The Promiser of the Promises

Introduction

            I was captured by God as a young believer in Jesus.  I know what it is to be powerfully rescued out of the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Jesus (Col 1:13-14).  The experience of my sins being forgiven was overwhelming.  My encounter with the Saviour was completely life-changing.  I had no religious upbringing so everything I learned was like smelling fresh bread every morning.  I breathed deeply of God’s love. 

            I fell in love with Jesus and was taught early on about salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:4-10).  This salvation experience was followed by life-long-learning of how to consecrate my life and become like Jesus and ready for his Second Coming.  This is easily compared to God delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt and to bring them into the Promised Land; this is an Old Testament analogy to our New Testament experience of salvation. 

Getting out of Egypt

            God knows everything that happens!  He prophesied to Abraham (Gen 15:13) – “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.”  Two major predictions help explain this 400 plus year waiting period.  Firstly, as a result of their suffering they would come out with great possessions (Gen 15:14) and that is literally what happened.  When the Israelites left Egypt following the death of all the first-born of Egypt, they were told to ask the Egyptians for items of value for their journey. “The people of Israel . . . asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus, they plundered the Egyptians” (ESV - Ex 12:35-36).  Secondly, God waited before giving the Promised Land to Israel because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” The Amorites worshiped false gods and practiced all sorts of evil.  It was God’s desire to remove them from the land of Canaan where Israel would one day live.  Once the Israelites did return to the land promised to them, the Amorites were destroyed as the Lord predicted. 

            The 400-year stay in Egypt included many examples of God’s wisdom and might. Joseph’s preservation of the Israelites during a famine, Moses’ rise to leadership, and God’s great miracles such as the crossing of the Red Sea were all part of Israel’s time in Egypt.  There ‘exodus’ is a type of salvation, Moses a type of saviour, passing through the Red Sea a type of baptism and deliverance from our enemies. 

Getting Egypt out of You

            The events we read of in Exodus 13–19 demonstrate all too clearly that Israel was not yet a holy people, and not yet ready to respond to God.  They were delivered from Egypt but found themselves wanting to return to Egypt; they grumbled and complained and rebelled because their promises were not being fulfilled according to their own perspectives.  Three months after leaving Egypt the Israelites entered the Wilderness of Sinai where God speaks to them at Mount Sinai.  “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites” (Ex 19:4-6).  The people’s response was unanimous – “everything God says, we will do.”  At Mount Sinai, Moses gave instructions for the Israelites to consecrate themselves and then three days later all would encounter God.  During this time Moses is on Mount Sinai receiving the Law for an extended period of time.  The people grow restless and Aaron creates a golden calf.  Exodus 32 paints this story for us.  One of the main take-a-ways is this.  They created a golden calf, similar to the idols of Egypt which were familiar to them.  Aaron “took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Ex 32:4).  The word for gods is the Hebrew “Elohim” which is used over 2000 times to refer to God and around 250 times in reference to a false god, as is noted in this passage.  The real challenge is found in Ex 32:5 – “When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.”  The Hebrew word for Lord is Jehovah or Yahweh.  It is clear to see that Egypt was still in their hearts and they believed that this golden calf – a mixture of Elohim (false god) and Yahweh – brought them deliverance. 

            The story does not end there.  Both God and Moses and Joshua are disturbed by what is going on at the foot of the mountain.  God is ready to destroy them.  Moses intercedes on their behalf.  Joshua hears what he thinks are the sounds of war.  Moses hears the sounds of a celebration.  When Moses sees what is really going on and he breaks the Ten Commandments.  Aaron’s response is disturbing - “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Ex 32:22-24).           What was supposed to be a consecrated time of meeting the Promiser of the Promised Land turned into an unholy and inappropriate celebration of the way things were in Egypt.

Reconciled to God

            In 2 Cor 5, the Apostle Paul speaks to the Church in Corinth about being reconciled with God.  In other words, becoming equally joined together to God and each other; equally yoked. 

·      For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.  (2 Cor 5:14-15)

·      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17)

·      God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21)

 

Don’t be Unequally Yoked

            In light of the Old Testament story we considered a few moments ago, there is a passage of Scripture that relates and is found in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1.  Now, the Apostle Paul speaks to them about being consecrated to the Lord.  This was the same desire of Moses for the children of God.  Aaron combined a false god, the golden calf, to a celebration to Yahweh, unequally yoked.  Paul tells them not to be unequally yoked; Believers and unbelievers, righteousness and wickedness, light verse darkness, Christ and Belial (lawless, worthless, wicked) or the Temple of God and idols.  “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people” (2 Cor 6:16b).  These four promises of Scripture can be seen in both Old and New Testaments.  It is the desire of God to be in relationship with his children.  He desires this relationship to be one of consecration and intimacy.  In the same way God and Moses were seeking to lead the people into consecration, Paul is saying, that if you want to know and experience these promises of God, we need to learn how to be separate and clean.  This is being equally yoked to God.  Not compromising.  Not creating God in the image of our culture (like Aaron and Egypt).  Not offering a mixture of worship… 

            Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Cor 7:1).  One of the means of receiving the promises of God into our lives is consecration; this can be described as sanctification, separating from something unholy and joining oneself to the Holy One.  With such encouraging promises to urge us on, let’s make a clean break with anything and everything that contaminates, defiles or distracts us within and without, spirit or body.  Let’s make our entire lives, thoughts, feelings and actions, complete with perfection, holiness and maturity because we fear, honour and respect God.

In conclusion

            The Israelites left Egypt with plunder and the Promised Land in their minds.  There were going to meet the Promiser of the Promised Land and enter into a land flowing with milk and honey.  However, they struggled in the wilderness.  They grumbled and complained.  And when it came time to cleanse themselves and three days later encounter God, they went astray, and made a golden calf.  In one sense, Aaron fashioned or conformed to the image of the religious world that he was familiar with.  They seemed to have good intentions but were unable to follow through in true consecration and commitment.  The question is why.  Even though their intentions were good, the underlying desires of their hearts were corrupt.  We are told that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).  We all have good intentions, but we mess it up when our lusts / desires lead us astray.  If we truly want to receive the fulness of God’s promises in our lives:

·      We must learn how to put to death the desires of our sinful nature (Gal 5:24)

 

·      We must learn how to separate ourselves from compromise in relation to our culture.

 

·      We must learn how to join ourselves to God the Promiser, not just the promises.

 

 

The main difference between Moses (Joshua and Caleb too) and the people of Israel was inner motivation.  Moses and his crew wanted the Presence and Promiser, God himself, while the children of God wanted what was best for them.  This is a huge warning for us today.  We must go after God himself and not just what he promises to us.  If we take hold of the Promiser with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then he will take hold of us with his great and precious promises.  Let’s love God for who he is and not just for what he can do for us…