Traveling Light

Pleas read Exodus 12:1-30 in your Bible.

Meals on Wheels (1)Image by James Best, (C) 2020,

https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

Study people at an airport or bus terminal and you can quickly recognize overpackers.  They have multiple bags, all of which are bulging.  We all have stories to tell about ourselves and family.

I learned this week the psychology behind overpacking.  The emotion that drives it is fear.  The overpacker is generally not an experienced traveler, so they have an understandable fear of being in an unfamiliar place and not having access to something they need.

Overpacking is a coping mechanism that attempts to deal with fear by over-preparing.   There are all kinds of people on the internet with packing advice, but it seems to me the place to start is managing that fear.

One way to pack appropriately is to deal with the facts and keep them at the forefront.  How long will you be gone?  Where are you going?  What will the weather be?

Then make a list of items that are absolutely necessary.  Set them out on your bed around your bag, and eliminate everything that is not obviously needed.  If it’s there because there’s a remote possibility it’ll be needed, you’re packing out of fear.

Have your bags packed the day before leaving.  Packing at the last minute increases your fear and makes you more likely to overpack.

As we make our way through life, we are confronted by similar decisions.  Fear will counsel us to take matters into our own hands, to trust to our own resources instead of trusting in God. Faith makes room for God in our plans, trusting Him to provide our needs.

The Passover teaches us to be ready to promptly follow God.

  1. God commanded them to observe the Passover (1-13).

The ritual was to have a hurried feeling to it.  Verse eleven  describes how it was to be eaten.

“THIS IS HOW YOU ARE TO EAT IT: WITH YOUR CLOAK TUCKED INTO YOUR BELT, YOUR SANDALS ON YOUR FEET AND YOUR STAFF IN YOUR HAND.  EAT IT IN HASTE; IT IS THE LORD’S PASSOVER.”

Why did God command this?  I can speculate two reasons.  First, to accurately re-create the Passover event.  As it happened in Exodus 12, the people of Israel were to be ready to leave Egypt.

Second, to create a feeling of urgency about our response to God.  Other Scripture support this interpretation.

Psalm 95:7-8 = TODAY, IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS…

2 Corinthians 6:2 = I TELL YOU, NOW IS THE TIME OF GOD’S FAVOR.  NOW IS THE DAY OF SALVATION.

An important symbol in the thing was the lamb.  From Genesis to Revelation, a lamb is a symbol of sacrifice that is necessary to make peace with God.  The Law of God states that sin causes death.  The only way to be restored to life is through the shedding of blood, the pouring out of a life given in exchange for ours.  In the Old Testament, a lamb served that substitutionary function, but the sacrifice had to be repeated year after year.  In the New Testament, Jesus death saved us – one act of sacrifice, effective for all time.

When Jesus comes again, a “pass-over” of greater magnitude will take place.  Those who have received Him by faith will pass over from death to life.

  1. God carried out the plague on the Firstborn (29-30).

This plague demonstrated God’s justice. The Egyptians tried to kill the sons of Israel (see Exodus 1:15-22).  Justice was served when they lost their firstborn and in Pharaoh’s case, a son (11:5).  The punishment matched the crime.

God acted justly in a second aspect: Egypt’s sins against God’s people were committed by their exercise of free will choosing sin.  With each of the preceding plagues, Pharaoh was given the choice of setting Israel free.  (As we read in Exodus 7:14-11:10, the preceding plagues included blood in the Nile, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness.

God Himself explained the purpose of the plagues: to bring glory to God.  In Exodus 11:9-10 we read, THE LORD HAD SAID TO MOSES, “Pharaoh WILL REFUSE TO LISTEN TO YOU – SO THAT MY WONDERS MAY BE MULTIPLIED IN EGYPT.”  MOSES AND AARON PERFORMED ALL THESE WONDERS BEFORE PHARAOH, BUT THE LORD HARDENED PHARAOH’S HEART, AND HE WOULD NOT LET GO OF HIS COUNTRY.  In Exodus  14:4 it is written, “AND I WILL HARDEN PHARAOH’S HEART, AND HE WILL PURSUE THEM.  BUT I WILL GAIN GLORY FOR MYSELF THROUGH PARAOH AND ALL HIS ARMY, AND THE EGYPTIANS WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD.”

On the first Passover, only those under the lamb’s blood were saved.  Otherwise, all the firstborn children died, from the household of mighty Pharaoh to the child of the lowliest prisoner.  Even the firstborn among the livestock died.  This was a blow against Egypt’s livelihood. This plague finally broke the pride and arrogant disbelief of Pharaoh, and, as predicted, God’s people were free at last.

This account of the Passover is a warning against ignoring God until it is too late.  We have all seen people reject God until their life is broken down by adversity until nothing remains standing between them and God.

This is precisely what happened to Pharaoh through the whole process of these plagues.  Each new plague was designed to wear down his resistance, to strike down the false gods and the excuses he’d made.

We’re told repeatedly that God “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart.  Why was this necessary?

One, as we noted earlier, God’s purpose is, as always, to make Himself known to people – for their good.  If the thing is over too quickly – people will not experience God’s power in a convincing way.

Two, as a demonstration of the lengths to which God is will go in order to save His people.

Three, at no time did God violate Pharaoh’s free will.  He chose stubbornness, pride and disbelief at the beginning and remained committed to them until the end.

The Passover teaches us to be ready to promptly follow God.

      One way to deal with an over-packer is to buy them a suitcase that is shaped like two slices of bread.  Then it will be OK if it is “jam-packed.”

A man stormed into his lawyer’s office with a suitcase.  “I want to sue!” he told his lawyer.

“What seems to be the problem?” the attorney asked.

“I bought this suitcase for my wife and even though she may have overpacked it, this wheel broke off!  The thing has got a lifetime guarantee, the company refuses to replace it!  I will sue!”

The lawyer looked the baggage over and shook his head and said, “I don’t think your case will stand up in court.”

There are important lessons to be learned here.  In both Old and New Testaments, the Passover Lamb is God’s way of bringing life out of death.  It was the cure for the penalty for sin, which is death.  Today is always God’s day.  Now is the time to be saved.  The present opportunity may be our last, so act NOW.

 

RESOURCES:

Message #934

More Than the Sum of Our Parts

Moses Aaron Hur at Rephidim (1)

Please read Exodus 17:8-16.

Just in time for Mother’s Day, we’ve had the birth of a royal baby in England.  I heard Prince Harry’s remarks after the blessed event, and he sounded pretty giddy about it.

As many of you have experienced, however, childbirth isn’t all cigars and flowers.  It can cause problems in family relationships.  I read an article published a year ago by Terra Marqutte, citing a study in Evolutionary Psychological Science.  The article is titled, “Study Finds Spats With Your In-Laws Increase When Children Enter The Picture.”

“What many of us have long suspected is true: Becoming a parent really does alter family dynamics, especially with in-laws. Researchers at the Academy of Finland found people with children experience more tension with their spouse’s parents than couples who have yet to enter parenthood.

“It seems that when children are added to a family, the in-laws begin to feel more of a direct kinship to the other side of the family. The ties that bind bring help to young parents, but also new conflicts.

“The biggest source of conflict comes when grandparents provide childcare, the authors say. Although very helpful, the degree of interaction involved is almost bound to lead to areas of disagreement.

“Researchers say the conflicts arise because grandparents begin to see themselves in an expanded role, sort of like investment bankers. In this case, though, the investment is in the future of the offspring.”

https://www.studyfinds.org/couples-children-in-laws-conflicts/

Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents Day are all days created to celebrate relationships.  So the Lord lead me to this passage that demonstrates in a plain way how cooperative relationships can win the day.  When we cooperate with God and compromise with one another, we will see our homes, our communities, and our nation become more peaceful and productive places.  Let’s study up on how Moses accomplished it.

Compromise and cooperation create peace.

  1. The problem: Moses’ arms got tired. (8-11)

Verse eight sets the event in its context. This is a passage that is very dependent on its context for us to understand it properly.  The freed Hebrew slaves had just got out of Egypt by miraculously crossing the Red Sea. They have not yet got to Mr. Sinai, where they’d receive the 10 Commandments.

They had been fed with manna for the first time and were miraculously given water to drink at Meribah.  However, these gracious acts had come in God’s gracious response to their sinful bellyaching.  It was providence – not coincidence – that this military emergency comes immediately after two bouts of bellyaching. The Israelites have been testing God’s patience and are now going to be tested by God’s discipline.

The Amalekites were descendents of Jacob’s brother Esau.  Their attack at Rephidim, is a large-scale family feud.  The reason for the attack is not stated in the text, so we are free to speculate.  One reason is to continue the family feud between Jacob and Esau.

Of more immediate importance, the Amalekites would have known the ancient promises that Jacob’s offspring would inhabit Canaan.  So they knew where this group was headed and that they’d go right through their territory to get there.  The Amalekites wanted no part of that.

The Israelites were still a long way south of Amalek.  There was no immediate need for a direct assault.  To go out of their way like this implies the leaders of the Amalekites were intimidated and they didn’t want to suffer the same fate as Egypt.

Finally, there are limited resources in the desert.  The Amalekites were clearly in no mood to share.

That’s on the human side.  On the divine side, why would God allow an attack to take place?  I can imagine at least two Providential purposes.  One, God sent the Amalekites to test His people.  This experience would be an opportunity to prove they were ready to trust Him in battle.  They would have to trust Him fully when they got to Canaan.

Two, the Amalekites had chosen to do evil to God’s people before they launched the attack.  Deuteronomy 25:17-19 tells us Amalekite soldiers had begun hostilities by attacking the stragglers among the Israelites.  They picked off the sick, aged, and disabled people who lagged behind the main group.

The text does not give any divine directive, so we can assume Moses came up with this unusual battle plan on his own (9+10).  Moses decided it would be a good idea to stand on a hill overlooking the battle site with his shepherd’s crook – now known as the STAFF OF GOD –  upraised.  As this is the same staff and the same gesture that preceded their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, perhaps Moses assumed it would have a similar effect in that battle.  Also, standing with hands upraised to heaven was a typical posture of prayer for Jewish men.

Moses chose Joshua as his general and selected his brother Aaron and brother-in-law Hur (Miriam’s husband), to go up the mountain with him.  In retrospect, that part of the plan turned out to be a stroke of genius.  Moses would need both of them later.

From their vantage point on the high ground, Moses, Aaron and Hur could see the battlefront and easily tell how the tide of battle was going.  They saw that when Moses held the staff aloft, the Israelites turned back the Amalekites.  But when Moses lowered his hands for any reason, the battle went the other way.  The problem became how to keep those 80 year-old arms up in the air long enough to win the battle (11).  I suspect Moses did not foresee having to keep his hands in the air any length of time, certainly not all day.  Anyone’s arms would tire of being kept in that position.

  1. The solution: a support group. (12-13)

Moses may have bit off more than he could chew, physically speaking.  Try holding a staff over your head from sunup to sundown sometime; see how you do.  When it became clear that they would win the battle only if Moses’ arms were aloft, these three guys devised a plan where Moses was seated on a rock so Aaron and Hur – while standing – could take the burden off Moses’ arms (12).

Their plan succeeded.  As the sun set on the battlefield, the Amalekites were defeated (13).  This outcome does not prove there was something magical about Moses’ staff.  As is always the case in the Bible, the object used is merely a symbol of God’s power.

There are two clues in verse thirteen that this was Moses’ plan, not God’s. The first: JOSHUA OVERCAME THE AMALEKITE ARMY.  Normally, God got the credit for military success (for example, see Deuteronomy 20:1-4.  Here in verse thirteen, Joshua is credited.  How did Joshua do it?  WITH THE SWORD; a phrase implying this was a victory achieved by strength of arms.  There is no acknowledgement of God delivering the victory.

This will be the first time Moses would learn a lesson on the value of partners in ministry.  In the very next chapter, his father-in-law gave him sound advice about the folly of trying to lead what may have been 2-3 million people by himself.  Elders were appointed to help Moses administrate the immense group of people.

  1. The command: write this down. (14-16)

For the first time in this passage, we hear the Lord’s voice.  He commanded the event be recorded as He would otherwise blot out the memory of the treacherous Amalekites (14).  This is the first time in the Bible that there is a reference to writing things down. These things will eventually become the Bible.

History tells us the Israelites did not obey God in destroying the Amalekites, because they become a problem again during the reigns of Kings Saul and David.  Hundreds of years later, while the people of God were in exile in Babylon, an Amalekite named Haman very nearly eliminated the Jews!  (See Esther.)

Moses apparently learned his lesson (15-16).  He gave glory to God by building an altar as a memorial to the event.  He called the altar THE LORD IS MY BANNER, signifying that the LORD needed to be lifted up, not any staff.  Moses’ new motto should’ve been “The power is in God, not the rod.” (As if to underline this point, God commanded that Aaron’s staff be preserved in the Ark of the Covenant, not Moses’.)  And, as previously noted, the lifting of his hands TO THE THRONE OF GOD describes the posture of prayer.  In prayer, Moses gave all future battles with the Amalekites to the LORD.

Compromise and cooperation create peace.

          Whether Moses acted on his own initiative or not, the chief lesson of this passage is recognizing that God and His people must work together to achieve His will.  It is an interesting illustration of the power of good relationships.  The Israelites won a victory in their first battle because God, their leaders, and the people all cooperated.

This is not going to happen if we allow our sinful or selfish impulses rule our emotions and decisions.  Peace comes to our situations when we all work at it.  The work of peace is sacrifice and love; we love and obey God, we love and cooperate with each other.

Helicopter Parents

(Please read Exodus 2:1-10 in your favorite version of the Bible.  I refer to the NIV in the following article.)

Parenting requires trusting God with our children.

“This rather funny expression is actually relatively new.  [The term] ‘Helicopter parents’ was formally born in 1990 by Jim Fay (professional consultant in the areas of parenting and school discipline) and Foster W. Cline (psychiatrist) in their work “Parenting with Love and Logic: Teaching Children Responsibility.”  The term is primarily associated with overengaged, overconcerned and overprotective parents of older children, typically college students or even young adults.

“These overprotective parents take on a role of problem solver and door opener at the critical age when their children are about to healthily sever the umbilical cord and make their first real independent step into the world as their own person.

1) They Fight Their Children’s Battles! They will argue what they perceive to be unfair treatment in social and academic situations.

2) They Do Their Children’s Academic Projects! They will take on their children’s school projects, complete their homework, and even write college entrance essays.

3) They Mistake their Children’s Performances for Their Own Identity. They are embarrassed by their children’s failures because they feel they reflect poorly on themselves.

4) They Equate Love w/ Success & Accomplishment. Approval is given for expected behavior and disobedience is questioned because it makes the parents look bad and puts the children at risk.

5) An Extreme Focus on Maintaining Tight Control. They are preoccupied and sometimes even obsessed with their children’s activities and schedules.

6) They are Overprotective. These parents fear for their children’s safety to such an extent create a buffer between their children and the real world.

“Children that have been too sheltered from basic interaction with life and its consequences may feel overly frustrated in the face of any obstacles, crying for help at the slightest challenge, and struggle emotionally with disappointments having trouble dealing constructively with them.

“[Helicoptered children] are unfamiliar with the basic meaning of responsibility. They haven’t become acquainted with the natural relation between cause and effect.”

<Retrieved from http://www.positive-parenting-ally.com/helicopter-parents.html on 5/4/16.>

It’s ironic that helicopter parenting produces exactly the kind of person the parent hopes to avoid.

I mention this phenomenon because it is a behavior wholly in contradiction with the kind of parenting God wants us to give.  On Mother’s Day, one of the Bible’s most potent examples of motherhood is the woman who threw her baby in the river!  Let’s take a look at Exodus 1&2.

  1. Pharaoh’s evil ambitions threatened God’s people.

Like all bullies, Pharaoh’s actions were based on fear; fear of the Hebrews (1:8-11).  This new king DID NOT KNOW all that Joseph had done to save Egypt from famine, so he felt no debt of gratitude toward the Hebrews.  He was frightened by the fact that the Hebrews outnumbered the Egyptians.  And, whether they ever gave him reason to be afraid or not, Pharaoh feared that this great mass of people within their borders might one day betray them to an invading enemy.

His first action was to enslave them (1:12-14).  To me, there is no logic in this step.  If your aim is to keep the Hebrews from working against you, enslaving them gives them a strong motive for betrayal that they didn’t have before.  But fear doesn’t lend itself to logic.  Perhaps Pharaoh thought if he kept the Hebrews oppressed and beat down, they would not dare to stand against Egypt.

Verse twelve tells us this plan backfired: the more the Hebrews were oppressed, the more they increased.  The more their number grew, the more the Egyptians USED THEM RUTHLESSLY.  This is a viscous circle that made life worse for both Egyptians and Hebrews.  Pharaoh’s plan failed.

When “Plan A” didn’t work, Pharaoh’s next action was equally brutal; he wanted to use murder to reduce their male population (1:15-21).  This at least has some – albeit evil – logic behind it. Males would be considered more likely revolt and physically more able to force a rebellion.  Without one-half of the reproductive partnership, the numbers of the Hebrews would begin to decline with the next generation.  The brutality of killing innocent babies would warn and depress the Hebrew people, making them less likely to revolt.

What is illogical is Pharaoh’s attempt to get the Hebrew midwives to do his dirty work for him.  There’s no reason given in the text as to why he thought he could bully the midwives into killing their own patients.

It is clear that the midwives FEARED GOD more than Pharaoh and chose to disobey his direct order.  They let the Hebrew boys live.  When Pharaoh questioned them, they offered a plausible-sounding lie.

Notice God’s blessing of their decision in vs. 20+21; He increased the Hebrew population further and rewarded the midwives with children of their own.

When “Plan B” didn’t work, Pharaoh’s “Plan C” was to toss the baby boys into the Nile (1:22).  That’s where we join up with our passage and Moses’ mom, Yocheved.

  1. Moses’ mom chose a better way. (2:1-6)

Yocheved faced a difficult choice; obey Pharaoh and toss her boy into the Nile or disobey Pharaoh and risk his wrath.  This is a perfect example of what I’m always telling my Bible study groups: “When faced with an either/or decision, ask, ‘Why not both/and?’”

Yocheved came to a “both/and” kind of solution to the problem; she BOTH threw Moses in the Nile AND kept him alive!  There is no other good explanation of the odd act of Moses’ mom making a baby boat and setting it adrift.  I believe that Yocheved acted in faith and with intelligence.  She sought a third way, found it, and acted upon it.  The results speak for themselves.

Jewish culture especially prized clever people who find a good third choice when presented with two equally bad choices. We saw this last year in Genesis 39 in the way Tamar dealt with Judah.

We have to wonder why Pharaoh thought “Plan C” would work.  Why throw them in the Nile?  Consider Egyptian faith and culture.  The Nile was the religious and economic center of their lives; it was a god.  So throwing the baby boys into the Nile was a kind of “publicity stunt,” a demonstration of the superior power of the Egyptian gods.  The male Hebrew children would be seen as offerings to the Egyptian gods, a sign of the subjugation and humiliation of the slaves before their overlords.

Notice that Yocheved’s act was used by God to advance His plan.  The bitty baby barge floated right down to where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing.  Even though she recognized the child as a Hebrew boy, she FELT SORRY FOR HIM and immediately took the child as her own.

No matter how you attempt to explain or excuse it, Pharaoh’s actions were evil.  If the Hebrew midwives had not been faithful and courageous, Pharaoh would’ve had his genocide.

  1. God blessed her choice. (2:7-10)

God worked in such a way that not only did Yocheved kept her baby alive, but she received him back into her home AND Pharaoh paid her to raise him! Moses’ sister Miriam was on hand, having followed Moses down the Nile.  She saw opportunity and hurriedly interjected herself into the situation.  “SHALL I GO AND GET ONE OF THE HEBREW WOMEN TO NURSE THE BABY FOR YOU?” she asked.  At the command of Pharaoh’s daughter, she went back down the Nile to her mother with the good news; Moses was not only spared, but his mother was hired to be his wet nurse!

This is yet another example of God turning evil into good.  One might say that Yocheved and Miriam planned all this, but the account makes more sense to me as Yocheved finding a way to obey both God and Pharaoh.  She committed her child to the river as an act of faith, not knowing where he would end up.  In this way, she is forever a symbol of the way parents must trust God for their children, committing them to His care and keeping.

A couple years ago a lady named Karen Friend wrote an article entitled “You Might Be a Helicopter Parent If…”

  • When you ask your husband where he wants to meet up for happy hour, he knows you’re asking which playground.
  • At 18 months, your kid can’t say her own name yet, but she can clearly enunciate, “helicopter.”
  • The daycare start sending YOU checks.
  • When asked, your 20-month-old indicates that squirrels, monkeys, and mommies all are likely to be found hiding in trees.
  • None of your work clothes are free of crayon, chalk, or finger paint.
  • You are filling out college applications for class of 2030.
  • Your hugs have been recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • You’re filling out his graduate school applications. For 2032.
  • There are two channels on your television, and even those are blocked 23.5 hours per day.

<Retrieved from http://www.parentsociety.com/parenting/todays-family/you-might-be-a-helicopter-parent-if/ on 5/6/16.>

The topic of family has long been a political football, a point of focus in the so-called American “culture wars.”  Have you wondered why family is such an important topic?

Undoubtedly, there are lots of sentimental and social reasons we have such high hopes for the family.  But it occurred to me this week that we are eager to celebrate motherhood and claim family in many different forms because all of us have a deep-seated need to belong.  We need and want to group together.  Whether we gather as a posse, gang, support group, political party, or family, we want to come together with other people like us.

I think it’s because we want to be accepted.  We have been created with the need for others to love us and for us to love one another.

Combine that with what we have learned from the example of Yocheved today and we see that the highest purpose, the most pure ambition we can have for families is to help one another mature spiritually.  We make growth happen by letting go of our illusions of control, surrendering to God and His leadership.

God has promised to do more than we ask or think possible.  We will have personal experience of His abundant supply to the degree that we place our trust in Him.  We can’t “helicopter” anyone into a deeper walk with God.  Instead, we need to stand alongside and watch God go to work!

Our Unveiled Faces

(Please read 2 Corinthians 3:7-18 in your favorite version of the Bible.  I use the NIV.)

(The following is an abridged of the AP article cited.)

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — “A granite monument of the Ten Commandments that has sparked controversy since its installation on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds was moved early Tuesday.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court decided in June that the display violates a state constitutional prohibition on the use of public property to support “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.” A contractor began removing the monument shortly after 10:30 p.m. Monday.  The state paid a contractor about $4,700 to remove the monument.

“Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman John Estus said said the monument was removed under the cover of darkness to avoid disturbing workers at the Capitol and to keep protesters from demonstrating while heavy equipment was used to detach the 2-ton monument from its base.

“Originally authorized by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2009, the privately funded monument has been a lightning rod for controversy since it was erected in 2012.  Its placement at the Capitol prompted requests from several groups to have their own monuments installed, including a satanic church in New York that wanted to erect a 7-foot-tall statue depicting Satan, a Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group, and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also made requests.

“The original monument was smashed into pieces last year when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A 29-year-old man who was arrested the next day was admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, and formal charges were never filed. A new monument was erected in January.”

<Retrieved from http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/workers-removing-ten-commandments-from-oklahoma-capitol/ar-AAf8wUL?ocid=ansmsnnews11 on 10/09/15.>

This is another of those situations where the world is unwilling to face the truth.  Today we’ll look at a similar situation, where the children of Israel were unwilling to face God, not even the derived glory of God as it was reflected on the radiant face of Moses.

MESSAGE: God provides everything we need to reflect His glory – direct attention to Him – in our daily living.

CONTEXT: In the preceding passage, Paul once again rose to the defense of the ministry of himself and the other apostles.  He did this by reminding the Corinthians we live under the New Covenant a situation which reveals more of the glory of God than even Moses himself knew.

  1. Moses’ veiled face as a symbol of the old covenant, sin, and death.

Starting in verse 7, the Apostle Paul writes to show that the greater glory shone on the face of Christ, rather than on the face of Moses.  This refers to an extraordinary historic incident in Exodus 34:29-35:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.  But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them.  Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai.  When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.  But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak w/t Lord.

The point of this account is to stress the glory of God.  Even the reflected, derived, radiance of God’s presence was so great that the Israelites found it unbearable to behold.  In the Bible, a radiant face is one way to know God is with someone.  For example, in Matthew 17:2, we are told at His Transfiguration, Jesus’ face SHONE LIKE THE SUN.  In Matthew 28:3, the APPEARANCE of the angel atop the stone rolled back from Jesus’ tomb WAS LIKE LIGHTNING.

Paul makes use of this incident as a symbol of all that Jesus Christ replaced.

– THE MINISTRY THAT BROUGHT DEATH refers to the Second Death, the spiritual death that is the outcome of a life devoted to anything but God (see Romans 6:23; 8:6; Ephesians 2:2; 4:18).

– ENGRAVED IN LETTERS ON STONE refers to the contrast made in 3:3 between THE LETTER FROM CHRIST…WRITTEN…ON TABLETS OF HUMAN HEARTS, not on TABLETS OF STONE. It also reminds us of Jeremiah 31:33, where God promised to put His law IN THEIR MINDS and WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS.

– CAME WITH GLORY, SO THE ISRAELITES COULD NOT LOOK STEADILY ON T FACE OF MOSES, BECAUSE OF THE GLORY, FADING THOUGH IT WAS. The accounts in Exodus imply the radiance of Moses’ face was an effect that diminished after time; it was a temporary thing, not mentioned again.  However, in contrast, the radiance of God’s glory is of greater brightness and lasts for all eternity.

What word do we use for someone who comes to understand the truth?  “Enlightenment!”  The exciting promise of this passage is that all of us who believe reflect the glory of God in our faces!

Verses 8-11 elaborate on the greater glory of the new MINISTRY.

– THE MINISTRY OF THE SPIRIT is EVEN MORE GLORIOUS. This is true in both quantity (the glory of the Spirit is eternal, the glory Moses reflected was only temporary) and quality (the unreflected glory is obviously brighter, more inspiring than the glory reflected on Moses’ face).

– THE MINISTRY THAT BRINGS RIGHTEOUSNESS is more glorious than THE MINISTRY THAT CONDEMNS MEN. This is a point Paul makes often in his letters; the Old Covenant existed to identify and condemn sin.  The New Covenant provided salvation and the Spirit to result in people made RIGHTEOUS in God’s eyes.

– Though he will make one more comparison, Paul pauses in verse 10 to summarize his argument: There is no comparison between the old and the new. The GLORY of the new is so great that it is as if there were no light shed under the old system!

– THE GLORY WHICH LASTS is GREATER than the GLORY that faded away. What Paul demonstrated with these repeated contrasts is that the New Covenant is the completion of the Old.  The New transcends the Old in every way.

2. Our unveiled faces as symbols of the new covenant and the Christ-like life we live right now.

We exercise our faith boldly.  Compare the timidity of the Israelites with our boldness.  In verse 12: THEREFORE, SINCE WE HAVE SUCH A HOPE, WE ARE VERY BOLD.  Our boldness does not come from ourselves, but from God.  We don’t let people push us around because we are on God’s side.

The glory of God coming off the face of Moses frightened the Israelites (v. 13).  As we read, they would not face him until he was veiled and the glory dimmed.  Knowing their own hearts, they dared not be exposed by the glorious light coming off Moses’ face.  Sinners in the presence of God fear judgment.

We read the Bible with understanding.  Compare the veil of their misunderstanding with our unveiled understanding of the word of God.

Verses 14+15 state: THEIR MINDS WERE MADE DULL…THE SAME VEIL REMAINS WHEN THE OLD COVENANT IS READ…EVEN TO THIS DAY WHEN MOSES IS READ, A VEIL COVERS THEIR HEARTS.  (see Romans 11:7-8, 25). Paul uses the historic veil on Moses’ face as a symbol of the willful ignorance of the Jews.  Since they continue to reject Christ as Savior, they cannot understand the truth.  He refers to Moses throughout this passage because his opponents took pride in having Moses as their authority figure.  In a way, they hid behind his name.

This verse also reminds us of something important about God: His justice.  When people continually reject Him and sin against Him, these decisions solidify into character, the person’s way of life.  God does not force Himself on anyone.

But there is hope, and its source is revealed in verses 14+16: BECAUSE ONLY IN CHRIST IS [the veil] TAKEN AWAY…WHENEVER ANYONE TURNS TO THE LORD, THE VEIL IS TAKEN AWAY.  Jesus Christ gives the Holy Spirit to His people.  The Holy Spirit imparts “illumination” (understanding) of the word of God.  This is how the VEIL IS TAKEN AWAY.

We live in the Spirit, being transformed in the image of Jesus Christ.  The SPIRIT brings FREEDOM (v. 17).  It is this FREEDOM that makes it possible for us to be bold.  People who are not free do not tend to be bold.  This is the key verse to this passage and a summary of a great portion of all that Paul taught in his letters.

Follow Paul’s chain of reasoning: our FREEDOM exists so we can be TRANSFORMED into the likeness of the Lord (v. 18).  The VEIL over Moses’ face was not a sacred object, but a barrier between them and the glory of God.  It was a concession made to their fear.  This is why Paul uses it to represent the incompleteness and inadequacy of the Old Covenant, and worse, the willful disobedience of Israel.

It is infinitely better to be UNVEILED in the New Covenant than to be veiled in the Old.  WE…WITH UNVEILED FACES, ALL REFLECT THE LORD’S GLORY.

– BEING TRANSFORMED INTO HIS LIKENESS (see 2 Corinthians 4:6).  As disciples, our goal is to increasingly become like Jesus, who is the glorious likeness of God.  This is primarily a spiritual transformation but it is also manifest in our mental, moral, and emotional aspects as well.

– WITH EVER-INCREASING GLORY. Of course, this is not our glory, but God’s.  Our lives are supposed to more and more draw attention to God, less and less to self.

– WHICH COMES FROM THE LORD, WHO IS THE SPIRIT. All the persons of the Trinity are in view here.  The glory of God the Father is reflected in God the Son and we, in turn, reflect his glory (in the way that a series of mirrors can reflect light).  This reflective power is not our own, however.  It is supplied to us by the Holy Spirit.  By choosing to grow in our faith we effectively polish our mirror surface to produce a greater reflection.

A recurring problem in Paul’s ministry was caused by Jewish Christians who taught falsely that observing the particulars of the Law given through Moses was necessary for salvation.  They would attempt to throw their weight around in the churches to convince others to share their convictions.

To Paul, this was nothing less than surrendering the freedom Jesus Christ died to obtain for us.  It was worse than foolish and false, it was blasphemous.  This passage is one of many places where his teaching is directed at these false teachers.

I think these false teachers did what they did because they were sincerely or insincerely wrong.  Some of them were sincerely but wrongly convinced that as Jesus was the Jewish Messiah that the full weight of the Law must still be in force.  Others were being false – misusing the Law- twisting it for personal gain and advantage.  Jesus reserved His strongest rebukes for people who wielded the letter of the Law to violate its spirit.

Kenneth L. Chafin wrote the following comment on this passage: “The Old Covenant became the religion of struggling to impress God with one’s goodness, of endless rules and regulations governing every conceivable area of one’s life, of outward conformity and worrying about appearance, of spiritual pride and competitiveness.”  (The Communicator’s Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 223.)  One trouble with legalism is that it is superficial.  It is possible to change behavior without changing the heart.

We who follow Christ are indeed bound to a moral standard, but it is a greater and more complete standard than the complicated code of the Old Testament and the layers of interpretation the Jews had added to it.  Jesus Himself taught that there were only two commandments and both of them were based on love.  He reduced the entirety of the Law given through Moses to love for God and love for neighbor founded on love for self.

It Involves More Than Your Backbone

(Please read Deuteronomy 31:1-8.)

THESIS = God calls us to follow Him with a courageous faith.

Courage is needed in times of change.

        The people of God were changing leaders: from Moses to Joshua.

MOSES…SPOKE THESE WORDS TO ALL ISRAEL, “I AM NOW A HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEARS OLD AND I AM NO LONGER ABLE TO LEAD YOU.” 120 is WAY past the mandatory retirement age!  The text literally says, “I am no longer able to go out or come in,” a way of saying, “I can’t work any longer.”

Moses was guilty of his own personal rebellion against God at Meribah.  The details don’t matter at this time; the point here is simply that Moses was done and Joshua was going to be taking his place. “JOSHUA ALSO WILL CROSS OVER AHEAD OF YOU, AS THE LORD SAID;”  the implication is that no one individual is indispensible; God can use anybody, even YOU to accomplish His will.

In verse seven it is written, THEN MOSES SUMMONED JOSHUA AND SAID TO HIM IN THE PRESENCE OF ALL ISRAEL. This was the ceremony of Joshua’s commissioning. God commanded Joshua to BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS here and in Joshua 1:6+9.  This word is not just for leaders, but for all of God’s people.

Human nature has not changed in all the time we’ve existed outside the garden. We need to be lead and we want strong leaders up until the moment they say “no” to us.  God raised up leaders for his people, men who made their own mistakes too.  What was needed to succeed was trust and obedience in God and in the men He had chosen to lead.

The people of God were also changing locations: from the wilderness to the Promised land. They were in this mess only because the previous generation had stood at this very spot 40 years ago and had “turned yellow.”  They refused to go in and by their disobedience, condemned the nation to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, until that disobedient generation had died off. They are reminded twice of the promises of God concerning this land; “HE WILL DESTROY THESE NATIONS BEFORE YOU, AND YOU WILL TAKE POSSESSION OF THEIR LAND” (3). “THE LAND THAT THE LORD SWORE TO THEIR FOREFATHERS TO GIVE TO THEM AS AN INHERITANCE” (7).

Having moved three times in the last 13 months, I can speak to the difficulties of changing one’s location.  I appreciate the courage it takes to be faithful in transitional times.  It is courage based on nothing less than trust in God that gets us through.

If the people lacked courage, these changes would be crippling, not creative.  The same can be said for us, on our walk.  We may not be in the process of forging a new nation, but we are always in some kind of process, countenancing some kind of change.

Courage is based on trusting God.

        We normally think of courage as being something like willpower; based on what I can do.  Instead, true courage is based on trust that God will do as He has promised. In this text we can discern at least three divine promises.

Promise #1: God will act in advance of His commands; He will prepare for your obedience.  As Moses said, “THE LORD YOUR GOD HIMSELF WILL CROSS OVER AHEAD OF YOU,” (verse three), and “THE LAND THAT THE LORD SWORE TO THEIR FOREFATHERS TO GIVE TO THEM AS AN INHERITANCE” (verse seven), and in verse eight; “THE LORD HIMSELF GOES BEFORE YOU.”

Promise #2: God will act decisively and on your behalf. Moses told the people, “THE LORD WILL DO WHAT HE DID TO SIHON AND OG, THE KINGS OF THE AMORITES, WHOM HE DESTROYED ALONG WITH THEIR LAND” (verse four; see also 2:26-3:11) and “THE LORD WILL DELIVER THEM TO YOU” (verse five).

Promise #3: God will act alongside you. To all the people Moses said, “THE LORD YOUR GOD GOES WITH YOU; HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU” (verse six). He repeated this promise to Joshua, “HE WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU” (verse eight).

Be obedient to His commands. Even when you don’t understand God’s purpose, methods, or timing, be obedient ANYWAY!  Moses passed this message on from the Lord, “YOU MUST DO ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU” (verse five).

How did the fledgling nation of Israel do? Looking ahead to the book of Joshua, we recall that the first city the Israelites faced was Jericho. Remember how that city was taken?  Was it by military might or strategy?  Were any human powers at all responsible?

The only human agency at all was obedience.  In order to prove His point, God had them do something no one had done before or would do since. He commanded them to march around the city once a day for six days.  As He did on the six days of creation, God would be at work.  Though there would be no physical evidence of His work on this occasion.

If they were faithful to parade around the city – a procedure that had absolutely no military value whatsoever – God would deliver the city on the seventh day. The Israelites were faithful, the walls tumbled down, and for all time we have this wonderful example of how courage is trusting God even when what He wills or does makes no earthly sense to us.

Courage, then, is not based on our will.  It is based on our faith.  More than that, it flows from God, the object of our faith.  Courage is acting in obedience to the will of God and with assurance that He is guiding us on precisely the best path.  Our will and knowledge and foresight will certainly fail us.  We succeed as we look to God.