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The Path to Sinai

Exodus - Finding a new home  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:19
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 Exodus 15:22-18:27 The path to Sinai Summer Hill Church 21 July 2019 1. Mountain climbing and walking in the desert a. as you can tell we have a lot to get through today. i. the whole passage is about 2200 words, so we can’t even read it all. (1) but you should read it. The word of God is there for a reason (a) and we mustn’t miss reading parts of the Bible because every word is God’s word, and the reason we read the parts we read often is sometimes because of our own sinfulness. (2) That we don’t like what the Bible says, and so we don’t read it, or even worse, dismiss it as irrelevant ii. but every word is breathed by the mouth of God, and this long narrative is no exception (1) so I want to encourage you to read it, all of it, carefully through the week. iii. because this is the slight depression between two peaks of the story (1) next to Mt Everest, (Sagamartha) is the mountain Lhotse, not quite as big, but amazing in it’s own right at 8516m - b. and Israel have just visited their Lhotse, the peak where God has bought Israel out of slavery and devastatingly defeated the Egyptians. (1) and they are now in the desert, on the South Col, exposed and in danger. (a) wondering why they left the safety and warmth of the green valleys - that is Egypt ii. over the next 2 weeks we will come to the peak called Sinai - the place where you can see what God has in store, it’s like the South Summit - a huge moment iii. but in the end, Israel are going to the summit of Everest, iv. that is to Canaan. To the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Jerusalem, to God’s holy temple. (1) just as Moses sang about last week (a) In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. 15:13 c. and the thing is, that is where we are. i. we are between our 2 salvations. (1) we have been rescued, and our sins defeated. (a) but our final salvation and the final promised land lays ahead of us (2) and so we now are in the wilderness, ii. and we are in danger too, because the wilderness is a dangerous place where we can feel the threats (1) we can feel the pressures to want to return to Egypt, to our old ways (a) to the ways of the world d. to help us resolve this, we’ll look at three high-points in the story of the journey to Sinai 2. God’s Provision a. did you notice how quickly Israel turns again? i. after we saw the amazing event of 2 weeks ago, with God’s mighty salvation of them and the destruction of Egypt, they immediately start to grumble again. ii. 2 days on the road, through the desert of Sin and they get thirsty. They had seen God part the sea,, they had seen God act in all the plagues, and by day they had the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud. (1) with all that happening in just the past few days - they complain iii. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah. ) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” 15:23–24 b. it’s almost like all those things hadn’t happened. i. and so God provides water to drink - miraculously turning bitter water into drinkable water c. but a couple of weeks later, the complaining starts again i. The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 16:1–2 ii. and this is the pattern we see happening all the way through this narrative. (1) Israel complains because something is going wrong, and they want to go back (a) look at v3 (i) The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’S hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” 16:3 (b) and in response to this God did something marvellous, he gave them Manna and Quail (i) Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 16:4 (c) so the manna was a provision and a test. (i) would they do what God says and just gather for the day, or would they not trust God’s provision, and try and store it up (d) and when they did that, the outcome was not so good (i) However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. 16:20 (e) God’s astonishing provision was not just a provision. There was a test of their heart involved - would they trust him for provision every day. Which he did - every day until they reached the promised land 1) The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. 16:35 (ii) which is the prayer we so often pray “give us today our daily bread” which is about trusting God that he will continue to give us what we really need, every day. Do we do that? 1) 1st - do we ask God for our needs every day 2) and 2nd, do we thank God for what he does give us a) and maybe he will give us manna instead of quail b) and there’s the test of our heart too c) will we grumble when we don’t get what we need? 3) or will we turn in thankfulness for all the wonderful and gracious things God does give us (iii) but aren’t we just like Israel? As soon as something doesn’t quite work out the way we’d like it to, we wanna go back, we wanna grumble…. (2) in the section Anita read for us (a) But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” 17:3 (3) remember, they were getting meat every night, and manna every morning, bread which was provision in a desert beyond anyone’s wildest dreams (a) and they grumbled again - now what would you do if you were God? (i) he’d provided everything for them. He had saved them, he’d led them, he’d fed them, and he’d provided water for them before. (ii) they failed his test, their hearts kept turning against God 1) what would you do? (b) well, whatever you would do, what God did was provide for them yet again. (i) and in a visual way that reminded them, perhaps might have even made them feel ashamed. 1) The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 17:5–6 (ii) the same staff which he tamed the greatest river in the known world, he provided water for the people. 1) both provision and rebuke. (c) and we are supposed to take note of the name of the place this all happened. (i) And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” 17:7 (d) so remember this We shall return. 3. God’s call to rest a. but there’s another important moment that happens in this story i. and it’s a bit unexpected I think. (1) this is the first time that the Sabbath is mentioned in the Bible (a) He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 16:23 (2) the pattern of six days of work and one of rest had been set up in creation of course, and the pattern of seven days being significant echoes through the pages of Genesis, but this is the first sabbath day that humans are told to observe (a) it’s made into law in ch 20:8 (i) “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 20:8 ii. so for the first time God says - just like I did - on the 7th day - rest. No gathering, no working. Trust me. I will provide (1) while every other day the manna would rot and become maggot infested, on the Friday morning, the manna would last 2 days and so they were to gather twice as much (a) and yet again this was a gift of God! (i) Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 16:29 iii. God has given the sabbath to us! So that we don’t work every day. To remind us that he provides for us. That we don’t need to work every day. (1) Sabbath is not to rule us but to remind us. (a) that’s why Jesus can say (i) The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27 (2) It’s for us, not over us. I do not believe that Sunday is sacrosanct. Nor do I believe Saturday is the Sabbath. (a) the believers in the early church met on the first day of the week, but I would guarantee that they didn’t all get Sunday off. (i) and Paul is clear that there’s no UNIVERSAL sacred sabbath anymore 1) One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Romans 14:5 (b) but we are to rest. And to rest to remember that God provides for us, even when we don’t work (i) Life is more than work. Life is actually resting in God’s provision, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath (c) and the day off is to remind us that we are not self-serving. But God-worshipping beings. (3) and the Sabbath is a theme that echoes out into the rest of the Bible, and for Christians becomes something quite different. 4. God’s representatives a. there is one more moment that I want to particularly draw your attention to i. that is that grumbling against Moses, was grumbling against God. Did you notice that? (1) Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.” 16:8 ii. or again in ch 17 (1) So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?” 17:2 b. So much of Israel depended on Moses, because he was their intermediary with God. i. it was Moses who spoke with God, it was God who worked through Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt (1) to tell the people how their provision came (a) Moses stretches out his staff over the sea and the wind blows and it parts (b) and then he does it again and the seas crash in again (i) Moses is critical in the whole string of events (c) and I take it that’s what’s happening when he has to hold his arms up so that Israel defeats the Amalekites. (i) but even then his weakness and his humanity shows through as it has a number of times in the account (2) but nevertheless, how Israel relates to Moses, is how they relate to God. Fighting with Moses is fighting with God. ii. and over the past couple of weeks as I have read and listened to this passage, far too many times for my liking, the preacher has said something like, so when you don’t do what the eldership team/pastoral team/priest wants, you are disobeying God. (1) just as Israel tested God when they rebelled against their leadership, so you the people are testing God when you rebel against us. iii. let that sink in. Disobey me, you disobey God. Disobey Chris, disobey Lauren… (1) but I want to be extremely clear at this point. Chris, Lauren and I, the wardens, the parish council, do not represent God in any way like Moses does. (a) we are not mediators between God and you, we are fellow-servants. (2) I don’t want you to do anything just because Chris or Lauren or I say it. I want you to do it because the Lord speaks to you through the Scriptures. (a) and it’s when you rebel against the Spirit of Jesus that you are testing God, (i) and Peter is clear that as elders we must not be like that. 1) ...not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 1Peter 5:3 (b) but we are to commit ourselves to listening to Jesus, because he is our mediator, he is our priest, he is our Moses. And Moses looks forward to him as they stand on the edge of the promised land in 40 years time (i) I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. Deuteronomy 18:18–19 (c) It’s Jesus who is our Moses, he is the one who is our great high priest, our only mediator, the one leading us from the captivity of sin to the promised land of eternal life with him in a new heavens and a new earth, (i) and we are all on that journey together. 5. Finding the way through the desert of life a. so how do these three threads come together i. well they come together in the reading from the book of Hebrews that Anita did (1) which quotes Psalm 95 (a) “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, Hebrews 3:7–8 (2) and the writers conclusion is very clear (a) don’t be like them! Don’t turn away from God, keep turning to God (i) and in particular, to the Lord Jesus who is our perfect priest and mediator (b) the one coming like Moses who will speak the very words of God (i) and my question to you is, do you find reading the Bible hard? (3) is it something that hurts as well as heals for you? (a) there is no doubt that God is our healer - that was there in our passage in Ex 15:26 (i) but he also is the one who tests us - who refines us - who is at work doing surgery on us that often hurts, deeply. (4) as we read the scriptures we will be both comforted and at times enraged or hurt or ashamed and if we are not, it’s either that we aren’t reading the Bible, or we’re reading it too shallowly, or we’re reading just the parts we’re comfortable with. (a) Gentle Jesus meek and mild, not the one of the Bible who does pass judgement on people, and does call them to account and does offend people. (5) so the challenge I want to give you is to read the Bible and find the part that hurts, or makes you angry, or ashamed, or sad, and wrestle with that. (a) listen to God in ways that just aren’t like a social media echo chamber and share what you found with someone at church next week ii. but the other place I want to challenge you on is the Sabbath, but perhaps a little unexpectedly. (1) because Sabbath, resting one day in seven, that rhythm built into our world, says that there is something more to life than work, and even something more to life than this world (a) because the sabbath day was the day GOD rested and blessed it and calls us to enjoy with him. (b) what it does it says that beyond this life there is a God who made all this for you, and for him, and he wants you to enjoy eternity with him (i) so if you are a believer here today - heed the call of Heb 4 1) Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. Hebrews 4:11 2) Don’t let the exposure of the South Col of life push you away from God. But trust him with all your heart (c) but if you’re not a believer yet, then God is calling you to a promised land, a land of rest and of perfect fellowship with him. (i) he is offering rescue from the hopelessness of life that you now feel, that you know deep inside. That emptiness that you so desperately want to fill with something, but everything you try to fill it with fails. (ii) God is offering you true fulfilment, you can put the past behind you because he has rescued you, and is offering you a glorious future in perfect relationship with him, if you will just follow him, listen to Jesus. Trust what he says and long for something better that you can, and you will, find in him. Let’s pray
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