The Rollercoaster of New Faith

  • Read Exodus 5 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (13 September) you can listen to it here.

My sermon this week focused on the frustrations Moses experienced as he sought to share his good news of God’s deliverance with the Israelites.  At first they were excited, but when things didn’t go smoothly they turned on Moses and Aaron, abusing them.  My sermon emphasised the persistence that sharing our faith requires, if it is to bear fruit.

We also benefit from considering the other side of this relationship.  It’s easy to criticise the Israelite overseers who in 5:20-21 abuse Moses.  We know that Moses is the hero of the story and he’s working with God, so anyone that contradicts him is on the wrong side of God.  But I think the overseers’ attitude is very realistic and more common than we often credit.

My impression of this story is that during their 400 years in Egypt the Israelites had forgotten a lot about Yahweh.  In fact, given how quickly they adopted the golden calf in Exodus 32, many of them had probably converted to Egyptian gods.  Then Moses turns up in Es 4:29 to meet with the Israelite elders and he tells them a fantastic story of a god that will free them from slavery.  On the basis of the signs Moses performs and the foggy memory of Yahweh’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the elders buy into the story and in 4:31 they “bow down and worshiped” Yahweh.

It seems to me that this mirrors the faith journey of many people today.  While their parents or grandparents attended church the people we encounter have forgotten more about God than they remember.  Some of them, through desperation, relationships, or Bible study, will be convinced of the truth of God’s Good News.  They will “bow down and worship Yahweh”.

In emphasising the Good News of hope and freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation, grace and love, we run the risk of creating the impression that deliverance from all of life’s difficulties is imminent.  It’s no surprise then when our new brothers and sisters in Christ have a hard time understanding what’s going on when they encounter obstacles.

The Israelite overseers certainly encounter a major obstacle.  Pharaoh demands greater productivity with less resources, and then beats them when they fail to meet the new standards.  I don’t think anyone can blame them for questioning the message Moses brought.  There’s not much good news in a beating.

This story reminds us that making right choices and accepting God’s truth doesn’t necessarily result in an easier life, particularly in the short term.  However, knowing the ultimate fate of Pharaoh should encourage us to keep the big picture in mind and the victory Christ has already won.

It should also remind those who are older Christians to continue to encourage and disciple those with younger faith, because baptism’s just the beginning of their new life.  Questions, doubts, and difficulties are all common experiences that Satan throws at new Christians and we can’t afford to leave them on their own at that time.

Have you experienced particular challenges in your life soon after accepting the Good News of Jesus?  or maybe after a particularly uplifting spiritual experience, eg. a great book, a retreat or seminar?  What got you through that difficulty?  How important was the encouragement of other Christians?

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3 comments

  1. Shawn Brazas

    Peter, as you might know, I work for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. You can imagine my job requries me to woork some odd shifts, many of which are on Sunday morning and wednesday night. Recently I have been reading your “patter” and listening to your sermons online when I miss Sunday morning worship. I just wanted to let you know I appreciate you putting your sermons online. They are a real encouragement to me! I look forward to seeing the Lawson Road family this Christmas time when my wife and I come visit. Take care and see you soon!

  2. Lynn Clapp

    Peter. So you didn’t make the Cricket team and benefit from the support of the local bank?

    I enjoyed your thoughts on Moses and his problems.

    Backing up a bit, consider the Iraelites entered Egypt, with the religion of the adults. They had no written word, just word of mouth about God, passed from generation to generation. Perhaps God appeared to a few individuals along the way with instruction but where did the Isreleites receive their teaching? How did they know to pray as you read?

    For one, they had the promise of deliverance. They had the compelling story that God would one day “visit” them and return them to the promised land. This was the message that the death and embalming of Joseph’s body provided and one they held for more than 400 years.

    When it comes to evangelism, are we not like Moses? When Moses arrived on the scene, he had an equivalent of a Ph. D. from God. By contrast the Children of Israel were like pre-schollers in knowledge. As the events unfolded, the Children of Israel and Pharaoh were persuaded by the miracles. The Children came to rely on the miracles as they journeyed out. But when trials came, they reverted back to what they learned in Egypt; to worship the gods of Egypt.

    Today, many of the church feel the urgency to communicate Jesus to others. But, do we not approach the unchurched with our vast bible knowledge, a Ph. D from God, when those who need God are at a pre-school level of knowledge? Observe when in a Bible study, how quick we can find a particluar verse or make a comment when by comparison the new student will find it difficult to locate the book or whether it is in the Old or New Testament? We cannot rely on miracles as Moses did, so we need a different understanding. Eventually, we must transform our minds to think like those we are trying to reach. Only then can we begin to grasp how to address the task before us.

    Lynn

  3. ozziepete

    Shawn, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you’ve found the sermons helpful. Julie’s a nurse, so I know what shift work can be like. Sometimes you miss out on a lot. Looking forward to Christmas.

    Lynn, thanks again for your comments. It’s difficult to know how much the Israelites remembered about God after 400 years in Egypt. At the burning bush Moses didn’t know God’s name even, but there seems to have been some memory of the promises made to Abraham of a land of their own.

    I agree that sometimes we share our faith using our words, our knowledge of Scripture, and our experiences, without stopping to consider the place in life of the person we’re talking with. One size does NOT fit all when it comes to sharing our faith.

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