God uses deserts to test and refine the people he loves. The Son of God named Israel largely failed the 40-year test in the desert. The true Son of God and true Israel named Jesus was also tested in the desert (for 40 days) and remained faithful and obedient to his Father. Will the people God loves today be like the first Israel, or like the true Israel? How are you travelling in the desert?
Exodus 15 is a psalm which gives voice to Israel’s praise of God’s salvation, wrought in the crossing of the Red Sea and the defeat of Pharaoh’s army. As God’s saved people, the people of Israel were given reason for worship and reason for witness. The greater salvation of Good Friday and Easter gives Christians the same causes, that the world may know.
God specialises in people at the bottom of life’s heap. Through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, God provides a way out of hopelessness and despair. Jesus was thrown out on the rubbish heap as worthless, but the third day demonstrated that he was and is in fact the key to all of history. For a life filled with hope and the promise of glory, you need only come to him.
The Good Friday story with its images of horror reminds us powerfully of two Gospel truths: The spectre of sin, and the extravagance of love. Both are seen in the Cross, and both expressed in this passage from Rom 5 …
The Exodus story is in a sense a template for the whole biblical story of salvation. It’s the story of a father’s love, of a sovereign’s power, and of a people’s trust. God’s redemption makes the impossible possible. Therefore put your trust in him to redeem you.
The Jewish Passover was instituted by God through Moses as an annual observance, to ensure that God’s people could never forget the cost paid to redeem them. The night God visited Egypt in judgement, every Israelite household was spared the just sentence of death, because a lamb was slaughtered in substitution. A millennium and a half later Jesus observed the Jewish Passover with his friends, instituting a new ‘passover’ for a New Covenant. For he was the true and final Lamb of God whose shed blood would once and for all take away the sin of the whole world.
The “plagues of Egypt” as they’re generally titled were a series of mighty acts of God against Pharaoh & Egypt. Mighty acts which speak a consistent message from God to Pharaoh, through Moses’ words & actions as God’s agent. The message they speak is that the Lord God of Israel, and not Pharaoh king of Egypt, is supreme over all the forces of nature and over the land of Egypt itself. That God, not Pharaoh, is in charge. The message however is not only for Pharaoh. It’s also for Israel .. that they might know who’s in charge, and whose plans succeed, and so learn to trust their God. We the church of today are their inheritors, and we too no less must know that he is the Lord.
In a busy culture, and indeed a busy church, what matters most? Jesus gave a clear message on the subject by his deeds and his words. Hearing the word of the Lord matters more than being busy in his service.
God’s best for his people always is his gift of himself that we might worship him forever. Everything else is preparation for that. God’s faithfulness to his promises and to his people is assured. But faithfulness for us means allowing that God’s best comes in God’s time, which is often not our’s.
The Bible does comedy better than most would think. And the interaction between Moses and God after God has called Moses to serve as his agent in rescuing Israel from slavery, would almost do justice to Monty Python. Here is Moses the reluctant, indeed petrified, emissary, trying every argument to get out of such a monumental task. If you’ve felt terrified when God directed you, then know that Moses did too. God however will continue to call and use deficient people, as he has always done, to his glory.