Female: From darkness to light, this is the story we all share as the people of God. He draws us out to draw us in. From the birth of Israel to the church today, God delivers and dwells with his people. This story began several thousand years ago, and it began with a promise from God to Abraham, that he would make his offspring more numerous than the stars in the sky, a great nation who would one day dwell in the Promised Land.
More than 400 years passed, and Abraham’s descendants had not seen this promise fulfilled. Instead, the Israelites lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. Fearing that the Hebrews would grow into a mighty nation and overtake them, the Pharaoh of Egypt forced them to work as slaves, but Israel continued to grow.
In response, the Egyptians increased their oppression of God’s people, and Pharaoh gave a terrible decree. Every son born to the Hebrews would be thrown into the river, but a Levite couple defied this order, trusting God’s will for their son’s life, and God did have a plan for this child. Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby and took pity on him. She named him Moses because he was drawn out of the water.
As Moses grew older and saw the suffering of his people, anger burned within him. When he witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, Moses killed the man and fled Egypt to hide in the desert. Years passed, and Moses made a new life for himself in Midian. Then one day, the voice of the Lord called out to him from a burning bush. God told Moses that he saw the persecution of his people in Egypt and he heard their cries. He promised to deliver the Israelites from slavery, and he commanded Moses to go before Pharaoh on their behalf.
Moses was terrified, so God sent Moses’ brother Aaron to go with him. The brothers went before Pharaoh, performing signs and wonders, but Pharaoh would not listen, so God brought down plagues upon Egypt, yet Pharaoh’s heart remained hard as stone. To prepare for the tenth and final plague, the Hebrews marked their doors with the blood of spotless lambs. That night, the angel of death passed through the kingdom, killing the firstborn child of every Egyptian household that did not bear the mark, including Pharaoh’s.
Heartbroken, Pharaoh told the Israelites to go. They were finally set free, and the Spirit of God led the people out and toward the Promised Land, but Pharaoh’s grief soon turned to rage. He changed his mind and then commanded the Egyptian army to pursue them. When the Israelites came to the Red Sea, Moses lifted his staff to the sky, and the waters parted.
The Hebrews passed through the towering waves, and the Egyptians were swallowed by the sea. God had indeed drawn his people out of bondage, out of darkness, and into the light of his presence. The story of Israel is the story of us today. We are God’s people. He draws us out of our sin, our Egypt, and draws us into his presence, into relationship with him.
[End of video]
Good morning. How are you? Wow. That’s the most responsive you’ve ever been. Testify. If you have a Bible, turn to Exodus 6, and we’ll read verses 1-13. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one in the seat in front of you. As you’re turning there, let me introduce myself. My name is Jamin Roller. I am one of the pastors over at our Plano Campus, but I have the joy of being with you guys here this weekend here in Flower Mound, America. We will read through these 13 verses together and then unpack them.
“But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.’ God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners.
Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”‘ Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.’ But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?’ But the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.”
If you’ve been with us for the last few weeks, especially if you were with us last week, you know what has happened in the narrative. Where we are in the narrative is that God has appeared to Moses and drawn Moses out and commissioned him to his service. Moses went and had this message of freedom, this message of hope, this message of liberation to the people, and the people get all excited, and then Moses goes in to Pharaoh to draw a line in the sand and deliver God’s message.
Pharaoh hears that message, and he responds by increasing the cruelty and increasing the suffering. You have Moses and these people standing here, expecting God to do something great, and in reality, what they hear and what they experience and what they get is increased suffering. Last week, Matt walked us through this place of disappointment and how harsh and deflating and discouraging that must have been.
I thought about my own life, and I thought about how often in my life I try to avoid that place of disappointment, when harsh reality shatters hopeful expectation. I’ve actually spent a lot of energy, a lot of thought, trying to stay out of that place of harsh reality. In fact, I met my wife 12 years ago. I was at a friend’s house on a Friday night, and in walks this beautiful young woman.
I was super intimidated. I knew she was way out of my league, but I decided I was going to go for it. True story. I had written a love song called “Jell-O,” and I decided to sing her that song on that night. Just by an act of God’s sovereign mercy, it actually worked. She started talking to me. We spent maybe 30 minutes talking. At the end of the night, I’m outside in the driveway. I’m on the phone. I’m actually talking to my mom. This beautiful young woman leaves and starts walking to her car. She sees me, and she turns and walks toward me.
I thought, “Okay.” I was on the phone with my mom, but I kind of wanted to put off a different vibe than that, so I was like, “Hey, baby. Hang on one second.” My mom was super confused. She walks up, and she said, “Hey, I enjoyed talking to you tonight.” I thought, “I think this girl is into me.” Then I thought, “She must have really low standards.” She did. Praise God. She did.
A couple of months later, we went on our very first date. I took her to this really romantic, really fancy place called Chili’s. We sit down. We order our food. I open my mouth, and I just inundate this young woman with question after question after question. “What do you think about God? What are your views on theology? What is your home life like?” All of the essentials. “Do you love the Dallas Cowboys?” All of the things that are super important. “What is your view for family? What are your thoughts on marriage?”
To this day, when my wife describes that first date, if you were to ask her what it was like, she says it felt like a job interview. Why? Because I knew on that night at that fancy restaurant that that woman could really hurt me one day. I had all of these hopeful expectations for where things were headed. I knew they could be shattered by a harsh reality. I thought if I asked the right questions and asked them in the right way, I could protect myself from that. I could avoid that place.
I wonder how many of you, like me, in a place of candor and honesty, would say, “You know what? I feel like I’ve had that conversation with God at some point in my Christian life, maybe not out loud, but in the quiet of my heart. ‘Here are all of my questions. Here are all of the things I am expecting. Here are all of the things I want guaranteed to me.’ Because I don’t want to get to that place where I have all of these hopeful expectations, and they’re shattered by a harsh reality. I want to avoid that space.”
What we know, if you’ve been married for any length of time, if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, is that place is unavoidable. It is unavoidable. That’s where Moses is. Moses goes to God in that place of harsh reality and airs his grievances and asks these questions. Hear me. In that place of harsh reality, God is not silent. He speaks.
That’s what we read. This is his response to Moses. I think the question for us this morning is not, “How do I avoid that place?” The question for us this morning is, “What does God want me to know when I’m there? What does God want me to know? What is going to pull me through?” What we’ll see in God’s response is… There are three aspects to God’s response. There is a problem he highlights, there is a story, and there is a prize.
- There is a problem. Look at verse 1 of chapter 6 again with me. “But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.’ God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord.'” Does it sound familiar? The things that God is saying right here to Moses, does it sound familiar? It should. It’s redundant.
God is repeating himself here. Why? He’s not telling Moses new information. He’s telling Moses things Moses has already heard from the mouth of God. Why? Because when things went differently than Moses expected them to go, Moses is exposed. Here’s what I mean by that. When Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Hey Pharaoh, the Lord, the great I Am, wants you to let the people go, and here’s what we’re going to do,” what is Pharaoh’s response?
Pharaoh says, “Who is God? I know our gods. I know the Egyptian gods. I know that as Pharaoh, I am a god, but I don’t know the God you’re talking about.” Then the suffering increases. The cruelty increases. Moses goes back to God, and Moses says things like, “God, why did you send me? Why did you lie to us? You haven’t begun to rescue us. You have caused evil for your people.” God responds to him and says, “I am the Lord.”
In other words, “You don’t know me the way you should.” In other words, “You sound a lot like Pharaoh.” Here’s the reality. Moses has a problem. Israel has a problem, and their problem is bigger than the Egypt that is around them. Their problem is the sin that is inside of them. They were not just victims of an external evil. They are themselves sick with sin.
Any time their expectations aren’t met, any time the disappointment sets in, the true condition of their heart is exposed. It’s the first thing we see coming out of Moses and coming out of the people. There is a bondage that you’re under that has nothing to do with Egypt. I grew up in a Christian home. By “Christian home,” I mean I grew up in a gospel-saturated, grace-laden home.
My mom and dad did a marvelous job raising us in the fear and admonition of the Lord, so much so that my prayer is that one day my children can stand and say the same thing about me with as much sincerity as I just said that about my mom and dad to you. But that did not mean that things weren’t a little bit weird sometimes.
One day, my mom came home with this new technology called Curse-Free TV. Google it. Here’s how it works. You put this little box on top of the TV, and it connects to your TV’s closed captioning. Any time there is an inappropriate word in the programming on the show or movie or whatever, it would mute the TV, and then the closed captioning would pop up, and you would read that sentence, except the cuss word was removed, and a substitute was put in its place.
It would go like this. If it was going to say some word like… Well, let me try to do this and also keep my job. If it was going to say some sort of word none of us have ever used and say something like, “You stole money from me. You’re such a blank,” instead, it would mute the TV. The closed captioning would pop up. It would say, “You stole money from me. You are such a clown.” It was some sort of word like that. It just had this way of ruining every movie.
There were even some movies that weren’t even worth watching. I tried to watch the movie Good Will Hunting, and it’s just reading a book the whole time. That doesn’t make sense. There were also other things that were confusing about it. Instead of saying the word sex, it would substitute in the word hugs. I would be at church, and someone would come up and say, “Hey, can I give you a hug?” and I would be like, “Is this a trap? Are you testing me right now?”
One day, my brother and I are arguing, and it just gets heated and heated and heated. Finally, he says something that just really hurts me. He turns and walks out of the room. As he’s walking out of the room, this anger just wells up inside of me, and I yell at him, “Luke, you’re such a clown.” Got him. Right? What did I do? I cussed at him. In a really lame way, I profaned him.
It may not have been an inappropriate word or whatever, but the condition of my heart was the same. That’s what I was trying to accomplish, was to curse him. That’s what I was doing. The reality is just like Moses, just like Israel, we’re in the same boat. There is this evil that is outside of us from which we could be protected, but there is also an evil inside of us from which we need to be saved.
It’s especially in those moments of disappointment, especially in those moments of harsh reality that we see and learn what is coming out. We’re exposed in those moments. There is a helpful illustration that I heard long ago. Imagine I have some sort of cup right now in my hand, and it’s full of liquid. Maybe you got upset with me, and you just decided to come up here and knock that cup out of my hand, and there is liquid that pours out all over the stage.
You would be responsible for knocking the cup out of my hand, but I would be responsible for what liquid comes out. Why? Because I’m the one who put it there. If you knock the cup out of my hand, and water spills out everywhere, it’s because I put water in there. If you knock the cup out of hand, and coffee spills out everywhere, it’s because I filled it up with coffee.
In our lives, we cannot control and are not responsible for when we get knocked over, but we are responsible for every single drop that comes out. That’s not a popular idea in our modern culture. The popular thing to say is, “You made me angry,” or, “Living with this person makes me crazy,” or, “That person wore that thing, and it made me lust.” That’s a popular idea, but it’s not a biblical idea because Jesus says, “…out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Out of the overflow of the heart comes envy and anger and jealousy and rivalries and lust. The first thing God does is confront Moses. “I’m repeating myself here, Moses. In my repetition, your heart is exposed. You don’t know me like you should. You got knocked over. Pay attention to what is coming out of you. Pay attention.” It’s not to shame him. The suffering he’s going through is completely understandable. His reaction is even completely understandable. It’s something to pay attention to.
- There is a story. He goes on. Let’s read verses 3-8 together. He says, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” We’ll come back to that. It’s an important verse. “I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners.
Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.'”
Moses comes to God, and Moses is wanting to talk about everything that is happening in the present. Moses wants to talk about Pharaoh. Moses wants to talk about slavery. In God’s response, who is God talking about? He’s talking about Abraham. He’s talking about Isaac and Jacob. He’s talking about a covenant. He’s talking about Canaan and this land that was promised.
What is he doing? He is reminding and informing Moses of this profound truth. There is a story. “There is more going on here than just what you’re going through, Moses. There is a story, a profound reality that I have welcomed you in, and I know that right now, all you can see is your pain, but this goes before your pain, and it will go after your pain. There is this story here that you have been invited in, Moses.”
I think what is important about that is that really is the desire of the human heart, to be part of something that is bigger than just you, right? This last week, all of The Village Church staff was at the staff retreat. We do it every year. Let me just say this as an aside. Any time I’m together with all of our staff, there are two things in me that grow. The first is the respect I have for the men who lead this church. They are just sincere and authentic, and they passionately love Jesus and love you.
The second thing that grows is the love I have for the people I get to minister alongside of, just gifted and godly and humble men and women. I don’t say that to you as a staff member. I say that to you as a church member because I want you to know this place is special. What God is doing here is just unique and really precious. It is a treasure to be here for such a time as this.
I was at the staff retreat with the staff members, and one of the guys around the table during lunch said, “Hey, if you could live in any year in the past, when would you live? If you could go back and just insert yourself anywhere in history, where would you go?” The answers were, “I would go to the 1940s, and I would fight Nazi Germany,” or, “Put me in the 50s or 60s so I could fight racial discrimination.” No one said, “You know, just drop me in ’93. I could just kind of lay low and listen to bad music and not really make a splash.”
No one said that. Every answer was connected to the opportunity to make a splash, to be a part of something big, to fight injustice, to live our lives in such a way that it effects. change. What is true is to go back to any of those stories and play a role in any of those stories would not have been painless. Part of what we’re saying is, “I would sign up for some discomfort.”
What God is saying here to Moses is he’s reminding him, “There is a beautiful story that makes your pain worth it, but it’s not painless. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be filled with comfort.” He mentions Abraham. “Just ask Abraham, Moses. Ask him if being a part of the story was painless. Do you remember when he tried to pawn his wife off twice, and I was faithful? Remember that time I called him up on that mountain with his son Isaac who he loved. He was finally walking in obedience, and I provided the ram as a substitute? There is a story there, Moses.
I know you don’t know this part, but that story in itself points toward the day when I am on a mountain with my own Son. On that day, I will not spare him in his obedience so that on this day, I can spare you in your sin.” There’s a story. Not just a story of what has happened with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the covenant God made, and the promises he made that he is fulfilling even now in Moses’s time, but a story of what he will do.
He says in verse 6, “I’m going to liberate you. As much as you don’t feel like it’s true now, you are going to get out of this. I’m going to redeem you. I’m going to make your enemies pay the price for that redemption. I’m going to adopt you. You will no longer be slaves. You will be sons and daughters. Then I’m going to bless you, dwell with you, give you a land, a place to call your own.”
He paints this picture not just of the past but a picture of the future, and the future is headed to a really good place. There is a good life coming. It is so important to remember. One of the most discouraging things you can possibly hear if you’re in pain… If you’re in that place of harsh reality, one of the worst things you can hear as you’re hurting is that it means nothing.
How devastating and discouraging is it to be in that place of hurt and for someone to come along and say, “It’s meaningless. It’s meaningless.” For God to come along and say, “Moses, I know it hurts, but it has weight to it. It has value to it. It’s part of something.” Jim Elliot was a missionary to the country of Ecuador. On his second interaction with the tribe he was ministering to, he and his missionary friends were speared to death on the riverbank.
Before he left on that trip where he lost his life, he had a conversation with his wife, Elisabeth.. His wife asked him a question. “Jim, if they attack you, will you use your guns?” He said, “No, we won’t.” His wife asked him, “Why, Jim?” He looked at her and said, “Because we are ready for heaven, but they are not.”
He told a story. “There is something going on that is bigger than my life. There is something going on here that is bigger than my pain, bigger than my fears, bigger than my risk. There is a story. There is a heaven I’m ready for. There is a hell we don’t want them to see. My life is playing out in something that is much bigger than me.”
As Elisabeth Elliot dealt with the pain of his death in the coming days and coming weeks and coming months and coming years, she knew that she knew that she knew that he did not die in vain because his death was part of something. That’s beautiful. You know, I think sometimes for us, God allows some pain and allows disappointment, not just to remind us of the story but to remind us that while we are a deeply loved character, we’re not the main character, and while we are a deeply loved character, we don’t get to write the plot.
- There is a prize. Six verses we read in God’s response. There is something God says five times in those six verses. He says, “I am the Lord.” He starts with, “I am the Lord.” He ends with, “I am the Lord.” In the middle, he says, “I’m doing this so you may know that I am the Lord.” Then there is that verse, verse 3. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.”
It does not mean that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob never heard God’s name, Yahweh. That’s the name he’s saying. “I am the Lord. I am Yahweh. I am the great I Am.” That’s what it means. He’s not saying Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have never heard that name. He’s saying, “When all of this is over, when you see everything I’m going to do, you will know me in ways that Abraham never came close. You will know me as Savior and know me as Redeemer and know me as faithful in ways they never got to see, never came close to tasting and touching.”
In other words, “When you’re done with all of this, the prize for you is that you’ll know me with greater clarity and greater intimacy.” A couple of weeks ago, my little girl (she’s 3) was walking around with a blanket on her head. I’m not sure how it got there. I may or may not have put it on her head, but it doesn’t matter. She’s walking around with a blanket on her head. She falls, and she hits the bookshelf.
The blanket comes off, and there is this deep gash on her forehead and blood coming down her face. We have been through this twice with my 5-year-old son. Not the blankets. That’s not what I’m saying. “Get rid of your blankets, man. Come on.” He has fallen and hit his forehead. Same thing, a gash. We know it’s coming. We know we’re going to take him to the doctor, and we’re going to pray the doctor comes in and says, “You know, it’s not that bad. Let’s just do a Band-Aid.”
In reality, the doctor is going to say, “It’s pretty deep. We need stitches.” What we’re going to do then is hold our child on this table while some random person puts metal in their forehead, and they look at us like, “Why are you betraying me, parent?” That’s where we were headed in the car. I’m in the front driving, dreading what is to come. My wife is in the back with our daughter, who is crying. My son is sitting next to them.
My son Asher says, “Dad, I think I should pray.” I said, “Okay.” He starts his prayer like he starts every prayer. “Um, God? Please help Addy. Please heal her.” He said, “It’s super bad, God.” We need to work on his bedside manner. Then he prayed for me. He prayed for my wife. He prayed for Addy. He said, “God, I pray that this never happens again.”
Look, I don’t tell you that to tell you I have perfect Christian kids. Earlier in the day, he threw a fire truck at her head. Maybe it was an ambulance, which is more ironic. Parenting has wins and losses, right? At the end of the day, we made it. She got stitches. The kids were in bed, and I’m sitting there talking to my wife.
As we reflected on the day, we both went back to that moment, his prayers. That was special. It was special that that is what came out of him. I know it was a small-scale panic moment for the Roller family, but in that small-scale panic moment, I got to see things coming out of him. I got to know him in ways I would not have gotten to had the afternoon just been normal.
Aren’t your meaningful relationships like that? The people who mean the most to you, you’ve been through something with them. I hear story after story. “Yeah, we got some really bad news, but when we got that news, my wife was a rock. I saw her in ways I never thought I would see her.” Or, “I was in the pit, and when I was in there, there was a friend who just stayed in there with me until I got out, and I saw things coming out of that friend that I would not have gotten to see if things were normal.”
It’s those moments of clarity about your relationships that often come by way of trial and pain. That’s what God does. God says, “Look, I know it hurts, but I’m going to posture you to see me and know me as the great I Am.” That’s what you get. That’s the prize. That’s the reward. God is that light in the middle of the room. When all of the other lights are on, that light is easy to ignore, but when things start to go dark, that light is all you can see.
As things continue to darken around you, that light becomes brighter and brighter, and it ultimately becomes so beautiful that it not only makes the darkness bearable. It makes the darkness worth it. If Israel gets out of Egypt and don’t know God, they’re still slaves, just without the chains, but to know him is the prize. That’s the reward.
What does this look like? In the twenty-first century, how does this play out? A few years ago, I had a day in pastoral ministry that I will remember for the rest of my days of pastoral ministry. I met with two men. I guy comes in who had just lost his job. Gosh, he was mad. He was mad at his job. He was mad at his boss. He was mad at his coworkers. Ultimately, he was mad at God.
At the end of that meeting, he said, “Man, I just don’t see why God would do this to me. There are so many things I wanted to do that I can’t do now.” Do you see what happened? Harsh reality shatters hopeful expectations. His cup gets knocked over, and what comes out? He talks about a story, but it’s not God’s story. He talks about his story. “All of my plans. All of the things I wanted to do.” Then he talks about God, not in ways he knows him intimately but in ways that makes him appear as though he’s distant and can’t be found.
Why would he do this? Listen, I’m not saying I would be in any better place. Really, I’m not saying I would respond any differently. I just don’t know. I’m just telling you what happened. After that meeting, I drove to McKinney, and I met with a man who is not a member of our church. He attends another church, but we were just meeting to get to know one another. He shares this story with me.
Part of his story is one day, his teenage daughter came home sick. The next day, she went to the doctor. By Friday, she had passed away. No warning. As I’m sitting there processing this information, scanning through my pastoral experience to try to offer something to say, he keeps talking. And I’m blown away by the words that come out of his mouth.
He keeps talking. He says, “You know, she never dated and was never married, and I would have loved to walk her down the aisle, but I rejoice that the first husband to hold her was Jesus.” He says, “It hurt, and it still hurts, but I know God in ways that you never will, and I would not change that.” Do you see what happened? Harsh reality shatters hopeful expectation. His cup gets knocked over. What comes out? He talks of God’s story. “She went to be with Jesus.”
Then he says, “I know the great I Am in ways that I would have not known him had this not happened. You know what, God took something from me, and in that empty space, he gave me himself.” That’s the promise. My prayer, friends, is that when my dark day comes, not if but when, I pray that I am a man who is both deeply hurt and also deeply rooted in the story and the name of the great I Am.
Moses takes this message, this speech, God’s response, and he recounts it to the people. Let’s look at verse 9. “Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.” When it talks about their broken spirit, I think part of that comes when we misunderstand or get confused about or forget the pattern that exists in the Christian life.
Here’s what I mean by that. The pattern of the Christian life is that upon salvation, you get both God and a promise of the good life. You get God. You get relationship with God. You get closeness with God. Then you get the promises of salvation, the promises of the good life. Some of those promises are immediate. No shame. No guilt. No chasm between you and God.
Some of those promises are future. No tears. No pain. No death. Those are the ones you have to wait for. I think when we forget that there is a waiting to the life of the Christian, when we forget there is a waiting to the pattern of following Jesus, our spirits can break. That’s what happens with Israel. They have that promise of the good life. Then they have that promise of getting God, getting to know the great I Am.
When God makes those promises, and their chains don’t fall off instantaneously, their spirits break. Matt talked about it last week with John the Baptist. He got to baptize the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us, and he got to wrap his arms around him and baptize him. Then he ends up in prison, and he sends messengers. “Jesus, is this what I thought this was going to be? My spirit is breaking here in prison.”
My little brother was born paralyzed from the waist down. He has been in a wheelchair his entire life. The day he got saved, the day God rescued him from sin and self, he heard from God, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased,” but he has yet to hear, “Rise, son. Take up your mat and walk.” He has to wait for that day.
That day will come, either on this earth or the new earth, but he has to wait for that day. When we forget there is a waiting, our spirits can break. Look, friends. The beauty of the Christian life is not that the happy ending is immediate. The beauty of the Christian life is that the happy ending is guaranteed. We know how this ends. Not just how this ends, but we know how this ends for us. That’s where our hope is set and where our hope is centered.
I think about the majority of the disappointments I’ve had in my marriage. The majority of the harsh realities have come because I genuinely believed that God owed me marital bliss because I had done things mostly the right way. Surely we won’t struggle like other couples struggle. Surely we’ll get the good life. We’ll get the happily ever after on day one.
Look. If I could go back to that Chili’s 12 years ago and talk to that Jamin, I would tell him two things. I would say, “Look, Jamin. You need to take what little money you have and buy stock in Apple. That’s going to be really helpful.” Then I would say, “Jamin, you have two hands. One is holding on to your hopeful expectations. The other is holding on to Jesus. Loosen around the former and tighten your grip around the latter. One you can’t control, and the other will never change.”
You don’t get happily ever after the day you get married. You get happily ever after the day Jesus comes back. Just like Israel, when we hold tighter to the promise of the good life than we do to the great I Am, our spirits can break. Then it says they do not listen not just because of their broken spirit but because of their harsh slavery. It’s all they can see.
Look. I love just how honest the Bible is about the human experience. There is a kind of suffering. Some of you even right now are walking through it, and there is a kind of suffering. You see what is coming out of you. You know all of the things, and it is just so overwhelming that you’re doing the best you can with where you are.
God hears your groaning, and God hears your crying. I promise you, brother. I promise you, sister. There is this reality where the slavery is just so harsh that it’s all you can see. What Israel decides is to continue living like they belong to Pharaoh because they don’t believe belonging to God will make a difference. What happens? What does God do?
God says, “Okay, if you’re going to be like that then I will just go find another people to rescue.” No. Verses 10-13. “Moses, go and do what I asked you to do.”
“Well, I can’t.”
“Moses, go and do what I asked you to do.”
What does God do? He continues being faithful to his promises. I want you to see at the end of chapter 4, how do the people respond? They hear God’s Word. At the end of chapter 4, they worship. God knows what they’re going to do at the end of chapter 5 when they ignore and reject, but at the end of chapter 4, they worship, and it does not read, “The people worshipped, and God ignored them because he knew it would be short-lived.” He receives their worship and continues being faithful to his promises.
How kind is it of God that he does not view our present worship through the lens of our future failures? How kind is he in that? They worship. What does he do? He’s faithful to his promises. At the end of chapter 5, they ignore and reject, and what does he do? He’s faithful to his promises. What we see from here on out, where the series is going to go in the next few weeks, is God starts to exercise his sovereign power over Israel’s enemy for his fame and for their good.
Look. Just as we wrap up here, are you living in a harsh reality? Maybe it’s not that harsh. Are you living in a harsh reality? Maybe it’s overwhelming. Just pay attention to what your heart is doing in that. Pay attention to what is coming out of you. Not just that, but know that it’s part of a story. My friend, it is meaningful, not meaningless. It’s not senseless.
That might not mean a lot to you right now. You might not have a lot of confidence in that right now, but pay attention to this. We are a people from all different stories and all different backgrounds. We’re sitting here on a Sunday morning, reading about what God did thousands of years ago in the lives of these people. Is that not evidence that his Word never fails? If that generation could stand up here and speak to you now, I promise you they would say, “He’s right.”
God is faithful and true and good. The great I Am is who he says he is. Not only that, but maybe, just maybe, he’s doing all of this to give you more of himself. Maybe, just maybe, he’s doing all of this so that one day, you will look back and this and say, “I know him in a way I would not have known him if things were just normal, and it’s worth it.”
Lord, we love you. We thank you for your goodness. I thank you for my brother or my sister in here who is just doing their best. Even being here right now is such a tremendous act of faith. I thank you for them. I thank you for the men and women who are in this room who are on the other side of the harsh reality. They’re looking back on that saying, “I see what you did, God, and I’m thankful.”
Or the man or woman in this room who is on the cusp of that, and you’re preparing their heart for that, even now, even though we don’t know it, even though we don’t know what it’s going to look like, you’re still preparing their heart for that, and you are going to meet them in that place. I thank you for that, God.
As is always the case, Lord, just to be reminded of the harsh reality makes us long for the happy ending. Jesus, would you return, please? We can’t wait to see you again. We want you here now to make everything sad untrue. We love you and thank you. It’s in your name I pray, amen.