Welcome everyone to the fifth week of our big Summer Series called “Old School.” I hope that you have been enjoying this series as much as we have so far. We are having a lot of fun really diving into the Old Testament with you and our prayer is that as we study Scripture you are seeing just how much these Old School stories apply to our lives today. It is so important to us that you are spending time in God’s word and that His word is pouring into you in such a way that it becomes part of you. When we study the Bible it should not be just this moment that you kind of plow through each day because you you’re your supposed to do it…no, the Bible is God’s message to us that can go from words on a page, to a real part of our lives and we want it coming to life for you through this series and beyond. That’s when things get real and why I want you reading it with the mentality that there is something for you and I to grab hold of and learn from…even when we are reading these amazing, sometimes crazy, often barbaric, and just huge stories that we see in the Old Testament. I mean take the story that we have been in the last few weeks, where God saves the Children of Israel from Egyptian slavery…I like how Ken keeps saying, it’s really a story about us. And today the story continues.
So if you have been walking with us this summer we have spent the last few weeks looking at God through Moses freeing the Children of Israel. Ken really painted the picture for us in week 1 of God calling Moses to this incredibly challenging adventure, and just how under-qualified and afraid Moses really felt as he stepped into that calling. We also saw that even though Moses stepped into God’s call for his life, it did not make his life easier. The task was daunting, and his life was extremely difficult. Then I followed that up moving forward in the story and we focused on one very specific moment and word of encouragement from Moses to the Children of Israel in a terrible moment where they find themselves in a bad spot…stuck between the sea, the desert, and a very angry Egyptian Army. Moses looks at the terrified people who see only death around them and says “Hey, don’t be afraid, stand firm, be still, and let God do what only He can do in your life.” Then God moved in an incredible way, parting the Red Sea and allowing them to walk through on dry land then swallowing up all the Egyptians in the sea. Then Ken had the challenge of really talking about the entire journey they were on. I really enjoyed his talk. He was working us through the entire 2-year journey of the children of Israel and a lot of what they went through as they walked through the wilderness to the Promise Land…it was an incredibly difficult journey and so much happened! I thought Ken really asked some important questions towards the end of his talk that hopefully gave us all something to think about this past week. He kept helping us see something and that is that the 2-year journey should have taken two weeks. Do you remember that? He also kept helping us see that this story of the Israelites walking through the desert is a story about us. They faced so many challenges. They responded so poorly. And he really challenged us by asking us how we are responding to God as life hits us.
I’m actually really looking forward to today’s lesson as we continue this conversation about Moses, and the Children of Israel and this Exodus journey to the Promise Land and we are going to dive a little deeper into how they responded to God. I had touched on this two weeks ago, but there is a bit of a shocking theme that builds for them as they wander through The Wilderness. Even while they watch God move and provide for them. Even with the knowledge of all God has done to free them, the one thing that happens over and over again, is that when life gets tough or they aren’t happy…they want to go back to Egyptian slavery. Which is amazing isn’t it? After all God has done, after crying out for hundreds of years for freedom, after the brutal oppression that has finally been lifted from them…how could they possibly think this way! Well, they didn’t just think it, they said it, and it came up a lot. Here is just a few of the places we see them wanting to go back to slavery in Egypt.
This first time was from the moment where they were terrified and stuck between the sea, the desert, and an angry Egyptian army.
Exodus 14:10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” NIV
This next time they are hungry! I don’t know how many of those nice wheeled igloo coolers they packed for this journey or how much lunch meat they had but eventually they have eaten all their food or it has gone bad. And in fairness I get pretty grumpy when I’m hungry too, but we see it again, this time they think they will die from starvation and they want to go back…remember God has come through time and time again…but this is their response.
Exodus 16:1 On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. 2 The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!” MSG
So the Lord once again comes through, literally dropping food from the sky for them to eat! Which is amazing! But eventually they get thirsty too. They need a Gatorade or something, I mean they are in a Desert…I get the need to hydrate, and they go back to this theme of wanting to go back.
Exodus 17:1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?” 3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” NIV
Let’s look at one more moment from this theme, and I think this one really can make them appear ungrateful for God’s provision…because they just get tired of Manna, they want something new on the menu…check this one out, it’s found in Numbers…
Numbers 11:4 The riff-raff among the people had a craving and soon they had the People of Israel whining, “Why can’t we have meat? 5 We ate fish in Egypt — and got it free! — to say nothing of the cucumbers and melons, the leeks and onions and garlic. 6 But nothing tastes good out here; all we get is manna, manna, manna.” 7 Manna was a seed like substance with a shiny appearance like resin. 8 The people went around collecting it and ground it between stones or pounded it fine in a mortar. Then they boiled it in a pot and shaped it into cakes. It tasted like a delicacy cooked in olive oil. 9 When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna was right there with it. 10 Moses heard the whining, all those families whining in front of their tents. God’s anger blazed up. Moses saw that things were in a bad way. MSG
I could keep going with this theme of them wanting to go back, but let’s just think about it. It’s pretty incredible isn’t it? These people have seen God move in incredible ways. God provides for them time and time again, has saved them from slavery…and they continue to complain and want to go back to their miserable existence enslaved to the Egyptians. How does this happen? Well I want you to understand something before we just decide they are nuts. We do this too.
For those of you who are a Christian, I want to ask you something today. Do you remember the day God entered your life? The day God’s love poured into your heart, and you felt love, and grace, and finally understood how valued you truly are…you felt so free didn’t you? You just couldn’t believe that God would love you so much that He would send His one and only son to die for you. It is an amazing moment that sets you on a different path where you begin to live differently. Suddenly you aren’t doing some of the things you were once doing. You start going to church, and maybe even serving. You engage God’s word…and it is fun and exciting, and you crave more and more time with Him…but over time, that passion begins to fade. Life is not really getting easier. Serving with other Christians inside a church community used to be awesome, but you start looking around and your old friends are still out all night Saturday night doing whatever they want…and they seem to be having more fun than you. You, who needs to rest because of church in the morning, and the role that you once couldn’t believe you could serve in, is now just kind of a drag. Your time in Scripture that once brought you so much joy and life, is now just the thing you have to do, while everyone else sleeps in and enjoys life more. The leader that you used to appreciate so much is now just not living up to the standards you set for him or her. You are at work trying to live with integrity, while everyone else lies, cheats, steals, and seems to be more successful than you…and all the things about this life in Christ that once made you feel such joy, and freedom, and gratitude…now you just wonder why you aren’t still out having a blast like you used to…do you see it? It’s just like the children of Israel, we read about them wanting to go back to Egyptian slavery and think that is crazy…but this is the story of us. We do this too.
As I was writing this I kept thinking about this moment in John where we see those who were so excited to follow Jesus, now they have just listened to Him really challenge them, Jesus is literally pushing in harder and harder on them…and they leave Jesus, and just go back to where they were…it is sad really, you could have walked with Jesus, but just like the children of Israel…and just like us we look to go back. I also find it really interesting that the word “grumbling” is found here with the disciples too…remember how often we read that the children of Israel grumbled about things…so this will definitely give us some stuff to talk about.
John 6:60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. NIV
This is so amazing isn’t it? How can this be? How can you go from the feelings of freedom and salvation and following God to just thinking it’s better to go back to the way things were? It’s amazing, and it doesn’t seem right, but this is the story of all of us. Our passion and joy and gratitude can fade like the air slowly leaking out of a balloon and as crazy as it sounds we can look around and miss all the provisions and love of our Heavenly Father and just want to go back to what we somehow decide were “the good old days.” I think in many ways this is what Solomon was watching unfold time and time again, as he writes this particular Proverb…
Proverbs 26:11 As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. NLT
It’s amazing but we seem to get in tough spots in our Christian journey. We seem to forget all that God is doing and has done in our lives. We seem to have lost or become numb to that feeling of gratitude for His amazing and unconditional love and grace that He gifted us all with and all of a sudden the great gift of salvation we have been given can feel more like a hindrance than the blessing it is, and we look back to the days when we lived for ourselves, partied all night, did selfish, and sometimes really rough things and think those were the good times. We say to ourselves, “why did I ever engage this God stuff? I wish I could go back.”
Let’s slow this down and take a moment to personalize this. Think about this today. Do you remember the day you truly knew God loved you and saved you? Do you remember the gratitude and joy you once felt for God’s salvation? Do you remember the passion you once felt to serve your Heavenly Father? Do you remember the passion and life that your time with God used to bring you? What happened? It is interesting how this unfolds in our lives even as we watch God bless us over and over again.
Do you remember when you got the new home? It was an amazing feeling…you loved it. You loved everything about it and couldn’t believe God gave you the home, the yard, the place for you to grow your family…but over time that house just has become a pain to maintain and keep up with.
Do you remember the job or position that God led you into at work? You could not believe that God would be so good to you to get you that promotion or to that spot in life! It was an amazing feeling and you popped out of bed with joy and pride and focus and couldn’t believe you had this job…but now, over time that job is a pain, and you wonder why you keep doing it.
Do you remember when you looked into his or her eyes and said those words. “I do.” You just couldn’t believe God brought you together. It was this amazing moment and you couldn’t believe you were going to get to spend the rest of your life with him or her! Older people would tell you marriage was tough and you couldn’t hear it because you felt so good, and your love would carry you through and years later your marriage is frustrating and it’s becoming more and more a drag.
It’s amazing isn’t it? We have these moments where God so clearly comes through for us. We are so energized because we know His love and provision for our lives…but as life keeps happening, over time the things that felt like gifts become a real pain…and we just want to go back. So how do we go from passion, energy, life, and such gratitude to just wanting to go back to how things were before? It’s amazing isn’t it? It reminds me so much of the Spiritual War that we all face, and Jesus’ words about what He came to do, and also what our enemy is trying to do…
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV
So there is a Spiritual war unfolding, but what is amazing as we process the Children of Israel wanting to go back, the many Disciples walking away from Jesus and wanting to go back, and even us today experiencing life through Christ, and so much joy in so many areas and eventually wanting to go back, is that there are some things that happen to all of us in life that seem to take away that life to the full that Jesus provides. I’m going to talk about a few of the most common ones with you today.
We can want to go back when things get hard. The Bible has clearly told us that life will continue to be difficult; it absolutely was for the Children of Israel, we know Jesus told the disciples it was going to be hard, and you know how challenging your own life can be. It would be nice if things were easy and it’s easy to be tempted to go back when life pushes back on us so hard all the time.
We can want to go back when things take much longer than we think they should. We have talked about God’s timing a lot in these Old Testament stories, let’s just say it, God’s timing is often so much slower than we would like it to be. It is always exciting early in the trip, but as the journey gets longer and longer, our passion can fade and we can be tempted to go back.
We can want to go back because somehow, we know better. There is an interesting thing that can happen to us Christians, and it’s something that I watch unfold often in a church setting. God frees us, and we are filled with passion, love, gratitude, and joy, but over time, as we spend more time with God and read the Bible, what can happen if we aren’t careful is that we become filled with pride. We move into this spot where we think we have arrived in some way Spiritually. And suddenly, we know better than everyone on what should be happening. We lose the gratitude we found in our salvation and the humility we found in God’s unconditional love and we can become like the Pharisee in our Bible who judges and is so hard hearted towards the brokenness of others. So, if we are not careful, we become like the person we call the villain in our Bibles or like the very people that hurt us and judged us when we were hurting and searching for God’s love. Which is amazing. This happens more than I would like to admit…frankly it happens everywhere not even limited to our Spiritual lives and church, you see this same phenomenon unfold at work. Think about it. At work, you loved your boss who gave you the job and the chance to provide for your family which meant so much to you, but over time…you start noticing that he or she isn’t perfect, and now you just know better than that moron and you can’t really follow them anymore.
We can also want to go back because nothing looks like we thought it would or should. God promised us things, and if you notice it is typically greatness of some kind. We are going to be the next so and so, or we will go on now to do great things and we can visualize what that greatness looks like…but life continues to be hard, and you are still just you in a small town, and when greatness doesn’t look like we think it should…we can be tempted to quit, and go back.
So what can we do to combat this feeling of wanting to give up and go back? Well I’m glad you asked because we can stay the course and I’m going to give you three simple ways to keep that passion and energy and gratitude and not slide into this mindset of wanting to go back to the way things were before God entered our lives. These are simple but when we apply them to our lives, we can stay the course.
First, we must keep our focus on God. I know I bring this up a lot, but I do it because it is so easy for us to be distracted and when we are distracted it’s easy for God to slip into the background of our lives. We must stay focused on God. The Israelites time and time again lost their God focus. Which is incredible because they are physically looking at Him! They are seeing the pillar of fire and the cloud; they are watching miracle after miracle unfold right in front of them and somehow their eyes still leave God and their focus shifts to themselves. If you think about it, when you’re hungry or thirsty, or when you’re in pain or dealing with danger it’s easy to lose sight of God and become more and more self-focused. The only way through this is to spend time with God…that is the only way to have this miraculous and essential shift take place in your life. This shift must happen!
Matthew 6:6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. MSG
I think the day we find Christ and our own salvation is an amazing day, but it’s important to remember that it isn’t the finish line, but the start of our journey to mature and grow into the people that God created us to be. This happens as we spend more and more time with Him. The more time we spend with Him the more we can focus on Him and stay centered on Him rather than ourselves. Which is important as we walk through this difficult journey that we call life.
Second, we must remember our salvation and hold that salvation close. Remember the feeling of salvation. Hold it close to your hearts…the joy, the freedom, the unbelievable love you realize God has for you, we must hold on to that feeling. When you struggle with life you must go back to what God has done for you! This is what we rally around. I have watched many Christians lose sight of that feeling and fall flat, or become pride filled and judgemental, and I have watched Pastors preach for 50 years who to this day can not talk about God saving them from sin and death without tears flowing down their face…and I believe this is why they stay so energized for Christ.
Hebrews 12:2 Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 3 When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! MSG
The last thing I want you to see is just as important. We really need to watch our mouths! Did you ever notice how miserable you become when you complain about everything all the time? Have you ever noticed what happens to your outlook on someone or something when you find the positive and talk about it? This is just a reality for all of us, when you constantly are using your mouth in a negative way, it will bring you down. What we say affects our perspective and our reality. Did you notice that every time the Children of Israel got to that point where they wanted to go back the Bible seems to go out of its way to tell us they were “grumbling?” Did you notice as the disciples were leaving Jesus that the Bible goes out of it’s way to tell us they were “grumbling” and Jesus knew it. This is a big deal. We see this a lot in Scripture, our words have power. Jesus told us that our words are reflecting our heart condition, right?
Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. NIV
A good way to know if you are in danger of turning back…is to pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth. Jesus says they are letting you know the true condition of your heart. So I want you to think about this, because I think it may be more important than you realize. How do you use your words? Do you gossip and complain about your leaders? Do you take a lot of funny pot shots at people to get the cheap laugh, while deep down you know what you are saying is just hurtful? Do you tear people down with your words, or are you building people up with them? Do you talk about the good around you or complain about what isn’t right? This is a great gauge on the true condition of your heart. Not the condition you like people to see out there in the public world or on social media, but the true condition of your heart. It’s amazing how often we are warned about this in our Scriptures. Solomon makes a big statement about this that I have been reflecting on a lot lately.
Proverbs 11:9 With their words, the godless destroy their friends, but knowledge will rescue the righteous. NLT
What is amazing to me is that Solomon would define a godless person as someone who tears up people with their words…not just people but their friends! People they would care about and it amazes me that many people who tear down those they care about are the very people that would also want to tell you how Godly they really are. Your words matter. They carry a lot of weight and they can really let you know the real condition of your heart. You want to go back? Maybe it’s time to stop grumbling and start using your words to talk about the good that God is doing in your life and all around you.
So as we close this talk down today and you head into another week this summer I want you really personalizing this because the story of the Children of Israel is the story of us. Here’s a couple questions to take with you into this week. Think about your life and try to answer the questions honestly.
Are you looking around wishing you could go back to the way things were? Do you somehow look at your old life before Christ and think it was better or easier? Do you look at your time with God that used to bring you so much joy, and now it’s just a pain? Do you look at the things you used to get excited to do, like serving God and they are now annoying you rather than being the joy they used to be? Do you look at all that God is providing you, things that used to fill you with joy and gratitude and now those same things are just a pain? Are you just looking around and thinking that you have arrived and you now know better than those around you? Last question. What words are coming out of your mouth? How do you speak about things? You need to intentionally look at this and look at your life today. Do you want to go back? How did that happen? How did you get to the place where the oppression and pain of your old way of living seems better than engaging your new life in Christ…and then rally around the three things I told you can pull you through it all.
Spend real time with God, which can allow the focus to shift from you to Him. Remember your salvation and that feeling of God’s love that will shoot adrenaline and bring energy into your souls…and be intentional about speaking words of love that build up, not tear down.
Remember their story is your story. We can all be tempted to go back…stay the course, and remember the journey is hard but it is all going to be worth it in the end.