Exploring Covenant and Kingdom

Discovering what relationship and responsibility are all about

Tag: Moses

SIGNS FROM GOD

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Do you believe God wants to speak to you and partner with you to accomplish his purposes?  The Bible would argue that you should hold such a worldview!  On Sunday in our sermon series on Hebrews we covered chapter 11, probably the most well known chapter of the book; a.k.a. the Hall of Faith/Fame.  In it the author gives numerous examples of what a life of faith looks like, in order to encourage the original readers to have the same quality of faith that will allow them to persevere in their trials.

In addition to seeing the great heroes of the Old Testament that we would expect to see there, some uncommon people make the list too.  Moses’ parents make the Hall of Faith! Hebrews 11:23 says, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict”.  What the NIV translates as “no ordinary child”, many other versions (i.e.ESV) translate as “that the child was beautiful”.  This is noteworthy.  Whereas the NIV goes for the spirit of the law, others go for a more literal sense which sometimes can aid us in understanding more.  In this case, the NIV leaves us with a vague idea of why Moses’ parents knew he was special.  The other translations hint at the fact that it was something about his physical appearance that tipped his parents off.  This is consistent with the Greek translation of Exodus 2:2 which refers to extraordinary beauty.  Philo and Josephus ( 1st century Jewish philosophers and historians) both refer to this same aspect of Moses’ appearance and say that it was taken as a visible sign from God that he had great plans for Moses.  In regards to English translations of Ex.2:2 we have words that vary from “saw that he was a special baby”(NLT) to “saw that he was a fine child”(ESV) to “saw that he was beautiful”(NASB).  So we see that Moses’ parents therefore responded in faith to what God had shown them, rather than just hiding Moses in hopes that things would work out in the end.

Truly fascinating, if you ask me.  Now let’s zoom back out and think about the chapter as a whole.  I’ll re-ask the opening questions.  Do you believe God wants to speak to you and partner with you to accomplish his purposes?  I hope you answer that yes.  Because that is where the promised abundant life lies for us.  God can still speak through signs.  But on this side of Hebrews 11 we have the Holy Spirit that indwells us!  This is a far better thing than looking to the skies for signs!  We can learn to tune into the Spirit’s voice.  We can be certain of what he says.  As Paul says in Galatians, we are to keep in step with the Spirit.  This is a thing!  We can be conscious of His presence with us every day.  We can be led by Him.  He wants to partner with you.  This week!  There is no greater invitation we can ever receive than the one we have received from the King of the Universe to use us as his representatives!  Respond to Him and walk by faith.

 

Am I a friend of God?

friend of God

“Inside the tent of meeting, the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” Exodus 33:11
“Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?” James 4:4

I found these verses so interesting in the context of the preaching series Pastor Chris has been doing on covenant and kingdom. He has been helping us to understand the beautiful way that our relationship with God and our responsibility and authority to act on His behalf are woven together in perfect DNA-like strands. One cannot stand without the other. Similarly, we can’t be a “friend of God” and a “friend of the world” at the same time.
That is a bit unsettling because after all, we are living in the world that God has created and we have to figure out a way to navigate through it.

Our covenant relationship with God provides for us a new identity. We take on new names with our salvation and that is sure and a forever thing. Simply by believing in God, we enter into that covenant, that relationship, that friendship. And just like our relationships with our earthly friends, we can be good friends–attentive, caring, serving, loving, forgiving. Or, we can be lousy friends–going long periods without contact, not caring, failing to serve or attend to the needs we see.

If we only have a covenant relationship with God, a friendship, that’s only half of the story. We are missing out then on the responsibility that God has given to His children to act on His behalf to serve a broken and hurting world. God has chosen to express His authority through us–imperfect people in an imperfect world.
From our covenant relationship with God that comes with our salvation, we also have a kingdom responsibility. That becomes clearer as our “friendship” with God grows and deepens. When we spend time with our earthly friends we can’t help but be moved by what hurts them. We can’t help but take action to serve them and love them. So it is with our friendship, our relationship with God. When we spend time with God–in prayer or in His Word, we can’t help but be moved by the needs in this world. And just as He has entered into a covenant with us, He has given us the authority and the power to act on His behalf to right the wrongs we see around us.

So how do we maintain a friendship with God, serving the world but not being seduced by it? We start by intentional closeness with God. Drawing near to Him daily, acting out our authority and power that comes from the King of Kings, but guarding our minds and hearts by immersion in His Word. We demonstrate forgiveness and mercy as we serve and as we love, seeking justice for those without power.

Relationship and responsibility. Woven together, they are God’s plan for us all.

Desert Dwelling

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Have you ever spent time in a desert? Or perhaps a desert climate?  What’s it like?  It’s dry, hot, sandy, dusty.  Did I mention dry and hot?

I haven’t been in a desert proper myself, but I did once visit Phoenix, Arizona in July. And I do believe that could be considered desert climate.  It is hot, and dry.  I can’t imagine or relate to spending any length of time in a desert.  Perhaps some of you reading this have, or live in areas that would be categorized as desert climate.  Maybe you live in Arizona!

As we continue to explore the life of Moses this week there is something further to be said about deserts. As soon as Moses had to flee from the fertile Nile River Delta, he entered the desert.  And this would be his new reality.  Desert.  Dry.  Hot.  Dusty.  He finds a wife.  Has some kids.  Looks after his father-in-law’s sheep.  And where we find Moses in Exodus 3 is that he doesn’t just choose to exist in the desert, he chooses to cross to the far side.  (Exodus 3:1)

What could we possibly mine out of that? If you’re in the desert, embrace it.  Go into it and pass through it.  There is great reward lying at the other side.  Moses embraced the desert and finds there the symbol and metaphor of the desert that is woven throughout Scripture: Desert leads to dependency on God.  Is there a more useful life “skill” than to learn to depend upon God?  Unfortunately (for our comfort), that often requires the vehicle of a desert to get us there.  Remember Hagar, Abram’s mistress (Gen.16)?  God spoke to her in the desert.  The people of Israel had to wander 40 years in the desert before they were prepared to enter the Promised Land.  What did Jesus do after his baptism?  Did he launch into ministry off of that high?  No.  Jesus spent time in the desert before commencing his ministry.  In Galatians 1 we are given a peculiar sliver of information that Paul went into Arabia (desert) before he proceeded into ministry.

But back to Moses. There in the desert of dependency, as he embraces the desert and crosses to the other side, Moses finds the mountain of God.  And God meets him there and transforms him.  God reminds him what his identity is, and then commissions him to Kingdom representation.  Moses learns dependency on God, not his own competency, is what is required to do Kingdom work. How about you?  Are you a desert dweller?  Take heart.  It is for God’s good purpose.  If desert dwelling was in your past, share your experience with someone else.  Or perhaps you will be called to desert life in the near future, and this is a word from the Lord to prepare your heart for the journey.

Identity Crisis

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Who am I?  Have you ever asked that question?  Every time I hear that phrase my mind thinks of Jackie Chan’s movie by that same name.  He has amnesia and is standing on top of a mountain and shouts out that question, “WHO AM I?!”  I love that movie.  At least he had an excuse: amnesia.  What about us?  We can feel guilty about being confused about who we are, thinking that we ought to have a handle on our own identity.

In our study of Covenant and Kingdom we have moved onto the life of Moses.  We join him at the burning bush in Exodus 3 and 4.  This is the first time that Moses hears the voice of God.  Certainly the whole setting startles him, but I wonder if it surprised him that God knew his name.  And his heritage: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6)  I believe God is beginning to re-orient Moses in his identity.  He has spent the last 40 years tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the desert.  I imagine that perhaps the first year, or decade (!),…he would often think about his past: born a Hebrew, raised in Pharoah’s household, comes to the defense of one of the people he knows he is a part of (Hebrew slave being beaten), kills the taskmaster and is forced to flee into the desert and leave all he knows behind.  But after a while, either through suppression or intentional divorce, I imagine he buried his old life and looked to forget it and instead to create a new and fresh beginning.

And so God helps Moses through this identity crisis.

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What seems to be true is that identity is given from the outside before it becomes reality in the inside.  Rarely does one create one’s own identity.  Our identity is almost imposed from without.  Or we let our environment formulate who we are.  Clearly, this is why parents and a settled home life play such an important part in a person’s sense of security and confidence.  If our identity and heritage are clearly communicated to us, we know who we are and how we should act.  Acting confidently in the world comes from a deep inner knowledge of who we are, and this knowledge of our identity is given by those around us.  So parents, don’t underestimate the critical role you play in the life of your children.

Moses heard God confirm his identity.  And in time his confidence grew, as he began to understand what it meant to exercise God given power based on God given authority which is received from God given identity.  Who do you take your lead from?  Who do you allow to tell you who you are?  If we are followers of Christ it is imperative we listen only to the voice of God in receiving our identity.  Who are you?  A child of your loving Heavenly Father.  A child of the King of the Universe, who has chosen you to be one of his representatives on the earth.