Reclaimed

Isaiah 58:12 says: “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the repairer of the Breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”

As a pastor of a five church district that stretches nearly 200 miles from end to end, often there isn’t time to dabble in a hobby. Yet, it is essential for my mental well-being. My pursuit of choice is restoring antique furniture. Recently well cruising Facebook Marketplace, I saw a nearly 100-year-old secretary desk that had seen its better days. The price was steeper than I wanted to pay, and also located in Colorado, while I live in Northeastern Wyoming. Yet, it appealed to me. My wife says it was as if it was calling out for help. Arrangements were made to bring it from Colorado to Cheyanne and then to Douglas WY, where the exchange of the desk for money took place.

There are times when a picture is worth a thousand words, but the image on Facebook was far greater than how the desk looked in person. It was dirty, with a broken leg that was tapped up with electrical tape. Without the electrical tape, the desk could not even stand on all four legs. Yet another leg was missing its top, and each joint was either broken or loose. Yet, the potential could still be seen. So the purchase was made, and the process of disassembly and reconstruction began.

Often, fixing the broken in this life takes pressure and time, and the process is slow and labor-intensive. The fractured leg was no exception, as the shaping, gluing, clamping, and drying time took a total of 24 hours of intense pressure. Patience is needed to allow the process to happen naturally. The process could not be rushed, for if rushed, failure would incur.

But over time, the desk once again began to take shape. It began to resemble how the craftsman initially intended when it was created. The legs were repaired the desk was reglued and clamped.  Then it took hours literally to clean the dirt and grime from the desk.

Antique furniture restoration reminds me of the process all of heaven goes through to reclaim just one sinner. It cost all heaven had, and during the process, there was no guarantee it would work. Any slip, any misstep would cause sin to last forever, leaving those Christ came to save marred and eternally lost.

Christ came and carefully illustrated before us all the process necessary for humanity to be fully restored. Restored to the same glory our first parents had in the Garden Tabernacle of the Pre-incarnate Christ called the Garden of Eden.

Christ has called the Christian church His workshop. Each master restorer works in conjunction with heaven to restore broken humanity. As with furniture, the process takes time, and it is labor-intensive. Often what is being repaired comes under duress as it resists change. But slowly, patiently, heaven and the church, God’s instrument of restoration here on earth, work together to bring restoration to those who have been purchased at a great price. Why? Because the master carpenter saw value in what looked worthless and emptied the treasury of heaven to purchase and then restore what the universe saw as of no value.

God Threatens to Kill Moses?

The name Moses means Because I drew him out of the water (Exodus 2:10). It is the first time Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible, has been mentioned by name, and Pharoah’s daughter named him. What is implied with the naming of Moses is as follows. The book of Revelation gives us a clue toward understanding Moses’s name. Names in the Bible often mean the character and sometimes the purpose of the person possessing the name.

Revelation 17:15 says, “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are people, multitudes, nations, and tongues.’” Abraham was called to form a family from all the people of the earth and bless all the earth’s people. Moses was called to build a nation from the family of Abraham. So of all the people in the earth, Moses was explicitly called to lead a people, that we see in Deuteronomy 7:7, “. . . for you are the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you and because He would keep the oath which He sore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharoah king of Egypt.”

With this background information, why do we see God in Exodus 4:24 wanting to kill Moses? Let’s look at the text together. “And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him (Moses) and sought to kill him.” We must ask ourselves, what is going on here? Why did God spend all this time talking with Moses from the fiery bush that would not burn, convincing Moses, the reluctant leader? Hey Moses, leave these sheep and go back to Egypt to lead His people who will be like sheep out of bondage, only to attempt to kill Moses on the way to do what God has asked him to do? For the longest time, this puzzled me. 

The answer is complex yet actually quite simple. The answer hinges on three chapters in Genesis.  Genesis chapters 15, 16, 17 and is scattered throughout Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy to fully understand.  Let me briefly try to explain. In Genesis 15, we have the story of Abraham. He is fearful for his life and his servant’s lives because of the events that have just taken place in Genesis 14. God comes before Abraham and assures him in verse one of Genesis 15. “After these things (which just happened in chapter 14), the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” God is saying, Hey Abraham, I have your back, and I am, from your seed, still going to make you a great nation and give you the land of Canaan for your possession.  Here let me show you my faithfulness.  And so what follows is one of the strangest sounding covenants in all the Bible.  Strange that is until you understand that what God does for Abraham in the form of a “Susseran Covenant” is very much in keeping with the agreements made between nations during that time.

A “Susseran Covenant” works this way. The greater party states that it will perform specific duties if the lesser party consents to do certain things. But suppose either party fails to fulfill its obligation. In that case, the party that has lived up to the agreement can cut the other party that was unable to live up to the agreement in two. 

Yes, this sounds brutal, and it is cruel. But it is an effective way of keeping both parties to fulfill their part of the covenant agreement.  But as you read Genesis 15, it becomes clear that Abraham cannot perform his part of the agreement. But what becomes even more apparent is that two entities pass through the covenant agreement and promise to fulfill their part of the agreement.  Look at Genesis 15:17. “And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and burning torch that passed between those pieces.” The smoking oven and a burning torch are symbols for the Pre-incarnate Christ and God the Father.  They passed between the cut and laid out pieces as was typical of the “susseran covenant” agreement (see Genesis 15:9-10).

The ink was not dry upon the covenant agreement when Sarah and Abraham attempt to take matters into their own hands by Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid, becoming the concubine of Abraham. And she promptly has a baby named Ishmael (see Genesis chapter 16).

Chapter 17 comes along. Twenty-four years after Abraham was given the promise of a Son by way of Sarah, Sarah still has not given him a child, and at 89 years old, it seems biologically impossible.  Yet God again reestablishes the covenant agreement, but this time using circumcision to symbolize man’s oneness with God. 

Let’s tie this all together.  The animals used in the first covenant agreement (Geneiss 15) are animals used by the Children of Israel for a sin offering and used on the day of Atonement.  The day of Atonement is when the sins of the High Priest, Priests, and the people are ceremonially placed upon the scapegoat. The scapegoat symbolizes Satan and that the sins of those who seek repentance will transfer from the sinner to Satan. Why Satan? Because Satan is the source of all evil in this world. 

Thus circumcision in Genesis 17, by way of Genesis 15, the Susseran Covenant agreement, the Hagar story in which Abraham, who represents all humanity, trying to assure his own success but fails, is brought full circle in that Salvation is not by our works, but trusting upon God to do the work for us. When we attempt it on our own, it will fail.  So Circumcision as a covenant agreement, along with the Hagar story and the Suseran Agreement of Genesis 15, is to bring us into Atonement (at one-ment) with God in that our Salvation and existence is dependant upon God and God alone.  We can do nothing but have faith and trust in God.

This is what happened the first time when Moses attempted to achieve freedom for his brothers.  He did it on his terms and in his own way.  Moses failed! He had to run away. Instead of being in line to be the next Pharoah, Moses became a sheep farmer.  Forty years later, he was ready, or so he finally believed himself to be.  But within his own life, Moses had not been faithful. The first son he had circumcised, but the second at the beginning of his wife, was not circumcised. Therefore God sought to kill Moses because Moses and his family had not followed or honored their side of the covenant agreement.

In other words, Moses still was not at one with God.  God today is seeking leaders, both men, and women, who are at one with Him,  and willing to lead His people in preparing them to enter the promised land.

Would God have killed Moses? I don’t know. But it impressed Moses of his need to be at one with God, personally, and with his family, and as a leader to develop a nation to enter the promised land.  This story of Moses and God wanting to kill Moses should remind us all of the need to be at one with God.

I want to make an essential point.  God, because of our sinful nature, does not expect that we will ever be perfect. But by submitting our will to God’s will, his character can be reproduced in us, as it was and as we shall see in the life of Moses.   

A Hardened Heart

Quite frankly, the following passage from Exodus has bothered me for some time. God miraculously calls Moses through a bush that is on fire but is not consumed by the fire. Moses is reluctant to fulfill God’s mission because the once proud man has been humbled by 40 years of caring for sheep. So then, we must ask ourselves a very tough question. Why would God harden Pharoah’s heart (see Exodus 4:21)?

Let’s get caught up on the story. In verse 18, Moses asks his father-in-law for permission to return to Egypt. Jethro says yes. Then in verses 19-23, God gives Moses additional directions on what Moses is to say and do. God also warns Moses that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened. The text reads, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharoah which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go’” (Exodus 4:21). It seems strange to hear a passage in which God states, “I am going to do something contrary to what I want to happen.” I want my people to be free and make of them a great nation. Therefore, I am sending you, Moses, but I am going to make it difficult in that I am going to harden Pharoah’s heart. Wouldn’t God be better off softening Pharoah’s heart to get him to release the people? What is happening? Why would God harden Pharoah’s heart?

Throughout the Old Testament, God often assumes responsibility for man’s decisions and actions. You see this quite frequently in the books of Isiah and Jeremiah. But perhaps this concept can best be described using a New Testament Parable.

In Christ’s parable of the “Sower and the Seed,” (see Matthew 13:3-23). There was no difference between the seed scattered on one kind of soil with that sown in the others or how it was sown. Everything depended upon the reception given the seed by each type of soil. In like manner, the hardening of Pharoah’s heart was in no way an act of God but rather a deliberate choice on Pharoah’s part. By repeated warnings and display of divine power, God sent light designed to point out to Pharoah the error of his ways, to soften and subdue his heart, and to lead him to cooperate with God’s will. But each successive manifestation of divine power left Pharoah more determined to do as he pleased. Refusing to be corrected, he despised and rejected light until he became insensitive to it, and the light was finally withdrawn. It was his resistance to the light that hardened his heart. Even the heathen recognized that it was Pharoah and the Egyptians themselves who hardened their hearts, not God (I Samuel 6:6).

We will learn more about the hardening of hearts as we go forward in the story of The Exodus. Through the story of Pharoah, we will see that there is a progression to how a person’s heart becomes hardened. But the truth is that God causes his sun to shine upon the evil and the good (see Matthew 5:45). But as the sun affects different materials in different ways, it melts wax. It hardens clary according to their nature. So the influence of the Spirit of God upon the hearts of men produces different effects According to the condition of the heart. The repentant sinner allows God’s spirit to lead him to conversion and salvation, but the unrepentant sinner hardens their heart more and more. The very same manifestation of the God’s mercy leads in the case of the one to salvation and life and in that of the other to judgment and death – to each according to his own choice.

In closing, let’s include verses 22 and 23. “Then you shall say to Pharoah, ‘Thus says the LORD: Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.’”

This is seemingly a harsh passage, and indeed it is. But not so much when you consider the time and place. In declaring Israel to be God’s firstborn son, Moses used language familiar to the Egyptian Pharoah. Each Pharoah considered himself the son of the sun-god Amen-Ra. Then what the God of heaven is saying to Pharoah, “You are not my firstborn as you believe yourself to be. I am not Amen-Ra. I am the great I AM. I have chosen for myself Israel as My firstborn.

First, let me remind you, Moses did not state this until all other avenues of persuasion had been exhausted. But when Moses finally stated this, he stated it with the “Eye for an Eye and Tooth for a Tooth” principle.  What is this eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth business about? This was the law in the land throughout the entire region, from the land of the Chaldeans to Egypt. We see this in Babylonian, Hittite, Canaanite, and Egyptian writing from this period of time. 

God is essentially saying, Let Israel, My firstborn, go. If you do not, then I will meet you in a way that you understand in that I will rise up against your firstborn. Your firstborn Pharoah is believed to be from the god Amen-Ra, but let me assure you, I AM is the God over all the earth, and I have chosen Israel as My firstborn, My son. Therefore let My people go, My firstborn, or if your heart remains hardened against my will, you will have chosen death for your own.

It seems strange in our society today to talk like this. God was meeting the Egyptian Pharoah in a way that the Pharoah could easily understand and respond to. He was meeting Pharoah in the mindset that Pharoah and society had.

The beauty is that God always meets us where we are. He did this for Adam and Eve after they sinned. He did this for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and many others in the Bible. He does the same for us today.

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