10/28/2018 = I Samuel 17 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: David & Goliath – Shepherd–>Giant Killer

(Click HERE for a slightly staticky audio version.)

Mark Wheeler

I Samuel 17:1-58

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

David & Goliath – Shepherd –> Giant-Killer

10/28/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                

 

We live in the least biblically literate age of our nation’s history. Just a few decades ago, even non-church attenders, non-religious, un-Christian people knew Bible references – and used them in daily conversations.

That is very different today. For lots of reasons, our children and grandchildren have not even heard, let alone learned, many of the Bible stories that people of my generation and older take for granted.

There is one major exception to this reality – even if the reference is not truly understood or believed to be true. In fact, I heard a radio ad for an insurance company use it today: “There is no Goliath this David can’t handle.

Goliath” is understood as – what? [any kind of giant enemy] And “David” is the little guy, the average Joe, but it is the little guy who is going to conquer!

 

What is the Goliath you are facing?  What challenge must you meet and conquer? I know for some here it is a health concern – cancer, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease, vision, arthritis, heart health, balance and vertigo, bone fragility; for some it is more of a financial fear or fate; for some it may be a legal battle; for others it is loneliness and relationship issues. What Goliath-sized feat do you face?

 

We have made great progress in our current Sermon Series 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 & Isaac & Jacob, Moses, Joshua & Rahab, & Ruth & Boaz, a look through the book of Judges, and last week we watched as God chose a young shepherd boy to be prepared to become the next King of Israel.

David was a wee 10-15-year-old boy, maybe the age of Johnny, when he was anointed to be king – but then he had to wait approximately 15 years to take office. I have a friend whose 10-year-old sonknew” he was called to be a missionary pilot – but he had to finish elementary school, middle school, high school, enter Moody Bible Institute and join their Aviation School. Zach is now an accomplished pilot, teaching at Moody Aviation, and will be assigned a mission field within another 3 years.

David’s education mostly involved tending sheep, and then serving King Saul (whom he would one-day replace). This story about Goliath happens while he is still living at home with his family, and it leads to his leaving home and beginning his years in King Saul’s service.

 

Listen to the Word of God from I Samuel 17:1-58 (starting on P. 203). Listen for God’s voice to you; what is God saying to you this morning? Hear God’s voice …. —-

1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. (All of that detailed location description gives credence to this story – it is not a

fairytale, it is real!)

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. (that’s like 9 feet, 9 inches tall – this dude was a giant!) He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels (that’s like 125 pounds of armor!); on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels (like 15 pounds of weaponry!). His shield bearer went ahead of him. (This gargantuan giant with an entire squadron worth of armor and weaponry had a shield bearer who walked out in

front of him to keep him safe!)

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. (Send one guy to fight me, unless you’re chicken!)

  12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah.14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

Then Jesse sends David-the-shepherd to Saul’s army where his three older brothers are serving. Jesse wants a report of his sons’ safety. But when David arrives at the encampment he hears about this Goliath-giant’s challenge and wonders what it’s really all about. 

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

So King Saul tries to convince young David to wear the King’s armor and to use his weapons, but they’re too big for him and David refuses.

41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome (just like Johnny), and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

Then David stood over the felled Goliath that challenged him; he took Goliath’s own sword, stabbed him and cut off his cabeza, and carried that to King Saul.

56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”

57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.

58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him.

David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”

 

Did you catch how our advertisements and even our own uses of this story reference are wrong?

The insurance ad I heard on the radio claimed to be the David, who by his own wit and will would win over any Goliathan challenge.

But that is not how this story plays out at all! David says, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of YHWH Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel. YHWH will deliver you into my hands. The whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  It is not by sword or spear that YHWH saves; for the battle is YHWH’s.

He gives full credit to God, but he does not simply sit back and do nothing while waiting for God to take over!

What does David do?

  • He recognizes that his work as a shepherd is transferrable to this job of giant-slaying – he tells King Saul, “Yeah, look. Right. I’m not a soldier, but I have protected my sheep by killing lions and bears, right? I think I can handle one Goliath from Gath.”
    • Btw, did you hear why Goliath lotht hith battle with David? Goliath ran out of Gath….
  • He brought a gun to a knife fight. Right? Goliath, a very formidable foe, 9’9”and WWE Champion for years. But this unbeatable battler has to be within a yard or two of his opponent to win.
    • David comes with a sling-shot – and as an experienced shepherd, he knows how to hit his target from many yards away. So he just shoots Goliath down from across the valley! (Do you remember how Indiana Jones wins against his sword slinging opponent in the back alley outside of Egypt?)

But, even while David uses what God has given him, his skills as an ace sling-shotter – skills as an experienced educator, as a musically skilled singer or instrumentalist, as a woodworking wonder, as a bookkeeping businessperson, as a nurse, as a … (you fill in the blank here) – David does his deeds in the name of the Lord.

God puts us where we are, God gives us our passions and dreams, God provides our experiences – good and bad, victories and defeats, ups and downs – and all of that counts as training for our role in the Kingdom of God!

And remember to give God the glory God deserves! Today’s bulletin cartoon says, “It’s not so much that I’m bringing a sling to a sword fight as it is you bringing a sword to a God fight.”

 

The battle is the Lord’s! Never forget that when we are on the Lord’s sideHe will win the battle! Joanne has cancelled out her cancer; Jack is succeeding over his stroke; Kathy kick’s her kidney disease in the backside every week. They each do that in their trust in and service to God Almighty. Riley Jane Halvorsen no longer needs her cranium cracking surgery because her mother, Melissa, and grandmother, Linda, gave this Goliathan battle over to the Lord!

 

That’s what God does for you, too, friends. He sovereignly ordains the events of our days – there is no one in this room whom God hasn’t called to be His. We may not be called to kill any actual Goliaths! But we are all called to use what God has given us and to trust in His providential love and Lordship! And, as with David – may the whole world come to see that there is God in our lives!

Whatever is your Goliath! Face it with our winning God at your side, and do as He says.

 

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

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for calling us out from death into life. Thank You for providing what we need for Your Kingdom purpose. Thank You for being YHWH God, who saves and rescues and wins. Through Christ our Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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10/21/2018 = I Samuel 16:1-13 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: David – “Bethlehem Shepherd”

(Click HERE for the audio LINK.)

Mark Wheeler

I Samuel 16:1-13

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

David – Bethlehem Shepherd

10/21/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                 

 

When’s the last time you were awarded some kind of title that you maybe felt was way out of your league?

  • Most Valuable Player on the Pilots Little League Baseball team
  • All-Star pitcher, three years in a row
  • Youth Sunday speaker for a church that had no youth group
  • Fiancé to the hottest volleyball setter in SoCal
  • Pastor with a church in Spokane that continues to surprise its presbytery with vitality, mission and faith, year after year!

 

Take just a second and think about yourself. Remember the surprise, the joy, the wonder, the doubt, the feeling of Wow! Really?! Sure, yeah, I’m up for that!

 

We have come a long way in our current Sermon Series 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 & Isaac & Jacob, & Moses, & Joshua & Rahab, & Ruth & Boaz, & a look through the book of Judges.

The last Judge is man named Samuel, whom God tells will anoint the first King of Israel, and, as it turns out, the second King, too.  Today we read about that second King! But he was a surprise to everyone, except God Himself.

 

Listen to the Word of God from I Samuel 16:1-13 (P. 202). Listen for God’s voice to you; what is God saying to you this morning? Hear God’s voice …. —-

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”  (Do you remember where we ran across Jesse a couple of weeks ago? Who was Jesse? He is the great-grandson of the Moabite woman named Ruth, who moved to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law….)

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”  (Why are they asking that question? If notin peace”? Then what? Well, as it turns out, Samuel is still recognized as a man who understands and speaks God’s mind and will; and he’s the guy whom God told to anoint Saul as King just 6 chapters earlier. And since then Saul has kinda gone off the deep end. So when Samuel arrives in Bethlehem, the people are nervous….)

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (King Saul, we are told in chapter 9, is, literally, head and shoulders taller than the rest and the most handsome man in all of Israel. Eliab reminds Samuel of Saul….)

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.”10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”  (“Anointed” is pronounced “Messiach” in Hebrew, “Christ” in Greek. I am not saying David is the same as Christ, but that Jesus Christ’s title of Christ refers to what Samuel did to David. This is another Old Testament picture of the New Testament Jesus.)

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

 

So, let’s reflect on this story together for a minute.

Someone one this side of the room, what in this story stood out for you? What did you hear from the Lord?

 

How about back there? Did anyone back in that section hear something?

 

What about this side?

 

God is in charge. God chose David, the youngest son of seven or eight, the son who had the shepherd duty – the last in a line of sheepherders, a nobody!

David, the great-great-grandson of Ruth the woman from Moab, was tending a flock of sheep on the hills outside of Bethlehem.

Where 1,000 years later shepherds were awakened by a host of angels on a silent night, a holy night, because a long distant descendant of David was having a baby in a manger right there in the same city.

 

And this, David, a shepherdboy, best known for, probably, two thingswriting most of the Psalms (that’s why the bulletin cover is what it is), and for his kingly behavior, his sinful activity with Bathsheba. But if there’s a third thing about David, it would be that he was the exemplar King of Israel – the King who had a heart after God’s own heart – the King who got Bethlehem named after himself (city of David), and then he also got Jerusalem named after himself (city of David!).

But, here in I Samuel 16 David is anointed as King by Samuel the prophet, the judge – but David doesn’t get to actually become King for around 15 years(!), 20 chapters later (II Samuel 5)!

What does he do in those 15+years? He works for King Saul. David knows he’s the new king, but he faithfully works for King Sauluntil … it’s the right time!

God is training David. He is preparing David. For 15 years! He is also preparing the Israelites for a harp-playing, psalm-writing, shepherd to be their king.

 

That’s what God does for you, too, friends. He sovereignly ordains the events of our days – there is no one in this room whom God hasn’t called to be His child. You’re not called to serve as King, there’s only one King David! But you are called to serve as something!

Is that surprising? Remember that with God all things are possible. And it might take awhile. That’s OK. Abide with God. Let your garden grow before you expect fruit to bear. But expect God to fulfill His purpose for you, because He will; He always does!

 

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

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for anointing one of the lowest job-holders in ancient Israel to be the greatest King of God’s people. Thank You for calling us, for calling even me, to be Your child in Your Kingdom. Through Christ our Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Resources:

10/14/2018 = Judges 13-16 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: Samson & Delilah – “Strength vs Weakness”

Mark Wheeler

Judges 13-16

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Samson & Delilah – Strength vs Weakness

10/14/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                

 

Have you ever been the victim of a bully? Most of us know bullies – most of us probably are bullies sometimes, maybe without even knowing it. One of the main ingredients into the making of a bully is the simple ingredient of self-importance.

I think my opinion is more vital than your opinion, therefore I might bully you without even recognizing it. If I happen to have more power or authority than you, bullying is even easier and more naturally develops.

That’s not to make excuses for bullies, it is, rather, a warning that we all ought to be aware of ourselves.

 

The point for us is that, more than likely, the “stuff of life” really NOT all about us!

 

Today we read a Bible story about a Bible hero who was also a bully – one who took advantage of those who were weaker, of lesser position in life, and with fewer resources. But before he died, he confessed his bullying sin and prayed for one more chance to do what was right, to be the right kind of person.

 

We are making progress through our current Sermon Series as we look 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 & Isaac & Jacob, & Moses, & Joshua & Rahab, & Ruth & Boaz. Today we go back one book (but not in time) to the history book of Judges and read about probably the most well-known of these Jewish leaders – the great strongman named Samson.

 

Listen to the Word of God from Judges 13-16 (Pp. 180f)…. —-

For context – two weeks ago we read the Joshua story when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. In that story we met Rahab. The rest of Joshua tells us about the Israelites filling the land of Canaan, from east of the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, from just north of the Egyptian wilderness to the Syrian and Lebanon border.

Last week we read Ruth, which takes place, “in the days when the judges ruled…”. It is those days that we read about today!

The book of Judges tells of the days before there were any Jewish kings – and there are a lot of stories here – but none that have been told and retold, in movies, in books, in plays, in cartoons, as many times as the one we look at today. Hear the Word of God …. —-

 

In the days after Joshua leads the Israelite nomads from their 40-years in the wilderness after 400 years in Egypt into the Promised Land, the Israelite people have no king, in part because their theology teaches them that they follow God, God is their King! We all know that that did not last forever, but for about 700 years this nation is led by a succession of 14 men and one woman known as “Judges” – leaders, deliverers/saviors, even.

(Last week we read about Ruth, the Moabite woman who married Boaz and became the great-great grandmother of the future King David. Ruth and Boaz lived during this time, probably early on – during the leadership of the second or third Judge.)

There are dozens of good, fun, worthwhile stories from the book of Judges. We are going toward the end of the book to visit the 13th Judge (13th of 15).

As is true with many of the stories of heroes in the Bible, this one starts with a couple who can’t seem to have a baby. When they have just about given up an angel appears to the wife and tells her, “For many years you have wanted a son; soon you will have one. Your child will be very special. God will make him strong, so that he can begin to rescue, to deliver, to save the Israelites from the Philistines. But you must raise him very carefully. From the day he is born he is to be dedicated to God, so you must never cut his hair!”  (Quick one-second pop quiz: what is this Judge’s name? SAMSON!)

Not cutting one’s hair was part of the Nazirite vow of dedicating one’s self to the service of God! This was always a self-imposed dedication, and always one with an end-date! Samson’s mother was told to make this vow on behalf of her son, and that it would last a life-time!

As Samson starts to grow he displays some amazing skill. He was like Barney and Betty Rubble’s son BamBam – boy, does that age me?! – super strong! But Samson is also a little like a spoiled brat! Because he is so strong, he gets whatever he wants! Eventually, after he grows up, he marries a Philistine woman – those are the enemies! But if Samson wants her, Samson gets her! (Is this a sort of #MeToo thing, maybe …) While his parents do not approve of this marriage, it certainly appears that God doesJudges 14 tells us, “His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.”

And there are stories of Samson killing a lion with his bare hands. Later while going down that same road, he finds the skeletal remains of that lion, and a beehive, with a honeycomb, inside the ribcage. He challenges his Philistine wife’s family and friends to a riddle that he is sure he will win: “Out of the eater came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet. What is it?

The Philistines are baffled by this riddle, and when they are just about ready to give up, they bribe Samson’s Philistine wife to tell them the answer – so she tricks Samson into revealing the riddle to her (honey inside a lion), and she tells her relatives, and when they give Samson the correct answer he is furious!

For years after that he fights and kills Philistine armies, singlehandedly! He catches 300 foxes, and ties their tails together in pairs, and attaches a lit torch to their tied tails! Of course the foxes run around like crazy, catching fire to every crop the Philistines have! What Samson is doing is saving the Israelites from the Philistine rule!

In another story, his own Israelite people turn him over to the Philistines, with his permission. He walks in to the Philistine encampment, his hands tied with a rope, and the Israelite people think they have won a peace agreement with the Philistines. But Samson uses this as an excuse to be inside the enemy territory, he breaks off his ropes, and grabs the jaw bone of a donkey and kills 1,000 Philistine soldiers, singlehandedly!

Years later the 1949 Cecil B. DeMille movie takes over (I actually found something like a dozen movies about Samson and Delilah – most of them do not tell the same story as what the Bible tells!)! Yes, Samson marries another Philistine woman – a beautiful woman named Delilah – another foreign-woman, another daughter of the enemy, who betrays her husband and reveals the secret of his strength being his obedience to the vow to never cut his hair – and she cuts his hair!

Samson is now captured, blinded, and bound with chains to serve as a slave! But over the course of the years as he is slaving away at the Philistine grainyards, grinding the grain into meal. He is dejected, of course, but he remembers what his mother had taught him about being specially called by God, about his vows to serve God his whole life, and about the importance of keeping those vows.

Samson renews his vows, and while a slave his hair grows long again. And while in the city of Gaza, the Philistine leaders are having a huge party, and with the wine flowing and the feast going, someone hollers for some entertainment – “How about that ‘strong man’ coming out and doing something special?!

And, boy, howdy, does he ever! Bound and shackled, blind and humbled, Samson, literally, tears the house down – his strength is back, his vows are renewed, he has confessed his selfish, greedy use of his strength, and he is recommitted to serving God – he tears the house down on top of himself and some 3,000 Philistine officials died at Samson’s singlehanded, last ditch, effort to be faithful to God!

 

So, what is God doing with this story? It’s much more than a mere romance story of two star-crossed lovers. It’s much more of a dark-comedy with a heroic-tragic end. I see at least two lessons about what God does with and for His people:

  • God sovereignly rules the courses of life. From the birth of a late-born son to the marriage of two enemy-reared wives. From the biggest blessings in life to the most difficult circumstances we find ourselves in. God is in charge.
    • That’s what God does for you, too. He sovereignly ordains the events of our days – the healthy births of our babies to the tragic losses of our loved ones. Our Almighty God is in charge of our days and our nights.
    • Over all the earth, You reign on high… over every thought, over every word … won’t You reign in me again! – Let’s pray that prayer every day.

 

  • With God all things are possible! One man, by himself, conquers the entire enemy armythat’s the work of God!
    • And God absolutely holds that promise for us. God can save even the bully Samson. He can, and does, send His one and only Son because He loves you that much, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!

 

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

  • Samson, in the end, blind and beaten, confesses his sin of self-seeking and self-importance.
    • Let’s confess our tendency to want things our way, confess our culture’s inclination to take advantage of those with less ability, confess our personal propensities to please ourselves at the expense of doing what’s right.
      • Paul tells us, I Corinthians 12, “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
      • We, too, can find our strength to endure, the patience to wait it out, the forbearance to not give up, the faith to keep hanging on, when we believe and trust in God’s grace through Jesus Christ His Son.

 

  • Samson’s mother made a Nazirite vow to God that Samson would serve God his whole life.
    • When we make a vow to our Lord and Savior – or when we recognize His role in our lives – do everything we can to actually 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 not hiding this embarrassingly self-centered bully from us, for using his stories of lust and greed and violence to remind us how You, YHWH God, created the universe, and as its creator You own Your creation! Thank You for reminding us that in Your perfect will You can even use our very imperfect decisions and actions to bring about Your ultimate purpose. Thank You for our Moms whose faith instills in us our own faith in Your saving grace. Forgive my self-centered life style and bring me back to Your perfectly powerful and grace-filled presence. Through Christ our Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Resources:

Batchelor, Mary; The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories; Lion Pub.; Oxford; 1985; Pp. 114-120.

 

https://www.biblica.com/articles/7-things-you-didnt-learn-about-samson-in-sunday-school/

10/07/2018 = Ruth 1-4 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: Ruth – “How she demonstrates the Gospel”

Mark Wheeler

Ruth 1-4

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Ruth – How she demonstrates the Gospel

10/07/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,           

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                 

 

“Christian Teen Ruthlessly Bullied by Popular YouTuber Because She loves Jesus” – CBN News

… You’d be forgiven for never having heard of YouTuber Cinnamon Toast Ken. According to YouTube.Wikia, he’s risen to internet fame by uploading gaming videos. He has also (somehow) managed to garner over 3 million followers on Twitter, despite posting some despicable cyberbullying videos, including one mocking a teen girl because of her love for Jesus.

In one video titled, “Crazy Girl Obsessed With Jesus,” Ken relentlessly picks on Christian YouTuber Emma Mae Jenkins, mocking her appearance and scoffing at her religious convictions.

Endure the painfully unfunny 11-minute clip and you will come away wondering why anyone would subscribe to viewing such crass, insensitive and uninspired content. Despite this, however, YouTube has yet to shut it down….

 

~bulletin cover – Boaz: “Where is my wife” he asked ruthlessly!

 

What does it mean to act “ruthlessly”?  What makes one’s behavior “ruthless”?

Dictionaries define it as “having or showing no mercy or pity or compassion for others; being cruel, hard-hearted, cold-blooded”, etc.

What is the opposite of “ruthless”? That’s what I have always wondered. Most of the time when something gets a “-lesssuffix, “tasteless”, “witless’, “senseless”, etc. there’s an opposite from the same root word; ie., “tasteful”, “witty”, “sensible”. But what’s the opposite of “ruthless”? No dictionary contains a “ruthful”, “ruthy”, or “ruthible”; but it seems that they should! (Beth’s greetings at the door sure were “ruthful” today.  Keith’s leadership in the Call to Worship was certainly “ruthy”! Wait until we go downstairs after worship, Kay has the most “ruthiblebirthday celebration ever!)

So, where does the word “ruthless” come from? That’s what we’re gonna talk about today!

 

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, and Joshua. Today we read about how the great-great grandson of that Canaanite prostitute named Rahab, who rescued the Israelite spies when Joshua was planning his attack on Jericho, came to be.

 

Listen to the Word of God from Ruth 1-4 (Pp. 187f)…. —-

For context – last week we read the Joshua story when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. In that story we met Rahab. The rest of Joshua tells us about the Israelites filling the land of Canaan, from east of the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, from just north of the Egyptian wilderness to the Syrian and Lebanon border.

After the book of Joshua is a 21-chapter book telling the stories of Israelite leaders they called judges, this was before they had their first king. Somewhere in the middle of those stories is this story of Ruth.

 

So, here’s the story where we meet Ruth. During that part of Israelite history before there was a king, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem, along with his family, left Israel and went south to Moab. The people of Moab are the descendants of Abraham’s nephew – and they became enemies of the Israelites over the centuries since Abraham. While this family, Dad and Mom and two sons, lives in Moab, both the boys get married to Moabite women one whose name is Ruth. In time the Dad dies, leaving his wife, Naomi widowed. Then both the sons also die, leaving Naomi completely alone.

After this, she receives news that the famine in Israel is over, so Naomi plans to go back to Bethlehem. Her two daughters-in-law offer to travel with her so she doesn’t have to make the journey alone. And Naomi does her best to refuse their offer, but one of them, Ruth, will not let Naomi go by herself. She tells her mother-in-law, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17)

So Naomi and Ruth leave Moab and arrive in Bethlehem during the harvest season of the barley fields. This is where we meet a relative of Naomi’s dead husband, the son of the Canaanite prostitute Rahab, Boaz. Boaz is a wealthy man who tells his farm hands to leave an abundance of barley in the fields so that the poor and widowed women would have a chance to glean the fields and find enough barley to take home for baking bread for their families.

One of those women is Ruth – a foreigner widow from Moab, daughter-in-law of Boaz’s relative Naomi. And Boaz, an older bachelor, falls for Ruth! He takes extra care to be super generous with the barley harvest for Ruth. And ultimately, after Naomi schemes a plan for Ruth to help Boaz fall in love, they get married.

 

Let’s take a brief break here. If being “ruthless” means being cold-hearted, uncaring, mean & nasty – we have just witnessed the exact opposite in Ruth’s behavior and attitude toward Naomi. What does Ruth demonstrate to Naomi? Grace and mercy, compassion and care, and ultimately, relationship and salvation.

 

After Boaz and Ruth are married, they have a son named Obed – a grandson to Naomi, yet another way Ruth offers Naomi life and purpose! And Obed has a son named Jesse. And one of Jesse’s sons is David, the second King of IsraelIsrael’s greatest king.

 

1,000 years later, a virgin lass and a carpenter from Nazareth traveled from Galilee to Bethlehem where, in a manger, they gave birth to Jesus, the promised Emmanuel, Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God sent to the world because God loved the world so much, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have life everlasting!

 

The Ruth story begins and ends in Bethlehem. 400 years later; David’s story starts in Bethlehem; and 1,000 years after that, Jesus is born in – Bethlehem.

Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem during the Barley harvest seasongrain for the bread baked in Bethlehem, “House of Bread”, which is located in the Israeli region called Ephratha, “Land of Fruitfulness”.

We are moments away from approaching the Lord’s Table – the Table of Bread and Fruit of the Vine. The Communion Table displays the ruthful truth of God’s perfect grace and mercy, the ruthible invitation to Life Eternal.

 

The Moabite woman Ruth demonstrates God’s grace – let’s receive that grace today!

The Moabite woman Ruth exemplifies how we who follow Christ ought to live – let’s show that mercy in every way!

 

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

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for giving us the ruthy story of Naomi and Ruth and Boaz wherein Your perfect grace and mercy are displayed; for offering us the ruthful example of someone who lived like she believed what she said she believed. Thank You for the Communion Table, especially on this World Communion Sunday, which displays and invites us not Your perfect grace today, and unites us to Christ’s followers from Africa and Asia, from Europe and Oceana, from South and North America. Thank You for including us in Your World-wide family. Through Christ our Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Resources:

http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2018/april/christian-teen-ruthlessly-bullied-by-popular-youtuber-because-she-loves-jesus

09/30/2018 = Joshua 1-2 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: Joshua – Why Would He NOT Be Afraid?

(Click HERE for the AUDIO of this message.)

Mark Wheeler

Joshua 1-2

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Joshua – Why Would He NOT Be Afraid?

09/30/2018

 Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

A week ago yesterday our Presbytery, that’s the members of Presbyterian churches in our conference area, met. Officially we meet four times a year to do ecclesiastic business, and those gatherings are the work of elected commissioners from each congregation. Last Saturday was that, but it was also several others who did not have voice or vote on the floor of the business meeting but who did represent their respective congregations in listening to and sharing stories of God’s work in our midst. We had a great gathering.

But what I want to share here is that less than two days before the meeting I was asked if I would lead a closing song at the end of the day – a song I did not know and therefore had to learn – a song that was a little out of my comfortable singing range.

While I really enjoy playing guitar and singing with you here, my Church Family, friends who know me and most of you love me – but this was a larger gathering of people, many of whom do not know me. I say that to preface that music is not my area of giftedness – I mean, I can sing and strum a guitar if I have the chord sheet in front of me – but I am not a soloist or a lead singer or a real guitarist in any way.

As I prepared myself for this event Jennifer wisely asked, “Why did you say ‘Yes’?” I had no real answer, but I did say Yes….

So, on Saturday, as I was getting ready to mount the platform and approach the microphone, my heart was pounding so hard… I was extremely, unreasonably, nervous. Part of the reason for this was that the person who led the same song earlier in the day, during the worship service, was a young man who earned a degree from Whitworth University in guitar performance! I feel I had every reason to be nervous! (And, by the way, I did a nearly fabulous job – right Rita and Ken?)

Here’s my thought – I’m following THAT guy? I was already nervous – now I’m super nervous! Almost anxiety-attack-nervous.

 

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 final, fulfilling story of the Israelites’ entry into the Promised Land.

 

In these past few months we have witnessed different ways God has demonstrated His call on our lives, from the Creation stories, through God’s Word to Adam and Eve, His saving of Noah in the ark, His call and promise to Abraham and Sarah, and on and on. God’s love for His people, His invitation to us to serve alongside Him, and His gift of ultimate salvation through faith in His Son, we have seen exemplified in nearly countless ways.

Today we watch as YHWH God ushers His people into Paradise – not heaven, but the Promised Land, Palestine. And we are allowed a glimpse into our Promised Land, life everlasting.

Listen to the Word of God from Joshua 1-2 (Pp. 151-152)…. —-

Listen for the repeat-commands God gives to Joshua, and then see if you can figure out a way that those commands are not also for you, for us:

<Read from The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories, Stories 75-77. >

 

Who had Moses been? He was the Jesus of his day – he freed the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, like Jesus frees us from our bondage to sin; he brought the Ten Commandments, God’s Word, like Jesus is God’s Word made flesh; he foreshadowed the Temple by building the Tabernacle in the wilderness, like Jesus’ death and resurrection is pictured as the Temple’s destruction and rebuilding in the Church; he was the means by which God brought “bread from heaven” to the people, like Jesus is the Bread of Life to all who believe in Him; etc; etc; etc.

And Joshua is named the next Leader. After Moses, Joshua is expected to be the next “Jesus of his day”! It’s like Bono is the opening act? Who’s gonna follow Bono?! (Or Frank Sinatra…, who’s gonna follow Sinatra?) Right?

But, and here’s a little kicker that may not have meant anything at the time, but to the New Testament people this is super coolJoshua’s name is Hebrew is Yeshua and Jesus’ name in Hebrew is, say it with me, Yeshua! Which means “the Lord saves”!

 

Joshua becomes the new Moses, the next Jesus, the leader of God’s people, the one who brings us into salvation and the Promised Land.

But he’s following Moses! So YHWH God commands him, “Be not afraid! Fear not! Be courageous!” Why? for the same reason God told Moses to fear notbecause, “I am with you!”

 

The VBS stories include:

  • crossing the Jordan River from Amman (Jordan) into Canaan (Israel), from east to west. Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea from Egypt into the wilderness; Joshua across the Jordan River from the wilderness into the Promised Land.
  • Sending spies into Jericho (the oldest continuously occupied city in the world!) to check out the opposition. Moses sent spies in almost 40 years earlier (Joshua had been one of Moses’ spies).
  • Joshua’s spies are protected by a prostitute who lived in an apartment built right into the outer wall of the city of Jericho, from which she allowed them to escape out her window!
    • Side note – Rahab was the mother of Boaz, who sired Obed, who fathered Jesse, who was the father of David, the shepherd boy who became the king of Israel, born in Bethlehem where 1,000 years afterward, Jesus is born in the manger!

And that’s where we stopped reading today, but everybody knows the next story:

  • Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a tumblin’ down, down, down, down, and the walls came a tumblin’ down.

These stories tell of God’s powerful providential care for His people. But what they also do is reinforce God’s promise to always be with us.

God told Joshua to cross the overflowing Jordan Riverimpossible, but God said, “Fear not, I am with you.”

God told Joshua to march around Jericho seven times, and then watch the walls come atumblin’ downincredible, but God said, “Be not afraid, I am with you.”

God told Joshua to destroy the whole city, to knock down the entire city walls, except for that one apartment with the scarlet ribbon hanging out the window – unbelievable command, but God said, “Be courageous, I am with you.”

God used that foreign-born prostitute Rahab to give birth to King David’s great-great-grandfather, in the family bloodline of Jesusintolerable, but God said, “Hang tight, I am with you.”

 

What is God calling you to do? – To whom is God telling you to make contact? – Where is God directing your attention right now? – Does God have something new for LPC today?

What is holding you back? What’s keeping us from going full bore? What are we afraid of?

Friends, God is with you, do not be afraid! God is with you, be strong and courageous! God is always with us, His very name, YHWH, says as much, and if God Almighty is for us, who can be against us? Who else can wash our sins away? God, and God alone! Who else can raise us from the grave? God, and God alone! And what could separate us from His amazing grace? What could say it’s greater than our God?

Friends, take the time, right now, to acknowledge who God is, every knee will bow down!

Decide right now, to trust Him in whatever venture He is calling you into!

Pray, right now, to surrender our fears, our anxieties, our apprehensions, and act on our faith! This is our Promised Land! God is with us! That is what Paradise ultimately means!

 

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

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for calling us to step outside of what is easy; for directing us into some new territory of Christ-honoring service; for challenging our sensibilities to trust You even beyond what makes easy sense. Thank You for always, always, always being right here with us, every step of the way, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Resources:

Batchelor, Mary; The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories; Lion Pub.; Oxford; 1985; Pp. 91-93.

 

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

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.