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The Message of The Bible - Part Six
by Dave MillerBefore we get into Exodus, let me call your attention to the Book of Job. Very likely Job and itsí contents took place during the period of Genesis, the Patriarchal period, prior to the Law of Moses and the coming into existence of the Nation of Israel. Job is a very old book, probably the oldest in the Old Testament. Its 42 chapters describe the circumstances that Job experienced in terms of suffering he endured at the hand of Satan. The big question of the book is, "Why?" Why was Job suffering?
His three friends say, "Well, the answer to that is obvious, because you are a big sinner. God is punishing you because you have involved yourself in secret sin. Everybody thought you were a very righteous man, but obviously youíre not because youíre suffering." Itís clear that is a wrong view. You canít look out here and see somebody experiencing some hardship and just assume they brought that on themselves, or itís due to their sinfulness.
In fact, Job chapters one and two make it clear that Satan was the author of the circumstances, ordinary natural circumstances, that had come upon Job to cause him all of this affliction. As you work your way through the book, Job responds to his three friends by saying, "I donít believe thatís true. Iím not conscious of any way in which I have violated Godís will. Iím trying to live a righteous life." Therefore, they spar back and forth. Finally, we come down to chapter thirty-eight where God, Himself, breaks the silence and speaks to Job. He parades before Job, in chapters 38, 39, 40 and 41, the wonders of the universe, the wonders of the created order, Godís activity in history and in the natural circumstances of life. His basic point is, "Job, I donít have to give account to you. I donít have to explain to you why suffering comes upon some people and not on others. After all, I am God. I am orchestrating the entire universe. It is enough for you to know that I am God, and that if you live a righteous life you donít have to be perplexed and wonder why things are happening."
So really, the answer to the question--"Why do bad things happen to good people? Why was a righteous man like Job suffering?"--is "I donít have to give you an answer." The answer is to just dwell upon God, dwell upon His greatness, His majesty, His power, His omniscience. God is the magnificent, marvelous Creator of the universe. Awareness of that and commitment to that, embracing God as Creator and as Father, is sufficient for us to cope with adversity in lifeís suffering. The book closes in chapter 42 telling Job that he did a good job hanging in there. He didnít throw in the towel. He stayed faithful. The three friends were wrong in their view. Then God proceeded to bless Job more than He had even initially. What a wonderful book. Anytime you face hardship in life, you ought to go back and read, if not the Psalms, you ought to read the book of Job.
Now we move into the book of Exodus, which means "exit" or "departure". It is a book that describes the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. Hundreds of years have gone by since Joseph arranged for his family to move down into Egypt. This nation, this family composed of twelve sons has grown into twelve tribes, an entire ethnic group, the nation of Israel. The early verses of Exodus inform us that a Pharaoh is now in power who knew not Joseph. He was unfamiliar with past Egyptian history. He didnít care about Joseph and Josephís role in Egypt at a previous point in Egyptian history. Instead what he saw was an entire nation, an ethnic group, right here in the middle of the Egyptian empire, that he perceived as a threat to the safety and security of his nation. So he made the decision to subjugate this entire group of people. He brought the Israelites under slavery, under bondage. There they remained for many many years.
One Pharaoh, concerned about the numerical threat of this nation of Israel, made a decree to have all of the baby boys executed. It was during this period of Egyptian history that the Bible informs us in Exodus chapter one that a man and woman, husband and wife, from the tribe of Levi who already had two children, a son and a daughter, had their third child, a little baby boy, whom they tried to hide in defiance of governmental decree. They did so for about three months. At the end of that three months, apparently it was too dangerous to keep him hidden, so they concocted this scheme. They took their little baby boy and put him in a little bassinet which they had waterproofed, covered it over and set him afloat on the Nile River in the vicinity of where Pharaohís daughter was in the habit of coming down by the river side with her handmaidens. They situated their daughter, Miriam, hidden nearby to observe what would take place.
Sure enough, when Pharaohís daughter came down to the riverside, she saw the object and gave orders for its retrieval. When it was brought to her, she opened it up and this little baby boy began to cry. He must have instantly captured her heart. She made the decision to take him as her own child and to raise him as her son. She named him Moshe in Hebrew, Moses which means "drawn out", because she had drawn him out of the Nile River. Miriam stepped in and offered to find, among the Hebrew women, a nursemaid for the little baby boy and, of course, she selected Mosesí mother.
Therefore, for the next forty years of Moses life, he was exposed, essentially, to two different world views, two different perspectives in life. On the one hand, he must have received information from his own mother who taught him his identity racially; who were the Israelites; who is the God of the universe; and who were the forefathers of the Jewish nation: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He must have been exposed to all of that information. On the other hand, it is clear that he was also exposed to an equal amount of information from another perspective, from the Egyptians. In fact, listen to Stephenís statement in his great sermon in Acts 7:22. He said Moses was educated in all the wisdom of Egypt. Therefore, Moses, during the first forty years of his life, received instruction about Egyptian politics, Egyptian science, Egyptian religion. He must have been thoroughly inculturated from an Egyptianís perspective.
Yet the Bible informs us that one day at the age of forty he saw an Egyptian taskmaster mistreating a Hebrew. Apparently with his understanding of the situation, he intervened and the ensuing scuffle escalated to the point that Moses committed murder. He killed the Egyptian taskmaster. He tried to cover his deed by hiding the Egyptian body in a sand dune. Yet, the next day he saw two Hebrews quarreling and he intervened and rebuked them. One of them whirled around and said, "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Are you going to do to us what you did to that Egyptian yesterday?" Word of his crime had gotten out. The Bible doesnít explain to us why his affiliation with the royal family would not have protected him or exempted him from prosecution for committing murder. But, apparently it did not.
Therefore he made the decision to flee Egypt. By the way, I continue to be amazed at how Hollywood and animated movies try to present to us the Bible and how flawed they are, how far they go afield from actual biblical fact. I urge you to go to your Bible and read the story of Moses in order to know actually what happened.
The Bible tells us that he made the decision to flee Egypt. He spent the next forty years of his life away from Egypt. He had to exit Egypt by going out into the Sinai peninsula, which is a very rugged, rocky, barren, hot part of the world. There he spent forty years of his life. Iíve often thought it was during this forty year period that God was shaping, molding and fashioning him, maturing him through lifeís adversities, in order to be the man that he needed to be to do the job that would one day become his responsibility.
He met, out in that part of the world, a man who had several daughters. He married one of those girls and she became his wife. Then we are told that, at the age of eighty, one day he was out tending livestock and he observed a most unusual scene. It was a desert bush that was on fire. Yet it continued to burn, unconsumed. He moved over in the direction of the bush, to get a better look, and suddenly he heard a voice. The very voice of God boomed from heaven saying, "Take off your shoes youíre standing on holy ground, and keep your distance." In Exodus chapter three God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt, to enlist the aid of his brother, Aaron, and to go before Pharaoh and to place before that Egyptian monarch the demands of the God of the universe.
Moses agreed to do that. When he arrived in Egypt and went before Pharaoh, and made those demands, Pharaohís response was immediate and decisive. He said "Whoís God that I should listen to Him?" God empowered Moses to work miracles to confirm his message from God. But ultimately, Pharaoh would not listen and hence Moses began to unleash against the Egyptian population, by the power of God, ten catastrophic afflictions. We call them plagues. Scholars tell us that each one of those would have been a direct manifestation of Godís power over a particular deity from the Egyptian pantheon. They believed in many gods and therefore each one of the plagues showed Godís power over a particular Egyptian god.
In addition to those plagues having as their fundamental function to gain the release of the nation of Israel, there was actually a higher purpose, an over-arching purpose to those plagues. Itís reiterated several times in these early chapters of Exodus. Itís very clearly stated in Exodus 9:16, where we are informed that these plagues demonstrated the person of God. These were actually ways for God to manifest His superiority over all other gods, all other religions. It was the way for God to identify Himself to all of the peoples of the world, not merely Egypt. Word of these events got out to other nations. Read carefully Exodus 9:16 and youíll see some basic information there about what all is going on in the execution of these ten plagues.
The tenth plague finally got Pharaohís attention. It called for the death of the first born throughout Egypt of both humans and animals. Pharaoh finally relented and said, "I will let you go". Consequently between two and three million men, women and children loaded up their belongings after literally centuries and began to travel to the location that their God would take them to. Yet when they got out of Egypt, they arrived at the first natural barrier, the Red Sea, and found out that Pharaoh had changed his mind and had set out in hot pursuit with his military. We catch a glimpse of what we will see repeated over and over and over: a group of people that ultimately do not trust the God of the universe. They begin to be concerned, and say, "Oh no, what are we going to do? Here comes Pharaoh."
Moses said on that occasion in Exodus 14, "Stand still and behold the salvation of the Lord." He took the rod, the very rod that he had thrown down at the feet of Pharaoh and turned into a snake. He held it out over that great body of water and the Bible informs us that that body of water split apart, forming two walls of water. The people were able to pass through there according to Hebrews 11 on dry land. Read carefully Paulís comment on this historical event in I Corinthians 10:1-4. He claims that on that particular day the children of Israel were baptized into Moses. The Greek word "baptidzo", translated "baptized" in our Bibles, is the normal Greek word "to immerse, dip or plunge". In what way were the children of Israel baptized on that day? There was water on their left, water on their right and the Old Testament also indicates that God manifested His presence in the form of a cloud that hovered above them. A cloud is merely moisture, water, in the atmosphere. So they were literally submerged. They passed through the Red Sea and they were baptized into Moses, that is, into a relationship with Moses in which he functioned as the mediator between them and God. We even call the law that was given through Moses at Mt. Sinai the Law of Moses. So, they were baptized, I Corinthians 10:1-3.
In Exodus chapter 14, as they were passing through and reassembling on the opposite shore, Pharaoh arrived with his military and continued his pursuit of the Israelites into the sea. The Bible says God caused those walls of water to collapse, drowning Pharaohís army. The last two or three verses of chapter 14 indicate that the Israelites observed Egyptian soldiersí bodies washing up onto the seashore.
In Exodus 15, Mosesí sister, Miriam, leads the women in a song of praise and victory for what God had done on their behalf. Then the entire nation headed out into the rugged desert area of the Sinai peninsula, traveling in a southeasterly direction. Once again we see the propensity of these people in their conduct. For example, they said, "What are we going to drink out here?" They began to complain, challenge, question and test God. God miraculously provided water right out of rock. Then they said, "What are we going to eat?" He caused a substance to rain down out of the atmosphere and to blanket the ground. One Israelite stuck his head out of his tent and said, "What is it?" The Hebrew word is manna, translated "what is it". That is the meaning of that word. So that is what they named it: manna. It was a kind of bread-like substance. Itís described as sweet to the taste like honey, and white in color like coriander seed. God fed those people miraculously. All they had to do was go out of their tent and pick it up off the ground. He fed them with that substance for the next forty years.
They got tired of the bread and said, "We want something else to eat". So He caused quail to blow into the camp. All they had to do was reach out and grab those, and they had fresh meat. He took care of them, and yet they continued to challenge and question and test and demonstrate their lack of confidence and trust in the God of the universe.
As you continue reading through the book of Exodus, you come to chapter 19 where they arrive at their first major objective. Theyíre in the Sinai range of mountains and they come to the particular peak where God wanted them to assemble. They set up camp. Moses then ascends Mt. Sinai and there he remains for quite some time. Some people think that the Ten Commandments were all that Moses received, just the tablets of stone. But these chapters indicate that God was dispensing to Moses all of the statutes and regulations and laws that would be necessary to govern this nation as a Theocracy, a nation under the leadership and kingship of God. So there were all kinds of minutia, rules and regulations about civic responsibilities, religious responsibilities, even health injunctions that would assist this very primitive society, fresh out of Egypt, in functioning as a nation of two to three million people.
In Exodus chapter 32, Moses had been on the mountain for some time. The Bible informs us that the people began to feel concerned about whether Moses was ever going to come back. Therefore, we have an expression that is heart wrenching, "the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." This is a Hebrew idiomatic expression. Itís talking about the peopleís determination to begin indulging their fleshly appetites. We would probably use phrases like partying, "party on". It can even refer to the use of alcohol and to sexual immorality. Look at Exodus 32: 25, 26. The King James Version says the people had become "naked". The American Standard Version says they had "broken loose". Some of the other versions say they were "running wild and out of control". The point is that they began to indulge themselves in pagan revelry, much in the same way that we see on beer commercials or in night clubs and honky tonks all over this nation every weekend or, for that matter, every night of the week. God spoke to Moses and told him, "I want you to get back down the mountain. The people are already breaking these laws."
He descended and encountered Joshua, his young understudy and future successor. The two of them meet and Joshua says, "Do you hear that noise? It sounds like a war, a battle, in the camp. Moses says, "No, thereís music; you donít have that in a war." Together they approached the Israelite encampment and saw this orgy-like behavior. Moses was quick in his response. He called for the Levites or those on the Lordís side. They came over, strapped on swords, and began passing through the population, executing their fellow Israelites. By the time they completed one pass through, the Bible says about three thousand lay dead. Isnít that tragic? At the giving of the Old Covenant to the Jews, about three thousand were killed. You go to Acts 2 with the inauguration of the New Covenant, the New Testament, and we have about three thousand saved. What a tragic contrast!
This attitude and this set of circumstances continues throughout the rest of Exodus. Most of the rest of Exodus details for us all of the laws and regulations that God dispensed through Moses. It included, for example, the construction of a portable tent, a worship site, that could be moved as the nation moved through the desert on their way to the promised land: the Tabernacle.
Then we move into the book of Leviticus. What a wonderful book. People ask whatís Leviticus got to do with today, with Christianity? But it has a lot to do with today. A twenty-seven chapter book that has as its central concept, its key idea, separateness, or holiness. That word is used over ninety times. Itís quoted by Peter in I Peter chapter one as being something that you and I are to be as Christians. Weíre to be holy. God is holy. Weíre to be holy. That doesnít mean sinless. It doesnít mean perfect. It means "set apart". It means committed and devoted to Godís ways. Itís a wonderful book, even though thereís a lot of detail that does not have relevance today, about sacrifices and some of their quarantine and health procedures. The central point is reiterated over and over and over. God gives His will and He expects us to listen to that will, and to separate ourselves from all other approaches to life, to conform ourselves to Godís will. Thatís what makes us holy people. The word "saint" in the original language conveys the idea of being holy. Thatís what we're to be.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve