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Moses and the Journey from Slavery to the Promised Land
The Journey and Growth of Our Church
The story of Moses is the story of a leader leading a large group of ordinary people with a glorious variety of human weaknesses and sins to a destination that he does not know. It is the story of a community that struggles with God, its leaders, and its individual members to become a people of God, a community of faith and love. It is the story of a miracle of transformation over forty years. After this time the community is still imperfect but they have made a start and are growing even if it is three steps forwards and two steps back. Thirty-three centuries later, the story still continues. The people of God, the Church, continues to grow, implode, explode but is inevitably being drawn to a Promised Land that we can sense more by faith than by sight. It continues to be our journey as individuals and as a community. It is the greatest of journeys and defines the meaning of our lives.
During the forty days of Lent, let us read the story of Moses and the birth of the people of God and apply it to our own lives and Church. At Easter, the end of the Lenten pilgrimage, may we find transformation as we see in a clearer manner the glorious Promised Land that is being offered to us as our lasting home.
Day 1- Hebrew Slavery-What Are We as Individuals and Church Enslaved To?: Read Exodus 1:8-22
Moses’ kindred were physically slaves in Egypt and suffered greatly at the hands of their earthly taskmasters. We are all slaves to sin, held in bondage by our own desires, drives and devils. We may think that we are free but we are not. Only as we reflect on this truth and try to free ourselves of our vices do we really realize that what may have been a choice is now a compulsion and a bondage. How do we get free as individuals and as a Church? The first step is awareness.
Contemplate your vices and the sins of your Church using a list or the Decalogue in the Book of Common Prayer or read Deuteronomy 20. Look beyond the words to the level where you, or your Church, actually break the commandments. For example, I may not kill someone but, do I wish someone dead? Do I wish them injured? Do I wish them misfortune? Do I murder their characters? List below the main sins that are in your ‘shadow’. List below the main sins of our Church. Pray prayers of repentance for these sins.
Day 2- The Birth of A Future Leader- Birth and Adoption of Moses: Read Exodus 2:1-22
God did not leave His people in slavery but chose to deliver them over time through an inspired leader. The future leader is constantly threatened with death by evil and the powers of the world but survives, despite all odds, by the grace of God and the obedience of His servants. While Moses grows to manhood, the people of God remain in slavery.
Moses murders an Egyptian that was beating a Hebrew, hides him in the sand, and flees to Midian.
In what ways are we inspired? In what ways are we still growing to a mature adulthood? Why would God choose a murderer to lead his people? Do I use the grace of God to build up and protect my Church and her leaders or do I tear them down? How can God use me despite my sins/weaknesses? Am I willing to be a servant in order to become a leader?
Day 3- The Call to a Mission: The Call of Moses: Read Exodus 2:23-4:17
God revealed Himself to Moses in a burning bush and sent him to face Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses is dumbfounded! He couldn’t even speak well due to a speech impediment. What kind of leader could he be? He has many excuses against his knowing his own sins, weaknesses and lack of personal power. God, however, has a vision for Moses and will empower him. Moses argues with God; God becomes angry with Moses, yet God promises help from Aaron and with the staff.
We as individuals and Church are called to become people of God, to grow to a fuller life of love and service. We are each given a unique purpose from God. ‘It is impossible!’ we say. ‘We are only ordinary people and have no special talents or gifts. We also have numerous flaws.’ Like Moses, we are afraid. All true. But, is God trustworthy? How has he brought people and gifts into our lives to assist us? Unless we attempt the impossible (by human standards), we will never know what the power of God will enable us to do.
What purpose am I called to? In what ways will I need to be empowered to do it? What mission is our Church called to? What do we need for the task? Do I (we) believe that God will give us what we need to do our tasks? Will I do my part? Does it matter to God if I do nothing? What am I unwilling to give up to further God’s plan for my life?
Day 4- Hindered by the World, the Flesh and the Devil: Pharaoh’s Obduracy: Read Exodus 4:29- 5:21
When Moses and Aaron brought the elders together, they related all the Lord had told them. They performed signs before the people and they believed and bowed down and worshipped.
Once the mission is set in motion, the many forces that want it to fail come rushing in. The lure of wealth (the world), bodily pleasures (the flesh) and power (the devil) seek to destroy the good work. In this reading, Pharaoh represents the devil, the lure of power, trying to take the place of God. (‘Who is the Lord? Even if I knew the Lord I would not let Israel go!’) God’s plan seems to make life immeasurably harder for the Hebrews as they are forced into an even deeper slavery than before the mission.
Did you ever notice that when the Lord is working with you to do a beautiful good work that there is always something there to make it ugly such as the need for recognition, influence, love, status, financial gain among others? This is certainly true in the Church. The aim of the enemy is to pervert the holy.
Would I believe the signs? Do I come before the Lord with an attitude of worship?
Do I only seek to have my needs met, or pray for others and the Church?
In what ways are my good works, my mission, spoiled by my ego?
What about wealth, pleasure and/or power hinder my relationship with the Lord?
Day 5- God Reveals His Will Over Time: Renewal of God’s Promise: Read Exodus 5:22-6:14
As conditions get worse for the Israelites, Moses spends more time talking and listening to the Lord. The Lord reveals more about what He has in mind for the people. It is only in obedience to God’s will and discovering his need for God’s help that Moses is slowly learning to rely on God and His promises. He is learning that God will only reveal His will and plans slowly over time as he tries to obey the divine command. On the other hand, the Israelites refused to listen to him because of their discouragement.
Do you try to see the future before you will act? The Lord rarely gives this kind of information in advance, especially in personal matters. He invites us to obey and gives information as needed. He is teaching the absolute necessity of faith and obedience.
Does the Church, the Vestry, worry too much about the ends and means and not the mission, trusting that God will provide for his needs as we put our faith into practice? Am I able to overcome my laziness and inertia? Does discouragement or pressures block us from hearing God? What is the spiritual antidote to discouragement? How can I help others in their discouragement?
Day 6- Suffering and the Purifying Fire: The Plagues: Read Exodus 7:14-11:10
The Lord tries to purify the Egyptians through suffering. Bloody drinking water, plagues of frogs, gnats, flies and locusts, pestilence, devastating hail, blinding darkness and finally, the killing of the first born- all meant to get a people to understand that neither their leader, Pharaoh, nor the gods of Egypt are the one, only and true God. The suffering is progressive. God only uses the worst plagues as the lesser ones fail to correct.
How does God use suffering to change you and the Church? I know personally that God will try to get my attention as with a tap on the shoulder. If that doesn’t work He will use a rubber hammer. If I am still obstinate He will progressively use a jeweler’s hammer, a ball peen hammer, an eight pound sledge and finally, if I am really obstinate, the jack hammer of depression or some other devastating turmoil. By that time, I’m too battered to struggle anymore and I give in. As I get older I realize that I don’t thrive on pain like I did when I was younger and nowadays a rubber hammer hurts enough to get my attention.
How does God get the attention of the Church when it is off track and fails to recognize the true God? (Some symptoms may include loss of membership, factions, destruction of brotherly love, destruction of the church buildings, sickness of members among many others methods.) How does God use suffering to get my attention? Have I learned from these times of suffering? What kind of suffering is needed to be purified by the fire? How do these sufferings relate to the sins identified in the Day 1 meditation above?
Day 7- The Central Event of Our Faith: The Passover of the Lord: Read Exodus 12:1-36
The Lord is ready to reveal His glory to the Hebrew people. He is ready to set His people free through an event that will live in the memory of the people as a perpetual pinnacle of their faith. The killing of the first born indicated clearly to Pharaoh (and the real ruler of this world, Satan) that his days were numbered and that the beginning of the end of the war against evil had begun. The Hebrews had only to watch, remember, and pass on the knowledge of the Passover, symbolized as the shed blood of an innocent lamb, to their children as a memorial of how much the Lord loved them.
In the Church, the true meaning of the Passover lamb is a prefigurement of the shedding of the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as the ultimate act of love for us and the ultimate center of our faith. The war against evil has been won. Satan knows he is a defeated enemy. We need to claim our victory. We need to remember and pass on the continuing story of how much the Lord loves us.
How important is the Passover of the Lamb of God to me and my faith? How can I pass on the testimony of my faith to my children, grandchildren, and those around me?
Read Revelation 7:9-16. How does this relate to the Passover? What does it mean to me to be saved by the blood of the Lamb?
Day 8- Baptism and the Church: The Crossing at the Red Sea: Read Exodus 13:1-14:31
Like Noah’s Ark, the crossing at the Red Sea was a salvation for those who obeyed but a judgment on those who refused to listen to the Lord. Those in the Ark survived but those who would not make the choice to come aboard the Ark were drowned due to their own free will decision. Any Egyptians who escaped and traveled with the Hebrews were saved at the Red Sea but those who chose to remain an enemy of the Lord were destroyed by their own willfulness.
The Ark is a metaphor for the Church. Those within the saving embrace of the Church are being protected from many evils; most which you may not even recognize or be aware of. The Ark houses the holy. As the Hebrews still suffered while being in the presence of the Lord, we too-- those rallied behind the Banner of the Son of Man-- also experience suffering. The suffering is a purification and sanctification, the correction of His children by a loving Father. Those outside the Church experience the suffering as a judgment, condemnation, and destruction. How we experience the purifying fire of God is our choice!
Do I recognize that I am protected by the Lord? Do I know of any evils that would have harmed me had I not sought His protection? Does it give me the courage to grow and be of service knowing that redeemed suffering is meant to heal us, not harm us? How can I cooperate with the purifying process?
Day 9-Bread From Heaven: Feeding in the Desert: Read Exodus 16:1-36
The Hebrews were in the desert; a place of desolation, deprivation and death even if one was prepared for life there. The food that they took in their great haste to leave Egypt, mostly unleavened bread, was nearly gone. They began to grow fearful and wished that they were back in the slavery of Egypt where they were provided “all the food they wanted” in their slavery. They grumbled against Moses. He showed them that they were not grumbling against Moses and Aaron, but against the Lord. Moses was provided manna to feed God’s people and to test them.
Today, the Lord provides us with the spiritual food that is His body and blood to nourish us in the desert of our barren and generally spiritually lifeless culture. All around us people are spiritually starving as they try to make a meaningful life in a culture which provides no meaning or sustenance for their lives.
Do you recognize that you are being fed and given life by the Lord? Do you recognize the emptiness in what the world considers important? Do you try to invite those starving souls into your spiritual home where they can be fed and flourish like plants along the banks of a river?
Read John 6:41-59.
How does God’s gift of manna help you understand God’s gift of his Son?
What does it mean that Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven?
Day 10- What Quenches Our Spiritual Thirst?-Water from the Rock: Read Exodus 17:1-7
Even more important and basic than food in the desert wilderness is water. The Lord provided drink for the Hebrews from the seemingly barren rock.
Today, we thirst not so much for water but for meaning for our lives. As it says in the prophet Amos (8:11-12): “The days are coming says the Lord when I shall send a famine on the country, not for water but for hearing the word of God. People will stagger from sea to sea searching for the Lord’s word but will not find it.” Everywhere, people spend their lives in busyness doing things which provide no lasting pleasure, no nurturance, no real security, trying desperately to fill a void that can only be filled by the love of God.
Does your Church provide that which will quench your thirst? Do you try to quench your thirst with the broken water jars of our secular culture? How well does that work? Can you provide spirit quenching meaning to neighbors and friends by inviting them in from the great spiritual desert into the abundant life of Christ?
Read John 4:7-14. How does Jesus satisfy thirst?
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