09/23/2018 = Exodus 12-40 = Everything I Need to Know i Learned in VBS: “Moses – Exodus Highlights”

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 12-40

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Moses – Exodus Highlights

09/23/2018

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! MoreWe 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 monthsno-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 wandererswho’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 desertthat’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 (Edomitesdescendants 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 JoshuaMoses’ 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 livesdinners, 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.

 

Resources:

https://gcfl.net/archive.php?funny=20180921

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09/16/2018 = Exodus 3:1-22; 7-11 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Moses – What’s the Deal with the Plagues?”

(If you wanna LISTEN to this message, click HERE.)

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 3:1-22; 7-11

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Moses – What’s the Deal with the Plagues?

09/16/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

14 months ago Jennifer and I went on a vacation that was both the worst of times and the best of times. The “worst-of” involved sickness, disagreeable diets, strange sleeping conditions, skin rashes, and a “developing nation” hospitalization.

The “best-of” involved visiting Andrew in Kyrgyzstan, seeing where he lives, meeting his friends and family, experiencing the fullness of life there (some of that was covered in the “worst-of” report); and then going to Kenya to visit our CEO Director, her family, all the children, and some of the sights and sounds of Africa – including a 3-day safari in Massai Mara.

We all have stories similar to what I am sharing from across the globe in Kenya, and I bet you have stories that compare or even win out over these:

Our CEO Director, Edina, shows incredible stamina and strength every day – having been an orphan herself, from age 3 years, she has a Momma’s heart for the orphans that are under her supervision – and her strength and stamina can come out in scary ways when she thinks one of “her babies” might be in some kind of danger – we watched her attack school head masters with a smart wit and an integrity that always made sure the children were safe and secure.

On our Safari one day, our driver kind of screeched to a halt and pointed to something on the ground. In fact, he screeched to a halt and had to back up several meters (yards) to point out this dirt-colored ground-nesting bird. It was right next to the “road”, literally, maybe a couple feet – and it didn’t move at all when we flew past, or screeched to a stop, or backed up. The bird just sat there. Our driver said, “She’s a Yellow-Necked Spurfowl, sitting on her eggs. She will not move away from them for any reason, unless she feels that her eggs are threatened, then she will attack a rhino or a cheetah to keep her eggs safe. She’s equipped with spurs on her legs, and she will rip your eyes out! Do not step out of the vehicle; you might be perceived as such a threat!” We did not open our van door!

 

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 about a Parent who protects His Son.

 

I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen to, Exodus 3:1-22; 7-11 (Pp. 41-48). Hear the Word of God …. —-

Last week 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. That was the first 10 verses of Exodus 2.

Today we find ourselves in Exodus 3. By now Moses is a fully grown man – who recognizes his very privileged position in the household of the Pharaoh! But he also recognizes his Hebrew bloodline, and how closely connected he is to the Hebrew slaves.

Moses had killed an Egyptian slave master for the ways he had abused his Hebrew slaves – so Moses flees into the wilderness out of fear of retribution, maybe accused of treason resulting in a torturous death penalty. And while out in the wilderness, near the people of Midian, Moses gets married and works for his father-in-law as a shepherdprince of Egypt to shepherd of a nobody!

So this shepherd boy, married to a foreigner, starts a family and goes about his business, his new life as a shepherd. No longer connected to the Pharaoh. No longer connected to the Hebrew slaves. He’s a free man tending his flock.

Chapter 3: You all know this story: One day, while watching his sheep, he wanders up a hill and around a corner and he sees something he has never seen before.  You know what it is? He sees a bush that is on fire – but it is not burning up! So he goes toward is to inspect this wonder. And as he approaches he hears a voice (I wonder if it sounded the same to Moses as it did to Abraham as he was about to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah?).

As he gets near Moses hears God: “Take off your shoes, you’re standing on holy ground! I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Hebrew people, your people! And I have heard my people’s groans. I have heard my people crying in despair! And I am going to rescue them!

Here’s my plan: I am sending YOU, Moses, to go and set them free! To lead them out of Egypt. To lead them into the Promised Land – the Land I Promised to give to Abraham nearly 500 years ago!

Mosesstanding there barefoot in front of a talking Burning Bush – “Wait! What?! No! No, no, no, no! Not me. I am NOT doing that! Wait… I c-c-c-c-can’t do that! I s-s-s-s-tut-t-t-t-ter!

God says, “Don’t worry, Moses. I’ll be with you. I am with you. Don’t worry. And here’s the thing – I’m sending your brother Aaron – he doesn’t stutter. He can do all the talking.

So Moses relents a little, and he says, “OK, but if I go, whom do I say sent me?

And this is where God gives us His name. God says, “Tell them YHWHI am who Is and who Was and who Will always Be. YHWH sends you. I am is with you!

 

So, then there’s a few chapters (4, 5, & 6) wherein Aaron tells the Hebrew slaves that God is going to set them free – so they should just hang on a bit longer, and be ready to follow Moses; and in the meantime, Moses and Aaron go to the Pharaoh and plead with the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, but the Pharaoh just gets angrier and angrier with them for this; and so new rules go out to the slave masters: the Hebrew slaves were making bricks, and the new rule was – same number of bricks, but now the Hebrews have to go find their own straw, their own brick-making supplies – it became an impossible task! This was a big power play.

Moses gets scared that this whole thing is going haywire, and is about to really backfire!

God reminds them who He is: YHWH. And God reassures Moses that He will keep His promise; He always keeps His promise.

 

In the negotiations between Moses and God, and then between Moses and the Pharaoh, we read this interchange (listen carefully to these words, listen to how God describes the Israelite people): Exodus 4 21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

 

Then in chapters 7-11 we find the 10 plagues used by God, through Moses, to do three things: to let the Pharaoh know that it is God who is in charge; to remind the Israelites that it is God who is in charge; to tell us, you and me, that it is always God who is in charge!

Ten Plagues:

  1. The Nile River turns to blood
  2. Frogs. Everywhere. Frogs!
  3. Gnats. Stinging, buzzing gnats.
  4. Flies. Dirty, disease-carrying flies.
  5. Livestock die, income lost, food gone, stench of death.
  6. Boils on the humans, painful, ugly, infected boils.
  7. Hail rains down like bullets, killing the crops and bruising anyone not protected by a roof.
  8. Locusts, in biblcal proportions! Destroying whatever crops the hail didn’t.
  9. Darkness. Nothing but blind-like dark.

Interestingly, the Hebrew slaves, in the area called Goshen, are all safe from these plagues. Remember who the Egyptians and the Israelites and you and I are supposed to learn who is in charge? YHWH!

After each plague, the Pharaoh considers giving in, and then he doesn’t. But we haven’t read chapter 11 yet. We haven’t yet come to Plague Number Ten.

 

Before we go down the Plague No. 10 Road, let’s do a quick review of a running theme in a few of our previous studies in Genesis:

  • God promises Eve that one of her offspring will crush the head of an offspring of the devilish serpent.
  • God promises the old man Abraham that he will be the father of a nation, and that one of those offspring will be a Savior for all nations.
  • Abraham offers his only son, whom he loves, as a sacrifice – on the same mountain that 1,800 years later God offers His only Son, whom He loves, as a sacrifice.
  • At this same sacrifice, God provides a ram to die as a substitute for Isaac – again, on the same mountain that God provides Jesus to die as a substitutionary atonement for you and me.
  • Moses is born into a world where baby boys are meant to be killed by order of the king – just like when Jesus is born, the baby boys were meant to be killed by order of King Herod.

Do you see this theme – the Old Testament promises ultimately fulfilled in the New Testament Messiah – and Old Testament pictures, previews of the perfect New Testament Christ. Listen again to God’s words to Moses in Exodus 4: ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

Now comes Plague No. Ten – the big one: God says, “At midnight I shall go through the whole land of Egypt and the first-born son in every family will die – from the palace to the poorest, from the highest to the lowest, from the most prestigious to the most unimportant. The spirit of death will ‘Pass Over’ each household and take the first-born son.”

God also told Moses that the Israelite people, the first-born sons of the Hebrew families would be kept safe, just like with the other nine plagues, but only if they obey the word of the Lord – they are to paint heir door posts with the blood of a lamb, the Passover Lamb’s blood would be poured out on their doorposts to save them from death.

Do you hear the theme again? – the Old Testament Passover Lamb’s blood would be fulfilled in the New Testament Lamb of God whose blood is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

 

So, what is God doing with this story? I see three lessons about what God does with and for His people:

  • God qualifies the Called. That’s the Bumper Sticker theology that tells a real truth. God calls Moses into service from the moment of his Basket Baptism way back in Exodus 2. God calls Moses by training him in the household of the Pharaoh. God calls this stuttering fugitive to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt. God calls this unqualified shepherd, whom He has been qualifying since the day he was born.
    • That’s what He does for you, too. He qualifies you for service in the Kingdom of God, for priesthood in His eternal presence, royalty in the Palace of Paradise. And He does that with whatever trials and troubles and successes and gifts, whatever circumstances and experiences you have had to endure, whatever comforts and wonders you’ve been privileged to share.
    • I recently listened to a TED Talk with Michael Junior, a Christian who does standup comedy. He compared life to a joke. He says that a joke consists of a set-up, something that gets the audience to go in a common direction; and there’s a punchline that brings the listeners somewhere they didn’t expect to go.
      • A ham sandwich walks into a bar and orders a drink. (We’re all going a common direction. What does the bartender say?) The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”
      • Two guys walk into a bar. (We’re all together?) The third guy ducked.
    • Then Michael Junior tells us that our lives are the set-up. Our families, our homes, our jobs – and our divorces, our evictions, and our unemployment. But we can decide to take our lives in different directions that no one expects. That’s what Jesus offers us. He says our set-backs might make the best set-ups. Like a slingshot, the farther it gets pulled back, the farther forward we can fly. Our set-backs, our set-ups are what qualifies us for the punchline – that we can live with joy and hope and love and peace beyond what the world understands.
    • Allow God to Call you – because, like Moses, He will qualify you!

 

  • God is with Moses, YHWHGod is with us, always! Where can we go to hide from God? Not the heights of the heavens, not the depths of Hades, because God is YHWH! God Is! And He is with you, always!

 

  • God calls His people Israel His “first-born Son”. This is the first time God uses that description for His people. God’s first-born Son is the people of Israel. Then God’s “first-born Son” is limited to Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. But in the days which follow the New Testament, God calls His Church His “first-born Son” – we are the Body of Christwe are His Church, whom He loves!

 

And that’s the Deal with the Plagues! Do you remember how I described the work of Edina with her orphan babies in Kenya? She would do anything to demonstrate her love for them – as would any mother!

The dirt-colored Yellow-Necked Spur Fowl on the ground-nest, protecting her eggs, in Massai Mara, Kenya, would even sacrifice her own life by attacking threats much bigger and meaner than she is.

And so YHWH God does the ultimate to save His “first-born” Son, Israel, from bondage, death, in Egypt!

 

What does this story ask of us? How do we respond to this Moses-story?

  • Accept God’s Call for you.

 

  • Experience the ways God qualifies you for service, for priesthood, for royalty, for Son-ship!

 

  • Know and trust that God is always with us – never leaves or forsakes us – ever!

 

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.

 

Resources:

Junior, Michael; #MoreThanFunny; TED Talk; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twSvd5bQLDw.

09/09/2018 = Exodus 2:1-10 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Moses – Basket of Baptism”

(Click RYE-CHEER to find the audio file of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Exodus 2:1-10

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Moses – Basket of Baptism

09/09/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Does anyone here have a life story about either being saved from drowning or saving someone else? Maybe a riptide at a Southern California beach, or falling off a dock or out of the boat on the lake or at the river? I took swimming lessons every summer from 1st grade thru 6th grade, and while I was too young to earn a Life Guard certificate, I took all the classes to get one – including the class on how to use your own Levi’s jeans (cuz that’s what we all wore in 1972) to make a temporary/emergency life preserver! (And I am super glad I have never had to try to make that work in a real-life-or-death situation!)

 

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. Today we read about a mom who saves her son’s life with a basket.

 

I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen to, Exodus 2:1-10 (P. 41). Hear the Word of God …. —-

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman (for those who have been here all Summer, we have hopped over several chapters, and a few hundred years….  After Jacob wrestled with the Angel in Genesis 32 – he and his wives [and his concubines] had birthed and raised 12 sons, and there had been a famine in the land of Israel, so the one son, Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, had moved to Egypt, but had then become a leading ruler in Egypt and brought his whole family down to save them from starvation; by the time we get to Exodus, it has been like 400 years of Israelites living in Egypt, but no one in charge remembered why the Israelites were there, they had forgotten about Joseph saving Egyptian civilization 400 years earlier, and the Israelites had been so “productive” that the Pharaoh had put out a hit on all Israelite baby boyskill them dead! That’s the scene of this story when an Israelite couple from the Tribe of Levi are expecting another baby), and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said (how did she know? In the Charlton Heston movie it was the “Hebrew blanket” he was wrapped in – but in reality, this baby boy was probably circumcised!).

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She (Pharaoh’s daughter) named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

 

The story of Moses – just in these introductory 10 verses we learn all kinds of things – stuff about Moses, and stuff about God. And these opening verses of Moses’ story starts one of the most fantastic legendary life stories of all time!

 

Let’s explore this together:

Someone … tell us what life in Egypt is like for the Israelites at the time of Moses’ birth. [Slavery for these previously loved and respected people – because the government officials, the Pharaoh is scared that these Hebrews might start a rebellion; so it’s a power play.    Death for all the baby Hebrew boys.    Parents that obviously love this newborn baby, into a family that already has several children.]

 

Do you remember when we saw God promise Eve that one of her offspring would step on the head of the offspring of the serpent – and how that promise was the first picture of the preincarnate Son of God, the Messiah who would come in another few thousand years?

Or when Abraham offered his only son, whom he loved, as a sacrifice? And how that happened at the same place where 1,800 years later God offered His only begotten Son, whom He loves, as a sacrifice? And how God saved Abraham’s son’s life by providing a ram who died as the substitute for Isaac, like how Jesus’ death provides substitutionary atonement for us?

In today’s reading, notice the similarities between Moses’ birth and that of Jesus: [Baby boys were supposed to be killed by authority of the “king”;    and Moses goes to live in the household of the king of Egypt; where does Jesus and Mary and Joseph go to avoid the death penalty? – Egypt!    Do you see how this resembles yet another picture of the preincarnate Son of God, the Messiah who will one day come to save God’s people?]

 

Now let’s take a minute and look at the means by which Moses was saved in this story. His mother made a basket and lined it with pitch and put her three-month old son in the Nile River. Way back in Genesis 6 we read about how Noah and his family, and two of every creature on earth, were saved from death in a giant floating basket; and now Moses, who will one day be the rescuer, the savior, of the entire Israelite people, is saved from death in a floating basket!

What otherMoses-and-water” stories can you think of?   [Moses’ name means “drawn from the water” – the Pharaoh’s daughter named him that, not his parents.    When Moses is a grown man confronting the Pharaoh to let God’s people go, one of the plagues turns the water into blood!    During the Exodus as the Israelites escape from the Egyptian army, the first major-big thing that happens is the parting of the Red Sea!    When the people are out in the wilderness, complaining that sometimes life is difficult, Moses gets water from a rock!    And in today’s intro-to-Moses story, while he never even gets wet, he sits in a basket of baptism as he floats toward God’s call on his life.]

 

Jesus also has some amazing water-related stories. He gets baptized in the Jordan River.    He turns water into wine.    He walks on water.     He uses water to heal a man who is lame.     And the Apostle John tells us that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the one who came by water and blood.

 

It certainly appears that God shows this picture of Jesus way back in Exodus, the beginning of the second book of the Old Testament, to remind His Chosen People that He is absolutely sovereign and totally loves them, that the Messiah is coming to save them from their own sinful nature.

And Moses’ identity is clarified as not-an-Egyptian and just as clearly as God’s-Chosen-leader-of-His people!

 

So, what is God doing with this story?

He is definitely setting the means of ultimate salvation in motion! We’ve seen this before – Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – and now Moses takes a lead. God’s salvation plan is taking effect!

 

What does this story ask of us? How do we respond to this Moses-story? I see four acts of obedience, four things to check-off before we leave this worship time today.

  • Go to the waterwith the basket. You hear me? Moses’ mother went to the trouble of making the basket, and then she finished the job! She took the risk that it might not work – but she did it. And you can bet she went to the river to pray … while she placed her baby basket on the water. Do that! Take what you know God has given you, and do something with it! Be brave, even when you’re scared, and take the risk to obey.
  • Go to the watergrab the basket! The daughter of the Pharaoh was doing nothing more than taking a bath in the Nile; she was just doing her thing. But then she saw an opportunity! She did not know that this was a God thing – but she did it. She grabbed the basket! Do that! As people who know that God is real, be aware of what He is doing! Look for God wherever you are, and watch for the opportunities He places in front of you.
    • Did you catch what all God did in this Moses story? He saved Moses’ baby life by his mom going to the water with the basket. Then He sent Pharaoh’s daughter to the water who grabbed the basket. And then He got Moses’ own mother to be invited by Pharaoh’s daughter to nurse her own baby, raise him, keep him safe!
  • Know and trust the God who calls you into His family. The Apostle John, in his first Epistle, chapter 5, challenges us to trust God fully: Who is it that overcomes the world? [Who has the courage to face life’s tough challenges? Who doesn’t need to worry about death? Who? He answers:] Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
  • Discover your Basket of Baptismhow is God calling you into His service, His ministry, His presence and power today?

 

Go to the waterwith the basket! Go to the watergrab the basket! Believe that Jesus is the Son of God born of water and of blood! And believe that God really is real! Live like we believe what we say we believe!

 

Friends, God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for the waters of Baptism which claims us for eternal; for inviting us to believe in and trust fully in Your perfect gift of Holy Spirit forgiveness; for adopting us as Your very own children. You call us Your own, and we want to anchor our lives into that identity, always. Thank You for Jesus; in His name we pray, Amen.

09/02/2018 = Genesis 32:22-32 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: Jacob Wrestles with God – Identity vs Behavior”

(Click HERE to listen to this story.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 32:22-32

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Jacob Wrestles with God – Identity vs Behavior

09/02/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Anybody here ever order a drink at a Starbuck’s (or, really ANY coffee place), and when they ask your name so they can write it on your order – they get it really wrong? And while there may be several ways to misspell your name correctly (how many ways are there to spell “Caitlin”?), here are a few classics from Starbuck’s:

= Air Inn   =  Erin       

= Angry     =  Ingrid    

= Wong     =  Juan      

= Auntie    =  Andie      

= Fibi        =  Phoebe  

= A-Me      =  Amy       

= Missle     =  Michelle

= Panellipie  =  Penelope

= Mad-ah-Lynn  =  Madeline

Marc (with a C) = Cark

 

Fortunately, our identities are not defined by misspelled names on coffee cupsnor are we defined by what we do – what we do gives shape to our identity, but it does not define it out right.

 

In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible stories, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about a man who discovers his identity in a very peculiar way.

 

In this series we have read the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few Abraham and Isaac and Jacob stories.

I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen to, Genesis 32:22-32 (Pp. 23). Hear the Word of God …. —-

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”        “Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob (Jacob means “one who lies, deceives, cheats, tricks, to get what he wants”), but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome (Israel means “struggles/wrestles with God”).”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”    But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel (“God’s face”), saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

 

This is a story about how one who is known for his cheating gets a new identity as one who faces God squarely, even when he struggles to get it right.

It’s not the first time someone in the Bible gets a new name. Abram’s name changed to Abraham, from “high father” to “father of a multitude”; and Sarai became Sarah (“my princess” to “mother of nations”). In the New Testament, Jesus changed Simon’s name (“Hear” or “Listen”) to Peter (“Rock”) and Saul’s name to Paul (“Ask or Inquire” to “Small or Humble”).

None of those names were terrible names to begin with, except maybe Jacobhigh father, princess, listen, ask; but their new identities all define some quality as they relate to Almighty God – as the fulfillment of God’s promises, strength in God, one who find’s God’s strength in his own weakness – and one who wrestles with God! (Johnny, I was so glad when I saw that you were singing today’s Special Music song, because you love wrestling!)

 

What does God do with this good for nuthin, low-down, cheatin, lyin’, birthright thievin’, blessing stealin’, piece of no-good sin-ness? He reminds him that his real identity is found in God!

It’s not that Jacob’s sins don’t have an effect on his future – they do. Life circumstances change the way we live. Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, is left for dead by his brothers, is sold into slavery, is sexually assaulted, is arrested and convicted when he is innocentall of that carried into his future – but his identity is not in any of his victim statushe is the one who saves the Israelites.

Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego are all taken captive, accused of treason, and sentenced to death by lions or by fire – but their identity is as God’s chosen.

 

We all carry some kind of hardship, choices we’ve made, terrible things that have happened to us, or simply the adversities of life.

Jacob had acted in terrible ways. But, God called him His own.

Have you done things that make you think you’re not good enough for God’s love?

Are you a survivor of sexual assault?

Are their drug abuses in your life?

Have chronic or terminal diseases stolen your health and well- being?

Do you feel like a loser because you aren’t as successful as someone else? (I am a little embarrassed to admit here that this is one of my personal feelings of unworthiness – I thought I would pastor a church of several hundred by this time in my life…..)

 

Friends, you are not the loser you feel like; you are more than just the cancer or Diabetes or Chrones that gives you turmoil; you are not just the drugs in your system or the money in your bank; your identity is not in your #MeToo hurts and fears; your bad choices, sad choices, sin choices, while they may lead you down some dark alleys and difficult life places, they do not define your identityyou are a Child of God.

After 60 years of marriage – after 6 days of marriage – becoming a widow, pained, lonely, lost = is not your identity. Being divorced, or never married = is not your identity.

After 40 years of work – reaching retirement = does not define your identity.

Being laid off, unemployed, without a paycheck or an address = is not your identity.

 

On the positive sides, working as a nurse, being in charge of linemen, serving customers, teaching students, overseeing operations, managing an office, handling transportation means … = is not your identity.

 

These are things we do. These are things that happen to us. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, as disciples in the Kingdom of God, as people called by God and filled with the Holy Spirit = we are Children of the Living God! You are a Daughter of the King, a Son of the Almighty!

Because of that, in Christ Jesus, we can endure all things and live in the power of the Almighty!

 

God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.

 

Whenever I go to a place that asks my name to call when my order is ready, I often do one of two things – give them the name of the person in our group whose name is the hardest to spell (or which might have the most variant spellings), or I give them the same name as the person just ahead of me in line (I guess that’s Identity Theft…). My identity is not defined by how the barista spells my name – And to that end, even our Starbuck’s baristas aren’t identified by their terrible spelling errors. Are you a Child of God? Rest in that everlasting identity, that unstealably secure identity, written in the Book of Life!

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for claiming us with the cross; for inviting us to call You our Heavenly Father; for adopting us as Your very own children. You call us Your own, and we want to anchor our lives into that identity, always. Thank You for Jesus; in His name we pray, Amen.

 

Resources:

https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/starbucks-spelling-tumblr-23-hilariously-misspelled-names-on-starbucks-coffee-cups

 

08/26/2018 = Genesis 25-27 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Jacob & Esau – Who’s on First?”

(Click HERE for today’s audio file)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 25-27

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Jacob & Esau – Who’s on First?

08/26/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Opening section of Abbot and Costello’s 1942 “Who’s on first?” skit.

Abbott: Strange as it may seem, they give ball players nowadays very peculiar names.

Costello: Funny names?

Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the St. Louis team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third–

Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the St. Louis team.

Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third–

Costello: You know the fellows’ names?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: Well, then who’s playing first?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: I mean the fellow’s name on first base.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The fellow playin’ first base.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The guy on first base.

Abbott: Who is on first.

Costello: Well, what are you askin’ me for?

Abbott: I’m not asking you–I’m telling you. Who is on first.

Costello: I’m asking you–who’s on first?

Abbott: That’s the man’s name.

Costello: That’s who’s name?

Abbott: Yes.

 

Anybody here never see that scene before? Abbot and Costello were hilarious, and this skit defined them – the original was over 6 minutes long! And it displays the confusion over identity perfectly.

What’s the man’s name playing first? – No, that’s Who. – That’s what I wanna know!

 

In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible stories, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about two brothers, Jacob and Esau, and how confusion over who was whom changes the course of history … and what that means for us today.

 

In this series we have read the stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few Abraham and Isaac stories.

I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen to, Genesis 25-27 (Pp. 18-20). Hear the Word of God …. —-

Last week we saw that Abraham and Sarah in their very old age (100 & 90) have their first son, Isaac, as the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise from God that their offspring would outnumber the stars in the sky. Then God tells Abraham to offer his son, his only son, whom he lovesIsaac – as a sacrifice.

By the time we get to chapter 25, this son of Abraham, Isaac, is 60 years old, married to a distant relative named Rebekah – but they also are childless. So Isaac prays for a baby; the Lord answers his prayer – with twins – who (the NIV says) jostled each other within Rebekah’s womb. When Rebekah cries out to God about her belly’s wrestlessness, God tells her:

          “Two nations are in your womb,

          And two peoples from within you will be separated;

          One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

 

Well, these two boys, fraternal twins, were born, still wrestling with each otherthe first came out red he was like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau (hairy), and the second came out grasping hold of Esau’s heel, so they named him Jacob (Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives), and in conflict their whole lives.

One day as they were grown, the older brother, Esau – big and hairy – was so hungry he was “hangry”, so he sold his “first-born-birthright” to his younger brother, Jacob – smaller and smooth-skinned. How do you think this event affected their relationship? And the truth is that they did grow apart, Esau’s family line became the nation of Edom, enemies of the Israelites – and Jacob became Israel! Almost 1800 years later a descendant of Esau was named King of Israel by the Roman Emperor, his name was King Herod – who killed all the boys in Bethlehem two years old and younger in an effort to kill the baby Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews.

 

By the time we get to chapter 27 Isaac’s age is catching up to him, his vision is gone, and he knows his end is near.

So he calls Esau, his oldest twin son, and tells him, “You know I’m on hospice now, my time is close. Here’s what I want you to do: Get your gun, go out to the woods, and hunt some wild game for me – you know how I love your venison stew. Make that for me, and I’ll give you my blessing before I die.”

But Rebekah, Esau’s and Jacob’s Mom, overhears these instructions, and as soon as Esau leaves the house she calls Jacob over and plots with him a way to steal Esau’s blessing. She tells Jacob, “Go to the barn pick out two of the choicest goats and bring them to me – I know how to make them taste like wild game, and when you take my stew to your Dad he’ll give you Esau’s blessing before he dies.”

You remember that Jacob already has Esau’s birthright, right? And the word of God to Rebekah that the younger brother would rule over the older brother? Now the younger bro is about to get the last will and testament of Dad instead of the older bro. But there’s a hitch in the plan – while Isaac is old and his vision is gone, he still knows his sons voices and physical differences: Esau is big and hairy and Jacob is smaller and smooth.

So Jacob reminds his Mom that Dad will know that Jacob is not Esau – “How do we fool him, Mom?”

Listen to how this plays out – I’m reading from Genesis 27:14-46 …. —-

14 So he went and got [the goats] and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. 15 Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. 16 She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. 17 Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made.

18 He went to his father and said, “My father.”       “Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is this?”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

20 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”          “The Lord your God gave me success,” he replied.

21 Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.” 22 Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” 23 He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. 24 Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

I am,” he replied.

25 Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”

Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank.26 Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

27 So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him and said,

“Ah, the smell of my son     is like the smell of a field            that the Lord has blessed.
28 May God give you heaven’s dew          and earth’s richness—      an abundance of grain and new wine.
29 May nations serve you                and peoples bow down to you.         Be lord over your brothers,
    and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.    May those who curse you be cursed
    and those who bless you be blessed.”

30 After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”        “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cryand said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”         35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? [remember that Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.] This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

37 Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

39 His father Isaac answered him,        “Your dwelling will be         away from the earth’s richness,
    away from the dew of heaven above.        40 You will live by the sword          and you will serve your brother.
But when you grow restless,     
    you will throw his yoke               from off your neck.”

41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

46 Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.”

 

Whaaat? Right? This is a chapter of one lie after anotherRebekah and then Jacob – it’s a chapter of theft and trickery, of lost blessings and stolen blessings, of threats of curses and threats of murder. How is this a Gospel story? Why is it even in the Bible?

I have a couple thoughts about that, and my take-away.

Jacob is listed as one of the biblical heroes of faith – even with this story. One of the things that help make the Bible believable is that it does not hide the ugliness of its heroes!

And these Bible heroes are not simply examples of faith. Even when they make bad choices and do wrong things – they are in the Family Tree of Jesus!

 

Here’s what may be the most important verse in this story: 36 Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? [What does Jacob mean? he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he takes advantage of or he deceives.] This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!… Don’t you have a blessing for me?” 

Here’s what I think God wants us to hear in this storywe are all sinnersAbraham sinned, Isaac sinned, Rebekah sinned, Esau sinned, and here we see that even Jacob sinned.

But even though we all sin, Almighty God loves us, and He has a plan for us. He wants us to return to Him for forgiveness. God is standing by and ready to forgive, and He longs to do so.

I love that God uses these people, no better than you or me maybe, but God uses them in His salvation story! Next week we read where Jacob’s name is changed to Israel – from one who cheats and lies to one who wrestles with God.

God uses Jacob to reveal His Word of truth from this point forward. Do you remember the story in John 1 where Jesus is just starting to gather His followers, and Philip is so excited about meeting Jesus that he runs and gets his friend Nathaniel. When Jesus sees Nathaniel He says, “Here’s an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” (“Here’s a true example of ‘Israel’ in whom there is no sign of ‘Jacob’”).

God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.

Friends, let’s not make Him wait any longer. Let’s open our lives, our hearts, our minds, and accept His love and forgiveness.

Trust that Jesus took your place on the cross – like last week’s substitute ram who died on behalf of Isaac – so that we do not need to experience that final death. Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to pay that price. And whoever would believe in Him would not perish into eternal death but would have life beyond death.

If you have never before believed that God really did raise Jesus from the dead, today is the day of your salvationbelieve and receive Him today!

 

Jacob – the younger brother, the second born son of Isaac, carries the torch of the way of salvation.

Who’s on first? What’s on second? Friends, do not get lost in the sin, just keep your eyes focused on the Son who gave Himself for you. – This was part of the message of Jake’s song this morning, MetronomeGod’s love will keep the rhythm of our lives directed on following Him, even when we act like Jacob son of Isaac, son of Abrahamancestor of our Lord and Savior.

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for including stories like this one about Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and Esau. This story recognizes that people who sin just like I do can be a part of Your story and Your plan. Today, Lord, I ask Your forgiveness; I want Your welcoming love and Your forgiving grace And I want to call You Father and hear You call me Your child. Thank You for Jesus; in His name we pray, Amen.

 

Resources:

Abbott, Bud and Lou Costello; “Who’s on First?”; 1942.

Davis, Jake; “Metronome”; 2018.

08/19/2018 = Genesis 22:1-19 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Abraham & Isaac – The Ultimate Sacrifice”

(Click right HERE for the audio track of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 22:1-19

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Abraham & Isaac – The Ultimate Sacrifice

08/19/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,            And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

On our way back to Spokane last month as we were sitting in the Norfolk airport, they announced that the flight to Seattle was full. The airline was looking for volunteers to give up their seats. In exchange, they’d give you a $100 voucher for your next flight and a first class seat in the plane leaving an hour later. About eight people ran up to the counter to take advantage of the offer.

About 15 seconds later all eight of those people sat down grumpily as the lady behind the ticket counter said, “If there is anyone else OTHER than the flight crew who’d like to volunteer, please step forward…”

 

OK, so that didn’t really happen…. But I use that as a way to introduce the idea of realsacrifice versus lessersacrifice.

 

In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible stories, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about a time when Father Abraham offers the ultimate sacrifice … and what that means for us today.

 

On Father’s Day we started this series, reading from Genesis 12 where God calls Abram to become, in his senior years (he was 75 years old), the Founding Father of a family, a nation, a race, and a faith.

I invite you to turn with me, and to listen to, Genesis 22:1-19 (P. 14). Hear the Word of God …. —-

25 years after the 75-year old Abraham is promised his first son, he and his 90-year old wife Sarah have Isaac.

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”         “Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of MoriahSacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  And the two of them went on together.

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar  there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar,  on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.  11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,  18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba.   And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

 

Let’s start by simply stating the obvious: Seriously God? Really? The test of Abraham’s faith is to obey the demand of his son’s murder? Wow!

No one would argue that this is anything but the most extreme, ugly, and masochistic demand any god could make, let alone the God we claim is perfect LOVE!

But, that said, we can only read/hear this story in context of the whole of Scripture, not in isolation or without full biblical contextual understanding. So, let’s step back and gain perspective.

 

Did your imagination set the scene of this story?Some time later …Abraham was old long before Isaac was even born, so “some time later” easily sets the scene as Abraham as, now, very old! And Isaac is no longer a toddler. Right? Isaac is the one who carried the wood up the mountain for the burnt offering – we’re talking an at least pre-teen Isaac, maybe a full-on teenager! Yes, Abraham is offering Isaac as the object of the burnt offering, but Isaac goes very willingly.

At one point, remember, Isaac says, “Hey Pops, we have everything we need for this offering, except the ACTUAL OFFERING!” Right? Isaac was, apparently, not told ahead of time how this was supposed to play out – but Isaac was still very capable of escaping the horror of what was about to happen. A 14-year old boy versus a 114 –year old man? Who’s most likely to win that foot race?

No, Isaac willingly allowed this sacrifice of his own life to take place.

 

And what was Abraham’s answer to Isaac’s question about where the actual offering was? Abraham says, “God Himself will provide the lamb.”

 

Our Thursday Bible Study Group, btw – you’re all invited to this – just started an examination of the book of Revelation – and I posted a picture of something asking the class to guess what it was a picture of. They guessed: a piece of meat, a hill in the desert, the backside of a naked man kneeling in prayer, etc.

Then I backed the picture up and everyone could easily see the Sistine Chapel depiction of God’s hand touching Adam’s hand in the section called The Creation of Adam. Then we backed up further and saw the whole panel of this Creation story. Then a little further back and we saw the entire ceiling telling the whole of the story of Scripture.

 

I invite you now to do that same thing with this story. As we back up far enough to catch the entire picture we notice a few details that are invisible when we take the story out of context.

 

God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love …”  Can anyone think of another story in the Bible where we hear very similar words? [John 3:16, “God gave His only Son…”; at the baptism stories in each of the Gospels, “This is my Son, my only Son, whom I love …”]

 

“… go to the region of MoriahSacrifice him there …”   Do you know where Mt. Moriah is? [Mt. Moriah is the high point of what is later called Jerusalem. What happens in Jerusalem 1800 years later? The only begotten Son of God is sacrificed, willingly, for our sins…]

 

Abraham is the only human in this story that knows the secret plan to sacrifice Isaac. But did you catch what he said to the crew of travelers with him?  Listen: “We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham knows the plan to sacrifice Isaac, but that’s all he knows, but what does he say? [Verse 5 ends with Abraham saying, “we will come back to you.” Who is “we”? Abraham AND Isaac? Even after the sacrifice?

Remember who Isaac is? He is Abraham’s ONLY hope for the fulfillment of the promises God made to him in chapters 12 and 15 and 17 and 18. If Isaac dies, the whole promise of a nation and a people and a Savior for the world dies with him! So, Abe says, “we’ll be right back.”

And in that same paragraph, verse 4, how many days was this journey to death and life? “On the third day ….”  What does that remind you of?

 

Anyone who has ever been in church before sees the correlation now, don’t you? This all is an 1,800 year early picture of the Messiah whom has been talked about since the beginning of Genesis!

 

Abraham tells Isaac, “God Himself will provide the lamb.” And then just as Abraham is about to slay his only son whom he loves God stops the sacrifice and He Himself provides a ram in the thickets as a perfect substitute sacrifice!

And Jesus, nearly 2,000 years later, is called the Lamb of God, provided as the sacrifice for us, willingly offering Himself, as a substitute for our own deserved death!

And so Abraham names Mount Moriah, that which will one day be Mount Zion, he names it “The Lord will provide!” And in the name of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, whom He loved, boy howdy did He ever provide!

 

And then this chapter, this story of the Ultimate Sacrifice of Jesus prefigured in the Ultimate Sacrifice of Isaac, closes with a reiteration of the promise – and a little Godly sense of humor. If you still have your Bibles open, look at verse 16I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,  18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

How do we make the sincerest of promises?  We say, “I promise I’ll do the dishes! I swear to God!” (Yeah, I know that the Bible tells us to just let our Yes be Yes and our No be No, that we shouldn’tswear to God”, that maybe, even, that’s breaking the commandment to not use the Lord’s name in vain, so I’m not condoning this, I’m not prescribing this, I’m simply describing that that’s what we do. How does God make the sincerest of promises? He says, “I swear to MYSELF!” C’mon. That’s kind of funny!

And what does He swear? That He will keep His promise about descendantshow many? – and that through one of those descendantsall the nations on the earth will be blessed!”

Jesus is the Ultimate Sacrificial fulfillment of that promise!  From this story, and words from Hebrews which say that Christ died once for all, we no longer have a need for an altar on which to offer sacrifices. In Presbyterian Churches, and in all Reformed Churches, there is no altar. What is this Table that lays between us and the cross? It is not an altar on which Christ is re-sacrificed every week – it is a Table! A Communion Table, which reminds us of, brings us back to, helps us recall, the one Sacrifice to Rule them All!

 

As we enter into our time of prayer together today, assuming all the technology works, I invite you to reflect on today’s Bible story, and listen to this 1983 song by Michael Card called “God Will Provide a Lamb”.

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for the Ultimate Sacrificial Lamb, whom You provide as substitute for what we each deserve.  As we read about Abraham’s obedient faith, let it remind us, Lord, of Your always dependable providence for salvation and forgiveness and grace and mercy, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, Your only Son whom You love. Amen.

 

Resources:

https://www.google.com/search?q=youtube+michael+card+god+will+provide+a+lamb&oq=michael+card+god+will+provide+a+lamb&aqs=chrome.3.69i57j0l3.23140j1j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

08/12/2018 = Genesis 15-21 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: “Abraham, Sarah & Hagar – Family Trees Have Deep Roots and Broad Branches”

(Click HERE for an audio version of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Genesis 15-21

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Abraham, Sarah & Hagar – Family Trees Have Deep Roots and Broad Branches

08/12/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,

          And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,

          Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A month ago, Jennifer and Brianna and I were on a trip to Florida and Virginia, bunking with some of Jennifer’s extended family – her mom and a brother and his wife and a sister and her husband and an aunt and uncle, and others – our trip’s mission, our stated purpose, besides having a giant family reunion, included spreading some of Jennifer’s father’s ashes at various cemetery sites, burial spots, of some of his ancestors, dating to before the Civil War.

Just before we left on this trip my own mother passed away, nearly 4 years after my dad had died.

All of this got me to thinking about my family tree – so I joined a free version of Ancestry.com and was immediately hooked by the fascination of discovering family background (I have followed my mom’s family back to Germany and Poland, back to the late 1600s so far).

One of the things I discovered is how deep our Family Trees go, but also how wide across and intertangled our Branches become when we look at the different side of each family, and the in-laws (and outlaws) we find. (Jennifer’s Mom and my Dad both have Irish roots with the last name of Moore – does that make us likely “kissin’ cousins”?) (And Jennifer’s Dad’s family line includes Pocahontas! – so, there’s that!)

 

In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessonsfavorite Bible lessons, or stories that we’ve always wondered about or had questions about. Today we read about Father Abraham, and his wife Sarah, and her servant woman Hagar, and their sons Isaac and Ishmael.

 

On Father’s Day we started this series, reading from Genesis 12 where God calls Abram to become, in his senior years (he was 75 years old), the Founding Father of a nation, a race, and a faith.

Your bulletins say that we are reading Genesis 15-21 today – so hold on to your seats …. —-

 

Back in Genesis 12 God had promised a man from the eastern country of Ur that he would receive a whole nation worth of land, and the offspring to fill it, and that one of those offspring would be the salvation for humankind.

But by chapter 15 a number of years have passed, and while Abram and Sarai, whose names change to Abraham and Sarah, now live in this Promised Land, they still have no children. They were old 3 chapters ago – they are now starting to lose confidence in God’s promise about children.

Well, Abraham complains to God – “I’m getting old, God, and Sarah – is it even possible at her age?!”

So God takes Abe out to the desert and tells him to look up into the clear, starry sky, “How many stars do you see up there Abe? Can you count them?

“No, Lord! There are far too many to count.”

Your children will outnumber those stars, Abe. Do you trust me?

Yes, Lord, I trust You. I believe You.”

But after a little while longer, and still no children, Sarah finally decides to follow the custom of the people whose land they were living in, for Abe to take her servant woman Hagar, to start a family with her, and maybe they could adopt her son and count him as their own. … …

So … Hagar becomes pregnant, and Abe is both proud of himself and afraid that maybe this wasn’t the right way to go. Hagar starts getting a little “showy” – “look at meI’m more important than the lady who I work for I’m carrying her husband’s babyGod loves me more than He loves Sarah!”

… … Well, Sarah had had all she could take! “Look what you did to me Abraham! – You gave your seed to Hagar, my slave girl, instead of to me, your wife!”

Abraham, being the head of his household, tells Sarah, “So, do whatever you want to with Hagar – she’s YOUR slave girl!”

Well, Sarah treats Hagar so miserably that now Hagar could stand it no longer and she takes off for the hot desert, she runs away, with no one to look after her.

God finds Hagar out in the desert, and even though she is not His plan for Abraham’s Family Tree, He consoles her, comforts her, promises her that He, God, would take care of her and her son, and that she would name him Ishmael (God hears).

So, Hagar returns to Abraham and Sarah, and when Abraham is 86 years old he becomes the father of Ishmael – but Ishmael was not the one God promised to Abraham in Genesis 12 or Genesis 15. … …

One day Abe is sitting at the opening of his tent while Sarah sits inside enjoying the A/C. It’s hot and dry, so Abe is surprised when he looks up and sees three men walking toward him.

He runs out to them, gives them a shady place under a tree, and then runs back to Sarah to get her to bake some bread, BBQ some steaks, get the jello salad started, and pour the Sweet Tea….

When the picnic is prepared and Abe brings the spread out to them, they ask where Sarah is – “Oh, she’s in the tent, getting the cherry pies ready” (or whatever).

The leader of the three men then said, “Nine months from now Sarah will give birth to a son.”

But, when Sarah hears this ridiculous prophecy, she bursts out in laughter!

“Why are you laughing, Sarah?” “I didn’t laugh!”

“But you did! Do you think this is impossible for God?! What I promise will happen!”

… … and Abraham realizes these are not just ordinary men – they spoke the Word of God Himself! Angels!

… … Then there’s like a 2-chapter interlude story about Abe’s nephew Lot and his life in and with Sodom and Gomorrah (this is where Lot’s wife looks back and turns into a pillar of salt – we’re not going into that story today).

The next chapter in Abraham’s life is when his son Isaac (Laughter – reminder of Sarah’s laughter, and of the joy and happiness that this son means to Abraham and Sarah in their old age, and as the beginning of the promise to Abraham about how many offspring he would have) is born. 

One day as Isaac grows into a toddler his big half-brother Ishmael is playing with him, but there’s some cruel teasing involved. Sarah catches the boys, and she burns with anger about Hagar’s son picking on her own son – so she tells Abraham that Hagar and Ishmael needed to leave.

Father Abraham was saddened by this, but God reassured him that He would look after Ishmael, and that he should do as Sarah wanted.

So Hagar does leave this time, and Genesis 21 tells the stories about how God takes care Hagar and Ishmael even as they go their own way.

 

That is not the end of the stories of Ishmael – he grows up and becomes the father of his own people – the people of Moab are his offspring, and the people of Edom, enemies of the Jews for generations; 600 years after Christ this Family Tree branched out into the Muslim people. Deeply rooted with the Jews and us Christians – and so very far spread abroad.

 

Isaac was the chosen son of Abraham, the one chosen to bear a son named Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel – does that sound familiar?) – and when we look at Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels where they give us the Family Tree of Jesus we discover the deep, deep roots of Jesus.

 

These stories are in our Scriptures so that we can see how God had a plan from the very Beginning of Genesis, fulfilled in Jesus, and offered to you for your salvation, for your invitation into this Family Tree, by faith we are saved by God’s grace.

 

Do you get the power of these stories? They tell us that it’s not really about simply being a church-goer, even a church leader. It is really about being a real member of the Spiritual Family Tree, which means knowing God our Father, trusting Him even when it seems impossible, and as His children, His sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ of the unshakeable Kingdom of God living like we believe all that we say we believe.

How might we live into those Roots of faith today? How might we branch out with God’s perfect redeeming love to the world around us this afternoon? … …

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for the invitation into Your Family Tree, as undeserving as I am, Your love calls me as Your child.  Lord, help me, help us all, to branch out with Your true love, and bear the fruit of Your Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.