Friday, October 16, 2015

Reading in Exodus This Week (1-6)

T51ChsiH46qL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_his week begins a new book of the Old Testament, Exodus, along with a new commentary, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, by Philip Graham Ryken. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Exodus is the story of how God forms the family of Abraham/Jacob into the nation of Israel. They are the nation that is to be God's representative and bring his blessings to the world. God defeats the greatest nation of that day, Egypt, and all its gods to bring Israel back to its land and fulfill the promises given to the patriarchs. God provides them with torah, instructions on how to live to please God and the tabernacle, a palace in which their true king can live with them in relationship. However, the people will refuse God's presence and reject God's torah leading to the need for a future better savior than Moses.

As we study the Biblical history in the book of Exodus, we discover that the real hero of the story is God. God is the one who reveals himself to Moses as the Great I AM. God is the one who hears the cries of his people in bondage and takes pity on their suffering, raising up a deliverer to save them. God is the one who visits the plagues on Egypt, who divides the sea, and who drowns Pharaoh’s army. God is the one who provides bread from Heaven and water from the rock. God is the one who gives the law-covenant on the mountain and fills the tabernacle with his glory. From beginning to end Exodus is a God-centered book, a theological history. 22–23

The book begins with a genealogy to show that God is about to do something significant - create a nation. But he will creates the nation from a group of powerless, oppressed slaves. In a way God uses the racism of the Egyptians to keep Israel as a specific, unique people and a way to demonstrate his saving character and power. At the darkest moment when the forces of evil show themselves in the desire to murder and humiliate, God saves a baby who will become God's instrument to free his people and bring justice to Egypt. Israel will be reminded and called to trust in God who remembers his promise and will act to save. So "we are called to trust God the way a desperate mother once did when she put her heart in a basket and entrusted it to the God who saves." (55)

We are envious, ill-tempered people who stubbornly refuse to follow God. We fail to live up to his perfect standard every day. What we need is the God of Exodus. If he is our God, then he has performed for us a miracle of grace, and we can trust him to save us to the very end. Exodus 1.1-7, 27

Exodus is extremely relevant to us today because we struggle with the same issues the people of that day struggled with. We still live in a world of sin, oppression, racism and prejudice. We still need liberation from sin and its effects today.

Blaming things on ethnic minorities is always convenient because racism is part of our sinful human nature. This is what made it so easy for Hitler to promote anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. It is why the Afrikaaners were able to use the “black threat” argument to such deadly advantage in South Africa. And it is why each new wave of immigrants—from the Irish to the Indonesians—has faced prejudice upon coming to America. Exodus 1.8-20, 32

Suffering helps us look for our Savior. If we never have any trouble along the journey, we would never have any reason to long for Heaven. Like the Israelites, we need the house of bondage to help drive us to the Promised Land. Exodus 1.8-20, 37

At the very darkest moment of Israel’s captivity—when evil was rampant and the tyrant seemed to triumph—at that very moment God was working in history to save his people. His plan called for a little child to be born in secret and then floated down the river right to Pharaoh’s doorstep. Exodus 1.21-2.10, 50

Exodus 2.11-4.31 describe the preparation of Moses to be the man God used to deliver Israel. First Moses has to learn that he must use God's methods to accomplish God's plan. By killing the Egyptian Moses intends to begin the process of liberation but God intends to do this in a much different way. God then gives Moses a "time out" of 40 years to learn to listen to God and do things God's way. He becomes part of Jethro's family and becomes a shepherd. He needs to learn that God's leaders are servants who are dependent on God and provide for His people in God's ways. Though the Israelites are still in pain, God is about to move to rescue them.

To emphasize the power of the living God, the Bible uses four active verbs: God hears, remembers, sees, and knows. God is really going to do something! Not only did he have a plan for Moses, even in the wilderness, but his plan for Moses was part of a bigger plan that would result in the salvation of God’s people. When people pray, God responds. Exodus 2.15-25, 75–76.

God's leaders also must meet God, be called and be transformed by God. At the burning bush Moses meets and enters into personal relationship with God as they, in a way, exchange names. As Moses is called, he is still thinking in terms of doing God's work by his own personal abilities. He rightly recognizes that this is inadequate. The signs are meant to show Moses that it is God who will do the work of liberation through Moses. The key issue in any ministry is "is God with you."

The point is that God not only knew and cared about the plight of his people but was also planning to do something about it. The story of the exodus is the history of how God rescued his people, working out their whole salvation from beginning to end. In this personal saving relationship God brought them out of all their troubles into a good and happy place. 3.1-9, 86

Moses says, ‘I cannot do this.’ Yahweh responds, ‘You’re not, I am.’ ” Therefore, whatever doubts Moses may have had about his own abilities were totally irrelevant. God had promised to be with him, and “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Exodus 3.10-15, 93

It is interesting how easily the Hebrew elders accept Moses (at least at first, before things get difficult). All the issues that Moses was so worried about, such of which he was right about, were really insignificant when confronted with the power of God. God was about to free Israel in a way that would demonstrate to the whole world who he really is. He would not only defeat the nation of Egypt, but their gods as well as a testimony to all of creation as to who should be worshipped and where true blessing was to be found.

Yahweh was the God of the past who promised salvation to the patriarchs. He was the God of the present who sent Moses to save his people. And he was the God of the future who would bring them into the Promised Land. Exodus 3.16-4.9, 102–103

We do not serve God on our own, working from our own strength, but rather exercise our gifts in the presence and with the assistance of God. Notice that God never evaluated Moses’ speaking ability. He did not try to tell him that he was more eloquent than he thought he was. Nor did he admit that Moses really was slow of speech and tongue. Instead, he told him the only thing that mattered, which was that God would be with him. Exodus 4.10-17, 118

Israel was the son of God’s choice. At the very deepest spiritual level, the exodus is a story about sonship, about a Father’s love for his only son. Israel’s deliverance is the true history of a loving Father who rescued his children so they could be together as a family. Thus it is not simply a story of emancipation—the release of a slave—but also of repatriation, the return of an only son to his father’s loving care. Exodus 4.18-31, 129–130

The true hero of Exodus is not Moses, but God. This is true of the whole Old Testament. Moses had to learn that victory does not depend on our own abilities, but upon our faithfulness and reliance on God. It took Moses 80 years to learn the lesson well enough to lead Israel and he continued to learn it throughout the wilderness wanderings. It is all about knowing God and letting that relationship transform us.

If we have any questions about what God is doing, we should go ahead and ask! We should not ask impatiently or rebelliously, as Moses was tempted to do, but we should ask. It is much better to talk things out with God than to take them out on someone else. Whether or not God decides to answer our questions, he certainly is not afraid of them. Exodus 5, 166

Exodus is a God-centered book with a God-centered message that teaches us to have a God-centered life. Whatever problems we have, whatever difficulties we face, the most important thing is to know who God is. Exodus 6.1-12, 173

The reason Moses had the wrong expectation was because he misunderstood his calling as a prophet. Moses was a pragmatist. He had a performance-based approach to prophetic ministry. He assumed that it was up to the prophet to get results. If people listened to him, then he was doing his job; if not, he should find some other line of work...The only thing that matters to God is whether or not the prophet is faithful. Exodus 6.13-27, 198.

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