Find out how the Israelites' 40 years of wandering around the wilderness echoes in our lives today.
David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
It’s funny how quickly we can forget things.
For instance, Lindsey and I bought our first house 2 years ago after living in different apartments for 7 years.
And some days, like when stuff breaks and I have no idea how to fix it…I think, “Man, it would be nice to go back to the apartment”
Where I could just call maintenance…and they’d know what to do. J
But that’s not really what I want.
For us anyway…We waited a long time to get a house…saved for it, hoped for it, prayed for it, you name it.
It’s what we wanted for starting a family among other things.
But, as humans, when we’re anxious, or stressed, or overly-emotional, our memories have a way of re-writing our past.
And we think, “Wasn’t it better when _____the maintenance man fixed my dishwasher…maybe I should go back.”
And this morning I want to show you that this is a story (the “maybe it was better when” story) that has been playing out for thousands and thousands of years
We are continuing our Echoes series where we are looking at how an important story in the OT (the part of the Bible before Jesus) echoes in the NT (which is everything in the Bible from Jesus onward)
If you weren’t here last week or if this is your first week visiting Renovation Church (1st of all, welcome to you), let me give you a quick review of what we talked about last week
We studied a story in the book of Exodus that takes place 1,400 years before Jesus.
God’s people, the Israelites, are enslaved in Egypt under an evil Pharaoh.
God sends plagues to try and force the Egyptians to let the Israelites go.
But Pharaoh refuses.
Moses tells Pharaoh a 10th and final plague will soon come.
One will where all the first-born sons of Egypt will be killed.
And then Moses tells the Israelites, the only way they can avoid this plague is to sacrifice a lamb and put it’s blood on the doorframes of their houses.
Then the Lord’s wrath will pass over their houses
That’s where we get the famous Passover holiday from today.
And the story of Jesus is just an echo of that.
Jesus, the Bible says, is the Lamb of the world.
And it was his death on a cross, on Passover weekend, where his blood saved all of us.
If we believe in faith that he died for us, we too can be saved and forgiven of our sins.
But the story for the Israelites continues today, and even more of it echoes into the New Testament.
That very night that the 10th plague struck, Pharaoh summons Moses and says, “Go! Leave. Get out of here!”
SO the Israelites do. The Bible says that God even favorably disposed the Egyptians to the Israelites, so as they left, they plundered them.
“Sir…you mind if I take that new iPad mini from you on my way out of town?” “Why not.”
THE WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE – A CLOSER LOOK
So the Israelites leave Egypt and they embark on what will end up being 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness before they eventually enter the Promised Land of Canaan…of Israel.
And the Bible has a ton to say about those 40 years in the Wilderness.
Not only in the original story itself…but elsewhere in the Old Testament and as it echoes again in the New Testament.
It had to be a pretty scary experience for those Israelites at first.
That generation is literally leaving the only land they’ve known. EVER. And they’re doing so at once. That night…or that next morning.
That’s why they were told to eat the Passover in Haste…God was saying, “you aren’t going to have time to put the lamb in some Tupperware and eat leftover lamb sandwiches next week.
And so they begin their journey to the wilderness…to the desert.
But we read that God is actually right there with them.
(Exodus 13:21-22) – NIV
21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
God is guiding their steps. He knows that, like us today, they are a fickle people.
Look at what he says about their path:
(Exodus 13:17) – NIV
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”
That they would actually want to go back to slavery rather than fight for their freedom. Wow.
So God starts leading the Israelites on this confusing path…
It looks like they’re kind of hemmed in by the desert and the sea…and Pharaoh gets word of it.
“Both that, it appears they’re not coming back and that they look kind of confused out there.
So he says to himself, “Um…I know they killed all our 1st born sons, but our economy is now going to crumble with the loss of 2 million slaves..”
So he takes basically his whole army and rides out after Israel.
The Israelites, who are already insecure about leaving the only home they ever knew, have this to say when they see Pharaoh and his army approaching:
(Exodus 14:10-14) – NIV
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!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
And soon after, God has Moses part the sea, which by the way the Bible says is the Sea of Reeds, not the Red Sea as time has unfortunately renamed it.
So God parts the sea, and the Israelites walk through. And soon after, the Egyptians chase them, but the walls of the sea come crashing down, drowning the Egyptians in the sea.
An apt punishment for the mass drownings the Egyptians did of the Israelite baby boys in Exodus chapter 1.
MANNA & WATER
So think about this: These people have now seen a miraculous avoidance of a plague by this peculiar “blood of the lamb” thing…and now, God parts a sea for them, and they walk through, only to see their pursuers drown.
It’s like…you’d think they’d never doubt God again!
You’d think….you’d think.
Problem is…time goes by…they’re wandering in the desert, and apparently they’ve run out of all the gummi bears and butterfingers they packed for their journey.
(Exodus 16:2-3) – NIV
2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
But the Lord, once again has mercy on his scared and doubting people who are wondering in the wilderness…searching for the promised land.
(Exodus 16:4) – NIV
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
And God, for the next 40 years that they’re in the Wilderness, rains down bread (called manna) from heaven.
Manna in the morning (which was a wafer type of bread…manna was Hebrew for “What is it?”
And rained down quail for meat in the evenings.
And God continues to provide for the grumbling people.
He gives them a guiding cloud in the day, fire by night, bread in the morning, and meat at night.
Should be enough, right?
Nope. Can’t eat bread and meat if you got nothing to wash it down with!! Duh!
(Exodus 17:1-4) – NIV
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?” 4 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
It’s a dangerous thing leading God’s people sometimes.
Let’s see what happens next:
(Exodus 17:5-7) – NIV
5 The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
And if you keep reading their story in Exodus…and also in the book of Numbers (which shockingly isn’t just about numbers…MIND BLOWN)…we see that they encounter all kinds of trials:
They’re attacked by enemies…they start worshipping idols…they fall away from God…they get scared…they lack trust…and on and on.
ECHOES IN THE NT
And what the Bible tells us in the New Testament…is that THEIR STORY is OUR STORY.
In fact, when the Israelites go through the Sea, that’s just another symbol of God’s deliverance in their life.
In fact, 1 Corinthians 10 (which we’ll read in a bit) Paul calls it being BAPTIZED into Moses.
See, they were forgiven and set free by the blood of the lamb, and walking through the sea, was the ultimate sign that they were finally free
And it’s the same for the Christian. We are forgiven by the blood of Christ (when he died) and baptism (the water) is an outward symbol of what God did.
That he died for us…and rose again..
And when we are buried under water, it’s a symbol of our sins being washed away and coming up a new person
When you’re baptized, you give expression to the fact that you’re leaving behind an old way of life (a life of bondage to sin & death), and entering into a new life. A new creation.
Christian baptism is where we publically show our EXODUS from who we once were.
And it’s an important thing…and AN AMAZING thing for every Christian to do.
In fact, in just the last year and a half…we’ve had 42 people get baptized at our church.
We’re having so many people give their lives to Jesus, that we’re actually going to do two baptisms a year.
The next one will be February 11th…so if you’re a new Christian…or haven’t been baptized yet, put that date on your calendar.
It’ll be outside…in the ice.
I’m just kidding. It’ll be at another church.
But the Echo of the Wilderness experience goes much deeper than the Sea and baptism.
The story also echoes in the life of Jesus.
In fact, the Israelites story is fulfilled…it was done right…by Jesus.
For instance, when Jesus is still just a toddler, Mary & Joseph take him and flee to Egypt to escape the evil King Herod…
And eventually God calls them out of Egypt and to return to Israel.
And thus Jesus…walks in the very footsteps of the Israelites from Egypt to Israel.
If you read in Matthew, he even makes that connection.
And then…one of the first things that Jesus experiences (early in his ministry) is a temptation…a test.
WHERE? In the wilderness
Starting to sound familiar?
And in Matthew chapter 4, Jesus is tempted by the devil in the wilderness.
And instead of being in the Wilderness for 40 years like the Israelites…Jesus is there for 40 DAYS and 40 nights.
And unlike the Israelites, he’s again successful in passing his test.
He’s walking in their steps…but fulfilling them.
At our Christmas Eve services, we’re actually going to talk a little more about how Jesus is a new and better Moses…and we’ll talk about some more of these Echoes that were fulfilled in Jesus’ life…SO DON’T MISS IT.
In fact, when you leave today, you’re going to be handed a few invite cards, so you can invite your friends and family to a Christmas eve service.
It’s going to be amazing.
We’re not joking when we say it’s going to be the most powerful Christmas Eve service we’ve ever done. Seriously.
Bring your friends and family…and pray they meet Jesus that day!
People are so much more willing to come to a Christmas Eve service than a normal Sunday.
Trust God and see what He does!!!
And the echo isn’t just in the fact that Jesus fulfills the steps of the Israelites…
God is moving through Jesus (as He is Jesus) just like he did in the Wilderness in the OT
The story is echoing.
For instance…the Israelites were led by a pillar of light.
What is Jesus called in the Bible?
(John 8:12) – NIV
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Now, maybe by itself it’s not that convincing, but there’s more.
The Israelites, in the wilderness, survived on bread from heaven.
Look at what Jesus says about himself
(John 6:30-35) – NIV
30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
He is our light! For our path. To guide us.
He is our bread that gives us sustenance. He sustains us every day.
And more than that…in the NT, when Paul writes to the church at Corinth he says this about the Israelites in the Wilderness.
(1 Corinthians 10:3-4) – NIV
3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
He even calls the rock that Moses struck…Christ.
That God…in Christ…was there with them then…giving them water to drink.
And the NT…echoes…and calls Christ this fountain of water.
In fact, in John 4, Jesus tells a Samaritan woman that he is the fountain of living water.
That whoever drinks the water he gives them will never thirst…and that water will well up to eternal life.
And there’s more…just as Moses would take the rod in his hand and strike the rock to provide life for the people, so God would allow Jesus the rock to be struck on the cross to provide life for the people.
It’s really amazing how the Bible echoes and works together over thousands of years.
This is not some haphazardly thrown together book that people made up.
This is God’s story of redemption for all of history.
AN EXAMPLE FOR US
In the same passage about the Wilderness, Paul tells the Corinthians that this is all an example for us:
(1 Corinthians 10:6) – NIV
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
Just as Jesus’ death on the cross is an echo of Passover, our daily walk with God is an echo of the Israelites experience in the wilderness.
You know, one of the things that really sticks out to me from the Israelites’ Wilderness experience is how often they wanted to go back.
It’s like at every juncture; they come to Moses and said, “Wouldn’t we be better off back in Egypt…as slaves??”
And we do the same thing.
As Christians, God has freed us from this intense bondage to sin…he’s started to break the chains and give us new life…
But, listen, it’s hard to follow Christ. Really hard some days.
And growing fruit in him is often a slow process.
And in the midst of that, so often we say, “Wouldn’t I be better off a slave…back in Egypt?”
“I think I’d be better off if I just went out and partied again
“I think I’d be better off if I just started flirting w/ this other person and see what happens rather than staying in my boring marriage”
“I think I’d be better off just telling people what I thought of them again rather than forgiving them”
And we start to say, “Don’t you remember how awesome Egypt was!”
And we have these tainted memories…just like the Israelites.
As I said in the very beginning, our memories have a way of re-writing the past.
But the past w/o the freedom of God was NOT awesome. It was an illusion.
I think it’s a good mental discipline to remember sometimes what it was like before you started really living for Him.
Or if you’ve been a Christian most of your life…remember to the lowest times in your life when you weren’t really daily living for Him.
Did it work? Were you really happy? Did you know Joy? And peace?
I’ve been there. Both before I knew Him and after.
Sin gives a temporary rush like the opening of an extra large box of dots…but by the time I finish the enormous box at the end of the movie…I feel like garbage.
It wasn’t actually that good.
But looking back, our memories re-write the past.
They tend to just remember those first few bites, and I choose it all over again.
Just like the Israelites.
And Paul says, “Let their lives be an example…a warning to you. That we shouldn’t “grumble” or “test God”
That we should trust Him…even when sin is trying to harden us and foolishly get us to think of the glory days…that weren’t actually glory days at all…they were SLAVERY!
The Book of Hebrews actually speaks on the Wilderness experience as well. At first, the writer is actually just quoting Psalm 95…as this story Echoes all over the Bible.
(Hebrews 3:7-11) – NIV
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”
What’s really interesting about that passage is God was angry with them because he says, “For forty years…they saw what I did”
They saw…his wrath pass over them because they put the blood of the lamb on their doorframes.
Goodness…they saw him part a sea and they walked through it
They followed a cloud by day…and a pillar of fire by night
He rained bread from the sky! He gave them water from a rock.
And yet...they kept not trusting him for the daily battles they faced.
Their memories betrayed them.
They remembered sin as being greater than it was and God as being less than He is.
And isn’t that us. Isn’t that us?
We remember sin as being grater than it was and God as being less than He is.
But here’s the thing…if God could do the great thing…deliver them from slavery…through a lamb…through the sea…then they should’ve have trusted he could find a way to get them food or water.
And the same is true for us. This is why it’s so important we remember our salvation often.
Because listen…if God was able…to die on a cross for you…forgive you…wipe away every sin you’ve ever done…offer you eternal life…bring your soul to heaven when you die…change the very composition of your body…and then let you live in this different dimension called heaven for all of eternity…
Surely he can find you a job.
Surely he can fix your relationship
Surely he can help pay that bill
See, you’ve already trusted Christ for the big thing (salvation/eternity), trust Him for the needs, the problems, the difficulties of your daily life
This is the example from the Israelites Paul talks about.
They missed it.
God had already moved…He had already proved himself trustworthy!
God has already delivered you from slavery, from bondage, brought you through the sea…
You can trust Him!
It costs God infinitely more to send His son to the cross to be judged for our sins than ANYTHING else He could do for us now.
If you’re facing a “no-water situation” like the Israelites in your life right now…if you’re in a spot where you can’t see the cloud of God you’re supposed to follow…if you feel under attack, it doesn’t mean God isn’t there or isn’t true…or isn’t trustworthy.
Learn from the bad example of the Israelites.
He’s already proven Himself trustworthy. Has he not?!?
If you’re in a “no-water situation” or “can’t see the cloud,” it may be hard, but realize it’s also just an opportunity for God to show His glory!
And His story.
And sometimes the glory of his story is for us to go through trial first.
The exodus wouldn’t be much of a story without conflict.
And then Moses said “We’re leaving…and Pharaoh said oh well…and they lived happily ever after”
Not much of God’s glory in that.
So beware of your tendency, like the Israelites, to remember sin as being greater than it was and God as being less than He is.
And as the writer of Hebrews continues in Chapter 3:
(Hebrews 3:13) – NIV
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
That “deceitfulness” is that faulty memory that exalts sin and lessens God.
And how do you guard against it? Encourage one another daily.
You help each other when you’re drifting.
This is why something like House Groups is so important.
If you’re not in one yet, when the second semester starts in January…and we do sign-ups again…sign-up.
Get around people who will encourage you. Help you stay on track.
And Trust Jesus.
Because He is the bread that will sustain you.
And He is the rock…the fountain of living water.
And He is the light you can follow.
Thank you for this incredible example in Scripture this morning.
We pray that you would help us remember the pain of slavery.
The sleepless nights and the regretful mornings.
And help us not to go back…or even want to go back.
And help us remember your glory. Your love. Your faithfulness.
Increase our trust.
And may we give more of our lives over to you.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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