Tag Archives: Exodus

Exodus 18:1ff Sustainable Shepherding 5-17-15

Exodus Studies Pic


Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 31
Sustainable Shepherding…
Ex 18:1ff

Introduction…At first glance this study do-over from 2003 didn’t seem to connect with me much until the application at the end, and then it was like being hit with a bullet right between the eyes—deadly convicting. Why the sudden impact? Because we all have lots to do, or it seems that way at times. Well, so did Moses as he was leading the Children of Israel from their former Egyptian bondage and persecution through the wilderness to their Promise Land destiny. Can you imagine all the logistical nightmares and conflicts between three million people attempting to migrate from one corner of the world to just around the block? The task had to be daunting, and there was NO current leadership or management structure in place. No doubt there were tribes and families, and enough organizational structure to fight battles with, which they had just done with the Amalekites, but apparently, something more was needed—a system of administrative courts or judges or leaders where tasks could be meted out and problems resolved.

Is this not our lives, perhaps not so much with younger children, but certainly as they get older and have assignments to finish, chores to get done, problems and conflicts to solve, desires to fulfill and goals and dreams to ponder? And how does one manage all this? I am a perpetual list maker. I have lists on my marker board at church, on my marker board at home, in my little notebook that I carry with me and in my larger notebook that I carry in my backpack. I can make a list of fifty to hundred things to do in minutes. Sometimes, my lists overwhelm me and I want to run away from them because they seem never to get done. Some of the things on my list are overwhelming. I write them down like they are no big deal, and then over time come to realize that these desires or tasks may take years, even decades, to accomplish, as some have taken, and still others are still waiting to be checked off my list. Thus, I am not always so discerning about my lists. And my lists are not just about accomplishing impersonal things. In fact, many of them have to do with people, which may include difficult questions or conversations—some of these conversational approaches I must prayerfully incubate for days, weeks, months, even years.

smile overwhelmed

So why do I think in endless lists and conversations with people that may take years to accomplish, if ever? Because I live. In fact, we all live… in what is now an imperfect world. Things break. People are broken. Relationships are broken. And as God’s redeemed and maturing ministering spirits or sons, this IS our task in a post-Eden fallen culture. It was once to manage a perfect garden with a helpmate, which I am not sure how all this looked or took shape, but that has now all changed.

Now we fight; now we work, and then rebel, sneak, lie, cheat, as well as, attempt to build productive coalitions that hopefully attack the never-ending, viral and devastating effects of evil or sin unleashed on a foolishly, naïve culture. In fact, I had a public defender, a very good one, tell me recently that if he could take away alcohol and drugs, there would be no need for public defenders. Almost all crime can be traced back to this slippery pursuit of immediate. short-term pleasure. Well, we tried taking away the alcohol for the very same reason several generations ago, and well, that was certainly an experiment in rearranging life’s moral clutter.

Bottom line: we all can have a lot to do because the world and people need managing and attending to, and if we are to do it well or with passion, we will have a lot to do, and if we have any hope of enduring, as we do it, we will need help.

And as his children, we have been given the basis for that help in our Spiritual Nanny or Tutor of sorts, His Spirit, but no doubt both within Israel’s vast journey within the Old Testament and the Church’s within the New Testament and beyond, the Holy Trinity of Relationship, the Godhead, Three in One, has determined that its children will perform their task of subduing or managing a fallen creation and culture—as brothers and sisters, learning to die to our sin an and selfishness, and, with the help of the Spirit, learning to work together as a team for a common Spiritual good in Christ.

A part of this study is about learning how to manage that Spiritual team of energy, vision, mercy, hope, love and passion effectively. Thus, whatever purpose God’s Spirit is leading you to shepherd, serve or grow with, don’t discount the purpose or value of Jethro’s wisdom to his son-in-law because whether you realize it or not, you are Moses in a fall world…with a whole lot to do, and if you think about it, probably more than you could ever imagine.

Your servant,


General Introduction: Moses, led by God, is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers many centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems. Last week God via Moses’ staff delivered the Israelites from two enemies: a lack of water and the fierce Amalekites.

This week Moses while attempting to solve all the Israelites problems is given a great piece of wisdom from his father-in-law who has brought out Moses’ wife and children to meet him.

Recent Studies…

Israel sing out its praise to Yahweh of Yahweh God’s delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army. Ex. 15:1ff.

After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.

Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.

In turn, along with the introduction of the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, Yahweh meets his complaining children’s desperate needs with the remarkable daily provision of manna. Ex. 16:19-36.

Via the staff Yahweh had provided Moses with, God delivers Israel from two fierce enemies; a scarcity of water and the Amalekites. Ex. 17:1ff.

Israel has her first ally on her way from Egypt to her Promise Land, Moses’ father-in-law, apparently an important Midianite priest. Ex. 18:1ff.

Pray for Insight…

Read Passage several times…

Ask Questions…

18:13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.   

Why was Moses judging the people by himself? Isn’t it strange? Why we would not think that 2-3 million people living and traveling together in the desert would not have a myriad of problems? After all they were people just like any other people. What kind of problems were they bringing him? Note: they had no law at this moment in time. They also had no organizational structure outside the tribal leadership.

14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”  

This could not have been fun to sit in this line all day—about like waiting in line at an amusement park on or West Highway 76.

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.   

At least this is God, if they want to know God’s will. Why would Moses know the answer to every situation? Did he pray? Did God answer? Why didn’t God tell him that there was a better way or was God doing that through Moses’ father-in-law?

16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”   

How did Moses know God’s decrees and laws? After all just a short while before, he was just a nomadic shepherd tending his sheep in the desert when he saw the burning bush.

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.   

18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.   

19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.   

20 Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.   

A huge principle…teach them the decrees. Don’t keep them dependent upon you. Teach them how to think spiritually.

21 But select capable men from all the people –men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain –and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.   

Just like in the army—brigades, regiments, companies and platoons. Why both the hundreds and fifties? This sounds a little redundant.

22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.   

Just like our court system today with its smaller courts and it supreme courts, both state and federal. I like the concept of sharing the load.

23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”  

You won’t crash and they will go home satisfied. For one reason they won’t have to wait all day for a small decision. 

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.   

Why? Why had he not thought of this before? Or had the courage to implement it?

25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.   

26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.   

27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.


Who? Moses, judge, the people, father-in-law, God, the parties, representative, capable men, men who fear God, trustworthy men, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, judges, capable men, all Israel, leaders of the people, Jethro.

Where?  Around him, to me, home, from all Israel, on his way, to his own country.

When? The next day, morning till evening, whenever, now, at all times, at all times, then Moses sent his father-in-law.


• Moses takes his seat to judge the people who waited the entire day.

• When Moses’ father-in-law sees this very inefficient and staggering load he asks Moses why?

• Moses responds that the people come to him seeking God’s will in their disputes, and he informs them of God’s decrees.

• Moses’ father-in-law challenges Moses that what he is doing is not good. They will both wear out.

• Moses’ father-in-law suggests to him to teach the people’s God’s laws and show them how to live.

• But first he must select capable, trustworthy men who are not corruptible from the power that they are about to receive.

• Men from all over the nation and appoint leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

• Let them decide the simpler cases and those they can’t, then have them bring them to you.

• You will be able to stand the strain and they will not grow frustrated and tired for having to wait so long.

• Moses implanted his father-in-law’s advice and then sent his father-in-law back on his way home.

Summary…When have one of our first great leadership lessons in the Scriptures: the selection of capable, honest leadership and administration of God’s kingdom. Teach people the law and how to apply it; then select very capable, godly, non-corruptible men to manage the decision making among the Israelites.

Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)

• People are imperfect and not objective and therefore need leaders, rulers, judges, etc. to arbitrate their differences. In other words, as much as we hate to admit it, we need the referees.

• Sometimes we and even good leaders will try to do way too much, rather than delegate or ask for help, perhaps fearing people will turn us down or will not do as good a job as we would.

• There are more problems than we can imagine in the world. People are sinners.

• Jethro affirmed Moses’ ultimate responsibility to represent the people to God. He just gave him a better way to do it.

• Jethro advised and Moses followed through with the selection of capable, godly, non-corruptible men.

• This also has to be built on the foundation of Godly teaching, or a teaching of the underlying principles and foundations. The truth + capable leadership.

• Jethro and Moses also built a pyramidal appellate system for the more difficult cases.

• Jethro stayed long enough to see the system working fine.

• God had a purpose in bringing Jethro to his son-in-law. God uses people to give good counsel to other people.

So What?

2003 Application…

Struggle? Getting all the new Bermuda grass planted, watered and established properly, rocks and all.

Truth? God’s word teaches that via a combination of the theory and delegation, I should be able to accomplish a difficult task.

Application? I have used this system with respect to Sunday mornings, worship, home churches, the Learning Center and constructing our church. Now I am trying to make it work with respect to our Youth, Outreach, Visitor follow-up and assimilation into our Body, Facilities and Grounds, teaching and writing.

Show me how, Lord. Show me how. Show me the way. Give me my Jethro. Show me the light. Send me the help as well as the capable men to help me accomplish your goals for our church. I ask this mercifully in your son’s name.

2014 Update and Application…This is good to reflect back because so often we don’t. We just ignore or forget, but this forces me to ask and answer what did I learn in the intervening twelve years? Are things different? Did things change? How have I changed? Did I change or am I, as I have been noted of saying from time to time, just rearranging the same old furniture or clutter, or did things because of my faith, study and attempt to apply what I was learning change me or my life?

With respect to the grass, it did get planted, and it has been maintained over the years. Without water, the cool season has struggled mightily, and I mean mightily. And actually the warm season Bermuda appears like a motley mess right now. It’s been fertilized, but I am experimenting with NOT killing all the clover, henbit and chickweed, among other intruders. My assumption is that as things heat up, those varieties will die out, and the Bermuda may have more of a chance. But there does seem to be a threaded theme in much of what I do and that is without enough of the resources to get the job done, we get by. It’s not the best, and it’s not the worst. It could be much better, but it ain’t bad. So we continue on, in hopes of one day, who knows? And if not, then it was a great run, and by process of elimination, we learned a lot…a whole lot. Perhaps those behind us will do a better job.

As far as applying all this to my administering the church’s many tasks, I would say it is about the same as my managing the grounds. It could be much better, but it ain’t bad. At least it’s real. There are so many good people taking the initiative to do so many good things, within the body, the community and within their own families, and yet we still have our ministry holes, but at least what we do and who we are is for the most part NOT FAKE. It is the Real McCoy, and as far as heaven is concerned, I think that is far far more important. Our Father knows our maturity and immaturity, and he is present through his Spirit. We are dynamic, meaning NOT static, and what God wants to do with us, is his business and for his glory and purposes. Our responsibility is to seek Him and be obedient to his Spirit’s leadership as best we can. We leave the results and the bigger picture up to God. Amen.

So have I or we changed? Yes. Still making mistakes? Yes. Still learning the fine art of growing healthy sod or sheep? Absolutely. And thank God for his grace, blood, mercy and forgiveness because without it, we would be one self-condemned mess, but with it, we persevere…we grow…we learn…we love…we hope…we strive…we trust…we cry, laugh, grieve, believe, confront, teach, challenge, listen, serve, inspire, forgive, seek to understand and Spiritually influence and our certainly disciplined…we are. We are his beloved children, not based on our own righteousness, but his, and still growing up…


Thanksgiving…Seemingly a wonderfully productive day yesterday. Lots of variety… writing in the morning, pastoral visitation, listening to and loving on older people, finding and figuring out, with some prayerful help, believe it or not, how to get a new mowing belt on the church’s lawnmower, which was not easy due to the belt’s tension, then finishing up mowing the church’s grounds, then coming in late, and after taking a much-needed shower, watching an old tear-jerker WWII propaganda movie, the White Cliffs of Dover, with my wife, and then just having some special time with my wife as we ended our day, as well as, getting to read a chapter of the Washington biography that I am currently reading on…very slowly, which is so incredible, both in research, composition and subject matter. Last night, among other things, I was reading about Washington’s siege of Boston in 1775, with little to zero ammunition and countless obstacles to overcome, including short-term enlistments and a poorly trained New England-militia-based Continental Army. It was good just to read about how even Washington whined privately and how Martha overcame harsh traveling conditions to be with her husband every winter he was away from home commanding a very stretched military, which was every winter. They were two very special individuals. Thanks, Lord, for our day yesterday, and by the way, there have been many special ones here lately. And by the way, I need a lot more of them. There seems to be no end in sight of all that needs constantly attending to. Not only continue to multiply me, make me and those whom you do multiply into your Spiritual workforce better than me…for your kingdom and glory, NOT mine. Heaven forbid!

Struggle…At first, I was wondering how I might reapply the core of this study’s truth? How stupid! This is my life, and I am NOT shepherding three million people through a hostile desert with little tangible provisions in order to reclaim lands from hostile tribes that are NOT going to want to give up what they are currently occupying, and doing all this with very imperfect, stubborn people. Wait, a second! THIS IS MY LIFE!

Truth… It seems nothing has changed. If you want to do something good, you will encounter obstacles, whether by the sheer number as Moses was dealing with or the overwhelming task assigned George Washington in 1775-76 or my life today. You can’t do it alone. But finding, inspiring, recruiting, empowering, shepherding, training, teaching, forgiving, being forgiven, caring for this leadership is still an incredible Spiritual balancing act. Jethro’s main point to Moses here—you can’t do it alone, so organize it, and then and only then, play your much more necessary final appeals role, much like our Supreme Court seems to be the final arbiter legal matters with respect to our own country. Secondly, in a fallen world, mixed with Evil, there will be no shortage or problems or complaints, therefore it can’t be about solving all those completely, but simply managing them fairly and in a timely manner. But as far as problems go, they will never ever completely go away, so therefore, one might as well accept them and seek the Lord’s leadership in dealing with them appropriately, and this includes bringing others along with you in this fight, in this management, in this struggle, and this is how they too grow up and realize their purpose.

Application…As I sit here for just one moment and prayerfully analyze my own leadership style, I find both the good and the bad in it. I think for the long term, I am probably not to bad. In fact, I think I have nurtured, revealed, taught a bit, encourage and empowered lots of potential leader types over the years. And in fact, I would speculate that this really is the church or the shepherds of the flock’s final responsibility…to raise up leaders…people who will make a difference in this world. I know this is how I have felt about my kids, even my wife, and much of my flock. Having a purpose; growing up; making a Spiritually healthy difference in a culture that is quickly and vastly retreating from much of an allegiance to or dependency upon its Maker.

So in the long run, not so bad. But I fear, in the short-run I give too much latitude…that I need to be checking on my undershepherds and leader types more. Why don’t I? Laziness? Fear of finding out things are worse than I thought? Or that someone is done or burned out and I have to go and find their replacement? Not wanting to bother people? Trying to do it by myself? All the typical avoidances and excuses. On the one hand this works out good because it allows people to struggle through challenges without being rescued too quickly. It also exposes people and especially servant-leader types rather quickly. On the other hand, I have got to wonder if some of my sheep or undershepherds are wondering where is this guy? Why is he NOT checking on me? Is he going to check on me? What do I do, if he doesn’t? Do I like this freedom or do I want more accountability, encouragement or help?

God, you know my many pastoral shepherding weaknesses and flaws. I stand open to your correction…your teaching. Lead me to those who need what you want to give them through your servant, including a little extra time and attention.

Your servant,

Joseph M. Cross

Your struggle?



Your struggles?



Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 18:1ff Becoming a Friend Indeed 5-10-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 30
Becoming A Friend Indeed…
Ex 18:1ff

Introduction…Who is your best friend? Ever had one? Ever lost one? Where did that friend come from? Why were they your best friend? Were you their best friend? What did they bring to the table? What did you bring to the table? Did they help you? How and why? Did you help them? Are you still friends? If so, why? If not, why? Did something occur to damage the friendship? Some betrayal of friendship? Were you sure there was a betrayal or did you presume a betrayal? Or were you the one to betray the friendship? Isn’t it interesting how most typically, it is always someone betraying us that ends the friendship, but if that is true, and we are all the victims, then who are the betrayers? Is betrayal, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? Where is God in this divinely-inspired relationship?


Before Jethro can fully help Moses and Moses’ stewardship, he must demonstrate his complete Spiritual loyalty and allegiance to Moses. There is nothing better than two friends who both have a deep reverence for God, or his Son, Jesus Christ. If both love God, then they will act God-like and resolve differences, and as they resolve differences, the Spiritual whole of the relationship will be greater that the sum of its individual parts separated. The Spirit seeks to build unity…true unity, and true unity is no easy thing to achieve, but once achieved, it is difficult to undo.

General Introduction: Moses, led by God, is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers seven centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems. Last week, God via Moses’ staff, delivered the Israelites from two enemies: a lack of water and the fierce Amakelites.

Recent Studies…

Israel sings out its praise to Yahweh of Yahweh God’s delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army. Ex. 15:1ff.

After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.

Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.

In turn, along with the introduction of the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, Yahweh meets his complaining children’s desperate needs with the remarkable daily provision of manna. Ex. 16:19-36.

Last Week: Via the staff Yahweh had provided Moses with, God delivers Israel from two fierce enemies; a scarcity of water and the Amalekites. Ex. 17:1ff.


Read Passage several times…

Ask Questions…

Great Sea Map-Route-Exodus-Israelites-Egypt

18:1 Now Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 

What do we previously know about the father of Moses’ wife from Ex. 2:16ff? In 2:18, he is called “Reuel” (which means “friend of God’), and in 3:1, he is called “Jethro” (which means “his abundance”), as he is here? Why two different names? Both descriptions have him being a priest of Midian. Who did the Midianites worship or serve? How did they view Yahweh? Did they worship or serve other gods?

2 Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Moses’ wife Zipporah, after he had sent her away, 3 and her two sons, of whom one was named Gershom, for Moses said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” 

Does Gershom mean “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land”?

4 The other was named Eliezer, for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh.”

Does the same apply here to “Eliezer” also… does “Eliezer” mean “my father’s God was my help”? So Moses named both his sons after his past experiences…

5 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness where he was camped, at the mount of God. 

So is Moses being reunited with his family?

6 He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.” 

Why such a formal reunion? Was Jethro unsure about Moses now that he had defeated Pharaoh and was leading this incredible expedition away from Egypt and towards the Promise Land? Was he unsure whether Moses would reclaim his wife and children?

Moses reunit wife

7 Then Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, and he bowed down and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare and went into the tent.

With this action, Moses leaves no doubt that he is receiving his Midianite wife and children back.

8 Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had befallen them on the journey, and how the Lord had delivered them. 

What a story to have heard…




9 Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the Lord had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 

10 So Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 

11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” 

So Jethro is certainly in sympathy with all that Yahweh has done for and with Moses and the children of Israel, which means that in contrast to the fearful and threatened foreign powers, such as the Amalekites, who have just attempted to wage war against Israel, but were defeated, Jethro is clearly throwing in his lot with Moses and the Israelites.

12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

A spiritual treaty between Israel and the powerful Midianite priest Jethro in the presence of God has just been ratified. Israel has her first ally.






• Moses’ father-in-law hears about the incredible and miraculous delivery that Yahweh God has performed for Israel and Moses and clearly decided to reapproach Moses and Israel with Moses’ Midianite family.

• Jethro, after hearing Moses official recounting of all that God had done for Moses and Israel, rejoices in this deliverance, recognizes Yahweh God as the source of this miraculous salvation and celebrates a feast in Yahweh’s honor and in the presence of the elders of Israel and in which Jethro offers a sacrifice to Yahweh God.

Bottom line…Moses’ father-in-law, apparently an important Midianite priest, becomes Israel’s first ally on her way from Egypt to her Promise Land.

Whys? (What truths do I learn about God, people, life or myself?)

• This passage sets the scene for the very next passage in which God will use Jethro to advise Moses on how to more effectively manage his people since one man can’t do a very good job with perhaps millions. It would seem God is validating that God can and does use people we would not necessarily consider insiders to reveal his practical wisdom, but first Jethro must demonstrate his alliance with Moses and Israel and his reverence for Israel’s God, Yahweh, and Jethro, by returning Moses’ children and wife to Moses, as well as listening to Moses’ accounting of God’s deliverance and offering a sacrifice to Yahweh with Israel’s leadership present is clearly Spiritually and politically aligning himself with Israel and his son-in-law. Jethro will pose no threat to Israel. He will not side the pagan foreign nations whose land Israel must travel over to get to their Promise Land, nor the pagan nations in the Land. Jethro is choosing sides and is proving to be a practical and faithful ally to Moses and Israel, something both desperately need as Israel is about to enter, via her mediator, Moses, into her symbolic marriage covenant with her deliverer, Yahweh God. Thus one treaty precedes another.

A nation is being birthed and prepared for her homeland…her place in history and among the earth’s inhabitants. God is doing something very special here, and in Jethro, Yahweh provides for Israel her first and very much needed ally and friend.

So what do we do with this? Loyal friends are important and God can provide them from anywhere. How do we know that they are loyal? Do they come to us? Do they take the time to hear our story? Do they genuinely rejoice in our story of special deliverance and so much so that they worship with us? If so, then you might want to listen to their practical wisdom, as Moses is about to do, because they are the real deal. They are God’s messengers or angels sent to support us.


So What?

Thanksgiving…What a week. Last weekend was amazing with our friend Nancy singing and her willingness to share her very powerful, new and fresh story. It was everything I had hoped for initially six months ago, and then several months ago, when I learned of her Spiritual disability of sorts, much more. Nancy waited and trusted me. I trusted God, and God came exploding onto the scene. After that, lots of counseling, some unexpected. It seems more and more, my job, my gift and my ministry is to help untangle conflicted and confused thinking. I listen, I pray, I help untangle so that people, even if only momentarily, have rest or peace. I also got to write more, finishing up my first draft of the contribution of the general Hebrew word for “love.” I also got some special time with my wife, which I was indeed thankful for. My love, devotion and honor for her grows daily. I am a blessed man.

Struggle…Something is bugging me; not quite sure what it is. Trying to sort through my own conflicted pieces of a God’s divine puzzle. The truth. What does God have in store for me? For Fellowship? For my people? How are we to abide in the vine by trusting the Son’s atonement and learning to love, and especially pray, and allowing the Spirit to shape our consciences as we pray, for others. If our ministry…our abiding, begins with prayer, as Jesus seems to indicate to his disciples in John 15:7 and then John himself reiterates in his letters, then what form should those prayers take, and where will those prayers lead us—all of us?

Truth…We can’t do it alone; we need help. Who will help? Who, how and where will God Almighty raise up others to help us through the massive Spiritual undertaking of learning how to love and pray for others as Jesus loved and prayed for us? He will send us allies. Genuine allies. Those we can trust. If they come, listen, rejoice, worship and throw in their lot with us, especially in the face of constant foe, then they just may be of God, and therefore, invaluable in their wisdom. Such was the case for Moses; may it be the case for us. Send us Jethro’s, Lord. Send us, your Jethro’s.

Application…You have brought help from the unlikeliest of sources, God. Thanks for surprising gifts. Help us to be discerning, but when that discerning is complete, let us more effectively shepherd your desperately needy and searching flock.

Your servant,

Joseph M. Cross

Your struggle?



Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 16:19-36 Sustainable Bread 4-25-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 28
Sustainable Bread
Ex 16:19-36

Introduction: How would you feel if you skipped a meal? Okay, not the biggest loss in the world, but what about two meals? Now that is starting to push the envelope a bit? What about an entire day? Not the easiest thing to do, but it can be done, for some, is sadly the case? What about multiple days? Can you imagine fasting, perhaps just on juice and water, for an entire week? What about forty days? We take our daily food provision of food so for granted, so that even if we skip a meal or two or a few days worth of food, we can get very, very cranky, do we not? Now let me ask you another question? What about your daily Spiritual food allowance? Can anyone really imagine going very long without some thought or interaction with God or Spiritual truth? And yet some do it all the time. Some do it their entire lives. I can only imagine. My real concern is what kind of filter does that leave one for living life and making daily decisions? Where do ones ethics, values and morals arise from? Can this type of person really be trusted when it is all said and done? How do we know that when the chips are down, that in the end, this person won’t cut and run? We don’t. And yet, God’s children do. Why? Not enough Spiritual food. Not enough God. Not enough Spiritual nutrition. Want to have a reasonably healthy body, then eat well, sleep well and get plenty of exercise. Want to have a healthy mind, then Spiritually eat well, rest well and get plenty of Spiritual exercise in as you seek to fulfill your redeemed purpose in Christ—learn to love others well.

In the end, do you believe and trust that God’s Spirit will not only provide for my physical needs, but my Spiritual as well?

So here is my question: why might Yahweh be preparing his people for receiving his larger law in later chapters of Exodus via connecting their provision of daily manna with his Sabbath rest? Just something to think about, because that is what is just about to happen. The Spiritual and the physical are about to join. A legitimate resting from one’s labor…that is one in seven…is paramount to resting in God for one’s ongoing daily provision. Think about it.

This is an interesting section. Twice God seeks to meet his people’s needs and gives them specific directions how they are to do this? Twice some test him and fail to follow those specific directions. Twice someone gets angry. The first time, Moses; the second time, God. This chapter lays the powerful groundwork for the universal truth that God will meet our daily needs, while at the same time asking us for one day a week, set aside solely for enjoying him and his provision for those needs.

General Introduction:  Moses, led by God, is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers nearly seven centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems.

Wilderness of Sin Map copy

Recent Studies…

The sons and daughters of Israel sing out their praise to Yahweh because in what Yahweh God has just done in not only delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army, but in utterly annihilating Pharaoh’s army, Israel’s future, including her travel to and then being planted within her promised land is also secure. Ex. 15:1ff.

After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.

Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.


Read Passage several times…(if more than 12 verses, I would read only twice).

Ask Questions…

19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”   

What are they supposed to do this? Eat it all during the day and perhaps through the night, but by morning is the manna decayed or rotten? So for some reason, this food is highly perishable? Interesting, would refrigeration have kept it fresh? Was this to show that God would and could meet their daily needs? Why not store it up? (This seems huge to me…)

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Isn’t there always some who will try to cheat or bend the rules, test the limits? What are maggots? Fly larvae? Even if they had baked it, did it still go bad?   

 21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 

Like dew on the ground that disappears with the morning sun? Does this mean, like water, it was highly volatile, turning from a more liquid dew to water in the atmosphere? Amazing…

heart shape flower

“My first frost flower…..kind of a heart shape.

Perfect.” by Nancy Jesser Halsey (Posted on Facebook on November 13, 2014).

22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much –two omers for each person –and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.   

Why did the leaders feel this necessary to report this to Moses? Was this what they were supposed to do? Were the leaders concerned that the people should not have done this, just as they shouldn’t have on the other days when the manna had become rotten with fly maggots or larvae? And why did it work on the sixth day, but not any other day? Was this a miracle of God? How much is an omer? And notice, somehow divinely, much like your cell phone bill depends upon how many cell phones one has, the gatherable manna is pro-rated for the number of people per family, so that on that sixth day,  if you had 6 people in your family, you were allowed to gather 12 omers for two days worth of manna, but if you had seven people, one could gather 14 omers, and if you gathered 15 omers, or one omer too much, then I suppose that extra omer would rot? So, in essence, much as the cell phone companies can track a persons calls and call  minutes, texts and data usage, God, who created the laws of physics to do this kind of tracking to begin with, was able to do this with Israelite manna collection, even on that sixth day? Amazing…

23 He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: `Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'” 

So a person could both bake and boil manna?

Was this their first Sabbath because obviously, Yahweh had NOT given Moses Israel’s Laws or entered into a covenant with her yet? There was about to be a Law for Israel, but not yet. So the need to rest on the Sabbath is more important than the need to gather manna daily, not that gathering manna had to be necessarily difficult, which does beg the question, how long did it take to gather manna, and was it difficult or time consuming or easy? This says a lot about the importance of the Sabbath.  

24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.   

So, almost like a test, gathering twice as much manna on the sixth day did not result in the manna’s becoming full of maggots on the morning of the seventh day? Another miracle? A weekly suspension of natural laws related to the manna? What is God trying to teach Israel? Trust me? Listen to me? Worship me and I will meet your daily needs? I can make the bread rot one day and not the next.

25  “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today.   

The manna didn’t even appear. Again amazing. So with the gathering of the daily manna, gathering too much of it that it became rotten with maggots, gathering twice as much on the sixth day and it not rotting with maggots on the seventh day and there being no manna to gather on the seventh day now clearly anchors or establishes the Sabbath in the minds and hearts of these early Israelites. The Sabbath was real. God was resting, and so should they. A precedent had been set—a day to recharge the batteries…and someday, a day to worship.

26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”  

What does Sabbath mean? Why did they call it Sabbath? Because it was the seventh day or a day of rest, when one ceases from their labors?

27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 

Just as there were some who had to test gathering too much on a normal day, some had to test gathering manna on the seventh day?

28 Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?  

This testing of God’s commands now provokes Yahweh who asks their leader and soon-to-be mediator of the covenant a question.

29 Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”  

Wow! Not even go out and play? Not even go out and worship?  What was God trying to teach the people? Do our bodies, minds and souls need this kind of rest? I feel like mine does from time to time. Done; no juice; empty…

30 So the people rested on the seventh day.   

Did they just sleep? Lie around? Play games inside? Talk? What did they do?

31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.   

What is coriander seed? Honey…so it was sweet?


According to the book of Exodus, manna is white, like Coriander seed, (although modern-day coriander seed is yellow/brown).

32 Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: `Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt.'”  

What is an omer? A quart? Why did God want to do this? To prove to later generations that this was not a myth? That it really was true?  

33 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come.”   

Clay jar? Why would it not rot? Another miracle? I wonder how long it did last? Where did it eventually end up–lost with the ark (or box) of the covenant ? Did they keep it in the ark (box) containing the covenant (treaty/contract) that God and Israel are about to sign (or agree to)—that he will be their God and they will be his people?

34 As the LORD commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony, that it might be kept.   

But what is the Testimony? The ark? Did they have it yet? Wasn’t this later?

35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.   

That is a long time. So despite their eventual disobedience at Kadesh Barnea which turned a short journey into a forty year wandering, God still provided for their daily needs…interesting? Did they grow tired of the manna?

36  (An omer is one tenth of an ephah.)

What is an ephah?

Who? Moses, them (Israelites), No one, some of them, everyone, he, each person, leaders of the community, LORD, some of the people, everyone, no one, the people, people of Israel, Aaron, Israelites

Where? On the ground, went out, stay where he is, go out, in the desert, in front of the Testimony, came to a land, the border of Canaan

When? Then Moses said, until morning, began to smell, each morning, when the sun grew hot, on the sixth day, tomorrow, a day of rest, a holy Sabbath, until morning, eat it today, today, six days, seventh day, the Sabbath, seventh day, then the LORD, how  long, Sabbath, sixth day, two days, seventh day, seventh day, generations to come, when I brought you out of Egypt, then place it, generations to come, forty years, until they reached


The Gathering of Just Enough Manna for Each Day

• Moses commands the people to not keep the manna until morning…or a whole day…use it up or throw it out that night (because God is going to provide again tomorrow). 19

• However Moses becomes angry because some test God anyway and keep it until morning; it becomes full of maggots and smells. 20

The Gathering of Twice the Daily Amount on the Sixth Day

• Each gathered as much as he needed each morning until the sun melted the dew away. 21

• Then the leaders of the community reported that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much. 22

• In contrast to every other day, Moses tells them that this seventh day is to be a day or rest which is sacred or belongs to the LORD. Therefore, they are bake or boil it on the sixth day and save it to the next day. 23

• They did this and sure enough, unlike the other days when some tried to save it, and it rotted, this day the manna does not spoil. 24

• Moses then told them to eat it that day because not only would it not spoil, but more importantly there would be none to gather in the morning in the first place, thus making this next day a special day of the week. 25-26

• But again we have people who test the Lord and fail to follow his clear instructions. They went out on the seventh day, and there was no manna, much like many businesses feel that they can’t afford to close on a Sunday. 27

• This time the LORD gets angry and asks a prophetic question to Moses: “How long will you refuse to keep my commands?” 28

• He goes on to say that I want you to keep in mind that I have given you the Sabbath…as a day or rest. That is why you are to gather twice as much on the sixth day (presumably Friday) and not go out on Saturday. 29

• So the people did rest on the seventh day (Saturday). 30

The Saving of a Sample for Generations to Come

• Ultimately the people called the bread manna. It was white and tasted like sweet wafers. 31

• Moses then said that the LORD had commanded them to take a jar, put about the same amount of manna they gathered everyday in it and then place it before God for generations to come. So Aaron put the manna in front of the Testimony to be kept. 32-33

• Israel ate the manna for forty years until they reached the Promised Land (note: had they obeyed at Kadesh Barnea and takend the Promise Land as originally commanded, eating of manna might have only been for a few months. Instead due to their disobedience, their dependence upon manna lasted for over forty years).


This Week…First the People are commanded to gather and keep enough manna only for that day; some disobey. Their extra manna spoils, and Moses becomes angry concerning their testing of Yahweh’s commands. 19-20.

Second, they are told to gather twice as much on the sixth day and to save a portion of it for the seventh day because this day is to be a day that belongs to their Deliverer, Yahweh God, and they are to rest in his provision. Again, a few test God by going out to gather manna, and there is no manna. This time God becomes angry. 21-30.

Third, Israel is told to set aside one daily sample before Yahweh so that generations may know how Yahweh provided for his people. 31-36.

Bottom line…God provides in a very unique manner. And make no mistake about it, it is God meeting the need. Why else would the manna rot every other day they attempted to keep it overnight, but on the seventh day, it did not rot and was not on the ground. God had a purpose: for the nation to not only trust that God would provide for his people on a daily basis, but that one day in seven they were to recognize this daily provision by not going out to gather the bread.


Tissot The Gathering of the Manna (color)

Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)

• Obedience and trust matter to the Provider; details count as well.

• God can and does provide for his children daily.

• God desires some form of worship or recognition. Some ceasing from the normal or daily activities to recognize that he is the one that is ultimately meeting and providing for our needs.

• Some people will test the limits or the boundaries of God’s provision regardless.

• That much like Moses, God too will express his feelings about his children’s lack of trust and obedience.

• That God didn’t just make plain bread, but made it desirable by ensuring it was also sweet to the taste. My family once had a maid who also cooked and who added a little sugar to turnip greens and squash to make them more desirable to us younger kids. Thank God!

• God knows and understands our need to rest and recuperate. Life is not all about work. Though work does provide for our needs, and there are some who like to work and some that don’t like to work. In the end, there must be a balance. Too little is costly and so is too much. Too much may sound good in theory, but in the end, it leads to burn out.  Therefore there is a portion of our life’s budget that should be devoted to taking a break…resting. The grind should not go on forever, and in so doing, this should prevent the burnout that so many so often feel, especially concerning their labors.

• In the end, God is a good, kind and fair employer. He provides just enough work to keep us out of trouble, but not too much to turn us into slaves to our desires or insecurities.

• It is important to remember things—especially important moments of God’s provision We do this in baptism and the Lord’s Supper—we remember not only how our Lord was baptized or immersed and observed that last Passover with his disciples, but we commemorate both our new birth in Christ as well as his sacrifice to atone for our sins until his Return.

So What?

2003  Application (one year after we moved into our new church home)…

Struggle?  My  seemingly trivial concern made large.

Major concern for the moment…only for this moment…is my grass. This may seem trivial to some. But it is important to me for the following reasons. I over-seeded and fertilized the Bermuda seed over the rye grass in the outfield just over a couple of weeks ago. Therefore the seed did not have as much access to the soil as it normally would have. The seed is so light and would have landed softly on the rye grass. So we mowed it to further spread the seed. Then the rains stopped and we just had to depend upon our in ground water system (thank God for that).

Now I have to go on vacation for two weeks. Which is not too bad, except for the fact that I have the sides/ foul lines and in front of the church to plant as well and will have to manually water these sections.

Because the seedbed needs to be lightly water 3-6 times a day, this is a lot of work and water management, moving hoses and sprinklers. It will require all most constant attention until the seedbed is established, which should take about three plus weeks.

Add to this that the ground has to be prepared/scratched and, at some point in time, some rocks will need to be picked up.

Finally all the seed needs to be planted by the end of July/the first of August. The reason for this is that the seed needs 70 degree nights to properly germinate and this has been the coolest summer in quite some time (hardly any 70 degree night so far through June).

So bottom line, I have a seedbed that needs to be properly prepared, and I have seed that needs to be critically constantly watered. I need heat—warm nights. I need lots of water…and water moved around properly. Or it all waits again until next year…which can happen. That’s why giving up two weeks in July for vacation is tough, but this is the only time Rhonda can go because of her work. She would stay, but I can’t do that to her nieces and nephew, since we rarely get to see them because they live in California. We really need to go.

Truth? Joe, God knows your need. He will provide your daily needs and not before.

Application? Can I trust him? Can I trust him with respect to my vacation or a momentary season of Sabbath (rest)? We have not taken any time off in two years besides an occasional weekend—which I am trying to do better at, utilizing my associate pastor to teach more in my place.

It is time to go. Trust me, Joe. No matter what happens. Can you trust me with almost blind faith? Can you rest in me? No matter what happens? Whether the grass grows or not, whether the seed germinates or not? Whether the rocks are picked up or not? Whether there is any rain or not? Whether it is warm enough at night or not? Whether there is enough water or time or help or not? Can you trust me?

Yes, Lord. I can and must. I place this field, its preparation, its seed, its water, its temperature in your hands…succeed or fail. It belongs to you. I hope to achieve my objective within the timetable I desire, but if you see fit not to, I will accept your will. It’s your field LORD, not mine. And you know when you want the family of God to play on it and not a moment sooner.

Note: I have learned a lot over the years with respect to planting, watering and fertilizing grass. I have also made tons of mistakes. The grass is still there, at least on the ball field. It appears to be a variegated mess of both cool and warm season grass, along with lots of broad leaf weeds, but it survives. Not having a consistent watering source for the cool season grasses under the trees and around the church has been more of a nightmare. I have replanted on more than one occasion. Attempting to allow it to go dormant during the hot summers has been for the most part a failure. But I was such a novice and so nervous 12 years ago when we last studied the Life of Moses. In the end, life has moved on, along with lots of hard work and with some successes and many failures. That’s just life. With just about every thing there is a learning curve, a preserving and surviving. We have survived, this much I can say. How well have we done is much more to difficult to measure.

2015 Application…

Thanksgiving…It feels like for the most part it has been a productive week. Last Sunday went fairly well. I think I made my point, though slightly rushed near the end. My flock was thinking about the depths and honesty of prayer, including asking for what we need and why we are asking it. In the end, if we really understood we were talking to the Creator of the Universe, we might stop lying to ourselves, because we are certainly not fooling God (1 John 3:18ff), for God knows all and is greater than our hearts according to John. Ineffective, shallow prayers only dull the specificity, truth and power of what we are asking, not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of others, which is perhaps much much more critical to sustainable, Spiritual fruit bearing.

Also did some intense, but hopefully profitable counseling, a lot of much-needed mowing, and enjoyed some intimate time with my wife this weekend. It was a good week.

Struggle…While I am being held accountable to finish up some holes in Sustainable Love, which is really, really wonderful, I feel like there are a lot of people I need to pastorally check on. Regardless of how well a pastor attempts to study, compose, teach, write, counsel, manage and pastor, just like a patient probably needs an annual checkup or physical, the sheep need periodic checkups or check-ons by those who have been tasked the responsibility of watching over them. In other words, it still takes one-on-one to make sure that they understand and are applying what is being taught or valued.

Truth…More effort or work to fully secure or satisfy one’s future needs is a futile canard. It can all be, and quite often is, taken away in a moment, either by death or by personal or historical ruin. Nothing is for sure. Nothing–except God, and Evil, as the Scriptures teach, until the Creator judges this fallen world and replaces this corrupted world with his New Heavens and Earth. But God has promised to meet our daily needs (Matt. 6:25ff), and in so doing, when we do focus, work, trust, seek his leadership, care for others and rest in him, what we are supposed to have for our ultimate good, regardless of the times (Romans 8:28ff), be they blessing or persecution, will be graciously provided for us, and that my friends, you can take to an eternal bank where there is never a shortage of peace of mind that one can draw upon at any moment of any given time or situation. Amen. Amen.

Application…It is not about getting everything done. That will never never never ever happen. Why? Because it can always be better, and there will always be needs…wants, desires. This is NOT and never will be a perfect world, not until Christ returns, and even then, despite the King of Kings presence, it will have its sinfully, flawed corruption. What does all this mean? I work for a King, and I take his orders. Much like was the case when I worked on a farm as a young boy, if he wants me to work in one field one day and somewhere else the next day, that is his divine prerogative….because I have the promise that he works everything out for my…our…good and that he will never leave me, nor forsake. What else is there? I have God. End of story. I have my reward…my provision…my comfort…my hope…my joy…my strength…my pleasure…my purpose…my stewardship. And much like my imperfect attempts to grow and maintain the church’s grounds and grasses, so will be my pastoring and anything else I attempt to do. Whether I like it or not, I am in process, even at the ripe old age of 58, even after having pastored the same essential flock for almost thirty years. We will survive, and it will be far less than perfect, and that is okay. Very imperfectly, I am about my Father’s business, and as I am about it, he has promised to meet my daily needs, and so far – for more than thirty, in fact, all of my life, he has. What more is there really? Peace of mind? He has given me that too, but not based on the outward circumstances, but His Spirit who is constantly teaching me God’s truth. Provision, purpose, peace of mind…I am blessed. We are blessed.


Your servant,

Joseph M. Cross

Your struggle?



Your student’s struggles?



Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 14:15ff Into Life’s Sea! 3-15-15

Exodus Studies Pic
Life of Moses
Lesson 23
Into Life’s Sea!
Ex 14:15ff
Introduction…Have you ever read or heard a story or watched a film in which the protagonist had absolutely no means of escape—they had reached the end of their rope, only to have the author or writer, much like a magician pulling a rabbit out a hat, write the script in such a manner in which the character is unexpectedly delivered? I mean you the reader saw no means of escape, and then suddenly the unexpected happens and what was not possible is possible? I meant that is good writing or story telling, and the tighter the jam and the more unexpected, but realistic rescue, the better the story.
Kitten back against a wall
I remember watching the earlier episodes of the cliff-hanger 24. Every episode ended with special agent Jack Bauer or someone close to him, including his family, about to be killed. One couldn’t wait until the next episode to see how this plot device would find its resolution. Since I watched the episodes on DVD, I remember watching like two-thirds of a season one night. I would tell myself I was only going to watch a few minutes of the next episode to see how Jack would save the world, but again and again, I would watch the full episode which would lead to another cliff-hanger ending, which would lead to my repeated bargaining that I would only watch a few minutes of the next episode. And this all took place, according to the show’s premise in one 24 hour day. I mean think about it, the writers got me to buy into Jack saving the world 24 times in one season or day! Thus the power of the cliff-hanger.

Well, life can seem like a cliff-hanger at times. Ever had your back completely up against a wall with seemingly no means or way of escape? How did your drama turn out? Did God rescue you? Did you live to tell about it? How?

Previous Lesson… Yahweh uses the Israelites as a trap in order to destroy Pharaoh’s armies and bring Yahweh his true glory.
Ex. 14:1ff.

General Overview…Exodus 1-14…

What were the devastating costs required for Yahweh God to redeem (buy back), his chosen people, the Children of Israel, via their miraculous Exodus (way out) from harsh Egyptian enslavement?

1) Moses makes 12 appearances before Pharaoh.

2) There are 39 mentions of Israel’s “release” or “deliverance” in order to celebrate a festival to Yahweh God in the desert.

3) 7 times Yahweh predicts that Pharaoh will not listen to Moses.

4) In order to motivate Pharaoh to release his enslaving grip upon the Israelites, Yahweh unleashes 10 Consecutive, Pervasive and Devastating Curses upon Egypt.

5) 10 times the text clearly says that Yahweh God distinguishes between Israel and Egypt with respect to the plagues’ devastating affects.

6) Neither Pharaoh’s diviners nor his gods are any match for Yahweh’s mighty hand. In delivering Israel from Egypt, Yahweh God could be defeating as many as 118 Egyptian deities.


7) It is also interesting to note that Yahweh’s last and greatest curse against Egypt, the curse of Egypt’s firstborn, is not just directed against the firstborn of man and beast, but also “against all the gods of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12).

8) Under intense national pain and pressure, Pharaoh is momentarily contrite (3x) while admitting his sin (2x), as well as, asking Moses to prayerfully intercede on behalf of Pharaoh’s disobedience to Yahweh for not having released the Israelite as commanded by Yahweh in order that the Israelites may fully serve Yahweh God in the desert with a festival of sacrifices (4x); Once even, Pharaoh asks for forgiveness.

9) In fact, 7x Pharaoh will declare that Israel can go and sacrifice (after plagues 2, 4, 7, 8, 9 [2x]; 10);

10) But because of the hardening of his heart, Pharaoh will change his mind and recant his promise 4x;

11) In fact, there are 17 references to the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart. Moses makes mention of this “hardening” a total of 17 times, with 9 references being attributed directly to Yahweh’s divine intervention, 6 neutral occurrences, which could be inferred to as being attributed to Yahweh and 3 more occurrences in which Pharaoh and his servants are given the credit of “hardening” their own hearts.”

12) 4x Pharaoh unsuccessfully attempts to make bargain with God or Moses so that not all of Israel will go and worship.

So what’s the point to all this protracted salvific divine drama?

With this one protracted drama acted out on history’s grand stage, God reveals the truth concerning himself and his broken creature. God is big; the creature is small. And though for a time, it may seem that the creature is capable of being or imitating God, when the creature attempts to play God, he is ultimately crushed by God himself—the Creator will not be robbed of his true glory–and those who chose to keep God, God, and man, man–or those, that through trust and obedience, ally themselves with their Creator will not only be delivered or saved from the creature’s corruptness, but rewarded for their incredible trust! In other words, despite the temptation to only see life through the visible, but limited, salvation is found in a fallen, imperfect world through trusting the holy invisible—God!


Read the Passage two-three times…

Ask Questions (no answers)…

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.

So the Israelites, seemingly trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s fast-approaching military onslaught, have turned on Moses and are now regretting their decision to leave Egypt. Moses in turn has tried to calm the people by telling them to be silent and witness Yahweh’s deliverance.

And now God asks, “Why are you crying out to me?” Why wouldn’t they, unless, steeled by ten previous acts of God, they wouldn’t possibly imagine God bringing them out into the desert to die? I mean it would make sense. Why go to all the trouble of delivering them in the process to drop the ball now? And yet, aren’t most of us like the Israelites, asking God, What have you done for me lately? Like today? When will we ever learn that the God of Creation is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow and who has continually delivered us again and again, as well as so many others, can and will deliver us from our latest fear or threat?

God tells them to go forward as if nothing has changed. Stick with the plan. But forward leads into the sea, God. That doesn’t make sense. Faith. Trust…that the invisible, heaven is real and that it can impose its will upon the earth or the physical at any given moment. Be silent! Go forward! The LORD will fight for you!

16 As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land.

Divide the sea? Are you kidding? I mean the other ten plagues were amazing, but this–this miraculous act of God–seems that much more staggering than everything that has already taken place.

17 As for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.

No, God. It’s one thing to part the sea, but to allow Pharaoh’s chariots to march in after us, why? They will slaughter us? How will you be honored by this, LORD?

18 Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots and his horsemen.”

Somehow, God is about to be honored by the Egyptian pursuit of the Israelites into the about to be parted Red Sea.

19 The angel of God, who had been going before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them.

So the angel of God who seems to be cloaked in a great cloud and who has been leading them now moves backward to protect them.

20 So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel; and there was the cloud along with the darkness, yet it gave light at night. Thus the one did not come near the other all night.

So it would seem that night was approaching or that this event possibly even took place at night?

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided.

A wind from the northern Arabian peninsula or Saudi Arabia today? Or perhaps even further from present-day Iraq?

Note: the Hebrew verb translated “swept” here is the Hebrew verb halek or “to walk.” Literally, Yahweh caused the waters “to walk” back until they were joined together in the shape of a wall “chowmah.”

Note: it would seem that something very much akin to how water molecules within a tree’s vascular delivery system, using the laws of adhesion, cohesion and surface tension, overcome the forces of gravity and climb as a high as 300 feet in order to deliver water to the tree’s leaves for the process of cellular photosynthesis might have taken place here. In other words, the east wind creates an air tunnel in which the water molecules cling to one another, defeating gravity and thus forming two walls of water.

22 The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

23 Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea.

24 At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion.

25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”

Is this a momentary delaying action of God on behalf of the Israelites, so that instead of catching up to and capturing the Israelites, the Egyptians doubt and attempt to turn around? But it’s too late…

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.”

27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.

So even in the Egyptians’ attempt to flee in panic, it is too late. Nothing will save them from God’s mighty judgment.

28 The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained.

Utter annihilation…

29 But the sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

31 When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.

Thus, this would seem to serve as the 11th plague or miracle?

New Panama Canal Construction

The creature doing, over a long period of time, in the modern times, what the Creator did in a moment during ancient times. This is the new Panama Canal being built across Panama’s land bridge. Of course, Yahweh created a momentary land bridge through the open sea, whereas the new Panama Canal represents a water bridge over land.





• Yahweh asks Moses why is Israel crying out to him? Tell them to go forward.

• As the Israelites go forward into the sea, God tells Moses to stretch out his staff over the sea so that the staff will divide the waters and thus allow the Israelites to go forward on dry land, as if they see were not there at all.

• In so doing, God will once again, harden the Egyptian’s heart so they will foolishly go against their instincts and pursue the Israelites into the divided sea. When the Egyptians do this, God will be honored.

• That night the angel of LORD dwelling within the pillared cloud by day that also appears as pillar of fire at night comes between the Israelite and Egyptians camps, thus protecting the Israelites.

• Moses then stretches out his hand over the sea, and, using a strong east wind, God parts the sea, so that the Israelites bravely crossed the sea on dry land.

• Eventually the Egyptians also entered into the sea in pursuit of the Israelites, but at some point in time the LORD causes the chariots to swerve and have difficulty.

• At this point, realizing that the LORD was fighting for the Israelites once again, the Egyptians attempt to retreat, but it is too late. Moses once again stretches out his hand, and the divided waters return together, drowning all of Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen, even washing their bodies up on the shore.

• Thus the LORD saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians and the Israelites feared the LORD and trusted his servant Moses.

Summary… Yahweh first parts the sea, allowing the Israelites to escape the pursuing Egyptians, but then after Israel safely reaches the other side of the sea, Yahweh causes the waters to return together, drowning Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen and in so doing, saves the Israelites from the Egyptians.

Why’s? Why did God include this passage in his timeless word? Or What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?

• When it seems that a believer or a community of believers backs are up against the wall and there is no escape, that this is simply not true. With God there is always a means of escape. How? Who knows? But with God all things are possible, even the using of an east wind to divide the waters of a sea so that an entire nation can walk to safety through the sea on dry land.


• Sometimes following God’s will is nothing more than moving forward, even if moving forward seems impossible on first glance. It’s as if God seems to be saying to the Israelites…you know what to do. Do it!

But God?

What did I say? Move forward. Don’t stop, even if slowly. Just keep moving. Stop doubting. I brought you to this point; I am not about to abandon you. What you don’t see is a greater purpose—not just your momentary safety, but the destruction of your greatest threat. Trust me. Just keep moving.

• Much like the fiery pillar of cloud, does the Spirit protect God’s children today?

• God can and does harden hearts for his greater purposes. In this case, when God hardens the Egyptians’ hearts, they foolishly pursue the Israelites on into the Red Sea. I mean think about it. Why would they think that they could do the same as the Israelites? They have just suffered through ten miraculous, destructive plagues in which Egypt took a beating. Why would participating in the impossible—crossing the Red Sea on dry land—not be a foolish strategy. And yet, God harden their hearts so that they wouldn’t think about it, but instead, seeing vulnerable Israelites, the Egyptians could smell blood in the water. And yet it was there own destruction they were foolishly pursuing. It’s called a trap, and the Egyptians fell for it hook, line and sinker. God will not be trifled with.

• The victory that God fought on behalf of the Israelites was a total one. Yahweh delivers and Yahweh delivers completely.

So What’s? How does this truth personally apply to one of my life’s struggles?

Thanksgiving… Feels like I have gotten a lot done here lately. Still a lot more to do.

But I did get to babysit my Spiritual granddaughter today as her mother had some cavities filled at the dentist. I was nervous at first, but the pacifier saved me. One elderly lady did ask me when was the last time I had done something like this? I said 27 years ago and then tried to relax. Later she commented, “now you have it down”.

Also enjoyed taking pics and visiting with my church family at a fun-filled Taco Wednesday. Apparently, I was so busy, I got to eat two tacos with no fixins while on the run. But it was a joy to see everyone enjoying themselves. In addition, since this was serving as a rescheduling of our winter tradition of Taco Sunday, our out-of-town taco posse was not there. They had come up a week and half before, bought the food, cooked the meat and then got snowed out, so Fellowship’s “B” team stepped up, did an amazing job and still cooked, prepared and served over 250 tacos.

As it is Rhonda’s spring break from school, we plan to get away and go back to my hometown to check on those, who, for the most part, played significant roles in my Spiritually development. Since my mother no longer lives there, but lives near my brother in another part of the state, I haven’t been back to the home of my roots in quite a few years. The health of the farmer I worked for as a youth has become quite fragile, and I want to make sure I see him. After that, Rhonda and I plan to take a few days to revisit some of the annual Spring Pilgrimages in Mississippi and Louisiana.

In other words, God has been very gracious, fitting together my life schedule here lately, and I am very grateful.

Struggle…It seems that during this later part of the winter, as winter has seemingly struggled to release its unforgiving grip, quite a few of the sheep have been struggling as well. Not quite sure what to make of it. Perhaps it is just a season. But despite my reasonable best efforts to check on them, I am afraid I have missed a few. Spiritually shepherding can be quite a fragile process at times. It seems all it takes is one mistake, one slip up, one momentary neglect and you can lose a sheep really fast. So despite getting a lot done, as well as, not getting even more done, such as the writing I am committed to doing, I still fall short in my shepherding. True Spiritual shepherding is not for the faint of heart.

Truth… There is always Spiritual escape, salvation and deliverance, even when are backs are seemingly backed up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his armies in white hot pursuit. Just keep moving forward. We live, walk, trust, not by sight, but by faith or trust—trust that not all is seen, but that there is much NOT seen, including God, his heaven and angels, and that when we as obedient children of faith seek his deliverance, he hears our cries for help and causes the waters to walk up into walls so that we might pass through our seemingly desperate moments into our salvation. And as he parts the sea, he protects our backs with his presence. And someday, his righteous truth will destroy our enemies, which are also his enemies. We need to just keep moving forward, even if slowly, even if into what appears the impossible. Amen! Because it is through the impossible that God, through his saving of the children of Israel through the Red Sea, seeks to save us through and from.

Application… I can’t think of too many days or seasons of my over thirty years of pastoring God’s flocks or over forty years of seeking to walk with God that my life has NOT been at the mercy of some kind of threat. Life has never really been easy, and yet, God has proved himself worthy of trust, prayer, hope and obedience again and again and again. In fact, threat forces me to seek, trust and love him, and in doing so, more and more, I have learned to live in his peace, despite life’s constant threats. In other words, life’s threats will probably never cease. If it is not one thing, it will be something else, but what is constant is God and his Spirit, presence, peace and protection. It is not the absent of threat that gives me peace, but trusting God’s presence in the midst of threat that gives me lasting peace, and no one can put a value on that. If I could give anything to anyone, this is perhaps the one thing I would want to give away—the ability to be at Spiritual peace, regardless of the seemingly outwardly or inwardly circumstances. It is a power beyond all powers…a truth beyond all truths. Thus, regardless of my present schedule, dreams, hopes, frustrations and failures, my peace is not in the untrained, fickle outward, but the everlasting, constant inward—that God is with me and has promised to deliver me through his Son and Spirit… no matter what! And you can take that to the bank. Why are you crying out to Me? Tell my children to move forward! That is my mission; my purpose; my singular calling, and that is what I hope to continue to preach, pray, sing and do until my dying breath… Tell my children to move forward!

What about you? Struggle? Truth? Application?

What about your students? Their struggles (list a few; think about several of your students)?


Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).

Exodus 14:1 While You Keep Silent 3-1-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 23
While You Keep Silent…
Ex 14:1ff

Introduction… Ever had your back up against the wall or against the sea with no retreat in sight? Ever felt like you might have been put there unfairly by the Almighty’s providence—like this is NOT FAIR, God? I did everything I was supposed to do or what I felt led to do or thought was right, and yet here I am smack up against the eight ball and about to be run over? Not a fun feeling to have, is it?

How did you handle it? Did you cry, run, scream, groan, pout, numb out? How did it eventually turn out? Was it as bad as you thought? Did you live? Are you still alive? Did God see you through? What did his deliverance ultimately look like? Looking back, did you see perhaps that God had a greater, perhaps even more unpredictable and paradoxical plan or purpose that you could have never dreamed of?

In this story, God tells Israel to make a seemingly wrong turn—a wrong turn that puts the nation at great peril and causes its members to think that they were right to begin with in questioning the wisdom of God’s plan as expressed by Moses. It would seem that much like Israel, we want our salvation fully laid out with no unexpected twists and turns, even if the twists and turns save us from a far greater future danger.

One confusing, questionable turn that God has a far greater purpose for. Threat does not equal destruction, or at least our destruction, but rather evil’s. Our response to the overwhelming threat–to NOT fear, but to trust, be confidently still or silent and watch God go to work. Trust in God is a magnificent state of mind by which to sustain all of life’s many unexpected and overwhelming threats. In fact, trust is God’s great equalizer. Try it. Trust enough to be still in the midst of a great threat…

Your Servant,
Continue reading

Exodus 13:off The Path Less Traveled 2-22-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 22
The Path Less Traveled…
(Reminding, Teaching, Worshiping and Trusting)
Ex 13:1ff

Introduction… In a world that can often times seem very discouraging, what best holds you faithful or accountable in your Spiritual journey or walk with God: prayer? Sunday worship? Daily devotional reading of the Bible? Teaching others? Small group Bible study? Inspirational music? A good friend? Your mate? Who or what best holds you accountable?

One of our church kids asked me for a recommendation to go to Christian-based prep school. I asked him why? Without hesitation, he answered that he believed it would be for advantageous for him Spiritually. When I asked why? he answered that it was not easy being a Christian at his local public school. When I asked why was this? he seemed to imply that there is fear and intimidation he must face about when he is openly honest about his faith or belief in God. So sad, but not unexpected.

Now whether he gets into his Christian prep school or not, and whether it works out as he hopes for, who knows, but I do know the kid is thinking, and he is seeking to think through a biblical-Spiritual lens. He wants to talk about God without threat, and who wouldn’t. Even in the sixth grade, that’s pretty cool and seemingly somewhat rare.

How many of us filter daily existence through this type of Spiritual lens—what allows me to discuss and talk about my faith freely, without fear of rebuke or repudiation


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” Taken from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

In a passage that at first glance appears fairly sedate compared to what we have been experiencing here lately, i.e. devastating plagues and miracles powerfully delivered by the hand of God upon a stubborn, polytheistic Egyptian dynasty (as summarized in the review below), there lies embedded some very powerful and practical tools for Spiritual accountability. See if you can find them and perhaps label them. Then compare them to what I have listed within my own applicational truths near the end of this study. Seek to walk away with something…something that counts…something that repeatedly and consistently holds you Spiritual accountable and in the process contributes to your ongoing Spiritual vitality and longevity. Continue reading

Exodus 11:1-10 About Midnight… 1-25-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 19
About Midnight…
Ex 11:1-10
Orig. 4.16.3; Updated: 1.25.15

Looking Back So Far…

Moses Makes 12 Appearances Before Pharaoh.

From Exodus 3-14, at the divine command of Yahweh (I AM), the children of Israel’s God, Moses, not once or twice or even three times, but an exhausting 12 times, will stand before Egypt’s mighty ruler, the pharaoh, whom the Egyptians consider to be divine as well, warning him to release the enslaved children of Israel, including their women, children and livestock, in order that they might travel three days into the desert so that they may hold a pilgrim festival to the God of their forefathers, Yahweh God.

39 Occurrences of “Release” or “Deliverance” are Mentioned.

In addition, in these 12 critical chapters, the writer of Exodus, presumably Moses, will make mention of Egypt’s “release” of Israel a whopping 24 times. Add this to another 15 mentions of Israel being “delivered out of Egypt,” and the reader is told 39 times why Israel’s God, Yahweh, is using these series of divine plagues or curses, to cause the mighty Egypt to “release” its grip of God’s now-enslaved people, Israel.

10 Consecutive, Pervasive and Devastating Curses are Unleashed upon Egypt.

At the same time, in one of the great plot twists of all-time, Yahweh God seems to have little interest in a direct approach that would cause Egypt to release its crushing grip on her enslaved serfs. Instead, using something akin to a modern-day top ten count down, Yahweh, while sparing his enslaved child, Israel, any pain, will inflict ten consecutively, pervasively and devastating curses upon Egypt, with the last being a curse that crushes the once-mighty collective psyche of the nation that had once constructed the great Pyramids.

10x the text clearly says that Yahweh distinguishes between Israel and Egypt with respect to the plagues’ devastating affects.

Neither Pharaoh’s Diviners nor gods are any Match for Yahweh’s Mighty Hand.

And for a brief moment, as society often seems to be able to do, but only for a brief moment, Egypt will appear to keep up with Yahweh’s divine power. Pharaoh’s wise men, astrologers and magicians, along with their pre-curse turning of their own staffs turning into snakes, as Moses’ staff had become (although Moses’ staff/snake was able to devour the magician’s many staffs/snakes), will somehow manage to replicate the appearance of the first two curses. But after that, as far as the magicians’ abilities are concerned, they are done for, and by the 6th plague, when they are woefully inflicted by the plague’s festering boils, they refuse to even make an appearance before Pharaoh due to their hideous condition.

In Delivering Israel from Egypt. Yahweh God Defeats as Many as 118 Egyptian gods and goddesses.

It is also interesting to note that Yahweh’s last and greatest curse against Egypt, the curse of Egypt’s firstborn, is not just directed against the firstborn of man and beast, but also “against all the gods of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12).

In Moses’ Song of Deliverance after the salvific crossing of the Red Sea, he will ask, “Who is like you among the gods, O Yahweh?” (Ex. 15:11). Later, when Moses is met by his father-in-law, Jethro, in the wilderness, where Moses first received his commission by Yahweh to administer Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Jethro will bless Moses with these words: “Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all the gods” (Ex. 18:11). And beginning with Ex. 20:2ff when Yahweh and Israel ratify their covenant together as God and nation, Yahweh makes it perfectly clear to Israel 9 more times just in the book of Exodus, your worship of me is exclusionary: I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt. Unlike, Egypt, you shall have no other gods before me; nor shall you make any idols for yourselves, and you shall certainly not worship them for I am a jealous God, and you have just seen how easily I was able to humble and humiliate the greatest nation. Believe you me, I will not spare your discipline for at least four generations.”

It is interesting to note that in defeating Egypt, Yahweh, not only defeated her seemingly-divine pharaoh and his diviners, but in doing so, he also invalidated the power and strength of her many gods and goddesses, which Wikipedia numbers as many as 118, including Ra, the sun god; Isis, the mother god, also linked with motherhood, protection and magic; Amun, the creator god and preeminent deity during the New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC – c. 1077 BC), Astarte or Ishtar, the warrior goddess; Baal, the sky and storm god (also worshiped during the New Kingdom); Hapi, the personification of the Nile’s annual flooding; Heka, the personification of magic; Heket, the frog goddess said to protect women in childbirth and Hesat and Mehet-Weret, maternal cow goddesses, just to name of few.


Under Intense National Pain and Pressure, Pharaoh Expresses a Momentary Remorse and Contrition on 3 Occasions.

Pharaoh is momentarily contrite (3x) while admitting sin (2x) and asking Moses to prayerfully intercede on behalf of Pharaoh’s disobedience to Y. for not releasing the Israelite as commanded by Y. in order that they may fully serve Y. God in the desert with sacrifices (4x), once even asking for forgiveness.

7x Pharaoh, you can go and sacrifice (2, 4, 7, 8, 9 [2x]; 10); 4x, because of the hardening of his heart, he will change his mind and recant his promise; 4x Pharaoh unsuccessfully attempts to bargain with God or Moses.

At the Same Time, there are 17 References to the “Hardening” of Pharaoh’s Heart.

Yahweh goes about his indirect and dynamic plot build up via the on again off again “hardening” of Pharaoh and his ministers’ hearts—in other words, although Egypt will be humbled by each plague, after the plague or curse ceases, once again, her heart will be “hardened” towards the “releasing” of Israel in order to celebrate a pilgrim feast to her God, Yahweh.

Moses makes mention of this “hardening” a total of 17 times, with 9 references being attributed directly to Yahweh’s divine intervention, 6 neutral occurrences, which could be inferred to as being attributed to Yahweh and 3 more occurrences in which Pharaoh and his servants are given the credit of “hardening” their hearts.”

7 Times Yahweh Predicts that Pharaoh Will Not Listen.

On 7 more occasions, the Scripture will say that Pharaoh “refused to listen” as God also predicted 7 times.

What’s the Point to all this Protracted Drama? Undisputed Truth…about both a Mighty Creator and his Fickle Creature.

What’s the point to all of this back and forth “repenting” for not releasing Israel and then changing her mind again not to “release” Israel? Perhaps there are several reasons, two of which are: 1) whether influenced by God or not, the obvious fickleness and stubbornness of man’s fallen, sinful will. To one degree or another, don’t we all go back and forth in our thinking, feeling and behaving? We believe pain as taught us, but once the pain has subsided, seemingly, we must make sure that the pain we suffered was a really a consequence of our behavior, and so, we have to repeatedly learn our painful lesson, until we are finally crushed and left with no other conclusions and no other means of escape or rationalization. As fallen, deceitful creatures, we can be very obstinate in our willingness to truly learn who is really in charge and who is really our salvation. So it was with Pharaoh, who, probably blinded by centuries of handed wealth and power, never seemed to get who really was in charge.

2) And secondly, Yahweh tells Moses, before and during the unleashing of the plagues, that “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and when Pharaoh refuses to listen, I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring out…my people the sons of Israel” (7:2-3; 11:9-10). “The Egyptians shall know that I am I AM (Yahweh) and that there is no one like me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth my hand…, you would have been cut off from the earth, but for this reason I have allowed you to remain—to show you my power and in order to proclaim my name through all the earth” (9:14-15). In other words, the greater Egypt’s resistance, the greater her defeat and the greater her overcomer, Yahweh God. Finally, when Pharaoh’s pursuing cavalry is about to be utterly annihilated, Yahweh declares, “I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am I AM..that God, not many gods, exists (14:3, 17).

So with this one protracted drama, God reveals not only the smallness and immaturity of fickle, human man, including one of the world’s great powers and its seemingly divine leader, but God’s true greatness, wisdom, power and his desire to deliver those who truly trust in him.

Your servant,

Continue reading

Exodus 10:21-29 A Darkness That Could Be Felt. 1-18-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 18b: A Darkness that Could be Felt!
Ex 10:21-29

Introduction: What is “a darkness that could be felt”? Can times be dark? What do you think this means? Do you think life remains as such, or does light eventually follow? Life ever been dark for you? What does that mean? Did life remain dark? When the light broke, what brought about the light? What did you learn from those dark days?
What’s the source of light in the darkness for someone who trusts in God?

Pray. Ask for insight.

Read the Passage three times.

Ex. 10:21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt –darkness that can be felt.”

Why does the miracle always begin with “stretch out your hand”? Note: this time, there is no going to Pharaoh and asking him to let Israel go? Why is darkness a plague?

22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.

23 No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

How did this happen? Heavy clouds? Did people not have torches or lamps?

24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the LORD. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.”

Still trying to negotiate. Does Pharaoh want them to come back? Is this why, he keeps trying to put limits are they going out to worship—first only the men, now only the people, without their livestock?

25 But Moses said, “You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the LORD our God.

Note this is not just about leaving or freedom, but about worship, acknowledging the truth of their Creator and Protector.

26 Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshiping the LORD our God, and until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the LORD.”

27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. Continue reading

Exodus 8:16-32 Lord of the Flies 11-16-14

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 15
Lord of the Flies…
Ex 8:16-32
(Orig. 3/9/3; 11.16.14)


Note: the lesson’s title is a word play borrowed from Golding’s dystopian novel Lord of the Flies. While it is not intended to as a reference to the Jewish term for SatanBaalzebub…Lord of the Flies, paradoxically the religious leadership derogatorily refers to Jesus as the Lord of the Flies. See Mark 3:23 and Matt. 12:25ff.

Ever heard a child scream, cry and plead for a second chance? I promise I will never do it again! I promise! I promise! Please don’t make me sit in time out! Please don’t punish me! I will never ever ever again! You ever screamed or cried this out to God yourself? I promise, God, if you will answer this one request, I will never ask for anything again! And so the parent or God issues a reprieve…a stay of execution, and then what? No pain, no real repentance? Where is the fine line between manipulation and true repentance?

In this story, Pharaoh, the great ruler of Egypt, seems to be doing a great bit of seemingly disingenious whining and crying out to God or Moses to relent from his affliction onto the Egyptians of these back-to-back plagues.

Continue reading

Exodus 8:1-5 Frogs in the Kitchen. 11-9-14

Exodus Studies Pic

Fellowship Life of Moses
Lesson14 Frogs in the Kitchen…
Ex 8:1-15

(Orig. 3/2/3; Ed. 11.9.14)

Introduction…Ever experienced someone that said they were sorry, and then then did or said it again? Ever do it yourself? Ever said you would never do something like that again, and then turned around, perhaps, even in less than a day, and then changed your mind and did it again?

People seem to say or do things all the time, everyday, that they either regret or wish they could take back. It’s human nature. The mouth, and yes, the heart or feeling and emotion, can leap far ahead of the mind or better thinking. I mean, have you ever experienced that—being caught up in the moment, absolutely convinced or persuaded of your position, perhaps in an argument, perhaps persuaded about some fad or wave…I am on board. This is the real deal! This is the greatest thing since sliced bread! And then it turns out NOT to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.  And not just once, but repeatedly. I have known many people to do this again and again and again, and in fact, I would have to say, I am perhaps just as guilty. In fact, someone just told me last week that they never wanted to talk to me EVER AGAIN. Two days later, they were texting me, asking me if I would do a favor for them.

What is it about our souls or minds that produce this strange phenomena? Do you think this also happens in a negative way perhaps? Someone says their sorry, but after further reflection, they feel emboldened and rethink their previous apology and now want to take it back? Why? What allows us to do this? What would NOT allows us to do this, so that as both Jesus said and James wrote, let your yes be yes, and your no be no! (Matt. 5:37; James 5:12).  Continue reading