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The Right Path for a Church

Bible Exposition II  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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MIS: “Staying in the Right Path for a Church is more about following a Person than following a Plan.

Introduction

In 1979, a passenger jet left New Zealand airport to go on a sightseeing trip around the Antartica.
Everything appear to go well with the minor detail that the flight coordinates was off just 2º degrees.
This minor change set the aircraft 28 miles off their course, straight into the Mount Erebus. Once the pilots realized the problem, it was too late and the aircraft crash against the Mountain, killing everyone on board.
Why was that? A small deviation in their trajectory early on in their journey, rendered arriving to a different destination, altogether.
The same can be said of ministry.
Most of us are getting ready to set our course in ministry.
But is it imperative that we set ourselves in the right path.
The smallest deviation now, could mean tragedy to the people we will minister.
How can we be sure we are set on the right path for ministry? Our text for today will help us answer this question.
Turn with me to Exodus 13.17-22
Exodus 13:17–22 ESV
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.” 18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” 20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

Historical Context

We arrive at the aftermath at one of the most famous accounts in Biblical Narrative.
Israel had suffer many years under the oppressing hand of Egypt, and God heard His people’ cry!
God rose up a leader, Moses, and sent ten (10) plagues to deliver them from the bondage of Egypt.
Pharaoh finally let the people of Israel go and this is where we pick up our text.
“I know you’ve probably read this story several times before, but try to put yourselves in Israel’s shoes (or sandals!) for a moment.
There is great expectation for Promised Land.
There is also great uncertainty of what lies ahead.
But, what does that have to do with us?
“Today I want to remind ourselves of three (3) instruction that will help us stay on the right path, no matter where we go.”
My intention this morning is to speak to Providence Baptist Chruch as a whole, as one faith family.
Nevertheless, you will find these truths also apply to our personal lives. I will tried to give you some examples of how that looks like.

1. Trust in God’s Providence (vv17-18)

Right from the beginning we are told that God “did not lead them” through the most convenient route (v17).
The shortest route to the Promise Land would be east, along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
Instead, God directed them south, towards the Gulf of Suez.
Think of it this way: If you wanted to go to Virginia Beach but instead of going north, you go west towards Raleigh, and then circle back around towards Virginia Beach.
We are not talking of any simple detour, but of a different route altogether.
I bet Moses’ wife though He was too stubborn to ask for direction.
Nevertheless, God had a purpose for this very odd itinerary.
Indeed, God was not clueless about the direction they’d go, but acting providentially on their behalf.
Exodus 13:17 (ESV)
17 […]“Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.”
In the words of Adrian Rogers:
Adrian Rogers Sermon Archive (I. The Discipline of Detours)
We say that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points […] but it’s not always the best distance.
...And God knew best!
Had Israel taken the most convenient road, they would have encounter an enemy they were not yet ready to face.

God wanted to Protect them.

Israel was not yet ready to face the Philistines. God knew that facing them would be a trial they could not overcome.
We are not told the reasons why.
Perhaps because they lacked military experience.
Perhaps because once they faced the Philistines, they would team up with the Egyptians in desperation.
But God knew best.
“God was protecting them from harms they were not even aware of.”
He WAS NOT going to put his people in a place where sin was the only option.
Neither was He going to spare them from any trials...
Where was God leading them? To the Red Sea.

God wanted to Grow them.

Exodus 13:18 (ESV)
18 But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea.
We all know what took place at the shores of the Red Sea.
The Pharaoh’s armies caught up with the Israelites.
The people of Israel feared and cried out to God once more.
But God delivered them from the Egyptians once and for all.
God would not only protect them from the Philistines, He would also display His glory and power once more before His people!
“Israel needed to be at the Red Sea, and experience the salvation of the Lord.”
After the Red Sea, Israel would face:
Fear
Hunger/Thirst
War
“God needed to teach them yet again that God alone is their salvation.”
“God was not so much preparing them to enter the Promise Land, but to be His People in the Promise Land.”

Application: Who’s Agenda are we Following?

Perhaps there is a lesson for us to learn here:
“The right way, is not always the convenient way.”
There is a way how we envision our lives to go.
We have short-term and long-term goals.
We set parameters to measure if we are on track for achieving our goals.
We compare ourselves with other people and churches around us, and we grow anxious when we feel we are falling behind.
I am not saying we do away with our all strategic planning, that would be foolish. But we need to recognize that God is not bound to our 5-10 years plan!
On the contrary, we are bounded to His!
🔥“And thank God for it! Because The plans that He has for you, whatever those may be, are ten (10) thousand times better than the plans you have for yourself.”
“God is not submitting to our agenda, but rather submitting us to his agenda.”
He will guard you from temptations you are not ready to face.
Ex. A packed sanctuary Sunday after Sunday.
He will take you to trials that you need to face.
Ex. A fruitless season in ministry.
…But know this:
“God already has a path for you, church. Trust that, in His providence, He’ll take you there.”
“That is our first instruction, “trust in God’s Providence. Our second instruction is found in verses 20-22.”

2. Follow after God’s Presence (vv20-22)

Exodus 13:20–22 ESV
20 And they moved on from Succoth and encamped at Etham, on the edge of the wilderness. 21 And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.
For the first time in the Exodus account, we are introduce to the pillar of cloud and fire.
During the day, the pillar would take the form of smoke and go before Israel.
During the night, it would take the form of fire.
What is more important, is that this pillar represented the presence of the Lord - (“And the Lord went before them...” - v21)
Theologians would call this a theophany.
Both smoke and fire are elements closely associated with God in the Old Testament.
The presence of God in this pillar was so powerful to Moses and the people, that Moses says they were seeing God “face to face.”
Numbers 14:14 (ESV)
14 […]They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people. For you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

God was Leading them

“Indeed, God would lead them down the unconventional path, nevertheless, God would lead them.”
Israel didn’t know where to go after they left Egypt.
For more than 200 years they been slaves in Egypt.
“Is not like some of them went to the Promise Land during the Holidays, or had a timeshare at Promise Land.”
Moreover, they had to travel through the dessert!
They didn’t know where to find water and food.
They didn’t know where they the hostile people where.
Certainly, there was no TripAdvisor.
All they ever knew was bondage in Egypt.
“But one thing was certain, God knew the way.”

Application: The Challenges of Life

Perhaps some of us can relate to the circumstances Israel was facing.
Leaving everything behind to journey to a place they have never seen before.
Oblivious of the challenges tomorrow holds.
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever felt as if God was leading you into the unknown?
Maybe you are facing with an illness you never saw coming, and that has changed the way you live your life completely.
Or you are in a place at your career where you have no clue what to do. You have people under you and over you counting on you, and you have no idea what to do. They are expecting you do the right them for them.
Perhaps as a church you wonder how can we be sensitive to the culture around us, without conforming to the culture? How can we truly be light and salt in this community, without compromising the Gospel?
🐢Perhaps you wonder if around this time next year you will find a Pastor...
“There are so many things that could go wrong, there are so many things we need to do right, there are so many questions for which we don’t have an answer.”
So what do we do? We turn to the one who know the way: Jesus.
Illustration:
Back home in the Dominican Republic, I had the privilege to host and lead American groups who would go down to the Dominican Republic on short-term mission trips.
There are many thing worth contemplating in life. Watching Americans travel to a third-world country for the first time, is one of them!
But while these Americans where under my care, I was responsible for them.
- They didn’t know the culture. But I did.
- They didn’t know the language. But I did.
- They didn’t know the dangers. But I did.
So I required one thing from them: “Follow me, and I will guide you.”
“Church, we don’t need to have all the answers, but we need to know who to turn for answers.”
You may not understand what God is doing.
You may not know what the end of the road looks like.
You may not know the challenges ahead of you.
“But God does, and as long as you stay close to him, he will see that you get there.”
Seek His face daily, both in prayer and in His Word.
Make every effort to draw near to Him.
Don’t ever lose your sight from Him - don’t get distracted with things of that are of little value in eternity.
Follow Him like the people of Israel followed the pillar of fire and cloud.
“And even if you go around in circles, as longs as Christ is going before you, you are not lost.”
“More could be said at this point but we need to turn our attention to our third and final instruction.”

3. Rest in God’s Promises (v19

We learn this lesson, not from Moses, but from Joseph.
Moses’ comment about Joseph’s bones may come across as a trivial , but in reality, it plays an important role in our narrative.
Back when Jacob and his family first arrived to Egypt, God blessed them out of Egypt’s abundance, but Joseph knew God had to honor his covenant.
Thus, before Joseph died, he reminded his brothers that God would “visit them” and take them to the land God promised them. He instructed them to take his bones up with them.
Genesis 50:24–25 ESV
24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
Moreover, the author of Hebrews points out that Joseph acted by faith, when he instructed this (Heb 11..22).
Joseph did not know when God would visit them.
Joseph did not know how God would take them to the Land he promised to his forefathers.
But he knew God would keep his covenant!

A Living Legacy

Years after Joseph passed away, his remains still reminded his people of God’s covenant.
The fact that Moses and his people remembered Joseph’s words bear witness to that.
“Hey! Don’t forget Joseph’s bones!
Moreover, what an encouragement would have been for Moses and Israel to carry Joseph’s bone and be reminded that God was honoring his promise.
God was fulfilling his promise before their eyes!
Joseph gives us a snapchat of what we hope the legacy of our churches be one day:
“Unwavering confident in God’s promises.”
Here are the bones of a man, who lived and died as if every word of “this book” is truth!
His faith in God, did not wavered towards the end of his life, it only grew stronger.

Application: Our Bedrock Promise

Providence Baptist Church, what are the promises of God you can hold on to as a church?
Even better, what are some of God’s promises that can serve you as an oasis, when God leads you through the wilderness?
May I suggest you two (2)?
Matthew 16:18 ESV
18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Without going into much detail, Jesus promises to:
Christ will build his Church.
Not you. Not your Pastor. Only Christ.
Soon or later, Christ will build his Church.
Even now, Christ is building you, His Church!
Christ’s Church does not rest on the shoulders of men.
The enemy shall not prevail against you.
There is nothing under the sun, that can overcome God’s church.
Not even governments or evil rulers.
Their power and influence is not enough to silence the Church.
Not even you.
Your worst sins cannot frustrate God’s plan.
He will build his Church, in spite of you and me.
2 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)
20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.
Every promise God has ever uttered, find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ!
In other words, no promise from God is truly fulfilled without Christ.
That is why, for the people of Israel, the Promised Land was everything they hoped for or needed.
It was better than Egypt!
But it didn’t provide the everlasting rest they hoped for.
Why? Because the Promised Land was never meant for that. it pointed to something greater!
“The promised land is not a place, but a person.”
Share the Gospel
“So, rest assured. Sooner or later, God will build his Church.”
“It may not look like it right now, but like Joseph, you can rest assured, God will see it happen.”

Conclusion

Trust in God’s Providence
Follow after God’s Presence
Rest in God’s Promises
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