They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Spaghetti: The Bible Is One Long Thread

It has been exciting and a blessing to see how the Bible ties together so amazingly. It’s like a big long spaghetti noodle. When you pull it out of the bowl it just stays together all the way through. As we read and walk the Exodus story we begin to realize the common thread runs throughout all the major Bible stories.

In Genesis, God created man and woman so that He could fellowship with him. In Genesis 3, He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. But then sin entered the world ,first as individual sin, eating the fruit and Cain killing Abel. Then sin began to multiply and became institutional.

Construction of the Ark

Construction of the Ark

Moses discovered in basket (Rembrandt)

Moses discovered in basket (Rembrandt)

It continued to develop until it finally became a kingdom of evil and God has to do something. In Genesis 6:5, it says that the Lord saw how great man’s wickedness was and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was to do only evil all the time. So He sent the flood and destroyed all mankind. However, He saves a remnant of mankind in an Ark (Hebrew tebah – Strong’s 8392) to start over. The word tebah is only used two times in the Bible, once here and once to describe what Moses was put in, on the Nile.

God starts over and makes a covenant with Noah. Once again sin starts as individual sins, but it multiplies into an evil kingdom at the Tower of Babel. At that time, the Bible says there were 70 nations (Genesis 10:2; note 14 from Japheth, 30 from Ham, 26 from Shem). God scattered them over all the earth as He cannot tolerate evil as a kingdom.

God starts over again with His plan to have a people for himself, with Abraham. Fast forward to Joseph and his experience in Egypt. In Genesis 46:27, it says that Joseph’s family numbered 70 in all. 70 nations grow out of Babel, and Joseph comes down as 70 nations.

God saves Moses with a tebah (ark) and uses him to start the process again of saving and starting over with His people. He sends them out on Passover, after killing the firstborn of the evil kingdom of Egypt that had been developed as a result of individual and corporate sin.

God continues to do the Exodus story when His son died on Passover, the day they left Egypt. He died as the Passover lamb. God is still doing the Exodus story today. Our culture is like Egypt.
The point is, the Bible repeats itself over and over with the Exodus story, with God wanting to have a people who are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God is in the process constantly of redeeming His own.

God Picks a Partner

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.
— Exodus 7:1-2

How did God begin the process of rescuing his people?  He picked a partner to start the process!  Why in the world does God need a human partner?  Why does He so often seem to pick someone to be His hands and feet and voice?  Throughout human history He has done this.  Abraham and Sarah, David, Ruth – you could go on and on – and then He picked Jesus.  And then Jesus chose disciples, common men all.  To save His people, God chose Moses, which was an interesting choice.  Let’s take a closer look at what God did to get His partner ready to lead his people out.

We first meet Moses as an infant.  God puts him in and saves him with an ark (tebah), just like He did to a remnant in the past to start over.  He gives him a name that would be his destiny; in Hebrew, his name means “to draw out”.  God also places him in a unique position in his adopted family, as a man who would possibly be in line one day to be the next Pharaoh of Egypt.

He also evidently gave Moses a unique heritage.  Evidently, there were a few Israelites who still knew of and clung to the God of Abraham.  Moses’ parent’s names, give us a clue to their beliefs.  They are Jewish names, and Amram means “exalted people” and Jochabed means “give glory to Adonai”.  This gives us some idea of where Moses got his heart.  He must have had godly parents and grandparents.

Pharaoh subdues his enemies

Pharaoh subdues his enemies

How do we meet Moses as an adult?  He kills an Egyptian!  As a man, Moses had God’s heart – he had intense sympathy and compassion.  He was a man who would hear the cry of someone who was hurting and would come to their rescue.  In the Egyptian world, the stick represented the power that the Pharaoh wielded over anyone one that crossed him.  Image after image depicts him with a raised stick over his subdued enemies.  Moses acts like Pharaoh and hits with a stick.  He has to run away, he is an enemy of the Crown.

God says, I’ll teach you to lead like me, not like Pharaoh.  So He sends Moses to the desert to tend a flock of sheep for 40 years.  All God’s partners have to be trained.  Then, after 40 years, God shows up in a bush and says, “Are you ready to tackle the mission I’ve given you?”

If you will notice in Exodus 7, that God didn’t just give the message to send, He told Moses, “you be the message”.  “I will make you like God to Pharaoh”.   1 Peter 2:5 carries that same message, you, too will be a kingdom of priests.  We are supposed to show the world what God is like.  God is still looking for partners.  Are you interested in being one of them?  Are you willing to trade your cushy lifestyle for 40 years of desert training?

Moses was a humble man going up against the most powerful megalomaniac in the world.  Doesn’t make sense!  Moses was able to hear the cry!  Do you hear it?  Or do you cover up, you and your children’s ears?  We have to learn to have God’s heart and God’s ears.  In the New Testament there are nine examples of Jesus doing something dramatic when people cry out.

When a disaster happens, we often say, God, where are you?  God is saying to us, where are you?  He is looking for partners today!  Will you hear his call?  Amen.

Kingdom of Heaven Begins

Finger of God

Finger of God

The idea of the Kingdom of Heaven is born in the Hebrew Bible with the story of the Exodus. What is meant by the Kingdom of Heaven? It is a very important concept to get a hold of.

John the Baptizer came preaching in the Desert of Judea saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”. This phrase,” Kingdom of Heaven”, occurs 33 times just in Matthew. Jesus, in Matthew 4:17 began to preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” In almost every parable, He says the “Kingdom of Heaven” is like…

Paul, in Acts 28:31, says, “Boldly and without hindrance He preached the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ. Mark and Luke use the phrase” Kingdom of God” to say the same thing. This phrase occurs over 30 times in Luke. In Luke 9:1 when Jesus sent the twelve out, He sent them to preach the” Kingdom of God”. In Matthew 10:7 Jesus tells His disciples, “As you go, preach this message, the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Although the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” doesn’t actually appear in the Hebrew Testament, it occurs 120 times in the New Testament. The Hebrew phrase is “Malchut Shamayim” which would have been a common phrase to their world. The phrase was used in a pious way to avoid using the actual name of God, which was commanded in Exodus 20. So you would think of a synonym for God. God was the God of Heaven, so use heaven as a synonym for His name. If you look it up, Jesus never used God’s name in the New Testament, He calls Him Father. In Luke and Acts the phrase Kingdom of God was used when they were writing to the Gentiles. Kingdom of God = Kingdom of Heaven.

Even though the expression” Kingdom of Heaven” or” Kingdom of God” does not actually occur in the Hebrew Testament, the one fundamental theological statement that is made in the O.T. is that God is the Ruling Lord, He is God, alone, and He alone is reigning on the throne of His kingdom. This is what is meant by the “Kingdom of God”. In Hebrew, the word translated kingdom (Malkuth) is a dynamic word signifying royal power, just as the English, kingdom, means the authority and power of a king. In the biblical tradition, the idea of the “Kingdom of God” is God’s exercise of His royal power (see David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29:11). To have a kingdom, you must have a king that is ruling and reigning over it.

The great example that serves as a pattern for the rest of the Bible, of God’s exercise of His sovereign power, is the Exodus. The events of God’s delivering His people out of the slavery of Egypt to the Promised Land were viewed by the Bible writers as the pattern for all His future acts of kingly power. Prophets looked for a second Exodus that would be greater than the first (see Isaiah 51:9-11 and Hosea 2:14-25), where the Kingdom of God would show up in power under the rule of His representative, the Messiah. The writings of the Essene community at Qumran showed that they believed the” Kingdom of God” was among them now.

Jesus said in Mark 1:14-15, that the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. This appears to mean that the time for waiting is over; God is now initiating the Second Exodus. When Jesus’ read the Isaiah 60 and 61 passages that predict the 2nd Exodus and the arrival of the Messiah, He says, “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. It’s here, the kingdom is here! So the concept of the” Kingdom of God’ is interwoven throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. But the concept of the “Kingdom of Heaven”, the place where it was born, where God first shows up in great kingly power to his people, is the Exodus, in Egypt. All the rest of the Bible is shaped by the Exodus. It is the pattern by which the rest of the Bible develops. What was the pattern?

Hathor & Osiris

Hathor & Osiris: gods of Egypt

The Kingdom of Heaven starts when God acts in great power and the finger of God shows up (Exodus 8:19, 31:18, and Psalms 8:3, Luke 11:20) – also similar phrase the “hand of the Lord”. Pharaoh’s magicians recognized these great powers as they saw the miracles of the plagues unfold. They told Pharaoh, this is just the finger of this God working, as if to say, what would happen if He put his back or legs into it. You better not mess with this God, He is all powerful.

After bringing the miraculous 10 plagues on the Egyptians and defeating the Egyptian gods, God leads his people out to a place where they camped at Pi Hahiroth. Here, He again acts in unbelievable power as the waters of the sea are parted and the Israelites walk through on dry ground. This leads to the 2nd step of the Kingdom, people call Him Lord. Exodus 14:31 says “And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in Him and in Moses his servant.”. They stood on the bank of the sea and danced and sang a song to God and called Him Lord. He is our God; we will follow Him, and not the old ones we used to follow in Egypt. “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord”, says chap 15 vs. 11. Think about that based on where they had just come from. The Lord will reign forever and ever says vs. 18. The children of Israel have finally decided who the King is! It’s not Pharaoh or the gods of Egypt who they were to serve.

What started as a night of great terror for the people turned into a great victory, by the finger of God. They came out of the water a different nation. Here, the nation of Israel was born, through wind (ruah) fire and water. The Red Sea became a birth canal through which they emerged as a new people. This is the first time a whole community of people called Him King. It is interesting to note here that the people were saved first and then believed. Our philosophy is that you believe first and then you are saved.

Immediately after this great miraculous saving experience God takes his people out into the harshest desert in the world. This is the third part of the Kingdom of Heaven story:

  1. The finger of God shows up and acts in great power
  2. People see and call Him Lord and King, and
  3. People obey the king.

God is saying you have called me King? Are you sure? Let me show you how to make me your king. Let me take you out to the desert. We’re going to leave the fertile place, the place with lots of water and food, and we’re going to go to a place where it’s hot and dry and you will have to count on me for your food and water. If you obey me in these circumstances I will make you a kingdom of priests.

Are you going to be willing to take on the yoke of obedience in your daily life? If you’re going to call me King and Lord, then you must go out and do my will. I want my will to be done. To call Him Lord we must be obedient to Him.

The Kingdom of Heaven is found in the desert. God did not let his children go the easy way. He led them into the most severe desert in the world, “to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger…to teach you that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. Deut 8:2-4 (also read rest of Deut 8). The desert is the place where He gently and patiently takes us to teach us and demand from us, obedience. God’s desert plan is to put us in tough circumstances so we can see who we are and what we are doing here, and what is in our hearts. We can’t get away with just calling Him King; we have to make Him King, by being obedient, by actually serving Him and doing his will.

It seems, in the church today, we want to see the finger of God, and we want to see His great power displayed. We like calling Him Lord and King with our praise songs, but to submit to His will? We want very little to do with the obedience part. The Kingdom of Heaven shows up when people obey, it doesn’t come without obedience.

Exodus 19:4-6 says it perfectly: “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ “. This conversation took place at Mt. Sinai and God was extending his covenant relationship to all the nation of Israel. This was an outgrowth of the covenant He had set up with Abraham in Genesis 15, 600 years earlier. “Now if you will” and “then I will” are covenant expressions. If what? If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then what? He will make us His treasured possession and we will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Israel was to be God’s kingdom (the people who acknowledge the fact that you are our King), and like priests we are to be wholly set apart to do his bidding, His will and His service. We are to be a holy nation – a nation that is set apart both individually and collectively as different, distinct people that are doing His will. We are to be set apart that much that we are like priests serving in God’s kingdom. We don’t call Him king, we make Him king.

In summary, we have grossly under stressed obedience. The Lord’s people should be a people who are called to and driven by obedience. We want to make our king dance like He made us dance. We should want to do everything in our power to make Him king. Obedience is always the response to grace. How else could we respond to what He’s done for us? We must walk as Jesus walked, must do what He says. I hope I can catch the importance of this in my life so His kingdom will come to me right now where I am, not just someday in heaven.

How Strong is the Culture’s Hold on You (Me?)

As we studied the Exodus and applied the parallels to our life here in America, I have to ask myself – at what point am I willing to let go?  It took 10 plagues and miracles just to get them started on the journey, including seeing the firstborn of every Egyptian killed.  And it took them till the Red Sea incident to get them to trust completely.

Why would the Israelites need 40 years in the desert?  Because Egypt had such an incredible hold on them!  It took that long just to get Egypt (the world) out of them.

On a personal basis, each one of use has to renounce Egypt and embrace the wilderness.  Each one of us has to have an Exodus experience, where we leave Egypt behind and trust God to lead you through the wilderness, through the unknown.  Until you get to that place in life you are still in the land of bondage.  We live in Egypt, but we can’t let Egypt live in us!  The only reason God leaves us in Egypt is because He loves the Egyptians – like Moses, we are to be “like God” (Ex 7:1b) to them.  But, we are not to be like them.

The desert is a place of curse in one way because there are snakes, scorpions, heat, and no rain – it not necessarily a place we would choose to be on our own.  But the desert is also a place of blessing beyond all places because that’s where God is, and that is where he meets with us.  He has our attention in the desert.