THE PATH TO A NEW LIFE [11/21/20]

In the story of the Exodus, the land of Egypt is a representation of the evil sinful and ungodly way of life, and when God delivered His people, the Israelites, it is recorded that “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.” <Ex.13:17 (NIV)>, so He led them by the desert road by way of the Sinai Peninsular to their promised land of Canaan.

When we are saved from a life of sin and its oppression, God does not immediately allow us to experience the difficulties of serving Him, but He leads us in the quietness of the desert-way so that we can be instructed by His Holy Spirit in living the life of a Christian. The road through the Philistine country would be a picture of travelling through the habitation of all of Satan’s demons, as this route to Canaan was the main highway that would have been guarded by Egyptian fortresses. The desert road however, would be the way of all pilgrims then and now, for it represents the journey that besets us all as God’s children; it is the way of fear, uncertainty, grief, anger, doubt, discouragement, and temptation (A Way Through The Wilderness, by Jamie Buckingham); Moses and the Israelites faced these difficulties, and you and I face them constantly as we journey on with God through our wilderness life. Our wilderness life is God’s tutoring where we learn to deal with all the above through the teaching of The Holy Spirit <see Jn.14:26; 16:13-14>.

Here we see the promise to every believer in Christ that God will never leave or forsake us as we seek to follow Him, He will constantly lead us just as he led the Israelites; “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. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” <Ex.13:21-22 (NIV); Deut.31:6; Heb.13:5b>. There will be frightening periods in our life where we are faced with difficulties so great that we are overcome by fear, but God encourages us <Ex.14:10,13-14> and protects us from Satan’s attacks <Ex.14:19-22>, and provides us with an eternal protection from the attacks of Satan <Ex.14:26-31>. How does all of this translate to our Christian lives? Paul, the apostle, in writing to Christians addressed this by teaching us, that there is no condemnation (judgment) to those that follow Christ <Rom.8:1-4>, and that we will never be separated from Christ <Rom.8:31-39>. Just as God led His people through their wilderness journey, He leads us today through our wilderness journey. For forty years of their life God led the Israelites through the desert, through many differing circumstances, teaching them His way; and for us He will do the same until we reach our promised land – heaven, for this is His promise <Jn.14:2-3>.  

God made the freedom of the Israelites complete in all His dealings with them in their wilderness journey, they lacked nothing that was needed <Deut.2:7>, God had delivered them from their life of slavery; and God has delivered us as Christians from our life of slavery to sin and will one day allow us to enter His eternal rest <Gal.5:1; Heb.4:1-3>. How is your wilderness journey going? Another lesson to be learned from the Exodus is that of separation, the Israelites were separated from their captors by the crossing of the Red Sea, and this is God’s design in Salvation. God saved the Israelites from their slavery and immediately separated them from the influence of Egypt by leading them through the Red Sea into the desert of Sinai; and in a similar manner God saves the sinner from the slavery of sin and its penalty through His death, burial and resurrection <Col.2:13-15; Rom.5:8-9; 2 Cor.5:17-19>, and separates (sanctifies) the individual unto Himself through His grace <2 Thess.2:13; 1 Pet.1:2>, and the work of The Holy Spirit <Gal.1:3-4>, and encourages us to live in His freedom a life of separation from the ungodly world systems <Col.2:6-8>. There was one problem for the Israelites that caused them to doubt and to disobey God’s commands throughout their wilderness journey, there were Egyptians that joined them in their Exodus. Later on they even intermarried <Ex.12:38; 9:20; Num.24:10>; they caused doubt and fear and rebellion among God’s people; and this is also a problem for Christians today. We have been warned by God’s Word that we should separate ourselves from this ungodly world and not to accept or be influenced by the social systems that encircle us, even to the point of marriage; so often we see Christian young people marrying unbelievers, and Christians involving themselves in other ways with unbelievers leading to their demise and a shattered testimony <see 1 Cor.10:1-6; 2 Cor.6:16-7:1>. Let us all as Christians take our journey through the cross of Christ (our Red Sea) and follow Him in separation and obedience <Matt.16:24-26>. “As the Red Sea rolled between the children of Israel and Egypt, so stands the Cross between the believer and the world” (From Egypt to Canaan by John Ritchie).

LIBERATION FROM OPPRESSION [10/10/20]

Similar to any desire to free oneself from sinful oppression, so it was for the Israelites when Moses and Aaron presented God’s command to Pharaoh “Let my people go” <Ex.5:1>, Pharaoh immediately declared open non-compliance and demanded that the oppression be increased; “Who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” <Ex.5:2 (NIV)>. This is the method of the devil as he attempts to impede the liberation of the sinner. How often in life an individual, who has become a slave to some depravity or pattern of life, attempts to break away only to be snared and returned to the life of slavery? There seems to be no way of escape and the demands of slavery increases, <see Ex.5:9, 11>. Similarly, the devil does not let go of the sinner and deters in every way the individual’s decision to turn to God in repentance. There are four deceptions recorded in Exodus 5 to 10 used by Pharaoh that can be associated with the tactics of Satan, as he attempts to impede the Israelites from obedience to God’s command; “Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God” <Ex.5:1, 3 (NIV)>. This was God’s method of salvation for His people then and now; the three days are a representation of Christ’s suffering and death, His Burial and resurrection, that completed His work of salvation; this salvation which is the only escape from the bondage of sin.

The first of the devil’s deceptions is observed in Pharaoh’s suggestion to Moses and Aaron: “Go sacrifice to your God here in the land” <Ex.8:25>. Satan understands that he cannot fight against God, but he will do everything in his power through craftiness to cause the new believer, and even the older believer, to stumble and fail; so, he suggests that the Israelites “sacrifice in the land”. This deception is still being suggested today as Satan’s aim is to destroy the very object of our salvation and testimony to the true God, the Cross of Christ. If Satan cannot deter the liberation of a sinner through visible obstruction, he will subtly keep the individual sacrificing in the land, and Satan has certainly succeeded in this deception. Satan has no objection to any person adopting a form of religion where one can uphold a successful moral standing in today’s culture without being a sincere follower of Christ <2 Tim.3:5>, such people are accepted and praised by the social order but do not have an effective witness for Christ, causing the name of God to be ridiculed. A worldly religion embraces everything, condemns nothing except the committed follower of Christ, Satan hates an absolute separation to God. As a professing Christian, have you completed your three-day journey? Have you separated yourself from worldly influences? You cannot present a true testimony for God or worship Him in spirit and sincerity, while at the same time fellowshipping in a worldly religion; the call of God is clear; “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” <2 Cor.6:14-17 (NIV)>

The second deception of Satan is identified in Pharaoh’s next offer: “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the desert, but you must not go very far.” <Ex.8:28 (NIV)>, or in simple terms “do not go too far away”. Satan prefers that the believer does not go too far, just far enough so that he can draw the individual back under his control, destroying the persons testimony as a separated follower of Christ. A modern-day type of Christianity – “Borderland Christianity” is very common, and is a great tool for Satan as it fits his purpose; a Christian who is “luke-warm” is nothing more than a stumbling block to everyone, a hypocrite, having no capacity for anything, respected by no one, and lives a discouraging life. The account of Lot in Genesis pictures this type of Christianity, where he lived a life of hypocrisy so that he had no testimony in his city and when the judgment of God was imminent his sons-in-law would not believe him <see Gen.19:14; cf Rev.3:15-17>; he was ridiculed as his worldliness completely paralyzed his preaching. All believers in Christ must recognise this deception, for Satan will say to us “don’t go too far”, you can be a Christian but you can still indulge in actions and things that may be questionable for a believer in Christ, why not, others are doing so. But are they correct? We are taught by scriptures that God’s people, or followers of Christ, are chosen, holy, God’s possession, to declare God’s praises <1 Pet.2:9>; and we are also instructed that we should not live an ungodly life <Eph.4:17; 1 Cor.3:3>. It is very easy for us to follow what others are doing, we must be like others is the encouragement, but unfortunately such action will only lead to disappointment and discouragement in our walk with Christ <see Ex.8:26-27>; we are encouraged to be like Christ in all our ways. Therefore, we must insist on our “three-day journey” – a complete separation from the world if we are to be an effective Christian.

Satan’ next deception is seen where he suggests: “Have only the men go; and worship the Lord” <Ex.10:11 (NIV)>; Pharaoh will allow them to go but they must leave the women and children behind. This is a clever deception and can be seen in the actions of some Christian parents today where their children are encouraged to participate in worldly practices so as to be successful and acceptable by the social order of the day; the end result being that their children are so influenced by worldly pleasures and practices they are far from being followers of Christ. Both Lot and Eli the priest were guilty of this and their children are an example of those that are left to worship in a worldly manner <see 1 Sam.2:12, 22-25>, symbolizing a warning to all Christian parents today. The decision is, and always should be; “We will go with our young and old, with our sons and daughters, and with our flocks and herds” <Ex.10:9 (NIV)>, since all that we have and are must be dedicated to God.

The final deception recorded is: “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” <Ex.10:24 (NIV)>. This sounds reasonable since taking their flocks and herds would create great difficulty, but this stopped short of God’s demand; everything that they owned was required to make the journey “until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the Lord.” <Ex.10:26 (NIV)>; God must have all when we decide to follow Him, we cannot deny God of what belongs to Him; so, Moses’ response was “not a hoof is to be left behind” <Ex.10:26 (NIV)> everything must go.

Christ’s call to follow Him demands a response of full commitment <Mk.1:17-20; Lk.5:11>, we have to make a decision to follow Christ, and such decision means that everything that we are and have goes with that decision, and we see many examples in Scripture where individuals are called to make that decision, Moses refused to lower God’s claims, Daniel was thrown into the Lions den and the furnace of fire rather than deny God, to name a few. We must understand that it is the responsibility of all disciples of Christ to leave the world behind and take the journey of the Cross when we decide to follow Christ, taking all that we have and dedicating it to Christ.

A LIFE OF OPPRESSION [9/26/20]

Time and again when faced with the constraints in life that we consider restrictive, we desire to be liberated, we decide to leave home and travel to the other side of the city, the country, or travel to a distant country to start life anew away from what we considered confining. Here we can do “our own thing”, what we desire to do, without having to be accountable to anyone; and here the dilemma commences. We get involved with other like-minded individuals and get captivated on fascinations that begin to enslave us, and we get so involved there is no escape from our captivity; we long to be liberated but are unable break away

The first chapter of the Book of Exodus gives us an illustration of what life was like for the descendants of Jacob, the Israelites, who had put down roots in Egypt because of a time of food shortage in Canaan. It is recorded that the original seventy descendants had “multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous” <Ex.1:7 (NIV)>, the older folk had all died and now there was a new group of people. So, the king of Egypt decided to deal deviously with them because he was fearful thy would join with his enemies in case there was conflict with the surrounding nations; “So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor” <Ex.1:11 (NIV)>. This began a life of oppression for a people who were trying to survive a difficult time in their history; they were enjoying life in their new habitat and life was appearing encouraging, now they are faced with a harsh reality as their supervisors “made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.” <Ex.1:14 (NIV)>.

Here, a picture emerges of what life is like for each of us today. We consider ourselves to be at liberty, free to live as we wish, we enjoy all the pleasures that life has to offer. We work, we party, we participate in all the so-called fun activities, and there is no accountability for our actions; not realizing that life is becoming more and more oppressive. Suddenly we awaken to the fact that we are slaves to the habits that we have presumed and there is no escape, as we look for a way out of our oppression.

The Scriptures teach us that this is the condition of all people, as we are under the oppression of Satan. In Scripture, Egypt is a characteristic of the worldly society in which we live, and Pharaoh is a symbol of Satan. Mankind, is sinful by nature <see Psa.51:5>, and is a slave to Satan, and this worldly society in which we live is the scene of his slavery, fastened to him by our sins we are unable to free ourselves for we do not have the power to do so <see Rom.7:14-18>. Not only are we bound to Satan, we are an instrument for his use in doing evil <2 Tim.2:26>; he has blinded our eyes and darkened our understanding <2 Cor.4:4; Eph.4:18>, prompting us to think that our bondage is liberty as we take pleasure in the very sins that bind us to him. Certainly, we continue to have pleasure in our manner of living because Satan allows us to have some freedom to enjoy life, just as the Israelites did <see Num.11:5> in their days of slavery; Satan also deals deceitfully with us. He relaxes our oppressions and releases his chains so that we can enjoy the pleasures of sin and remain bound and blinded for ever. The only escape from physical slavery is the death of the slave; unfortunately, for spiritual slavery physical death is not the end, for Scripture teaches us that the final sentence is eternity separate from, and away from God <Rom.3:23; 6:23a>.

How then can we escape the oppression of sin? Again, we see the illustration in the life of Israel: “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land…” <Ex.3:7-8 (NIV)>. Just as the Israelites were not able to free themselves or pay for their redemption from the oppression of Egypt and Pharaoh, sinful mankind is in the same situation; we cannot deliver ourselves from the oppression of Satan; and just as freedom for Israel came down from heaven, mankind has to be delivered from sin’s enslavement in the same way; there has to be an intervention from heaven because “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly” <Psa.49:7 (NIV)>. Therefore, God had to intervene on behalf of all mankind by sending His Son from heaven to pay the price of our redemption <Jn.3:16; 1 Tim.1:15>. And since the penalty for sin is spiritual (eternal) death <Rom.6:23>, Christ had to suffer death on the Cross so as to pay the redemption price for the sins of mankind <see Heb.2:14-17; 9:26b-28; 1 Pet.2:24; 2 Cor.5:21>.

There was only one way out of Egypt’s oppression for the Israelites; and there is only one way in which mankind can be delivered from the oppression of sin, which is by way of the provision that God has made. There is only one way of salvation from sin and that is through Jesus Christ <Acts 4:12>. Certainly, there may have been Israelites that could have remained in Egypt, snubbing God’s redemptive plan for them; and certainly there are those individuals today that have spurned and will continue to spurn God’s provision for salvation, but the results are the same; there will be no liberation from the bondage and oppression of sin, and the final sentence will be served <Rev.20:12-15>.

So, the question is: Have you been delivered from Satan’s bondage, or are you still a slave to sin? If you have not been delivered from your oppression to sin, the way out is acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for your sins; believe the message of the gospel <see Rom.1:16; Jn.1:12-13; 5:24; Acts 16:30-31>.