Allen Jackson - An Exodus Experience - Part 1
We're working on a little series, "Time To Lead". Folks, we have a leadership deficit in our nation, and I don't want you to think about the places where we lack them, I think it's more evident in the church than any place else. Most of us have some leadership skills, you use them in the business community, you use them in your neighborhood, you use them in the schools, you use them on the sports fields, with your children, with their peer groups, you lead in many ways, but when it comes to our faith, we are far more reluctant.
And so we looked at the lessons from the Exodus. The Exodus is the label we used to describe the deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage, they've been there for hundreds of years, without independence, without freedom of choice, and God sent someone in out of the desert, you know him, Moses, to initiate that Exodus, that deliverance. And in this session, I wanna talk in a little more broad terms about that whole Exodus experience, not just that event, but what that event represents to you and to me as an experience. Then I'll step back for just a moment in case you didn't, it's a time of dramatic change. Revolutionary change. All the familiar patterns and routines of their lives are going to be left behind, their favorite foods are gonna be left behind, their habits are gonna be left behind, the routines that their children had are gonna be left behind, all they did invested in establishing lives and patterns and habits were gonna be left behind and they're gonna be asked to do new things.
Now we could say from our vantage point that they were better things and good things and more freedom, but it was still an enormous amount of change. And I quit making fun of them because we're walking through a season of unprecedented changes. And while I can point to many things that are good and positive, we've baptized more people in the last few months than any season in the history of the church. We're ministering to more people, we're seeing new outcomes, we're serving more children. I can point to all sorts of good things that are happening, but it still doesn't feel easy.
And some days you think, you know, do we have to change something else? And the answer is we don't have to, but we get to, and then that Exodus generation, they just had a tremendous amount of change. They were up close and personal with God's power and so are you. I mean, they had pillars of cloud and pillars of fire and the seas were parting and food and all sorts of things but, they told us 2 million of us would very likely die, and we didn't. We have seen expression after expression of the power of God. They had front row seats to be participants in God's plan and purpose, but so do we.
What's key in the narrative that we read in the scripture was their response to that. The outcomes of their lives ultimately depended not upon God and his willingness, but upon their responses and I would submit to you that the key in our generation isn't about the power of God or his willingness or his interest or what he intends to do, it's about our response. So there's just some big rock ideas I'm gonna tag them quickly, you can listen to last night message and get a bit more of the background. If you wanna read ahead of the story, you're in Genesis, you'll need, we're gonna go through Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and then I'm gonna tag on Joshua because Joshua was the next generation leader that really brings to completion what started back in the brick pits of Egypt.
One generation wasn't able to close that deal. So those are the books in the Bible where you'll find the majority of the story and they're all really talking about the same story, slightly different perspectives, maybe a little bit of a different messaging, a different part of the story, but you need the story from all of those places to get the big picture. And as you read through those books, you're gonna find a very diverse cast of characters. You're gonna meet some people who are exceptional leaders, the greatest example of leadership in the Bible until we get to Jesus is Moses, just a remarkable leader. I mean, Joshua was not like chopped liver.
So you're gonna meet some wonderful leaders, you're gonna meet a whole host of grumblers. They got a whole class of complainers. I mean, a whole segment of the people and the earth will open up and swallow a few thousand of them one day and the next day, there's a whole new line in the complaint line. I mean, there, some of them were persistent grumblers. You'll meet leaders, and you'll meet grumblers, you'll meet rebels, you'll meet adversaries to the purposes of God. You'll meet God's allies, people that will cooperate with him. You'll meet those who are willing to be learners, you'll meet those who fail and repent and God restores. You'll meet those who fail and refuse to repent, and they come under judgment. The plot line is not overly complex, but it is very dramatic, it's a story born in adversity and I want you to hold that, because I think we imagine that if there's adversity in our lives, God is far from us and his purposes are far from us, but this Exodus narrative is rooted in the fact that God's story emerges from adversity.
Can you hold that and in the disappointments of your life or the failures of your life or the place where injustice or even evil has touched your life, that the purposes of God could break forth? Are you willing to unhook your self-image from your failures or from the places where evil has touched you and allow the grace of God and the Spirit of God to write a new future for you? It's a very important question. The plot line is grounded in the power and the faithfulness of God. It's important to know. God's not a theoretical concept that we gather in polite study societies to learn about. He's Almighty God, an omnipotent God, an all-powerful God and he will rock the world around you if you'll follow him. The plot line is crowded with the inconsistency of our hearts.
As you read through Genesis and Exodus and Leviticus in those books, you'll think these people were not paying attention, but if somebody watched the video of our lives on fast forward, they would be certain we hadn't been paying very close attention either I'm afraid. And then the plot line is also gonna include the conflict that's involved in experiencing God's best. And I need to acknowledge that, that if you want God's best in your life, you're gonna have to overcome. You'll have to overcome your carnal self, you'll have to overcome the attacks of an enemy. You'll have to overcome living in a sin filled world. It's not an easy journey. It's a wonderful journey, it's a wonders journey, it's an amazing journey, but it would be misleading to say it was simple or easy or unchallenged.
They're gonna move from the brick pits of Egypt from decades and decades and hundreds of years of enslavement, to the freedom and autonomy of occupying a land that God promised was theirs forever. In fact, you can turn on the evening news and see the fulfillment of that promise today, but it wasn't easy. And the emerging purposes of God in your life should not be imagined to be easy. There'll be days that're wonderful. They'll be triumphant, they'll be celebratory and there'll be days when you'll be required to persevere and endure and overcome.
Exodus chapter 6 and verse 6 is God stating his case. It's not the first nor the only time he states it but it is a very clear statement. This is the words God gives to Moses to give to the Hebrew slaves, they're still in Egypt. "Say to the Israelites, I'm the Lord. I will bring you out". He's gonna make seven statements of what God said he will do. He's not considering anybody else's engagement, he said, I will do these seven things.
See if you can hear him as I read it, "I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I'll take you as my own people. I will be your God. Then you will know that I'm the Lord your God who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians and I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I'm the Lord". Did you get them seven things? God said, I'll bring you out, I'll free you, I'll redeem you, I'll take you as my own people, imagine that. The creator of heaven and earth said, I'm gonna take you as my own people.
Imagine if he said that to those people on this campus today. You are gonna be my own people. I mean, I know there's other ones, but you are my own. As a matter of fact, he has said that to you. Through faith in Jesus we are grafted into that covenant he made with Abraham. God's own people. He said, I will be your God. Personal connection, personal responsibility, covenant, bound by contract. The most stringent form of commitment that's presented in all of the scripture is a covenant, and God said, I will make a covenant with you. I will be your God. So we have seminars, do we believe in God? Don't you know the angels shake their heads? I will be your God, he said. I will bring you to the land I swore to give to Abraham. I swore to give it to Abraham. He said, I will bring you into that land, then he makes one more statement, he said, I will give it to you.
And that's really the point of this little series on leadership. I want you to imagine that God wants to use the influence of your life for his purposes. I don't want you just to know what he did with Abraham or Moses or Joshua or Caleb or somebody else. I want you to know that God has a purpose and a plan for your life and he's waiting for you and me to say to him, I'm all in. We've looked for so many reasons. We'll use historical social customs to go, well, the Bible doesn't really mean what it says. I'm amazed, we're more than willing to talk about social customs and cultures from the past as we interpret our Bible, but we don't wanna talk about social customs and cultures of the present as we read our Bibles.
That's another lesson. Very next verse, it's same chapter Exodus 6 verse 9. Moses reported this to the Israelites. Moses told the Israelites what God said, but they didn't listen to him. They didn't listen to Moses because of their discouragement and their cruel bondage. Discouragement is more than a casual problem. Discouragement can cause you to miss the invitations of God. To be discouraged isn't to be blue or to be despondent or to not be enthusiastic. Fundamentally to be discouraged is to be without courage. That little prefix dis means without. So the discouragement is to be without the courage you need to face the challenges of the moment or the day, and we'll have to stay close enough to the Lord, we need encouraged. Encouragement is not trivial, it's not insincere.
If you don't practice the encouragement of others, you are forfeiting a ministry that has been entrusted to you because the scripture says in the New Testament to encourage one another daily. Why should God give you an expansion of your influence if you're not willing to encourage the people who are around you? If you spend your time mad at them, agitated with them, annoyed by them, more aware of what they're not, then how you can encourage them, you're stuck. We wanna become world class encouragers.
Now the book of Exodus concludes, they've made it out of Egypt, they've made it through the Red Sea, they've made it to Mount Sinai, they've gotten all the rules for community. They've got the big 10, all the thou shalts and thou shalt nots. Moses is on the mountain for 40 days and while he's gone, they have a little detour. Golden calf, pagan revelry, orgies. They almost forfeit the whole thing. They manage to right the ship. Moses is given a vision on Mount Sinai of the tabernacle, a place to worship. You see, they didn't know how to worship. They've been Hebrew slaves in Egypt. They know Egyptian gods, Egyptian religions, Egyptian holidays, Egyptian patterns. They've never been an independent people, they've never been an autonomous nation, they went into Egypt as a family. And now they're this mixed multitude and God said, I will reveal my character to you.
We'll talk about holiness and purity and cleanliness of spirit and cleanliness of person. How you care for your temple as a part of your worship, it does matter to God. So God begins to put all those community rules in place and the book of Exodus concludes the tabernacle has been constructed, it's been put together. God said, I will lead you with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, you can travel by day or night. I'll protect you from your enemies. They've already had a little skirmish and they've come out on top.
So Exodus concludes and says, all right, let's break camp, here we go. It's less than a two day walk to the promised land, let's go. We had a little pause here where we put some social rules in place and we began to learn about the character of the God who is your God, and you understand what it means to be his people, let's go, let's go. It's about, it's not even a two week walk. Let's move. Now some of you know the story well enough to know the tragedy of it, it'll be 40 years before they get there.
In fact, the next big rock lesson we will learn is that there's a far more powerful force confronting God's people than the threats of Pharaoh or his chariots or his armies. Look at Numbers Chapter 13. They get to the borders of the promised land and they send spies in to check it out. Is it really a good place? When they came back and "We saw the Nephilim," the giants. "We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them". They looked really big to us and they told us we looked really small to them. "That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, 'If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?' And they said to each other, 'We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.'"
Did you identify it? What's that force that's more powerful than Pharaoh's armies? What's more daunting than the Red Sea? It's their own unbelief. They're eating manna every day that God provides for them. Hundreds of thousands of people in the wilderness and none of them have a Costco membership. It's the ultimate supply chain interruption. There's no food available to them, there's no water available to them, there's no healthcare available to them and yet there's no sick people amongst them and they're eating well and there has been water in the wilderness. God has provided for even their clothes didn't wear out. And they get to the border and God said, that's your land, that's what I gave you. The reason we left Egypt was to enter that place, go check it out.
Now it was occupied by these Canaanite cities that were well fortified, but they weren't as well fortified as the Egyptians. Not nearly as intimidating, not nearly as opposing, but when they went and looked, they said, we can't do that. We cannot do that. I would rather go back to Egypt than face that challenge. Not us, not us. They were unwilling to bear any more discomfort. They said, it's too difficult, it's just too difficult. They refused the lessons of deliverance. You see all the plagues and the Red Sea and the water at Marah that was bitter and the water from the rock and the manna and all the lessons they've been learning were preparatory experiences so they'd be prepared to occupy their inheritance. And they said, no, we don't wanna do that. Has nothing to do with God's willingness.
It's not about God's power or God's ability or God's interest or the commitment God's made, it has everything to do about with the choices of their heart. I have a question for you and it's a little personal. Do you imagine that our choices have any bearing on what God would do in this generation? Or if we stepped back and go, no, no, no. I was born again, I've been baptized and I've gone to church with some regularity, this is not on me. Well folks, they're the covenant people of God. They were delivered from the brick pits of Egypt. They came through the Red Sea. They're eating manna, they got manna stuck in their teeth, the supernatural provision of God. They've been gargling with water from a rock that God provided.
Their leader spends so much time in the presence of the Lord, his face glows. I mean, they're pretty well equipped. They're following a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, they have a newly constructed tabernacle, a newly formed priesthood, a whole new set of regulations to interact with God. They are front and center with what it means to be the people of God and they go wait a minute. No, I don't think so. See, I think this Exodus experience is far more relevant to us. How many times have we said in the last two years, well, I wish we could just go back to where we were. I missed my routine. I missed my schedule the way it was. I sure liked it better the way we used to do things.
Now, I mean, we lost 60 million children 'cause we didn't care enough to stand up for them and we took Jesus out of our schools and prayer out of our schools and the 10 commandments out of our schools and we redefined marriage, but sure was a good place where we were living. And God began to move us. Began to change our hearts and realign our lives. We were certain the devil was doing it. I mean, we were certain, all this disruption had to be the result of evil and there's certainly evil involved and there's certainly displays of wickedness and ungodliness in unprecedented ways but through it all, I believe God is moving. Now some of you prefer the New Testament.
So I brought you a passage from the New Testament, Hebrews chapter 3 is the New Testament commentary on what I just read to you from the book of Numbers, the Holy Spirit says, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your father's tested and tried me for forty years and saw what I did. That's why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.' See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We've come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first".
I'm really grateful for the beginning you have in the Lord. I'm grateful for the new birth, conversion, salvation. I'm grateful for the step of obedience and baptism. I'm grateful that you have read through your Bible once, but we have to continue that journey. We have to finish the course. "We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly to the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.' Who were they who heard and rebelled"? It's an important question. Who is this that we just read about? And the author of Hebrews fills in some of the blanks, "Weren't they all those Moses led out of Egypt"?
Weren't these the people who were slaves and their parents were slaves and their grandparents were slaves and their parents before them were slaves? They don't remember autonomy. They don't remember self direction. There's no pictures of that. And Moses led them out. "And with whom was God angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief," not their fear. You can do courageous things while you're dealing with your fear. The presence of fear doesn't disqualify you, sometimes the presence of fear means you're alive. It was their unbelief that's stopping them.
God was so frustrated with them. He said, all right, I heard you and I will do what you said. You don't go into that land, you will not enter that inheritance. I will lead you, I will feed you, I will provide you, I will keep my end of the bargain, but you don't wanna enter the promised land, you don't wanna pay the toll, you don't wanna trust me, you don't wanna have the experiences, let's just walk in a circle. And for 40 years, they had a two week journey, they could have crossed the river and started with Jericho, and they said no. Folks, it's time to lead. It's time to say to the Lord, where have you given me influence? To whom does my opinion matter? Am I using my voice? Am I standing up for you? Am I an advocate on your behalf?
That entire generation, except two people, Joshua and Caleb, they all perished in the wilderness. Oh, they ate manna and quail, they drank water that God provided, he kept them healthy, but an entire generation perished. So we have a whole new generation, that's another day we'll get to that. A whole new generation has to be read in on the rules. They have to be given the same opportunity. They come right back to that same Jordan river, this time with Joshua at the helm, and Joshua says, consecrate yourself, get yourselves ready because we're gonna cross the river. I'm not really here to talk about preceding generations, I'm here for you and me to say to the Lord we're in. I don't wanna moan and groan and complain about what we left.
Father, I thank you that you love us. I thank you that you, that in your great mercy and compassion, you have made a way for us to be at peace with the Creator of all things. That you're not angry with us, that you are not resentful of us, that you have welcomed us into your kingdom and made peace with us through Jesus Christ. I thank you for that today. Nothing's hidden from you, no part of our past, no thought within us and yet you love us. May that love grow in us every day and bring a boldness and a courage within us to face the challenges before us, in Jesus's name, amen.