The Table Turner
When it looks like evil is about to win, don’t forget about the Table Turner!
All right…today is a fun day at Renovation Church!
(Switch to Exodus/Rescue Series Slide)
Every year, we study a book of the Bible together, and this morning, we are starting our book for 2017.
The book of Exodus!
We find that there is great value in sometimes studying the principles and topics that Scripture teaches as a whole, but there’s also great value in studying a book of the Bible verse-by-verse; chapter-by-chapter.
And so we do both at Renovation.
If you’re not familiar with the book of Exodus…or it’s hazy for you right now, let me give you some context on the book, and a quick flyover.
It’s the 2nd book of the 66 Books that make up the Bible
In the first book, Genesis, God promised Abraham and his decedents, that they would one day inherit the promised land (modern day Israel).
Abraham’s grandson was a man named Jacob, and he was also known as Israel.
He had 12 sons…and his favorite son…was named Joseph.
You might be familiar with the technicolored dreamcoat he gave him :)
Joseph’s brothers are jealous of him, so they sell him as a slave into Egypt.
While in Egypt, Joseph gets wrongfully thrown into prison
But while in prison, he makes friends with Pharaoh’s former cupbearer.
God even helps Joseph interpret a dream for the cupbearer
Later, when the cupbearer is restored to his position, he tells Pharaoh (who’s currently having strange dreams) about Joseph.
Long story short, Joseph (by God’s power & wisdom) interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, and in doing so, saves Egypt from famine & devastation.
During the famine that’s gripping the rest of the surrounding area, Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt looking for food
Joseph then ends up saving his whole family, gives them food, and they all end up staying in Egypt.
And that’s how the Book of Genesis ends
The book of Exodus then begins around 300 or so years later.
In Hebrew (the book’s original language), Exodus actually begins with the word “AND”
The first five books of the Bible, are often seen as one unit…called the Pentateuch (greek for Five books)
The first few verses of Exodus start by reminding us of the book of Genesis and then tell us that the Israelites have increased exponentially over the last few centuries.
In fact, as we look now to Exodus…if you want to follow along today, I HIGHLY encourage you to do so.
We’ll be studying this text all message.
The Israelites have grown from about 70 people to (we’re told in chapter 12) 600,000 men.
That’s not including women and children.
So 300 or so years later, scholars estimate that there were somewhere between 2.5-3.5 million Israelite people
Which, is starting to make the current Pharaoh quite nervous.
Let’s join the story there.
(Exodus 1:8-14) – NIV
8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. 9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
Pharaoh is not happy about “Hebrew problem”
Verse 10 shows you the root of his fear.
He’s afraid that if war breaks out, they’ll join the enemy…and fight against him…there are simply too many of them.
And so he decides to enslave them.
But even that’s not enough…so he devises another plan (let’s keep reading)
(Exodus 1:15-22) – NIV
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
You can see that Pharaoh keeps ratcheting up the intensity.
First he enslaves the Hebrews…then he orders the midwives to kill Hebrew baby boys…
But after the midwives practice some good ol’ fashioned civil disobedience, Pharaoh takes it up another level and gives an order to ALL of his people…to kill the Hebrew baby boys
They’re told to throw them into the Nile River.
Things are dark right now.
But it never gets too dark for God.
We’re going to look at just the first 10 verses of chapter 2 as well today
(Exodus 2:1-10) – NIV
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
8 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother.9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him.10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
So to avoid Pharaoh’s genocidal and abortive edict, Moses’ mom puts him in a basket to save him and floats him down the Nile River…
And by the way, the Hebrew for the word basket here is tay-vah, which is used only one other place in the whole Bible.
It’s the same word that’s translated ARK…as in Noah’s Ark.
Look at what God is doing here.
In fact, Moses’ mother and Noah are even said to waterproof their vessels with the same pitch substance.
God is going to spare both Noah and Moses from a horrible fate, and keep them safe in his ark…
Safe from the watery destruction that everyone else seemed to be facing at the time
This is the theme of the entire book (chapter by chapter): God is the great rescuer…and he’s on a great rescue.
And God is in control here.
This baby Moses, is growing to grow up and be the deliver for his people Israel.
He’s going to confront a future Pharaoh, and eventually lead his people out of Egypt and through the sea.
God is going to use this baby, Moses, to one day rescue his people.
THE TABLE TURNER IN EXODUS
But right now, in the opening chapter and a half …things don’t look so good.
Yeah, a baby was spared from Pharaoh’s homicidal ambitions, that’s nice…
But things don’t appear to be going so well for God’s people.
And yet, if you look closer…God is everywhere!
Every bad thing…seems to eventually turn out in God’s favor.
Everything Pharaoh does, doesn’t just backfire, but seems to accomplish the opposite of what he was hoping for!
Let me show you just four examples of this:
Firstly, the midwives, disobey Pharaoh’s order to kill the baby boys, and God blesses them with the very thing that Pharaoh was seeking to destroy…more children
Every move Pharaoh seems to make, it’s like God is always one step ahead of him.
Think about this second example: Pharaoh decides that he’s not going to kill ALL of the Israelites, just kill the boys (some population control for a while)
But it’s the WOMEN who actually end up being his undoing!
It’s the midwives
It’s Moses’ mother
It’s Moses’ sister
And it’s Pharaoh’s own daughter!
Perhaps the most astounding move on God’s part is this third example:
It’s only because Pharaoh tried to kill off all of the male infants that Moses ends up in Pharaoh’s household in the first place!
Think about this: If Pharaoh wouldn’t have made the decree to kill of the male infants, Moses would have never ended up in the palace.
Yet there, in the palace, Moses gets exactly the type of training he needs to one day become the great leader who would lead God’s great rescue.
Moses would have been nursed by his mother to age 3 or 4 in those days, but then raised in Pharaoh’s court…with the best leadership training and the best education
He would have essentially been raised with the purpose of one day becoming a general.
God is able to shape his ideal leader to eventually rescue his people because of the very decree that was put in place to kill his people
Every bad thing that Pharaoh is doing seems to be turning out in God’s favor over time.
It’s clear that God is not going to be outdone by evil.
Let me give you one more example of this:
Even after Pharaoh says, “Every male Hebrew infant most be thrown in the Nile River…”
Where does God send the Israelite’s rescuer, Moses?
Right down the Nile River…to the doorstep of Pharaoh’s palace!
I love it!
He might as well have sent Moses with a note that read, “Nice try” J
THE TABLE TURNER IN YOUR LIFE
God is going to turn the tables on the Egyptian Pharaohs
It’s like Pharaoh is playing a boardgame with God.
And it looks like Pharaoh is winning and has God back on the ropes.
But God can just simply turn the tables.
That phrase comes from backgammon actually.
And if your opponent was about to win, but you turned the table around, it might look like you were about to win!
And a number of years later (when the great exodus out of Egypt begins) the next Pharaoh will have to say, “I thought that I…I thought we were winn…but wait…you are?!? How did this get turned around?!”
Every apparently victorious move that Pharaoh makes, is proven to be, when God turns the table around…just another planned and right move of God.
This is deeper than you might think: God isn’t just reacting to Pharaoh’s edict.
These aren’t counter-moves.
It’s not like God is saying, “Okay you got me with that one, but check this out…what if I send this baby down the nile! Got you there!!”)
Pharaoh’s edict was the means, that God had allowed all along, to get Moses into Pharaoh’s court…and ultimately bring deliverance for his people.
Think back to Joseph, whom I mentioned earlier.
When Joseph’s brothers are eventually saved by him and allowed to stay in Egypt, they’re fearful Joseph is going to kill them, so they approach him trembling.
And this is what Joseph says to them:
(Genesis 50:20) – NIV
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
What many other translations say is, “What you meant for evil, God intended for good”
See, God is always turning the table on evil.
If there is some sort of evil…that is not eventually turned…then he’s not God.
Yes, evil exists. Yes, God allows satan to exist. He allows the free will of our sin to exist.
But God is always working His story (all things!) to a greater purpose.
If he wasn’t…it would say that someone else has power over the story.
But listen, there is NO part of the story where God is saying, “Hmm, I wish I could get that part back under control! Whoops! I didn’t allow that one…hmm…I’ll never get that one back
And so don’t ever look at evil in the world, in our country, or even in your life right now… and think, “Oh no! things Someone is outwitting my God”
That’s probably what the Israelites thought…but we can see that when the tables were finally turned…it was the Pharaohs that were being outwitted all along.
And we can see that because we have the perspective of history
But in our own lives we don’t usually have that kind of perspective.
Both because we’re limited, finite creatures.
Like we can understand what God’s doing!
And because we don’t see the whole story right now!
By the way, “Is that okay?”
Listen, many of the Egyptians died while they were still in slavery.
Some of the young boys were murdered by Pharaoh’s edict.
Did that mean that God couldn’t use human evil to eventually result in good?
A lot of us say, “But He can’t do that!”
“He can’t allow something harmful or evil to happen to ME in order to accomplish a greater good.”
We say, “Because then he wouldn’t be good”
But the definition of God’s goodness isn’t limited to just making you happy.
Then you’re God…and not Him.
If there is a war going on, and a young child is being held hostage by the enemy…
If a general sends in an army unit to rescue that young child…
Is that general a bad man because some of the men on the front lines of that rescue mission are going to die to accomplish something good?
Trust me…even if it feels dark in your life…God is always turning the tables on evil.
Even if you can’t see it!
Even if God seems absent to you.
One of the brilliant aspects of the writing of our passage today is that besides a passing reference to the midwives “fear of God,” God is not mentioned in our entire passage.
God’s providential hand, as we saw, is CLEARLY at work
But there’s a literary reason why he’s not mentioned directly:
To the people at this point in the story, He FEELS absent.
And there’s a principle here you must see:
Sometimes when you think God is the most absent, is the time when he’s doing his greatest work.
Sometimes God works right in front of us, and we say, “Wow! God, you’re amazing!”
But just because God might be, at this season of your life, working behind the scenes (and thus might feel absent to you) doesn’t mean He’s not working!
If it looks like life or sin or even evil has you backed into a checkmate situation…
God will, in his timing, for His glory, turn that table.
And you WILL, whether in this life or the next, say, “Wait…how did you turn THAT situation into a checkmate against evil?”
But it’s hard to believe that sometime when you feel like your back is against the wall and you cannot (from our limited perspective) see God moving like the brilliant chess master He is.
So what do you do then??
The eminent Charles Spurgeon once said it this way:
God is too good to be unkind, and he is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace his hand, we must trust his heart." – Charles Spurgeon
When it feels like the world is raging against you, and that there is nothing good that could possibly come next…
If we can’t (in our limitedness) see his hand…see his plan…
Trust his heart
That’s what the Israelites are going to have to do all throughout the book of Exodus
This isn’t going to be the last time in the book where they’re going to have to go, “Where are you God?!
If you’re supposed to rescue us…you sure are taking an odd path!
Think of even Moses’ mother!
“I’m supposed to give up my 3 month old son…what kind of sick God would put me in a situation where I have me float my son down the river of death?”
And yet, many decades later, as they sat around the fire, telling the stories to their grandchildren…
Like an incredible movie…when victory emerges out of nowhere…Each apparent step backwards in the story, only seems to enhance the glory of his steps forward.
THE ULTIMATE TABLE TURN
And friends, what I want you to see throughout 2017, as we study the book of Exodus…is that this book is a precursor to something greater.
1500 years or so after Moses was born…another child was born…in a manger…outside of a little town called Bethlehem
And just as there was 1500 years him, there was another evil ruler on the scene...attempting to strive against all things good and fight against God’s great rescue plan.
This evil ruler was named “Herod the Great.”
And when Herod found out that a Savior (a rescuer), a new King has been born in Bethlehem, he tries to do the same thing as Pharaoh once did.
(Matthew 2:16) – NIV
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
But just as Pharaoh killed all the male Israelite babies, yet Moses escaped to be a deliver…
even when Herod kills all the male Jewish babies in Bethlehem, Jesus escapes to be a deliverer.
Jesus is the new Moses.
And he is going to lead his people out of a different kind of slavery.
As Romans 6 says, he set us free from being slaves to sin…and through Him, we can live in freedom.
And to make that possible, God, in his brilliance accomplished the greatest table turn ever…on evil.
See, in the last days of Jesus’ life…the sinful hearts of men and the devil himself seem to work together in an unholy alliance to arrest Jesus, bring him to a mockery of a trail, and have him murdered on a cross.
For God and his plans…it looks like a checkmate…it looks over.
His very own rescuer has been killed
But then, on that Sunday morning…the rock has been moved.
He’s not there.
In the greatest table turn ever…God defeats death…by death.
One of my favorite scenes from the Passion of the Christ (and it’s Biblical conjecture…but probably true)…is when the devil is shown, on Easter Weekend, screaming in agonizing defeat.
See, it looked exactly like evil had won…
They had followed the playbook perfectly!
They killed the rescuer on a cross!
And yet somehow…even in their evil…they just played into God’s hand.
And God takes the greatest evil ever known (the murder of God’s own Son)…and turns it into the greatest good the world has ever known.
And so when the world or your life looks dark to you…remember there is no table too hard for God to turn.
Trust Him that he’s in control.
If you can’t see his hand, trust His heart.
But trust Him.
From his perspective, the table is always turned the right direction…and it shows his victory!
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.