This series has been so helpful in clarifying the relationship between Christ and the church. The church has always been essential, and we need to remember that now more than ever. I’m so thankful God is using these messages in the life of our church family to help us rethink our views on the church and its impact on our relationships.
This weekend, we are continuing our series “ESSENTIAL” through the book of Ephesians. The relationship between Christ and the church affects every area of our lives, including our understanding of marriage. The relationship between a husband and wife should be modeled after the relationship between Christ and the church. The title of this weekend’s message is “GLORIOUS.”
How do you see the relationship between Christ and the church? Does it impact your view of marriage? Are you saved? Invite your friends and family to come worship with us this weekend. This message will help believers in every stage of life!
UNSEARCHABLE by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: One Sunday morning after church, as the family was driving home, the mother began, “The choir was awful this morning. They were so off-key, weren’t they?” To this, the dad added, “The service was too long and I still don’t know what the minister was talking about.” The mother replied, “And, can you believe they’re going to spend all that money on that mission trip to Guatemala? Don’t we have plenty to do around here?” Their 16-year old daughter chimed in, “Why do the Jones’ always sit in front of us? They act like they are so better than us.” After a few seconds’ pause, their 10-year old from the back seat remarked, “Are we going back? Because, I thought it was a pretty good show for a dime.” Many Christians have a very low view of the importance of the church. Even before the current crisis, many had a take it or leave it attitude about the church. Now, with the current crisis, church has been shoved under the “non-essential” category. As you know, we began a mini-series through Ephesians on the role of the church. Here’s the main point of today’s message: The church is essential. In God’s divine plan, he has chosen the church to make known his mystery and wisdom to the principalities and powers of the evil domain. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not. For the church to shut down its activities is to give free reign to evil in the world. Today’s message is called “UNSEARCHABLE.”
Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Context: The verse we just read is part of a digression by the Apostle Paul. He often does this in his letters, but, unlike our digressions that are losing our train of thought, his digressions are the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to take us deeper into the wisdom and purpose of God. If you remember from last weekend, most believers had been playing on the shallow end of the pool, never learning how to swim in deep waters. All of a sudden, we got slammed by a pandemic tsunami and now we are stranded all over the place, clutching on to whatever we could find. If we’re going to make it moving forward, we will have to step into deep waters and learn how to swim.
Until the end of chapter 2, Paul was explaining to the Ephesians how the Gentiles had been brought into the family of God by Jesus Christ. Listen to Ephesians 2 19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” In other words, every believer—regardless of his/her ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or nationality—has an equal status in the family of God by the grace of Jesus Christ. Then, Ephesians 3:1“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles…” Meaning: Paul’s calling from God was to help Gentiles come into the family of God and become one body, the church.
Just when we want to say, “It’s great how there is no more division between the Jewish people and the Gentiles. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Good work Paul!” he stops and takes a digression to help us understand that this one body is much more than just a holy huddle. There is a powerful purpose behind it. Listen to Ephesians 3 2 “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, 3 how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” What is the mystery of Christ? In some sense, Paul was using a term that the Ephesians would have been familiar with because they had mystery religions with secret knowledge. But, it is more likely that Paul was appealing to Daniel 2 where the Hebrew word “raz” or the Greek word “musterion” was used to refer to God’s secret plan of bringing Jesus into the world to save humanity. Paul was referring to the coming together of the believing Jewish people and the Gentiles into one body as the mystery of Christ. In the Old Testament, Gentiles could join God’s people, but they had to become Jewish first. Now, Gentiles did not have to become Jewish and Jewish people did not have to become Gentiles. Instead, both Jewish people and Gentiles could come together into a new community through Jesus Christ. This was the mystery of Christ. It was not as clear in times past. 5“which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, 7 of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power.”Now comes the verse we read in the opening – Ephesians 3:8 “To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? Christ has incredible wealth that we cannot fathom! It includes his grace, his mercy, his goodness, his love, his promises, his glory, etc. All that is now available to each of the Gentiles who have entered into the family God. Verse 9 “and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ.”
Question: Are you part of this mystery? Have you been brought into the family of God? Are you saved? Do you value the unsearchable (unfathomable) riches of Christ?
Now, starting in verse 10, Paul goes deeper, explaining to us the critical nature of this new body, the church—10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God…” The Greek word for manifold is “polupoikilos,” which means “multifaceted” or “many faced.” The more you get to know Christ, the more multifaceted he becomes! Once again, verse 10 “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Let’s pause here for a moment and ask “What are principalities and powers?” The Greek word for “principalities” is “archei,” which means “angelic rulers.” In our context, it refers to “evil angelic rulers.” The Greek word for “powers” is “exousias,” which means “spiritual authorities.” In our context, it refers to “evil spiritual authorities.” There are 2 other times, they are mentioned in Ephesians:
Ephesians 1 19 “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power…20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power…” When God the Father raised his Son from the grave, he also raised him higher than all evil angelic beings.
Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly” Here Paul commands us to “Put on the whole armor of God” because we are in a battle against evil angelic beings.
Here’s the point: The mystery of Christ was also kept hidden from all the evil angelic beings. The coming of Jesus not only brought redemption, but it also broke the power of these wicked beings. Even though they know that Jesus is King, they still try to usurp his power. When the church is the church we are supposed to be, united and holy, then the spiritual rulers and authorities behind the power brokers of the world know that Jesus is in charge and they are not.
Don’t misunderstand: This does not mean that the church has to proclaim a message to these evil beings. This does not mean that the church has to rebuke the enemy and his cohorts. It simply means that we make known “gnorizo” that we are the body of Christ, united and holy, and evil begins to back off. The Enemy has always used the tactic of “divide and conquer,” starting with Adam and Eve. When we come together in unity and holiness, we are making known to him and his cohorts the manifold wisdom of God.
Question: Isn’t it amazing that the same time evil has raised its ugly head in the past few months that the church has dropped her head and gone into hiding?
Ephesians 6 13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”
Invitation: Are you part of the mystery of Christ? Are you saved? How important is the church to you? Are you aware that we are in a spiritual battle?
ESSENTIAL by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: “If you could have only 3 things with you on a deserted island, what would they be?” They asked kids that question and some of their answers were: boat, helicopter, fridge full of food, water, matches, mall of America, my dog, my unicorn named Fluffy, my phone, a knife, my dad, my mom, my family, my best friend, etc. It’s amazing the things we consider essential in our lives. One thing that did not make the list, and I doubt it’s on anyone’s list here, is the Church. We definitely consider Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the Gospel as essential, but we don’t think the Church is on the same level. Today, we’re starting a brand-new series titled ESSENTIAL from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Here’s the main point: The Church is not second tier in the Christian life. It is top tier. The Church is the body of Christ. Can you imagine a person with just a head but no body? The Church is also the Bride of Christ. Can you imagine a wedding with just a groom but no bride? Everywhere Christ is, the Church is; and everywhere the Church is, Christ is. Christ and the Church are inseparable. The Church is essential. In fact, the Christ-Church relationship is the model and power for all our relationships.
Ephesians 1 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you…:
Context: Paul is commending the Church in Ephesus for their faith in Christ and for their love for the saints. Those are 2 very positive things: Love for God and Love for the Church. Nonetheless, all may not have been so well among the Ephesians. Scholars have debated the reasons why Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesian church. Although, there are many suggestions, the most common one is unity. There are reasons for this: The Greek word for unity “henotes,” from which we get our English word “unity” is found twice, only in this letter. The term “one” (hen) is found about 14 times in the letter. So also, words that emphasize “being with” or “being together” are found a bunch of times in this book. All that to say, Paul wrote this letter to encourage unity in the Ephesian church. Maybe, they were drifting away. But, this unity could not be achieved by force. It could happen only when believers genuinely loved one another and understood why it was vital that they maintained their spirit of unity as a church. So, Paul told them what he was praying for. Listen to Ephesians 1 16 “…making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” Paul was praying that the Ephesians would have deep wisdom and revelation, and their eyes of understanding would be opened. What should they see? 3 things to be exact:
18 “…that you may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe…”
Here’s the translation:
Past: We need to have the solid assurance that God will bring to pass what he has promised. While we patiently wait on his plan, we need to look back and remember that he has called us.
Future: We need to remember that we are incredibly valuable to God. He will not allow his inheritance to be lost. He will claim us one day.
Present: We need to utilize the immense power that he has given to us. This power can withstand any attack of the Enemy and the world system around us.
Out of all 3, the most important is the present because we need power to live now as believers.
Application: Would you agree that ever since this crisis began, the church has lost its sense of power? We have become like cotton candy. We have nothing solid to offer. We are like a door stopper that the world has kicked out of the way and shut the door, leaving us sitting lifeless on the outside. By the way, let’s not blame the world too much. Much of it we have done it to ourselves! We have made ourselves dispensable by emptying out the salt shaker and snuffing out the lamp.
Paul spends some time explaining the source, the display, and the storehouse of this power that is available to believers in the present:
Source: 19 “…according to the working of His mighty power…” God is the source of this mighty power.
Display: 20 “which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seatedHim at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” The Resurrection and Glorification of Christ is the display of this mighty power.
Storehouse: 22 “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, Christ is the storehouses of this mighty power. This is manifested in 2 major places:
A. Creation: 22 “And He put all things under His feet” is a fulfillment of Psalm 8:6 “You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.” Everything the first Adam had lost, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, gained back.
Are you worried about what’s happening in the world or in nature? You can stop. Jesus is in charge. Yes, not everything is right or okay, but he is still ultimately sovereign.
B. Church: “…and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.”A better translation: This same Christ is also the head of the church, both local and collective. If you still have any confusion regarding the relationship of Christ and the Church, the next verse solves any doubt. 23 “which is His body…”
Here’s what Paul is saying: Christ = head, Church = body, Christ = body and head. In other words, the church members are bound to each other and we are connected to our head Christ. This cannot be separated.
Application: In the beginning of the pandemic, I found it very interesting how the church was quickly deemed “nonessential.” And, when it was declared lawful to be open, how many were hesitant to open and still are! Don’t think that I don’t understand the health concerns. I do. I understand that some can’t safely return right now. But, how about those who can but choose not to or choose to minimize the importance of the church. Have you considered the ramifications what we are doing?
Final line of verse 23 “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” In other words, God’s fulness, which fills Christ, fills the Church. This is not a one-time filling but an ongoing constant filling. This power is alive and fresh. It is new every day for every challenge and opportunity that may come in our path. We need this power specially to combat the evil powers. We need this power in our daily lives, especially our relationships. What does this power look like? It is God’s moral excellence, his perfection, his truth, his protection, and his blessing.
Application: Do you now understand the emotional, mental, and spiritual health ramifications of not opening the church? In this series coming up we will learn how this impacts our daily relationships, starting with the husband-wife relationships.
Ephesians 5 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Invitation: Is the Church essential to you? Is the Church essential to your family? Are you part of the Church? Are you saved?
Many of our children and teens have either already started back to school or will be starting in the next few days. Parents often wonder about other influences their children will encounter and if they will follow God or the world. I want to remind you God is still in control and His promises are still true. That is a source of great hope for me as a parent!
This weekend, we will be focusing on Proverbs 22:6. This is a well-known verse, but when times are stressful or difficult, we are quick to forget God’s promise when our children are trained up under godly instruction. The title of this weekend’s message is “PATHWAY.”
What kind of instruction are you giving the children in your life? Are you sharing God’s Word with your own children and those in our church family? Are you saved? You cannot afford to miss this message. Invite your friends and family to come worship with us, too!
Introduction: There was a time when fathers would pass down their trade skills to their sons, like woodworking or smithing; and mothers would pass down their homemaking skills to their daughters, like knitting and craft-making. The world has changed so much in the past few hundred years. Now, we’re living in the technological and information age where our kids know far more than we do! Plus, everything is always evolving. It feels like we have nothing to pass on to our children, other than material wealth and some life hacks. Sometimes, the younger generation may even act like they don’t need anything from us, especially now where everyone in the past was wrong and outdated; but that’s not altogether true. Today’s Message: God has entrusted us with the tremendously responsibility to pass down godly values to the next generation, especially our children. They need much more from us than just material wealth and life hacks. They need us to impart to them godly principles and convictions that will help them live successfully. That’s the title of our message today – IMPART.
Joshua 24 1 “Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.”
Context: This was the second time that Joshua had gathered all the major representatives of the people of Israel. The first time was in the previous chapter in Joshua 23. There are some similarities between the first gathering and the second gathering, but there are also some distinctions. The major distinction was this—In the first gathering, Joshua talked to them as an old man, the veteran leader, giving his farewell address to his people; but, in the second gathering, Joshua talked to them as one of them, as a family man, as the head of his household. As important as the first address was, I want to focus on the second one in this message. There are 3 things he brought up in the second gathering:
Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.” The primogenitors of the people of Israel—Terah and his sons, Abraham, and Nahor—lived on the other side of the River. This is the area that is to the north and east of the Promised Land, across the Euphrates River. The cuneiform tablets found in this region show that the people were worshipping many gods, especially in places like Ur and Haran, which were centers of moon worship. Until God found Abraham, he and the other ancestors were just pagan people. The idea that Abraham himself was not born a Hebrew or an Israelite or a Jewish person is shocking to people! 3 “Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.” What’s the point? Joshua was reminding the people of Israel that they may be God’s special people today but their beginnings were not so illustrious.
Let’s not forget that we were no better but by the grace of God! I Corinthians 6 9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
Application: Do you take the time to remember what God has saved you from?
Now, from verse 4 to 8, God reminded them about what he did for Isaac and Jacob, and how he brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. 9 Then Balak…king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam…to curse you. 10But I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he continued to bless you. So I delivered you out of his hand.” In other words, God turned his cursings into blessings. Hasn’t God done that for you? What people meant for evil, God turned into good! In verses 11 and 12, God gave them victory over all the nations that attacked—Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Then, verse13 “I have given you a land for which you did not labor, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.” Don’t misunderstand: It doesn’t mean that they were freeloaders, eating the fruit of someone else’s labors. This was God’s land. He gave it to whomever he chose.
Here’s the point: The worst thing that can happen to us in the Christian life is to forget where God has brought us from. We are where we are by the grace of God.
Personal Illustration: I remember like it was yesterday, standing in that telephone booth on this one-gas-station exit, somewhere on this side of the Pennsylvania turnpike. I was all alone, waiting for a ride until 2-3am. I know where God has brought me from! I learnt that from my father who had an old tin box that he left his home with when his father kicked him out because he was a Christian.
Application: Do you take the time to remind your children how God saved you and where he has brought you from? If you don’t, they’ll never know.
Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
Don’t assume that God doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.
14 “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!” If you were here last weekend, you learned that the people of Israel were under the cloud by day and under the fire by night. It was the Angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Christ, who went with them from within Egypt to all the way into the Promised Land. He guarded them, guided them, and spoke to them. He provided manna from heaven, meat from quail, and water from the rock. He did not abandon them a single moment. Nonetheless, they kept their false gods secretly in their tents!
They had 3 sets of false gods with them from 3 different rivers. Why Rivers? This would have been a good time for them to lose their false gods but they didn’t.
The Sumerian gods from the other side of the Euphrates River, brought by Rachel and others.
The Egyptian gods from the other side of the Nile River, brought by the first generation of the slaves.
The Amorite gods from this side of the Jordan River, picked up by them when they came into the Promised Land. 15 “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.”
Before you say, “I don’t have any false gods in my life,” just remember: Anything that begins to dominate your life, anything you treasure more than God, anything you refuse to let go is now a false god in your life, and anything you fear more than life itself. By the way, Abraham had been gone for 500 years. The last generation had been dead for about 40 years. The point is that the gods had been passed down from one generation to the next.
Application: What false god(s) are you passing down to your children? One more thing: it is possible to receive God’s blessing and still hide your gods. Are you assuming that your blessings are proof that God is okay with your false gods?
Don’t forget where God has brought you from.
Don’t assume that God doesn’t know what you’ve been up to.
Don’t think that you can play neutral for long.
15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” The closer you get in your walk with God, the farther you will get from some people. This is a must if you want your household to last.
Their response was “Absolutely!” So, listen to verse 19 “But Joshua said to the people, ‘You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.’21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!” 22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses!” 23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.” Then Joshua made a covenant with the people at Shechem, wrote them in the Book of the Law of God, and then did something that was done about 8 other times in the book. 26 “…And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” There are so many stones in Israel. We have no idea where this stone is now. But, on that day of judgment, that stone will be brought up as exhibit A that they broke the covenant of God.
After you and I are gone, this church building may stand as a witness to your children and grandchildren that they have broken the covenant of God. What are you imparting to your children? Do you have a faith and a godly lifestyle to pass down to your kids? If you didn’t have a godly legacy, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
2 Corinthians 6:2 “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Are you saved? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and King?
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.
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?
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.
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?
BREAKTHROUGH by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: The building of the Transcontinental Railroad is one of the greatest construction marvels in our nation’s history. The Union Pacific built west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, California, with a little help from Western Pacific. Through mountains, valleys, rivers, and desert, they laid about 2000 miles of railroad tracks between 1863 to 1869, right in the middle of the Civil War! Now, what would have taken 5-6 months in a stage coach over treacherous conditions could now be done in less than a week in fairly restful conditions. So also, when God is with us, a difficult journey becomes a restful one. Here’s the point of today’s message: God allows us to come to impossible situations in our lives, not to discourage or demoralize us, but to call us to trust him and him alone. When we do that, he not only gives us breakthroughs but he also leads us to a life of rest. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.
Joshua 5 13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand.
Context: Last week, we saw that Joshua and Caleb had wholly followed God. While the other 10 spies had incited fear in the hearts of the people, they had tried to instill faith in them. Unfortunately, the people believed the evil report and God’s judgment came upon them. Over the next 40 years, the entire generation along with the 10 spies died in the wilderness. They never got to experience the rest that God had for them. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes it in Hebrews 3 16 “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” So, the people of Israel came out of slavery but they could never enter the Promised Land and experience God’s rest because of sin, disobedience, and unbelief. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.
Application: Is that you? Are sin, disobedience, and unbelief keeping you from experiencing God’s rest in your life?
Now it was time for the second generation to reenter the land. Moses was gone and Joshua was to lead them to possess the land. By the way, he was in his 80s and the second generation were the children of the first generation. I can only imagine the fear in his heart. On the eve before the battle of Jericho, he must have been by himself praying, asking God to help. Just then, he saw a man near him with a sword in his hand. Listen to 13 “…And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” This was a Theophany, maybe even a Christophany.15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. In last week’s message titled Onward, we learned that “When we wholly follow God, he doesn’t let us face our battles alone. He not only shows up but he takes over.”
Application: Are you facing some impossible situation in your life? Instead of fearing and doubting, start following God fully. He will not only show up, but he will take over.
Listen to the next verse – Joshua 6:1“Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.” The Hebrew words for “securely shut up” is “sigereth misigereth.” That’s like a double reinforcement. It’s like saying that it was “shut down in itself.” We need to understand a little bit about how the city walls were during the Middle Bronze Period in the Southern Levant to appreciate that statement. I’ve been to Jericho. It is about 13 ½ miles Northeast of Jerusalem, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River is to the east just a few miles away. In the past century, there have been 4 different excavations at the site. Although, it is tough to interpret the date because of the time that has passed from the time of Joshua, there has been much that has come to light. Let’s look at it from the outside in:
First, there was the Revetment wall at the foot of the earthen rampart to prevent soil erosion due to rain. It was built using Cyclopean Masonry (massive stones without mortar) and was about 2-10 meters tall and about 1-4 meters wide.
Second, there was the Earthen Rampart on which soldiers could be stationed.
Third, the Outer and the Lower Wall, which could be about 23 feet tall and as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long.
Fourth, there were the Retaining Walls at specific points to make sure the various walls were stable.
Fifth, there was another Second Rampart inside that was quite wide and had houses, and maybe even barracks. This would be on an upward slope towards the inner and upper wall. It looked like a terrace. You could also call it a Glacis.
Sixth, the Inner and Upper Wall, that was about 4-5 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and could be about 50 feet high in places.
Inside were the people. Keep in mind that the people probably lived beyond the walls but they must have come in during the siege.
Jericho was shut down in itself. Is it any wonder that when the people came to the Promised Land, they said in Deuteronomy 1:28 “…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven…”
Application: How tall are the walls in your life? What are you facing that seems impossible?
So, what is God’s plan?Joshua 6 2 And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” Scholars, historian and archaeologists have tried and tried to find ancient parallels to this ritual, but there is none.
Why did God make them go through this process before he gave them the breakthrough?
He wanted them to get a good look at their problem and realize how impossible it was for them. Day after day they had to see the Revetment wall, the 2 Ramparts, the Retaining Walls, the Inner and Outer Walls. God was bringing them to the end of themselves.
He wanted them to patiently obey, even if it didn’t make any sense. What if they had stopped after the first or even the sixth day?
He wanted them to learn that they were not to battle like the world. Their weapons and their tactics were very different.
2 Corinthians 10 3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
He wanted them to understand his rest.
Hebrews 4 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them…3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains that some mustenter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.
Invitation: Do you have his rest or are you still struggling? Only Jesus can give you rest.
Matthew 11 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Are you saved? Do you have his rest? Have you been to Jesus? Only he can give you rest.
ONWARD by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: How many of you remember the children’s book “The Little Engine That Could?” My parents got me a copy of it when I was very young. It was one of my favorite books as a child. The story is of a little blue engine that did not have any confidence in himself to pull a train full of toys and food up on the mountain to the little boys and girls on the other side. The Shiny New Engine didn’t have time to help and the Big Strong Engine didn’t want to help. So, the Little Blue Engine thought about all the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain who were waiting for their toys and food, and decided to give it a shot. He tugged and pulled as he went up the mountain, saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…” He climbed and climbed, and, at last, he got over the other side, saying, “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could…” Finally, he pulled in to the station, saying, “I made it.” Here’s the point: Some of us are standing on this side of the mountain, saying, “I know I can’t, I know I can’t…” We are terrified to go onward to the other side. What is needed is not “I think I can, I think I can…” What is needed is “I know I can’t but I know God can, I know I can’t but I know God can.”
Numbers 14 36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.”
Context: Last weekend, we learned that 14 months after God freed his people from their slavery in Egypt that he brought them to a place called Kadesh Barnea on the southern end of the Promised Land. God told Moses to send in 12 spies, one from each tribe of Israel. Numbers 13:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.” These 12 men went into the land for 40 days. Then they returned with their report. Ten of the spies said that the land is indeed wonderful, but the cities are well fortified, the people are big and strong, and the giants are still in the land. And, they added, Numbers 13:33b “…and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” What was the result? The people were terrified. Listen to how Moses recounts it in Deuteronomy 1 26 “Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; 27 and you complained (Lit. “rawgan” = murmur, whisper, grumble) in your tents, and said, “Because the LORD hates us, He has brought us out of the land of Egypt to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. What a statement!28 Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, (Lit. “mawsas” = caused to melt, intimidate,).
Question: Do your words breathe faith in people or fear? Do you bring out courage in people or cowardice? 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Only 2 men exercised “power, love, and sound mind.” They were Caleb and Joshua. Who were they?
Caleb represented the tribe of Judah. There is one more designation given to him other than that he was the “son of Jephunneh.” It is found only 3 times in the Bible, once in Numbers and twice in Joshua. He is called a Kenizzite. Numbers 32:12 “except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.” Who are the Kenizzite? That’s not a Hebrew or even a West Semitic name. We find it mentioned in Genesis 15 18 “…the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites,…” They were a non-Israelite group that came from the desert below Negev. Somehow, they became associated with the tribe of Judah, maybe intermarriage, and were grafted into God’s people!
Joshua represented the tribe of Ephraim. What do we know about the tribe of Ephraim? They came from Joseph. If you remember, Joseph had two sons from his Egyptian wife: Manasseh and Ephraim. They were half Egyptians. Nonetheless, they had a good portion in the Promised Land. If later texts are any indication of how the early people of Ephraim behaved, it doesn’t look good for the tribe of Ephraim. Psalm 78:67 “Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph,And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.”
What’s the point? You don’t need godly pedigree to understand the heart of God. It doesn’t matter what your family tree looks like. We all have a few nuts hanging on our family tree. My dad came from a Muslim home. Look where God has brought me today!
How did these 2 men respond to the reaction of the people to the 10 spies?
They spoke up. Listen to Numbers 13:30 “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.’” You can imagine someone saying, “Look at this Kenezzite trying to get us killed!”
Question: Do you speak up? “Well…I wanted to say something…But, I feel like I’m a nobody.” Don’t misunderstand: I’m not talking about being argumentative or combative or trying to get the last word, or even speaking up for your rights. I’m talking about speaking up for God.
They feared God. Listen toNumbers 14:6 “But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes.” Why did they tear their clothes? Tearing clothes was a sign of distress. Sometimes, it was a sign of mourning for dead. Unlike the multitude, these two understood the ramifications of failing to obey God and going into the Promised Land.
Question: Do you fear God or do you fear people? Do you fear people more than you fear God? If you fear God, you won’t fear anyone else.
They tried to inspire others. Listen toNumbers 14 7 “and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread”; What does that mean? Earlier inNumbers 13:32, the 10 spies had given a bad report to the children of Israel saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants…” That could mean that the land was barren, wild, filled with plagues, constant wars, or even like Hell. To this, Joshua and Caleb said that the people of the land “are our bread”! Several times the Bible uses that manner of speaking. It means more than just winning over our enemies. It also means that with each victory we become stronger just like with each meal we become stronger. Instead of fearing our enemies/challenges, we should face them, because we get stronger with each victory. Furthermore, “their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”
Question: Are you helping others stand up to fears or are you hiding behind your own fears?
Both Caleb and Joshua had a glorious future.
Caleb: God said in Numbers 14:24 “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Sure enough, in Joshua 14, Caleb came to Joshua to redeem God’s promise – 10 “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12 Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.” Caleb got his mountain!
Joshua: Listen to Deuteronomy 34:9 “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.” Repeatedly, God told him to be strong and of good courage. Then, right before the Jericho campaign, the pre-incarnate Christ came to him in Joshua 5:13 “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, ‘Are You for us or for our adversaries?’14 So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Joshua saw God! (Revelation 22:8-9)
Matthew 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
Invitation: What kind of a spirit is in you? Spirit of Fear or the Spirit of God? Only those with the Spirit of God can see God. Only those who can see God can help others see God.
Are you saved? Do you know Christ as your Savior? Without him you cannot have the Spirit of God.
Introduction: About 11 years ago, Nicole and I took our kids on a long journey across the country. We went to all the major Old West sites in Kansas, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. We even went to Monument Valley, Utah, in the Navajo Nation Reservation. This is one of those iconic places where a lot of the Old Westerns were filmed. We had a wonderful time! There was a hotel near the Park but it was very expensive and so I decided to drive a little further. This was Highway 163 with nothing on the left or the right and it was dark. To make matters worse, we hadn’t eaten any dinner, the kids were really hungry, and we were low on gas. Talk about being afraid. I remember praying that God would get us out of this. Everyone was turning on me. I felt a little of how Moses must have felt. Thirty miles later, we came to a place called Kayenta, where the Burger King was still open. What a relief! What we didn’t realize is that inside the restaurant was the world’s best exhibit to the Navajo Code Talkers from World War 2. There was a movie about them a few years. Plus, we also found a good place to stay overnight. Needless to say, I was really grateful! Main point: Life is a journey full of choices. Unfortunately, poor choices can lead to years of regret and pain. But, God can use even our failures to work all things together for good if we let him.
Deuteronomy 1:41 “Then you answered and said to me, ‘We have sinned against the LORD; we will go up and fight, just as the LORD our God commanded us.’
Context: On the surface, these words seem to be words of repentance and renewal, very sincere and inspiring. Unfortunately, the context proves otherwise. Moses is recalling what took place at Kadesh Barnea in Numbers 13 & 14, where the people had rejected God’s command to go in and possess the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve spies had brought back a negative report that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey but the inhabitants were strong, the cities were fortified, and there were even giants there. What was the response of the people? They lifted up their voices and cried and wept all night! They complained against Moses and Aaron saying, Numbers 14 2 “…If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” They actually began to talk about picking a leader and going back to Egypt! How sad and shameful! When Joshua tried to persuade and motivate them, they wanted to stone them all! What was God’s response? He wanted to destroy them and make a new nation through Moses. I would’ve taken God up on it! Moses actually talked God out of killing his people Israel. He begged God to forgive them. God agreed and pardoned them, but he declared, Numbers 14 22 “because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers…” What is the next step? Verse 25 “…tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.” Why? 30 “…you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.”
The Repercussion of disobedience
Principle: God’s forgiveness does not erase the consequences of sins in this life. Someone may say: “What’s the use of God’s forgiveness if there are still consequences?” To erase consequences would be to erase God’s standard of holiness. If God did that, he would no longer be God. Because of his forgiveness, you are no longer his enemy. Now, he is showing you mercy without compromising his holiness.
Application: Do you take sin seriously? Do you understand that you can be forgiven but there are still consequences in this life? Have you ever received Christ as your Savior? Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
The Regrouping of false repentance
Instead of accepting God’s verdict, the people decide to bum rush their way into the Promised Land – Numbers 14:40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!” Moses warned them not to go because God was not with them. Nevertheless, they rushed up the mountain. I love Moses’ recollection in Deuteronomy 1:44 “And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah.” There’s a play on words here. This was supposed to be “a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:8) If they had gone in as obedient children, they would have gotten the honey. Since they still had the slave mentality, they went in but got the stinger.
Principle: We cannot speed up God’s work of sanctification in our lives. He will not give us what we are not ready to handle.
Application: Is there something that you have been asking God for and it has not been coming? Trust God that he knows you better than you know yourself. He will not give it to you before you are ready for it.
The Rerouting of discipline
Deuteronomy 1:46“So you remained in Kadesh many days, according to the days that you spent there.” Numbers 14:34 clarifies this – “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.” We don’t know for sure how long they were at Kadesh Barnea, but they then moved south and started going in circles. Deuteronomy 2:1“Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the LORD spoke to me, and we skirted Mount Seir for many days.” Their entire time in the wilderness was 40 years, but it was about 38 years since the first entry and failure. I did some math and that’s about 13,880 days. One scholar (Daniel Block) called it a “classic understatement.”They could have done something about this: 1. They could have returned back to Egypt; 2. They could have dispersed as a people; 3. They could have gone back to foreign gods. Some did at times but not wholesale. Instead, they chose to stay as a people and take the discipline of God. They had to die one by one and their children had to do their funerals. Based on the census of Numbers 2 and 26, about 2 million of the people died in those 40 years!
Application: How do you handle the discipline of God? Hebrews 12 5 “…My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;6For whom the LORD loves He chastens,and scourges every son whom He receives.”7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” People ask me – “How do I know when I am being disciplined?” Don’t think of discipline as punishment. For a believer, all our punishment was exhausted upon Christ. Discipline is when God uses trials and predicaments in life to bring us to trust and obey him more. We go through times of disappointment, unpleasant situations, relationship breakdowns, loss of peace and joy, sickness, and sometimes, even death. Don’t see them as punishment but as discipline. Even Moses had to endure discipline. He talks about it in Deuteronomy 1:37 “The LORD was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, “Even you shall not go in there.”
The Reentry by God’s grace
Deuteronomy 2 2 “And the LORD spoke to me, saying: 3 ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward.’”
The last of the older generation just died and it is time to move forward. By the way, the entire time has not been a waste. Some significant things have happened. God has laid out more of his plan for how the tabernacle and the sacrifices are to be laid out. Now, it was time to reenter the Promised Land, but this time, it was not from Kadesh Barnea but the east side of the Jordan River. They are to pass through the territories of the Edomites, Moabites, and the Ammonites. I don’t have time to go through all the details of this journey. Bottom line: they are to walk through respectfully and peacefully. God even took care of the giants beforehand in the territories that they were passing through. Various Amorite kings came against Israel but God routed them and gave his people their possessions. In the midst of all this, there is an episode where God’s people (the new generation) once again began to complain against God and Moses. So, God sent fiery serpents into the camp and many died. Listen to Numbers 21 7 “So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’” This was a pre-figure of the cross of Jesus. Listen to John 3 14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Why a snake! 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Finally, how I could forget Rahab, the madam from who protected the 2 spies that Joshua sent to check out Jericho. She was saved and became part of the genealogy of King David and Christ. Can we not declare with Paul in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Invitation: How do you see your life’s journey? Which stage are you in? Repercussion, Regrouping, Rerouting, or Reentry. Are you saved? Is Christ in your journey?
UNDER GOD (2) by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: This past week our family made a quick trip to the Amish Country near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a very relaxing time. In some ways, it was like travelling back in time with horse drawn plows, horse buggies, and farm life. The best part for our children was playing with the farm animals at the bed and breakfast where we were staying. I think Nicole had just as much fun! On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg Battlefield, a place I had always wanted to visit. This was the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. In just 3 days (July 1-3, 1863), as many as 51,000 Union and Confederate soldiers either died, were wounded, or went missing. The little town of Gettysburg had no idea that a chance encounter between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would forever change their lives. In a matter of just days, their peaceful farmland was turned into a bloody battlefield. Bodies were lying everywhere. Every home, church, and public building was turned into a hospital. The dead were hastily buried in shallow graves. Four months later, Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. As I stood on that battlefield, I thought to myself how the people at the time must have felt when they saw the devastation of lives and land. They may have felt like the United States of America was history. They may have felt like our glory days were over. What many people don’t know is that 75 years later in 1938, about 1800 veterans of that same battle came together on that same battlefield. Some were now 90 years old. They shook hands and pledged allegiance to the same American flag. Here’s my point: No matter what is happening in our nation today, don’t lose heart. We are still “One Nation Under God” and our best days are ahead. We need to look to the sovereign God for healing and hope. This is the focus of the second part of our message titled “UNDER GOD.”
Psalm 33:12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”
Context: If you remember from last week, Psalm 33 is connected to Psalm 32. This connection indicates that before we can talk about “Blessed is the nation,” we need to talk about “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,whose sin is covered.” In other words, before we can talk about how much we need God’s blessing as nation, we need to talk about how much we need God’s forgiveness as individual believers. Keep in mind that this is a psalm of David, a man after God’s own heart. He did not write some cheap poetry, but he gave us what God desires from us. Once we have experienced God’s forgiveness, then we can see that God is our hiding place and we don’t have to live in fear. Instead, we are to look to him and follow his guiding eye. We can see that he loves righteousness and justice. Listen once again to Psalm 33 4 “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. 5 He loves righteousness and justice…”In our nation today, people are calling for justice, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, we are not calling for righteousness, which is just as important. In fact, we want justice without righteousness. God demands both.
We need a change in perspective on God. For starters, we need to remember that God is not subject to us. He is a sovereign God. First, he is sovereign over his creation. 5 “…The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.(Land, Plants, and Animals)6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.(Sun, Moon, Stars, and Universe)7 He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deep in storehouses. (Waters, Fish, Sea Creatures)8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. It’s one thing to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, but how about his sovereignty over nations and people? 10 “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.” First, the word for nation is “goy,” which has more of a political meaning. Second, the word for peoples is “am,” which has more of an ethnic meaning. In other words, whether it is an organized nation or an organized group, if they God against God’s sovereign will, he will “pur,” frustrate their plans, and he will “nu,” hinder and prevent them.
Question: Are we seeking to achieve our goals and our plans in this world? God will bring them to nothing. Instead, we have to accept verse 11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.
Now comes our focal verse—12 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” There are 2 different decisions here: First, a nation has chosen God. Second, God has chosen the nation. You’ve heard me say this time and again. Our nation was built to be under God. Our Founding Fathers were not perfect people but they definitely believed that God was the source of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence begins with this preamble – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution does not directly mention God but he is assumed and implied. The 2 documents had different goals but they both chose God as the source of blessing for our nation.
But, God also has to choose us as a nation. In my view, America has been a source of good throughout her brief history. Has everything been perfect? Of course not. Nonetheless, God has been guiding us with his eye. 13 “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth.” We have to choose to see that? Have you heard of the “All-seeing eye” or the “Eye of Providence?” You can see it on the back of a $1 bill. It is on the top of a pyramid with 13 layers, representing the 13 original colonies. Over the capstone are the words “Annuit Coeptis,” which means “Favors Undertakings” or “God has favored our undertakings.”
God is not only omnipresent and omniscient, but he also actively shapes us. 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. This is not just in a personal context but in a national context as well. 16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army. A mighty man is not delivered by great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.” God shaped the hearts of our Founding Fathers so they could design a nation like no other. God gave them the wisdom to design a nation that would not be under the tyranny of a monarch. We all know that the Revolutionary War was fought against the strong and coercive measures by King George of England against the colonies. Neither did the Founding Fathers want a nation under the tyranny of the multitude. They didn’t want to set up a democracy like the ancient Greeks. That was just majority rule. They didn’t want that. Can you imagine what it would be like if the majority in a society made decisions only for themselves and not for the minority? What if the majority wanted to enslave the minority? What could we do to make sure that the majority could be kept in check? The Founding Fathers were not only trying to prevent the tyranny of a king, but they were also trying to prevent the tyranny of the majority. They came up with 8 block and tackle measures to keep the majority in check (I’m getting most of this from Dinesh D’Souza’s recent book “The United States of Socialism”):
A Written Constitution: Unlike England’s common law, the Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution, a supreme charter that would override the will of the majority. This would keep the government in check. This could be amended but the process is very difficult.
The Bill of Rights: This was added to put a series of limitations on the government that begin with “Congress shall make no law”—
no law restricting speech, or the press, or the free exercise of religion
Citizens have the right to assemble, to bear arms, and enjoy the due process of the law, and to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure
The Supreme Court: They can strike down those federal laws that go against the Constitution and protect the rights of the citizens against the majority.
Representative Government: People elect leaders who represent them. If you don’t like your leaders, then elect others at the next term.
Separation of Powers: Power is divided between 3 branches—
Legislative with elected officials in the House of Representatives and Senate, together forming the Congress. Their job is to make the laws;
Executive with the President of the United States who acts as the head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He implements and enforces the law by appointing heads of federal agencies and Cabinet;
Judiciary with power to arbitrate and resolve legal disputes. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Federalism: Power is divided between the national government and state government.
Checks and Balances: Congress makes laws but the President can veto them. To overturn a veto, it requires congressional supermajority. The President can enforce the laws but the congress and the judiciary branches provide oversight. The judges interpret the Constitution, but they are appointed by the President and confirmed the Senate.
The Electoral College and the 2 branches of the legislature – the House and the Senate: The President, members of the Congress, and senators are elected by the people. However, the Electoral College makes sure that the bigger states with more people do not decide the presidency. Each state has 2 senators a piece but the smaller ones have fewer congressional representatives.
The point is that our Founding Fathers wanted to create a nation that would be fair to everyone. By God’s hand, they came up with an amazing system of checks and balances. They wanted to make sure that “might will not make right.” Our nation fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery. But, in each generation, our leaders knew that this would happen but the nation would go on because it was built on the right foundation. Lincoln acknowledged this in the Gettysburg Address (Video):
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
How much clearer can we get!
Let’s read the final words of the psalm—18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. (In God We Trust.)22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”
Are you praying for our nation? Are you hoping in his mercy on our nation? Are you saved?