Notes on the Exodus (121)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Lord’s Possession  (Chapter 12 Verses 37-51)

In these remaining verses of chapter twelve, it is clear that Israel, this mighty host leaving Egypt are under God’s law. The divine justice system provides them with the governing principles they need (v49-51). Now this is important. Their new-found freedom is not just a free-for-all, this would lead to chaos. With hindsight, we know how rebellious they were, how hard pressed Moses was to keep them in order. There were times when God himself had to intervene judiciously in order to keep them in check. We have seen this in countries more recently where freedom has been gained from hardline communist or Islamic rulers. At first, the people don’t know what to do with their new found freedom, it tends to mayhem until some new form of government is formed. So God’s law is of the  utmost importance for God’s people as they enter their new freedom from Egypt’s tyranny and head towards the promised land. But this is a mixed multitude, there are Egyptians who have joined them, so are they bound by God’s law also? Yes, God’s law as with his covenant is not national, it is international, it is applicable to all creation. “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered” (Isaiah 56:3-8). So it is not only Israel even at this stage who are the Lord’s own possession, his people. The gospel was and is always to be proclaimed indiscriminately, not exclusively. It is to those who hear his call, who believe, who follow him. It is to those who yield, submit to him as their Lord and Master. Those willing to learn to be his servants, witnesses (1Peter 2:9-10). They are his people, separate from the world, from those who are not called, who do not hear, who do not follow, who will not submit. So what is meant by separation?

It is a preserving of gospel, heart purity and a clarity of witness amongst the Lord’s people. It should be evident all around them that they are different, righteously so. But this is in order to be shining lights to those without, “do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). It is in order to lead others to faith in the God who has delivered them. There is both command and commission involved. Not to receive the foreigner is a denial of the Lord we profess to love and serve. You too were once a foreigner alienated from the commonwealth of God’s people and God himself. But it is on God’s terms, not theirs. It is made clear they do not become the Lord’s people on their own terms. To allow such into the life of the church, with patterns of life and activity that dilute and contradicts the message of faith and morals, is disastrous. And this has been done in recent days in the West and equally with disastrous effects. The church has been swamped by unbelief. In submitting to the ordinances of the Lord the foreigner must renounce their old way of life, identity and inclinations even. They must be willing to become students (disciples) like the rest of us. We learn together. We do well to remember this each time we come to church. Do we come with a desire to learn, a hunger for truth, a humility and willingness to learn?

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (21)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Spiritual Force Field  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

The complete, the whole armour of God is likened to a force field. An energy shield deflecting the assaults of the enemy (v16). It keeps him from penetrating the citadel of our minds. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith (v16). The definite article I think is needed because the reference is first of all to the objective faith of the believer. The objective is what the subjective embraces. The objective truth of the gospel is what protects us from the blazing, fiery missiles of the devil, his temptations. And that is what they are, “flaming darts” (v16). Just as Eve was tempted to doubt God’s word. She ought to have answered no, I believe God’s word. But she and the rest, as we say, is history. We ourselves ought to answer likewise, I believe the objective truth of God’s word. It is written, therefore I believe. To hold up the shield is to hold up the word of God, the doctrine of the gospel. The apostle Paul probably has the picture of a Roman soldier’s shield as he pens this (v16). It was thought to be about four feet in height. Something like what our riot police use, it covers their entire bodies. If you formed a row of Roman soldiers with their shields up you would virtually have an impenetrable wall. With this shield, you can withstand the schemes of the devil (v11). For he is actively, and viciously hostile to God. But he cannot touch God so he goes for his woman, his bride (Revelation 12:13-17). He furiously pursues her. He fires his flaming darts tipped with the poison of his lies. The power of Satan is in the lie, he is the great deceiver, he is the father of lies (John 8:44; Revelation 20:3). He seeks to set our minds ablaze with his lies, about God, about Christ and the gospel. Think of the fire that he started in Eve’s mind, it still burns today. The devil is a fire raiser. You get no warning, he comes at you in different ways, different times. Seldomly the same way twice. His schemes are many (v11). So we need to be prepared, clothed upon with the whole armour God at all times. In all kinds of circumstances, it may be, temptations, surges of feeling, something that takes you by surprise, that stings you to react. Whether it be personal or corporately, the church, he seeks to set a whole host of fires in our midst, until the whole church is ablaze.

Or he may seek to panic us, he can sow and grow the seeds of great fear in us. Set thought patterns in motion, suspicions, criticisms, accusations, or disagreements. We need the shield of faith in all circumstances (v16). Sometimes we get caught by friendly fire, this also happens in a war zone. It might be a close friend who is feeling ignored for some reason, it may be genuine it may not be. The devil seeks all such occasions. All his schemes are calculated to bring confusion, distraction, distress, and division amongst God’s people. Be assured these are not of God, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). But he has studied us well, he knows where we are vulnerable, how to get the reaction he wants. We need that shield of faith (v16). He is a fear raiser too. He will take things of your past, bring them to mind, and accuse you. “What if people knew about this,” he whispers in your ear. Answer? God knows, it has been dealt with in the gospel. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). He can cause irrational panic, “then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul” (1 Samuel 27:1). Whatever, we need to grow in Christian discernment, we need to learn to recognise these flaming darts of the wicked one. We need to learn to use our God-given shields of faith (v16). And do remember it is only in a spiritually dry heart and life that Satan’s fires can take hold.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (120)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Lord’s Passover  (Chapter 12 Verses 37-51)

As we turn again to the ordinance of the Passover (v43-51), don’t miss the authentication of the historical record, the fulfilment of prophecy. “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13). Away back in Abraham’s day, God was saying exactly how this would work out and the number of years Israel would sojourn in Egypt. This is food for your faith. It matters because it is the history of your salvation. The accuracy of the Bible is the factual basis of the saving work of our God in history. And so to the Passover. It points to our Saviour, Jesus Christ the Lord. Not a bone to be broken (v46). The sacrifice must be a perfect one, this is the meaning here and of course, the reason why the bones of our Saviour could not be broken either. “Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs” (John 19:31-33). TDhroughout the Bible the Passover points onwards to the Saviour, to God’s lamb (John 1:29). His particular death for his particular people’s salvation. That through faith in his atoning death redemption would be theirs. The ordinance then and now is to be kept pure. The foreigner has no part in it (v45, 48). It’s not that they could not belong, but only by faith. That faith they would have to express publicly and in receiving the sign covenant. The sign which was circumcision in the old dispensation and now baptism in the new dispensation. It is not the sign of course that made them belong, but faith. The faith that recognised and accepted the offered salvation and life by God’s free and sovereign grace.

That grace is always particular. Israel was God’s chosen nation. They did not choose God, he chose them. We did not choose Jesus he chose us (John 15:16, 19). And Israel was chosen to be a blessing to all the nations. This was made plain to Abraham “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). The bitter exclusivism of the Pharisees was never the Lord’s intent and still isn’t. We also are to be a blessing to the nations, we are to win this blood-bought world for God, not by turning the doctrines of grace into a set of quarantine rules. But by an indiscriminate preaching of the gospel of Christ to all men (Matthew 28:19). Some of the severest rebukes of the Lord were reserved for the ‘frozen chosen.’ “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:13-15).

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (20)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Grace of Peace  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

Peace is a spiritual and gracious gift of God (Galatians 5:22). It is that grace gift that guards and keeps our hearts immovable in Christ Jesus. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7); “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4). It is a supernatural peace, it is of God and so the devil cannot move us from our gospel stance and Christian practice. The guard spoken of here in Philippians is akin to a sentinel, a soldier on guard duty. God’s peace is that soldier guarding and keeping our hearts. So we can’t be moved from the basis, the foundation of our peace, i.e., the gospel. We cannot be kept from expressing the gospel or our worship of God in our daily lives. O the enemy may try. But that’s why daily we need to dawn the whole armour of God. If our peace goes we become restless, physically, mentally and emotionally. It is then we begin to drive ourselves, seeking to work more and feeling like we’ll never succeed. Then we become tired and weary and sad. Driven by the devil and not led by Jesus. We know nothing of the quiet and confidence that the prophet speaks of, “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “in returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15-16). But when we get ourselves into trouble and our peace is disturbed the answer is the same as before. It wasn’t works that got us right with and at peace with God, to begin with, it was faith, it was trust. And that is still the answer, to trust, in the gospel of peace.

So the answer is not our striving but rather to learn to be still, to cease from our own works. A renewed awareness of God (Psalm 46:10). For he hasn’t moved, he is still there, still with you. Did he not promise that very thing? Sometimes we get to running around like headless chickens, almost as though the whole cause of God, including our own salvation, will all collapse if we’re not doing. God is in control, we live and work under his orders. So we can rest, we can let the peace of God rule our hearts, let them return to their rest, to the God of peace. Because God will not fail us, he has promised. We have a covenant signed and sealed with the blood of his Son. It is an inviolable and unbreakable covenant. And part of that covenant package is peace, “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).  He assures us that he has prepared the way, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). It is only when we begin to forget the facts of the gospel that we lose our peace. That peace is a confidence in what God has done. If we are not at peace that is saying we are not trusting, simple. But we are given a good prescription for peace (Philippians 4:4-7, 10-13). But our gospel peace must be thought of in the context of the spiritual warfare and service we have been called up to. The peace is promised in the midst of the battle, not out of it. If you have disengaged yourself from the war, sought terms of peace with the enemy. If you have become a spectator of the battle scene, then no wonder if you have no peace. This is one way the devil will give you peace, quit the fight, compromise, he’ll leave you alone, for sure. But we don’t want the devil’s peace, we want God’s peace, yes?

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (119)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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A Night to Remember  (Chapter 12 Verses 37-51)

After the Passover, Israel’s delivered from Egypt. In and through all this part of Israel’s history and God’s dealing with them, we have seen God in action as he promised. We have seen his compassion in calling, preparing and installing a leader in their midst. His promises manifest in the mighty displays of divine power. But not one single Israelite, not a soul is delivered until the blood of the lamb is shed, then, redemption is effected. And Israel is free. Now project this forward to the gospel. The calling, the teaching, the blessed ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, his miracles, not to mention his holy life. But it is not until his blood is shed (John 12:23-24), and he raised from the tomb, that his disciples believed, the church added to, men and women set free from the bondage and oppression of sin. Who would ever have believed that Egypt would treat Israel in this way (v36)? “Now unto him, that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Now the Lord’s victorious army is on the move, a host (v41). Well over a million souls, a mixed multitude. And brought out the selfsame day as predicted, on the day God had planned. All this God tells them is to be remembered, it is a night to be remembered (v42). This more than implies that the Lord’s people are people with a future, a destiny. Yes, even we today. There is a God-awareness about them, he watches over them (v42). There is a vast number of them, in spite of their slavery they increased greatly, and now ready to be led by the Lord towards the promised land. They will in the days ahead lose that awareness of God’s presence with them, even question it, and sinfully deny it. But he was there with them all the time, just as he promised. And just as he continues to promise, with us his people, always.

But for now, there is a great willingness (v39). The food is prepared in a hurry, the unleavened cakes are eaten on the move. They, at this point, willingly turn their backs upon the luxuries of Egypt, alas, not for long (Exodus 16:2-3). Now they are a pilgrim people on a God-ordained diet. They began well, they were enthusiastic, there was commitment. But a good start does not guarantee a good finish, how we finish is of the utmost importance. “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22). Their commitment is expressed in their business (v38-39). Such awareness, and commitment to the cause. Was it this that had an evangelistic impact on some of the Egyptians, that caused them to leave with them? For they too had witnessed the many great things God had done for his people. So they wanted to follow, well some of them. One can only wonder what impact the grumbling and complaining of Israel later on, had on them? There is a lesson there too for us is there not? Or was their faith real, or perhaps just an emotional attraction, or maybe they too were tired of Pharaoh’s tyranny? Why people come and join our congregations doesn’t really matter, what matters most is what they hear and see. That they hear the gospel plainly, clearly proclaimed. And that they see us, the people of God, not grumbling and complaining about our Pastors and elders, and gossiping about one another. But rather that they see a people busy, committed to the Lord’s cause and loving one another fervently. And of course ultimately that they themselves come to a real and saving faith. Reborn of God’s Spirit and washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus (John 1:29).

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (19)

“Fight the Good Fight”

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The way, the truth and the life!

The Gospel of Peace  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

Notice how all the items of armour are correlated, interlocked with each other. There is progression even. We embrace the truth, God declares us righteous and we have peace with and the peace of God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7). The apostle here speaks of gospel shoes (v15), not carpet slippers. We are to be ready for to hit the road with the good news of God’s salvation to the world’s sinners, not for bed. We need shoes that we will be able to stand in and be prepared, ready for whatever we meet. We do want to find ourselves distracted, even disabled by feet that are uncomfortable. For we are in for the long haul, long-term service. We are not engaged in short-term missionary service, you know, just to see if it is suitable for us. Or perhaps if the climate suits us. We need to be quietly and inwardly assured of our calling, settled in regards to the nature and the outcome of our service for the Lord Jesus Christ. The soldier needs to be sure of his capacity and competence to serve. That his cause is a just and righteous one, it is only then that he will not be easily shifted. Standing firm in his gospel shoes, at peace with God and his mind, garrisoned with the peace of God. A squad of soldiers is an impressive sight. One that discourages trouble makers. When we as Christian brethren are thus united, a band of brothers, persuaded of the truth of our message and service to God, communicate the same impression. A powerful, positive impression. And not just in defence of God’s revelation but attacking with it also. Going forward attacking and pulling down the strongholds of the enemy, assured of the outcome. We called to the mother of all wars, a spiritual war remember, against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:11-12).

But the outcome of the conflict has already been decided, we are on the winning side. We may not be five-star generals, colonels or even serjeants. We may be just squaddies who have landed on the beach and we’ve got to the first sand dune. And our job is to get to the next one, and who knows, maybe we won’t make it, perhaps we’ll be killed in action? No matter, it’s win win. We go to heaven anyway. So we fight the fight of faith with this amazing peace in our hearts, this assurance of the final outcome. This peace is positively encouraging because it is grounded in the facts, the historical facts of the gospel. The war and its outcome is not even our responsibility, we cry as with Judah of old, “O our God…we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee” (2Chronicles 20:12). This is our peace, resting in God in his might. The battle is the Lord’s. For his resources are limitless though invisible. His servants patrol the earth night and day. I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. And the man that stood among the myrtle-trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle-trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest” (Zechariah 1:8-11). So clothed upon with the whole armour of God we are ready, we have the capacity for service that stands on our conviction of the truth revealed to us, the everlasting gospel. Our message of peace that brings peace to others. 

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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