The God Who Blesses

  • Tuesday, June 21, 2011
  • The children of Israel have escaped the slavery of Egypt because of the miracles of God that have manifested themselves through Moses. However, from the time of the parting to the Red Sea, to where we find our next “appearance” of the angel of the LORD, more than 40 years have elapsed. “Appearance” in quotes, since during this time, God has been present with His people as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.
    And the LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people. Exodus 13:21-22
    The next theophany (appearance of the angel of the LORD) is chronicled in the Book of Numbers in the well-known story of the “talking donkey” and the “prophet for hire” Balaam. Balaam is “hired” by the ruler Balak (of Moab) to curse the people of Israel. Against God’s desire, Balaam travels to Moab, riding on his donkey, in order to be the “prophet for profit.” The angel of the LORD makes His appearance in placing Himself between Balaam and his destination.

    Prophet for Profit

  • Friday, June 17, 2011

  • THEOPHANY…the Angel of the Lord turns curses into blessings!

    If a donkey could speak, what would she say?
    If a “seer” could see, what would he perceive?

    A memorable intersection of urgencies brings these unexpected scenarios together. The people, whose incredible numbers became a source of anxiety for the king of Egypt, have wandered methodically through the wilderness, increasing in size and strength along the way. Their track record of victories over those who have resisted their progress has produced bone-jarring dread in the heart of the king of Moab. As Israel has flexed her muscles, the results have proven her opponents to be impotent to defeat or divert her. With all traditional methods of resistance and combat marked as abject failures, King Balak resorts to “spiritual” means. A prophet-for-hire negotiates a dicey contract and ventures into spiritual warfare, only to experience a memorable THEOPHANY.

    • Three strategic appearances of the Angel of the Lord, armed with a lethal sword.
    • Three futile efforts at avoidance by the “seeing” donkey.
    • Three undeserved beatings of an innocent beast at the hand of the “unseeing” seer.
    • Three inquiries into the true will of the Lord.

    The God Who Abides

  • Wednesday, June 15, 2011
  • “Now it came about when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt… And the LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” (Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22)
    The story of Moses is an account of numerous appearances with God. The angel of the LORD appears to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3) in a most personal, “one-on-one” encounter. Fast forward to Moses leading the people of Israel away from Pharaoh and the slavery of Egypt (Exodus 13) and we have a much more public and spectacular appearance by God via fire- the “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night”.

    Life Beneath the Cloud

  • Friday, June 10, 2011
  • “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord….” Exodus 14:13

    Called out of a second career at a most unlikely season of life, this fugitive murderer, now 80-year-old God-appointed deliverer has timidly, but faithfully confronted the most powerful ruler the day. God has visited his leadership with jaw-dropping miracles of power. Now the long-awaited departure has arrived. With the final validation of Divine blessing being witnessed in the gracious passing of the Death Angel and the preservation of their firstborns, the people are up and ready, eager to begin the journey. So, for seven long days they travel in the desert heat and long nights under the supernatural illumination of the ever-present “cloud.”

     “Where are we going next? How soon will we be there? What are we going to do when we get there? When are we going to eat? What are we going to eat? Do they know we are coming, when we are coming, and that we are going to eat? Are we there yet!?” Inquiring minds want to know!

    Can you imagine the frustration and the text-messaging/Facebook postings/Skype conversations that must have gone on among the 2.5 million trusting followers of Moses when, after a week of travel, the initial enthusiasm has waned and the reality of the journey before them has begun to settle in? Seeming to not to have a “MapQuest” print out or a functioning GPS, they realize they have been zigzagging back and forth within the borders of the nation they have set out to leave. The cherry on top is this—they have been led by Moses to set up camp between two unscalable sheer rock walls on each side and a full sea of water before them. Cozy accommodations for a vacationing family perhaps, but definitely not a strategic move for a nation committed to relocation! Then the terrifying report that an angry Pharaoh is hot on their obvious trail, armed to the gills with 600 select chariots and their officers, with the full strength of his military resources. Now, that is what you call being “stuck between a road and a hard place”!

    The God Who Waits, Part 2

  • Wednesday, June 8, 2011

  • Moses’ initial encounter with the angel of the LORD is perhaps better remembered as the story of the "burning bush". But here in the wilderness, the LORD Himself comes to earth to personally engage and confront Moses with the work that HE sets out for this man to accomplish. Moses was in his forties and had already lived an usual life. From his rescue as an infant from the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter to being brought up in the best education Egypt had to offer, Moses seemed to have been prepared to accomplish great things. Yet, he began his adult life living in the wilderness having to flee from Pharaoh following Moses’ murdering of an Egyptian task-master. (Exodus 2:11-15)
    Moses married and was living the life of a shepherd while the people of Israel came under greater bondage and began to cry out for help to God. So is the context for the appearance of the angel of the LORD, the "theophany" of the burning bush.
    Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said,  “I must turn aside now, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said,  “Here I am.” Then He said,  “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:1-5)
    God sought out Moses and calls him by name, twice! The presence of the LORD made the very ground upon which Moses stood holy; God thus converses with Moses, telling him that God has selected Moses to free His people! During this appearance by God, our man Moses does not jump at the opportunity but rather gives God five excuses, and each time, God answers directly.  

    The God Who Waits

  • Friday, June 3, 2011

  • When we think we can, we can’t. When we know we can’t, He can. Until we figure it out, He waits.

    From a failed attempt at deliverance to the commissioning as deliverer, he waited. For Moses, God waited forty years.

    The stories are legendary. They arrest our attention and stir our sympathies. And regrettably, they also mirror our own behaviors!

    Stunning defeat. They took the walled fortress city in just seven days and did not even lift a finger! With daily faithfulness and bold obedience, at their corporate shout the finger of God pushed in the mighty walls. Jericho, is exhibit A of the power and presence of God. Emboldened by the sweet taste of success, Joshua scales back his forces and boldly launches an assault on an easy target. Three-thousand men seemed more than adequate for such light work. They confidently storm the village, and by sundown they find themselves burying thirty-six brothers as they lick the wounds of their own defeat. Venturing into battle and failing to inquire as to the presence and power of the Lord.

    When we think we can, we can’t. When we know we can’t, He can. Until we figure it out, He waits.

    Then there was King Rehoboam of Judah with his 180,000 select warriors strategizing an assault on their cousins up north, Israel, under the leadership of King Jeroboam. A horrible conflict wisely averted when the leadership listened to counsel. “So they listened to the words of the Lord and returned from going against Jeroboam.” 2 Chronicles 11:4 Years of prosperity and success followed obedience. But, “It took place when the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong that he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the Lord.” And, “They will become slaves so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries.” 2 Chronicles 12:1,8

    Their Sabbath day sermons laced with the narratives of Israel were often seeking security and strength through partnership with the pagan powers in place of dependency upon their own powerful God. They anticipated that human strategies and appeased allies would certainly guarantee victory, only to discover instead the pains of great loss and the agony of defeat. Shouldn’t one expect that such greats as Peter and his buddies would have learned the lesson well? Such was not to be. They fished in the power of “professional” experience, and got stiffed. They navigated storm tossed seas in the genius of their training, and panicked. And, they sought to cast out demons by the simple authority of their own commands, and miserably failed. Slow to learn from repeated personal failures, Jesus confronts them with this one inescapable truth, “For apart from Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5 

    You can do nothing. You can do NO-thing. Ok, got it! Nothing. Not one thing that succeeds. Not one thing that lasts. Not one thing that smells of success or victory. NO-thing! 

    When we think we can, we can’t. When we know we can’t, He can. Until we figure it out, He waits.

    They fall asleep as He prays alone. One attempts a mercenary defense with a pocket knife and gets only a bloody ear and an earful of reproof from the Lord. And they ALL run off into the night as the Master is tried, mocked and abused. “You can do nothing…”

    Our problem is not that we have failed; our problem is that we have not failed enough!

    For, when we think we can, we can’t. When we know we can’t, He can. And until we figure it out, He waits!

    A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
    Psalm 90:1 “Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
    2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
    12 So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.
    15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and for as many years as we have seen evil.
    16 Let your work be shown to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
    17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and establish the work of our hands upon us;
    yes, establish the work of our hands!”

    See you Sunday, Church!
    Pastor Tom