Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sermon for the fourth mid-week Lent service - Ex 6:1-13

                                                                                                Mid-Lent 4
                                                                                                Ex 6:1-13

            As far as Moses was concerned, things had not exactly gone as planned.  Last Wednesday we heard about how God called Moses to be his servant.  Yahweh declared, “"I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
            God told Moses that he and the elders of Israel were to go to Pharaoh and say, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.”  However, Yahweh said that Pharaoh would not allow it.  Instead, he told them, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.”
            God gave Moses signs to perform such as being able to turn his staff into a snake and then back into a staff. Accompanied by his brother Aaron whom God had given to Moses as a spokesman, they went to see the elders of Israel.  We learn that, “Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.”
            Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and delivered Yahweh’s message.  As God had said, Pharaoh didn’t let Israel go. Instead, he made their life harder.  He commanded that no longer was straw to be given to the Israelites for making bricks. The same quota of bricks would still be required, but now the Israelites would have to provide the straw themselves.  Pharaoh made their lives even more difficult.  And when Moses saw this he said to God, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
            God had not said it was going to be easy. In fact, he had told Moses that Pharaoh would only release Israel after he had struck Egypt with wonders. Yet Moses’ confidence was shaken by what had happened.  He wasn’t alone.  In our text we find that when Moses again announces Yahweh’s promise of rescue to the people, they don’t listen because their spirit has been broken by the harsh slavery. So when God commanded Moses to go and tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land, Moses replied, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?”
            This is our experience too.  Jesus Christ said that following him will involve difficulties and hardship.  He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” He said, “In the world you have tribulation. Take heart, I have overcome the world.”
            Yet we act like we are surprised when it actually turns out to be this way.  Jesus Christ and the Scriptures do not receive a fair hearing from many, and instead are rejected and even mocked.  We find ourselves in situations where choices have to be made about how and where we are going to spend our time – at church or at other activities.  We encounter the challenge of speaking the truth of God’s word to family members who have decided instead to live in the ways of the world.  We become discouraged. We doubt. Or we just don’t follow through in living our faith.
            Our doubts and weakness don’t change God’s saving plans and power.  Tonight’s text ends with the words, “But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.”  It ends on a note that reaffirms what has just been said.
            What has been said is in fact a description of what God has done for us. God says, “I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.”  God promised mighty actions that would free Israel from slavery.  He promised redemption. 
            During Lent we prepare to remember and celebrate the fact God had done this for us in Jesus Christ.  The incarnate One, Jesus, is the outstretched arm of God that has redeemed you. Jesus Christ has freed you.  He has purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold and silver, but with his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.
            God tells Moses that he is going to act, and that this will make all the difference in the world.  He says, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”  Because of Jesus, God has taken you to be his people.  He did this in Holy Baptism as you shared in Jesus Christ’s saving death.  The triune God gave you a new status as he put his name upon you.  Because of this, you know that the creator of the heavens and the earth is your God.
            In our text, Yahweh makes a very specific promise.  It is in fact the repetition of an earlier promise.  He says, “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.”
            God had promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants.  Now God was redeeming Israel from slavery in order to accomplish this.  In his timing, the children of Israel – of Jacob – had become a nation.  Now, God was going to give them the land.  He was going to give them a good land – a land flowing with milk and honey. This would take time.  He would bring them out of Egypt.  He would enter into a covenant with the nation at Mt. Sinai.  And then they were to be engaged in the process of taking this land with God’s help.
            Like your spiritual forefathers of Israel, God has promised to give you the land.  He has promised to give you this landthis creation.  Jesus Christ died on the cross. But on the third he was raised from the dead.  His resurrection is the first fruits of your resurrection.  Because Jesus was raised from the dead, your body will also be raised and transformed so that it can never die again.
            But here’s the thing about human bodies. They were created to live in this world. That is what God said is “very good.”  And so Jesus’ resurrection also points forward to the new creation – the renewal of this world so that it too is “very good” and no longer wears the effects of sin.
            Sin, death and decay will be a thing of the past.  Instead life will be what God intended it to be.  The beginning of the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God plants a garden – the Garden of Eden – to be the home for the man and woman he has created in his own image.
            God’s Word ends in the same way because the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ lead to his return on the Last Day. They lead to the day when the Lord will transform our bodies to be like his and he will renew this creation as the place where we will live. This was God’s intention in the beginning.  This is God’s intention for the end – the new beginning.  As John tells us in the last chapter of the Bible, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”

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