Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"let My people go!" or "let go!"

Eleven times in the book of Exodus, God says "Let My people go!" to the Pharaoh who stubbornly and repeatedly refused to give up the children of Israel. After ten devastating plagues, which were each a direct attack on the various deities of Egyptian pantheon, the Egyptians finally let Israel go.

The book of Exodus recounts the story of a God who sets out to call unto Himself a nation. It is a type and shadow of the salvation we receive through Jesus Christ. Just like the Israelites, we are called forth and delivered from our oppressor, Satan, and from his deadly grip on our souls and lives. Just as the Passover lamb was sacrificed prior to the exodus of the Israelites, Jesus, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for our salvation.

God's deliverance is two-fold: In Exodus 6:6-7, God promises to bring out and free His people, but also makes a covenant with them to make them His own and bring them to a land they will possess.

That is the "Let My people go!" part. Salvation is the work of God, not of man. It is a gift, not to be worked for, but received. It is God who saves.

But Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12 to "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling."

Being saved is not the end; it is the beginning.

Once we are saved, we must live in accordance with the faith we professed, and that is the "working out" part; that is, the "letting go" part.

God tells our enemy, Satan, "Let My people!" but He tells us to "Let go!"

As a teaching pastor said, "It took 40 hours to get Israel out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel."

We see in the life of the Israelites in the desert that their progression toward apostasy caused the first generation to altogether be forbidden to enter the Land of Promise, to die in the desert in their wanderings for 40 years.

It is a progression from Unbelief, to Forgetfulness and finally to Blatant Disobedience and Deception.

God drives the children of Israel to the Red Sea with the Pharaoh's angry army in pursuit in Exodus 14. Israelites begin to cry out to God and panic:

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" (Exodus 14:10-12)

Despite amazing miracles (plagues) the Israelites witnessed as God struck their enslavers, the Israelites did not believe or trust in God who had delivered them thus far.

Unbelief marks the first progression toward apostasy in any believer; failing to trust God's faithfulness and might, the same God who had already demonstrated his power and love in delivering us from sin and death.

Second step in progression toward apostasy is Forgetfulness. In Exodus 14, God does deliver them by parting the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to walk across the sea in dry seabed and drowning the Egyptian army who came in pursuit.

Chapter 15 records the song Moses taught the Israelites in glorifying the God who delivered them. But only three days later, in Exodus 15:22-25, when the Israelites come face to face with a trial - lack of drinking water at Marah, they grumble against Moses and God. They have already forgotten God's might and power.

Forgetful heart is never thankful. And it is a sure way to draw farther away from the heart of the Father and closer to apostasy.

Finally, the last step toward apostasy is Blatant Disobedience. In Exodus 32, while Moses is up on the mountain receiving God's laws during 40 days of fasting, the children of Israel commit a heinous crime of idol worship.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."

Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. (Exodus 32:1-6)

What is most astonishing from the above passage is that the Israelites were indulging in sinful outright rebellious revelry in the name of the Lord!

How is it possible?

They were calling this a "festival to the Lord." It shows the absolute depravity and deception among these children of Israel.

But Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11:

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.(emphasis mine)

In other words, to put it bluntly, the Israelites weren't some mad people we can cluck our tongues at. Our own spiritual walk is typified by the Israelites. When we are honest with ourselves, we are not so different from the Israelites, and just like them, we can also be denied entrance to our Promised Land if we continue down the road toward apostasy, blinded by our unbelief, living a life of ingratitude and forgetfulness of the faithfulness of God, and attempting to live for God while loving the world.

We are not all that different from the children of Israel from thousands of years ago.

The only major difference is that now we have the Holy Spirit who is our Personal Guide and Helper. We do not look forward to hearing from a mediator like Moses or some priesthood. We have the Spirit of the Living God who sits upon the throne of our hearts, directing our paths, teaching our hearts and minds to live a life worthy of His Kingdom.

The Law of God is no longer written on stone tablets, but in our hearts by His Spirit that resides in us as God promised through prophets of old.

God still speaks to us today: "Let go!" Let go of your ambitions, your pride, your own hopes for future, your dreams, your love for the temporary things of this world.

And He promises to give us something far more precious, something that transcends any and all pleasure or satisfaction this fallen world could ever offer - He gives us Himself.

Will you let go?

--from Sunday October 8 10:00AM EM Worship Service

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