For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Let us pray
Hide me behind your cross, Lord. May my words be your heart. You have told us you love us, help us to know your love and live it every day of our lives. Amen
Americans are really fond of a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ philosophy. We love stories of the poor child who becomes a mogul through hard work and perseverance. All the better if they never went to college, but learned all they needed to know by the school of experience. We have even created “Bible Verses” in our minds to underscore it: The Lord helps those who help themselves, we say, as though that is in the Bible. Or God won’t give us more than we can handle, when the real truth is: our lives are OFTEN, if not ALWAYS more than WE can handle.
Scripture is actually pretty clear that we are pretty hopeless and hapless and helpless on our own. The Israelites were certainly not in any position to help themselves. This part of the story is the moment right before they cross the Red Sea, which happens miraculously and as a further testament to the fact that they, in fact, did NOT rescue themselves. They couldn’t. God helped them anyway – God did what they could not even start to plan. But let’s recap how they got here:
400 years have gone by since Joseph, and the new rulers don’t care about some centuries old famine some foreigner saved them from. The new ruler is, in fact, pretty glad that because of whatever happened back in the day, Egypt has some free labor.
But man oh man are there a lot of them.
So, pharaoh starts killing off the Hebrew boys. I’m not sure how that would have made for a sturdy future workforce of manual labor, but it didn’t work anyway – the midwives wouldn’t obey and moms were hiding their babies and finally, Moses was born. His mom put him in the Nile when she couldn’t hide him any longer and he is found by an Egyptian princess. Moses grew up in the palace and was well taken care of, educated, and protected. When he’s 40, he sees first hand the oppression of his people and he takes matters into his own hands: he kills an Egyptian. Everyone knows he did it, too. So he flees. He had somewhat hoped to rescue his people. But he couldn’t do it on his own terms. He’s gone for 40 years. He gets married, becomes a shepherd, the old days of being a great Egyptian adoptee long forgotten in a shameful past.
Then one day, God shows up. God reveals himself as the “I AM” – one of the most profound and incredible revelations of God’s self in all of scripture: I am is not ever in the past tense. I am is not in the future tense. I am is here and now and always IS. It is one of the statements Jesus uses about himself in John that gets him in trouble, and it is one of the most powerful 2 word descriptions of any deity anywhere: I AM. The one who goes before and behind and is with us everywhere IS the I AM. And what God does – boy, howdy!
God had always intended to use Moses for rescuing the Hebrews – but God’s plan was a little more awe-inspiring than a simple revolution. God shows up as a burning/not burning bush in the middle of a wilderness to reclaim and rescue his people.
And he does it through the most reluctant of heroes.
Moses has learned his lesson. He’s not interested in saving anybody anymore. He just wants to work for his father-in-law and die in piece.
And God says nope.
Moses is now EIGHTY years old, folks. I know people who no longer want to walk a dog, let alone rescue a million people from captivity at that age! In fact, I know folks who CAN’T do anything more…but I digress
Moses finally agrees, but his older brother has to speak for him.
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like him.
God loved us enough to want us to live like Jesus – and abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loved us enough to still let us choose our destiny.
God loved us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.