Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Called In, Called Out

The Story of Scripture: Called Out, Called In
Exodus 1-2:10, John 3:1-17

Called Out: of Egypt, of slavery

Last week, we left off with the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers. Joseph, through a series of providential circumstances, Joseph finds himself second in command to Pharaoh in the Egyptian kingdom. He brings his 11 brothers and their families to live in Egypt during a severe famine.

Over time, we read that there was not acclamation into society. The Hebrews become slaves in Egypt. Several reasons are given: Hebrews were different than Egyptians, their population grows at a rapid rate, and the perception of a possible political/war alliance against Egypt poses as threat. The result is that life is made difficult for the Hebrews.

The Scripture says that it was more than difficult. The Egyptians were ruthless in the way they treated people. Ruth is compassion for the misery of another. Ruthlessness is to be merciless and cruel.

Way back in the story: God had said: This is the land I will give you. Egypt was not that land. Canaan, which would later be named Israel, was that land. And for whatever reason, they were not in Canaan in this point in the story. They were in Egypt. And that is part of the reason life is hard. The initial move provided for Joseph and his family, but then after his death, when “one who did not know Joseph” came to power, the Hebrews became slaves.

Would they get out of Egypt? If so, how would you even begin?
The process of being called out starts with the birth of a baby…and the sovereign-laden unfolding of the details. God was in these details.

The world is a harsh place.
When threatened by growth, the pharaoh institutes an evil genocide of the baby male population. He commands the midwives to participate in his murderous ways.

At this point, it is important to think about our world. Our world can also be a harsh place for millions and millions of people. Cries against injustice go up to God. Pleas for mercy extend from one suffering person to their fellow citizens. In our country, we have so much, but there is nonetheless a different kind of harshness. Our harshness is borne, not out of poverty, but out of abundance. As people of faith, we live amidst harshness, but are called to answer it with the way of the Lord.

God’s servants are strategically planted in a harsh world.
The midwives, however feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do, they let the boys live.
This is an amazing act of faith on the part of the midwives, even to the point of risking their personal safety when they have to answer to Pharaoh. “What happened?” asks the Pharaoh, to which the midwives respond, those Hebrews deliver their babies quite quickly. What can you say to that?

When Moses is born, his mother is able to protect him and keep him under the radar for three months, but then she must make a decision that is unfathomable. But she entrusts a little baby to a big river, and asks God that the river will guide this little one to safety. Moses’ sister walks along the river as the basket flows, adding her prayers and watchful anticipation.

Pharaoh’s daughter and Miriam, Moses’ sister
The river leads this baby to the daughter of Pharaoh, she has compassion within her heart, and will see that the baby is taken care of. “This is one of the Hebrew babies” she says. She could have followed that statement by demanding that her father’s decision be honored. Instead, she looks down and sees a little girl, who kindly offers, would you like me to find someone to nurse the boy. The little girl was Moses’ sister, and conveniently enough, she knew of someone who could nurse Moses.

And so a mother, who out of desperation, casts her baby into the wild unknown to preserve his life, find that life preserved and indeed, finds her baby back in her arms, at least for a few more years.

Next week, we will focus what Moses does when he grows up. But today, if no one else, Moses’ mother and sister must have known how special he was. What is the first step toward overcoming a struggle? Hope. And the struggle of the enslavement of a people: still hope. And whatever mountains and obstacles and struggles and barriers we face today: hope. Hope. One day, one hour at a time: Hope.

For the Hebrews were ultimately to be called out of slavery, and out of the land of Egypt. This story from history becomes a model in the Bible for all the people of faith. The Hebrews were called out of slavery, out of Egypt, into a promised land. Today, we live by the same model, we are called out of slavery to sin, out of the world, and into the promised land. This promised land is gained through Christ.

Called in: through Christ

What direction are you looking in?
We are to look in many directions throughout our faith:
Down in humility
Around with compassion
But primarily, You and I are called to look up
We are to look up to Jesus this day.

Nicodemus and his Encounter with Jesus
Nicodemus helps seekers throughout the generations meet the one who gives eternal life.
Nicodemus comes at night, when he wouldn’t be seen. He comes as a teacher of Israel, who should not have associated himself with this radical Jesus, who was challenging the religious establishment. He comes with questions. He comes not fully understanding what Jesus was saying. But yet, at the end of the day, he comes. And in doing so, he speaks to us, saying, you should come. You should look to Jesus.

· Looking to Jesus is a spiritual, not a physical birth.
Like birth, there is struggle, but looking to Jesus will create a spiritual
birth in our hearts. Spiritual birth is about the birth of the heart, the birth of our spirit
into a new relationship with the Holy Spirit of God.
· Looking to Jesus involves Trust.
Faith is like the wind: you don’t know when it comes or goes, you can’t predict it. It is
difficult to explain.

· Looking to Jesus is about the object of our faith: in this case, a person.

· Looking to Jesus is about eternal life.

· God is interested in his people finding eternal life. Not to condemn, but to bring eternal life to all who believe.

Moses reference: provides a way for disobedient nation to be forgiven their sins, requires them to look up and not around. The story involves the grumbling people of Israel who had seen God provide for them, but after a while, the provision was taken for granted. The people became comfortable in their abundance. And so they complained to their leader and they complained about God. God sent snakes to bite the people, and some of them lost their life. But the snakes cause a little urgency, and the people ask Moses to pray for them. God tells Moses, here is how they will find healing: put a bronze snake on a pole and have the people look up. If they have enough sense to just look up, they will be healed.

A bronze snake put the people face to face with their problem. They had to look at their problem. And when they did, they found the answer.

It is easy for most people to run from the problem. To avoid it. It takes a certain amount of faith to look at the problem. But just as Moses lifted up a snake in the wilderness, Jesus was lifted up on a cross. And people had to look at the problem, the problem of sin. And all that do, even if it hurts at first, it points us to the one who overcame sin: Jesus Christ. And when we come to him, and look at him, and believe in him, we will live forever.

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