Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:
“Moses – Exodus Highlights”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God called down to Moses and said, “I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?”
Moses replied, “Most merciful God, if I have brought you any favor, please give me the good news first.”
“Moses, the good news is that I’ve chosen you to deliver my people from bondage,” God answered. “I will force Pharaoh to release my children by causing years of pestilence in Egypt. There will be plagues of locusts and frogs and incredible devastation upon the land. Pharaoh’s armies will chase you as you try to leave, but do not fear because I will part the waters of the Red Sea to aid in your escape.”
“And the bad news?” Moses inquired.
“You have to prepare the Environmental Impact Statement,” God replied.
In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses. Today we read the amazing story of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt through the desert wilderness.
I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen, to Exodus 12-40 (Pp. 48-71). Hear the Word of God …. —-
Two weeks ago we read about the political and economic and life conditions in Egypt, for the Hebrews, when Moses was born. And we saw how God had been at work in every step of that process. And we chose to trust this same God with our own lives and the lives of those we love.
Last week we saw how God had been preparing Moses from the time of his birth, his Basket Baptism, through his Pharaohic upbringing and his years living as a shepherd in the wilderness, qualifying this seemingly very unqualified man, to lead God’s first born son, the people f Israel, out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land. And we were challenged to view our luxuries and our hardships as qualification training for God’s call to faithfulness on us in His Kingdom.
Today we listen to the story highlights of that great Exodus! (Are you ready? 29 chapters, 34 pages, in 15 minutes!) As we jog through this Gospel-filled Old Testament story, try to count how many times we see the sovereignty of God in action and all the ways God provides for His people:
Chapter 12 tells the story of the Passover – when the Spirit of Death Passed-over the households in Egypt which had obediently painted their doorposts with the blood of the sacrificial Passover lambs. On those houses, the people were spared, on the other houses the first-born son died. And then the Israelites leave Egypt.
Chapters 13-14 tell about how the Pharaoh and the Egyptian army chase after the Israelites.
Chapters 14-15 is that famous parting of the Red Sea miracle – and the Red Sea is big enough that while the Israelites are still in the process of crossing, the Egyptians start in after them; but immediately after the last Israelite gets out on the other side the Sea closes back in on top of the Egyptians! (Are you aware that archeologists have discovered very ancient Egyptian-style chariot wheels on the bottom of the Red Sea? Hmmm)
Chapter 16, now across the Red Sea, in the wilderness, the Israelites are freed from bondage to slavery in Egypt, but not free from their own human condition … so what do they do? They start complaining to Moses that it’s hard living in the wilderness! They’re hungry! They’re tired. So they grumble! And the say they wanna go back to Egypt! God provides for them the miraculous bread from heaven – not Communion Bread, but something they called “What is it?” Do you know what we call it? Manna! And it’s what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread”.
Chapters 15-17, More grumbling and complaining! More “We wanna go back to Egypt!” This time God provides water for them, first brackish water miraculously becomes sweet/fresh water, and secondly God provides water from a rock.
Then, chapter 17, as the Israelites approach the Promised Land – it has only been a number of months – no-where near 40 years! – they meet the Amalekites who will not let them pass – so there’s a war. A war between an armed and militarized city-state and a bunch of grumbly-faced nomadic wanderers – who’s gonna win? Right? But God promises Moses that if he stands on a hill and holds his arms up the Israelite hobos will defeat the Amalekite army. But Moses is getting old, and tired, and he just cannot hold his arms up that long; every time he lets them drop the Amalekites start to advance. Finally, Moses’ two brothers, Aaron and Hur, stand on either side of Moses and hold his arms up for him, and the Israelites are awarded victory! God gets the credit – and Moses builds an altar at which to worship YHWH God!
In chapter 18, Moses’ father in law, Jethro, advises Moses to delegate some of his work to others or he will never last.
Chapter 19, they’re back at Mt. Sinai near where Moses worked for Jethro as a shepherd way back before God called Moses through that burning bush.
Chapter 20, Exodus 20, Moses receives the Ten Commandments! (which are subsequently summarized as “Love the Lord your God, YHWH your God, with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And to love your neighbor as you love yourself!)
The next few chapters tell stories about why these 10 Commandments are necessary!
Then Moses builds another altar to worship YHWH God.
Then in chapters 25-31 we read in great detail the making of the Tabernacle – the portable Temple, the place where they kept the 10 Commandments, a piece of manna, Aaron’s staff – and this Tabernacle (this giant tent) becomes the blue print for the Temple in Jerusalem another 800 years later!
In Exodus 32 Moses goes back up Mt. Sinai, and Aaron and the Israelites at the foot of the mountain decide they need some kind of Golden Calf god to worship!
So the next chapter repeats the reasons for the Ten Commandments, and Moses builds another altar to remind us to worship God (and God alone!)
And then the next 8 chapters tell tales of Moses and his leadership. After the book of Exodus we have the books of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They all give more details of this journey through the wilderness.
In these books we read stories about Moses’ own doubts and confusion and frustration.
We read about sending spies into the Promised Land, and how 10 of the 12 that went in came back and reported to Moses that there’s no way they can take on those people – and God tells Moses that because of their lack of faith that whole generation will die in the desert – that’s why it took 40 years!
While in the wilderness we read about the bronze snake that Moses made at God’s command, and when those who were dying looked at the snake they were healed.
There’s that story about Balaam and his talking donkey, and King Balak and the Moabite people (Edomites – descendants of Esau and enemies of the descendants of Jacob [Israel]).
And the end of the story of the Exodus, including the death of Aaron and finally of Moses before crossing into the Promised Land, gives us a fuller introduction to Joshua – Moses’ successor as leader of the Israelite people into what is to become the nation of Israel!
I invited you to count the ways God demonstrates His sovereignty. Did anyone? [Yeah – over and over again God shows that He is in charge: Red Sea, Manna, Water, Quail, Amalekites, Moabites, Oh, and the Pillar of Smoke by day and the Pillar of Fire by night(!), the bronze snake, the talking donkey, the Ten Commandments!]
God shows us that He is YHWH – always present! Never leaves, never forsakes!
God demonstrates His All-Mightiness!
And boy-howdy does God provide – protection, power, providence, presence!
What does this story ask of us? How do we respond to this Exodus-story?
- Love the Lord our God – with every-thing we’ve got – time, talents, treasures – trust Him, even test Him by trusting Him with generosity and stepping out of what’s comfortable into what might be terrifying. Love God completely.
- Love our neighbors, those we like and those we do not; those we know and those who might be strange; those who have similar backgrounds to ourselves and those who might be very different – nationality, skin color, income level, education level, etc. Demonstrate our love for God by loving those whom He sent His Son to die for!
- At yesterday’s Presbytery gathering, where we listened to and shared stories of God’s active presence in our church communities, our church’s commissioners heard God challenging us, LPC people, to pay attention to our neighborhoods that we might more intentionally pray for what we notice among our neighbors, what they tell us about their lives, and what we see in the news about our neighborhood communities; and maybe to act in their lives – dinners, cards, offering services, and becoming “neighbors”.
- Trust that God’s Word is real – that He keeps His promises – that we can depend on Him in every circumstance! And demonstrate that trust by practicing our faith – by feeding the hungry and generously looking after those around us, by living like we actually believe what we say we believe!
Friends, God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.
Thank You, YHWH God, for Your love which stops at nothing to rescue, to save, Your “first-born”; for never giving up or abandoning Your children; for calling us, even before, long before, we are qualified to do what You call us to do, and for qualifying us for Your Kingdom purposes! Thank You for Jesus; in His name we pray, Amen.