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Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Mountain of Moses


The Top of Jebel Musa Posted by Hello

Jebel Musa is arabic for "The Mountain of Moses." This is the traditional site for Mount Sinai. At the top of the mountain is the monastery of St. Catherine's.

Photo taken from Bible Places where you can learn a lot more about Jebel Musa and buy some really neat Bible Places pictures.

Matt's Messages - Meeting with God

"Meeting with God"
May 1, 2005
Exodus 19:1-25

We have reached Mount Sinai.

Israel has been rescued from slavery in Egypt and has been led to Mount Sinai. And in chapter 19, Israel camps at the base of Mount Sinai. Do you know how long they stay there? Anybody know?

They stay there almost exactly one year. And it takes 58 chapters of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to tell the story of all that happens right here at the base of Mount Sinai. We will spend the rest of the book of Exodus in this location.

Last week, we read about a meeting that Moses and Israel had with Jethro, his father-in-law. This week, we read about a meeting that Moses and Israel had with God!

In Exodus chapter 19, God shows up like He has never shown up before!

In chapter 20, God will give the 10 Commandments, and we’ll start working through them next week, but we’re just going to study chapter 19 this week. We’re going to see what God says before He gives the 10 Commandments and how God comes in His awesome holiness to meet with His people at Mount Sinai. And I’m going to share three applications from this passage of Holy Scripture that I think we all need to take to heart.

Let’s pray and then join Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai.

....

Exodus chapter 19, starting in verse 1.

"In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt–on the very day–they came to the Desert of Sinai. After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain."
This is the fulfillment of Exodus chapter 3, verse 12 which said, "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.’"

This is the "mountain of God" where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Burning and burning and burning and burning and burning and burning with a holy fire that never went out!

And here he is again. This time with all of his people, more than 2 million Israelites strong, encamped at the base of the mountain.

It has taken them 3 months to get here. God has been with them all along. But now, in a special way, in an awesome way, God is going to come down to meet with them.

And God is going to make a covenant with them. A covenant that is based upon the covenant that He made with their forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A covenant that is based upon grace but comes with obligations. A covenant of law. Theologians call it the "Mosaic Covenant" because Moses was the mediator of it.

And now in verses 3 through 8, God offers it to Israel.

"Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD [YHWH] called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’ So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said.’ So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD."

God is offering to make a covenant with Israel. And Israel (in v.8) agrees to make that covenant. "We will do everything the LORD has said." Easy to say, hard to do.

Notice what this covenant is based upon. It’s based upon grace. V.4

"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself."

This law covenant doesn’t start with law. It doesn’t start with God saying, "If you obey me then I will save you. If you earn your way into my good graces, then I will accept you." It doesn’t say, "If you first prove yourself and obey all of my commandments, then I will rescue you."

It begins with the rescue! It’s all built on the rescue. And once again, God reminds them to remember their rescue.

He says, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself."

You have experienced my rescue. It was on eagles’ wings.

You know how baby eagles learn to fly, don’t you? After they are pushed out of the nest, their mothers swoop down below them and gently bear them up from beneath them so that they are safe. I love that picture!

"I have carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself."

This covenant is God’s doing. It’s His initiation. It’s His grace. He’s done the rescuing. He’s done the carrying. He’s brought them to Himself.

And out of that flows this covenant. This special relationship. V.5

"Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession."

With the grace of the rescue comes obligations. There will be a law for them to follow. The covenant agreement has stipulations that they will need to keep.

And as they do, they will be (out of all nations!) God’s treasured possession.

I’ve told you before about this word for "treasured possession." The Hebrew word is "cegullah." Doesn’t that sound good?

It means "valued property." A special possession. A treasure that is personally owned and precious to its owner. Cegullah.

God says that Israel will be His "cegullah."

Everything on Earth is His, but Israel will be His in a special way. Israel will be His "cegullah"–His treasured possession.

What does that mean? V.6

"Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."

"A kingdom of priests" means that Israel, as a whole, will serve in a priestly function among the nations. They will be set-apart to YHWH and represent Him to other nations, to the rest of the world.

"A holy nation" means that Israel would be "morally pure and dedicated entirely to the service of God" (Hannah, BKC, pg. 138). They alone of all the nations of the Earth would be specially set-apart to do God’s will.

They would be His "cegullah." God’s treasured possession.

And the good news for us today, is that we, the church, are now God’s treasured possession through faith in Christ Jesus. And we need to live like it.

Point #1. LIVE AS GOD’S TREASURED POSSESSION.

Now, where do I get that? 1 Peter, chapter 2, verse 9.

Peter is talking to the Christian church scattered throughout Asia Minor. And he says, "[Y]ou are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Sound familiar? Peter is just applying the wording of Exodus 19:5&6 to us. "[Y]ou are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God..."

And the call upon us is to live like it.

Israel was supposed to be different from the nations around them. They were to know that they were special to God and live special lives–holy lives.

If you are special to God, then you need to live like it.
If you have been saved by God, then you need to live like it.
If you have been set-apart for God, then you need to live like it.

Live as God’s Treasured Possession.

Do you know how much God treasures you?

The choir sang, "You Are My Treasure" this morning. And that’s right.

But do you know that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you are God’s treasure?

God paid the ultimate price to purchase you. Not because you were valuable, but to make you valuable! And now you are valuable to Him through the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Because of Jesus, You are God’s "cegullah."

Live like it.

"[Y]ou are a chosen people [you are chosen!], a royal priesthood [you are a priest!], a holy nation [you are holy], a people belonging to God [cegullah]..."

Live like it.

Is there anything in your life (and we all have something) that doesn’t fit with being God’s treasured possession?

Is there some sinful habit?
Is there some incongruous relationship?
Something that doesn’t fit with being God’s special property?

Are you different from the people around you? Or do you just fit in?

Do you live like God’s treasured possession?

This weekend, my wife went away to the Women’s ministry seminar in Beaver Falls, and I had all 4 kids to myself on Friday afternoon and evening. And our van was in the shop for an inspection. So, I have no vehicle and 4 kids who were just bouncing off of the walls. "Mommy’s away, let’s play!"

And I got really frustrated with them and lost my temper a few times. And I had to apologize to them. And I had to seek God’s forgiveness.

When I came to this point in my sermon preparation, I thought of how that wasn’t living as God’s "cegullah." I was responding just like the world does when they aren’t getting their way.

But I’m God’s precious property, and that should make a difference in how I act.

We are God’s treasured possession, and we need to live like it.

Now, back to our story.

The LORD has reminded Israel of their rescue and promised them a special covenant relationship, and the people of Israel responded with quick and total affirmation of this covenant relationship. And now, God is going to come to meet with them. V.9

"The LORD said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.’ [Clouds have been a way that God has shown up before in this story. This will be a dense one that will bring God’s voice near to the people, and they will know without a doubt that God speaks to Moses and they can trust him as a mediator.] Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. [Get ready. God is coming!]"

"Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, 'Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.' Only when the ram's horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.’ [Put up barriers so that the people don’t get too near. And anyone that crosses the barrier should be killed, but with a projectile so that no one has to get near the mountain themselves.] After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. Then he said to the people, ‘Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.’"

God is coming. Israel, prepare to meet your God!

God is going to come on the mountain in a visible demonstration of His glory and His holiness.

And the mountain will be so charged with holiness that the people should not come up too far on it or be killed. They should abstain from sexual relations and prepare to meet their God. This was the equivalent of the nation taking off their sandals because they were on holy ground.

Remember the setting. Two million people camped at the base of the mountain. They erect these barriers so that no one gets too close. Everyone does their laundry. Husbands and wives abstain from marital intimacy so that they can pray.

Everyone begins to hold their breath. What is going to happen?

What will it be like? This is scarey.

And then He comes. And it’s like nothing that they could have ever imagined. V.16

"On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him."

There is no way to grasp this. Have you ever been stuck outside with no shelter in a thunderstorm? Have you ever felt the earth move in an earthquake? Have you ever marveled at the power of nature as you watch a tornado bounce along the horizon? Have you ever wondered at the grandeur of the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean? Have you ever been afraid of the dark? Have you seen a forest fire?

This was greater and more terrible and more awesome and more frightening than all of those put together!
Imagine! The terribleness, the dread, the shaking of the earth, the sound of that mysterious trumpet growing and growing and growing, the sight of that thick cloud and the smoke and the fire! The power of the thunder and the flashing of the lightning, there is nothing on Earth to describe it! The mountain trembled! The mountain was on fire! The dread of this! The abject terror they must have felt! You describe it! Just imagine how terrible it must have been to see this visible demonstration of the holiness of God!

This is not just a burning bush. This is a burning mountain. A burning mountain.

The mountain was on fire with the holiness of God!

God is here.

This is a meeting with God. And it is terrible. V.20

"The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the LORD said to him, ‘Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the LORD, must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them.’ [No one is exempt.] Moses said to the LORD, ‘The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.'’ The LORD replied, ‘Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the LORD, or he will break out against them.’ So Moses went down [one more time] to the people and told them."

Notice how concerned God is that the people do not come too near.

He is too holy for them to approach.

If sinful man gets too close, the holiness of God will break out and wipe them out!

God is holy.

And (point #2), WE SHOULD TREMBLE AT GOD’S TOTAL HOLINESS.

Our God is a consuming fire! He is not to be taken lightly.

V.16 "Everyone in the camp trembled."
As well they should.

And so should we.

Tremble at God’s Total Holiness

One of the problems in American Christianity is that we are too flippant and casual with God.

Yes, we have a personal love relationship with God. Yes, God is close to us. Yes, God is near to us. Yes, God is my friend and my brother even though He is a King.

But this is the God who is close to us!

The God whose presence sets the mountain on fire!

The God whose coming all of the Computer Generated Images of Hollwood’s movie studios could not come even close to approximating the awesomeness of on the big screen!

This is the God whom we are close to!

Our God is a consuming fire!

And we should tremble.

We should tremble.

When was the last time you meditated on the sheer holiness of God?

This is the God with whom we have to do. He has not changed.

To come near Him without protection would mean to die.

His presence bears no imperfection.

He cannot stand sin.
He is holy, holy, holy.

And we should tremble in His presence.

It’s amazing that we are allowed into His presence at all.

But Jesus has made it possible for us to enter in.

And that should make us tremble, as well.

And that’s point #3. COME TO GOD WITH THANKFUL CONFIDENCE.

Yes, tremble. But come.

And come further up and further in than Israel could.

Come all the way up.

Because Jesus has opened the way for us to come all the way up to God.

Epheians 3:12 says, "In [Christ Jesus our Lord] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."

Something has changed.

God is still this holy. But something has changed that allows us to approach God with freedom and confidence.

It’s called the New Covenant. And it’s better than the Mosaic one.

Turn with me to Hebrews chapter 12.

The writer to the Hebrews is convincing some Hebrew Christians that the New Covenant mediated by Jesus is much better than the Old Covenant under Moses. And he points out the differences in chapter 12. Look at v.18.

"You [Christians, New Covenant believers living on this side of the Cross] have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm [Exodus 19]; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: ‘even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned.’ The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, ‘I am trembling with fear.’ But you [Christians, New Covenant believers living on this side of the Cross] have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn [that’s where we are this morning! First Church of the Firstborn], whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel..."

He goes on and he ends with a call to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. To tremble in worship.

But the reason is because we have come to God through an even better covenant than this wonderful one in Exodus 19. We have come to God through the New Covenant which is ratified in Jesus’ blood.

Now, we can approach the throne of God boldly with confidence to find help in our time of need.

"In [Christ] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."

Come to God with thankful confidence.

Thankful for the blood of Christ.

Confident that that blood is able to protect you from the holy righteous wrath of God.

Confident that because of the sprinkled blood of the Lamb of God you will be accepted in His presence.

"In the presence of a holy God."

You are invited to a meeting. In the presence of a holy God.

Come to God with thankful confidence through Jesus Christ.

Isn’t that a wonderful invitation?

It’s open to you today.

Whether it’s for the first time. You’ve never met with God before.
Or if it’s for the thousandth time.

Come to God with thankful confidence through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

That’s the meaning of the table set for us this morning.

It is an invitation to come and meet with God.

It is a reminder of the blood of the New Covenant which has opened our access to god.

It is symbol of our trembling worship that we are in the presence of a holy God.

This table is a reminder of our rescue on "eagle’s wings" and that we are God’s chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God as His "cegullah," His treasured possession, and should live like it.

This table is a meeting with God.

Will you come?

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, walking in fellowship with Him, you are invited to eat and drink this memorial meal with us. Take this time to meditate on the holiness of God and your special relationship to Him through the death of His own Son.

If you are not yet a believer or if you are living in unrepentant sin or if you aren’t sure you are a believer, or if your life is completely inconsistent with being God’s special treasure, we ask that you let the plate pass you by today and use this time to reflect on what has been said. Don’t take this lightly or flippantly. Don’t act like it doesn’t matter. The God of Exodus 19 is a consuming fire. And He hasn’t changed one bit. Take this time to think about God’s holiness and His wrath and His offer of grace and His invitation for you to come to Him.

Consider His invitation for you to meet with Him by faith in Christ Jesus.

(All Scripture Quotations from the New International Version of the Bible)

Camping Trip with Moses


Plain of El-Raha Posted by Hello

This is the traditional location for where Israel camped that amazing year from Exodus 19 through Leviticus to Numbers chapter 10.

Photo courtesy of Bible Places

Here's What I Mean

Here's what I mean about Justin Taylor's blogging. This article on David Powlison and "biblical counseling" that Justin authored last month is simply excellent. It points people to a helpful resource (one that I want to point more and more people to myself as well as talk about on this blog), sets things in a theological, yet practical context, and is very concise and readable. I'd like to blog like this.

Thanks, Justin!

Friday, April 29, 2005

4 Blogs I Read Every Day & Why

Two Pastor Friends

1. Byron Harvey's a ticking time blog

Byron is something of a Christian commentator with a humorous bent. You never have to wonder what's on his mind! Byron and I pastor sister churches within the same district of the EFCA.

2. Dennis Wadsworth's r-u-serious

Dennis is a younger local church pastor (like me) and a relative newcomer (like me again) to blogging. We went to seminary together.


Two Theological Leaders

3. Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds

Justin Taylor is the Director of Theology and Executive Editor at Desiring God and an editor of several excellent books from Crossway.

I like reading Justin because of his youthfulness (4 years younger than me!) coupled with his excellent grasp of theological insight. This a young leader to watch in evangelicalism!

4. Albert Mohler's Crosswalk Commentary

Al Mohler is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and the speaker on the daily national radio program The Al Mohler Program.

I like reading Dr. Mohler because he seems to have a timely, biblical, and wise word on the subjects that everyone is talking about in the news every day. He says things that many will disagree with, but I'm glad that God has raised up men like him in our day.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Matt's Messages - Meeting with Jethro

"Meeting with Jethro"
April 24, 2005
Exodus 18:1-27


The book of Exodus can be divided into two parts: before Mount Sinai and at Mount Sinai. Of course, you could divide it into a lot of other parts, but those two are very obvious: Israel before Mount Sinai and Israel at Mount Sinai.

Chapter 18, our text for today is in the middle! It’s the very end of that first part of Exodus: before Mount Sinai. Chapter 19, which we will take up next week, is the beginning of the last part of Exodus: Israel at Mount Sinai and all that goes with it.

So, as you might expect from a transitional chapter like this one, there are a lot of things that look backward over where Israel has come in the last 18 chapters, and there are some things that point forward and foreshadow what is going to happen to Israel in the next 22 chapters.

Israel is almost to the foot of Mount Sinai, or Mount Horeb, or the "mountain of God." Next week, in chapter 19, God is going to descend upon the mountain and meet with His people and begin to make a covenant with them.

But before that happens, Moses has a meeting with his very old and very wise father-in-law, Jethro.

This meeting lasts a couple of days and has two distinct parts to it. The first is in verses 1 through 12, which recount the story of "Jethro’s Knowledge of the LORD," and the second part is in verses 13 through 27 which tell the story of "Jethro’s Advice to Moses."

Verses 1 through 12: Jethro’s Knowledge of the LORD.
Verses 13 through 27: Jethro’s Advice to Moses.

As we study those, I have a point of application for Christians today from both of them. Let’s pray and then get into it.

Exodus, chapter 18, verse 1. An introduction.

"Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the LORD [YHWH] had brought Israel out of Egypt. After Moses had sent away his wife Zipporah, his father-in-law Jethro received her and her two sons. One son was named Gershom, for Moses said, ‘I have become an alien in a foreign land’; and the other was named Eliezer, for he said, ‘My father's God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh.’ Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, together with Moses' sons and wife, came to him in the desert, where he was camped near the mountain of God. Jethro had sent word to him, ‘I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.’ So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down and kissed him. They greeted each other and then went into the tent." Stop there for a second.

There is a little family reunion going on here.

At some point (the Bible doesn’t tell us when), Moses sent Zipporah back to Midian (where he had lived those 40 years on the back side of the desert) with his two sons, Gershom (his little boy he named Stranger or Alien) and Eliezer (God is my helper).

Gershom because he felt alienated from his people back when he had burned his bridges with Egypt and was living in the desert. And Eliezer because he had escaped the assassins of Pharaoh back in chapter 2.

Moses had sent his family back to Midian at some point (perhaps so they wouldn’t have to experience the oppression of Pharaoh; we don’t know.). And Jethro had been watching over them.

Now, all we know so far about Jethro (other than his other name was Reuel) was that he was a nomadic shepherd (as just about everybody in that part of the world was at that time), his daughter Zipporah had married Moses, and that he was (v.1) the priest of Midian. That means that he followed pagan gods. He led the worship of other gods. However much Moses had influenced him those 40 years he tended his flocks, we don’t know. But here in v.1, he is called "the priest of Midian."

Jethro heard about what God had done in saving Israel from Egypt, and he brought Moses’ family out to meet him near Sinai. And Moses, like any good son-in-law, went out to him, bowed down before him, and kissed him!

This was a sign of honor and respect for his elder. And Moses and Jethro went into the tent and had a meeting. V.8
"Moses told his father-in-law about everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel's sake and about all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them. Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, ‘Praise be to the LORD, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.’ Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, brought a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses' father-in-law in the presence of God."

What an amazing meeting!

Moses tells the story. V.8 "everything the LORD had done to Pharaoh and the Egyptians for Israel’s sake..." A staff that turned into a snake. Water that turned into Blood in the Nile and Throughout the Land. Frogs from the Nile, Covering Everything. Gnats Everywhere. Flies Ruining the Land. Pestilence on the Livestock. Boils on Everyone. Hail Bombing That Decimated Egypt (but didn’t touch Israel!). A Locust Swarm That Took Everything Left. Darkness That You Could Feel (but light in Goshen!). The Death of the Firstborn. The Pass-Over.

The Red Sea Rescue!

Moses tells him everything. And not just about the rescue. But about what happened on this side of the Red Sea. V.8, "...and all the hardships they had met along the way and how the LORD had saved them."

Marah. Bitter water that the LORD turned sweet.
Manna. Bread from heaven. New every morning. Twice as much on Fridays so that Saturday could be a Sabbath. Quail!
Meribah and Massah. Water from a Rock.
Amalek defeated by Joshua while Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands.

Moses told Jethro everything. And he gave the glory to YHWH.

And Jethro responded with delight! V.9

"Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians."

He breaks out in praise to YHWH! (V.10) "Praise be to YHWH, who rescued you from the hand of Pharaoh, and who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians."

Do you see a key word there? Rescue! Rescue! Rescue! Jethro recognizes the rescue. And, he believes. V.11

"Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly."

"Now I know." It’s possible that Jethro had always believed in YHWH in some way, that He existed and that He was Moses’ God, and that he was the God of Abraham (who was Midian’s father through his second wife Keturah). And it’s also possible that Jethro doesn’t put away his other gods here.

But it really seems to me that Jethro comes to believe in YHWH right here in v.11 when he says, "Now I know...the LORD is greater than all other gods."

And they have fellowship. They share in worship. They offer a burnt offering and other sacrifices to God with Aaron and the elders and Moses and Jethro all there together in the presence of God.

"Now I know...the LORD is greater than all other gods!"

Now, before we think about an application for us today, it’s important for us to think about why this story is included here in Exodus. And we get our application from that. Why did Moses include this story in Exodus chapter 18? There are a lot of details that he doesn’t include. Why these details?

I think it boils down to rehearsing the story of the rescue and the effect that that story had on a pagan.

I think that Israel was supposed to read or hear this part of their story being retold, how Jethro, a pagan priest came to visit his son-in-law, Moses, and heard about YHWH, and YHWH’s great deeds, YHWH’s great work, YHWH’s great rescue of His people. And that pagan priest came to believe! He was bowled over by the greatness of God. He was convinced that YHWH was the greatest god ever to be believed on.

And as Israel heard that story, they would be reminded (again and again) how great their God is, and how He rescued them, and how that would be a testimony to the nations.

Do you remember why God did the plagues? There were lots of reasons. One of them was demonstrate to Israel Who their God was; another was to show Pharaoh who God was.

But another was to show the world Who God is.

In chapter 9, the LORD told Moses (before one of the plagues) "Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." To the nations.

And here in chapter 18, it happens! The nations are hearing about the name and the salvation of YHWH. And they are believing.

I think that’s a lot of what Israel was supposed to get out of this story of "Jethro’s Knowledge of the LORD." And so that’s where I get this application:

TELL THE STORY OF YOUR RESCUE.

Moses told Jethro everything. And this pagan priest came to believe.

Moses told Jethro everything about Israel’s rescue.

Well, you and I have a much greater story to tell.

I know, our story doesn’t seem as snazzy as the plagues or the Pass-over or the Red Sea Rescue. But, in actual fact, those rescues were just a shadow of what Jesus Christ did for you and me on the Cross and at the Empty Tomb.

The Lord Jesus didn’t just rescue you and me from some oppressive earthly slavery.

He rescued us from SIN and SATAN and OURSELVES!

That’s a lot bigger of a deal.

Tell people the story of your rescue.

We’ve been learning about how to do that better in Sunday School with the Contagious Christian course.

Tell people the story of how you came to know Jesus as your Rescuer and Lord.

They need to hear it. It’s their only hope. And if you belong to Jesus Christ, you have a story to tell.

When was the last time you told an unbeliever the story of your rescue?

You never know what might happen. A pagan priest may come to say, "Now I know that the Jesus is greater than all other gods."

Who, in your life right now, could benefit from hearing your story? This is not a story of how great you are, and they should become like you. This is a story of how bad you have been. And how God rescued you from sin, and Satan, and yourself.

Who, in your life right now, could benefit from hearing the story of your rescue. Could I ask you to write down someone’s name on the back of your bulletin? Someone you can be praying for an opportunity to share with.

Now, let me go a step further. Put another name down on the back of your bulletin. This is someone to keep you accountable. Who could you tell about this person in your life who needs Jesus and they could ask you if you’ve told them your story yet? Most things don’t happen if there isn’t accountability.

Who could benefit from hearing your story (ala Moses to Jethro)? And who could be your accountability partner for that?

Tell the story of your rescue.

You never know what might happen. A pagan priest may come to say, "Now I know that the Jesus is greater than all other gods." And before you know it, you’ll be worshiping Jesus with them.

The second half of this story takes place the next day. And the influence here, goes the other direction. Here, Jethro gives Moses information. V.13

"The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening [long day.] When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?’ [He’s taking him to task.] Moses answered him, ‘Because the people come to me to seek God's will. [I’m helping them. It’s what I’m called to do as their leader.] Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws.’ Moses' father-in-law replied, ‘What you are doing is not good. [Uh uh] You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. [You’re going to get "burnt out."] Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you."

"You must be the people's representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.’ Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves. [Just like Jethro said.] Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country."

Jethro is a pretty sharp old man. He’s got to be over a hundred by this time. But he sees what’s going on.

Moses is over-worked. Yes, he’s the leader, but the leader can’t do it by himself.

Moses needs help. Jethro’s advice is good. It is to teach all the people the Law of God and to develop leaders who can handle all of the many small decisions that need to be made. Divide the people up so that everyone is cared for and noone cares for too many. That’s a good system.

It worked.

Why is this story in the Bible? I’m sure it happened, but there are lots of things that happened that don’t make it into the Bible. Why did God make sure that this story got included?

Well, for one, I think it points to the need for the Law that we’re going to get starting next week. The people need to know what God says, what God wants. And God is going to tell them and (really) encapsulate it in the 10 Commandments.

This story points to the need for the Law that’s coming in the very next chapter.

And I think another reason is simply to remind Israel that their leader can’t do everything. He’s just one man. He’s limited. And if this thing called Israel is going to work (even a pagan from Midian can tell!) that it’s going to have to be done as a team.

So that’s where I get this application for Christians today:

DO MINISTRY AS A TEAM.

If this thing called the Church is going to work (even a pagan Midianite can tell) that we’re going to have to work together as a team. One man, even a few men, can’t do it on their own.

Do ministry as a team.

Moses was (v.18) wearing himself and his people out. He was trying to do too much as one man.

Jethro’s advice was to build a team.

The Leader was (v.20) to teach the Law and who people how to live it out. (That’s a lot like these sermons that I give).

And then they were to develop leaders that oversaw groups of people. Thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Sounds like the metric system to me!

Everyone gets cared for, no one cares for too many.

Notice, what’s important about these men who are going to serve as leaders. Character counts.

Capability counts, too. V.21 says, "Select capable men." They need to have some skills. But what really counts is their character. V.21

"Men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate bribes."

Sounds like 1 Timothy 3, 1 Peter 5, and Titus 1 to me. How to recognize leaders for God’s church. Character counts.

And then, share the load. Everybody jump in and do what needs done. V.22

"Have them them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you...that will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you."

And it will get the job done well. It will be a win-win situation. V.23

"If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied."

In other words, teamwork works.

It’s not that strange a concept. But we don’t tend to see Christian ministry that way. There is a mindset that ministry is what the pastor does. But Jethro’s advice foreshadow’s God’s command for the church in Ephesians 4.

He says (v.11), "[God] gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service [not to do the works of service, but to equip them for them], so that the body of Christ may be built up [Who’s doing the building? The body itself!] until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body [every one of us], joined and held together by every supporting ligament [each one of us], grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

That’s Jethro’s advice.

Do ministry as a team.

Each part does its work.

Joe Paterno throw the football. He doesn’t go out for the long pass. He isn’t a receiver or a running back. He’s the coach.

It’s Paterno’s job (whether he does it well or not!) to equip the real players for the work of the game.

And then together, the whole team wins the game.

Are you doing your part of the work?

This is a great church. It’s easy to preach this passage here, because so many here have this "team concept" down already.

On many levels, we have capable men (and women) who have been selected to help lead the whole church.

Are you doing your part?

Ephesians 4 says the Body "grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."

What’s your part?

Christianity is not a spectator sport. We’ve got to get out of the stands and into the game.

At LEFC:
We need Greeters.
We need Welcome Center hosts.
Michele is looking for substitute Sunday School teachers for the Summer.
We are talking about a possible missions trip to Serbia.
We need Family Bible Week workers.
We need new Uth workers to help Tom Fisch and Rob and Michele this Summer to do some youth ministry and help Rob & Michele into the Fall.
We need people who are mentoring others in what it means to be a disciple.
We need people who are willing to be trained to lead a small group.
To help with Men’s Ministry and Women’s Ministry.
We need a group of workers to show up at the Cemetery next Tuesday and help us clean it up.
We need people to take responsibility for the items on the Spring Projects list in the foyer.
We need people to pray in the Prayer Room.

What’s your part?

Can I ask you to write down what your ministry at Lanse Free Church is on the back of your bulletin? And maybe something you think God may be calling you to do in the near future?

What’s your part?

Jethro is right. We need to do ministry as a team.

(All Scripture taken from the New International Version of the Bible)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Happy Boy


Peter David is almost always happy. What a joy.Posted by Hello

Friday, April 22, 2005

Jonathan Edwards on Hot Orthodoxy

"God is glorified within Himself these two ways: 1. By appearing... to Himself in His own perfect idea [of Himself], or in His Son, who is the brightness of His glory. 2. By enjoying and delighting in Himself, by flowing forth in infinite . . . delight towards Himself, or in his Holy Spirit...So God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By appearing to... their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the manifestations which He makes of Himself...God is glorified not only by His glory's being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God's glory [doesn't] glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it."

(Jonathan Edwards, The "Miscellanies," ed. by Thomas Schafer, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 13, ed. Thomas Schafer (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1994), 495, Miscellany #448; see also #87, pp. 251-252; #332, p. 410; #679 (not in the New Haven volume); emphasis added.)

I found this in John Piper's keynote address to the October 2003 Jonathan Edwards Conference entitled: A God-Entranced Vision of All-Things Why We Need Jonathan Edwards Three Hundred Years Later

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Historical Hero?

Justin Taylor of Between Two Worlds and his friend Josh Sowin of Fire and Knowledge have created a new informational website about John Owen.

Owen is Taylor's historical hero. A lot of my current contemporary heros have historical ones. John Piper's is Jonathan Edwards. CJ Mahaney's is Charles Spurgeon. JI Packer loves Owens, too. I think Mark Dever's is Richard Sibbes.

I'm not sure I'll ever have one. I've never really enjoyed reading primary source material, though I'm getting better at it.

I don't know. Maybe I should be hunting for a hero.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI - What Should We Think?

The seemingly ubiquitous Al Mohler gives us a good start.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Birthday Present


My wife bought me a hammock for my birthday this year! Here's Robin showing it off. I guess Heather wants me to rest a lot more in my old age!Posted by Hello

New Pope

Here's a link to an older book review of a Catholic book about the man elected Pope today.

Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith

The information is a little dated (and we'll probably be hearing all this
stuff soon from other places), but I thought it was interesting.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Matt's Messages - Rescues at Rephidim

“Rescues at Rephidim”
Exodus 17:1-16


Now, it’s been a couple of weeks since we were together in the book of Exodus. We probably need to review.

In the book of Exodus so far, the people of Israel, the chosen, covenant people of God began the book oppressed. They were perceived as a threat to Egypt so they were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh. But God saw their oppression, heard their cries, and acted.

The LORD (capital LORD, YHWH) who remembered His covenant with Israel, raised up a deliverer, Moses. He delivered the deliverer from one Pharaoh through a crafty basket in the bulrushes. He called and equipped that deliverer at a burning, holy bush, and sent that deliverer back to another Pharaoh with this message, “The LORD, the God of Israel says, ‘Let my people go.’”

But Pharaoh said, “No!” And he also said, “Who is YHWH? Why should I obey Him? I don’t know YHWH! I haven’t even heard of Him.”

And so, God made Himself known. He went to war against Pharaoh. Creational warfare.

10 plagues of God’s creation serving as His weapons of war.

The last was the death of every firstborn son in Egypt. But Israel was spared. They were passed-over. And they were ordered to remember this in a yearly celebration called “the Passover.”

And the people of Israel were set free.

But then, Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after them. And it looked like they were trapped at the Red Sea. But you know what happened?

This week, Heather was reading Bible stories with the kids during their afternoon school time, and they came to a picture of the Red Sea parting.

And Andrew loudly proclaimed, “Red Sea Rescue!!!!”

That’s right! Israel safely walked through (with walls of water on either side), but Egypt’s army was drowned by a divine tsunami. The Red Sea Rescue.

So far, the book of Exodus has been about a great rescue by a great God.

And the same is true on the other side of the Red Sea.

First, they worshiped their Rescuer. They sang, “YHWH is a warrior. YHWH is His name!”

And then...they grumbled. Three days into the desert, they ran out of water...and out of faith.

They grumbled. When the water they found was bitter, they grumbled. But God was gracious and made it sweet.

When they didn’t have any food, they grumbled. But God was so gracious and provided bread from heaven (called manna) and quail to eat.

The Bible says that God was testing them. But He was so gracious as He did.

God continues to rescue His people from the troubles they are encountering as they march towards Mount Sinai.

And here, in chapter 17, we have two more rescues. They both happen in a place called Rephidim. “Rescues at Rephidim.”

Rephidim was on the way to Mount Sinai (also called Horeb).

It appears to have been located in the southern region of the Sinai peninsula on the outskirts of the area where Mount Sinai itself was located. The whole region appears to have been also called Horeb.

So, the people of Israel are there. They are almost to the place where God told Moses (way back in chapter 3) that they would come and worship Him.

But they are in trouble again. They can find no water to drink.

Let’s pray together. And then, as we read about these two rescues, I want to point out what these two rescues say about the LORD. And I want to talk about what that might mean for our lives today. Let’s pray.



Chapter 17, verse 1.

“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin [that’s not rebellion, that’s the region that Sinai is in], traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink.” Stop there for a second.

Just like we said two weeks ago, before we judge Israel, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. I assume that everyone here had something to drink already this morning. If not, or if you are really thirsty, you can get up and go out to foyer to that snazzy new water-fountain out there and get one. Did you notice that Deacons put up a cup-dispenser out there so that if it’s hard for you to bend down, you don’t have to, to get a drink of nice, cool, refreshing water? Thirsty yet?

Two million Israelites in the desert. No water to drink.

What would you do?

How did they get into this predicament? Whose fault is it that they are here with no water? What does v.1 say?

“The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded.”

God has got them into this situation. And He’s used Moses to do it.

And the people got feisty. V.2

“So they quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ Moses replied, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?’”

This word “quarrel” is a stronger word than “grumble.” I’m sure that they were doing both. But this “quarreling” is even more rebellious, even more contentious. They got to fighting with Moses. There is a power-struggle going on.

And Moses recognizes it for what it is. It is “testing the LORD.”

Back in chapter 15, the Bible says that God was testing Israel. But here, Israel tries to test YHWH. Not a good idea. V.3 They don’t listen.

“But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?’”

That’s a serious accusation. It looks like there is going to be a rebellion and an attempt to overthrow the leadership. They are in big trouble. V.4

“Then Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’”

You can always tell when someone is struggling with someone else. Often they use those words, “these people” or “those people” instead of “my people” or “our people.” “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

And God wiped them out from the face of the earth. Right?

No.

He rescued them. Dramatically. Powerfully. Graciously. Miraculously. Publically. V.5

“The LORD answered Moses, ‘Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel [as witnesses?] and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you [personally!] by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.’ So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel.”

Wow!

God promises to be present at this rock at Horeb. He commands Moses to strike that rock (there is a chance here (some commentators think) that Moses has to actually go through the LORD to strike the rock–that would be quite the symbolism if it’s there, but I’m now quite sure it is). Either way, Moses is to smack this rock-face with the staff (that struck the Nile and brought the plagues) in the sight of the elders. And God would bring water out of the rock.

And Moses did. And God did. Wow!

Now, Exodus doesn’t make much of the water in this story. But the rest of the Old Testament does. The Old Testament celebrates this is as God’s dramatic, powerful, miraculous display of His grace to Israel.

Psalm 78, verses 15& 16 says, “[God] split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.”

What a sight that would be! Psalm 105, Psalm 114 and Isaiah 48 sing about it in similar ways.

“He split the rocks in the desert and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers.” Rescue at Rephidim.

#1. Water from the Rock.

Lots of water. Seas and streams in the poetry versions! Enough water to quench two million thirsts!

But that’s not the lesson that Exodus leaves us with. Exodus doesn’t seem to emphasize the rescue. Exodus emphasizes the rebellion, the contentiousness, the quarreling, the testing of God.

Moses didn’t name this place on this occasion, “YHWH provided the water from the rock.” He called it (v.7)...

“And he called the place Massah [testing] and Meribah [rebellion] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, ‘Is the LORD among us or not?’”

That’s what Exodus wants to get out of this story.

“Is the LORD among us or not?” Well? ...

Of course He is!

THE LORD IS AMONG YOU.

Where is your memory? 10 plagues? Passed-Over? Red Sea Rescue? Bitter water becomes sweet? Manna every morning? Pillar of cloud by day and fire by night?

Of course, the LORD is among you!

But you are acting like He is not. And that’s what it means to test Him.

To test Him means to demand that the LORD obey us. It means that we want Him to pass some test that we determine before we will trust Him or worship Him or serve Him.

But God will not allow us to judge Him. He is God, and there is no other.

Of course, He is among you.

SO, TRUST HIM, DON’T TEST HIM.

The rest of the Old Testament (and the New!) brings out this lesson from Massah and Meribah. We read about it this morning the “Worship in Singing” time.

Psalm 95, verse 7. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.”

Hebrews chapter 3 quotes this same passage: “...do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.”

Trust Him, Don’t Test Him! Of course, He is among you.

Do you see how this relates to our lives today?

So often, we find ourselves asking the same question of God. “Is He among us or not?

We are hurting. We are in pain. We are hungry or thirsty (so to speak).

We have health trouble. We have relational difficulties. We have financial problems. We have family problems. We are depressed.

And we say, “Is God here or not?”

And we don’t remember what God has already done. And we put Him to the test.

We say, “Perform again God, and then I’ll trust you.” We say, “What have you done for me lately?”

We begin to act like He is not present. And that puts Him to the test. We become like Israel.

Are you Massah and Meribah today?

Today, if you hear his voice [and you’re hearing it in God’s Word today], don’t harden your heart. Trust Him, don’t test Him. Of course, He is among you.

How do I know? Because Jesus is Your Rock.

Like most stories in the Old Testament, this story points forward to the Cross of Christ. In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul is making another point, but he says this about our passage: “[Our forefathers] drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

Now, I’m not sure all of what that means. But I do think it means, at least, that the water from the rock points to the grace of God that flows to us from Jesus Christ being struck for us. “That rock was Christ.”

And Jesus is your rock.

He is the source of life-giving water because He was struck for us.

Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38)

If you belong to Jesus Christ, He is Your Rock. And He is among you flowing into your life the grace you need. Don’t harden your heart. Don’t test Him. Trust Him.

Rescue #2. Victory Over Amalek. V.8

“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim.” Stop there for a second.

The Amalekites were distant cousins of the Israelites. They were descendants of Esau just as the Israelites were descendants of Jacob. And here they have the distinction of being the first group (though not the last!) to attack Israel after Israel had escaped from Egypt.

Deuteronomy tells us that they attacked Israel from the rear and tried to pick off those who were weak and infirm and tired from all this journeying. Very cowardly.

But this time, Moses knows what to do. Return fire! V.9

“Moses said to Joshua [first mention in the Bible of this young man who is Moses’ assistant], ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’”

That staff sure has come in handy! Good thing God reminded him to take it with Him back at the burning bush! V.10

“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur [first mention of Hur in the Bible. Hur was a he. And he was probably the grandfather of the artist Bezalel who designed the tabernacle. Moses, Aaron and Hur] went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.”

Wow. This is a strange story. I’ve known it since I was a boy, but that doesn’t make it any less mysterious to me now. Why did God do it this way? Why didn’t He just wipe out the Amalekites like He did the Egyptians? Why this raising hands thing? Why does Joshua have to fight now?

The Bible doesn’t say why. It just says that it happened this way. And we have to accept that.

But I do think (as most Jewish and Christian commentators have down through the ages) that this lifting up of the staff was a kind of prayer.

It was a symbol of drawing upon the power of God. Exodus power. The same power that was unleashed when Moses lifted this staff above the Red Sea.

As Moses held his hands up, Joshua and the army were winning. But whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites (in the words of Peter Enns) “got the upper hand.” Aaron and Hur to the rescue! V.12

“When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up–one on one side, one on the other–so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”

A beautiful picture of teamwork. Why it’s right here in the Bible, I’m not sure. Perhaps as a foreshadowing of the teamwork to be described in the very chapter. I don’t know.

But I do know that Moses, Aaron, Hur, and Joshua didn’t take the credit for their victory over Amalek. They recognized Who had really delivered another rescue here at Rephidim–the LORD. V.14

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, ‘For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.’”

Moses recognizes Who rescued Israel at Rephidim. The LORD did.

He writes it down and makes sure that Joshua hears about it so that he can pass it on.

He builds and altar at Rephidim on the outskirts of Horeb so that whenever they see it they remember what the LORD had done.

And Moses called that altar, “The LORD is my Banner.” And that’s point #2:

THE LORD IS YOUR BANNER.

That means that God’s power is on display over you.
It means that the LORD has fought for you.
The LORD is fighting for you.

The LORD is your banner.

It’s the same theme we saw at the worship service on this side of the Red Sea. The divine warrior theme. The LORD is a warrior. YHWH is His name.

YHWH is your banner.

He has fought for you and won. And He is still fighting for you.

He continued to fight for Israel. He promises here to not stop until the memory of Amalek was blotted out from under heaven. In other words, until they ain’t no more. That’s part of the story from here all the way through to 2 Samuel (and maybe the book of Esther!), but God did it.

The LORD is a warrior. He is fighter. And He jealously takes care of His own.

The LORD is your banner.

Exodus power is at work in your life.

Therefore, TRUST HIM AND LIFT UP YOUR HANDS TO HIS THRONE.

Now, your version might have something different in v.16 than the NIV. There is a textual question that makes this one a difficult verse to translate. It may be that the LORD is swearing here by His throne or by His banner. It may be that hands have been lifted against (as in Amalekite hands) God’s throne or banner. But I think the NIV has it right and it makes sense of the context with Moses lifting up his hands and Aaron and Hur helping him, to see this as a reminder of why the LORD is such a banner–because they lifted up their hands in prayer and asked God to come to their aid–and He did.

“The LORD is my Banner.” He said “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD.”

This is how to honor your Banner. Trust Him and lift your hands in trusting prayer to Him.

He is fighting for you. Fight for Him. Trust Him. Pray.

Moses could have given up praying. He could have thrown in the towel and Israel lost. But Moses knew that God was trustworthy. He was worth lifting your hands to His throne. And He did. And the LORD was His Banner.

Where are you at in your prayer life?

Do you pray?
Do you pray out loud? A lot of people, I think, pray in their heads, and that’s okay, but I think prayer becomes much more real when we get away by ourselves and verbalize our calling out to the throne.
Do you pray with the rest of your body? Moses used his hands. Do you? Do you use your legs? Do you ever kneel? Do you get on your face? Do you prayer-walk?Do you pray with someone else? Do you pray with your spouse or roommate or best friend?
Do you pray with your kids or your parents?
Do you pray with your co-workers?
Do you pray at Prayer Meeting?
Do you pray when you are in trouble?
Do you pray when things are going well?

Prayer, when it is authentic, is an expression of faith, a expression of trust.

It is trusting God and taking our hearts and our requests to Him and trusting Him with them. Trusting Him to fight for us. To be our banner.

Trust Him and lift up your hands to His throne.

He will answer. How do I know?

Because Jesus is your Banner.

In Isaiah chapter 11, God says, “In that day [the coming of the Messiah] the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious....He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”

If you belong to Jesus Christ, He is your banner. Whether you are Jew or Gentile. He is the display of God’s power for you. He waves over your life as the divine warrior who has rescued you, not just from the Amalekites but from your sin and from Satan.

If you belong to Jesus Christ, He is your banner.

If you don’t yet belong to Jesus Christ, He can become your banner today.

The Bible says that people will “rally to him.” He is calling you to rally to Him today. Jesus asks that you turn from your rebellion against Him and trust solely in what He has done at the Cross (in dying for your sins), and He will forgive you and enter your life and lead you through it. The Lord Jesus Christ will be your banner.

He has fought for you at the Cross and defeated your most powerfully enemies.

And now, He is fighting for you (if you belong to Him), and He calls you to trust Him and pray–to lift up holy hands towards His throne. He promises to act–not always as we expect or desire (don’t test Him!), but always as we truly need. Because the LORD is our banner.

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Portal to the Puritans (And that's a good thing!)

Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds has an excellent introduction to the Puritans with a link to a new book that is a portal to Puritan writing and thought. Check it out.

To Blog Or Not to Blog #2

My wife (the wisest, wittiest, and most wonderful woman I know) and I had a great conversation yesterday about blogging. We seem to be on the same page about its dangers--the #1 being its uncontrolled nature. If the tongue is already untameable ["All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison." (James 3:7-8)], then this medium could simply release that restless evil into all kinds of uncontrolled directions.

The key, we agreed, was that love (and not the desire for self expression) must guide everything we write on a blog. And that's not easy to do when you are publishing to an unknown audience.

On the other hand, our great conversation, full of wisdom and direction-giving insight, came as result of blogging. So, it certainly can be used by God in good ways, too.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Best Books

Matt’s List of “The Best Book On:”

Addictions
Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Edward Welch

Biblical Counseling
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp

Conflict/Church & Interpersonal
The Peacemaker, Ken Sande

Fasting
A Hunger for God, John Piper

Fear of Man
When People Are Big and God Is Small, Ed Welch

Gender Issues
Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John Piper & Wayne Grudem

Giving
The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn

God/The Nature of God
Knowing God, J.I. Packer

God/The Nature of God/God’s Delight In God
The Pleasures of God, John Piper

New Testament Introduction
An Introduction to the New Testament, D.A. Carson, D.J. Moo, Leon Morris

Pastoral Ministry
Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper
Shepherding the Church, Joseph M. Stowell

Parenting/Discipline
Shepherding A Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp

Postmodernism/Pluralism
The Gagging of God, D.A. Carson

Preaching
Christ Centered Preaching, Bryan Chappell
The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper (Honorable Mention)

Prohibition/Alcohol
The Law of Love, Tim Stafford

Race
Dominion, Randy Alcorn

Revival
When God Comes to Church, Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.

Sanctification
Future Grace, John Piper
Instruments in the Redeemers Hands, Paul David Tripp

Satan/Demons
Lord Foulgrin’s Letters, Randy Alcorn
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis (Honorable Mention)

Spiritual Disciplines
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney
Disciplines of a Godly Man, Kent Hughes (Honorable Mention)

Suffering
When God Weeps, Steven Estes & Joni Eareckson Tada
How Long, O Lord? D.A. Carson (Honorable Mention)
Making Sense of Suffering, Peter Kreeft (Honorable Mention)

Theology/Systematic
Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem

If I could Only Have One Commentary on Each Book of the Bible:

Genesis
Genesis, Bruce Waltke
Genesis, John H. Walton (NIV Life Application, Honorable Mention)

Jonah
Word Biblical Commentary: Hosea-Jonah, Douglas Stuart

Gospel of John
The Gospel of John, D.A. Carson (Pillar)

1 Corinthians
The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Gordon Fee (NICNT)

Ephesians
The Epistle to the Ephesians, Peter T. O’Brien (Pillar)
The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, F.F. Bruce (Honorable Mention)

Colossians
Colossians, Philemon, Peter T. O’Brien (Word)
The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, F.F. Bruce (Honorable Mention)

The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus)
The Pastoral Epistles, William D. Mounce (WBC)
Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, George W. Knight III (NIGNTC) (Honarable Mention/Close Second)

The Revelation
Revelation, Robert Mounce (NICOT)

To Blog Or Not to Blog

Why Not Blog?

Well, aside from all of the possible time wasted that should be prioritized for other things (which is my wife's perfectly valid main concern), I keep thinking about this:

2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
5 Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man,
8 but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.
10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.
11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:2-12)

It seems like blogging opens me up for not just more chances to "set my life on fire," but to publish it while I do!

On the other hand, there is much good that can come from it, too.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 10:21)

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)

So, this is just a trial for a couple of days to see how it goes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Why This Name?

I've come to love the ministry of people like John Piper at DesiringGOD.org. I think these people have hit the right balance between orthodoxy (right belief, glory in the right place) and passion (affections, emotions, loves). Many people talk about "cold orthodoxy" versus passionate emotion. But the Bible simply puts the two together. My term for that is "hot orthodoxy," and that's what I want to promote: heat and light, not just sound and fury.

Getting Started

Here we are. I guess we're blogging!