stronger, more attractive and compelling:
◦ your will power or desire?
– suppose one day you were suddenly confronted your strongest temptation
• a sin that soothed your agitation, eased the pain of living or relieved your boredom
◦ you consider it and for the first time it looks different
◦ you say, “Oh, that? I don’t want it any more”
◦ with a fully content heart, you turn and walk away
• “there is no want”—the hellish, bottomless desire is gone

Now, if this freedom came to us automatically with our baptism,
– or if we could achieve it through will power alone,
• Paul would not have to go on

read more…

Mar 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 11, 2018 – Exodus 7-9:12

“Let the Games Begin!”

Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Pharaoh will demand, ‘Show me a miracle.’ When he does this, say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh, and it will become a serpent.’ ” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what the LORD had commanded them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They also became serpents! But then Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Pharaoh’s heart, however, remained hard. He still refused to listen, just as the LORD had predicted Exodus 7:6-13

Intro: The first time I went to Israel was in October, 1973

Two exciting things happened while we were in Jerusalem
– Yom Kippur War broke out and Burt Lancaster was staying in our hotel
• he was there for the filming of a TV mini-series in which he played Moses
• when the film project debuted London, Lancaster spoke to an Atheists’ club
◦ he told them, “I can explain all the miracles in Exodus”
– this sort of thinking was almost inevitable at that time

Old Testament scholar, Waldemer Janzen, wrote, “From the seventeenth century and onward, the impact of modern science on the interpretation of the plagues has become increasingly prominent. Both liberals and conservatives associated the plagues with natural phenomena known from Egypt. Liberals used scientific explanation to remove from the biblical account as much of the miraculous as possible. Conservatives found in it support for the factuality of the biblical account.”

• of course, that doesn’t really solve the problem for conservatives
◦ if there are natural explanations for the plagues, then they were not miraculous
◦ if they weren’t miraculous, then that spoils the entire purpose and objective

When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD (Ex. 7:5)

• at any rate, some of us cannot help asking:
◦ “Did this really happen? Is there any historical evidence for it?”

I’m not going to try to solve this problem for you (if it is a problem)
– these issues no longer bother me like they once did
• I accept the Scriptures as sacred text – God-inspired
◦ and I do so because of Jesus — through him I see their importance
• the Bible is the story God wants to tell me
◦ the truth he wants to reveal to me
– I cannot shut off the critical thinking part of my brain,
• but I can suspend judgment as I read
• I can absorb what’s here with out solving all the background problems
◦ with that in mind, let’s return to Egypt

The showdown begins

The story of the plagues is told in cycles

read more…

Mar 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 4, 2018 – Exodus 6:2-30

God’s Reassurances

And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh–‘the LORD.’ I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai–‘God Almighty’–but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are not slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.” Exodus 6:2-5

Intro: This chapter breaks the flow of the story

The scene changes, the pace slows down and the camera moves in for a close-up
– we left Moses and Israel last week in a state of emergency
• the initial excitement over being rescued has evaporated
• instead of being freed, their oppression has been intensified
◦ Israel new-found hope is crushed and Moses is ready to walk away
– in spite of all this, God’s plan is still moving forward
(his enthusiasm and energy has not dwindled)
• but now we pause, so God can breathe life back into his people
• and from this break in the narrative we learn something
◦ namely, what our souls need when discouraged, run down, drained and oppressed

2-3 Yahweh reintroduces himself to Moses

This is a repeat of what Moses learned at Sinai, but with important additions
(this encounter also has a more intimate feel to it)
I am Yahweh – this formal introduction was widely used when delivering a message
• it is frequently the way a royal proclamation began

I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval (Ge. 41:44)

• God used this form in a message to Abraham

I am El-Shaddai—“God Almighty.” Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will a covenant with you . . . . (Ge. 17:1-2)

– the storyteller gives us a clue that this statement is important
• it is repeated at end of v. 8, enclosing God’s entire speech
◦ a literary device that marks a text, setting it apart from what came before and what follows
◦ it is like drawing a line or box around these verses
• in this way, the storyteller highlights a theme
◦ the theme here is the fact that it is God who speaks

It is interesting to me that God kept his name from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
– El-Shaddai is a title, not a name – Abraham learned several titles for God
• these titles were revelations of God, but they were not names
• what is the significance of God revealing his name?
◦ he is a Someone, not a something–e.g., a “dark, impersonal power”
◦ he is accessible; the people of Israel can call on him
◦ it is possible for humans to be in a relationship with him
(in fact, this is what will come next)

The Old Testament scholar, Walther Eichrodt wrote, “. . . proclamation of the divine Name was treasured as an act whereby God himself came forth from his secret place and offered himself in fellowship . . . .” People were eager to use his name whenever they “wished to be assured of his nearness and the reality of his [support].”

Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of [Yahweh] our God (Ps. 20:7)
The name of [Yahweh] is a strong fortress;
the godly run to him and are safe (Pr. 18:10)

– it is apparent in Israel’s worship and prayers that,
• God’s people were aware of encountering him in his name
◦ it was how he made himself present to them
◦ and it was what they used to return to him
• prayer is more focused when you can address God by name

Do you remember what Yahweh means? “I am” (Ex. 3:14-15)

read more…

Feb 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 25, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 5-6:1

Echoes of Our Past

After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.”
“Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.”
But Aaron an Moses persisted, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.”
Pharaoh replied, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.”
 Exodus 5:1-5

Intro: I assume we have all heard of Billy Graham’s passing this last Wednesday

Two of his most famous quotes defined Evangelical Christianity
(at least in North America)
“A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
“Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior”
– this is what he urged people to do at his crusades
• to leave their seats, come to the stage, and say a prayer

Last Sunday, Steve Gumaer told us that saying a prayer does not define salvation
– Billy Graham would have agreed with Steve
• in fact, Dr. Graham said:

“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

– the book of Exodus is the perfect place to deepen our understanding of salvation
• of that “daily process” of transformation
• however, the story we find ourselves in today doesn’t look like salvation

1-5 Moses and Aaron have their first audience with Pharaoh

In the message they delivered, they made slight modifications in the script they were given
– it was reasonable for Pharaoh to ask, Who is Yahweh?
• if Moses had just learned God’s name, we cannot expect Pharaoh to have known it
◦ Egypt had its own plethora of deities
◦ the Pharaoh himself was considered a deity
• I imagine Pharaoh thinking:
“Now these Israelites are inventing new gods just to get a few days off.”
– why should Pharaoh concern himself with Israel’s God?
• if the best he could produce was a slave people,
◦ then he must be a weak god – a minor deity
• Pharaoh felt no threat in defying Yahweh

Moses and Aaron immediately changed their tune
– instead of demanding they began begging
• now they ask, “Please”

(the New Living Translation left out the “Please” in verse 3, but the same Hebrew construction is used in 4:18 where Moses asked his father-in-law, “Please let me return,” only here it is, “Please let us go”)

– now they do not refer to Yahweh, the God of Israel, but Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews
• this is how God told them to refer to him (Ex. 3:18)
◦ “Yahweh” and “Israel” are specific–Yahweh a specific God, Israel as specific people
◦ “God” and “the Hebrews” are general terms
(Israelites were a subclass of the the Hebrew ethnic category)
• there was a reason for referring to Yahweh as the God of the Hebrews
◦ it was a way for Israel to talk about God that Gentiles would understand
◦ it is not unlike the way both Melchizidek and Abraham could refer to Yahweh as God Most High (Gen. 14:19-20 & 27)

He will kill us – God did not say this and it sounds rather dramatic
– but after Moses’ recent experience on his way to Egypt, it seemed like a credible possibility (Ex. 4:24-26)
– Pharaoh, however, had nothing more to say about their God
• his only concern was his slaves and their productivity

6-9 Pharaoh imposed a new policy on Egypt’s workforce

He obviously failed to consult an industrial organizational psychologist
– nor was he worried about “improving morale” or “job satisfaction”
• either Pharaoh did not believe Moses or he did not take him seriously
• he drew his own conclusion for why they petitioned for a holiday in the desert:
They are lazy
◦ now doesn’t that sound exactly like some of our old bosses?

read more…

Feb 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 11, 2018 – Exodus 4:18-31

Return to Egypt

So Moses went back home to Jethro, his father-in-law. “Please let me return to my relatives in Egypt,” Moses said. “I don’t even know if they are still alive.” “Go in peace,” Jethro replied.
Before Moses left Midian, the LORD said to him, “Return to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you have died.”
So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and headed back to the land of Egypt. In his hand he carried the staff of God. Exodus 4:18-20

Intro: Two warnings before we jump into this passage:

First, the sequence of events is jumbled
– perhaps the storyteller squeezes all of it together to create an effect
• biblical authors were not restricted to reporting events in linear time
◦ their narrative does not always go “this, then this, then this”
◦ historical cause and effect was not a rule they felt bound to follow
• their concern was to make a point, bring out an insight,
◦ or to reveal, highlight or illustrate a truth
◦ so we are looking for the truth that is the truth revealed in this passage

Second, embedded in this passage is perhaps the most confusing story in the Bible
– that’s all I’ll say about it for now
– at any rate, God is greater than the stories in scripture can communicate
• I love the stories, but they are here to get us to God
• if we get stuck in the story, we are not allowing it to do its job

Going through these verses will be like turning pages in a photo album
– we thumb through six photographs and each one tells a story
• Moses appears in each of them with someone else
• five of these encounters are positive, only one is negative

18 The first positive encounter: Moses and his father-in-law

Moses wanted Jethro’s permission to return to Egypt
– the reason he gives is to see if any of his people are still alive
• however, he said nothing about the burning bush, and we do not know why not
• I have thoughts about that, but none of them are worth our time
– Jethro gave Moses his blessing, Go in peace
• this peace (shalom) refers specifically to what existed between them
• it did not guarantee a peaceful journey or what he’d find when he reached his destination

19-20 The second positive encounter: Moses and Yahweh

This is a footnote to catch us up on local Egyptian news
– the message was intended to give Moses reassurance
• he had not left Egypt on the best of terms
• God let him know he did not have to worry re: prior issues
– so now Moses has everything packed
• with his staff in his hand and his sons in their donkey seats, they hit the road
◦ only now the staff he carried is referred to as the staff of God
◦ it’s still a stick, but now it belongs to God
• when Jacob was old, and blessing is twelve sons, we’re told he leaned on his staff (He. 11:21)
◦ I think that’s what the staff was for Moses
◦ something to lean on, something to prop him up
(or prop up his faith and confidence)

21-23 The third positive encounter: Moses and Yahweh

read more…