Studies in the Book of Genesis chapter-by-chapter that explain how the world was created and God’s original purpose for our relationship with him – and how it all went wrong when Adam and Eve decided they didn’t need His guidance – they’d manage their own lives in their own way. Sound familiar? But a loving God didn’t give up on them — and this narrative from the Old Testament has refreshing insights on how to walk by faith today.
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Exodus 3 - EXODUS
Exodus 3Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillWe’ve studying loved ones the book of Exodus and the reason we are studying it is so that we ourselves will be able to live by faith – by the faith that God wants for us in our everyday life. You remember the context of Exodus 3 that we are looking at today. It is the context of the Israelites being enslaved in Egypt for about 430 years. In that situation they in fact did not deteriorate but instead went from about 70 people to about 3 million people when they eventually came out of Egypt into the wilderness.And it was in that situation that God called Moses to deliver them. What we are trying to see is what we can learn ourselves about God’s purpose for our lives and his call upon us. You remember the basis of God’s call in Exodus 3:7. “Then the LORD said, ‘I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings.”We said last Sunday that it doesn’t matter how much you feel sorry for the people that you visit in the stores or how much you feel moved by the dreadful things that go on in our society, God can’t work through your human sympathy or through mine. That’s because we’re always looking at people from the effect of a drunken father on the children. Our human sympathy is always drawn out in a humanistic way as to what the children are suffering or to what the wife is suffering or to what the husband is suffering.That isn’t the most dreadful thing about the situation at all. The most terrible thing is that they are afflicting unbelievable torture upon Jesus, God’s own son, and also upon God’s own heart. That’s the reality of it and everything else is incidental. You often see ones who did have drunken fathers or mother’s years later and find that they have recovered remarkably well.So many things that we think are deeply important in human predicaments are actually very temporary. The only thing that finally remains is the hurt on God’s heart if that continues to be their attitude. And so anything that we do has only value and is only real and is only worthwhile and only effective if it rises up not from our human sympathy or pity for people or our sorrow for people but if it rises up from God’s own heart.In other words it’s only God’s passion and compassion if it comes from him into our hearts. He can’t use my sympathy for Dan or Dan’s sympathy for me. He can’t use that because it is all finally selfish. It’s always connected with, “I’m glad it’s not me.” Or, “I hope I never get into that situation.” Or, “He’s my friend and I’m sorry for them because of that.” But the only compassion that really works, whether it’s China or Africa or India is if it is Jesus’ heart of love for the people coming out of our hearts. And that’s why we looked at Philippians 3:10. It’s one of the big differences between humanists doing good and Christian love. Do gooding” is based on outward human needs and comes from human sympathy and love. And it’s really love of one fallen child for another fallen child. But God’s love comes from his own heart.Philippians 3:10: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” And it’s only when we are in Jesus ourselves and when our whole world is bound by Jesus and unlimited by Jesus — I know it sounds so boring but Paul said it. “I determined to know nothing amongst you except Christ and him crucified.” And you think that’s bonkers. But that is right. That’s the whole of reality. When our own hearts are bound byJesus and soaked in Jesus and saturated with Jesus then is love is able to come out and achieve through us what God wants to achieve. I don’t want to drag the thing on but it’s so important to see that in this world all kinds of people are running around doing God’s work. And they’ve never consulted God. They’ve haven’t a notion how God feels about things. They are just doing what they think is inside the purpose of God. But the only thing that really matters is when God himself is able to give us his heart so that he feels with his heart through us.It just reminds me of Trollop in one of his novels. He has a daughter saying to her mother, who doesn’t want her to marry this man, “Mother, if you can see with my eyes and hear with my ears and feel with my heart then you can judge with my judgment.” And she also means by that not only would her mother judge with her judgment but she will be able to judge with her mother’s judgment. It’s the same for us. If we can see with Jesus’ eyes and hear with Jesus’ ears and feel with Jesus’ heart then we will be able to judge with his judgment. We’ll be able to see things as they really are.It’s only in the context of reality that God can use us in our lives. So that’s the important of that. The basis of God’s call is not our compassion but his own compassion. And that’s why he put Moses on the back of the dessert mountain for 40 years to bring him to that place where he no longer acted out of his own human sympathy. You remember he did that in Exodus 2:11.Exodus 2:11– One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together; and he said to the man that did the wrong, “Why do you strike your fellow?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid.And so human sympathy brings you nowhere and does not enable God to act. So that’s where we left it last time. It says next in Exodus 3:8, “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, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” And you remember it says, “I have come to deliver them.” Only God can deliver people. You can’t. Then Exodus 3:9 is important. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.” That’s important because that took place back in Exodus 2:23. “In the course of those many days the king of Egypt died. And the people of Israel groaned under their bondage, and cried out for help, and their cry under bondage came up to God.” As far as they were concerned nothing had happened. They were still in slavery, miserable and nothing had changed. But God had heard. In Exodus 3:9 — “And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.”God knew even back when they were in bondage and felt nothing was happening. In fact God knew back in Exodus 1:11. “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens; and they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses.” Back then God knew. He knew back in verse 13. “So they made the people of Israel serve with rigor, and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field; in all their work they made them serve with rigor.” God heard up in Heaven their cries.I think we are all the same. How long Lord? How long will I have to go through this? How long will it be like this? And all the time God knows all about it and has already planned for our deliverance. Even in the midst of our miserable and unhappy situations, God has already made plans.I don’t know if you all remember but there were some wild newspapers that came out in the midst of the Jesus days the early 70’s. But I remember very well one that had an excellent picture. It was a picture done by a famous painter I think. It showed a quiet English countryside and it showed all the people going about their business and then it showed Heaven up above and Hell. There was a huge battle going on and Jesus was fighting on behalf of all the people down here. They didn’t know anything about the fact that up above Jesus was fighting for them against the powers of the enemy. It’s the same with us.Down here where everything seems just normal and God doesn’t seem to be working, up above he’s working on our behalf and everything is being laid out for us. So it’s so good to know that in the midst of your situation God has already seen it and begun to work. The forces are in place to deliver you and move you onto the next step.We are people who live in two worlds. We live with our feet on this earth but we live with our heart in God’s hands up in Heaven. That’s how so many of the old saints and servants were able to suffer so much because they all the time were living in Heaven confident and saying, “Father I know that you have already delivered me.”There is so much to say. But when everything was black in Egypt that is when God said, “I have heard…” God’s already heard your cry and he knows. And so in verse 10 he says to Moses. “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” ?But Moses said to God, (and it’s the cry that thousands of us have echoed) “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”And that’s a great stage to come to. It was so different from back there in Exodus 2:11. “One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. “He looked this way and that …..” And that was Moses able himself to do it. He’s grown up and totally able to do it. And in that condition God can’t use any man or woman. If you think you are able for it then God can’t use you. It’s only after 40 years in the wilderness, looking after sheep that Moses was finally able to say, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?”I know there are several of us here who have said, “Who am I?” That’s exactly the qualification needed for God to use you – when you feel that you can’t do it. You’re right that you can’t do it. It’s not so much that you can’t sing or speak or write. All those things are unimportant. The thing is that you can’t deliver people. You can’t deliver people from bondage. You can’t by your clearest explanation convince that lady in the store that Jesus is real. You can’t do that. It’s impossible. Only God can do that. That’s why when Moses expressed his own inadequacy; he was talking for all the rest of us that have inadequacies. I do think that it’s important to see that the article you wrote is a good one. And your singing is also good. So you can do those human things. It’s not inadequacy about those human things. Those are incidental. You shouldn’t even think about those. But the important thing to see is that your article can’t touch one heart. Only God can convince a heart. And your song cannottouch one heart.It’s not a matter of raising your article or your song to the level where it can achieve something. It’s not that that achieves anything. In a way you could be tossing dice and if your heart was right with Jesus he could use your heart to deliver people. So it’s there that you are inadequate. You’re not able to deliver people or help them. And when you are aware of that then God is able to use you.You said it in regard to your selling. In a way you feel helpless. All you can do is get yourself into the store and get your presentation made. So you get yourself in there and make your presentation and low and behold some other power seems to move the people. And that’s what it is. It’s absolute consciousness of your own inability to change people spiritually. And that’s what Moses experienced.Then God assures Moses and us in Exodus 3:12. He said, “But I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain.” I used to wish that I had lived in the time of Moses when you could get a sign like a rainbow. I felt if I had that I could blast ahead. I did have some conviction about that wish because I knew we were to walk by faith and not by sight. I thought maybe Moses had a bit of an advantage because he was allowed to walk by sight. But then when you read this, “when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt…” you realize that God wasn’t going to give any signs until AFTER he has brought them out of Egypt – not BEFORE. It’s a sign that would come after the event that Moses would serve God upon this mountain.Exodus 24:4-5—“And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. ? And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD.” And that’s when he and the people served God on that mountain that he discovered in the days when nobody knew about him. But it was a sign to him after the actual event. In actual fact he was required to walk by faith in the present situation. So that was the call. Maybe it would be good to look at God’s part and man’s part. Exodus 3:13 –“Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” It’s really important for you to see that it wasn’t a big deal whether he called God, Baal or Jehovah or Elohim or black and white… that’s not the purpose of the name. When they talk about a name in the Bible it’s always referring to the nature behind the name. And so Moses is saying what kind of person will I describe you to be? What kind of person are you?What this teaches you and me is that what people want to know is God’s nature. They want to know what he is like and to do that you must know what he is like. You must know him yourself. I still remember the pneumonic I learned at age 21 before I went into the ministry. It’s H-A-R-L —Holiness, Almighty, Righteousness, and Love. That’s God’s nature. So theologically it’s easy to describe God’s nature. But that’s not what this means. It doesn’t mean that you’ve to know HARL. It doesn’t mean that you’ve got to describe God’s nature to people intellectually and mentally. It means you’ve got to know God. You’ve to know his holiness yourself because of your own dealings with him. You’ve to know his almightiness yourself by personalexperience because of your dealings with him. You’ve to know his righteousness yourself because that will all come through your nature.The store owner isn’t going to come up to you and ask what God is like so you can answer: well, He’s holy, he’s almighty, and he’s righteous …. No! They have to touch God in you. Do you remember the old saint that went into a room with someone and that person said to him, “Your life rebukes me.” And that’s what it means. To go to people to fulfill God’s purpose means his nature has to be your nature. You need to know God in the quietness of your own heart. That’s why Moses spent 40 years in the dessert. I don’t know how much time you spend alone with God but probably until we do a lot of that we don’t know God and his nature does not become ours. It seems that it’s those long hours spent with God, sometimes in states of predicament in your own life; it’s then when God’s own nature becomes your nature. You come before people and they know God is in you. They can see God, they can touch his nature and they know what he’s like. School teachers often say children don’t do what you say but they do what you do. They don’t listen to your word but they listen to your character. Children can read us better than the adults who have learned to play the game with each other. But children can read your nature. They actually know your nature. That’s why children can see through parents faster than anybody else. They know what really makes the parent tick. They don’t listen to the outward show. In schools we always knew that anybody but a flawless character would be spotted by the kids right away. Those classes would be chaos because they knew they could push the teacher and he wouldn’t react against them. They knew they could push him over the cliff and he still wouldn’t say anything.It seems that what people do in the things that matter. They know your character when they come into the store. They can see the kind of person you are and can receive God from you according to the depth or shallowness of your character. That’s what all this altercation is about with knowing God’s name. It was “what is your nature like? What is your character?” It’s really because Moses saw this in his dealings with God that he was able to know this.And so God says what his character is. Exodus 3:14. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” The footnote says, “For I am what I am or I will be what I will be.” And in a way it could be the present tense or the future tense but what it means is I am continually. I am what I am now and I will be what I will be. I am self-existent and I am continuously the same. And I am forever. And there is in me no time and no passage of time. I am the same all the time. That’s what gave the word Jehovah. God was saying, “I am here all the time. I see everything in one great eternal moment and I am continually in one situation and in one state. I am perpetual peace and perpetual rest right now and always.” In other words God sees everything in one moment. If we could ever grasp that it would bring us great peace. It takes revelation from God to bring it home to our heart but it would save us from all worry and anxiety because it’s the heart of our faith in God. John 8:56 – This is Jesus speaking — Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” It makes no sense apart from “I AM what I AM”. Abraham lived almost two thousand years before Jesus. How could Abraham see it? Even the Jews saw that. John 8:57 –The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”Jesus said to them in the next verse, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Mymind just reels at that. It’s even ungrammatical. And that’s it. It makes fun of all tenses. There are no tenses in God. There is just one great present, eternal moment. Jesus is when Abraham was. Jesus was right there all the time. Now you know the importance to us in Psalm 139. If God is at all times, if he is absolutely eternal and that is final reality and there is no such thing as time – present and future and past – then it makes possible what we read in Psalm 139:13-16.“For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”That’s what God being “I AM” means. He saw all our life before it was yet lived. And he loves us and he knows all that’s happening to us now. But he knows what is going to happen to us next week. He knows what’s going to happen to us at the moment of our death and God is at peace so why should we worry? Why should we have a moment of worry? If God our Father loves us so much that he gave us his son Jesus, if he knows all that is going to happen to us and he’s at peace then we shouldn’t have a moment’s worry or hesitation about our future.And it’s that foreverness that comes home to people in your life – that sense of eternity that comes home to people. People know whether your part of the flotsam and jetsam of this world, whether you are part of the worry and anxiety or part of the change of the uncertainty or part of the terrible fear of this world or whether your stable, steady and like a rock. And that’s what loved ones feel from you. Only when you know your father like that will you sense that.It takes away from you all flutter when you reach Friday with $400 in sales. It takes away all flutter from you when the bank fails. It takes away all flutter from you when you get a flat tire. It takes away all flutter in the heart when someone takes an attitude to you that you didn’t expect. It takes away from you all flutter when you reach Friday with $400 in sales. It takes away all flutter from you when the bank fails. It takes away all flutter from you when you get a flat tire. It takes away all flutter in the heart when someone takes an attitude to you that you didn’t expect.It takes away all that uncertainty and weakness and dreadful fiddler on a roof life. And that’s why it’s vital to know God yourself and to know him in your own heart so that he can in fact declare his nature. I’ll just go very quickly so that we can finish the chapter.Exodus 3:15-18—God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt; and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”And here’s the glorious thing. When you begin to do what God tells you to do which is pretty much become like him, let his nature dwell in you so that others can see it, — when you do that, all youhave to do is go through the door of the store and God does everything else. And here it is in verse 18. “And they will hearken to your voice….” God will give them ears. “And they will hearken to your voice. I just saw the importance of that when Irene was reading the lesson.Isaiah 6:9-11 — And he said, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Hear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” In other words it’s God that looks down upon people and sees where their will is really going and then in the light of that makes their ears heavy so that they cannot hear. And it’s God also that enables people to hear. “And they will hearken to your voice…” God gives ears to store owners.Exodus 3:18-20 — “And they will hearken to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, we pray you, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all the wonders which I will do in it; after that he will let you go.”God will motivate people. If you are thinking how will I make them hear and how will I explain? That’s not your business. God will enable them to hear. God will motive them. All you’ve to do is become like God and let his nature dwell in you. It goes even further in Exodus 3: 21a – “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.” He’ll take care of your reputation. He’ll establish your position of respect in the eyes and ears of the people who are listening to you.Exodus 3:21b – 22 —“and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and of her who sojourns in her house, jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters; thus you shall despoil the Egyptians.”God will provide prosperity for you. So whatever God calls you to do he will make people hear, he will motivate people, he will give you favor in their sight and provide for whatever you need. And all we have to do is obey God’s call. But most of all during whatever 40 years he gives us get to know God. Do you know God or do you know about God?Remember how Paul said it in Philippians 3:10. There is only one way. We hate to think of it but there is only one way. “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection…” And how did he come to that? It’s in Philippians 3:7-11—“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”There’s only one way to know Jesus and that is to go through whatever suffering and whatever deprivation he asks you to. Then you know him in your heart. Let us pray.
Exodus 7 - EXODUS
Exodus 7Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillWe’ve reached Exodus 7 so will you take your Bibles and turn to that chapter. See first of all the end of Exodus 6:28, “On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.’”Now in fact, it might be good to remind you that Moses and Aaron had already spoken to Pharaoh for the first time. That is back in 5:1-7, “Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should heed his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover I will not let Israel go.’ Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us.’” And in the study of chapter five you’ll see that God took extreme care to try to bring home to Pharaoh, “I’m God, I’m not just nobody.” “The God of the Hebrews,” you know — the ones who are your slaves, “has met with us; let us go, we pray, a three days’ journey,” and God made it easy for them. He didn’t say “Let them go out of the land and you’ll lose all your laborers,” just, “let us go three days journey” just take it step-by-step “into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” They tried to impress upon Pharaoh, “Be careful, this is a God.” “But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get to your burdens.’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Behold, the people of the land are now many and you make them rest from their burdens!’ The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foreman, ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as heretofore; let them go and gather straw for themselves.’”So Moses and Aaron had already spoken to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh refused and the state of the Israelites became worse because now they had no straw to make their bricks with. This was the situation when God spoke again to Moses in 6:28, “On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.’ But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me?’”Moses had already treated God that way before when God had chosen him, and that’s in Exodus 4:10. “But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth?’” God’s very patient with us. I don’t know if you’ve been in the same spot where you’ve felt, “I can’t do it, I haven’t the ability.” And God is incredible patient with us. This is what Moses mentioned the first time, so God says, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” And when you think, “Oh I can’t sing, or I can’t speak” God is saying to you, “Well, who made your tongue? Who can give the ability to speak?”And that’s why I think it is that people were a little surprised that we wheeled right into any business God showed us, but that was because we always felt God has made us; God has made our hands and our feet so God can enable us to do these things. None of us have ever thought we had the ability but we’ve had no doubt that God has made our mouths, and our tongues, and our fingers and he is able to give us the ability to do those things.So that’s really what God said to Moses. And now verse 12, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’ But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.’” Moses even didn’t want to do it. “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘Is there not Aaron?” Okay, if you won’t do it yourself, “Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well; and behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you he will be glad in his heart. And you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He shall speak for you to the people; and he shall be a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God. And you shall take in your hand this rod, with which you shall do the signs.” And that’s exactly what they did; Aaron spoke for Moses.Now here we are back at the same spot where God is saying to Moses, “Okay, now I want you to go to Pharaoh and speak a second time.” And here’s Moses again saying, “Behold, I’m a man of uncircumcised lips how then shall Pharaoh listen to me?” Part of the reason for that was he was influenced by the discouragement of the people. And you can see their discouragement in Exodus 6:9, “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel; but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel bondage.” And if you listened to last Sunday’s study, a “broken spirit” is also a despondent spirit and actually the word “ruach” can be translated “shortness of breath.” Kiel – Delitzsch says it was shortness of breath due to their anguish inside and that the people had become despondent and discouraged because instead of their state improving with Moses and Aaron speaking to Pharaoh, it had got worse; they had no straw to make the bricks with, so they had grown despondent. That despondency and discouragement had touched Moses and he had gotten heavy, so what I shared last Sunday was you either help your leaders or you hinder them.Actually of course, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most junior member of the totem pole, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can have tremendous blessing and influence on a leader and I’m sure Myron would testify to the same thing. Because we’re bound so much together in heart, when you’re down, it’s a little hard for us (leaders) not to feel some of that.You get it a lot in husband/wife relationships, and that’s probably where you have to learn to get up on your own feet and stand where you stand whatever, but in a group, in a family like this, or like the Israelites, if the people get despondent and discouraged, it makes it heavy going for the leader, and that’s what happened here. Whereas if somebody is up and bright it’s a great brightness to the leader and a great lift, so of course, Moses had gotten discouraged himself because of the people.Then in 7:1, “And the Lord said to Moses,” you know, he’s so patient, now really this guy had tried this and now he comes again, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I make you as God to Pharaoh,” that is I’ll give you my authority in Pharaoh’s eyes, “and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” So God said to Moses, “Alright, I’ll give you the authority of God and I’ll let Aaron do the speaking.”God will – once he gives us a commission, do almost anything to get us to fulfill it. So never be afraid if you’re asked to do something, always be sure that God will give you the ability and God will give you the strength to do it whatever it is. Then, it’s good to see how patient God is with those of us who feel we are weak and feel we’re unprepared.Now we go in to some of the more difficult theology of the Old Testament in Exodus 7:3, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.” Now, God puts it that way, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart,” not because, as you’ll see in a minute or two, he did the initial hardening, but he puts it that way so that Moses will know that the refusals that he receives from Pharaoh are under God’s control so Moses will not get discouraged by them, and that’s why he puts it like that. You’ll see in a moment that all the hardening is not done by God, but a lot of the hardening you find in customers or that you find in rejections that you get when you’re selling, it’s not just an unpleasant customer, it’s not just somebody who doesn’t like your product, it’s really Satan and behind Satan it’s God allowing Satan to do it.Now, what God wanted to get into Moses was the ability to see beyond Pharaoh’s refusals and not to be discouraged for one moment by them. I don’t know if you’ve got to that point in your own life, it seems that God has to teach it to us repeatedly, but when you’re in full flight on something and you’ve done it and it comes back at you as something negative, God wants you to see “That wasn’t them, I was in full control of this. I actually arranged this to give you an opportunity to see through this and to exercise your faith that I am working all things according to my will.” And that’s really why God put it that way, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.”He wasn’t doing all the hardening, and you’ll see that in a moment, but he put it that way to get over to Moses that the general hardening he was facing, “I’m in control of it, so don’t be afraid. I’m your Father, I’m not sending it to destroy you, I’m sending it for a purpose.” So it’s good to come to that. We’re all in the same boat, we’re “getting caught out” as we would say. And some of us, we have to admit, are getting caught out longer than we should, but we get caught out and we get caught off balance by the harsh voice coming over the phone, or something else happens and you just get discouraged.God is saying, “All that is under my control and it’s all almost a play that I’ve put on.” Why Lord? “To encourage you to exercise faith; to stop getting caught out.” It’s almost like a dad who dresses up as somebody else and comes in to see if the son will recognize him. And the son doesn’t recognize him and says, “Who are you?” And the dad takes the disguise off and says, “Okay, we’ll try it again.” And he goes out, puts a different disguise on, walks in and again the son says, “Who are you?” “I’m your dad. Okay, we’ll try it again.” Well it is almost like that, the Father arranges all kinds of trials and experiences to get us to come to the point where we at last realize, “No dad, I’m not caught out this time. This is your doing and it is good in my eyes if it is good in your eyes. Thank you Lord, I know you have a way through this and part of it is to demonstrate your wisdom and your power to me.”So that’s why God put it that way. But in fact, the word hardening means to make the heart firm and then to make it insensible to the impressions that are coming upon it, and then to take away its feelings so that it can’t feel what is happening. So that’s what happened to Pharaoh’s heart. But, there are 10 times that its said in the whole account that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart but, there are 10 times it is said Pharaoh hardened his own heart. It’s said that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 7:3, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:17 & 14:8 that’s 10 times it’s said that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. But there are 10 times when it says Pharaoh hardens his own heart 7:13 & 22, 8:15, 9:35, 7:14, 9:7, 8:11 & 28, 9:34, 13:15 and Pharaoh hardens his own heart after Moses and Aaron first approach him and cast down their rods and then after the first five plagues. Each of those times Pharaoh hardens his own heart.So it might help those of us who say this is a game that God sends Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh and then hardens his heart. No, God doesn’t touch Pharaoh’s heart until Pharaoh has hardened his own heart six times. Only then does God harden Pharaoh’s heart. You may say, “Well, why does God harden his heart at all?” It’s amazing how many things tie up and it goes back to what Sandra was saying: if the Israelites demand a king God will eventually be forced to give them a king. And she had a good phrase, “If you ever want a king in your life.” And then she said, “I want children, I want a husband, I want a home. So if you ever want a “king” that’s such a terrible thing; I want, I want.”God will eventually bow to the human will. Eventually God will bow to the human will so when Pharaoh hardens his heart, God will eventually withdraw his own softening grace and the withdrawal of his own softening grace will begin to make Pharaoh’s heart firm. Why? This is interesting: so that the evil intentions in Pharaoh will be manifested in his actions so that the entire world, both of heaven and hell and the earth itself, will see this man is evil, and these are evil actions, and his will is set against God, and God is justified in rejecting him.The Hebrew means “strengthen Pharaoh’s will to do what he wanted to do.” And the reason is so that Pharaoh’s evil intentions will be manifested for what they are so that the whole world will see that and will see that God is just in rejecting him, and also will see God’s great mercy in forbearing for so long. And so, in our own lives, God will not make us do anything, but if we keep on hardening ourselves God eventually says, “Okay, let it be. Let it be hardened. I cannot overwhelm you with my softening grace. I cannot force you to repent, so I withdraw my softening grace from you.” And he will do that and that’s the way he did with Pharaoh. He did it so that Satan’s evil would be manifested and so the wicked man would be seen as he is.Let’s read through the rest of it because that’s a good deal of the theology of this. Then in 7:3, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you; then I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring forth my hosts, my people the sons of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.” In other words, I will bring it about what I have said. “And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth my hand upon Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them. And Moses and Aaron did so; they did as the Lord commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.”Now I’m going to end here rather than go on and we’ll do the rest of the chapter next Sunday, but do you see Moses was 80 years old and Aaron 83? And it’s so easy to think, “The years are passing and what exactly has God achieved in my life?” And it’s vital to believe the Bible that God could not use Moses until he was 80. It’s really important to see we’re on a different track to the world.The world itself is on a silly track anyway. They’re beginning to realize in America that at 60 they’re throwing out most of the experienced people in executive positions and they’re beginning to waken up to it a little. A lot of these men are retiring from the presidency of General Motors and then starting another company, so people are beginning to realize we’ve been foolish about our attitude to age. But even so, the world is on a different track; they don’t need the same things as God needs. God needs men and women who are tried and true. He needs men and women who have been tried in the storm and in the heat of the furnace. He needs men and women who have had experience. And I know it’s tempting for us think, as I thought when I was thirty, how could I be used.But actually, God has to take time. There’s nothing to substitute for age and experience. There’snothing to substitute for it from God’s point of view. He sees you year, after year, after year, being the same, being the same, eventually he gets the message very clearly, “This man is trustworthy,” or, “This woman is trustworthy.” So there’s a sense in which you cannot substitute for time and it’s important for all of us here to see God does not use us just because we’re young, and bright, and strong. He uses us because we’re experienced with him and because we’ve proved our attitude to him over the years. And I would encourage those of you who maybe have little twinges from time-to-time about age, because I’ve certainly had more than a few little twinges, I’d encourage you to see God does move to a different drum beat.I mean, GM would not put an 80 year old in charge of the operations. American Airlines certainly wouldn’t make a 70 year old president. And it all just crumbles because obviously from time-to-time even the world sees there’s something in age and experience that is valuable and that you need. So I would especially encourage those of you who think at times, “What have I achieved with my life?” Probably your achievement time hasn’t arrived yet.Anyway, finally you achieve nothing. Finally, even if you’re Billy Graham, or you’re Evans in the Welch revival, you achieve nothing, all you do is become more like Jesus, or become less like Jesus; that’s really all we do in this life. But it might be good to remember that. And then I think there is one other thing that God gave me light about when I was praying about this this morning. It’s very easy to think that this is perfectly reasonable; you have the cross on your shoulders, you’re bearing it, you’re walking after the dear man in front of us, and you’re walking up the road, and the people okay you’re supposed to get spitting and despising, you’re behind him because as is your master, so is the servant and the disciple, so you bear that.You kneel down on your knees to pray as he does and you bless God as he does, and you’re walking the discipleship road and it’s very easy for us to think, as we look over and see two people with their arms around each other, it’s perfectly logical in that situation to say, “Ah, I wish I had somebody to put my arms around.” Of course it’s absolutely illogical to think that — we’re on a discipleship road. He said, “If you want to come after me, deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me.” But we’re kind of saying, “Yes, yes, that’s okay but I mean I have a right to get married so that she can walk beside me and bear the cross.” Well, that’s illogical when you think of it; it’s one thing — this and heaven too, “I want to be a disciple, I want to deny myself, I want to bear the cross and I know that there’s waiting for me a land of heaven and beauty, and I know beside that I have God’s favor and love, and this is the only thing worth doing in the world. But, I’d like this as well, maybe a wife, maybe children.”Why does it come to us? Oh, I think partly because we’re not in a monastery. If you were in a monastery you’d say, “This is the discipleship road. This does involve some denial. Some of us may get married some of us may not get married. Some of us may have children some of us may not have children. But this is the discipleship road. I’m on a discipleship road and I’ve been told again and again in scripture we are different people. We are a peculiar people; we are God’s own people. We are different from others. We’re walking not the way the world works, ‘Though none go with thee still I will follow.’” That’s it; that’s the discipleship road and we’re separated from the world.It would be easier if it were like that, but of course, you’re in the midst of London watching everything happening. You’re an ordinary person. That’s what God has called us to, to be ordinary people in the world. You’re among ordinary people all the time. You’re with people who have families, and children, and all that kind of thing and it’s very easy for Satan to make you forget that you’re not an ordinary person and I think it’s good to see that.I think some of us will get married as we’ll find in the next few months. I think some of us will have children, as we found last week. I think that’s true, but isn’t that God’s grace? And won’t it be given to disciples who are not saying, “Look Lord, I’m just leaving my cross down for a minute because look, see — she is a wife, she has a husband and they have children. Lord, haven’t I a right to that?” And he says, “But didn’t you die to your rights?” And you say, “Yes, to my right to respect and to be looked up to, but to my right to be like ordinary people?” And the Savior says, “Yes, that’s exactly what I died to and that’s what I told you I was calling you to. I was calling you to be my own people. I was calling you to deny yourselves. I was calling you not to behave like ordinary men. Not to be filled with jealousy, not to be filled with anger, not to be filled with love for this world’s goods.”So I think it’s good to see it. We might get to 80, we might get to 83, and we might not be married. We might get to 80, we might get to 83 and we might have crowds of grandchildren. We might or we might not. But it seems it’s in the Father’s grace to give us that. And if we really mean what we say when we say dying with Jesus means dying to your rights, then we’ll die to our rights. I don’t know what you’ve found about walking in the victorious way. I know what I’ve found; it’s harder to walk it and be considering sin. It’s harder to walk it and playing around with sin. It’s a bit like a guy who has been drunk on whiskey, it’s hard to play with the bottle and yet abstain. It’s far easier to gloriously abandon sin — completely have nothing to do with the unclean thing. If yearnings to be like ordinary people are a temptation, then gloriously abandon it. Don’t fiddle around with it, don’t say, “Oh, wouldn’t I like to be married.” It’s just the most miserable way to be a victor that you could find. It’s the hardest and the most miserable way and it can bring little joy to the Father’s heart. Jesus wants a joyful band that follows him gloriously and that say, “Lord, if you give it to me good, but I’ll take it with joy and if you don’t give it to me, good I’ll do without it with joy, but I won’t want it and valiantly do without it.”So I think there’s something with the way you walk that makes the walk easy and I think it’s good to face it. I was very clear that when you are called to the ministry I feel you are called to be a different person. You’re called to be without a wife if that’s what God wants, you’re to be without children — it’s whatever God wants, that’s it; whatever God wants.I think it’s very easy for some of us to think, “Well, we’re not in the ministry.” That’s untrue; you are in a ministry, you are in a fellowship. God has called you, God has made you his own and you are different, so you walk to a different drum beat and you are called to walk differently from the world. I think that we have done everything to try and make ourselves ordinary so that other people will say, “You can live this way.” But we’re different in that we abstain from sin. We’re different in that we don’t insist on our rights, and that’s I think what Jesus is calling us to.But I’d just present to you again that picture that came to me when I prayed about this verse here. It’s of the Savior, up ahead of you with his cross and you behind with your cross. Now are you going to keep your eyes on him and keep going after him, or are your eyes going to go over to that couple there and say, “Haven’t I a right to that?” Because the answer is obvious; no, you have only a right to this poor disheveled man. What he has, you have a right to that, and you don’t have a right to any more than he has. He happens to have all of heaven, so why do we play around with the little tinker toys when this man has all of heaven?Let us pray.Dear Father, we thank you for your good word and we thank you Lord Jesus, for your example and for the great privilege of being called to follow you. We thank you that we are part of the most glorious band in history. We thank you that we have more dignity and more power and nobility than any other group because we are followers of the Lord of all the worlds that are. Lord Jesus, we thank you for the privilege we have of walking in your footsteps and of dying on your cross. We thank you for the great honor we have, so treasured by so many martyrs down through the centuries; the great honor of giving up our rights for you. And so Lord, we would turn away from the things that Satan would make us think we have a right to.Lord, we followed you because we heard your call and we believe you’re real and we forsook all and followed you. We left our nets and Lord Jesus; we have no intention of getting entangled in those nets again, so Lord, we leave them aside. If you give us a wife, or give us children, we’ll be glad. If you don’t, we’ll be glad. We’ll be glad for whatever you do. We realize that every year that passes is not a year to be regretted, it’s another mile nearer our home and so it brings us nearer to the purpose of our lives. Then Lord, we thank you that every year that passes you are working more of yourself into us and we’re becoming more useful to you, and we’re becoming more trusted by you. So Lord, we thank you for that.We thank you for your kindness to us this day. Pray for each other that your dear Holy Spirit will minister these truths to all our hearts in a life giving way for Jesus’ sake.And now the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with each one of us now and throughout this coming week and ever more. Amen.
Exodus 8 - EXODUS
Exodus 8Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillGod will forgive. We know he will forgive, and we know he’s merciful and his scripture is full of his assurances that he’s merciful. Dan and I bought John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners and it’s really his autobiography of his early years. It’s a story of a man who would come continually under false condemnation, or under condemnation and yet God’s Spirit would take a certain verse and light it up to his heart until eventually after years of up and down, up and down, he came through and he knew that God had forgiven him and he rested in it.And in fact, Joe and I were talking about it on the phone one time and I was saying God has already destroyed us in Jesus; he doesn’t need to destroy us again. He has no interest in destroying us. What he’s trying to do is get us all to believe that and to get us into the life boat. So it’s so untrue and dishonest of us to say, “Oh no, God won’t let me into his life boat.” Yeah he will, he’s just saying to you, “Get into the life boat.”So while it’s never right for us to say, “Oh, I can’t get God’s forgiveness” it’s always right to say you can’t get forgiveness for sin that is unconfessed or sin that is not admitted. And that’s where I see there is a great need among us, because you may say that you see that and see God is infinitely merciful, but some of us hit the dirt at times and some of us walk okay, and then some of us hit the dirt again. So what do you do? Well, the Father is willing to work with us while we’re hungering and thirsting after righteousness. He’s willing to work with us while we’re hungering after a clean heart, as long as we clearly declare what we’re doing. As long as we declare to each other, “That’s what I’m headed towards.” And if you ask, “How do you declare that?” We know it so well, we’ve been over it again and again; it’s having a penitent heart, a penitent heart.In other words, if Dan criticizes me and then comes back the next day and says, “Pastor I’m sorry. I know I should not have done that. I criticized you to Martha and I’m sorry. That’s not submission to my leader, it’s not encouraging the leader, it’s bearing false witness against my neighbor. I’m sorry.” Then he’s declaring to heaven and hell and to me by his apology that he is heading for a pure and a clean heart. He is declaring he doesn’t want that kind of stuff in his life. But if he doesn’t do that, if he says to himself, “I can see that wasn’t the brightest, it was a bit of a loss of patience, or a loss of temper, or something that wasn’t too wise. I must try to improve it.” But if he doesn’t ever either repent to God or apologize to me, then the danger is that the level of his life slips down more and more because he gets used to that kind of a low life.Now that’s why I would encourage you all because I think you can easily come into a conspiracy with each other against God. That is, let’s say if I lose my temper, and I get used to smoothing it over and think, “Okay, well we’re all aiming at the best, we’re aiming at the highest but we’re not quite there yet.” And so we smooth it over. Then that loss of temper becomes the norm. See what I’m saying? That loss of temper becomes the norm and that’s what does harm to seeking after sanctification.If you ask me, “Doesn’t sin?” Yes, sin does, but at least with sin comes a penitent heart coming after it and it’s declared to all and you know it. Then at least you can keep on going. I mean, you can drive each other crazy so that in ten or twenty years’ time you’re still talking about me. Then after twenty years he has to deal with some things himself about seared conscience. But it seems to me as long as he and I are operating on that open level, then it’s possible for God’sinfinite mercy to bring about results in us. But you remember there’s a piece in scripture that says God’s mercy is meant to lead us to repentance. I think then that happens. But if you go the other way and play games with each other, then I think it becomes very dangerous because you’re preaching these high and holy things up here, yet you’re living away down here. Then we are in real danger of sinking into antinomianism or into shear hypocrisy.So you can see, that there’s no problem from God’s side. His infinite patience with Pharaoh is obvious. His desire is in every way to try and bring it home to Pharaoh’s heart what he’s doing is obvious. But in a fellowship like ours, if you do not continually hold up to each other the mirror of Jesus, then I think you sink to a level of hypocrisy. So if Joe says to me, “Then do you mean if you (meaning me) are a bit off, do you want me to say that?” Yes. Please don’t say it when I’m in the middle of leading because it takes the feet from under me and it puts me in a bad spot with everybody else. But yes, I’d ask you to pray for me and get from God’s Spirit whether he wants you to share it with me directly or how he wants you to share it. But then I would expect you to come to me and say, “Pastor, do you not think you spoke a little harshly to this person?” Then it’s up to me to examine that honestly and then respond to you and say, “Well, yeah you’re right, I did.” I’ll go and apologize to that person because that was wrong. It was a sin against Jesus’ Spirit and I know that he is able to deliver me from that completely and I’ll commit myself to asking the Holy Spirit to showing me why I did that. Or, similarly I have the responsibility and he has the responsibility too to believe me if I come back and say, “No, I think you misunderstood me. I think as the exercise of God’s discipline here I did have to speak harshly to him. I can tell you I spoke with a clean heart. I didn’t have anything against him myself.”At least that way we keep things from getting confused. Because it’s very easy for Rick, for instance to see me during a time like we had yesterday when we were joking, and I joke to keep myself going as much as anything — or probably because I’m an Irishman getting bored hammering nails! But we joke about the Irish; we say we have a joke with a jag in it – we mean it has satire or sarcasm. And if one of you comes to me and says “Pastor, do you not think that was a bit hard what you were joking Dan about?” Then similarly I’ve to deal with God on that and be honest about it.Then the beauty of that is Rick begins to get a clear idea of what holiness is. Most importantly, I begin to be in a position where I can receive God’s word through others and through the body. And that, loved ones, is vital if we’re going to progress as we have been in past years. I’ll tell you, we’ve always in past years had some of us who’ve sensed we were in a clean heart and some of us who’ve sensed we weren’t in a clean heart and so we’ve always been in that spot. And the only way that I can see that you can travel together like that, with a love and a respect for each other, is the way I’m suggesting.But if you’re not honest with each other, if you won’t speak, if Joanne and Mary, and Trish go out for coffee and Joanne says, “I can’t put up with Myron. I’m working on that PageMaker and he comes in and hits the wrong button and the thing goes bright green and blue and red. He just drives me crazy.” If she goes on like that and Mary and Trish just smile and agree, then that’s the way it’s left. That’s a whole poison that has been started in the family and it’s never dealt with. The poor guy never hears of it and so the poison just goes on.Actually you deny your Lord if you don’t say something. It’s important for Mary or Trish to say to Joanne, “I don’t want to come heavy on you or spoil our relationship, or spoil any ability you haveto tell me anything in confidence, I’m not going to tell anybody about this, but I’m going to say it to you; I don’t think that’s the spirit of clean heart. I don’t think its respect for your leader. He may be the worst man in the world at PageMaker, but he’s our leader and we owe him respect and we owe him open love.” And if you do that, then do you see what results; we can all live in the light.I think part of the problem is that light means walking towards truth. Pure light is absolute purity and that is what God wants from us, but light is at least walking towards truth. It is openness and it seems to me if there’s openness among us then you can kind of begin – well, you can’t ease each other onto the cross sometimes, it has to be a thud and you have to get the nails in your hands, but at least you can lovingly help each other up there. But if you do that, then do you see how God’s infinite mercy can lead to repentance? And then he will deal with each one of us in an honest and an open way. But if you don’t do that, you know what happens; everybody represses things; represses like mad.Now what I wish somebody would do is repress your anger, or repress your wrong words — we could do with a little repression around here! But no, I don’t think repression is the way; its unconscious suppression and we don’t want that at all. But what we do is repress things that we think, and by doing that you’re preventing a consensus about sanctification, you see. You’re actually creating a consensus that “This thing is pretty hard to obtain anyway and let’s face it, we all talk it but we don’t live it.” Do you see? But you can also create a consensus that says, “We’re clear that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness and that’s what we’re here for. Now that’s what I’m going for. I may not be there yet, but I’m going for that and I’m going to fight sin every time I see it.” Then there’s that kind of joy.You think of a bunch of alcoholics; they do not fiddle around. Sandra used to have a Firebird, a lovely Firebird, but she totaled it. She said, “I totaled it going for the last call.” And I said, “What’s the last call?” She said, “At the bar there’s the last call for the last drink and I was trying to make it before it closed.” The result is she hates alcohol. Anybody that has touched poison doesn’t want to see poison around. And that’s what I mean; when you’ve touched sin and you’ve touched hell you don’t want to see the stuff around. You don’t want anything to do with it.That, I think, is what God is saying to us here in the family, “I am infinitely merciful, I do not desire the death of man. I want you to repent.” But the only way to maintain that with our own integrity is to point out sin every time we see it. And so, often you see it when I don’t. Often Marty will be with Joe and I won’t be there, so there’s nobody else to voice Jesus’ opinion, except for you two guys and it’s very important that you do it. It’s very important that you stay honest with what we are all saying we believe.So I think that’s one thing that I saw very plainly. There are other dear verses such as 1 Timothy 2:4, and is why, in fact, God kept on going with Pharaoh time after time. 1 Timothy 2:4, “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Why does God keep on with Pharaoh even when he’s already said, “Pharaoh will keep on saying no?” Because God desires all men to be saved; he wants us all to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. He doesn’t want any of us to be lost and so he’s always working towards that.What we should do now loved ones, is look briefly at the rest of the chapter and I’ll try to explain some of the things that might have brought questions to our minds. Exodus 7:8, “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ SoMoses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did as the Lord commanded; Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summed the wise men and the sorcerers; and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same by their secret arts.”Snake charming was a widespread practice in Egypt at that time. They trained their serpents to be solid, to just freeze and be rigid, and then they cast them on the ground. But then of course, verse 12, “For every man cast down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” And so even though they, by a trick, reproduced the apparent miracle, Aaron’s snake swallowed up all of theirs. “Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them; as the Lord had said.” And it came home to me how often God has kept on with us.I was telling Martha and Joanne about a poem that John Donne wrote, and it’s really touching. “Wilt thou forgive this sin that I have sinned, and when thou has done, thou hast not done, for I have more.” And he keeps on in each verse, repeating another sin. When you think how good God has been with us, and how continuous and persistent he has been, and how he has kept with us, I do fear a little about that. I do fear – I don’t want to strike terror into you but I do fear about waiting too long. I don’t think you should stand watching Jesus die too long. I think you have a conscience, and do you see that it ties up with what I’m saying about sharing? You have to keep your conscience alive; if your conscience is seared, you’re finished. If you can talk about people critically in this family again, and again, and again, your conscience gets seared and you get seared. If you can sit here and listen to the victorious life preached and just listen, and listen, and listen month after month year after year, it’s your conscience. It’s not that God’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save. God is not reluctant to save you or be merciful but you yourself have to keep your conscience alive.That’s why I’d far rather Trish would come to me and say, “Pastor, I do this repeatedly. I do it repeatedly.” I’d rather she come repeatedly along the lines of what Thomas a Kempis said, “A saint is not one who never falls, but one who gets up every time he falls.” I’d rather you come continually and at least we’d both stay honest with each other. At least we’d both be saying to each other, “Yes, this we hate. This is sin. This is destroying Jesus.” At least that keeps the conscience clear, it keeps it alive and that’s what needs to be done. Verse 14, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning,’” And this is where God has softened him. Now if you’ve any experience of God it must be surely this — it’s certainly mine; God has kept on keeping on with me. It continues, “Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; wait for him by the river’s brink, and take in your hand the rod which was turned into a serpent. And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Hebrews,’” you know, make it really clear to him, “The Lord, the God of Hebrews,” these slaves of yours, “sent me to you, saying, ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness; and behold, you have not yet obeyed.’” And that’s God making it dead clear. And I can only thank God for his grace because it seems I have that entire field from about thirteen years of age. And you know the way you have the entire field to run in and you keep running behind different trees of the garden. And then maybe at conversion God cuts the field down to about a third, but you still have a third of it. Then he graciously, if you still want him, corrals you. He corrals you right down until he gets you into a corner and then you can see it plainly; it’s just your own wretched will against his will. And it seems to me that’s what God does with us, he keeps cutting down the size so that we’ll be absolutely clear when we make the final decision that we want hell rather than him, that we’ll know we’re making that decision.Have you ever thought that’s why things are hard and that’s why the hours seem long? It’s not Myronor I that have devised it, the Lord has devised it. You could go to half a dozen other places and they’d be easy in some ways but they’d be harder in others. It’s not that. Its Satan making you think, “If I was only in a different situation I wouldn’t have it so hard.” No, God is corralling you. He’s trying to break you, he’s trying to make everything unbearable to you until you finally settle and submit, so we need to be glad of that. We need to thank him for that rather than resent it. And then of course God gives the directions in verse 16, “And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews.’” Then in verse 17, “Thus says the Lord, ‘By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the rod that is in my hand, and it shall be turned to blood, and the fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile shall become foul, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink water from the Nile.’”Now actually, there is a time during the year when the red sand comes up and the Nile does get red. It doesn’t get like blood and obviously the fish don’t die, but there is that kind of a physical change that comes in the Nile. It’s important to see that happens so when the liberal critique comes along and says, “Oh that’s a natural phenomenon,” yes, that’s a natural phenomenon, but this is very different. It’s not just red like that, but its blood and the fish actually die. “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, that they might become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded; in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, he lifted up the rod and struck the water that was in the Nile, and all the water that was in the Nile turned to blood. And the fish in the Nile died; and the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.” And then presumably the magicians used something of the natural phenomenon.Pharaoh didn’t really need a repeat miracle, a duplicate miracle; he just needed some excuse for saying no. “But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened.” And they presumably used something of the natural phenomenon to suggest, “We can do the same.” But Pharaoh really didn’t need a real miracle, he just needed the excuse. “And he would not listen to them; as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not lay even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug round about the Nile for water to drink.” “And all the Egyptians dug round about the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.” So often we’re in the same boat; we cannot drink the water of life from Jesus’ hand and yet we persist because we’re so willful and we want to maintain our own rights. “Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.”Let us pray. Dear Father, we thank you for your mercy to us over so many years. We have known exactly the experience of Pharaoh, where you have kept on keeping on with us, doing everything possible to bring us to our senses and how we have retreated into a smaller and smaller life, into a smaller and smaller cave where we keep our heads down and hope that the whole thing will pass. And you Lord, know that what we’ve done is dig ourselves a grave and you’re trying to rescue us from it and bring us into life eternal. So Lord, we can only thank you for your goodness to us and we can only oppose Satan wherever we find him here in our family and at work during the day.Lord, we pray especially for those moments where we’re lifting boxes, or backing up the truck, and somebody says something and we are not Christ like in our reply. Lord, we see that the more often we let that go on, the coarser we become and the more seared our conscience becomes and the harder it is somehow to seek you for a clean heart because even our right word actions do not alignthemselves with your will. So we pray Holy Spirit for your light to shine in Proctor Street. For your light to shine there in the cold room, for your light to shine in that little back office, for your light to shine out on the curb where we pile the boxes, for your light to shine in the restroom, for your light to shine out front when the front display is being done. Lord, we ask for your light to shine so that not an unchrist like word will pass, not an unchrist like action will be done.Lord, we pray that if any are done, we will acknowledge it and point it out to each other. Lord, we pray the same for Victoria. Lord, we pray for Marty that not an unclean thought will go through his mind and if it ever does, that it’ll be acknowledged by him before you and dealt with in a solemn way. We pray Lord, that as he deals with his customers hardness or harshness will not become his trademark, but that he’ll speak with your voice and in a way that makes you glad to be in that shop.Lord, we pray the same for Museum Street. We pray especially in these days when Joe and others are working there, sometimes long hours. Lord, we know that it’s a sin against you if we do it with an unwilling heart, or we do it with a resentful heart, or a complaining heart, or a critical heart. Lord, we would put those things far from us. We would confront each other on them when they occur and Lord, we would declare to heaven and hell we’re going for cleanness. We’re going for cleanness inside as well as outside.Lord, we pray the same for the home here; for Mary, and Myron, for Joanne, and then for Lucy, and Trish, for Martha out on the road. Lord, we pray for your light to shine and Holy Spirit that we’ll begin to walk in such white light that it’ll become normal for us. And we’ll begin to live in an elevated way and in a dignified way as Christ-like men and woman and that there’ll be a holy restraint in us that will bring pleasure to you and that will create such a beauty that the world will stop and ask by what power have you done this?Lord, we thank you that this is your will for us and we give ourselves to obeying it from this day forward in Jesus’ name, amen.
Exodus 18:Heart Felt Prayer - EXODUS
Exodus 18: Heart Felt PrayerSermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillIt’s easy to think of the deliverance from Egypt as something that we all know is important. We all realize what a big thing it was until you get to the point where it almost becomes passé; it almost becomes simply something that we know about along with the ten plagues and all that kind of thing. You get to the point where you take the miraculous in a casual way. It’s probably good for us to remember, in connection with today’s study, that there’d been virtual silence of God’s voice for 430 years. Isaac and Jacob were the last ones to whom God spoke when he said, “I’m going to take you to a promised land.” Then we need to remember there was 430 years of virtual silence.So it’s as if today, in 1988 that it was in 550, around Shakespeare’s time, God spoke and then there’s been no voice of his for the past 430 years. Now of course the situation with the Israelites was that all they were was a little Hebrew tribe that had now become the minions of Pharaoh king of Egypt; they were now his slaves. They were a part of probably many others who he had conquered in different battles and had brought in as his slaves and who were also aliens in the land of Egypt. We tend to think there were two million Israelites, whereas only a matter of 70 or so entered Egypt 430 years ago, and yet they were but two million among millions of others and they were little nothings. So it’s maybe good to remember the true situation.This was not the great Israelite nation that had passed through the Jordan, that had taken over the land of Canaan that had had David as their king, and Solomon as their king. It was not the nation who had conquered many nations; the Jebusites, and the Philistines, and all that. It wasn’t. This was a little tribe of Hebrews who last heard from their God 430 years ago. If we had never heard from God, that 1605 Geneva Bible that we have, if that was the last time that God spoke to us, we would have forgotten all about God by now. Certainly not only the little children, but us, and our fathers and mothers, and our grandparents would have never heard of Jehovah. So they were a little nation of slaves in Egypt, that was the real situation and we need to remember that that was it.When God actually spoke to Moses and said, “I’m going to use you to deliver the people out of the hands of the Egyptians,” you remember Moses’ first attempt; how he tried to kill an Egyptian with his own hands, and then ran the risk of being betrayed by him so went off to the backside of the mountain and came back at the age of 80 to this little tribe of people who were slaves of king Pharaoh. And yes, they had heard of God recently but it had been a disaster. It had been the prince Moses who had tried to do something, and he had been, in a sense, exiled. So that was the situation when we begin to come across the plagues.The reason for reminding us about all of this again is that the first plague was actually the serpents. It was when he cast his staff down and it became a serpent; that was a miracle that God did right there. That was something that God changed in the physical world and he did it by the power of Calvary. It was because the lamb was sent from before the foundation of the world and because when the lamb was slain the world itself as we know it, was crucified. This fallen cosmos was crucified, all its laws were destroyed and new laws, spirit laws, were put in their place. It was because that had all happened that Moses was able to cast his staff down and it became a serpent.But we need to see that the victory of Calvary actually affected the staff in that way and changed it into a serpent. And we need to see that the second plague was just as great. And maybe it’sgood to turn to Exodus 15 which is the chapter that we’re studying and it has this triumph song in it of Moses where he celebrates what happened. And maybe you begin to see the importance of what we’ve said so far when you realize that it was important that he celebrated it. It was important that he wrote this poem and that he sang it before God with all the Israelites because it was very important that they all realized what had happen.This was a miraculous deliverance; this was not just a normal thing. And that actually could be one of the tricky things that we all may be faced with in Sunday school in various ways. Sometimes it’s easy to tell this story in such a casual way that the child almost gets used to this fairy story mythical land where flies appear all over Egypt, or the rivers all turn to blood, or all the first born die. And they get this spooky idea that the teacher obviously teaches this as normal so this must be normal in this strange world of the Bible. So it seems quite important that whenever we’re explaining them to children that we impress upon them “Now, have you seen a land covered in flies?” “No.” “Well, this was a miracle.”It’s important to say that because I remember at Sunday school there was a tendency for the teachers to feel that of course God can do this, so it’s no big deal, but the child never got hold of that idea so they thought it sounded strange. They’d never seen all those flies or all those gnats, but they believed because of what they were hearing that it must happen in this strange world. And that catches hold of us too so that we read this and think “that was the plagues and it happened then.”What we need to see is that God makes that happen whenever it needs to happen, so it’s important to see all of the instances. I wrote them down because I can’t remember them all; the serpents, then all the rivers and the water turned to blood, and then there were frogs all over the place, and then there were gnats. And then there were flies that got into the eyes of the cattle and everywhere. And then there was a disease upon the cattle. And then there were boils, everybody was covered with boils. And then there was tremendous hail that destroyed everything. And then there were locusts that suddenly came and ate up everything. And then there was the death of the first born.So it’s important for us to see that that was the first time that God in that century, virtually 430 years after he had appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it was the first time that God said, “These Hebrews are not just little nothings. They’re not just another part of your slave empire Pharaoh, and they’re not just a little nomad tribe. These people are mine. This is my nation. I am going to protect them. I am going to defend them. I am going to work with them. This is my nation and I have power over every other god. Your magicians can do their miracles or their magic tricks but I can do greater. I am God not only of these people but I am God of all gods and I am God of all the heathen.”That is what the deliverance from Egypt was about and it’s important for us to see it; that it was God glorifying himself as the God not only of the Israelites, but the God of all gods and the God of all heathen, and the great superpower in the whole universe. It was God declaring that. And in a sense, though he had declared that to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob individually, it was a private kind of thing as you remember; whether it was at Penile or somewhere else, it was always very private or within the family. But this was his declaration to the nations and to the most powerful heathen nation in the world, “I am the God of the universe and this is my nation and I’m going to protect them.” That’s what the deliverance from Egypt was all about; it was God declaring he will look after his own people and he will protect them, and he will do whatever is needed to do that. That may include absolutely astounding miracles like putting gnats all over the land, but he will do whatever is needed.Now this is why the song is so important, because the song of Moses is not only saying, “This God did all this for us,” but this is the song of the church of Jesus Christ, or this is the song of the people of God; this is the song of all of us who believe in Jesus, that this is our God and he will do these things for us. This is the way he operates; he will stand by his children, he will protect his children, and he will do whatever miracles are needed to deliver them. It’s very important for us to see that not only in regard to the lady who is sick or the customer who has cancer that we talked about praying for, but in regard to our business, and in regard to our radio broadcasts.There comes a time when God expects us to move forward in full faith and confidence that he will do whatever is needed to forward the vision that he has given us. So there is a time for meekness and humility before God when you’re seeking and searching for him, then there is a time when you know what he’s given you to do and there’s a time to start standing up and going forward strongly.That’s why I will always joke with you when you look at what other people seem to have compared with you and then you say “I’m a little nothing.” That is dastardly. I don’t blame you because I’ve felt the same, but that is dastardly. We are not “little nothings” at all. We’re not unimportant. We’re not little boys that are born in Belfast or little girls that are born in Minnesota, we’re not. We are God’s own children and God, as we saw in Exodus 14:14, “the Lord will fight for you” all you have to do is be still, but the Lord will fight for us. This God who brought the flies, and the gnats, and the blood, and the boils upon the Egyptians will do the same thing for us. If you say to me, “Will he bring boils on my customers?” Well he would if it’s needed and the fact that he doesn’t do this, or hasn’t done it here in this situation is because it isn’t appropriate in our society and wouldn’t help our crazy society if he did that kind of thing. You know what they’d do, they’d all bow down anyway and say, “Oh wonderful,” and two days later they’d have forgotten it all.God will do whatever miracles are needed and whatever is appropriate in our situation. So when we read the song of Moses in Exodus 15 we’re really reading the song of the church of Jesus Christ. It’s our God who will do these things. It’s important to see that God has done it. It’s important to see what God has done and to recognize that he has done it. It’s almost some trick that Satan plays with your mind and memory over the things God has done for you. At the time something happens you think it’s remarkable the way this money came in or the way this customer bought things that you didn’t expect or the way you had you’re largest sales every last week. We need to write those things down and remember them before God. We need to praise him for those things and thank him. God has a beautiful way of blotting out the bad things in our memory over the past years so that we remember the good things, but Satan has a way in the nearer range of blotting out the things that God did for us last week or the week before or the month before.We need to ask the Holy Spirit to bring back to our remembrance the things that God has done, especially at the moment when we’re meeting exactly the same situation, because how many of us in this room have said, “Look how often I’ve met the same thing and fallen the same way.” We need to ask God to bring back to our remembrance, at the moment of challenge, that he won this battle two weeks ago for us — the same battle. So there’s a great place for this song of Moses, this remembering what God has done. And of course, there’s a great place for us casting out of our minds the casualness with which we’ve come to regard the deliverance from Egypt and the story of the 10 plagues. There is a great need for us to see these were mighty miracles that God did for a little people that hadn’t heard from him in 430 years, and this is what God was saying he would do for all his people all the time.So let’s look at the basis of it which is in Ephesians 1:18-23. This is really why God was able to manifest this in the visible world, because it has already taken place in the eternal invisible world in Jesus. Ephesians 1:18, “Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”Now verse 22, “and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body.” We are his body and we are the church and God has put all things under Jesus’ feet and has made him the head over all things for the church and we need to see that refers to our sales, and it refers to our radio ministry, and it refers to our literature ministry. God intends us to take authority over those things in the name of Jesus who was the one who brought the plague of gnats, and flies, and boils. God will do the same mighty miracles for us in the realm of sales and in the realm of radio and the realm of literature.It’s very easy for us to come into an egotism that we misunderstand as humility. It’s very easy for us to say, when we see someone like Jimmy Swaggart and his rather tearful appeal again to get enough funds to keep him on television, “That’s where you go when you’re successful and it’s dangerous up there; God doesn’t work through that kind of thing any longer.” Well, it’s not the success that God doesn’t work through; we know that actually it’s the unfaithfulness of those whom he prospers, that’s what makes it impossible.But God is well able to bring the same kind of victory in our situation as he brought to the Israelites. The Israelites would never have got out of Egypt if God had not done those miracles. Now it’s very easy for us to think, “We do it, but without miracles.” That’s how “humble” we are; that’s how “little and unimportant” we are. That’s how much we believe that God doesn’t work in the sensational any longer, we’re prepared to do it just by the sweat of our brow.Now it is important to be prepared to work by the sweat of our brow, but primarily so that God can make us like Jesus, not primarily so that by the sweat of our brows he can prosper us, but so that while we sweat and while we work he is making us like Jesus. But over and above that we need his blessing. [Watchman] Nee said, “If the blessing of the Lord is not upon you, nothing will come about.” So after we’ve done all that we’ve done, we have to have the blessing of the Lord. We’re utterly dependent on his miracles and we can go forward absolutely confident that he has put all things under Jesus’ feet and has made Jesus the head over all things for us.That’s why we are not just fighting other jewelry designers and we’re not just competing with other jewelry companies and we’re not just fighting other people who have silver at the same price. That’s reducing everything to the level as if Moses was saying to the people, “These Egyptians have 600 chariots, and they have so many soldiers, and they have weaponry, and we’re just a bundle of little nothings with children and woman making up half the crowd that we have, and we have all kinds of heavy old carts to move. How are we going to do it?” You hear of none of that with Moses. But that is equivalent to us saying, “Well this company is out there, and that company is out there and they have better this and they have better that.”God is able to prosper us. Actually, we know it from another angle. Some lady will object to the sets of five and then she’ll order 10 of our most expensive bracelets or most expensive necklaces. People are not logical, and that can be used in our favor, but people are not logical and we know it ourselves; everybody does not actually know what another designer’s collection costs. Every store owner does not know the price that they can get this for, so even on a purely human level that doesn’t hold. Even on a purely human level we should see Satan is trying to get us to fear because other companies are out there with silver at a lower price. Thousands of our stores don’t know that, so even on a purely human level Satan is bluffing.But most importantly, even if everybody knew that, God is still able to give us favor in their eyes the way he gave the Israelites favor in the eyes of the Egyptians so that they gave the Israelites the jewelry that they asked for before they left. God is able to bring boils, he’s able to bring flies and gnats; he’s able to do whatever is needed to prosper and move us forward, and we probably need to get hold of that strongly as we go into the stores.The last thing we need to do is go into the stores as some little rep of some little unknown company; that is never the position of God’s children. You remember that book that somebody wrote in the hippy days, King’s Kids? One doesn’t like the phraseology too well but still, we are children of the king. We belong to the richest Father in the whole universe and he will do the same miracles for us as he did for the Egyptians and that’s what the song is about.It’s there in Ephesians 1:18-23 and Colossians 2:15 and when the big buyer from some large store like Belks, or the big buyer from The House of Frasier is standing there and is backed by all kinds of false principalities and powers that have created a sense of self importance in them, and has created in them a trust in the strength of their own right arm, it’s good to remember Colossians 2:15, “He,” Jesus, “Disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.” He has disarmed them. He’s disarmed them so that we can go in and we can overcome by the power of his might on Calvary.Now that’s what Exodus 15 is about, “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God,” and we need to say that, “this is my God,” the one who cast the horse and the rider into the sea, “and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.” And it’s necessary for us to see that the Lord is a man of war and the Lord is his name. And you get it again in Psalms 144:1, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my rock and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues the peoples under him.”We’re so brainwashed with peace today that everybody misunderstands “the Lord is a man of war.” They think it means military battle in spite of Jesus’ statement, “If my kingdom were of this world my disciples would fight” and they fail to see that there is a more important war than simply a military struggle between human beings. The Lord is a man of war, and he has called us to war and its good for us to see that we are at war. Some of the things that you mentioned about the present state of the world, it’s obvious that we’re at war. The bulk of the world is following after the evil one and the bulk of the world is filled with confusion and chaos and self, so we are at war with that world. When we go out, even to sell, we go out to war.Not against the dear innocent buyers, because they don’t know what is using them, but we’re going to war against the spirits and powers that govern them, against the fears that govern them lest they lose their job, the fears that they have of the people above them if they make a mistake in their purchase, they’re warring against all of those. When a little soul says they have to get approval for the order and then they end up not getting approval, its half the time because they’re afraid to make the approach to the person above them. So there are all kinds of spirit powers, and those are what we’re warring against.I think at times you can feel that this [job of selling] is no picnic. You have to get up and get out in the car, and drive, and go to strange stores and you have to keep moving, so it isn’t a picnic. But you at least hope you’ll have nice people to deal with, so there creeps in a feeling that even though you know it’s no picnic, you feel that at least some of it should be. That at least you should have nice people to deal with and nice people to work with.I’d remind you of our predecessors in Matthew 10:16 because our predecessors, of course, are the disciples that Jesus sent out two by two. In Matthew 10:16, does it say “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of other sheep.” No? Then “I send you out as sheep in the midst of other shepherds.” No again? Then “I send you out as sheep among friends.” No, it reads, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils.” In other words they will tell you, “No, I don’t want your jewelry it’s rotten stuff.” Well, I bet the disciples would have been prepared to take that as it’s easier than a whip across the face. “For they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be rejected.” No, they could have taken rejection; “No, I don’t want anything today. No, I’ve got all the jewelry I need. No, I’m not interested in your jewelry.” That wouldn’t have hurt the disciples.Verse 18 “And you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” Well, we’re not hated. “But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next,” our position is heaven compared to these men. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Be-elzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. So have no fear of them.” No fear, you see.This is our Lord telling us that avoiding fear is not just good psychological practice; avoiding fear is obedience to our master. “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, utter in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” I’ve counted them, “Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will denybefore my Father who is in heaven. Do not think,” and this is it; God is a man of war, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” And we are in that apostolic fixation.That is why we’re going out; we know it in our hearts, and God knows it, and Satan knows it; we’re not going out just to sell jewelry, we’re going out to express Jesus and we’re going to come up against the same things his apostles came up against and yet our difficulties are nothing compared with theirs. But we are called to go out and war and we need to go out with faith in the God who did these things.In Exodus 15:4, “Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea; and his picked officers are sunk in the Red Sea. The floods cover them; they went down into depths like a stone. Thy right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, thy right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of thy majesty thou overthrowest thy adversaries; thou sendest forth thy fury, it consumes them like stubble.” That’s what God does. “At the blast of thy nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’”That’s the determination of the enemy to destroy and it’s the same determination of somebody not to buy jewelry. It’s the same thing. Verse 10, “Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters. ‘Who is like thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, majestic in holiness, terrible in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Thou didst stretch out they right hand, the earth swallowed them.’” So these are the things that God did when he delivered the Israelites from Egypt, and it’s good for us to remember that he actually affected physical gnats, physical boils, physical blood in the water, physical death of the first born, by the victory of Jesus over the world on Calvary. God is able to touch those things and he’s able to touch our jewelry, and he’s able to touch the customer’s bodies and their minds. But it means that we have to remember Moses’ song and remember that we go forward with that kind of faith.Now, it will be unto us according to our faith. If we believe for a million dollars, or whatever it is in sales, that’s what God will respond to. But if we go out believing also for the customers, and if we go out beginning to believe God to touch them and to stir their hearts and their spirits, that’s what will happen. If we begin to note down in our notes not just how much jewelry they bought, or what kind of store it is, but if we begin to note, “Seemed to be troubled, seemed to be worried. Mentioned she goes to church.” If we put down little things like that and begin to pray for God to work in those things, God will be faithful to us. It will be unto us according to our faith.So it’s the same situation as here; God will work if he can find even one Moses, even one old 80 year old who will believe him and who will stretch his hand out. That’s why I said to you about the lady you mentioned, and about going and finding her and putting your hand on her because you’re declaring to God, “Forget what she thinks.” I mean, obviously if she says, “No, I don’t want you to pray for me,” you can’t. But it’s declaring to God, “I believe you Lord. I’m not just doing thisas a ceremony but I believe that you will hear my prayer and you will answer according to your own will and wisdom.”It’s interesting that the song then goes on to celebrate prophetically the things that God is going to do because you see in verse 13, “Thou hast led in thy steadfast love the people whom thou hast redeemed, thou hast guided them by thy strength to thy holy abode.” And of course they just had managed to get out of Egypt at that moment so that was prophetic, it was looking forward to the time when he would bring them into the land of Canaan and especially into the holy mountain, Sinai, where he would give them his commandments. “The peoples have heard, they tremble; pangs have seized on the inhabitants of Philistia. Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling seizes them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.”Well actually there is indication that when these peoples heard of the destruction and the deliverance that had taken place in Egypt, they did tremble; they were fearful because they heard that these Israelites were coming their way. “Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of thy arm, they are still as a stone, till thy people, O Lord, pass by, till the people pass by whom thou hast purchased. Thou wilt bring them in, and plant them on thy own mountain,” Sinai, “the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thy abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. The Lord will reign for ever and ever.” And so ends the great triumph and song and then it’s tied up with the actual events of that it describes.“For when the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them; but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea. Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.’” Always you’ll find the next event following; it’s the old story, “Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people murmured against Moses.”So it doesn’t matter; the most wonderful miracles can be done, but a couple of days later, “The people murmured against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” And then it’s very easy for us, as Moses, to say, “Boy aren’t they dreadful? Aren’t they hideous? They have no faith. Look what God has done for them. Aren’t people terrible today, they don’t believe this and they don’t believe that.” You can spend your time doing that or you can do what Moses did, you can cry for the Lord right then and you can express your own faith.It does seem there’s great need, and probably you come upon it in the stores because I’m sure there are many people who say, “Oh isn’t life terrible today? Isn’t the world going to pot? Isn’t society just falling apart?” And it’s easy to join in with the general sorrow and the general apparent grief, which usually has a good deal of self-righteousness in it anyway. Or it’s possible to immediately say, “But there are amazing things that happen; the sun rises every morning beautifully and bright, and have you ever noticed the swallows in the morning; they’re always so happy — it does make you feel that God himself is apart from all this, doesn’t it? And that he has something going for him that is bigger than this world, and that he will do something about it.” There are ways in which you can either use those words or use words that God inspires you with.But that kind of thing can be used by God to startle a person into a change in their own thinking.Undoubtedly many of them will look forward to your coming next time and of course, we’ll be ready for some arguments, but at least they’ll be awake and aware. You need to know when to do it; I agree with you, you can’t fight every conversation. Sometimes you go with the clichés and the jargon because it’s not appropriate. I mean, they’re only passing the time of day to get you out the door, so you go with it. But there are other moments where there’s this little thing in your spirit that tells you, “Boy I’m just joining the crowd here. Sure it is a terrible world, but God told us it was going to be a terrible world.” And it’s easy to say, “Yes, it is terrible. But then of course, I don’t know what you think of the Bible, but undoubtedly the Bible indicates that things are going to go from bad to worse, but that eventually it’s all going to be turned around in an amazing way.” And they stare at you and say, “Oh yeah, that’s true.” Or they say, “Oh, really? How’s it going to be turned around?” And then you go right in.But it does seem there are certain moments when your spirit tells you that it’s right to speak a word of witness and it doesn’t have to be very spiritual; it can be very down to earth and very straight. But it’s important to see that that’s what Moses did; he cried to the Lord, he didn’t say, “Oh you’re right; here’s bitter water and we just got out of the wilderness, we just got out of Egypt.” Instead, “And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” Again, the victory of Calvary is able to touch jewelry, able to touch water, touch wood. “There the Lord made for them a statute and an ordinance and there he proved them, saying, ‘If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give heed to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon you which I put upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord, your healer.” And it brings to our minds McMillen’s book None of these Diseases and you remember the heart of the whole book is that the works of the flesh; envy, strife, jealous, pride and anger bring about the contraction of the muscles which happens when you get nervous, and your muscles tighten up. And of course it tightens up muscles in your stomach and affects your digestive system and causes all kinds of stomach troubles there.Or the secretion of fluids; where fear can cause the release of the adrenaline and the adrenaline is not used for anything so it just adds to the general acidity of the stomach and causes all kinds of problems. Or it can affect the contraction of the blood vessels, where the blood vessels tighten up and tense up as the opposite happens when you’re embarrassed. You blush because it releases blood into the cheeks and so the opposite happens in certain situations when you’re very nervous in front of a crowd of people and you mouth goes all dry; it’s because the fluids, the secretions there, have dried up. So it’s obvious that all kinds of wrong feelings and attitudes affect directly your physical body. And of course McMillen’s whole presentation is that the fruit of the Spirit affects it in a healthy way.The whole reason for enjoying the fruit of the Spirit is because that’s the way we were made to live and that’s what Jesus died to bring about in us, but obviously one of the byproducts of living in love, and joy, and peace, and long suffering, and gentleness, and goodness, and faith, and temperance is that you’ll live longer; that the body suffers much less strain. And of course it applies to you very much in your job on the road because every time you tense up, some of your muscles contract and to some extent the flow of blood or the operation of the body is affected, especially in regard to this business of Sunday nights when we need to get a good night’s sleep. We need to pray for each other and we need to rejoice more and more in Jesus and ask him for light from the Holy Spirit to see why we wouldn’t sleep well on Sunday night, because God wants us to be healthy and wants us to experience none of the diseases that he put upon the Egyptians.I think you’ve heard me say it before, but it seems to me so obvious and maybe it’s just a trick of entomology of the English language but disease is obviously not-ease. “Dis” means – the Latin prefix dis always means not and so you have ease, preceded by dis and its not-ease. Disease is a lack of ease. It’s a lack of ease in your physical body and a lack of ease in your whole emotional and mental life, and finally a lack of ease probably in your spiritual life. Jesus says, “Come unto me and I will give you rest,” even give us ease. So of course God’s will is that we would know that the Lord will fight for us.If you don’t believe that, you end up trying to influence people by your own strength and effort and you end up in dis-ease anyway. You don’t fret people into the kingdom of God. It’s faith or fret; do you carry on your ministry by faith or fret? You carry it on by faith if you remember Moses’ song of triumph.Shall we close.Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us now and evermore. Amen.
Exodus 20:Idols - EXODUS
Exodus 20: IdolsSermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillIf you’d like to look at Exodus 17 — we did that chapter last Sunday and I just want to touch on some of it and then go on. I thought I’d start with the famous soliloquy of Shakespeare’s in Hamlet and it’s the one that we know well, but there’s a certain phrase in it that ties up, I think, with what God wants to say to us in this chapter, “To be, or not to be — that is the question: Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep — No more — and by a sleep to say we end The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep — To sleep — perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub.” And then he goes on to wonder if he can commit suicide and eventually decides no.But it was that phrase that I thought was very real and true, “To die — to sleep — No more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” And that’s what struck me about what God has to say to us in this chapter, “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” I’ll show you what I mean in Exodus 17:1, “All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people found fault with Moses, and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’ And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you find fault with me? Why do you put the Lord to the proof?’ But the people thirsted there for water, and the people murmured against Moses, and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?’ So Moses cried to the Lord, ‘What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand the rod with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink.’ And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the faultfinding of the children of Israel.”Those two words “Massah” and “Meribah” mean proof and contention. The Israelites were in contention with God. “Because they put the Lord to the proof by saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” I think that’s one of the thousand natural shocks. The ridiculous thing with the Israelites is you only need to read a few verses to see that they had not one natural shock, they had not two natural shocks, they had a thousand natural shocks. I mean, they kept on with this in Exodus 14:10, “When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were in great fear. And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord; and they said to Moses, ‘Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.’” And of course, it was proven wrong; the whole charge and accusation was proven wrong, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, standfirm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.’” That’s what happened, water washed right over them, it didn’t matter to them.A few verses later in 15:22 it says, “Then Moses led Israel onward from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur; they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people murmured against Moses,” the same deal, “saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ And he cried to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” And there again, yet another one of these jarring shocks, “What do we do? What do we do? God is letting us down. We’re in trouble. Why did you bring us here?” And you think, “Well, that’s it.” But no, it goes on.You can see how the thousand numbers add up in Exodus 16:1, “They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” Of course, God provided the manna and the quail and it’s after those incidents that you come to Exodus 17.What struck me in my own life and I don’t know if it strikes you in your life; you could wonder when they will ever learn. It seems that we refuse to learn that repeatedly the Father lovingly comes under us with his everlasting arms again and again in situations where the Egyptians are after us and there’s only the ocean before us; the ocean on one side and the sea on the other side, and the desert on the other side, and there’s no way out and God comes in and makes a way out. We know those times; we can look back to some of those moments and there’s a way through that we didn’t see.Or we come to a place where we don’t see how we’re going to make it; we don’t see how the money is going to work out, how the bread or the water is going to be there. We don’t see it, yet God seems to provide manna in the wilderness; where we think there’s no possibility of anything that we need, here God provides it. And it seems that we all here in this room have incident after incident where we’ve seen God’s faithfulness and yet we have “the thousand natural shocks that fair flesh is heir to.” And that’s what it is, it’s that shock, after shock, after shock. It’s a dreadful image to put before us, but it’s like somebody in the electric chair where the shock goes through the body. It just echoes through the whole thing and reverberates through the whole frame and it’s like that; if you think of those moments, you can almost feel the perspiration, the cold sweat, or the moment of the adrenaline pumping, or the moment of the heart beating faster, or just that coldness that comes over you as you see the bank account, or as you see that this thing is not working out, or you hear the rumble in the car, or you hear the crack in the pipes, or anything. And suddenly it reverberates through the whole frame, the thousand natural shocks, and it jars the whole being and it of course undoubtedly does harm to our bodies. Undoubtedly it does harm to our minds and emotions. Undoubtedly it wears them and makes you a little older a little faster.I know that the Savior is able to make you live as long as he wants you to live, but I’m sure that he allows those reverberations to come through us not just to frighten us with the idea that we’llgrow old fast, or we’ll die early but to let us know, “This isn’t the way this is meant to work. You’re not meant to have a thousand natural shocks like this. You’re not meant to repeatedly find yourself in a position where you’re struck by terrible anxiety or terrible fear or apprehension.It’s like him saying, “When you hear your car vibrating like mad you know it isn’t meant to go this way, it isn’t meant to work like this. There’s a piston not firing, or there’s something wrong with the system.” Now it seems that is what God is doing to us when we come to those moments and we don’t trust him. It seems to me its part of the thousand natural shocks our flesh is heir to. It’s interesting he uses flesh and one can’t tell until we meet Shakespeare, but he probably uses it just in terms of the natural human body, but it’s interesting that he uses the word flesh and who knows — poets write better than they know.It seems that it is the flesh that is heir to those things. Heir in the sense of it inherits them; the carnal natural inherits those things, the spiritual nature doesn’t because it rests in the Father’s arms. So it seems that what God is saying to us through Exodus 17 is “Are you going to go on like these children of mine in the wilderness did year after year being shocked when some situation or set of circumstances comes up that you yourself had not planned for, and that you yourself cannot see an answer to? Are you going to continue to experience shock and crisis and wringing of hands and worry in the heart? We all know that worry in the heart that says, “How am I going to get out of this one?” Sometimes its “How is God going to deliver me from this?” But usually its “How am I going to get out of this one?” And the Father is saying, “You’ve seen my record, you’ve seen how I’ve looked after these Israelites, even when they continued to rebel against me. Now that’s what I’m like; I am your faithful Father; I have foreseen every eventuality that will occur in your life. I have made the rough places plain for you. I have gone ahead of you and I have made the crooked things straight so that when you come to an uncertainty I, as your Father, would have the pleasure of seeing you, my son or my daughter, simply put your hand in mine and say, ‘Father, thank you that you have a way through this. Thank you that you foresaw this. I trust you. I know you’re there. I know you’ve allowed this lion to come into my path simply to see me looking up into your eyes and not into its mouth.’” It seems that is what the Father is asking of us.With people like us who don’t murder each other, who don’t kill each other, who don’t steal from each other, it’s not those things that give the Father pain. It’s our continued uncertainty about him, our continued distrust of him. Maybe you say, “It’s not that I’m distrusting him, it’s not that I’m uncertain of him, it’s just I don’t think of him at that moment.” Well, that’s it you know; we don’t think of him at that moment and we’re not depending upon him; our minds are not stayed on him and that was his promise, “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me.”So it seems to me that what God is encouraging us to do is not simply to speak to each other when we miss it, because we can all do that. I mean, if you’re in difficulty I can say, “The Father will take care of you,” and then you gather yourself together. Or, vice versa, but it’s not just that; most of all its inside ourselves that we would be delivered by our oneness with Jesus, our contentment with what he wants for us at every moment; that we would not experience those thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.Because I’m sure you agree with what has been my experience; that you have no energy to help or attend to anyone else in those moments. I mean, you don’t care what anybody else is doing because you’re so preoccupied with your own trouble. And it means at that moment not only is love and careand concern not going out to others, but there’s no praise going out from your heart to God. There’s no love, there’s no good and most of all it seems to me it’s a dreadful offense to the one who has been faithful beyond what you could define as faithfulness.Think of the numbers of mornings we’ve gotten up without a thought of him and he’s raised the sun or turned the earth around. He just keeps on being faithful. And it seems that it’s the most dreadful offense we could give to a father like that, to continue in this – I was going to say childish, but I think it’s not just childish, it’s not just stupidity, its rank rebellion and distrust. Now you might say, “Well it’s just that I’m not thinking of him at that moment.” But if we’re not thinking of him at that moment it’s because we’re thinking too much of what’s going on in the world and it seems to me at that moment the world events are more important to us or seem more powerful to us. And so there’s some sense in which we’re not worshiping him day-by-day, and moment-by-moment, and second-by-second.So the Father I think gives us this plain historical record so that we’ll see that. And of course, we read last Sunday the very plain promises that he made and it wouldn’t do us any harm to look at them. Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” And it’s one of those that we really need to remember, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” That God is eternally faithful.I caught myself saying, “Well yes Lord, I can trust you in situations where I can see and understand how you’re going to deliver me.” And I saw that of course it isn’t trust at all because the things where I can see the way God is going to deliver me are not specifically God’s work at all, they’re just my own human ability, maybe enlightened by his Spirit, but they’re just what my own renewed mind is able to see, “Oh yeah, I see how this will work out.” Usually, actually if we’re honest, we’re not seeing how God will deliver us, we’re seeing how we’ll work out the cash flow for ourselves, or how we can fiddle this or fiddle that and make it go.So actually we say, “Oh, we’re trusting God when we see how he can deliver us,” but what we’re saying is we’re trusting the real “god” because we can see how the real “god” can deliver us; we’re seeing how we can deliver ourselves and we’re trusting ourselves and we’re saying, “Lord, we’re okay here. We’re alright; keep your hands off we can manage this.” So it’s not trust. Then I saw suddenly that trust is only trust in God when you can’t possibly see how God can deliver you. When you can’t see how he will deliver you.Now it seems to me that’s real peace, when you come to that place of submission to him and awareness of your own powerlessness and weakness. That’s real trust where you say, “Lord, I can’t see how you’re going to deliver me but I trust you.” And I don’t know about you all, but I think I was tempted at certain points in my life to think that way of thinking was all right for incompetent people; they’re wee souls who can’t just see. There’s a dear friend that I had called and I think I told you about him, he died apparently two or three years ago. But he was in my class in grade school and was one of triplets. Actually, one of his brothers is praised by James Galway in his autobiography as somebody who taught him a lot of the tricks with the flute that he knows.So there were three interesting brothers, but Leslie was retarded. He was in my class in school but he should have been way beyond, but he trusted God and he came to Jesus in a little endeavor society that I was part of. And he worked in the local newspaper office; the newspapers came out there fromthe machine and he set them there. That’s what he did all day. And I, at one point in my life, could see, “Well, I could see how Leslie has to trust you because he can’t understand a thing. He can’t possibly see how things would work out.” So it’s very easy for those of us who feel competent and capable to think, “Well, that’s for the birds. That’s for the weaklings. That’s for the weak ones or the weak minded.”But real trust in God is only trust when we cannot possibly see how he will answer us or deliver us. That brings a realm of peace and rest in our life that nothing else brings and that is wonderful when you get to that place, because then you can’t be shook. Then it doesn’t matter what happens; you can’t be shook, you can’t be shaken. You’ll walk even all the time.1 Kings 8:56, “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised; not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he uttered by Moses his servant.” Not one word has failed. So he promises that he will be our refuge and our fortress, a very present help in time of trouble, and not one word has ever failed of a good promise like that. So we’re on solid sure ground, we have someone that we can trust.Maybe we could look briefly at the last part of the chapter. It refers to Satan’s opposition in the world, because Exodus 17 recounts the opposition of the Amalekites to the Israelites but really the Amalekites stand for the whole world of men and women that are determined to destroy the body of Jesus, because Israel stands for the new Israel and Amalek was the first nation that determined that they would get rid of these Israelites. Then in 17:8, “Then came Amalek and fought with Israel at Rephidim. And Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” And it really stands for all the forces that will come against us, and those forces are not just labeled Amalekites, or Philistines, those forces are at times labeled Murdoch, though Murdoch himself isn’t the cause of it, but all the dear entrepreneurs and tycoons that control all kinds of media empires, control all kinds of massive chain stores, control all kinds of businesses in the world. They’re often the unknowing, sometimes the knowing, servants of Satan but they are bent on proving that Christ did not overcome the world, and on proving that the body of Jesus cannot survive in God’s world and they’re bent on destroying the little baby that was almost destroyed by Pharaoh and all those forces are arrayed against us.We should not be paranoid, there’s no place for that kind of weeping self-pitying approach that many evangelicals take, “Oh, we’re persecuted, we’re being opposed. We don’t have a chance.” That’s ridiculous! But the fact of the matter is that there are all kind of Amalekite powers that are arrayed and are determined to prove that Jesus did not overcome the world and that he is not able to make a way in this world apart from weapons of the world. And so when the Amalekites come against us we’re in the same position as Moses. And you may say, “Oh yeah, we get our rod and lift it up,” but that wasn’t the significance of the rod at all and you it in verse 10, “So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.” See, you do have to fight, you have to go out and sell, you have to go out and get radio stations, but that wasn’t where the victory was. In verse 11, “Whenever Moses held up his hand,” this is very humbling to all of us who pray, “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” You can’t believe it! It’s one of those things that you read in the Bible and think, “Well, it’s kind of magic.” It’s so ridiculous, but it’s there in God’s word, “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands.” It seems so silly to us. “One on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua mowed downAmalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”Now I don’t know, I suppose I read it as a would be liberal and I thought, “This is silly stuff. Why go to all this trouble symbolically to show us how important it was for Moses to hold up his hands to you.” But then as you come to respect God’s word historically and then spiritually by faith, you begin to realize it’s all there for a good reason and good purpose. And actually, that was true; that’s how important prayer is in the victory of the body of Jesus in this present world. And we need to see why they went to the trouble of holding up his hands; why did they go to the trouble of getting a stone for him to sit on? Why do we go through the trouble of having prayer on Saturday morning? Why do we go to the trouble of praying for each other? That’s why: because it is a spiritual battle. It’s simply God’s way.God has promised, “If you pray to me, and ask me to do things, I will do things for you.” That’s it. And he tests us out for a while by maybe not answering some of our early prayers to see if we will believe him. He wants to know, “Will you do what I command you to do?” And I would encourage any of us here who have found that we’ve prayed and we haven’t got answers to our prayers, or we’ve prayed and we wonder if it’s worth praying, it’s God’s way. It’s his only command and what he’s doing by holding off answers is testing to see if you going to pray because you get answers or are you going to pray because he told you to pray? Are you going to pray because you obey him and trust him, or are you going to pray because you see the benefits of prayer in your hands, in which case you’re only praying for your own selfish reasons? It is just so plain that there is something miraculous in prayer that it’s silly to say that. It’s just a fact that God has ordained this.There’s a philosophical problem that you bring up in early philosophy classes; the billiard ball. You shoot the white ball at the red and you knock the red ball into the pocket and you say that the white ball hitting the red ball caused it to go into the pocket. The philosophical question is of course, did it? Can you prove that that cause brought about that effect, or did that effect just happen to take place at that moment and was actually brought about by something else? And of course, when you begin to go behind that little philosophical question you can see that God made this whole world, he made it so that if that white ball touched the red ball the red ball would go that way. And actually it is true that in a way there is no cause and effect, there’s just one great first cause. He has arranged a whole series of things that happen one after the other and we can never really prove that one causes the other.It’s the same with this whole matter of prayer; God has said, “Just as if you knock that ball against that ball, that ball will move, so if you close your eyes and you ask me to do things the things will be done and that’s the way the world works.” And that’s the way, above all, the battle goes in business and in ministry and so we in our business ministry, are forced to see that for us prayer is everything. For us, prayer is the whole explanation. We can appear to make money the way other people make money, but we know why anybody makes money and we know above all that God is able so to govern those laws, and so to modify, and so to use them that we are actually able to make money in places where the normal world people do not make money.So our victory is entirely different from the victory of those who work in the flesh and you see that so plainly in verse 11, “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” That’s God saying to us that’s the way it is for us; whenever you hold up your hands in prayer you will prevail. Whenever you lower your hands in prayer the world will prevail and that’s just the fact of the matter. Then in verse 14, “And the Lord sad toMoses, ‘Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.’” A promise that God will eventually destroy the forces that are arrayed against the body of Jesus. Probably on the final day when he comes again, or at the famous battle he will destroy all the forces of Babylon and all the forces that will oppose Jesus.“And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, the Lord is my banner, saying, and ‘A hand upon the banner of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’” Of course, that’s what goes on today; he has battles still with Amalek and it’s important to be able to interpret that rightly. We’re not saying that everybody who opens a chain store and won’t buy from us is personally antagonistic to us; they aren’t, there’s no antagonism to it at all. But in the realm of the spiritual world it is still Amalek that is operating, because we believe God has called us to allow Jesus to do something through us here in the world of business, and we believe it is Jesus who is doing this and every time he begins to move, Amalek comes against him. So in a real way we’re in exactly that eternal struggle that will continue until Jesus finally comes and destroys the antichrist. But the beauty of it is that because of the same struggle, we have the same power. We have the same power.Let us pray. Dear Father, we thank you that it is your will for us to simply pray, and pray, and pray again. That it is your will for us that we triumph by the blood of the cross and by our testimony. It is your will that we would triumph by the victory of Calvary being manifested through the power of the Holy Spirit in answer to our honest, simple prayers. Lord, we thank you. We thank you that it is your will that we would live free from the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to and we would live in the cocoon of your faithfulness. That we would exist in the world and be with it — raw and hand-to-hand with no quarter given, and that in our hearts and our spirits we would dwell in the cocoon of your presence and your protection and your kindly guarding grace and love.Father, we thank you. Thank you Lord that the battle is yours and that the Lord will fight for us and all we have to do is obey and do what you tell us to do. The shocks you bear and bore in your own body on the tree; the peace, the trusting walk, and the victory you have given to us. We thank you Lord, for your goodness to us and pray that the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be with us now and ever more. Amen.
Exodus 17:Testing God - EXODUS
Exodus 17: Testing GodSermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillExodus 18:1 is the study and you can just read through if you will undertake not to read beyond the half way mark because it splits into the two sections and I think God has something for us in each half. Exodus 18:1, “Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people.” So that was the priest whose daughter had married Moses way back and you can see that in Exodus 3:1, “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” And you remember that’s where Moses saw the burning bush and so it was his father-in-law Jethro that is being mentioned now. And you may remember that way before all the plagues happened, Moses sent Zipporah his wife and their children to stay with her father before all that happened.So this is Jethro coming back with Moses’ wife, his daughter, “Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel his people,” because of course everybody obviously had heard about it — how these little Israelites had escaped from Egypt. “How the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. Now Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, had taken Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her away, and her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, ‘I have been a sojourner in a foreign land’).” That is Moses said that, “And the name of the other, Eliezer (for he said, ‘The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh’).” So Moses had sent his wife and his children to live with his father-in-law during the time of the plagues. And then in verse 5, “And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was encamped at the mountain of God. And when one told Moses, ‘Lo, your father-in-law Jethro is coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her,’ Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare, and went into the tent.”It might be good to remember that Jethro was not a priest of God, he was a priest of Midian. He was actually a pagan as far as the Israelites were concerned and that’s why Aaron and Miriam rebelled against Moses and criticized him marrying a Cushite woman. That is, marrying a woman who is not Jewish, and so he obviously had married the daughter of a pagan priest. So then in verse 7, “Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and did obeisance and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare, and went into the tent. Then Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them in the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. And Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done to Israel, in that he had delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you,” and this is the old pagan speaking now, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh. Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.” So it seemed that he really turned around in his life.“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, because he delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians, when they dealt arrogantly with them.’ And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, offered a burnt offering and sacrifices to God; and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.” And it seemed to me that the thing that turned Jethro around was seeing what God had done for the Israelites. And I think that it is God’s will for the surrounding world to see what God does for his people. I think it’s wrong if we get into asuperficial attitude to faith, or we think God is there just to do things for us and that’s the only reason we’re interested in him doing things — just because they’re for us.But on the other hand, it seems plain that throughout the Bible, even in the Psalm that we read, it seems plain that people were awakened in their attitude to God when they saw what God had done for his people. And it does seem to me it is God’s will to do things for us. I think that we can carry on as we’re doing and you know it, and I know it; even just because of our qualifications, or abilities, or intellectual abilities, or abilities to work hard, we can grow and become reasonably successful in business. I don’t think that’s what we’re in business for. We’re in business so that men and women will be drawn to Jesus and it seems as you look in the Bible, many of them are awakened initially — they’re not converted, they’re not brought the whole way into Jesus, that is by the Holy Spirit working through sanctified lives and prayers — but they’re awakened in their attitude to God by what they see God do for his people.It seems to me it is God’s will that the business and the whole ministry should go beyond what is natural and what is normal and it ties up with what we were talking about and saying, “We’re always thinking we’ll get bigger or we’ll grow more.” And it is right; I notice it working with Vince in the radio; he likes being around us because we’re ongoing, we’re upbeat, we’re moving forward. In fact, I talked to Rick last night and he was talking about this restaurant where he is and he said “If we realized what a difference there is in our attitude, to the attitude of the world. There they’re all trying to scramble up the heap and they’re cutting each other’s throats to get a step up in the whole hierarchy.” So there is a very definite difference in our attitude, but it seems that God wants to prosper us so that the world is awakened to that and sees it. I believe that it is right for us to pray that God will massively bless our sales, and our business, and the expansion of our business and give us ideas and designs way beyond what ordinary people would have.But I think what that does is it brings us back to the centrality of prayer and it’s plain if you look at Psalms 107. They were not delivered because of what they were doing, because some of them were wandering in desert ways, some of them were in darkness and gloom, some of them were sick through this, some went down to the sea in ships — they were all doing different things that weren’t tremendously helping them, but they all did the same thing. Psalms 107:6, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Verse 13, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Verse 19, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” Verse 28, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.” The sheer repetition of it impresses you with the fact that there was no deliverance until they cried to the Lord and crying to the Lord is heartfelt prayer.It seems to me there’s no point in any of us here in this room saying, “Well, what’s happening in our business? It’s supposed to go gloriously forward and prosper and it’s no better than any other” and while we’re not crying to the Lord that will be the case. But we can’t stand back knowing that we’re not praying; that we’re not fulfilling the one condition that is needed for God to bless outstandingly, and then complain that he’s not blessing because he’d speak right to us and say, “You’re not praying.” And we’d say, “You’re not blessing.” And he’d say, “You’re not praying.” And we’d say, “You’re not blessing.” And he’ll say, “You’re not praying.” And finally the truth is — only one can be right in this universe, and that’s God. So it seems that it is God’s will to bless his children beyond what the children of the world are blessed, but he does it in response not to their industry, not to their attention to detail, not to their hard work, not to their dedication, but he does it in response to their prayers.And so it seems to me to bring it back to each one of us, every one of us here in this room; it’s only going to come through our heartfelt prayers. And it seems to me that’s what comes out of that phrase, “They cried to the Lord,” it isn’t just saying our prayers. It’s not just, “We have our quite time. We have our morning prayer time together.” You see it in verse 6, “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble.” They didn’t all say to themselves, “Alright, we’ll get together every morning at eight o’clock and sing a hymn and read Oswald Chambers and have a prayer.” They were in trouble. They cried to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress, and it’s emphasized there in verse 12, “Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble.” It’s only when it’s desperate prayer. “They cried to the Lord in their trouble.” Its heartfelt, desperate prayer.But if that isn’t forthcoming from us, God is not able to bless abundantly. You can easily get yourself into a tricky position in an operation like our own. You can get yourself into a position where we’re going along okay, we’re paying our bills — it’s tight — but we’re paying our bills and we’re doing alright and we’ve a comfortable life and it looks as if we might be able to do other things as well. But actually it will go on like that for the rest of our miserable lives unless we begin to engage in heartfelt prayer for God’s blessing. It comes home to me every time we have to address an issue like going to Italy, or every time we have to address any issue where the resources do not seem to be right there.The real answer is that unless God has changed his modus operandi, unless he has changed his way of working, God will provide the resources if we will cry unto the Lord. And it seems to me the position we often get ourselves into is we don’t want to say to each other we’re not crying unto the Lord because you don’t want to tell each other, “You’re not praying enough.” So we get into these conversations where we try to explain it away to each other, and try to hold onto the vision and try to do without the resources when actually the answer is obvious: the only reason we don’t have the resources is because we’re not crying unto the Lord in prayer — because we’re not engaged in desperate prayer, so the Father is not able to prosper the sales.So often we can get into the position of, “What’s he doing? What’s she doing? What’s the other fella doing?” And it’s easy to get into that spot where we say, “Isn’t this supposed to happen? Why isn’t it happening?” And we can get to be like little kids where the kid says, “Why isn’t this happening?” And he’s not doing anything about it to help it; he’s just standing there complaining that nothing is happening. And of course the Father regards us as adults and he has said, “Here is instance after instance of people who were in trouble, of people who hadn’t the resources, and they cried unto me in their distress and I delivered them. I’m still in that business. I’m still the same. Just because you’re you, I’m not going to change my own nature or deny my existence; I’m the same as I always was. I will answer, but you need to cry to me in heartfelt prayer.”Where I saw some more light was when God guided me to some other verses that we all know so well about heartfelt prayer. It’s in John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” It’s necessary to see that God does not leave us in doubt about heartfelt prayer. We do not need to wonder, “Does it mean I have to cry? Does it mean I have to have tears? Does it mean Nathan has to be dying? Does it mean I have to have no money for the rent? Does it mean I have to speak in tongues?” No, no, no; God is very simple — John 15:7, Jesus said “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” That’s part of what heartfelt prayer is.You’re desperate enough to get God to answer and to prosper the sales. You’re desperate enough to put right in your life what you know is wrong. Wherever you know you’re not abiding in Jesus, wherever you’re being cynical at a certain moment and saying, “Oh well, it’s alright for you to talk, I don’t see any sign of it.” Wherever you’re being cynical, where any of us are not abiding in Jesus, or where we’re not letting him abide in us, or we’re not exuding his sweetness and his fragrance but instead our own kind of arrogance selfishness, where we’re not abiding in Jesus or he’s not abiding in us, or where his words are not abiding in us, or we’re not abiding in his words. There are things that we know he wants us to do — there are attitudes we know he wants to have in us and we’re not having them — that prevents us praying heartfelt prayer.So heartfelt prayer is “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.” In other words, we’re so desperate for God to answer and to prosper us so that others will see his hand in our lives that we will do anything to enable him to do it. We’ll go before him and say, “Lord God, is there any attitude I have, is there anything I’m doing that is preventing you answering my prayers?” But until we do that, we’re like a dear fellow that I remember in Campus Church years and years ago, it was one of those twisted situations we all got ourselves into — all anxious to help everybody else by counseling them. And this dear guy came under condemnation. He had in fact helped to start one of the early businesses and he would say, “I can’t feel that God forgives me. He won’t forgive me.” He had been on drugs, but was then off them. And I counseled him and counseled him and recounseled him, and prayed with him and reprayed with him and others did the same and still after months he almost looked emaciated because he felt so condemned. And then one day it came clearly through to me, I believe from God, “This is blasphemy. God does forgive. God does forgive sins.” While this dear guy goes around saying “He doesn’t forgive” he’s just blaspheming God. This isn’t real conviction of sin or it’s not real condemnation from God, this is rebellion and this is Satan having his way in this fella’s life, and it was revelation to me.Do you see; we can easily get ourselves into that spot? We can say, “Well, we’re God’s children, we’re doing his work and where is the blessing — I don’t see the blessing. Where’s the great prosperity? Where’s the sign of God’s hand on our lives so that others will see it? Where is it?” And yet we’re not praying. So we can easily get ourselves in a position where we’re parading ourselves as children of God, but we’re really blaspheming against God because we’re saying, “Well, he isn’t answering.” And we know why he isn’t answering; because we haven’t an ounce of heartfelt prayer in our lives. We have “prayer saying times”; times when we say our prayers, but we don’t have heartfelt prayer — we’re not desperate for God’s blessing.That’s where I think things like the trip to Italy help in a way to focus the thing; because if we just fill our lives with options, “I wouldn’t mind going to Italy, but if the money doesn’t come in we can’t go.” Well if you fill your life with options — with no goals, or visions that you believe are from God, then we’ll never get anywhere. We’ll just wander about in the middle of a sea of relativity and whims and wishes and casual thoughts. But if we do believe God wants a family throughout the world of people who are expressing his life through businesses, and we see that a thing like Italy, or Christmas, or whatever it is, is an integral contribution to that, then we go to God in that spirit — with a spirit of desperate prayer in our hearts, and then, it seems to me, God answers.There are some other things that are in this same chapter if you look at John 15:16 and see Jesus’ heartfelt prayer, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that,” and this is another factor in heartfeltprayer, “whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” Heart felt prayer is not the cry of a selfish little child wanting more lollipops. Or, if you’d like to raise it up a few levels, its not the cry of a selfish little adult wanting things that will make him or her comfortable; or a selfish little adult that thinks only in terms of his own life, or his own wishes, or his own preferences, or his own comfort, or his own prosperity, or the happiness of his own family. It isn’t that.God will not answer prayer that is selfish. You remember that verse in James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” God cannot answer prayer that is built on our own desires or our wishes; it has to be prayer that is in his name. And there’s where we need to clear things up in our own minds; why are we here? Are we here to do a little on the side for God but primarily to forward our own lives, or at least to maintain our existence? Or are we here because we’ve given up our own name and we’re here in his name and we have an inner conviction that this is his; that this is his home, that this is his business, that this is his ministry, that this is his life and therefore we go to God in his name with that attitude.But heartfelt, desperate prayer, is prayer that is offered in Jesus’ name for his glory and not for ours. And it seems to me that’s pretty important, because I can see that one of the dangerous attitudes – and it’s so plain and obvious that I suppose we should have spent more time mentioning it in Campus Church over the years, but one very obvious fact is this: when you have an operation like our own or like Campus Church and Fish Enterprises where you have businesses and you have means of making money, and you have means of expressing yourself, and you have means of doing the things you can do, obviously there’s a very strong temptation for you to do it all for the wrong reasons. Like doing it all either because you like the people you’re involved with, or because you like using your own powers or your own abilities, or because you like getting some money of your own.There are a thousand reasons besides the glory of Jesus for which you can do those things and it’s pretty important therefore, that people like ourselves, in an operation like this, are very clear in whose name we’re doing these things. Because God will not bless the prayers of a selfish person or the prayers of a person who can see no further than his own nose, or no further than his own home, or his own family, or his own wife, or his own children, or his own friends. God will not answer such a person. He will only answer a person who comes and prays in his name. If you look throughout this Bible, God blesses his people in extraordinary ways; in ways that are far beyond the ways that other people are blessed, so that people will look and say, “I see what the Lord has done for you. Even though I am Jethro and I’m a pagan, I see what God has done and I see that he is the Lord.” Now it seems that that’s God’s will for us. But he can only do that when there is heartfelt, desperate prayer, that is in his name and that is done from a heart that is obedient to him.There is just one more thing that I saw in 1 John if you look at it. 1 John 5:15 and it’s a third factor in heartfelt prayer. First is an obedient life in his name and then verse 15, “And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the requests made of him.” And you see when we will know that – look at the line just before that, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” So it can’t be just our will — we need the money for this or we need the money for that — but we need to know is this the Father’s will? And we each need to be convinced of it. Irene can’t be convinced of it because I’m convinced of it; she has to be convinced of it herself. Andrea can’t be convinced of it just because Dan’s convinced of it. You can’t be convinced of it just because I’m convinced. We have to be convinced in our own minds; “This is God’s will” and then we ask according to his will.That’s what I mean about Italy or London; I think if we’re preoccupied with what is his will he will answer us appropriately. If we go to him and say, “Father, we really want your will, we don’t want our own will, we want your will Lord. It would be nice, we’d like to add another wing on the house, but Lord, whatever is your will that is what we want.” And it seems then, when you get a group of people who are living in obedience to God, who are putting aside the idols that he shows them, who are doing things in Jesus’ name and not in their own name, and who really believe the whole thing belongs to Jesus and treat it as that; and if they are a group of people who are sensing what God wants, then when that group of people engage in heart felt prayer, God answers and prospers them way beyond the other people who are doing business. And it seems to me that’s the only thing that will achieve anything in a world that is increasingly commercial.Some of what we saw last night in that Taiwan movie on the rich and famous pointed out that some of the people in Taiwan are far richer than many of the people in America because of the commerce that is going on, and that’s the story all over the world. We talk about yuppies, but there are yuppies everywhere. There are all kinds of people who are going into business and the big thing is — money, money, money. And of course, there’s going to come a crunch when the poor have nots in Africa, and India, and South America, and Asia really discover this. But at the moment in the western world, everybody is making money. So the only way in which God is going to be able to declare himself to be God is to prosper us abundantly, but most of all, create a different spirit in our operation and in ourselves; a freedom from the frenetic frenzy that is increasingly governing every businessman who tries to scramble up the heap to a better salary.So it’s going to come, as it has always come in God’s dealings with people, not through their own industry, that’s taken for granted. You have to be industrious, God won’t bless laziness. He won’t bless lack of skill, you have to be skillful. That’s why he gives us wisdom and skills. But he won’t bless us because of industry or because of our skillfulness; he’ll bless us because of our heartfelt, desperate prayer. That’s why I think we, here in this business, can be as skillful and industrious as we care to be, but if we’re not engaged in desperate heartfelt prayer, I don’t think God will answer us. I don’t think he will prosper us.Now, could I just take you very briefly and very quickly through the rest of the chapter? Exodus 18:13, “On the morrow Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood about Moses from morning till evening.” So they were all around him. “When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand about you from morning till evening?’” As, often, the outsider sees it more clearly than the guy on the inside. “And Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God; when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between a man and his neighbor, and I make them know the statutes of God and his decisions.’ Moses’ father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it alone.’” Because they were about two million people now and he was judging – he was trying to settle all their disputes.“Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God, and bring their cases to God.” And therefore get from God, you see, what he wants, “And you shall teach them the statutes and the decisions and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover choose able men from all the people, such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe; and place such men over the people as rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; everygreat matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.’ So Moses gave heed to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own country.”Now, I don’t know if you can see what God is saying to us in this, but maybe the best verse is verse 22, “And let them judge the people at all times; every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves; so it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.” One man can’t do the whole thing. If we’re going to move on, and I certainly have new light from God about radio here in the states, about some things we can start doing and I’ve just finished talking with Myron about the radio station yesterday again and the need there’ll be for certainly me to put time into that if we’re going to do any kind of programming at all. It’s obvious that if we’re going to move on, then some of my things have to be done by Irene, or by others. In other words, we’re going to be limited unless we all take part and take responsibility in different things.Now I’d just say one more thing to each of us, because I’m sure we all think deep down, “Yeah, well let us do it.” Verse 21, “Moreover choose able men,” and I presume that means woman too, “Moreover choose able men (and women) from all the people such as fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe.” It has to be delegation of God’s work to people who do it as God’s work. It has to be done as God’s work by people who know its God’s work and do it in God’s name. It can’t be us all doing our own thing that we do in our own strength and just as an ordinary job.”If we do it in our own power and our own strength and our own pride, and with no particular feeling that we’re doing this for Jesus, then do you see to delegate stuff to that kind of person is like throwing the stuff away. It’s like taking God’s work and throwing it into the scrap heap. In other words, there’s a great need for delegation if we’re going to go on as a body, but it has to be to hearts that really do it in Jesus’ name and under him. It can’t be people who take the attitude, “Good, I have it in my hands, it’s about time I got it out of his hands. It’s about time it’s mine; now I can do it properly.” If there’s that spirit of hubris; that spirit of pride and arrogance, and that spirit of the attitude of the natural man or woman, no particular feeling that this is for Jesus and I do it under submission to him, but a whole spirit of arrogant independent selfish pride, then there’s no delegation there. All that Moses is doing in that case is throwing his trust onto the rubbish heap.So it gets back in a way, to what we talked of at the beginning and that’s why I thought it important, because God showed me the two things together in that chapter; that what is needed for God to do what he wants among us in the way of prospering the work of our hands and making it clear to the surrounding world that God is Lord and that he still affects businesses and ordinary people in their practical affairs, what is needed is heartfelt prayer. And that is prayer that comes from people who are bringing their lives under Jesus’ Spirit; from people who pray in his name and for his glory and not their own pleasure. And from people who are anxious to know his will, not anxious to have their own will satisfied. And then as he prospers, the work has to be delegated and it can only be delegated to people who see it as God’s service and do it as unto him and in a spirit of submission and humility and love.Otherwise if you delegate to natural men and women who say, “Anybody can ship. Anybody can collect money. Anybody can do finances.” If that’s the spirit, then it’s not the spirit of the servant of Christ and it’s not the spirit that will transmit Jesus’ life to the people we meet through our businesses. It’ll only come from hearts that are desperate for God’s blessing to be upon them and their business and who do their work as a service unto Jesus.Let us pray. Dear Father, we thank you for your word to us today, and we thank you Lord, that you have spoken it to our hearts and we pray now Lord, that you will use it to save us and that as we deal with you about these things in our own hearts and consciences, you will find it possible through the Holy Spirit, to make us what you want us to be. Lord, we do not want to be hypocrites. We do not want to be watery wishy washy religious people. We want Lord, to be men and women who believe you are God; who bring their own lives into practical obedience to your will, who allow your Spirit to pervade their attitudes and their heartfelt desires. Who live their lives in your name and for your glory and not for their own and who want your will above everything else.Lord, we want to be such men and women so that you may have your way with us and so that our lives may either be one thing or the other so that we may either share the nominal success of hardworking people or the outstanding blessing of men and women who trust God and who love him. So Lord, we thank you for this day and thank you for your faithfulness to us. In Jesus name, Amen.
Exodus 20a - EXODUS
Exodus 20aSermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillIf we were part of a large southern plantation and our little two and a half acres plus our house was part of a larger plantation, and the owner of the huge plantation said to us, “Go off on vacation and I’ll take care of this house for you, you can depend on me” it seems to me that our faith in him would depend on some knowledge we had of him. That’s plain and obvious because none of us would dream of committing our home and our garden to somebody that we didn’t know; it’s impossible to have faith in somebody whose track record you have no idea of. And I think that’s one of the values of the ten commandments.Having faith in God depends on us knowing what his nature is. And the ten commandments, even though they’re not our daily relationship with God, in other words, our daily relationship with God isn’t built on them, it’s built on the life of Jesus in us and our response to that life, yet the ten commandments do clarify for us what God is like and what his nature is. So it does give you the feeling he’s not dumb, for instance. He’s not going to roll the tanks over us; he’s not going to roll a train over us. He’s not a dreadful tyrant that is insensitive to us and he’s not a dishonest person. He’s not a crooked person. He’s a person who says, “Thou shalt not steal.” He’s a person who says, “Thou shalt not kill.”So in a sense the ten commandments are very important to us because sometimes the life of Jesus in us is attacked by other spirits and sometimes it waivers a little. It’s so good to be able to look to something as solid as the Bible and see, “But wait a minute, this God that I trust, this is what he’s like. Whether I feel he’s like that or not at this moment, this is what he’s like. This is the kind of God he is.” And so the ten commandments, in a sense, are still important to us because they show us what God’s nature is and they’re a way of holding back Satan’s lies when he says, “You can’t trust him.” We can look to this dear word and we can say, “Yes, yes we can. Because not only does he say these things, not only are these the commandments he’s given us for centuries, but this is the way he has acted with people down through the years.” So it’s very reasonable to be asked to have faith in somebody whom you know like that and it’s maybe good to remember that about the commandments.Now the one we’re studying is the second commandment and you’ll find it in Exodus 20:4. The first commandant is verse two and it goes, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” The second one is in verse four, and this is the one we’re studying today. “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” And we need to trust the Holy Spirit to speak to each of us today and apply this to our hearts, because God is the one who creates us and sustains us, and who will receive us to himself at the end of this life. What this commandment is talking about is things that you substitute for God, that’s really what a graven image is. And it’s maybe good to see that they’re not just talking about statues.Every group has its things that other people can knock down; the Protestants have plenty of them, the Catholic Church had its statute of the virgin Mary and all that kind of thing and we Protestantsused to look at those and say those are graven images. The Bible isn’t talking about likenesses that various artists have drawn. We used to say in Protestantism that you can’t draw a picture of Jesus — you should never attempt to do that. I don’t know what we did therefore with the work of the old masters, we just blotted them out.But we used to think those images were a sacrilege and that it was a sin to try to draw a picture of Jesus, because who could ever draw a picture of Jesus? Well, everybody agrees with that; it’s impossible to draw Jesus in all his fullness, but it’s important to see that the second commandment is not concerned with sculptures, or paintings of Jesus, or attempts to represent some of the wonder of God. The emphasis of the commandment is obviously on making them and worshiping them. Verse five, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” So it’s not a case of anything that is in heaven above, because that would prevent all sculpture and all painting. You couldn’t paint an ocean because that’s in the earth, you couldn’t paint the sky because that’s in the heaven above, and you couldn’t paint a fish because that’s in the water under the earth.So it’s not referring to a sculpture or painting but it’s referring to making a likeness of something and then bowing down and worshiping it in the place of God, or treating it in the place of God. And maybe its good to see what they worshipped in the Old Testament, because it actually is not so strange as you may think. One of the things they worshiped was the whole business of Baal and ownership. Ba’al in Hebrew actually means “I own” or “I have.” And it’s important for us to see when they made a stone idol and called it Baal, it wasn’t the idol they were worshiping, it was the spirit of ownership and possessions. I often think that we are very quick to look down on the pagans who worship Baal and yet we fail to see that what they were worshiping was their possessions.In other words, instead of depending on God for their security, they were actually depending on the land they owned, or the cows, or the cattle they owned. And when Andrea read that piece in Isaiah, it drew out the foolishness of the fact that the workmen used part of the wood to light a fire and to cook a meal and to warm himself, and he used another part of the wood to make as his idol and worship it. But in a sense we are just as foolish when we depend on our possessions and the things we own for our security. And what I think we need to lie low under the Holy Spirit on is to what extent is our peace of mind, and we’ve touched this so often — but it does seem to me it’s where we live so it’s what we should face — how often does our peace of mind in business depend on the accounts receivable or the money in the bank?But then let’s apply it to each of our own individual lives; how much does our peace of mind depend on the reserves that we have? I think several of us here have found it hard, but yet have been grateful to God, for taking one thing after another and taking it out from under us so that we no longer had that reserve to depend upon. And yet probably the truth is that after all the possessions are gone, and after all the things we own are gone, there can still be a creeping little attitude of idol worship inside us that even when it has nothing, still thinks, “Yeah, but finally you depend on this or that rather than God for your security” and while we do that we’re still worshiping an idol. Even worse is we’re not worshiping God and therefore we’re actually cutting ourselves off from the greatness of God himself.That piece that we’ve mentioned before about Smith Wigglesworth always comes home to me and I’ll go over it quickly; a very wealthy man came to him for advice and Wigglesworth had bought a house that he couldn’t pay for and he didn’t have the money to pay for. He counseled or prayed for the man, and a real change was worked in the man’s heart and he was so grateful he said to Wigglesworth,“What can I do for you? Can I do anything for you?” And Wigglesworth said not a word and yet it would have been so easy because the amount he needed was so small, I think it was something like 100 pounds sterling that he needed, but it was so small it would have meant nothing to the wealthy man. But he said not a word because he did not worship the idol of money, or the idol of a house or of ownership, but he worshiped God. And it seems that only to such will God give all his own blessings and open his arms.It’s come home to me increasingly now, because it’s so obvious that if God is going to do something with us beyond ourselves it’s going to have to be his action; it’s going to be him bringing the people he wants. And if we cut ourselves off from him and his resources, or we stop him throwing upon us his blessings we’re lost; there’s nothing. And yet he will only give his blessings to those who actually worship him and who do not worship their own things or the things they depend on for security, so it’s good to see that.Another of the idols that they worshiped in the days of the Israelites in Israel was Ashtoreth. Ashtoreth was the god of lust or desire. And the [health issue with] cholesterol issue was good for me because – and we’ve talked about this before — it’s surprising how you can get caught up not just with lust and sexual stuff and all that, though that has its moments, but with treats. It’s surprising how you can depend on treats; on the satisfaction of little desires that you have for your happiness. And it seems that every time we do that – I was going to say we coarsen our spirit, but we certainly coarsen our relationship with God; we lose something fine in our relationship with him. And it seems that when we do that — okay, we don’t have a stone idol and all that sort of thing, or we don’t have a huge muffin made of wood in our bedroom — but it does seem that in some way life coarsens and our quiet trust with God, and our direct line to him is somehow twisted. So I don’t think you need to have a material or wooden or stone idol to be thought of as an image worshiper or idol worshiper. It seems that it’s a much finer thing than that; it seems that it’s looking to anything instead of God for the things that he alone can give.There are some good pieces in Psalms 135 –there are many statements in the Bible about idols, but it seems that that is one that is particularly direct. Psalms 135:15, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not, they have eyes, but they see not, they have ears, but they hear not, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Like them be those who make them! – yea, every one who trusts in them!” And you found that in your own personal experience: when you worship your possessions or your money, or you depend on them rather than God, or you depend on your little treats rather than God, you find that God’s voice no longer is present in your life.“They have mouths, but they speak not, they have eyes, but they see not.” These things, any image you put in place of God, have no ability to communicate to you something from outside yourself; they’re just a reflection of yourself, so your life goes kind of dead inside. I think that’s what happens when we’re not living on the razor edge of God’s provision, but instead trying to get on what we think is the broad road of our own provisions. Yeah, you’re secure, or you seem to be, but everything is dead in your life, there’s nothing coming from outside. Your life is not exciting, it’s not interesting, there’s no dynamic to it because “they have mouths, but they speak not, they have eyes, but they see not, they have ears, but hear not.” Images and idols have not the power of the living God to communicate something new into your life so your life goes dead. And actually, you see in verse 18, “Like them,” in other words dumb and blind and deaf, “Like them be those who make them!” You become the same; your life dies and you become more and more an unentity, more and more a deaf, blind, dumb thing that has no life of its own. “Yea, every one who trusts in them!”So in a way the more you depend on idols instead of God the more uninteresting as a person you become. I remember one book that meant a lot to me when I was still kind of a liberal in the Methodist church, was J. B. Phillips, Your God is Too Small. It’s really a good book and he points out that many of us don’t have stone idols but we have wrong ideas of God; we have ideas of God that we worship, we don’t worship God himself. We worship ideas that we’ve either created ourselves, or we’ve collected them from other sources, or we’ve allowed them to form in our minds through not using our own intelligence and he says a lot of people labor under those.And one I remember him talking about is – a group of school children were asked who is God? And one little kid started the composition, “God is an old gentlemen living in heaven.” And it seemed that it wasn’t so bad, it was nice to think of him with a beard and very wise and all that, but I think so often we think of him as not only an old gentlemen, but one who is kind of nodding and is not quite in the middle of what we’re doing and has other things that he’s interested in and doesn’t quite understand our circumstances. I think it’s good to know God isn’t that.In Psalms 139:1, he is no old gentlemen that doesn’t understand us or doesn’t know where we’re at and sometimes it’s so easy to think, “If God really understood, he wouldn’t put me through this or that.” But Psalms 139:1, “O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it all together. Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Wither shall I go from thy Spirit?”Not that old gentlemen who doesn’t know where we are but, “Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with thee.” And then the reason for it of course is, “Thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are thy thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. When I awake, I am still with thee.”So the whole idea that maybe God doesn’t quite know where we are or doesn’t quite understand what we’re doing because he’s an old gentlemen living in heaven is just not true. Yet I think that often we worship a god who is smaller than God himself and I don’t know how you think about it, but it’s easy to catch yourself thinking as if God cannot see your thoughts; you have a little thought and then you think, “Now, shall I let him know?” Well, he already knows. It’s so easy to make God smaller than he is and to think of him as somebody who is not quite with it and doesn’t quite understand you. Actually, he knows every word before it’s on our tongues.So an “image” is not just a stone idol, but any idea of God that is smaller than God himself. J. B. Phillips has about seven or eight more examples, but another one is that God is a managing director; that is, he looks after Jupiter, Mars and the Milky Way, but — wait a minute — he has no time tolook after a little speck like me. So you comfort yourself with the idea that God is just concerned about the main waves and cycles of history and the movements of the nations, and maybe of the important people, but he doesn’t really know every moment of my life. Yet Jesus says it so clearly in Matthew 10:29. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.” Two sparrows, you could buy them for a penny in those days, and yet not one will fall to the ground without your Father’s will. He knows every detail of everything. Jesus went on in verse 30, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” So God is not just a managing director who doesn’t care about what we do, he knows what we do and it’s important to him.There is one other thing that we are especially tempted to do in making images and it’s in Deuteronomy 4:15-19. “Therefore take good heed to yourselves. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you lift up your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the Lord your God has allotted to all the people under the whole heaven. But the Lord has taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own possession, as at this day.”It’s possible to take things that God has allotted to us and to worship them instead. I think it’s important that books have their right place in our lives, that Christian Corps has its right place in our lives, that Watchman Nee has his right place in our lives, Hudson Taylor, China, missions, radio; but that place is not God’s place. And it seems important that we don’t take ideas or things connected with God and make them more important than him. And it seems so good to have teaching that we share among us, but I can see how that teaching can keep you from the liveliness of God if you guide your life by that teaching rather than him himself.So it’s good to see no image, no idol, nothing in place of God; not even his dearest thoughts, not even the dearest servants of his, not even the greatest books that we’ve read, but him himself. When we worship him, then we share his life and his liveliness instead of the deadness of the images or the idols. So I’m wondering — should we not spend a few minutes listening to the Holy Spirit and asking him, “Holy Spirit, am I worshiping anything besides you?” I thought it was good when – Peggy — this happened with different people, but I think it was especially when Peggy around the time when her father was getting married that I thought she took a definite step. and I suppose she only can confirm this, but I thought she took a definite step away from ancestor worship. I know that founds funny, but I think it’s possible for all of us to say, “Who are my brothers and sisters” and answer like Jesus, “Those who do the will of my Father, those are my brothers and sisters.”Yet way in the back of our heads is the thought, “Yeah, but if this whole thing collapses I can go back to my…” We used to joke in England about the newly married couple; she was always going back to her mother and that was the threat, “I’ll go back to my mother.” And of course it showed that she never really left her mother. God brought that out too; that you must leave your father and mother and cleave to the husband or the wife.It seems very easy to condemn idol worship and to condemn ancestor worship and yet it’s easy to end up in ancestor worship — appearing to trust in God alone but really keeping the thought in the backof your mind, “Well, if everything fails I can go back to my family and they’ll look after me.” While you still do that you’re still in a sense regarding them as the final catch-net — as the final salvation — as the ones who will be there when everything else has broken down, and therefore, in a sense, still putting them in the place of God. So it would be good, as we let the Holy Spirit search us, to ask him, “Holy Spirit, is there anything I’m depending upon in this life rather than God himself? Is there any idol that I’m relying on or trusting in rather than God?” Because to that extent we’re blinder, or deafer, or dumber than is God’s will for us and we’re lacking his life and worst of all we’re rejecting him and defying him. And finally, it’s him only; he’s the one who made us.Let us pray.
Exodus 20B:Idols-Sharing Snapshots of God - EXODUS
Exodus 20b – Idols: Sharing Snapshots of GodSermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillThere is something that is good for us to see and I pray that the Holy Spirit will make it clear. Let’s turn to Acts 14 and look at the situation there because you think that people idolize this person or that person, but surely back in New Testament times it was absolutely free from all of that. But you can see it there in Acts 14:11, “And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ Barnabas they called Zeus,” so they began to treat them like gods, “and Paul, because he was the chief speaker, they called Hermes. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the people.” And then of course the apostles said, “We’re men we’re not gods.”But it was an early instance of people idolizing or trying to worship, in place of God, the servants of God and therefore making them idols. And that’s what an idol is; it’s someone you treat in place of God. I would remind us again that it is so important to see that whether it’s [Hudson] Taylor, or [Watchman] Nee, or [Andrew] Murray, or [Smith] Wigglesworth, or [Oswald] Chambers, they are just men who are pointing us to God. We have a tendency to say, “Of course I wouldn’t dream of making an idol of Chambers, he’s only a human being.” I don’t think it’s Chambers himself; I think it’s his ideas, so often, that we can fill our minds with — the ideas that Chambers has transmitted, or with the ideas that Nee has transmitted. We can put those ideas in place of God and we can make them idols. I think the important thing that we need to see about idols is in several verses in the Old Testament.Deuteronomy 4:28 is one of them, “And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of men’s hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.” And that’s the difficulty with an idol; it doesn’t see, it doesn’t hear, it doesn’t smell, it’s something that you design yourself. And that’s so often what a set of ideas can be, or I’m sure that’s the danger of principles; when we talk about principles, we make a principle God to us although we say, “No, no we’re not; we’re just talking about the principles of God and God’s principles for work, or God’s principles for this, or God’s principles for that.” But it’s so easy to end up worshiping a dead, inanimate precept rather than God himself and to make that the chief concentration in your prayers and your meditation and your thought.Now it’s mentioned again in Isaiah 45:20, because idols were a constant deception that Satan practiced on the Israelites. Isaiah 45:20, “Assemble yourselves and come, draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.” And it’s a game; they can’t hear, they can’t see they can’t smell, and they can’t save and yet it’s very easy to get ourselves involved in idol worship; worshiping something that takes the place of God, something that even reminds you of God but that is not God. Your relationship becomes as Martin Buber the philosopher would have said, “Not an I/thou relationship but an I/it relationship.”You see it again in Jeremiah 10:5, “Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Be not afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” So an idol is something that cannot save you, cannot speak to you, cannot hear you, cannot deliver you. Indeed, you can see an idol is something you yourself can carry around and that in fact you can make by your own design and your own skill. Andit seems to me the danger of worshiping or thinking about the ideas, good spiritual ideas, I mean Thomas a Kempis is full of great thoughts, and Chambers is full of great thoughts and Taylor — they all have great thoughts, but here is what I saw; they are snapshots of God.They’re snapshots of God. They’re in a way frozen fossils of something living that God revealed to that particular man at that particular time. And it’s so easy for us, instead of going to God himself, to take one of those frozen fossils, or one of those snapshots and look at it and say, “Ah, that’s quite an insight. That is true.” And then it’s very easy for us to hand the snapshots around and say “It’s good to have fellowship like this where we share with each other.” We share insights that this person has or that person has, but too often we share it and it has not life; it’s a substitute for life. So we’re sharing snapshots.It would be a bit like me coming back from Italy with snapshots that I had sneaked of Irene that she didn’t know I had taken and then she came home and I passed these snapshots around and I said to you, “Now there she is — trying to escape the photo. There she is.” And I ignored her completely and just passed the snapshots back and forward and ignored her utterly and absolutely. You can see what you’d be doing: you’d be looking at the images of the person, you’d be talking about the person, you’d be talking about her real attributes, you’d be talking about things she did, you’d be talking about her nature, you’d be talking even lovingly about her, but there would be a vast difference between that and actually talking to her face-to-face and getting her life coming to me and my life going back to her. One is a living, alive, dynamic relationship with a person which is the whole heart of your existence. The other would be – well you would say it’s not even talking about the person; it’s talking about a picture of the person or what the person had done in the past.Now that, it seems to me, is the danger of idols in our life. The danger is of talking about sides or facets of God’s character but not in his presence, not in a real living relationship with him. The alternative is in Romans 1:22-23, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.” That’s the alternative you see: the glory of the immortal God — exchanging that for fossilized images of him. And it’s good to see that “immortal” means the ever living God. So it’s exchanging the ever living God who lived not 200 years ago, not 1,900 years ago, who lived not just with me, not with Chambers, not with Taylor, not with Murray, but the ever living God who lives in every century, and every situation, with every person — you’re exchanging the immediacy of God for idols of him that have been made. And often it’s possible to have those idols in our heads and to be dealing with those idols.Acts 17:29 makes reference to them again, “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent.” Not silver or stone — a representation by the art and imagination of man. Now it seems to me it’s very easy by our own art and imagination to create images of God that we worship. I wrote it down to try to grasp it in some way: an idol is a piece of knowledge about God, something that we master and control and pass on or receive, but the tree of knowledge is the opposite of the tree of life. It’s very easy to worship idols, frozen images of God’s past revelations, instead of the living God appearing to us today. And it seems to me it’s the complete contrast between the tree of knowledge and the tree of life.I think we’re probably at our most dangerous when we’re talking about people, or we’re talking aboutGod. That sounds strange because we’ll say, “Oh no, it’s great to talk about God.” We’re maybe in our most dangerous moment when we’re talking about God or about people because we’re talking about a third person thing, or situation, or concept, and in this funny way, I know you’ll say, “Oh wait a minute you couldn’t do a thing then on the earth.” But in a way it’s so unreal to talk about God when he’s present here and can hear every word. I understand you may say, “Oh wait a minute, you’re driving yourself into an illogicality here or an impossibility,” but in a way when you think of it strictly speaking, absolute reality is that God is here this moment and hears everything, sees everything, sees what I even haven’t said and what is in my heart, sees what you haven’t expressed and what is in your heart.God is here, and in a way every time we talk about him as a “him” we’re not at the highest point of reality. In a way you can only talk about God in the second person and if you say to me, “Then you’re really virtually saying all you can do is pray.” That’s probably true. That’s maybe why worship is such a unique experience, because worship is talking to God, and singing to God, and praising God and that is the nearest thing to reality that we can get here on earth because God is present here at every moment. And the moment I say to you, “What do you think God would do about this?” At that very moment to some extent, an unreality has come in. To some extent we’ve ceased to actually be at the highest level of faith because in a way it’s kind of like saying don’t let him know that we’re talking about him. But in fact, we’re not even saying that because we’re really having a quiet, civilized, sophisticated conspiracy with each other. We’re in effect saying, “Now let’s face it he is somewhere around, but of course he wouldn’t be so awkward as to be right between us at this moment. So let’s accept the convention that we can talk about him as if he’s somewhere else.”Probably it’s the beginning of religiosity, which probably ends up eventually in the churches as absolute hypocrisy. Probably it’s the beginning of our sidestepping of God or talking around the person as if he wasn’t there and it may well be the beginning of idol worship, because in a way you’re setting up an idea of God that is not true. You’re pretending in some way that he isn’t present and therefore you can talk about him without him really hearing.I know we all say to each other, “Well now, wait a minute, you have to have some way of talking about God without getting yourself into a place where every mouth is stopped.” And yet it is so tricky because as you talk that way, so the children learn to talk that way. It brings back to me this Pastor that I was assisting in Belfast; he had three children and one of them was David, and David was still maybe about a three year old or four year old and Helen and Ruth were the two sisters. David was scared one night in his bedroom and couldn’t go to sleep. So Ruth was a dear little girl and she went in and tried to comfort him and she said, “David, Jesus is here, Mary’s here, Joseph is here, the cattle are here,” and tried to surround him with all the good people. And David still was crying and then she said, “And God is here.” And he lifted the bed clothes and said, “Get out God, I don’t want you.” He took very literally the idea that God was there, and I think that we probably are beginning that long journey that Wordsworth said, “Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy. At length the man perceives it die away and fade into the light of common day.” It is possible that we begin to lose the immediate sense that God is here every moment when we begin to talk with each other as if he isn’t here, or as if he’s up there somewhere. We begin to talk as Deists or Theists that, sure there’s a God somewhere, but he can’t intervene in this present world.Well, that’s what the Bible seems to be getting at when it talks about idols; an idol is something that you worship in place of God himself. It’s a piece of stone, or even an idea that you design byyour own skill and your own imagination and therefore you have control of and of course, it can’t do anything for you. That’s why so many of us find ourselves in a faith that doesn’t seem able to deliver us from our bad habits and a faith that doesn’t seem to have the power that God has, because we’re not in the grip of God – indeed, the idol is in our grip. The idea, or the thought, or the set of principles that we worship are in our grasp, and therefore they can’t deliver us because they’re, finally, dependent upon us.So the Father wants us to worship him without any idols and that’s, you remember, what is said in John 4:23-24, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” And what I’ve tried to say is that it’s so easy for our worship to deteriorate into mental concepts about God which we worship as idols, and mental precepts or conclusions that we serve or obey as God. Probably our most irreligious times are when we’re discussing what God is like, or what other people are like, or what we ought to do instead of being quiet, bowing before God and speaking to him.And undoubtedly the principle “Be it unto you according to your faith” must work here in this instance; that the more you dwell constantly in reality before God and treat him as he really is, the more real your own experience of him is. And if you ask what is real worship, John 20:28, it seems to me. If you start at verse 26 it gives you the continuity, “Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” And that’s the heart of worship: preoccupied awe at God’s presence. And probably the truth is that hymns and methods of worship, and theology, and even prayers or others’ ideas can all become idols unless our hearts and our heads are filled with God right before us, with our wills reaching out to grasp and know him. Unless we have that desperate hunger to draw him into ourselves, the danger is we end up worshiping idols.The thought came to me again that one of the unique characteristics or remarkable characteristics of this dear man Smith Wigglesworth’s life was that sense of the constant presence of God. He puts it in a strange way you see, and he emphasizes this same thing; life. There’s all the difference in the world between the life coming from God as you worship him and the deadness as you talk about God. There’s an immediate life that comes to you as you’re caught up with him that makes up for 100 of hours of deadness, and inspires your life and inspires your life for years, just to touch the life of God.“Notice this expression that the Lord gives the gospel message, the words of this life,” Acts 5:20. “It is the most wonderful life possible, the life of faith in the Son of God. This is the life where God is all the time. He is round about and he is within. It is the life of many revelations and of many manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit; a life in which the Lord is continually seen, known, felt, and heard. It would take me a month to tell what there is in this wonderful life. Every one can go in and possess and be possessed by this life. It is possible for you to be within the vicinity of this life and yet miss it. It is possible to be in a place where God is pouring out his Spirit and yet miss the blessing that God is so willing to bestow. It all comes through shortness of revelation and through a misunderstanding of the infinite grace of God and of the God of all grace who is willing to give to all who will reach out the hand of faith. This life that he freely bestows is a gift. Some think they have to earn it and they miss the whole thing. Oh for a simple faith to receive all that God so lavishly offers. You can never be ordinary from the day youreceive this life from above; you become extraordinary, filled with the extraordinary power of our extraordinary God.”It is that grace sense of moment-by-moment immediate living with God. And of course, it lifts – it changes completely our whole attitude to our own discipleship because, and I think it is laudable when each of us, and each one of us have been in this spot, where each of us catch ourselves saying, “Oh I let Satan get in on me,” or we can say, “I was just a bit worried.” And it’s great the way we catch ourselves and we reflect, “Now wait a minute, I should not worry; ‘Cast your cares upon the Lord for he careth for you. Do not be anxious about the morrow for the morrow will take care of itself.’” It’s so tempting to say it isn’t it; that we lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We kind of pull ourselves together, and it is laudable to do that, except that it’s like saying, “This millionaire is beside me, I’m in financial trouble. For a moment I’ve been worried but I ought to remember he won’t make me do without money if I need it.” It’s true in a way, and it’s good that we said that, but the fact is the millionaire is right beside us. He’s right there and the money is available and there shouldn’t be a moment of worry about the money because here the millionaire is, right beside us.So in a sense we play the game of being a disciple. In a sense we’re playing the game of being a believer in God, and we’re so often involved in keeping up the appearance; “Well, let’s keep up the faith. Let’s keep up the faith baby. Let’s hold onto the faith. Well, I slipped for a little there, I was a little worried but I’m back — I’ve got the faith again.” Well in a way it’s unreal because we ought to be grateful that the Father didn’t forget to give us our last breath. We ought to be grateful he didn’t forget to move the last pint of blood around our body. We’re glad that he’s not as forgetful as we are and of course the truth is if he’s giving us our breath, if he’s giving us our blood then he’s right here giving us everything else — we dwell in the midst of plenty.But so often when we remind each other of that we’re into idol worship. It’s the idol of “Remember that we dwell in the midst of plenty.” That’s our idol — the thought that we dwell in the midst of plenty. So we worship that thought or we try to get life from that thought and that’s why we never get life from it. We get a kind of reassurance that deals with all the other miserable thoughts we have and we put one good thought up against the bad thought, but we don’t really get life from it because it’s an “it” and the millionaire Father is beside us.Only the Holy Spirit can make this real to us, but it seems that that’s what God is saying, “Don’t worship idols; worship me. Don’t ever, ever, ever spend a moment as if I’m not there. Not ever. I’m here all the time.”Let us pray.
Exodus 20C:Man-Made Idols - EXODUS
Exodus 20c – Manmade IdolsSermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillWe’re studying the life of faith as we find it outlined in the history of the Israelites and we’ve reached Exodus 20. Exodus 20 is important because it contains the 10 commandments and we’ve reached the second commandment which is found in Exodus 20:4, it’s the commandment about idols, “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” One of the important facts we saw about the commandment was that it doesn’t end there or otherwise it would mean you couldn’t make a picture or you couldn’t make a statute because it says, “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above.” But that’s not the whole commandment. The whole commandment is in verse 5, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them.”So an idol is not just something that looks like fish or a bird, or a person, it’s not just a photograph or a picture, but it’s a picture or photograph or image or likeness that you bow down to and serve, that you serve instead of God and that’s why the commandment goes on, “for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” That is, “I want you to worship only me.” “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” And what we said was that God is the one who made us and who sustains us and who will receive us at the end of this life, and if you treat anything as doing that besides God, then that’s an idol to you.You remember how we looked at the way the Israelites had Baal as an idol and how Baal stood for ownership and we said you could often look to your possessions to sustain you instead of God, and in the sense that you did that you were worshiping an idol. And you remember, how we said it comes home to you when you begin to get that tightness in your stomach as the bank balance goes down because you can proclaim all kinds of devotion to God but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and if the tightness is in your stomach because your bank balance is going down, it means, really, you’re trusting your bank balance to sustain you and of course, God is the only one who sustains you. He is the one that is behind the bank balance, and behind the money, and behind the job that brings the money, and behind the energy in your body that enables you to do the job.So we looked at several of those idols and then also last week , we saw that it was possible to look to another idol; the fossilized, frozen revelation of God to some other man or woman in the past. Sometimes it was possible to look to even a good page in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest where you got real light and saw, “Oh, that’s true what he said is true.” And it’s possible with what is strictly a fossilized frozen image of a past revelation of God to a man in the past to depend on that idol, and to get your inspiration from that.And if you say to me, “Sometimes I see something and I wonder why didn’t I see that before, and it gives me strength for the day.” Well, it’s good if it gives you strength that comes from God, because it throws you right through to God and you say, “Father, I see that what you said to Chambers you’re saying to me this moment” so you’re getting your strength directly from God. Where it’s bad is when you get a little bit of mental or emotional inspiration from the fossilized frozen image from that past revelation of God to Chambers.That’s the danger of meditation; where you meditate on a thing or an it, and almost like the spiritualist or like the Christian scientist, or like the Hindu, or the Buddhist, you getinspiration from that, or the transcendental meditator, you get inspiration from that thought and you get a kind of lift from that thought so that thought has become an idol to you. You’re getting from it what is meant to come from God alone. What we saw last week was the important thing is — God is here; he is present right now. The Holy Spirit is within you and he is able to give you life from God, not a thought from the tree of knowledge, but actual life from God himself.What’s so deceptive about it is that the thought appeals to our mental appreciation of things. It’s in a way sight, we can see a thought, we can express a thought, and we can say, “Oh boy, I got great help from that.” And indeed, we can call that thought up whenever we choose and we saw that last Sunday, that an idol was someone that was under the control of man itself. It was made by the skill and imagination of man and so, often a thought can be called up to our imagination when we care to and it can give us strength. In that sense we’re masters of it and then in that sense it is not our master.You remember that we read some verses where the Bible said very clearly, “An idol cannot see or hear. An idol of stone cannot deliver.” And that’s the thing about a thought; a thought can’t actually deliver you. It can give you inspiration, you can use it to help you a little, but it can’t deliver you. And of course the greatest thing of all is — it can’t convict you and bring you out from darkness. A thought is only what you can see with the light that you have, so it can’t do much for you beyond that.So it’s important not to treat a thought as an idol, or not to treat past revelations to other men or woman as idols. And if you say to me, “Well then is it bad to read Oswald Chambers?” No, it’s great to read, but always to read with your eyes on the Father, “Father, you showed this to Oswald Chambers, what are you saying to me today? Holy Spirit, what are you saying to me?” And then it seems possible that the Holy Spirit can give that breaking revelation that “breaks the thing wide open” kind of revelation that is t light from heaven to you. So it’s important, even when we talk to one another, that we thank God for what he said through the other person, but go to God himself and say, “Lord, you have life for me here. Not just light but you have life.” And so often that’s another thing that a thought can do; it can give you light, but it can’t give you life to work in the light, to walk in the light. It’s interesting that it’s easy to end up, even in reading a spiritual book, with burdens upon you.You feel, “Oh, I should do this.” But there’s not the rising life of God that rises above, and the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has saved us from the law of sin and death. The law of sin and death is, in a way, knowledge. It convicts, it brings home to you where you’re failing and where you must walk, but it’s death because it doesn’t give you power to walk that way. Whereas, when you worship God yourself, and especially the dear Holy Spirit, when you treat him as a real person and you expect him to give you life, he gives you life as well as light.So, it’s good to see that difference and this morning I sensed that God wanted us to look at another idol that we put in his place and it’s found in the New Testament lesson in Romans 1 and it’s one that we talked about before but it’s good to look at it in the light of the commandment not to have idols and it’s found in Romans 1:25. Just before that in verse 23 is a clear expression of idols, “and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.” Then we see the particular idol that we’re talking about this morning in verse 25, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever!” The creature is not those things in verse 23, the images resembling birds, or animals, or reptiles but rather the images in verse 24, “Therefore Godgave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.” It’s human creatures; worshiping human creatures, “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever!”None of us have much trouble with the thought that Colleen created me, or Sandra created me, or Dan created me. None of us have any trouble with that, because obviously they didn’t create me. Now if you were an Elvis Presley, or if you were somebody that was managed by some other brilliant PR man, I’m sure you would have a battle over whether they created you. I know that everybody thinks that Prince has great talent, but Prince, or somebody’s whose image is greatly enhanced by clever public relations men, I don’t know if they would think maybe they had been created. I’m sure some of them have real trouble with identity in that way. But most of us don’t have great trouble that way; we don’t worship each other with the idea that we created each other.It’s the second thing that the Creator does that, it seems to me, is the challenge in treating each other as idols and that is, God sustains us. It’s important for us to see that God has all kinds of mysterious reasons for giving us physical bodies and putting us in the physical world. But one obvious one is by this means he taught us that there is such a thing as a personal relationship, and he gave us each other so that we could learn things about personal relationships. But we took those personal relationships and instead of seeing them as illustrations or tutorials or as illustrations of our relationship with him, we treated those relationships as the whole purpose of our lives and we substituted them for our relationship with him. It’s very easy to worship the creature rather than the Creator in the sense of treating each other as the people who sustain us.Now, we have talked about that in past years especially in regard to wedding ceremonies, in regard to the woman feeling “This man will keep me company in my old age, this man will look after me, will protect me. This man will supply me with money, with material needs.” And the man on his part looking at this woman and thinking “She will wash my clothes, prepare my food, take care of the family, watch over the house, and will treat me as lord and master.” We’ve talked about that, and we know about that side of things. But it seems that there is a far deeper way in which, either inside marriage or what I think is more important, outside marriage, it is very possible to treat each other in the place of God as idols in that we depend on each other’s love, or each other’s attention, or each other’s care and then, when the other person doesn’t give us that, we are cast down.I can certainly see it in my own life how easy it is to worship the creature rather than the Creator, to treat other people as idols in place of God in the sense that you depend on them and their attitude to you and their friendship and their behavior and maybe their mood, and how their love is expressed to you or isn’t expressed to you. You treat that as the sustaining factor in your life that keeps you either up high and happy, or kind of middle, or worst of all, down low because in subtle ways you’re putting that person and their attitude to you, and the way they’re affecting your life, in place of God who is without shadow of change; who never changes, who is constant love, who is constant joy, who is constantly patient with you, who is constantly faithful even when you’re unfaithful. And in place of that wonderful God and in place of his fatherly love for you and his sustaining affection and care and provision, you put in his place a fallible human being like yourself.It actually becomes a very sensitive commandment in this regard, almost for us to appear to be teaching disregard for each other, and there should never be disregard for each other. There shouldbe regard for each other for a greater reason and a truer reason than that we depend on each other. There should be regard for each other because our dear Father loves the rest of us in this room with all his heart and loves us more than his own life, and we are his heart and spirit, so it’s natural for us to have the same attitude to each other. But that is true love that wants the best for each other, that’s trying to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and wanting the very best for them. That’s not treating them as people who sustain us.It seems that we need to see more clearly than ever before, that our relationships to each other are only eternal in that we’re in Jesus together. But finally, the only eternal relationship on which we depend is God our Father. Our relationships to each other are only illustrations of that or introductions to that or, in the sense that Jesus is in you, that’s real and I receive it from Jesus. But it’s important to see that we’re meant to go on from our present relationships with each other to a deeper and deeper oneness with Jesus and with our Father. And of course, it’s especially true when you come to the third factor in God’s relationship to us; he is the one who will receive us to himself at the end.There is of course a place where it all is plainly set before us, because our dads will never receive us to themselves in that sense; God is the one who receives us to himself. We don’t know who of us will die first, or who of us will die last, but we do know that we won’t be in a position to receive each other. Jesus will be there to receive us and those of us who have gone before the others will be there behind him waving, but it’ll be Jesus who will receive us. And certainly, if I had an attitude of dependence to Irene and I died first, she wouldn’t be there to receive me.So that’s a clear illustration that we dare not treat each other as the sustaining friendship in our lives. There is only one sustaining friendship in our lives and that is the Father and Jesus and his Spirit within us, who is our true friend. So in regard to each other, it’s important not to make idols of each other. And I think where this comes home to me most clearly, and you can work out your own situation, but where it comes home to me most clearly is what the other person’s attitude to me is. If it’s good I feel better, if it’s bad I feel worse. And I think that’s a clear example of treating the other person as an idol, as someone whose attitude governs my attitude. If you can picture it, it’s like the Father looking down upon us with his hands full of blessings, with his love beaming down upon us, and seeing one of his little children in the sulks because her friend has spoken to her harshly. The Father is saying, “But that little friend of yours will die in a second. I am here as your eternal Father with my hands full of blessings for you and my love is absolutely unchanged towards you, and I have a wonderful place for you here beside me in my home, and I have great things planned for you tomorrow. Why are you cast down? Why are you all disappointed? Why are you all in the sulks? I only gave her to you to lead you on to me. Look up to me. Worship me as your God. Put away the idols.”Each of us would need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us light in it because I agree with you all that it’s a very fine distinction there, because if it ever brings about indifference to each other it’s wrong, there’s only one attitude that is right to each other and that is great love and great care for each other. But it seems to me there’s a vast difference between trying to get the other person to have the right attitude to you because you love them and trying to get them to have the right attitude to you because you want to be happy and you want to be in their good books, or you just want things to be happy. One is a very selfish reason and is a dependent reason, and the other is an unselfish love and is a life that is dependent, not on the human being but on the God who made us.So it would be good to ask the Holy Spirit, “Holy Spirit, please give me light. Reveal to me if I dwell in a prison at all in this life because I’m treating someone else or some other people as idols and depending on them to sustain me rather than looking up to you and seeing that you never fail to sustain.” And then it seems to me it brings us into such a strong position because one can be down or can be a bit off and the other is steady, instead of when one goes down the other is affected by it. Instead of that you stay up and you pull the other person up.So I suppose it’s like the mountain climbers who are chained together, strapped together; if you’re dependent on the other person and have not a good hold on the mountain yourself, then when they go down they pull you down with them. But if you have a good hold on the mountain, and your dependence is on the mountain and your grip is on the mountain or its grip is on you, then even if the other person falls, you stay steady and you are a rock and they can rectify themselves. So thou shall have no idols, thou shall make unto thy self no graven image. You will not worship the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.Let us pray.
Exodus 20D:The Purpose of Sunday No. 1 - EXODUS
Exodus 20d – The Purpose of Sunday No. 1Exodus 20:11Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillI think most of us probably have had that feeling at some time or another, “Oh, if we could just stop everything — just stop and rest and be quiet.” Perhaps we tend to tie it up with times when our mind has been rolling and revolving, with thoughts tumbling over each other. But at other times too, in the midst of a hectic day, or in the midst of even a weekend where we’re trying to get a lot things done fast, we at times wish, “Oh, if things would just stop and be quiet.” I read a report about three weeks ago about the cellular phone enthusiast, some of them are becoming a little less enthusiastic because they say, “I don’t want to be able to be contacted by all my business contacts whenever they want to get hold of me because when the phone rings in the car, I feel an obligation to lift the receiver lest I lose some business. I find that I’m being continually bombarded by people who want to carry on business all the time and I don’t want that, I want to have a break. I want to get the phone out of the car so that I can have some kind of break from the constant pressure of business.”And I think it’s becoming more and more the situation with our modern technological equipment and strategies; it’s possible to carry on business all the time if we want to. And it’s becoming more and more vital for us to be able to have some kind of break from the business of doing business all the time every moment. More of us are feeling that we have to get some kind of detachment from this constant ability to keep on with our business whether we’re in the car or at home or we’re walking down the street.It’s interesting that freedom from religious regulations and from holy days seemed at first to bring great liberty to modern society. At the beginning everybody thought, “Oh, great, I don’t have to observe Sunday, I don’t have to observe Easter, and I can do whatever I want.” But now it’s turning around the other way and even atheistic states observe the seventh day because they realize that some kind of break, some kind of interlude is needed if they’re going to carry on with the routine of work week after week month after month year after year.So it’s interesting that the clock is turning back the other way, maybe not for religious reasons, but for simply psychological health reasons, people are beginning to go back to the observance of Sunday as at least a day when normal activity ceases and you do something different. Yet probably most of us here who have observed European Sundays or American Sundays, certainly those of us who have observed Asian Sundays would admit that they are often anything but restful. The roads to the seashore, and the roads to the resorts, and the roads to the public parks are more crowded on Sunday than any other day and in fact, the hotel where we stayed in Taipei is located in what is regarded by the Taipei citizens as a very desirable place because it’s up in the mountains above the pollution of the city.So on Sunday, when we were in Asia, we did not go out because the roads were absolutely jammed with the traffic of people going out to the public parks and the recreation areas. So we’ve seen that even though there is an observance of Sunday as a holiday, it itself is becoming a pretty hectic experience. And of course, all of us back in Minnesota would remember when our dad was almost glad to get back to work on Monday after the hectic weekend of waterskiing and sailing and all the other things that we were doing as an interlude.So even though the world is turning back to more observance of Sunday just for the sake of psychological and physical health, yet even the Sunday that they observe is being filled with its own hectic activity. So it really makes you wonder what is Sunday supposed to be and what’s the point of it and that is the commandment that we’re studying today in our study of the life of faith in the Old Testament. It’s found in Exodus 20 and it’s the commandment about the Sabbath. You find it in Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”The Sabbath in Hebrew means rest, and the idea of the Sabbath started back in Genesis 2:1-3, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.” And if you look at the previous chapter and verse 31 you can see why many people interpret these as 24 hour days. Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.” “Ereb” is Hebrew for evening and “boger” for morning and many scholars interpret these as 24 hours days because they say, “Why go through the trouble of saying there was evening and there was morning if in fact it was just a variation of cosmic light and not actually morning and evening as we know it. So it’s normally interpreted as a 24 hour day and that on the seventh day God rested.Presumably God doesn’t need to rest. One assumes that the Godhead can keep on going forever. And certainly if he did rest he had no need to tell us that he rested unless he wished to indicate that there is something in the very nature of deity, in whose image we are made, that is expressed by resting from work. Now obviously we can’t with our little minds hope to probe the depths of God’s mind and indeed we are not justified in trying to do it so there’s a limit to how much we can explain. But we certainly can see what he tells us; that he did rest on the seventh day after making the world he rested, and that that rest was a cessation of the work that he had done for six days. So at least that much we do know.Then we can go a wee bit further, don’t you think, because we can look at Genesis 2:3 and see what God did as he rested. “So God blessed the seventh day” after it was over, “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.” So you can see that because he had rested on that seventh day from all the work which he had done in creation as a kind of memorial or as a celebration of that, he blessed the seventh day and he hallowed.Now you can interpret blessing in various ways, but normally we think of God blessing a day as giving to it special grace. So obviously, God gave special grace to that day and it says he hallowed it. That is he marked it as something that we should respect and something that we should respect not because it was Sunday, not just because it gives us psychological rest, or emotional peace, or a physical break from work, but because by doing that we recognize that on that day God ended the creation of the world, and so in a sense we respect him as the Creator when we hallow the Sabbath day. It’s something that goes beyond this earth.We’re saying, “Lord God, on the seventh day you completed the work of creation and so we hallow this day. We treat it as holy, we treat it as different.” And then on top of that God gives to this Sabbath special grace. That’s what it means, God blessed the Sabbath day. The Sabbath day is not just another day; it’s a day that God has given special grace to.Now the Father emphasized how strongly he felt that there should be a Sabbath resting from survival activities by the story that we read about the manna. God made it very plain and he followed this up; he rested the seventh day himself, then he blessed the Sabbath day and he hallowed it. If we look back at Exodus 16, he did something further with it in connection with the manna. The manna was his way of enabling the Israelites to survive in the wilderness because they had no food and he provided this manna, this miraculous mixture of honey and bread, it seemed to be, that was found on the ground each morning. But Exodus 16:22, “On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers apiece.” So you remember how he commanded them in ordinary days, he said in verse 16, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, every man of you, as much as he can eat; you shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of the persons whom each of you has in his tent.’ And the people of Israel did so; they gathered, some more, some less.”That’s interesting, isn’t it? They were to gather an omer according to the number of the persons who each of you has in the tent, “But when they measured it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; each gathered according to what he could eat.” So the general impression you get is they all gathered different amounts but it all ended up an omer and they all ended up with as much as they needed.In other words, it brings home to you very clearly that it was not due to their labor, or due to their work that they had enough; it was due to God’s provision. And it was in the light of that that God gave them the commandment about the Sabbath. He said, “I want you to gather it and eat it that day, don’t keep any over.” Some of them kept some over and it went bad. He said, “Only keep some over on Saturday, on the day before the Sabbath because on the Sabbath there’ll be none.” And yet God made it very plain, “You will survive. Even though it’s essential for you each to gather each day, on the Sabbath day there’ll be none and you won’t need to gather it because the stuff you gathered on the previous day will not spoil as it had the previous five days, it will keep fresh.”And it seems plain that it was God saying, “For the sake of survival, you don’t need to work on Sunday. You don’t. I’m going to provide. Actually, it’s me that provides all the other five days because you’re all gathering whatever you want yet you all end up with an omer and yet you’ll have enough, so you can see it’s all a miracle anyway.” It’s as if he says to us, “Okay, you sell like mad and you think you’ve done wonderfully today because you’ve sold $1,500 and you think the next day you’ve done terribly because you’ve sold $5. Why don’t you get the message; it doesn’t actually matter too much what you achieve or how hard you work, I’m the one that provides for you.”It’s as if he’s saying to us plainly that Sunday is to be a day of retreat, resting from the normal tasks of life and a time when you concentrate on God’s creative work in making us. And he says to us, “As I provided for the Israelites on the Sabbath day, so I will provide for you. This is a day when you imitate me; you cease from the normal activity that has occupied you during the week and by doing that, you declare to me that you trust me. You declare to me that you trust me to provide the manna for you, you trust me to keep you alive, and you trust me to keep you in a survival state. You declare to the whole world of angels in heaven and hell that you trust that I have made you and that I will preserve you and that I will protect you.”So it seems that’s the emphasis he gives and you remember what he says in Exodus 16:28, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘How long do you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?’ See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days; remain every man of you in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day.” And of course that is mirrored in the next step that God took in regard to thesabbath, it’s just a few chapters later in Exodus 20.He stated that anyone who trusted him as their Father would remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. That was a law of his Spirit life in them and that’s the way he put it you remember. The way we read these commandments is, “If you trust in God as your Father you will have no other gods before him. You will not make for yourself a graven image. If you trust in God as your Father you will not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. If you trust in God your Father you will remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” And he gave it as a law of the spirit of life in him. He said, “This is the way you will express your confidence that the manna that I will provide for you will be enough and that it will keep through Sunday without spoiling and therefore you can afford to trust me to keep you alive.”I think that’s one of the great spiritual reasons for the Sabbath. I don’t think it’s connected up with legalism at all. I think it’s a glorious, gracious gift of the Father to us. I think it’s him saying to us, “This will deliver you from the miserable treadmill on which you think you are placed for life. This will deliver you from this self-confidence and this dependence on your own ability and this confidence that you can make it with your own ability and with your own labor and your own work. Sunday is a declaration to me that you know that it’s all of grace and that you survive because I provide for you. That you do not survive by your own effort and your own skill and your own cleverness. You survive because of your trust in me. This delivers you from that dreadful slavish treadmill that you get yourself onto when you live inside your own little world with your own little home around you, and your job is to keep that together by your own efforts. Sunday delivers you from that narrow miserable little world which becomes a prison with such narrow walls that you become more and more a tight little routine machine that has nothing of beauty or grace in it but just has its eyes on its own survival and on making it itself. Sabbath delivers you from that. Sabbath is a glorious extravagance.It brings into your heart my own extravagance. Look at the slopes covered with daffodils. Do you think those daffodils are needed? No, only a fraction of them provide seed for more daffodils. Only a fraction of the crops and the plants that I put throughout the earth actually provide seed for the next generation. Thousands and millions of them are just destroyed. I simply scatter them over the hills to show my extravagant love for you and to show you that life is meant to have extra and surplus and plus. It’s not meant to be a little “just make it” situation. And so my Sabbath is that — almost for no reason at all you may say except that you know the reason. The reason is that I rested, myself, on the Sabbath day and that I want you to recognize that I made the world and I rested on the seventh day. But really in a way for no reason at all you stop what you’re doing on Sunday. You stop what you’re doing on the Sabbath and you declare to all the invisible hordes of the universe I am here because I trust my Father not because I can make my money by the sweat of my brow.”So in a way, Sabbath is a bow on a dress — something that isn’t essential, it just adds beauty to it. Sabbath is a vase of flowers in a room. It’s not vital; it just adds beauty and grace to life. It brings into life a peace, a resting back, a separation from the condemnation, in a sense, that came with the fall. You are dust and to dust you shall return. And you’ll eat of the ground by the sweat of your brow. It’s a deliverance from that. It’s a declaration by God that it is him that we look to for our survival and for our provision. As a result of course, it’s one of the healthiest and most solitary events in our life. It brings a great healing and a great peace into life when you live observing the Sabbath. It delivers you from the hectic drive to have recreation that fills the roads of the west and the east with carloads of people trying to have fun on the Sabbath. Itdelivers us from the feeling that we have to do this in order to make the money that we need to make the next week. It brings in a beautiful grace that actually spreads into the rest of our lives and takes from us the tightness.Do you have to observe it? Do you have to stay out of the office? Do you have to abstain from yard work and house work? No, not at all, do all that if you want. But if we do we’ll miss something beautiful that God has for us. There’s sanity and restfulness in life that strengthens our faith and our trust in God’s provision that comes when we honor the Sabbath. There’s a release from stress and strain that obedience to a higher power brings to every driven man and woman. It takes the drivenness out of your life. It gives you the rest back; it gives you some of the gracious rest and relaxation of kings, that’s what it does.It brings the glorious extravagant rest and relaxation of the children of the king of the universe and delivers them from the miserable slavish struggle to survive that drives every mere creature. Yes, there’s great reason for observing the Sabbath, but not a legalistic reason at all. Not because God will strike us dead but because on the seventh day the Father himself rested from the work of creation and he, at that moment, imparted into the Sabbath day a special grace that comes into the life of all that honor and observe that day because they trust their Father to provide enough manna for them on the other five or six days.What is its application to us? I think very, very powerful for a group like us. We can do anything. That’s one of the great advantages God has given us since we started Christian Corps. We can do anything. We have our computers downstairs, we have our fax machines, we could even have our factory in Thailand working on a Sunday and we ourselves could work all day Sunday. We can do anything. One of the strengths that God has given us is that we are a world within a world, we can operate independent of the world and that was part of the vision; that we would work apart from the pressures of the world and we would be able to do what we needed to do. We fly on a Sunday, we travel on a Sunday, we have our service when we think is best for us, we have a service in here rather than at a church, we can have it out on the deck. One of the strengths we have is we can do anything.That freedom becomes our destruction if we are governed by what we think in our pragmatic commonsensical minds is best for us. If we go by those pragmatic commonsensical minds we will wear ourselves out. We will drive ourselves to destruction. There’s something in doing what a higher power than ourselves tells us to do, there’s an amazing grace and deliverance comes into our life when we observe that. There’s some beauty that comes, there’s some relaxation, some deliverance from strain and stress that comes when you observe a day like Sunday simply because a power higher than yourself has told you to do it. You yourself can’t bring out all kinds of reasons for it except the reasons that God gives himself, but you observe it and when you do that brings a gap, a peace, an interlude, a detachment into your life that nothing else can bring so that in a real way, Sunday touches all the other days in the week with its grace.I’ve dealt with this simply because we came to it in the commandments here, and I haven’t been wildly enthusiastic about dealing with it because I wasn’t absolutely clear myself on what you can do and what you can’t do on Sunday. And that’s why I’m so glad to be able to say, do we have to observe it? Do we have to stay out of the office? Do we have to abstain from yard work and house work? I say no, you don’t. But you’ll lose something beautiful if you don’t honor the day the way God wants us to.Now if we can do those things without a sense of necessity, if we can go and look at a flower, and we can pick sunflowers for somebody’s room not because we have to pick them but because Jesus’ Spirit has prompted us to do it, then there is a beauty in that. If we go out and mow the lawn because we have to mow the lawn, then that brings the necessity into Sabbath and it makes it a work. I never could get hold of the idea that my mother expressed — she hated it — but she was brought up in what seemed to have been a very strict home. It seems to me legalistic, but who’s to say. They had to clean all their shoes on Saturday and they weren’t permitted to clean them on Sunday, so to my mind it was extreme, but you can see that one of the things it does do is it stops you distracting yourself. Sunday is meant to be a day which we give to God and a day in which we stop distracting ourselves.So maybe you’d think about this as we go into this new week. Let us pray.
Exodus 20E:The Purpose of Sunday No. 2 - EXODUS
Exodus 20e: The Purpose of Sunday No. 2Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillWe’ve been studying what God has shown us of the life of faith. Really, what we’re talking about is what it means to depend on God day-by-day. We’re saying that God has shown us that in this book [the Bible] and that’s why we’re studying it particularly in the Old Testament. And you remember we’ve touched on the point in Exodus where God says, “If you are to depend on me you will not have any gods before me, you will not make graven images for yourself, you will not take my name in vain and you will observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” He’s saying, “If you really depend on me you’ll automatically do those things.” And with the Israelites that was the proof that they trusted him in regard to the manna.You might want to refresh your minds about it, its Exodus 16 where the account is given of the miracle of the manna which God used to feed the Israelites when they were in the wilderness. It’s Exodus 16:20-22, “But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers apiece; and when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay by to be kept till morning.’’ So they laid it by till the morning, as Moses bade them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbbath, there will be none.’” So that was God’s plan and as they obeyed him and trusted him, the world worked for them.Then Exodus 16:29 “See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days; remain every man of you in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.” So of course, when they did trust God lo and behold on the seventh day there was none, but on the sixth day there was enough for two days. Every other time it wouldn’t keep, but on the sixth day it kept. So when they trusted him the world worked for them. I think it’s the same with us, we think it’s really quite unimportant, but when we go into a store with real trust and peace there’s a miraculous way in which the crucified world works for us and yet the opposite is also true.We used to talk about it in terms of if you have faith God answers and if you have fear, what you fear comes about and that’s what happened with the Israelites in 16:20, “And Moses said to them, ‘Let no man leave any of it till the morning.’ But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.” Some of us have found that again and again in regard to money and other things. We’ve found that if God gave us a sense that we should trust him and we trusted him then lo and behold the money worked however little of it there was. But if he told us to trust him and we lived in fear and anxiety and we therefore tried to protect money, the money went bad, the money disappeared, somehow it went anyway. And I don’t know if you all have come to the point, I think I’m at last at it, where I see it does not matter how much money you have or how little money you have, if you’re trusting God that money will be sufficient for you and that comes home to us with the Israelites.When they trusted God the crucified, the world that had been crucified in Christ worked for them andserved them and they were able to subdue it. When they didn’t trust God the wretched world worked against them and beat them over the head and destroyed them and so it is with us. The Sabbath for them was an expression of their trust in God. The Sabbath for them was an expression, “Lord, we normally gather manna. We gather it every day. You told us to gather it every day. You told us we had to gather it every day. You told us if we tried to keep it, it would go bad. But you have said on the Sabbath don’t gather it and the Saturday stuff will not go bad, or the day before it stuff will not go bad. So Lord, we’ll trust you.” And that was the first meaning of the Sabbath for them; it was an expression of their trust in God. So it’s good for us to remember that as we for the last time look at this observance of the Sabbath.We said one reason that we should observe the Sabbath was God himself observed it and we’re made in his image and so we share the nature of God. That’s in the verse we’re studying today in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” We remarked at the beginning of the study some Sundays ago about the amazing fact that God, who has infinite power and has the ability to do anything forever, and who is able to keep the sun rising and setting day after day without any effort, this God of ours actually rested on the seventh day.So there’s something in his nature that either enjoys rest or that rests, its part of his nature to rest like that. We’ve said that we are made in his image and so it’s part of our nature so we said that one reason we should observe the Sabbath is because it’s part of our nature; we’re made in the image of God and its part of our nature to rest. We pointed to the communist states and everybody who at least breaks from their normal every day occupation on the Sabbath and I shared with you how in Taipei where Dan and Dan live, it’s full of activity because all the people are busy resting. That is they’re going to the recreation places and the parks and even though they have no particular respect for the God who is the Father of Jesus Christ, yet they end up regarding the Sunday as a kind of holiday.So there’s something in us that needs a break from ordinary work and strangely enough the whole civilized world has seen that as necessary every seventh day, strange though it is. So there’s something in us that needs that break and we talked about what kind of work you abstain from. It might interest you to know that the word used for work here is a word called “Melaka” in Hebrew and it’s the work that you abstain from on Sunday or on the Sabbath, “Melaka”. Now on ordinary feast days you abstain from what they call “avoda Melaka” and “avoda Melaka” are just laborious work. You get it in Leviticus 23:7. “On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work.” On feast days you weren’t to do any laborious work.That is you weren’t to do anything that you normally did on the six days; labor, business, or industrial employment. Anything like that you were not to do on a feast day. On a Sunday or on a Sabbath you were certainly not to do those things but you were not to do any “Melaka”. “Melaka” is a more comprehensive word and it means you weren’t to do any plowing, any reaping, any pressing wine, any carrying goods, any bearing of burdens, any carrying on trade, any holding markets but also you weren’t to do any collecting of manna, you weren’t even to kindle fire for boiling or baking.Now that’s extreme and you find it in Exodus 35:3 because I know you’ll wonder, “Oh wait a minute, all cold food?” Exodus 35:3, “You shall kindle no fire in all your habitations on the sabbath day.” So it’s interesting that on feast days you were to stop the work that you did during the six days. You weren’t to engage in any industrial occupation or any business but on the seventh day, on theSabbath you weren’t to do anything. You weren’t to kindle a fire so that you could bake or boil, you weren’t to gather manna, you weren’t to press grapes, and you weren’t to do anything.Now why was the command that you weren’t to do anything so absolute? You’ll see the real reason is in Exodus 20:11b which is the main part of the study this morning. “Therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” One reason for observing the Sabbath day was because we’re made in God’s image, we’re like him and he observed it so we work best when we observe it. But do you see that even an independent atheist can do that? A person who doesn’t really have any respect for God can say, “Look, I am so built that I actually work better when I rest on the seventh day.” So even a person who says they are a Christian can do that and there’s actually a lot of self interest in it. It’s that kind of prudent healthy-mindedness, “I’m made in God’s image so I have to rest on the Sabbath day because I just operate better. My life just goes better.”But the thrust of that is still self. The thrust is still, “Yeah it’s a good, sensible thing to do because then I can really go for it during the week.” It sounds holy, but actually it is not a holy attitude and that is not the primary reason why we observe the Sabbath; it’s simply because we’re made like God and he observes the Sabbath so we work better if we observe the Sabbath. That finally is actually an atheistic reason for observing the Sabbath. And so we get that shared in many of our churches and many of us think, “Oh yeah, that’s a very holy thing, the Sabbath, it’s necessary for us to live right to observe the Sabbath; the organism needs a break. It needs a break from the constant tension and strain and so that’s why we observe the Sabbath.” But actually that’s basically a selfish reason for observing the Sabbath.It’s a bit like C. S. Lewis’ dog, you remember he said, “he never really obeyed me he sometimes agreed with me.” We’re really kind of agreeing, we’re speaking from a proud position, “Yes, we agree with observing the Sabbath because it’s good for us. So there God, you got it right.” It’s a bit like that and I think we have to watch that in our general lives — it’s very easy to have a proud, unbowed will towards God where you just agree with him on certain things and so you go with it, but you don’t give him any room at all where you disagree with him.The primary reason for observing the Sabbath is the one given at the end of this verse, “Therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” Now you’ll get it more clearly even if you go back to the origin of that in Genesis 2:1-3, and if you read those three verses that we read before you’ll see how they peak at the very end and lead up to the final reason and the most important reason for observing the Sabbath. “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.” That’s it. That’s the reason for observing the Sabbath.“So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.” You can see the subordinate clause is, “Because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.” That’s the subordinate clause of reason but the principle clause is, “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it.” And that’s the only real reason for observing the Sabbath day; because God blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it and that’s why the command is so categorical that we shouldn’t do anything that distracts us from God on the Sabbath day. That’s why the command is so absolutely categorical, because this is God’s holy day.God has hallowed this day, he has made it holy. Holy means a thing is set apart from ordinary uses. It’s set apart from what they call profane uses, or from secular uses and its set apart to God forhim and him only. That’s why the emphasis in the Bible is — don’t even kindle a fire to boil or to bake on the Sabbath day. Don’t do anything that will distract you from God and that’s the heart of it; don’t do anything that will distract you from God.Now, where do we find ourselves in the new covenant? Obviously in a slightly different position in Colossians 2:17, and if you look at verse 16 you get the context, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come” the Sabbath is only a shadow of what is to come, “but the substance belongs to Christ.” So obviously in the new covenant we’re in a different situation.Matthew 12:8 points that out in a different way through Jesus’ own words. Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.” If you look back at verse 5, you get the context, “Or have you not read in the law how on the sabbath the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.’” There’s no doubt Jesus is the one who is Lord over the Sabbath and gives it new meaning. Because on Sunday, on the first day of the week, Jesus rose from the dead and from that time on the people who believed in him observed the first day of the week as the important sacred and holy day for them and that’s what helped to distinguish them from the Jews and from the old covenant because Jesus rose on the first day of the week.So where are we left — maybe it’s not so important then to observe the Sunday. But do you see that suddenly, then, Sunday for the Christians became a wonderful day? Sunday, the first Sunday, one week after he rose from the dead, they all got together and said, “A week ago Jesus rose from the dead. He’s alive. He’s with us. Let’s talk to him and let’s sing to him, and let’s praise him and worship him.” So for them the Sunday came into the fullness that God has meant for the Sabbath.The important thing about the Sabbath was not that you wouldn’t boil or bake, it wasn’t even that you would stop your work, it wasn’t even that you would rest for the sake of your physical and mental health, it was that you would not allow anything to distract you from thinking about God and meditating upon him, and reading about him, and going out in the garden or the yard and worshiping and praising him. That was all the more emphasized when Jesus rose from the dead because suddenly it was seeing that the King of the universe is here. The President of the world is among us. He’s here. This is his day. This is the day when we give our whole attention to him so that every other day will begin to be sanctified by the way we live our Sabbath.The Sabbath became, not a negative thing of don’t do this or don’t do that, but a positive thing, a rejoicing time when you give you whole attention and thought to the President of the universe. And it’s a bit like that; if one of our President’s came into our home it would really be quite difficult to go into the back room and carry on with some little activity we had been doing. We would all feel, “Oh, the President is here,” or, “The ex President is here we’ll welcome him.” That’s what Sunday is; the President is here, the King of the universe is here. This is his day. This is the day that God blessed and hallowed.” Blessed means that he’s filled it with blessings for us, he’s filled it with graces for us and hallowed means hallow evening, Halloween, it’s a hallowed, a holy time. And you can see what they’ve done with Halloween; it was meant to be a hallowed evening and of course they’ve filled it with symbols, and really they’re just symbols ,but we know in our world it’s become more than that at other times of the year. They’ve filled it with symbols of witches and evil spirits and when God looks down upon us now, he sees the same thinghappening so often to his hallowed day.So for those of us who love him, Sabbath is not just a time of rest though it is that, but it’s above everything else, a time when we give attention to him and give time to him, and give thought to him, and meditate upon him. It’s the day when we bring out our holy books, most of us bring them out through the week, but this is a special day when we give attention to him and give our thoughts to him. So that’s the primary reason for observing the Sabbath; that this is the day on which Jesus rose from the dead and broke the dreadful barrier that kept us out of heaven, so for us it is a celebration day, a joyful day.It is glorious really, because it’s not a matter of do we bake, or do we boil. Actually, in a funny way, finally it isn’t even really a matter of do we go to the office or do we not go to the office. Finally, it isn’t even really a matter of do we cut the lawn or not cut the lawn. Really, the issue is not those things at all. The issue is, on the Sabbath are we giving our mental and emotional and physical attention to Jesus our Savior? Are we giving this whole day to him and giving our thoughts and our attention to him because this is a day that God has blessed and that he has hallowed? It’s a holy day.It’s the same as what Moses found at the burning bush. He immediately felt, “Let me take off my shoes because I’m on holy ground.” Sunday is that kind of a day. I think that’s what our grandparents were getting at because I’m sure you all wonder, I’ve wondered- how do you dress — still a bit different even though we’re just having an informal service here, but I think it is part of what they were getting at. Sunday is a day when we go into the holy of holies and we look up and are elevated into Jesus’ presence and so it is a glorious time.Let us pray.
Exodus 20F:Honor and Respect - EXODUS
Exodus 20f – Honor and RespectExodus 20:12Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillWe’re studying what’s known as the fifth commandment if you’d like to look at it in Exodus 20:12. And it seems to me we need to pray for light from the Holy Spirit to see God’s word in this commandment to us because it’s so well known to us that the mind can go to sleep very easily. Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” It might be good in fact, to start with the Hebrew word for honor; it’s “Kabad” and it actually means to be heavy, or to make weighty, or to give weight to. So you might even translate honor your father and your mother, as give weight to your father and your mother. That is, give them weight that is beyond what you give to other people, because this commandment is placed by God on the same level as the one regarding the Sabbath that we’ve just studied and you’ll find that in Leviticus 19:3, so God sees it as being just as important for our respect and our trust in him, and we’ll see in a moment what that means. Leviticus 19:3, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.” So God puts it on the same level as the importance of observing his day, the Sabbath, because he hallowed it. It’s as if he also hallowed the position of fathers and mothers. And that, we’ll see in a moment, extends beyond our human fathers and mothers, “But every one of you shall revere his mother and his father.”If you knew Latin you’d know that “vereor” in Latin is actually a verb that means “to fear”, and the Hebrew word for “revere” is “tria” and it actually means fear. And of course, we’re all very reluctant to use that word, because we have an unbalanced attitude towards it. We think, “Oh no, you shouldn’t fear your father or mother. That idea of a terrifying father is now gone; my father is my older brother now.” So we’ve lost a lot of the right respect for fear and one of the right respects for fear is we should fear to sin. We should be afraid of hurting God or offending God in any way, and so we can glimpse there is a right side to fear and then that is part of what it means in regard to our father and mother. We should have an extreme respect for them and an extra fear of offending them in any way. So that’s part of what honor means: it means respecting and it means giving more weight to these people than you’d give to other people.Now that has to be viewed in connection with our general obligation to all people which is in Leviticus 19:18 and we need to make a distinction there because many of you think you just have the same attitude to them as you have to others. No, it’s more than that. Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” We are to love our neighbors, so our responsibility to all men and women is to love them, but our responsibility to our fathers and our mothers is to honor them; to give them more weight than we give to others, to give them more respect, and in some cases more fear than we give to other people. So that’s the commandment that God has given.Now, it’s interesting that he pays so much attention to it because you’ll see in 1 Samuel 2:30 the words that Eric Liddell supposedly used or read just before he ran his Olympic race. It’s 1 Samuel 2:30, “Therefore the Lord the God of Israel declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me for ever’; but now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” And here God is saying if you honor those that I tell you to honor and if you honor me then I will honor youand in fact, they will honor you. But if you do not honor me and you do not honor them then they will in fact, not honor you and they will despise you.So the basis of honoring our fathers and our mothers is the same as the basis of observing the Sabbath. We observe the Sabbath not just because it’s useful to us for rest and recreation, but because God hallowed the Sabbath day. Honoring father and mother has the same element in it; it’s honoring someone, not because they are inherently worthy of honor — and it’s so important to see that. I frankly think we lost it in the 60s and probably it was being lost even partly through the World Wars, but certainly in the 60s we lost it completely because we took the attitude, “If this person isn’t worthy of honor, I’m not going to honor them,” so you almost had to win a place of honor before anybody would honor you and of course, that isn’t what honor is.You observe the Sabbath not because it’s pragmatically useful to you for recreation but because God said, “I have hallowed this day.” And we said that by that means he brought a grace into life; observing the Sabbath day is a gracious thing that we do because God has said, “This is important,” so we obey him, as it were, blindly. Not because, like C. S. Lewis’ dog, we have thought it over and we sometimes agree with him, but we obey him. God said this is the day that he hallowed and he rested on it, so he’s made it holy. Good, that’s enough for us, we honor it then, and that brings a grace into life.I tried to find some analogies or metaphors for it and the closest I can come to it is it’s the bow on the dress. The bow that doesn’t actually tie the dress together, it’s an extra on the dress, it’s a gracious touch; it’s a touch of beauty that adds an extravagant graciousness to the dress that it doesn’t really need. It’s like a vase of flowers in a room; it’s not essential for being able to go into that room, it’s not essential for the room to operate but it’s a gracious touch, and it brings a sense of extra beauty into the world.God gives the same emphasis to honoring our fathers and mothers. It’s as if he says, “They won’t always be brighter than you. They won’t always be cleverer than you. Eventually, they’ll be weaker than you, you can almost be sure of that. Your parents are sooner or later going to be weaker than you. Eventually, most of you will probably put them into their caskets or see them buried in the ground. So in actual fact they are not powerful people over you and at times you will outstrip them in your understanding of the world and in your understanding of things. But despite that, you’re to honor them. You’re to honor the Sabbath day not because the Sabbath day has something in itself that is worthy of honor but because I say so. Now, you’ve to honor your parents for the same reason.”Of course, many of us in the 60s lost the whole meaning of honor and respect because the meaning inherent in honor and respect is this person often doesn’t deserve your honor; this father could be a drunk, the mother could be incompetent. But you’re to honor them and respect them because God has designed that you would come into the world through them and so you have to honor them even though that isn’t necessarily justified by any inherent value that they have. The best illustration I have is the one I’ve mentioned to you before, but it is the best example that I saw when I was traveling on the Metro, the underground in Paris, traveling out of Paris early in the morning at six or so to the airport.The only other people in the metro at that time were the street sweepers and the laborers who made Paris work, the little nobodies. I happened to be sitting at the end of one of the carriages and so I was near the door and it just amazed me to see these little men who were obviously people likestreet sweepers or the laborers. They looked like the people who would work under the escalators in the tube station and keep the dust away. They looked like the lowest level of Parisian labor that made the city work and as each one of them got onto the carriage all the others stood up and stretched out their hands and shook hands and said, “Bonjour monsieur” as if they were meeting the president of France. As if they were meeting the president of America. They treated each other with respect and with honor.It seemed to me that was a good picture of what honor and respect is. They didn’t need to respect each other, they didn’t need to honor each other, probably most people looking at them and those people eventually burying them would say, “These people have no particular value. They’re not bright, they’re not clever, they’re not wealthy, and they don’t have power.” And yet there was great honor and respect that they showed to each other for the positions that they had. And usually the greetings actually varied according to the age of the person that got on the train. But still, all of them got up and shook hands with each other. And it seems to me that that’s part of what God is getting at. He’s saying, “This father and mother, I want you to honor them, I want you to respect them even though they themselves may not have any inherent value that makes you feel you should respect them. I want you to honor and respect them. And if you do, your days will be long in the land. Your own life will have a freedom from strain in it and a peace in it.”What does honor mean? Well obviously, first of all we can see a plain example of it in Jesus coming into the city of Jerusalem. All the people saw him coming on a donkey and they threw down palm branches in front of him, so obviously honor means giving special attention to a person. It wasn’t that he could benefit them, it wasn’t because he could be profitable to them, it was simply them giving him attention for the person that he was, and it was simply showing respect for him and it seems that that’s perhaps the heart of honor. Its awareness isn’t it? Its awareness of the relationship that exists between you and the other person, it seems that that’s what it is.If you see a son or daughter that doesn’t honor their father or mother you feel they don’t really know the relationship that exists between them and their father or mother. They don’t actually understand social relationships, and it makes you a little scared actually, you feel a little fearful. You feel this is a little wild animal here that doesn’t seem to understand the various relationships between people. So it seems to me that the heart of honor is an awareness of the position or the state or the experience of the other people in relationship to yourself and when you have that, it gives to the rest of humankind a confidence in your own sanity. When you don’t have that mankind gets a little frightened and that’s what was so dreadful I think, in the 60s.There was such a shaking because talking as we’ve been talking of the whole change that’s taking place in Eastern Europe, my mind went back to where that whole idea of the great leveler came from. I know it came into English life and Irish life after the Second World War when we looked at the Chinese all wearing the same Mao uniform and everybody in the same drab grey look. And the emphasis came over from Russia, especially in some of the novels that were written about communism, the emphasis came over that if you were in the secret police, you could destroy anybody. It didn’t matter if it was the wealthiest person in town, it didn’t matter if it was a famous person, and it didn’t matter if it was a great writer. You had the right because of communism, the great leveler; you had the right to destroy that person if you wished.We all read story after story of the Lubyanka and the KGB and the way they treated the prisoners and it seemed to us unbelievable that they would treat not only first of all the Czar, whom they shot along with his family, but that they would treat writers, and famous people, and they would imprisonpeople like Sakharoff — great scholars, and they would treat them despicably. People who hadn’t an ounce of their brain power would treat them as if they were nothing and it seemed to me that it was during that period following the Second World War that the idea came strongly over to Britain, I presume it was the same in America, but the idea came strongly over to Britain that there’s a great leveler at work that said “We’re all the same, nobody is different from anybody else and you don’t need to treat anybody different from anybody else, just treat them all the same.” That came in and took a dreadful hold of life in America in the 60s where nobody would listen to anybody else because of their position. There was an extreme emphasis on “Let’s throw all the authority over; unless you can tell me why I should do this thing, I’m not listening to you.”So in fact, we toppled the whole basis of the progress of civilization which depends on the respect of the younger inexperienced for the older and experienced because that’s how knowledge and understanding and insight into the world is passed down. But we threw all that over in the 60s; the great leveler came in and everybody believed it was right to treat everybody the same. And it was quite interesting, the man whom I shared a room with in seminary in Ireland, I visited him up in the northwest territories just a few weeks ago, and he has two fine boys and you remember I told you the situation that they’re really fluent German speakers and had been brought up part of the time in Germany and part of the time in Canada.One of the boys is Sven and the other is Sean, they’re now 20, 24 year olds and Sean has just recently come from Germany. They’re big, well built and fine looking young men and the 20 year old Sean came over and joined Sven and his father in Canada. One day Sean said to his father, and you can imagine why, because Sven had been living with his father for years and Sean had been living with his mother in Germany, so now he’s joined his father and brother and he said to his father, “Dad, do you treat us both alike?” And I’m almost programmed by our society to say the right answer, “Yes of course, of course I treat you both exactly alike.”But Dick replied, “No, no, I don’t son. I don’t treat you both alike. I love you both and I treat you each as you need to be treated at each moment” which of course was the right answer. But I suddenly realized how far we’ve gotten off the whole truth of respecting people for themselves; how far we’ve gotten away from that. We’ve brought in this attitude of the great leveler where nobody is different; nobody deserves any more respect or any more honor than anybody else. And of course, we’ve begun to lose any sense of any esteem for each other at all. It’s troublesome that at this time when we’ve emphasized how no one is due any kind of honor that another person is not due, we’re all having such trouble with self-esteem. It’s amazing that we’re all having trouble with a sense of honor for ourselves at this time when nobody is ready to honor anybody else just because of what they are.And of course it’s what God said “If you honor your father and your mother then I will honor you. Those who honor me I will honor and those who don’t honor me I will not honor.” For so many years now many of us have honored nobody but ourselves, and it’s funny that when you honor nobody but yourself, and you won’t honor anybody else or respect anybody else, eventually you lose all sense of honor in everybody else’s eyes and you eventually lose it in your own eyes.So it’s strange but if you don’t respect others; if you respect only yourself and nobody else you eventually lose that respect for yourself. Everybody else loses respect for you and you lose it for yourself. If you honor, then God honors you and actually other people honor you. But if you don’t honor anybody but yourself, God will not honor you, other people will not honor you and you’ll eventually be forced into losing a sense of honor for yourself. So it’s amazing how God hasarranged it. And of course, when we honor our fathers and mothers we show our obedience to God because the truth is actually, we did not pick our parents and the fact is our parents did not pick us. They didn’t.You’re really only left with one person whom you can then lay that responsibility on and of course, it is true; God picked our parents. God chose our parents. God chose our fathers and mothers, so when we honor them we show our obedience to God and just as when the Israelites honored the Sabbath in regard to the manna, trusting him to provide the manna for the Sabbath even though it didn’t fall on the Sabbath, so we show our trust in God when we honor our fathers and mothers even though we can’t see very good reasons for honoring them. It contrasts completely with the whole attitude that we’ve been brought up with and it is significant. I just thought of it today that it is significant that now with the collapse with what obviously has been a great hoax of communism that everybody is the same and nobody is any different than anybody else, now we have an opportunity to catch back again some of the world of honor and respect and chivalry that in fact, to some extent has disappeared even in our own society.It applies of course beyond the fathers and the mothers, it’s Keil Delitzsch that pointed this out, I won’t quote it, but he says this of course applies not only to the fathers and mothers that have originated our physical life but it applies to the founders and the protectors and the promoters of our spiritual life; to the prophets and the teachers. And you find that in 2 Kings 2:12, “And Elisha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father!’” He was speaking to Elijah who was his mentor, who was the senior prophet that had taught him all he knew and had brought him his knowledge of God. “And Elisha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw him no more.” So honoring our fathers and mothers applies not only to our physical fathers and mothers but also to those who have in some way promoted and protected and founded our spiritual lives; the prophets and the teachers.You find it in 2 Kings 13:14 again. 2 Kings 13:14, “Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die,” so now Elisha was in this position; it was his attitude to Elijah that made him call him father. “Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him, and wept before him, crying, ‘My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’” So the king regarded the prophet as his father and as someone therefore to be honored and respected.And then it’s Keil Delitzsch that point out too that it is not only the spiritual fathers that we are to honor but actually the guardians of our bodily life, the powers that are ordained by God, the government and the people who are responsible for authority in our land. And in Genesis 45:8, you catch that, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” This is Joseph speaking, “and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” “He has made me a father to Pharaoh.” In other words he was an advisor, a counselor, a guide, a first minister, a prime minister. So when we honor our fathers and mothers it means honoring our spiritual fathers and mothers and actually even honoring our civil fathers and mothers.There’s one more verse that sets that forth clearly in Judges 5:7. “The peasantry ceased in Israel, they ceased until you arose, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel.” Deborah was a judge in Israel. So those civil rulers and governors of our land Keil-Delitzsch puts it this way, they say, “We are to treat as fathers and mothers the powers ordained by God since all government has grown out of the relation of father and child and draws its moral weight and stability upon which the prosperity and wellbeing of a nation depends from the reverence of children towards their parents. Thiscommandment therefore lays the foundation for the sanctification of the whole social life in as much as it teaches us to acknowledge a divine authority in the same.” And so of course, it brings a whole grace into life.The beauty of it is it takes our emphasis off the tree of knowledge — what you know. If you know more than I do, I’ll respect you because I need the knowledge. It takes life a notch or two up from the miserable scrubby fighting in the gutter level of “Okay, you can do me good so I’ll respect you.” It lifts us into a princely and royal realm where there’s something beyond the pragmatic “I can get something from you so I’ll respect you”, or “You have some power over me so I’ll respect you.” It lifts it into a higher realm where we honor because God tells us to honor and that brings a sweetness to life in a strange way — a sweet fragrance to life.It lifts life above the substance level. It lifts life above the animal level and the savage level and brings us into a mysterious kind of attitude to each other where we begin to see, not the person, but what God is doing through the person. And we start to look at each other as agents and officers of God rather than as just little human beings. So then what we do is we begin to see God behind the person and we respect the person because of God being behind him.What it does is bring a gracious fragrance to life and a beauty to life and it comes back on you and brings a beauty to you. It brings a great stability to life. I remember being confused almost when I was 22 and was back at my old grammar school teaching. We all wore our gowns and were dignified young masters, but if you were teaching a senior class, the girls in my senior class were 18, so they were only four years younger than me. I remember going down a corridor, I was of course a strong disciplinarian, and one of the girls said to me, “Sir, I have two tickets for this famous hypnotist that is coming to Belfast. Would you like to go?” I was horrified! I thought, “This is incredible. I appreciate you liking me, but I’m a teacher and you’re a pupil.” And I remember it seemed just utterly panicky and confused; it threw all the positions and the relationships into chaos. And that’s what happens when there isn’t that honoring and respect; it throws everything into confusion.The only thing that keeps us human beings back from the chaos and anarchy that Satan wishes is God’s order. That’s the only thing that holds us back. It’s the only thing that enables us to live above the animal level and it’s the only thing that enables us to catch a little piece of heaven. It’s the one thing that lifts us into where God has actually placed us — in Jesus at God’s right hand. But wherever that honor or that respect is lacking, then humanity collapses into a great leveler society where you just treat each other as useful to each other and the beauty and the wonder goes from life. And you sense it; there’s a richness that disappears from life.What I would say that I have noticed is honor and respect is shown more in your attitude, your tone of voice, your ways of dealing with people. Eric Wallace was my senior English teacher when I studied at grammar school and he was also the head of my department; he hired me when I went back to teach there. Eric Wallace drank, I would say half a bottle of whiskey a day anyway, and had no Christianity in him and smoked like a chimney and was in every way what we would probably call a dissolute old Englishmen. But I had no doubt in my mind that he was the head of my department, that he was my former teacher, and I honored him and respected him and would not have dreamed of doing anything else. And I would show it in all kinds of little ways.I suppose every society has its different way, but if he was speaking to me, I, even as a young master, and I was by that time in the Methodist ministry which he then respected, he would respectme as a minister even though he had little Christianity in himself, he would respect me as a minister. And when he asked me to go to speak with his dying mother, he asked me in my position as a priest to go. So there was a mutual respect and honor. But when he was speaking to me I wouldn’t look in other directions — I would have my eyes on him. It was important to listen to him and I would not have dreamed of yawning or kind of laying back. He was the person that I honored and respected and I wanted him to see that in every way within me.And it was there probably from the earliest days that I learned that showing honor and respect was not a matter of just doing; it was being, it was what you were, you showed it in your body language, you showed it in your attitude as people were speaking to you, you showed it in the way your eyes went. Those were all important; by all those things you measured a person’s honor or respect. And it’s strange because it ties in with real spiritual life; you minister spiritual life through your whole being. You don’t just measure it through the words that you say – Christ shines through the way your eyes look, the way your hands look, the way your mouth looks, everything comes over as either Christ like honor or as a kind of animal like disrespect. And the one brings a beauty to life and I don’t know I would almost say a peace to life.We know where we are, and it’s interesting that those who are honored in that way aren’t dumb; they aren’t fools; they know they don’t know everything. When we honor them, it has the effect of actually enabling them to bend over as God does to us, and not to take advantage of the honor or to think that they are anything. In fact the more we give honor, the more they keep their right position and don’t get a bloated idea of their position. But the less we honor, the more we throw everything out of position and out of harmony.So it is interesting that honoring fathers and mothers is, even though in some ways it’s the least utilitarian commandment, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful and it’s one of those that bring the greatest grace to life, and the greatest beauty to life.Let us pray.
The Life of Faith 1 - GENESIS
The Life of Faith 1Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillLoved ones, for about 12 years now I’ve tried to talk about the spiritual life on Sunday evenings and if God wants us to continue this, I would like to start expounding the Bible chapter-by-chapter from Genesis in connection with the life of faith, which I think is just another name for the spiritual life. So I’d like to start this evening with Genesis and if we went every Sunday, which I don’t think we’ll be able to do, but if we went every Sunday, then in 25 years’ time we’ll have finished the Bible! And don’t laugh too broadly because some in the audience were 16 when we started Romans about 15 years ago.Let’s trust God to give us grace, and you pray for me that I might get life and wisdom from him and then perhaps we will be deeper in this dear book and we will be living more lives of restful faith. So we’ll start loved ones, with Genesis 1. The book was written by Moses, and Jesus himself indicated that and that’s the primary reason we believe it. Moses wrote words like that [indicating words written on a projector screen]. He wrote in Hebrew and that is known as the classical Hebrew and it goes from right to left: and God said, let there be an expanse between the waters.”So that’s the way the Hebrew went that Moses wrote, and from time-to-time I’ll try to show you what the Hebrew means where it helps us, but that’s what it looked like. We have changed it from left to right (which is much easier to read!) and turned it into English. So loved ones, let’s look right at the start in verse 1, “In the beginning” and there is no date; I think it’s important for us to see that this chapter is concerned with the generations of the heavens and the earth. The rest of Genesis — Genesis means beginning or generation — is concerned with the generation of the chosen family, the family that God tried to teach to live by faith after all mankind had rejected faith in him.But this chapter is concerned with the generation of the heavens and the earth and there really is no date. We need to remember that in all the discussions about evolution and creation that this book is concerned with summarizing for us the relationship between God and his world. It’s not unscientific, it’s rather non-scientific and that’s no excuse, then, for taking it as just a parable because Jesus himself did not treat it as just a parable. The Bible usually indicates how it means to be taken and for instance Revelation indicates this is a parable. John says, “I saw in a vision,” but Genesis is written as history and indicates that it’s to be taken as history.So it is history, but we need to remember that it is pre-scientific history and it is amazing that God gave us an account here in just a few verses that all men, and all women, and even all little children can understand. So he is not concerned with scientific detail and yet it seems, if you read an article in the New York Times about three or four weeks ago, that certainly it does not contradict science. That article ended with the conclusion that scientists, with their arguments about the big bang theory and all their other theories falling into disrepute, scientists have slowly edged up a huge mountain over years, and years, and years and they’ve now at last got their noses over the top and there they found the theologians sitting! God started it all and they’re all coming to that kind of a conclusion too.So we need to see that Genesis 1 is not unscientific but it is pre-scientific and in a sense non-scientific in that it is not concerned so much with how, as with why God created it.Nevertheless loved ones, it does say, “In the beginning God created,” it doesn’t say, “God had to create.” That is it doesn’t say God had to create in order to satisfy himself. God didn’t have to create — he created out of love. It also doesn’t say “In the beginning God expanded himself into the universe,” as the pantheist say, so that the universe, as you find in the Middle Eastern religions, is just an extension of God and therefore of course can’t be studied at all.But you remember [Francis] Schaffer’s emphasis that it was the fact that God created a separate thing over and away from himself that enables us to study it. And that’s why belief in Genesis 1 is necessary for the whole scientific progress that we have had in our time: “In the beginning God created” but when in the beginning?Well loved ones, here’s the way some people have fiddled about with the lack of a date and really I think it’s just safer to leave it as the Bible does — without date. But many have traced back to 2000 BC — the life of Abraham. And most ancient and modern critics agree upon that date. But then back there towards creation is virtually an unknown prehistoric time. If you track through directly from the scriptural narrative, you get to 2300 years which would take you back to Bishop Ushers date of 4004 BC for the creation, except that even we have realized, purely on scriptural studies, that there are huge gaps in the genealogies.And so the Creation Research Society tries to allow for those gaps. That itself is a problem because you have to decide when it says, “So and so begot so and so,” was that so and so just a head of a family, or the head of a whole tribe, or the head of a generation? And so it’s guess work even in there. But the Creation Research Society will say, “Well there’s another 6000 years somewhere in there.” So they’ll knock it back to 10000 BC and indeed on purely scientific grounds they will argue that there’s no contradiction between that and some of the so-called evidence of great age that you find in the fossil record. Because they’ll say of course, “Did God create a baby earth or a mature earth? Did God create pterodactyls that had an appearance of age, or did he create a baby pterodactyl somehow that had to grow old?” So the Creation Research Society will say that even 10000 BC leaves enough room for that.I think frankly, brothers and sisters, it’s far better to stay with the scripture itself and to see that the Bible was not concerned with going through “And Adam begat Seth, and Seth begat so and so, and so and so begat,” and not missing one until it comes to “And so and so begat Rick Severs or so and so begat Scott Columb.” Then we could all say, “There it is — there’s the proof: it’s a full record.” It would be one of those signs that Jesus said we were always seeking. And so the Bible wouldn’t do that.The Bible wants to indicate that it is giving history but it wants to indicate it in a way that leaves us open to finally deciding whether God is or not on the basis of rational evidence settled by our will and our readiness to submit to him. So I do submit to you that it is better to stay with scripture and to say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”Now do you see the little footnote at the bottom, “When God began to create.” The Hebrew, some scholars think, would allow you to do that. In actual fact it isn’t the best translation — most of the Hebrew scholars say so. Because it opens the way to that eternity of matter; “When God began to create the heavens and earth, the earth was without form and void.” As if there was formless, voidless matter there and God then happened upon it, and then formed it into something. Well in fact the Hebrew word “bara” does not just mean formed, but made.Created, the theologians say, “Ex Nihilo” — created out of nothing. God came to nothingness and in the beginning he created the heaven and the earth. And at the beginning the earth was without form and void. The Hebrew words don’t mean that it was a deteriorated chaos. That’s the weakness with some of that idea that some people have that God created the heaven and the earth, then it fell into chaos and then he kind of recovered it again through mankind. But in fact it simply means at the beginning God made the heaven and the earth and he made it, as it were, in stages, if you can believe that; though we have to see that that is God just putting it in our terminology to help us to understand it. Presumably it was all done in one great moment in God’s own mind and time. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God” even the Holy Spirit was involved in the creation, you remember, “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.”Now the very first thing that God did was to divide light and darkness and you see that in Verse 3-5, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” How could there be evening and morning one day when the sun wasn’t created until the fourth day?Obviously God knew that when he prompted Moses to say that — and Moses was not as dumb as we would like to believe him — he knew that too. Obviously what God did was create cosmic light and presumably had it, if you can sense it, in some part of the universe so that even if the earth was spinning at a slower pace than it is now because the other solar systems weren’t created, yet the light was governed in such a way that as the earth came around there was night and day. And we have to assume that since the same words are used right through the account; evening and morning, night and day.That’s one of the difficulties — it doesn’t make it impossible — to say the days were huge spans of years; it is possible still to say that. It’s not the most likely translation from the Hebrew point of view. The Hebrew word for day is “Yom” and it’s the ordinary word for day and it normally means a 24 hour day. Now the Hebrew does use day; “We have never seen it in our day,” or, “This is a difficult day in which we are living.” But here the indication is that day is not used metaphorically because it mentions morning and evening which tends to suggest that it’s an ordinary day.It isn’t fool proof but from a Hebrew scholar’s point of view, it’s more likely that that’s the case. So light and darkness first loved ones; God divided light from darkness. Then in Verse 6 it seems he divided air from water. It seems that what the Father had then was the earth, and then light and darkness in the universe, and then great masses of water and water vapor. And God separated the air with the hydrogen, and the oxygen, and all that’s in it and the water, and separated the air from the water, and separated the water that was under what is called the firmament from the water that was above the firmament and that’s in Verse 6, “And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament,’” and it’s actually that word “raqiya”, it’s a great expanse, “Let there be “an expanse” in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’”I suppose in a sense because God left some of the water on the earth itself, and then he put a huge expanse, that is here referred to as the heavens, and obviously not heaven where God lives, but the heavens or the atmosphere, and separated that from all the other water vapor in the rest of space, “And let it separate the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it wasso. And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.”So the first day divided light from darkness. Second day divided air from water. And then the third day, you can see a beautiful logic in the whole thing, the third day came down to where the waters were that were under the firmament or under the atmosphere; the waters that were on the earth, and separated those waters from the dry land. And you see it there in Verse 9, “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”And so you get three great acts of division: you get the light and the darkness divided, you get the air and the water divided, and then you get the water divided from the dry land; the sea and the land. And then the beautiful thing is God goes right back as it were to the beginning and starts back at the light and the darkness and he then begins to people that with creation. It begins at Verse 14, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.”And that was presumably the first day that occurred because of the light from the sun upon the earth. And there is of course, a further indication that the original light did not come from the sun itself because the Hebrew means “And let there be light bearers in the universe.” So God obviously knew that there was cosmic light already created on the first day when he separated light from darkness and then in the fourth day he put actual stars and planets in the space that would be able to reflect these lights or to pass them on to other bodies. And so the stars or the sun did not really originate light.So, I don’t know how many of you are faced with the old argument, “Oh, how could there be day and night before there was a sun?” Well obviously there can be, because God created cosmic light on the first day. It might be good too to look to the next act, you remember the first one was light and darkness and then he put stars and planets to reflect the light and to rule over the darkness, the moon at night. And then he divided the waters from the air and so the next thing is he peoples the water and the air.Look at Verse 20, “And God said, ‘Let the waters bring froth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the water swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.”When you think of the complicated scientific explanations of how the world was created you realize that a child is lost in them and a very intelligent man or woman is lost in them, but there’s a beauty about the simplicity of this that still comes home to you as true and that you feel, finally, the scientists will come back to and will see, “Yes, this is the way it was: light and darknessfirst, and then the air and the water, and then the land and the sea, and then back to the planets and stars that ruled over light and darkness, and then to the fish in the sea and the birds in the air.” And then of course finally to the land, in Verse 24, “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”So in a way loved ones, if you want to keep it clear in your own mind you see that first there is light and darkness and that’s really the first day. Then you get through to the fourth day and you get the stars, and the planets, and the sun, and the moon. And then you get secondly the air and the water, and then on that fifth day you get the birds and the fish. And then thirdly, you get the sea and the dry land, and you get the creation of the animals on the dry land and then coming to the crown of creation — the man who ruled over the dry land.Now loved ones, there is one piece that might be of interest to you that does tend to suggest that evolution within the species might be possible, but perhaps the Bible pushes against the idea of evolution across the species and that’s in verse 11, “And God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.” And you get the same word “kind” involved in the animals in Verse 24, “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’”There may be an argument as to whether you can make “kinds” synonymous with species but certainly there’s the suggestion there that God made each type of species separately. And though you might get variations in moths according to their environment, yet it’s doubtful if evolution across those species is possible. Of course, that’s the whole purpose of the missing link; there seems to be a huge missing link between the species of apes and the species of man. So there seems some indication in scripture that though God certainly allowed and built into creation some evolution, yet the evolution that is urged that is a result of time plus chance starting from one single cell ameba and working right through to us complicated creatures was not the way God did it in Genesis 1.Now if you say to me, “Well brother, do you think that it’s really impossible?” Oh loved ones, I don’t think the whole faith depends on arguing against a single cell ameba. It seems to me if God chose to do it that way there’s no reason why he couldn’t do it that way and there’s no reason why he did not program into the single cell ameba all the evolutionary process. It’s just that finally, you have to accept that there was order and intelligence and planning behind it. But it would seem from just a simple reading of Genesis 1 that evolution is not the explanation of how things came about but that things came about as outlined here in Genesis.Now, if you would say, “What do you do about the arguments that scientists will have with this account?” Loved ones, you say to them what they would say to themselves, “Well, that’s your account today but what will be your account next year, or your account the following year?” And they of course will just have to bow down and say, “Well you’re right — we’ve kept changing our theories on the basis of new evidence and we agree that we have put ourselves forward as the scientific know alls and we must admit that we can’t even yet decide whether light is particles or rays and many of our hypothesis are being blown apart as just hypothesis, just present working theories.”So it does seem loved ones, that there is ground for a humble attitude in regard to creation, but yet not a know nothing attitude, but ready to explain it as it’s outlined here in Genesis and yet not going to bat to be more scriptural than the scriptures. You remember how Cecil B. DeMille was more scriptural than the scriptures when he burned the 10 Commandments into the stone. Well, don’t find yourself more scriptural than the scriptures; you always get into trouble when you do that. Don’t argue about dates because frankly, God was so good; he kept us clear of all dates here. The Creation Research Society can get themselves into 10000 BC and have to argue the age of pterodactyls and the fossil evidence. We don’t need to because the Bible mentions no date it simply says, “In the beginning God.”So that brings us loved ones, to verse 25 and then it’s probably good for us to see that at the end of Genesis 1 is mentioned the creation of man. But it’s mentioned just briefly because of course, the purpose of Genesis 1 is – well, you see that in the RSV it is indicated because the paragraphs give rather better the sequence of the narrative than do our chapters, you see that Genesis 1 really spills over into Genesis 2:4, because it’s a kind of summary there in Genesis 2:4, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” Now that’s the content of Genesis 1, it’s just with whichever guy divided them into chapters, he obviously stopped it there and probably Chapter 2 should begin in that paragraph, “In the day that the Lord Good made the earth and the heavens,” because up to the end of Genesis 2:4, this is primarily the generation of the heavens and the earth with, at the end, the account of man in his relationship to the earth and the heavens.Then in Genesis 2 it deals with man in his relationship to God and relates his fall and reaction against God. It’s important to see that because if you were like me who went to liberal seminary or absorbed a lot of liberal theology, we used to argue, “There are two accounts of man’s creation so you see, that proves that actually this is just a few different bits and pieces sewn together by different men.” Well in actual fact the account in Genesis 1 has a specific purpose; to show man in his creation in his relationship to the world of nature and the universe that God had made. Genesis 2 goes on to man and his relationship to God and his reaction against God.So you see in verse 26 then, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’” That was our purpose loved ones; to have dominion. It is important in these days that we don’t lose sight of that and that you and I were created — not to be overcome by flat tires, not to be overcome by financial difficulties in a recession, not to be overwhelmed by an increasingly chaotic world — but we have been put here to have dominion over those things. And that doesn’t mean the exploiting dominion that we have often been so continually accused of as private enterprisers, and maybe justifiably so.Maybe too often we have rushed into a country and exploited the people of that country and the country itself and we have said, “We’re subduing the earth.” “We’re having dominion over it.” Maybe too often it has been so-called religious people that have gone in and drilled the oil wells any old place, or carried on the strip-mining and destroyed nature. But that isn’t the sense in which we’re to have dominion over the world; but rather to develop the world in a way that will glorify God and that will bring peace to its inhabitants. But we are meant nevertheless, to have dominion over it.I don’t know how many of you have been to India, but one of the dreadful plagues that grips you when you’re in India, is the dreadful sense that people have that the way things are going is set by fate and you can’t fight it. And the sacred cows that you cannot even move off the sidewalk are almost an indication of that: “God is synonymous with creation and whichever way his creation is going all you can do is bow down and let it go.” So there is a dreadful passivity in India and a dreadful sense of fatalism and actually in people a paralyzing sense of inadequacy; an inability to do anything. And so loved ones, it’s interesting that where people have not received the royal commission that God has given to mankind through his word here, where they have not received that, they have in turn been overcome by the evil spirits and the elemental spirits of the universe. And so you find in so many nations that people are spending all their time placating the evil spirits — trying to hold them off from destroying us — and barely managing to do that, and ending up more and more under the heap of overwhelming confusion.So it’s not just “American” to get things in order! One of the blessings that God brought to us in America was a sense that we are meant to have dominion over the fish of the sea. Now some of us have difficulty catching Northerns and Walleyes, but we are meant to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the land itself. And if I could encourage you in your own jobs and in your own homes and your own room, and even in your own finances, and your own cars: they are meant to be in order. They are. We’re meant to have things in order.Now I agree with anyone here who says, “Oh, my dad — that’s all he thought about — he had everything in order.” I know you’re not supposed to have every blade on the lawn standing up to attention every time the national anthem is played but it does seem that God intends us to be here to bring order to the world and so we need to see that in our own lives. We need to see that in the sense that where there is encroaching disorder either in our jobs, or our businesses, or our homes, or our private lives — to that extent we are cutting ourselves off from God, and to that extent we are aligning ourselves with the elemental spirits of the universe that are out to bring chaos in our world. And to that extent of course, we are failing to be able to call upon God for his infinite resources.The Father’s life is available to you and to me for bringing things into order. And so verse 26 then, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And then verse 27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” We’ll talk more about what it means to be created in the image of God when we deal with it in detail in chapter 2, but certainly it does mean at least that we are like God in that we have some of his qualities; we have minds and emotions and spirits and he did create us male and female.I don’t know how many ladies here have suffered under the utterly unfair and unjust and, it seems to me, egotistical attitude that men have so often had to women. It’s not justified by God’s word at all. God made us in his image by making us male and female. Every husband and wife here, every boy and girlfriend, every brother and sister here are precious because together they express the image of God. It’s pretty interesting that it isn’t, “God made us in his image male he created us.” It isn’t. It’s, “He made us in his image and male and female he created us.” And it’s in that combination of male and female that God is able to show himself either in husband and wife or in brother and sister. But there is no place for anything but infinite respect and regard for each other as men and woman, and no place at all for any attitude of domination but only the attitude that Jesus had of great respect for woman as for men.In verse 28, “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill theearth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” “And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” It seems that so often we fail to see the connection between the being fruitful and multiplying and the subduing of the earth. That was the purpose of being fruitful and multiplying; there was a time when that was the thing that was needed in physical situations. Often when you had a ranch of several thousand acres and you had no one to ride that fence but yourself, and you had no one to plow it but yourself, often it was important to be physically fruitful and to have as many children as your dear wife could bear, so that you could bring that little bit of earth that you had into some kind of order. And often that is right and it’s good to do it, but it is important loved ones, to see that Jesus brought a deep meaning to that — especially in our day.Especially in our day when certainly God doesn’t mean us not to have children at all, but undoubtedly one of the problems now that we’re trying to overcome in our earth – and I agree with everyone that says, “We shouldn’t have it. If we shared all the grain instead of trying to store it up or trying to dump it probably there’d be enough food.” But the tragedy is that there are too many people at the moment on the earth for the amount of food that we’re able to distribute to the right places. And it behooves us to see that when Jesus came he brought a whole new meaning to being fruitful and multiply. He said, “Listen, I want you to father many children in the kingdom. Not many of you can call anybody father. There are just a few of you who can call a certain man father who has brought you into Christ and into the kingdom. I want you to do that; I want you to be fruitful spiritually and I want you to multiply spiritually, and I want you to fill the earth and to subdue it.”So it behooves us in our day to be in some sense responsible in regard to this commission; to be wise when we marry, and think about that. Don’t allow that to go by chance, that’s terrible. But bring before God what he wants for us in the way of sons or daughters, and then act upon that and again, bring control into that part of our lives. We’re meant to have that part of our lives under our dominion and there are ways to do that and I’m willing to discuss it some evening if you want me to, but you need to be wise about that and you need to decide now, “Will a multitude of physical children aid me in trying to bring the masses that are going to hell daily, into the kingdom or will it hinder me? And does God want me to concentrate on trying to bring into spiritual birth and being fruitful in that way and multiply those hundreds of thousands who are already on their way to hell? Or, does he want me in fact, to concentrate on having more physical children? Will that be the right thing for me to do?”And it may be that the truth is somewhere in the middle, but it is undoubtedly something that we need to deal with before the Father and see that it is connected up with having dominion. And maybe I could say to you that especially in a ministry such as ours which is a pioneering ministry – and you know it! We hope to get into Russia and China and we hope to establish ourselves there in a pioneering situation. It’ll be very important that we have just the number of children that God has intended for us or that in certain cases we do not have any children because it gives a greater freedom and liberty. But it does seem to me loved ones, that there needs to be spiritually enlightened wisdom in regard to that great commission.And then in verse 29, “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.’” Now I don’t know that that makes us all vegetarians because you remember, God permitted the eating of meat later on in the old covenant, “And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that is the breath of life, I havegiven every green plant for food.’ And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.”What were they like loved ones, these heavens and this earth? Really, when you begin to look at the figures involved and you begin to see what our God made out of nothing, it just startles you. Man’s buildings on the earth are 93 cubic miles and that’s if you put all the buildings, all the bridges that we’ve ever constructed down through our history together; they would constitute about that figure, 93 cubic miles. The earth itself is 260 thousand million cubic miles — that’s the size of the earth! So when you begin to think of what our God made and you begin to try and get an idea of the magnitude of what he created out of nothing — I mean, he took nothing. There’s nothing in my hand — except there wasn’t even that much nothing — he created all of this out of absolutely nothing. He just spoke and the thing was created this earth that is 260 thousand million cubic miles of matter, and with all our working we’ve created a complete construction of 93 cubic miles.The sun: the size of the sun is 1,250,000 earths. So you think of the size of our earth compared with what we have made, but then you think of the sun itself and you realize that you could fit into it one and a quarter million earths like ours. And then you think the sun is only one of about 400 fixed stars and the distance from the earth to the sun is 93,000,000 miles. And you realize that when we talk about our solar system we’re talking about a tiny corner of space as far as we’re able to see it. And in that space the sun is one of 400 such fixed stars. And the size of space: light speed is 187,000 miles per second so light travels at the speed of 187,000 miles per second and traveling at that speed to get from our earth to the third nearest fixed star it would take us 9.7 light years. And this is what God created in a second — in a second — he created all of that.If you go to the Pleiades constellation there are 1,681 stars in it, but if you look through our radio telescopes, the whole constellation called Pleiades looks no bigger than our moon. It’s so far away that it looks the same size as the moon in our most powerful telescopes and yet we can spot in that little space 1,681 stars and actually with our more powerful telescopes we can spot another 5,000 stars beyond that. The stars in space are like one quart of water sprinkled over the earth’s surface and the earth’s surface consists of 196,000,000 square miles. So if you were to think of the size of space in comparison with the planets that are in it, and you see how many of them there are and how far away they are, it would be like taking a quart of water and sprinkling it over the earth’s surface and the earth’s surface is 196 million square miles.So it gives some idea of the vastness of space — and our God created all that. Do you think he can handle your money problems? I think so. Do you think he can handle your marriage plans? Do you think our God is someone that you can put your faith in for the little things of your own life? You may say, “Well, yes if he can ever see beyond all those huge things and see me.” Are not two sparrows sold for a penny and not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will? And in the midst of all that not a sparrow falls to the ground but God sees it. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered and that Creator who has made all that has also counted the hairs on your head. That’s the God that you can go to each day. That’s the God that I’m asking you to have faith in for the everyday matters of your day-to-day life. Let us pray.
The Life of Faith 2 - GENESIS
The Life of Faith 2Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillBrothers and sisters, do pray for us as we begin the exposition of the Old Testament which should conclude in about 25 years’ time when Tim’s little boy will be about 29! Because you remember when we started Romans about 15 years ago God began to create a beauty in his own body here among us. I feel that he wants us now to get 10,000 of us abroad for him and it’s in connection with that that we ought to begin expounding the Old Testament chapter-by-chapter. Not quite as slowly as verse-by-verse as we’ve been doing Romans, but chapter-by-chapter. And even though we may miss certain Sundays and it may take us longer than the 25 years, I think we should set out on the journey with a view to learning how to live the life of faith together. That’s what God showed me he could teach each one of us, to live the life of faith; that when we saw the greatness of him himself we would ourselves live more the life of faith day-by-day.So that’s the purpose in doing this. And last Sunday we talked about Genesis 1 and about the great work of creation and how it took place in three mighty steps. You remember that there was a dividing of one thing from another; dividing the light from the darkness, and then dividing the air from the water, and then dividing the sea from the land. Then he followed that with great works of filling and they corresponded exactly to these, because he divided the light from the darkness and he then filled the darkness with the stars and the sun and the moon. Then he filled the air and the water with birds and fish. And then he filled the land with plants and with animals, and then finally with the crown of creation; man himself. And we said that that was a great panoramic view of God’s creation of the world.And you remember we tried to bring home to our own minds again the massiveness of that creation and its tremendous extent. We talked about how so many things were so large — man’s buildings on the earth take up 93 cubic miles but the earth’s size is 260,000,000 million cubic miles and this, God made in a moment. This is our God that we often wonder — can he take care of our finances this month, or can he take care of our jobs, or our marriages? The size of the sun is actually equal to a million and a quarter earths and the distance from the earth to the sun is 93,000,000 miles and yet the sun is only one of 400 such stars. And then I just thought as I read something in the New York Times today, so often we wonder, “Well, God’s timing — sometimes I think it’s a little off. I mean, I should have married or met my girlfriend by now — I am 28,” or, “I am 23,” or, “I am 46.” Or “I should have got into the job he has for me by this time.”This is from the New York Times this afternoon and it might be interesting: “The Romans thought it heralded the death of Agrippa. A few centuries later the Chinese thought it was connected with an Emperor’s demise. A few centuries after that it supposedly meant Attila the Hun’s defeat. Along about the 11th century a host of needlewomen worked its likeness into the Bayeux Tapestry. In the 13th [century] Philip Augustus seeing its blazing trail figured his time was up. In the 15th a Pope may have excommunicated it. In the 17th an astronomer named Halley said, ‘It shows up every 76 years.’ The 18th Century proved him right. This week, on a schedule that would make a subway rider weep, Haley’s Comet was glimpsed for the first time since 1910. In February 1986 it will swing around the sun, pass within 29 million miles of earth, and give all of us a crick in the neck. The crick suffered by the Romans, and the Chinese, by Attila, and Philip Augustus, and, and — civilizations come and go but Haley’s Comet just keeps on rolling along.”Now you see your own wonderings about God’s timings in the right proportion. This dear Father ofours that can keep Haley’s Comet coming around on the button every 76 years from the time of the Romans — ah from way beyond that — he surely will be able to manage the details of your marriage, and your profession, and your job. And it’s good loved ones, to see it in that light, and not get lost in the apparent massiveness of your problems and mine. They’re nothing to this dear Father who is able to manage all kinds of planets and stars that we can’t see ourselves.So loved ones, that’s the background in Genesis 1. Now maybe you’d like to look at Genesis 2 and I’ll try to expound some of this so that you see the greatness and the faithfulness of our dear Creator and expound some of it so that you may understand it better because in these early chapters of Genesis there are questions that have come up down through the years. The first paragraph of Genesis 2 is really an explanation of the conclusion of the creation of the whole world, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.”It may be good to see verse 1, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished.” They were created and finished; they were completed. They aren’t the continual emanation of God himself. They aren’t synonymous with the deity. They aren’t what the middle eastern religions say is just an expression of God himself; a continuing emanation of God. No; when you deal with the earth you deal with something that God made and created therefore it is something that can be studied and it’s something that can be mastered and conquered. And you remember I mentioned last day that one of the problems in places like India or the places where the distinction between the Creator and the creation is not very clear, people feel the creation is divine itself and you can’t upset it, and you can’t do anything with it to bring it into order. So you find in countries like India tremendous chaos, because you feel you can’t do anything about it — “whatever will be will be” — its fate. And this is completely different of course, from the view of science and the view of bringing the world into order that comes from this presentation of creation.It might be good too to deal a little with the Seventh Day Adventist because it is true that at the end of the first creation God did hallow the seventh day. But do you see that that was the first creation and the second creation, or the recreation took place as recorded in John 20:1. Those of you who aren’t quite sure how to deal with the Seventh Day Adventist or the loved one who says, “Oh, but it was the seventh day. God made the Sabbath the seventh day.” Well, that was the old covenant Sabbath and it was the old creation Sabbath, but the new creation Sabbath occurred in John 20:1, “Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” Because the old creation had been destroyed and the new creation had risen out of the tomb and we were created new.And that’s why loved ones, in Acts 20:7 you find that the early Christian church began to meet on that same day when the new creation took place. It’s Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” And that was the new Sunday. That was the Son’s day. That marks the resurrection of the Son and the resurrection of all of us in the Son. So it’s important to see that God hallowed the seventh day because that was the creation of the natural world, but Jesus hallowed the first day of the week because that was the death of the old creation and the recreation of the supernatural world in him.So that’s part of the explanation of the seventh day. Then you see verse 4, “These are thegenerations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” Some people think that that applied to the previous account in Genesis 1 where God talks about creating the light and the darkness, the sea and the land, the fishes, the plants, and all that. But many people think, “No that refers to what follows. God has created the natural world and now he’s going to zero in on the heaven and the earth — the things that happened in heaven and the things that happened on the earth. So that’s why he says ‘These are the generations — this is how the heavens and the earth began to develop’ because he’s going to zero in on the family of man and man’s relationship to his Creator.”The account continues in verse 4, “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field,” you say herb but I can’t get used to it, “And no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” Now, do you see that doesn’t mean that God did not make the vegetable world? I don’t know if you ever faced in college what I faced in the kind of liberal seminary where I went, the whole theory that there is one account of creation in Genesis 1 and there is a contradictory one in Genesis 2 and there was a poor dumb soul that put the two (chapters) together, and was supposed not to have noticed that [contradiction] and just sewed the two together – he wasn’t as enlightened as we 20th Century sophisticates!Well, that isn’t the case at all. Genesis 1 is a panoramic view of everything that took place while Genesis 2 is zeroing in on man, and particularly his relationship to God. Genesis 1 sets man in relationship to the creation of other things; the land, and the sea, the stars, and everything else. Genesis 2 zeroes right in on man and centers him on himself like a large photograph of all of you and then focusing in on Ted and just dealing with him. That’s the relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.So of course, when you come to the mention of the plants here, it’s not that God didn’t make the vegetable world back on the third day if you look at it in Genesis 1:11. “And God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.’” Many of those were not flowers or plants of the field as are mentioned here in Genesis 2:5, “When no plant of the field was yet in the earth.” But many of them, too, were simply in their seed form and God arranged it with just a little mist to keep the whole thing alive until man himself should come upon the scene. That’s why he says, “And there was no man to till the ground.”So the plants that grow in our fields, the crops and the fruit that we eat, depend on a combination of human culture and God’s own rain and sun. God held the whole thing in abeyance until man came upon the earth and then of course, he began to rain rain upon the earth. That’s what that means loved ones; it doesn’t mean that there was no vegetation on the earth at that time but that it was all held in abeyance with that mist that kept things alive. But there was no growth because if there had been growth before man came the whole thing would have turned into chaos. You’ve probably noticed that yourselves; that once you get man out of the picture again, the wildness takes over and begins to overcome any order that he has created.Then in verse 7, “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Loved ones, the word for dust is “aphar”. “Aphar” means ordinary earth; dust. Now it’s interesting that when the earth is talked about it is the same word as Adam: it is “adama”. There’s another word for it “erets” but adama isthe word for earth or dust also, and that’s where you get the meaning of Adam. When you get, “And God breathed into his nostrils the breath,” it’s “ruach” which is really the word for spirit, or breath, or wind. And actually in the Hebrew it’s “the breaths of lives”. So it’s in the plural — lives.You remember Watchman Nee says, “Now, that’s part of the explanation. Man was made of the earth and then God breathed into him the Spirit of his own life and then as a result man became “nephesh”, in Hebrew, which is “Man became a living soul.” So people like Nee will say that God breathed into the body the Spirit, and the result was like when you put instant coffee into water and it becomes coffee, so the combination resulted in the soul which he would say is what makes man, man: mind, emotions, and will — that’s what makes man peculiarly man. The angels are spirit, the animals are just body, but man is the combination, and the soul is the unique possession that he has.So that’s one of the explanations; that God breathed into man’s nostrils the breaths of lives. Now Delitzsch and I hope that some of you will do a little study when you get to know some of these things — Delitzsch is an old German that has a very detailed commentary on Genesis and he says, “Well yes, it can be this but really the primary thing is that God breathed his life into man.” And it’s very interesting he says not that he [God] breathed air into man, air is what man breathes, but God breathed into man life itself. That’s why the test tube thing is kind of silly. It’s very hard to produce any life — create life — and nobody claims to be doing that. The best they’re talking about with the test tube babies is taking something from a living human being and putting it into a test tube and then transferring it to another body, or maybe they’ll discover a way in which they can, in the test tube, grow it — but they start with life.And it’s important for us all to see that; that only one being can create life and that is God himself. That when he breathed into this dust his own life, life began. Do you know that the doctors can’t explain why the heart beats? They can’t. They can tell you where it starts from, and they can attempt to start a heart after it stopped, but they can’t really tell why life continues or why life even begins. Now that’s the miracle you see; that God took and he started man as a unique human being. That’s why – we can go along, maybe there’s an evolution of moths, maybe moths get dirty the longer they’re in New York, you know, and have to put up with that polluted air. And maybe all kinds of species, they’ve all been all different kinds of butterflies, but what we do see Genesis teaches is that there came a stop there: God made the animals then he made man and man is a different kind of beast. You know, he’s a different kind of animal. He’s a different kind of being.God did not breathe into the animals for instance, in Genesis 1, his life — the breath of his life. He just created them. He created plants that can’t walk, then he created plants that can walk, something like C. S. Lewis’ creatures you remember, but that’s virtually what animals are; they’re really plants that can walk or can eat. And some plants can eat too you remember, so really there’s great similarities between plants and animals and their creation is detailed very quickly in Genesis 1. But when it comes to man God goes to great trouble to point out, “Now I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life.” And so even when Schweitzer says, “All life is sacred and therefore we ought to take care of human beings because all life is sacred,” even he isn’t getting the whole of it, you know.The great thing is loved ones, you’re different. You’re vitally different from any animal and so that’s the problem with the evolution from the apes. Oh, let the apes evolve as far as they want, let them get bigger brains and bigger brains, but praise God there is a missing link and the missinglink is not only there in the geological and anatomical history but it’s right here built into this history, of what took place; that it was a definite stop and a start when God made man. And then do you see Verse 8, “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”Loved ones, it seems that all that means is that God set up a model world. Can I remind you of the other theory held by some great men and women? The other theory is that if you go back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And then the theory is that Satan who was in charge of that earth rebelled against God and took the earth with him and it all fell back into savagery and wildness. And between verses 1 and 2 there was a great pre-adamic fall and then you see, as a result of that in verse 2, “The earth was without form and void.”Now first of all, the Hebrew words “form” and “void” do not mean a deteriorated emptiness and a deteriorated wildness, they simply mean something that had no form yet; but more than that — it’s very tricky to fill in between the silence of two Bible verses a centuries old massive fall that God says nothing about in any other place. But often the theory is, you see, that therefore God put man into the world to redeem it and restore it again and that’s why in the middle of the savagery and chaos in verse 8 he had to plant a garden. And so the theory is that all the rest of the world was chaotic and God simply had to cull out a little bit of it and make it filled with order and then put man in it and tell him, “Now, you spread that order throughout the rest of the world.”It does seem to me that it’s unwarranted and that there are many indications that in fact what we have in Genesis is the truth; that God made the world and at the beginning he made it just without form and void, then he began to put shape into it, and then he put man into it and he gave man a model city as it were. He put him in Eden in a garden. The word for Garden is “paradeisos” and comes into the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament as Paradise, and that’s where that word Paradise comes from. It can be translated, “God made a paradise in Eden,” or, “A park in Eden.” And so it’s a beautiful place where everything was perfect and where all the food that man wanted was there, and all the water was there, and it’s really a picture of heaven. And God put man there saying to him, “Now, I want you to spread this throughout the world that I’ve given you.”And you see, God put in verse 9, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We’ll come to that in a moment or two but you remember, Sauer and you might be interested loved ones, if you want to do further studies in Sauer who is a German professor who wrote The Dawn of World Redemption and it’s that paperback and it’s just great The Dawn of World Redemption, if you want to begin to study especially, these early chapters in more detail. And Sauer says, “That for mankind in its childhood God presented the choice of depending on him or depending on himself as two trees, a tree of knowledge of good and evil and a tree of life.” Really, we have no reason to question that. There’s nothing about an apple, don’t get caught up in apples. There are no apples mentioned. And don’t get caught up with the importance of the trees; the trees symbolize for man they were real, they were what man understood at that time in his development, but they symbolized a choice between two ways of living. And we’ll talk about them a few verses later.Where was Eden? Well it’s interesting, you know, Genesis indicates, as we shared last day, that it’s to be taken as history. It’s not written like Revelation which is fully of allegory and full of images, and obviously indicates that it is visionary and it is mystical. But Genesis is veryhistorical, very geographical, and so go gently yourself if you want to be fair and just Bible exegetes, that’s people who interpret the Bible as it’s meant, then be careful see that the Bible indicates the way that it ought to be taken. And Genesis undoubtedly indicates that it’s historical and of course, comes right down to geography here. “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden,” this is where the Garden of Eden was, “And there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which flows around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river,” and here you’ve come into present day rivers, you know, they’re still there, “Is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”So those two rivers, the other two have probably changed their names and we have various interpretations of which they are, but the Tigris and Euphrates, just turn back in the black RSV there and you see them on the map inside the cover. And you can see them on the right hand page there right up running along the desert there. Euphrates, just along the green you remember, or you see, where it touches the light brown, there’s the river Euphrates. And then trace it right down to the sea there and then follow back up the Tigris. So you see the Euphrates and the Tigris and it’s where those rivers began. And the Euphrates you can see breaks and then connects up again because of course there was a great change in the topography of the world after the flood and so great mountain masses were moved. But even then you can see roughly that the Euphrates and the Tigris joined together back up there near Tubal and its modern Armenia. And there are two other rivers that are thought to be the other two of the four that are mentioned that flow into Caspian Sea. So it’s reckoned that somewhere around there was the original Garden of Eden even though huge mountain masses have been changed since that time.But it is good to see that the Genesis is not just a fairy story. God’s word insists on putting itself on record and that’s good, God always put himself on record he doesn’t play around or bluff us. Look at verse 15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” And that’s important, to see that we’ve to keep the Garden of Eden and that is what man was to do; he was to keep the order that God had created, to preserve it. And you’ll see that in your own life. Remember, that we mentioned that God gave man dominion. Remember, God made man in his own image in several ways. He made him with an indestructible image, gave us some things that can’t be destroyed. That old DeLorean used because the indestructible image man was made with a personality and it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you believe in God or not, you have that. He gave man free will, gave him conscience, gave him reason, and judgment, and the one I was thinking of with DeLorean gave him a vocation to rule.And that’s what made every guy go out and ride the fence in the old days. That’s what makes everyone try to bring a new world into order. That’s what made – there were other things I’m sure, but that’s part of what made DeLorean want to bring the car company into order when he created it at the beginning. And so all of us have that vocation to rule, even people who don’t believe in God at all and so you remember, Red Adair – the guy that flew in and then dumped all the stuff on the oil flares and put them out — men like that were given that desire to bring the world into order by God and God has given that desire to us.And so there is something worse about an untidy room than just that you annoy your mother or your husband, and there’s something worse than you just being in a little bit of chaos not keeping your check stubs organized. And there’s something worse than just being kind of an untidy person leaving your dirty socks lying around. There is actually; you’re not keeping the garden. You’re notkeeping the garden, and in that sense you’re actually throwing in his teeth part of this indestructible image that he has to you because actually, you have a vocation to rule. If you don’t keep your socks in order you’ll start keeping your husband in order, you know. You’ll begin to expand the vocation to rule over something that isn’t legitimate.So it’s interesting, never think – Freud is right here in a suppression system. You know, you put the pressure on one end of the pipe and it bursts out the other. Well, that’s right, if you don’t enter into the vocation to rule that God has for you in your life, you’ll find yourself unbearable to live with. So it’s quite important to find out where is God’s legitimate place for you to exercise that because believe it or not, you’ll exercise it one way or the other; either the right way or the wrong way. And so some of those qualities God has given and we need to keep the garden in order in our own lives. And may I just emphasize that again even though we talked about it last day, many of you loved ones, can’t find what Jesus wants you to do in the future because you won’t do what he is telling you to do today. That’s right. And many of you can’t hear what he’s telling you to do today because you won’t do the ordinary things that are plainly before you like duties and responsibilities in your job and your home. And so it all falls in, you know.We keep on saying, “Oh yes, yes, but I’ll do that when I get to it and I’ll do all this when I get all the rest done.” But God is saying, “Do this. Bring this into order today.” I’d just ask you about that, is there anything in your own life that isn’t in order today? Keep the garden, keep the garden, and then God will show you what to do next. Then the destructible image, you remember, is the inner image that was lost by the fall and it’s called the destructible image, the spirituality. And the liberty of spirit, freedom of will — where you’re able to do what he wants you to do and the blessedness, the happiness of God’s own presence. And those are the things of course, that we lost by the fall and that we only regain through the Holy Spirit.It might be good to think of those things loved ones, in keeping the garden. And then in verse 16, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” And of course, every tree of the garden meant loved ones, back there in verse 9, “The tree of life also in the midst of the garden.” You see go back to verse 9, “And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”Now what do those mean? Well, there are two ways to go in this life: you either walk by sight or you walk by faith. You either walk by your own knowledge or the world’s knowledge of good and evil, “Ah that’s good. That’s evil,” or, you walk by God’s life coming into you. You either walk by intuition from God, or you walk by trial and error. You either get together with the Father and get close to him and snuggle into his arms and get to know him and hear him call you by your own name, and begin to live from within sensing what he wants you to do with your life and what he wants you to do from day-to-day in which case you grow more and more sensitive to him; you either walk that way, by that life that comes from him, or you walk by a knowledge of good and evil.In other words, you find out what Basic Youth Conflicts teaches, or you find out what Billy Graham teaches. You find out what the moral majority think is a good thing to do in your life. You find out what Watchman Nee teaches. In which case you begin to run your life by the knowledge of good and evil and it dries up. You do in fact, die. That’s what the Bible said, you would die if you lived that way, or you keep alive you appear to be a very moral person but all freshness and vibrancy have gone out of your life and you have actually died inside and you’ve become a member ofthe moral majority, a Watchman Nee follower, a Lutheran or believe it or not, a Christian. They were first called Christians in Antioch but it was more a Christ-tian: one in whom Christ lives. But you become one of a party membership if you live by the knowledge of good and evil.In other words loved ones, there’s a fresh living way to live first hand, original, close to the Father from the tree of life, or there’s an old worn way that is dead, by the knowledge of good and evil. One of the problems with the knowledge of good and evil is that it never goes far enough. You know that stealing is wrong but you have nothing to tell you that the harsh tone in your voice that you’ve used to your wife is just as wrong. You may know it’s wrong to commit adultery but you don’t know that it’s wrong to buy that car, or to take that job. So the knowledge of good and evil is never enough where it really counts in life.What you need most of all is a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it” but that will only come if you snuggle close to the Father, if you spend time with him before him in prayer each day, beginning to sense his Spirit and his life. It’s a whole different way to go loved ones. I could show you the problem on the diagrams as long as you won’t go to sleep when I show you! But it does show you it very clearly. We were meant, in communion with our Father, to know by intuition what he wanted us to do. That’s where all great poetry comes from and everything new that is created comes from that.Do you understand that we were all made to be poets? Do you know that? That is, we were made to live poems, new poems, beautiful lives, and works of art that people have never seen before. We were created for that. And through the intuition of your spirit you become an individualist as God made you and your conscience constrains your will to obey that and while your will obeys your conscience that life flows through you. Now, living by the tree of life means living like that. Living by the tree of knowledge is filling the mind with all the things we Christians are supposed to do. “Oh yeah, now let me see; I’m against abortion and I’m for creation, I’m against evolution and I’m for state’s rights, I’m against stealing and I’m for giving to the poor.” And you fill your mind with all the things that you’re to do. And then you add to those the particular criteria or recommendations of your group, “I shouldn’t go to the theater. I shouldn’t smoke, I shouldn’t drink, I shouldn’t dance. This crowd here, what do they allow me to do? Yeah, in Campus Church you speak very quiet if you’re really a good member of Campus Church — pray quiet, talk quiet – everything. And you sing these songs out of this song book. So your whole life becomes filled with things that you should do and things you shouldn’t do and you die. You die; you become a stereotype version of all the other poor copycats, none of whom are looking at the original Jesus and none of whom are living their original lives.Loved ones, there’s a total difference between eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. But having presented it that broad way could I point out to you that day-by-day you and I are facing that choice. We’re facing it day-by-day. And you’re coming into situations, such as I am, where the quick fix can be got by the knowledge of good and evil. That’s right. You’re the same as me; we’re meeting situations in business, and in home life, and in our personal life where a decision is required and we can get it immediately by going the easy way — either the way that the worldly wise men recommend, or the way that the sacred churchmen recommend. But we can always find a knowledge of good and evil that saves us going to God himself.Loved ones don’t do it. The more you do it the coarser you’ll get, the harsher you’ll get, the more a stranger to Jesus you’ll become and the less freshness will come into your life. Somebody has said that the problem with Christians today is that they spell God with two Os and they spell theDevil without the D. I think that’s not too far wrong. Too many of us are trying to do the good and avoid the evil, but we’re not realizing that what we should be doing is clinging to God and seeing that anything else is the Devil. So there is a vast difference, you know, between walking by the knowledge of good and evil and by the tree of life. The tree of life is warm and fresh and vibrant and is a personal relationship to your loving Father.You’ve a different way to go tonight, each one of you — you have a different way to live tonight. You who are husbands and wives, you who are brothers and sisters, you who are roommates, you’ve a different way to live tonight and the Father can show you that. If you look up by faith tonight, the Father can show you; show you a whole attitude that will bring life and light to your friend, light and life to your dear partner. And when you’re walking like that [living from the life of the Spirit within] all complacency departs from you, all self-sureness, all boredom and deadness, and you become lively and living and vibrant — like a child.The way of life loved ones, is an “I -Thou” relationship with your dear Father — knowing that he has a different way for you to take each step this night. That’s of course, what makes life exciting. Life gets very old when you walk by the knowledge of good and evil, it gets very boring and you die young. In fact, you die before you’re 18 usually, if you go that way.Loved ones, would you look at Verse 18, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’” Maybe the best translation of that is, “I will make him a helping being in which, as soon as he sees it, he may recognize himself.” And that’s something beautiful about this: “I will make him a helping being,” not a helper fit for him, not somebody that can catch the nuts and bolts that he throws them but “I will make him a helping being in which as soon as he sees her he’ll recognize himself.” You husbands might not like it and you wives might not like it, but you’ve married a lot of yourself in the other person and that’s part of why you married, so that you’d have to look at yourself all through life until you allow Jesus to make you like himself so that you’d understand each other — and yet in different ways you’re very different from each other.But making him “a helping being in whom he may recognize himself immediately he sees her” that’s a beautiful thing. That’s a helper who will help him to not only fill the earth but will help him to bring the earth into order. You remember when we shared in the marriage series that the glorious position of husbands and wives here tonight, or the glorious position of us brothers and sisters, because we’re to be husbands and wives to each other, and really celibacy or not, we’re husbands and wives to each other here in Jesus’ body. But our relationship to each other is in connection with the commission that God has given us to subdue the earth and bring it into order, and bring thousands into his kingdom.Let us pray.Note: tape ended abruptly at end
The Life of Faith 3 - GENESIS
Genesis SeriesThe Life of Faith 3Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’NeillLoved ones, what we’re trying to do Sunday by Sunday is to talk about the Old Testament with a view to helping each other to live in trust of God — to live by faith in God. If you’re like me, especially in these days, you have plenty of things that create in you a sense of angst. In fact the whole world seems to be in a sense of angst, a great sense of anxiety. And if it’s not anxiety about finances, it’s anxiety about domestic matters. If it’s not anxiety about domestic matters, it’s anxiety about international matters. But it seems, doesn’t it, that so often we walk in a society that is filled with a sense of angst and it seems to press in on you at every moment. If it’s not fear of losing your job it’s fear of us all losing our lives. Or if you watched the news this morning you saw the fear of even the nuclear power station proliferation and you heard the guy say, “People on the east coast are afraid; afraid of today afraid for tomorrow.” And it does seem that there is great fear, and great lack of faith, and great lack of peace in our day. So we as God’s children need to see there is a beautiful way of peace to walk.There is a place where you can walk in peace about your marriage, you can walk in peace about your future marriage, you can walk in peace about your job, and you can walk in peace about the things that are happening to you day-by-day and you don’t need to be knocked off balance. You don’t need to be up and down, up and down, up and down, one time worried, another time anxious. First you pop the Alka-Seltzer then you pop the tranquilizer, then you try to go on a vacation and then you try to get over it. It doesn’t need to be like that; God is a good God, he’s our dear Father, it is possible to live in continual unbroken faith in him. And the best way to see that is for us to begin to see how great and how faithful he is, and to pray that during these times when we study the Old Testament we’ll be able to see through the Holy Spirit that he is our Father, he’s your Father, and that you can tackle things differently tomorrow because of him.It does make a difference the way you tackle things — you know that. I won’t go too long on this but the guys will sympathize with me. I was joking I had the stigmata because I pinned myself with a screwdriver last night. We have a well and I decided I had to put a wood burning furnace in so I had to move the 60 gallon tank of the well over to the other side of my furnace. And I put it off several times because you men know I had to sweat about 12 joints and I am not good at sweating joints of copper piping, and I had to move a lot of the black piping, and it was just a miserable job. I’ve been putting it off for about two weeks.Then Jesus seemed to rise up inside me and say, “I have overcome the world so we go to this and you believe me to move in it and to work it and you tackle it expecting that it will go right.” And I went out and got two wrenches from my neighbor and got started into it. I think about five o’clock — I had the sermon organized, so got into it about five o’clock last night and about eight o’clock came the terrible moment; I had all the joints sweated and all the piping and I turned her up to 60 pound pressure and not a leak anywhere. So I saw again that there’s a vast difference between tackling this miserable intractable world on your own, or tackling it through faith in God having overcome it in Jesus.And brothers, I think that’s it, for us. Sisters no doubt you face the same thing; the soufflé that won’t rise — the soufflé is supposed to rise, I think — or you face other things with the childrenat home. But it does seem that it makes a difference if you tackle the thing with faith, somehow the resources of the God head are released into the situation and undoubtedly there’s a difference between tackling things through faith in God and tackling them just with a vague hope of “Somehow I’ll get through this and maybe work something out.”So loved ones, that’s why we’re studying the Old Testament. We’ve been studying the first couple of chapters in Genesis and I’ll try to bring you a little up to date with what we’ve said so far. You may remember that when we were talking about Genesis 1 we dealt with the creation of the universe. Verses 1-13 talked about the work of dividing that God did — how on the first day he divided the light from the darkness. Then on the second day he divided the air from the water and then divided the land from the sea on the third day. And then you remember how in verses 14-25 we read how then God did a work of filling and so the fourth day corresponds to the first day.You see the first day divided the light from the darkness, and then he filled the light with the sun and the darkness with the stars. And then you see the second day corresponds to the fifth, he divided on the second day the earth and the water then he filled the air with birds and the water with fish. And then the third day he divided the land from the sea and on the sixth day he filled the land with plants and animals. And so you get the beautiful order that God brings to the doctrine of creation. And so often we don’t realize that the Father knew us men and women better than we knew ourselves — he did not bother us with those most important details like, was the earth 10,000 years old or 10,000,000 years old?He knew what little idiots we were and he just didn’t give a date; he didn’t allow us to get ourselves messed up with unimportant details like that because when you think of it, it is an unimportant detail. It makes no difference to our lives at all whether the world is 10,000 years old or 10,000,000 years old. And yet it is incredible, isn’t it, how we men and women, despite the fact that God gives us no excuse for that, gives us no dates in Genesis — there are no dates and there is no idea of time there — of how old it is and yet despite that we all get ourselves wound up on those big details. They’re not big details at all, they’re unimportant nuisances really. But God zeroed in on the things that were important, showing us the relationship between one thing and another.Then you remember he began to show us the creation of man himself and showed us that he created us men to rule over the earth. It ties up with a funny little story about the plumbing, because God did create us to rule over the earth. He did not create us to be overwhelmed by it. I know some of you are hitting marriage things and problems in jobs. We weren’t created to be beaten. We weren’t. We were not created to be beaten. We weren’t. We were not created to be defeated. We were not created to be ruled over or dominated by our circumstances. We were created to rule over the earth. That’s why God made us, to rule over the earth.And then when you go to Genesis 2, we talked about how the Sabbath, first dealt with here, was really the day when we remembered the new creation in Jesus when the sun rose. Then in verses 4-17 God talked about man and the Garden of Eden that he had created. And then in the last part of Genesis 2 God began to deal with the relationship of man and woman and began to talk about how he made woman to aid man in the work that God had given him to do.Now that’s as far as we got last time. When we come to Genesis 3 tonight, we deal with the fall. Maybe it would help you if I explained to you that it is the failure to realize the meaning of Genesis 3 that made way for [Dr. Benjamin] Spock. Its the failure to realize Genesis 3 that stillgives people trouble with evil and suffering. Now those of you who haven’t yet seen it remember that Spock and the whole psychology that taught us that we were born inherently good comes because modern theology threw out Genesis 3. They said, “Now wait a minute: God made the world and he made man, and he said, ‘Behold it is very good.’ Now surely that means that we’re all good and we’re all inherently good, and all we have to do in education is allow the good inside each little child to come out.” And of course many of us got caught in that, and we kept seeing other stuff coming out of the little child, but we kept believing, “Oh well, they say he’s good and I shouldn’t chastise him, and I shouldn’t tell him off and I shouldn’t discipline him because he’s really good inside.”Well of course loved ones, it’s a failure to see that after man was made by God and put on the earth to rule over it, man rebelled against God and determined to be God himself. He said, “Get out of my way; I’m going to use this world as I want.” And the fall took place when God dropped out of fellowship with man and man dropped out of God’s plan for his life. So the whole teaching that man is inherently good comes from that failure to see the meaning of the fall, as does of course, those who say, “Why is there cancer? Why is there cancer?” And yet it is really so naïve, but we keep on asking it and even some of us say it too. We join in, although we believe Genesis 3, but we join in with those people who have ignored Genesis 3 and we say, “Yeah, yeah, why is there cancer? Why are there earthquakes? If God is really a good God and he’s really omnipotent why is there disease and why is there sickness?’Well, because of the fall. God didn’t make the world with sickness, he didn’t make the world with earthquakes, he didn’t make the world with cancer and disease, and he didn’t make the world with tragedies and disasters, and floods. God made the world perfectly but when man rebelled against God the whole world of nature suffered that fall. So loved ones the fall explains a lot that people say they don’t really understand today.Now maybe we could deal for a short time with Genesis 3. If you take your Bible and open it to Genesis 3:1, I think God can show us something of the nature of the fall and why it took place and can explain to us a few things about our own walk with him, because really our problem comes from repeating the fall in our own lives. Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creation that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?’” The question in Hebrew can be translated, “Did God actually say you couldn’t eat all the trees that you wanted? I mean, did your God who loves you, did he actually suggest that some of the trees you might not be able to eat? Is your God really loving? Does he really care about you if he allowed that to come upon you?” And that’s the way the thing starts.The serpent, Satan, took hold of an ordinary serpent and from that time on the serpent has always stood for Satan. But it was Satan, the spirit from outside, and he is still walking about roaring as a lion to see whom he can devour and he’s always licking around your life and your heart and your mind. He can’t get in if you don’t let him, but he can shoot thoughts through your mind — thoughts of temptation saying, “Now, surely God would not let you go through this miserable experience that you’re about to head into.” And of course, he wants you to say, “That’s right; if God really loved me he wouldn’t want me to endure this. He would want me to get out of this marriage fast. He would want me to get out of this job fast. He would want me to get out of this difficult situation fast. Yes, I don’t see that God would do this to me. Surely, he’d let me eat of any tree of the garden.” And Satan’s approach to you is always to get you to doubt God’s real love for you and to get you to justify yourself in beginning to move outside what God has told you to do.Now loved ones, that doubt is actually the very beginning of the problem in walking in faith in God.It’s like Peter walking on the water and then putting his little toe underneath the wave a little to see, “Could I actually get my toe underneath the surface? Here I am walking on it but could I get my toe underneath the surface?” The moment you look at that, doubt begins to come into your mind. There’s only one thing to do when that kind of thought comes and that is look away from it and look straight to Jesus. Look straight to God and forget that thing completely.It’s the same with evil temptation or unclean thoughts, the moment the thing begins to approach you in your mind, look away from it the first time. That’s the way to walk in faith. You see, we get into problems where we think, “Well, I can dip my toe in a little more. I can think a little more around that thought.” Satan gets in and says, “You really think you’re ever going to marry? Do you? Do you ever think you will? I mean, who would marry you?” And we dumb-dumbs we go right out after it. There’s no sense in it at all, absolutely none and he has no interest in us anyway. He has no desire to see us married. He has no interest in what will really happen, he’s just anxious to get us weaving our mind around that thought.Now loved ones, that’s it: don’t give your mind to it. Don’t give your thought to Satan’s doubt. Don’t be kind of brave and courageous and say, “Oh, I’m strong in Jesus so now let me think that thought out. Okay, will I ever get married? Hmm, will I ever get married? Will I ever get married?” Don’t. Don’t. Look up to Jesus, look up to God say, “Father, I don’t know what your plans are for me but I know you love me, and I know you know me well, and I know you’re going to give me the thing that will fulfill me best in this life. So Lord, I’m trusting you — let’s get on.” But that’s it. Look away from the thought, don’t deal with the thought.I got into real trouble because I thought, “Now wait a minute, it’s just an intellectual game and you ought to be able to let your mind grasp these things. It’s purely an intellectual experiment.” It’s not. It’s not, you see Satan makes it look like, “Now listen, here’s a simple little question, did God say you shall not eat of any tree of the garden? A harmless little question. Ponder it over; let it haunt you a little.” No, don’t — just don’t do it. If there’s any thought that comes into your mind that is not glorifying and up building and loving and filled with faith, then let it go. That’s it. Let any thought go that is not witnessing to you of God, just let it go. If you say to me, “Oh but we have to think through these things otherwise we won’t know how to travel through life.” God is guiding you. You’ve to think what he gives you to think, you have to deal with what he has given you to deal with and that’s enough. You have plenty on your plate, just drive that car, keep clear of the other cars, get through the traffic lights properly, and get to work. That’s it. Just do that and praise him as you go and loved ones, you’ll find that as you tend to the things that he’s given to you to attend to in your mind, he will work out all those other things.Satan is the one that brings in, under a guise of a simple question, some beginnings of doubt. You see, Eve really answered well at the beginning, almost a bit like Jesus. Jesus, you remember, quoted God’s word to Satan when Satan approached him in the temptation, “And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.” And she was going well, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, God is a good God.” But of course, she did let her mind go round, “But God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden.’” And God did say that, but then she added a little, which suggested that her mind was beginning to question too. She added, “Neither shall you touch it. In fact, he wouldn’t even let me touch it. He said I can’t eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden and I can’t even touch it lest I die.” And she began to side with Satan.Brothers and sisters don’t do it — just don’t do it. The thought comes — you shouldn’t even bother with the thought; never take the second step, never side with Satan. Never give the least question about whether God knows, “Now does he really know? Maybe he doesn’t know just what my situation is career wise. Maybe he doesn’t and maybe I better think this thing through. Maybe God doesn’t quite know the trouble I’m having at home so maybe I better get in here with my sleeves up and get this sorted out.” Don’t touch it, just don’t touch it. Don’t side with Satan against God. Don’t ever question that God is God, that he can see everything you’re doing. He knows everything, he’s omniscient, he knows exactly where you are, he has the whole thing organized and he wants you to praise him and thank him even when you cannot see. So don’t hesitate.It’s the hesitating you see: all Satan’s after is to destroy your faith. All these are lies. He doesn’t know nothing from nothing, but he’s trying to get you to step back from a position of absolute confidence and faith and peace in God. The same when you’re going to sleep at night. Going to sleep at night, Satan gets the thought in; you think “Nope, I’m going to sleep.” But the thought is still there so you think, “Well, I’ll just give it a little tickle before I go to sleep.” Then you give it a little tickle and then he begins to suggest that maybe God doesn’t quite understand the situation so you decide, “Well, that’s right I better just review it in my own mind.” Two hours later you’re still trying to work out the problem. Don’t touch it. Stay clear of suggestions from Satan that get you either to doubt God’s love or to doubt God’s faithfulness or omnipotence. God has everything under control. God has you in his arms. He will not drop you; he knows exactly what’s happening. He wants you to rejoice in him now.That’s what he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I will say rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all men the Lord is at hand.” If you say to me, “Rejoice and the things falling apart?” That’s what God says; I’d believe him if I were you. At least when it falls apart he’ll be right there waiting to catch you. But rejoice, that’s the safe thing to do, rejoice that God is in control. Don’t be led out by Satan into thinking he isn’t.Then you see how it goes in verse 3, “But God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die.’” That’s the next stage – unbelief. First doubt and then unbelief, “You won’t die.” Direct contradiction and that’s what happens if you begin to follow Satan out in your thought life like this. You’ll begin to contradict God; you’ll begin to say, “No, that is not right. God’s normal order for a person like me in this situation is not right. I am facing an exception in this situation. This is an exception. I won’t die here.” And of course, the whole world is busy persuading itself that it will not die.It’s incredible, isn’t it? You have dear guys on death row pleading for execution. There’s something inside them that says, “You should die for murdering another person.” Something inside them says, “I want some reality, some punishment, something should happen to me.” And nobody will execute them because the whole society is involved in persuading us that we can fornicate without destroying our marriages, that we can whip ourselves up on drugs and alcohol without destroying our minds and our emotions, that we can do whatever we want and not suffer the consequences. And isn’t that why we don’t arrest the little guy that has stolen the car but we arrest the guy that has left his keys in the ignition. And it’s just an extension of it, we’re trying to persuade ourselves that we can even commit crime and we won’t suffer for it — “We’ll put you in a psyche ward, and we’ll get you organized and get you out again. We’ll rehabilitate you.”But the whole society is involved in persuading itself that it will not die despite the fact that itgoes its own way and does what it wants rather than what God wants. Well, that’s what Satan wants to persuade us to do you see. “Sure, jump into bed; it won’t have the effect on you that it has on the other person. Edge a little here on the income taxes and it won’t affect you; you’re in a slightly different situation here. You won’t die if you do this.”Loved ones, you will die. You will. If you do any sin at all there’s a bit of you inside dies. There’s a bit of your relationship with God that fades. Yes, you will die. And just because you’re still alive, and just because you still feel kind of happy, it’s still true there’s something that has died inside every time you work against what God has told you to do. There’s something that dies inside despite Satan’s pleading, “You will not die.” You do. You die and you feel the lack of peace weeks or months later.Then in verse 5, pride: first doubt, then unbelief, then pride, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And that’s it, “If you do this you’ll be like God. This will make you like God. Knowing what is right and what is wrong, deciding what is right and what is wrong for yourself, that’ll make you like God.” And of course, that’s what we want to be when we get on into the depths of temptations — we want to run our own lives, we want to do it our way. We want to have our own judgments and exercise our own will, and have our own rights, and we want to be like God himself. And I don’t know brothers and sisters, if you’ve really thought about that one. I do think there’s some truth in it.If the ladies – I apologize to the ladies, I don’t apologize to us men because I think it’s true of us — that a man envies God’s power and a woman envies God’s worship. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Maybe it’s not altogether true and I’m sure it crosses over because some of us are in some ways more like what we think of as an ordinary woman and what we think of as an ordinary man while we are all, in some way, a mixture of those two. But it probably has some truth in it that we all want to be like God, except the man often envies God’s power. You know brothers, the way we want to achieve things. We want to achieve something and we want to be somebody, and we want to make a niche for ourselves in the hall of fame. And you ladies, I don’t know to what extent it’s true, but you envy the worship of God. You want worship, and admiration, and adulation.But whatever it is, and maybe it’s the other way around, but it does seem we have a great desire to take God’s place and doubt is the beginning of the move into unbelief, which moves you then, eventually, into pride where you take over completely. And presumably we tend to look at a man like DeLorean and think, “Oh well, he’s an extreme example.” But we are all capable of going exactly that way and going quite as far as that in our own lives.So that’s the way the fall took place loved ones, and you see in verse 6 what the nature of it was, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” because she had turned her back on God, you see, and you only turn your back on God when you have an alternative — we need to remember that. We’re not dummies; God has put within us a self-preservation instinct and we only turn our back on God if we can see that there’s another solution. So she saw that the tree was good for food. She saw, “Now, I can use this world to get the security that I was depending on God for so I can use this world directly myself. I can get money from it; I can get security for myself from it.” When she saw, “That it was a delight to the eyes,” [she thought] “I can get the happiness that I’ve had with God as my friend. I can get it; I can surround myself with good circumstances, nice homes, nice cars, good friends. I can get the happiness I need from the world. “And that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” “I can make myself important. I can use my cleverness to establish my importance in other people’s eyes and I can draw all men unto me by my own cleverness and wisdom.”I don’t know how much you use your cleverness and wisdom. The Holy Spirit has just shown me again what showoffs we are. You know — how we show off our little clevernesses, or our little wisdom. And I don’t know how much you’ve found yourself tempted but we lose the peace of God’s presence when we do that, when we show off our cleverness or our wisdom, or we think we’re getting the upper hand of someone, or we think we’re taking a clever shortcut that no one else can see, or we think we’re outdoing the other one. It seems as if we have a deep pride inside ourselves. We had an author in Britain who wrote about one up-man-ship, and the idea of always being one up on the other person and it seems that that is constantly seeping through us — that desire to be just a little more clever, or a little one up on the other person. And of course, that fills our minds and our minds clang with the noise of that, and we lose the peace and the rest and the gentleness of being a little person — a little something, or a little nothing in the Father’s hands.And so loved ones, those were the steps by which man came into the fall. And it might be good, I do sense – I don’t know what you sense, but I sense I should stop there even though I’m sorry I’m not through chapter 3. But it does seem that there’s a lot of stuff there, isn’t there? We just need to ask the Father for light, you know. Let us pray.Dear Father, we come before you because we see ourselves naturally in our forefather Adam. And Father, we see how often we have engaged in just these very practices. And oh Lord, we ask you to give us light through the Holy Spirit so that as we read this again tonight, maybe before we go to bed, you will enable us to see these temptations and these steps of decline whenever they occur in our lives this week. Lord, we pray for light so that at the very moment when we’re about to yield, we will know it and see it.Lord, we know that we do not need to walk in this fear, this uncertainty, and this anxiety. We know Father that it’s your plan that we should walk as little children who have a millionaire Father who is watching over them every minute. And oh Father, we know it’s possible to walk that way so we ask you Holy Spirit, to give us wisdom and light and life so that we may deal with the evil one when he approaches us. Lord, we ask for grace to say no to the word of doubt when we wonder if you know, when we wonder if you’re in control, when we wonder if you see us, when Satan somehow moves you out of our minds and we begin to think, “We’re on our own. We’re on our own. We have to do something here.” And we haven’t these hymns and songs around us, or these other people and we don’t realize that you’re right at hand. You’re right at our right hand there, closer than breathing. Holy Spirit, will you remind us of that so that we will not doubt that God of course, has given us to eat of all the trees of the garden that it’s good for us to eat of and he has everything under control, and he will not drop us.Lord, when unbelief comes in and we begin to think, “Well, we can do this and not die,” oh Father, present yourself before us. Present yourself as a great judge if necessary, do whatever is needed Lord, to keep us back from that defiant will where we bluff ourselves that we can do this and not suffer; we can do this, disobey you, and not lose your presence. Oh Father, help us to see disobedience and sin as the plague itself and as absolute death. And then Lord, deal with us if ever we get into pride and begin to think that we’re God. Oh Father forgive us, we’re such puny silly little creatures that Lord, Satan seems to make us feel we’re so important in our little universe. Oh, help us to see that we’re not fit to be God and that’s what brings the worry and the anxiety. Father, that the money thing is not ours to look after, it’s ours to do the best we can with, but it’s yours. You’ve promised that you will provide all other things unto us.Lord, whenever we get into the midst of the job problem, or the home situation, Father, help us to step down from our throne. Help us to see, “Wait a minute, this isn’t ours. Our Father is in control here. He’s placed us here. This may not come out in what the world may say are successful ways, but it will come out in God’s way so my place is to stay in here and do what he tells me.” Lord, help us, help us to do that. Help us to keep off the throne of trying to run the world. Lord, we don’t rule it, we can’t rule it, and we can’t run it but you have it in control and you will work all things according to the counsel of your will.Dear Holy Spirit, we pray for each other, for each dear brother and sister in this room here with us tonight, and we pray for each of us that you, Holy Spirit, will quiet in our hearts at the moment of temptation this week so that we may walk in faith unbroken faith, and trust, and rest in the Father, so that we may rule the earth and bring it into submission this week. Lord, we thank you for this evening, for your own dear presence, and we thank you that at this moment if we died we’d be right in your arms, right there in the brightness of heaven. Thank you Lord that we’re there all the time even though we can’t see it.Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each one of us now and evermore.