Guardian by Dr. Abidan Shah

 

GUARDIAN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: Until the coming of the internet, clouds were simply those puffy white things up in the sky. If they turned gray, then you better take an umbrella with you because it will rain. In the age of the internet, we now know of another cloud, but this one has to do with data storage, servers, networking, and backup. Everything is on the cloud now. God’s people knew of another cloud 3500 years ago. This was God’s guardian presence among his people – guarding, guiding, and speaking with them. In today’s message, we’re going to learn that God’s guardian presence is still with his people. It is not up in a cloud somewhere but in the heart of every believer through the Holy Spirit. It is the presence of Christ, guarding, guiding, and speaking to us. Christ is our true guardian through the journey of life. That’s the title of our message today – GUARDIAN. By the way, I love this cartoon – “Here’s the tablets I told you about Mo…there’s no upgrades planned, but they do come with cloud support!”

Exodus 12     37 “Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. 38 A mixed multitude went up with them also, and flocks and herds—a great deal of livestock.”

Context: After the tenth plague of the death of the firstborn, Pharaoh conceded to let God’s people leave Egypt. This was no small group of people. According to some estimates, as many as 3 million people began the journey from a place called Rameses in Goshen and headed to Succoth, the final city before leaving Egypt’s eastern borders. From there, they came to place called Etham, which means fortress. There were a number of such fortresses that lined Egypt’s northeastern boundary. Think about it: Yes, Pharaoh had told them they could go. Yes, the land of Egypt was a wreck. Yes, the people of Egypt were scared. Yes, the children of Israel were big in number. But, they were still walking through the land of Egypt. They were still not out of harm’s way. In fact, they were walking right past these Egyptian fortresses with plenty of Egyptian soldiers and chariots who had plenty of hate and resentment in their hearts towards them! Less than 24 hours ago they were simply slaves! Who was leading them? What was protecting them? Why didn’t the Egyptians stop them? Listen to Exodus 13     21 “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.” WOW! Think about the most ominous stormy cloud you’ve ever seen. This was worse!

Any wonder that no one stopped them! The Egyptians believed in Set, the god of storm. The Canaanites believed in Baal, the storm god, who was also called the cloud-rider. But, God was just getting started. He led the people to set up camp in a place called Pi Hahiroth, which was right in front of the Red Sea. This would seem to be a horrible tactical decision to bring the people to a dead end, but God had a plan for Pharaoh. He knew the reach of Egypt and that Pharaoh would not give up. Just when the people would be entering the Promised Land, he would come after them. So, God hardened his heart. Listen to Exodus 14      5 Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. 7 Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel…” This was a massive force that came after God’s people! This was probably couple of thousand chariots with soldiers! Remember, he was trying to round up 3 million people!

What was the response of the children of Israel? They were very afraid and they cried to the Lord and to Moses. Listen to Moses’s response in Exodus 14     13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then, God commanded Moses to stretch his rod over the Red Sea to divide so the people could go on dry land. Now, listen carefully to what happened next – Exodus 14    19 “And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them.”

First, who is the Angel of the Lord? Several times in the Old Testament, people encountered the Angel of the Lord: Jacob met him in a dream at Bethel. Moses saw him in the burning bush. In the book of Judges, a man named Manoah and his wife had a visit from him promising them a child who would later be Samson. Two things happened in that encounter: First, when Manoah asked the Angel of the Lord for his name, he replied in Judges 13:18 “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” This was the name given to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…” Second, Manoah offered a sacrifice to God and the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! Then Manoah realized that this was no ordinary angel and said to his wife in Judges 13:22 “…We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” The Angel of the Lord was the second person of the godhead because no one has ever seen the Father and the Spirit. So, it was the pre-incarnate Christ in the pillar of cloud! Exodus 14    20 “So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.” This was much more than just some dust cloud in the field. It had to block about a couple of thousand chariots! As the children of Israel crossed over on dry ground, listen to what the Angel of the Lord did 24 “Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the LORD looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians.”

Application: How do you know Jesus? If you don’t receive him as a merciful Savior, you will meet him as a righteous Judge.

  1. The Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, GUARDED the people of Israel through the pillar of fire and cloud.

Application: Do you believe that God is guarding you? Why are you so afraid?

What else did he do for his people?

  1. He GUIDED his people through the cloud and fire in their journey and sojourn in the wilderness.

Exodus 40.    36 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would go onward in all their journeys. 37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not journey till the day that it was taken up. 38 For the cloud of the LORD was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

Application: Who is guiding you through your journey? Who is guiding you through this pandemic? It’s important to listen to the experts but don’t forget the Expert.

  1. He COMMUNICATED with his people through the cloud. Exodus 33 9 And it came to pass, when Moses entered the tabernacle, that the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the LORD talked with Moses. 10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door.

Application: As you journey through your wilderness, who are you allowing to speak into your life? 5 minutes with the Savior is worth far more than 5 hours of scrolling.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get it. Listen to how Moses described their rejection of the presence of God with them in Deuteronomy 1      31 “and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the LORD your God, 33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.”

What does all this have to do with us? 1 Corinthians 10      1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Do you see the pillar of cloud? Do you see the pillar of fire? We live by faith. We live believing that these things are happening today even though we cannot see them with our naked eyes. Someone might say, “It would help if we had a pillar of cloud and fire.” If they didn’t believe seeing the things they saw, hearing the things they heard, and feeling the things they felt, we won’t either.

So, where do we stand now? Someone might say, “I guess it is a faith battle for us.” Not really. It was just as much a faith battle for them. In fact, it was worse because they were still in the middle of it. The final act hadn’t happened – Jesus coming, dying, and rising again, as promised in the Scriptures. They didn’t have a complete picture. They sort of understood where they were headed. We have the complete picture! What more do we need! We have to believe looking back that all this happened.

By the way, just know that when you start living by faith, there will be people who will come and wave their hands before your face and ask, “Are you okay?” When you tell them about the cloud, they will say something like “I believe too! But, I’m also a realist!”

Can you see Jesus? Can you sense his guarding and guiding presence? Can you hear his voice? Only through the Holy Spirit you can. He only comes into our lives when we receive Jesus as our Savior and King. Are you saved?

Vicious Cycle by Pastor Abidan Shah

VICIOUS CYCLE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Have you ever made the same mistake twice or thrice or more times? Have you ever found yourself saying – “I knew better.” I love spaghetti but spaghetti and white shirts are magnets. It seems like every time I eat spaghetti I am wearing a white shirt and it’s a matter of time before there’s a red spot on my shirt. It’s a vicious cycle. That is very very trivial compared to what is happening in our country. We are about to make the same mistake that other ancient cultures that were very advanced for their time also made and they suffered total extinction. We are talking about the issue of abortion. We think that it’s no big deal but we are about to repeat a very vicious cycle of self-destruction. The message is called “VICIOUS CYCLE.”

Deuteronomy 12     29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

Question: Are you aware of the debate that is taking place in our country today regarding late term abortion? New York passed a bill that would allow abortion after the 24thweek and as late as the 40thweek. By the way, there were eight other states that already had no gestational limits – Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington DC. According to the CDC, only 1.3% of the abortions are after 21 weeks. How many is that? If there were 638,169 abortions per year recently, that’s about 8000 late term abortions in a year in America. It’s right there with gun related murders and yet abortion is okay but guns are not. Last week, many of you saw the video of delegate in Virginia introducing a similar bill in the House of Delegates. Where do you stand? What do you think about life? It’s an issue that affects all of us. Do you have eternal life? Are you saved?Pray: Holy Spirit – give us biblical convictions. Help us to stand for the innocent, especially those who don’t have a voice. Save the lost.

Context: As many of you know that we went to Israel in January. When I was planning the tour, I purposely chose to include some Middle Bronze cities. Middle Bronze is the period between 1800-1550. This is the time period immediately following the time of Abraham and before the coming of Moses. This was very important to me because they represented the time period before the people of Israel entered Egypt. So, we went to 6 cities that came from that era – Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem. We wrongly think that the Canaanites or the Amorites who lived in the land that God promised to the children of Israel were just a bunch of savages. We only focus on the part of the people of Israel getting scared of the people in the land and suffering from the “grasshopper syndrome.” What we fail to realize is that they had every reason to be afraid of them. What do we know about the Middle Bronze Canaanite Cities?

1. Around the start of the Middle Bronze period, the city life was revived in the land of Canaan. For some reason, these cities began to grow and advance. They build large fortifications around their cities. They built walls that were as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long. But they were very smart. They would build the outer walls and then build a man-made mountain followed by another wall. They built the walls in such a way that the Mesopotamian battering rams were useless against them. This was all psychological warfare. It was meant to discourage the enemy and make them feel emotionally defeated. Did it work?Deuteronomy 1:28“…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The peoplearegreater and taller than we; the citiesaregreat and fortified up to heaven…”

2. They had some advanced water storage facilities. When an enemy would surround a city, they would first try to cut off the water supply. So, the Canaanites dug deep into the ground to find water through springs. They built cisterns to collect rain water. They even had underground drainage system. We saw similar structures in Megiddo, Hazor, and Jerusalem. They had superior hydraulic engineering that are still a work of marvel. 

3. How about farming? They knew how to plant wheat, barley, and fruits like olives, grapes, pomegranates, and everything you can imagine. They knew how to store food. They also knew how to raise sheep, cattle, camels, and all kinds of farm animals.

4. When it came to pottery, they had learned how to turn clay on a wheel. Now they could mass produce pottery. Museums have some incredibly pieces of pottery.

5. Something much more incredible happened. They learned how to make bronze. They learned how to alloy copper and tin with 90% copper and 10% tin. Now weapons could be shaped better. They could be made sharper and sturdier. (Pics of spear blades)

6. They were also known for their export business. With Egypt – grain, olive oil, cattle, timber, copper, etc. They even learned how to make glass. We find glass beads.

7. Finally, they created the ancestor of our alphabet. They didn’t want the Egyptian hieroglyph or the Mesopotamian cuneiform. They came up with 22 signs for each sound. Later the Phoenicians, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites standardized them. 

What’s the point of all this?The Canaanites or the Amorites were a very advanced people. They were at the height of their power, technological advance, and prosperity. Nonetheless, their time was up.Archaeologists still don’t have any solid answer why they collapsed. Was it drought? Was the threat of Egypt too much to bear?

Leviticus 20     1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech…” Meaning:  He was a Canaanite god to whom the people offered their children as a sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom, to the South of Jerusalem. Archaeologists/guides will tell you that they did not find any bones of children in this area. But, the descendants of the Canaanites/Amorites were the Phoenicians who later established a colony in Carthage, North Africa (Tunisia) who practiced child sacrifice. We can learn about the Canaanites from them:

  • Cleitarchus, a Greek historian of Alexander the Great, wrote: “Out of reverence for Kronos, the Phoenicians, and especially the Carthaginians, whenever they seek to obtain some great favor, vow one of their children, burning it as a sacrifice to the deity if they are especially eager to gain success.” 
  • Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”
  • Plutarch, a Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”
  • There are tophets, burial sites for the urns with markers. One such says that the parents sacrificed a defective child with the hopes of getting a healthy one. Isn’t that the same with amniocentesis if congenital abnormalities are suspected? 

Let’s come back to Leviticus 20    2 “…‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who givesanyof his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has givensomeof his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he givessomeof his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.”

Deuteronomy 12     29“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess…” Meaning: The Middle Bronze Cities of Canaan were under God’s judgment and he was going to use the Children of Israel to destroy them. Instead, they got scared of their height and their city walls. Listen again to what God said to them –30take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” Child sacrifice was a major sin against God. That’s why God destroyed them and wanted the land cleansed. Now you cannot find any trace of the Canaanites. If I were building a church building on a piece of property and adjacent to that property, there used to be some cult site. What’s the first thing that I would do? I would clean up the place. Later Josiah cleansed that valley as well.

Same thing with the Phoenicians: People tried to claim that all this was just propaganda by their enemies. Dr. Josephine Quinn (Oxford University) said in 2014 – “Perhaps the reason the people who established Carthage and its neighbours left their original home of Phoenicia – modern-day Lebanon – was because others there disapproved of their unusual religious practice.

Will we go down the way of the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Pheonicans?

Psalm 139     13For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14I will praise You, for I am fearfullyandwonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And thatmy soul knows very well. 15My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, Andskillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there werenone of them.

What do you believe about the baby inside the womb? They are not a hindrance but our example to come to Christ.

 Matthew 19    13Then little children were brought to Him that He might putHishands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Are you saved? Are you willing to come to Christ as a little child?

We’re going to see the importance of handling this issue and how we as believers should respond when faced with the topic of abortion. The title of this weekend’s message is “VICIOUS CYCLE.” Have we, like so many around us, fallen into the vicious cycle of sin? How do you view the issue of abortion? Are you saved?

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