Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church; Message on ; Date:

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Complete Deliverance

 

The Bible book of Exodus reports in the first chapter – Exodus 1:11-14: “ . the Egyptians [original: they] put slave masters over the Israelites [original: them] to oppress them with forced labour … the Egyptians … worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter … ” Then, in the second chapter we find these lines – Exodus 2:23-25: “ … The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them

Considering these opening statements – what do you think that the Bible book of Exodus is about? The title of the book may give us a clue. “Exodus” comes from the Greek word “exodos” which means departure and therefore it is a natural assumption that the book of Exodus is about the departure – the escape to freedom – of the enslaved Israelites from Egypt. Do you agree? The book is about God rescuing a nation of slaves and settling them in the promised land which is flowing with milk and honey.

Yet, this is a very incomplete understanding of what happened. I have been wrong about this for years. What the book is really about is worship. There is a rescue from slavery and there is a promised land but the heart of it all is the worship of God. The people of Israel themselves – at least the generation that was rescued from Egypt – never understood this. They never understood how much God favoured them – and we may be the same. We want to have our needs met (our share of the promised land) – food, clothes, shelter, a job, health – and then we want more. We want to share in the affluence of our Western world. We want a car, a house, a holiday, more money. We want to go shopping.

Is God opposed to these aspirations? God is not opposed to blessing us with “milk and honey” – we have a rich God – but there is a two-fold correction. 1. You are not aiming high enough. Any rescue from slavery – any life improvement – is wonderful but there is so much more – worship. Nothing satisfies more than God. 2. It is not about you but God. God loves you – he hears your cry – but when he rescues you from slavery – or from whatever darkness – this does not mean that he is your servant and you are his master. He is God and it is about him. The goal of worship is for his glory.

A Bible teacher writes [abbreviate and retell in your own words]: “The first seven years after I was saved, I attended and eventually worked for a large church that emphasized God’s promises and provisions. It was a very evangelistic church with a passion to reach the world with the good news of the gospel, yet the gospel preached there accented the benefits of the kingdom rather than the glory of knowing God [– worshipping him]. People traveled from all over the world to come to the congregation, for it was well known internationally. The leaders’ zeal to see others saved was contagious. Many people in the international outreach church had a passion for ministry, and I was certainly one of them.

In those first few years of my association with that church I arose each morning and prayed as long as an hour and a half before going to work. I asked God to use me to reach the lost and dying, to heal the sick. I cried out to go to the nations to set the captives free. On and on I prayed fervently till one morning I heard the Lord say to my heart, ‘John, your prayers are off!’

I thought to myself, ‘That can’t be God’s voice. That has to be the enemy. Yet I knew it was the voice of the Lord. I was bewildered: ‘Lord, how can You say this to me? I am praying for people to be saved, healed, and delivered [– set free from “Egypt”]. This is what you desire!’ But God saw beyond my words. He saw how little I knew of his true nature, and without it He knew that even though I would have been leading people out of bondage, such ministry would have eventually led me and many of those I taught to further bondage of idolatry – within the church setting.

He said to me, ‘John, the goal of Christianity is not ministry [further rescue missions from “Egypt”]. You can cast out demons, heal the sick, and lead people to salvation, yet end up in hell.’ He added, ‘Judas left his job to follow Me, he healed the sick, he raised the dead, and he cast out demons, yet he is in hell.’ Those words riveted my heart.

We have to remember that when the apostles went out with power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils, Judas was included (Matt. 10:1-8).

I quickly asked, ‘Then what is the goal of Christianity?’ He immediately replied, ‘To know Me intimately [– in worship]!’ I then remembered that Paul said he counted all things as rubbish that he ‘may know him’ (Phil. 3:10). The Lord whispered to my heart, ‘Out of that intimate relationship [intimate worship] will come true ministry.’ Daniel confirmed that by saying, ‘But the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits’ (Dan. 11:32 NKJV) … ” (John Bevere, A Heart Ablaze, Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1999, p20-21).

What is the Bible book of Exodus about? What is the true goal of Christianity? It is not setting the captives free. It is not the healing of cancers and the driving out of demons – as much as we are hungry for this here at Living Grace. The true goal of Christianity is worship – knowing him intimately – because nothing satisfies more than God and God – also – is satisified by our worship of him. Everything is about his glory – not us – and then – as a consequence – from his glory – true ministry flows.

This is critical. The slave people in the Bible book of Exodus became free from their human masters but then never committed to the worship of their Saviour God which means that they never got to know him. They were interested in what he could do for them but never sought to understand him or honour his intentions and therefore (this is absolutely tragic) they died in the desert – never made it to the promised land.

Before we unpack this from the book of Exodus, I let another pastor shed light on the matter. He writes: “As a speaker in citywide and regional conferences, I am often asked to unmask the ‘spiritual power’ opposing the body of Christ in the conference region. City leaders and intercessors have even asked if I knew the ‘name’ of the principle spirit that is resisting the church in their area. ‘Do you want to know the name of the most powerful spirit opposing most Christians?’ I ask. Eager faces respond affirmatively. ‘It’s Yahweh.’ My questioners, who suddenly look like a tree full of owls, are always bewildered by my answer. They are sure I misunderstood the question. Then, I explain. I remind them that, according to the Scriptures, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (James 4:6) … ” (Francis Frangipane: The Land Beneath Our Feet).

In the end this is what happened to the slave generation in Egypt. God rescued them from their slave masters but they never understood his goal of worship – that they were to humble themselves before him and honour him and obey him – instead they went from desperation to pride – the worship of self rather than him. So – in time – God – their Saviour – ended up opposing them.

Even for us – this is an interesting question: “What is the principal spirit resisting Living Grace and Toowoomba? What is the name of the SpiritIs it Yahweh? Is God opposed to us or are we on the way of having him oppose us? Have we ever read the book of Exodus and understood the goal of deliverance, that is: the worship of our God?

This goes deep and – today – in this message – we will only be able to scratch the surface of the matter. At first – according to the book of Exodus – everything was well. The circumstances were oppressive but the people’s worship – if you can call it worship at that time (because after more than four hundred years in Egypt they no longer remembered their God) – was at its primitive best. We read – Exodus 2:23: “ … The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to GodGod heard them crying out and introduced himself to his people so that – Exodus 4:31: “ … when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped

The people offered God neither repentance nor praise. They simply cried out in pain. Life became so bitter and the forced labour became so hard that an entire nation burst out with a primal and primitive scream for survival. This was not worship in the conventional sense – this was not going to church and praising God in songs – but – nevertheless – the cry for help went up to God. Why? Because it is in God’s nature to help those without hope. A long time ago he promised to the man Abraham that his descendants would be blessed and that even all peoples on earth – including us – would be blessed through him (cf. Genesis 12:2-3). Therefore, when we are caught up in a most desperate downhill spiral, he cannot shut his ears to our anguish and depression but – overflowing with concern and love – is moved to honour his promises which were given because he has compassion on his creations in the first place.

You may be here in church today and you may still be on the fringe in your relationship with God but the good news is that God responds to the desperate. If you feel that you are overwhelmed by life – if you are humbled by your circumstances and know that you need someone else to help you (you in your own strength are done) – and therefore you cry out to whoever is there in the heavens, then be assured: God is hearing you. There is hope. Deliverance is coming. You will be set free and there will be a promised land – for you – and he will lead you to worship him.

Ephesians 1:4-12 – I read from the Bible: “ … In love God predestined us to be adopted as his children through Jesus Christ … to the praise of his glorious grace … In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace … in order that we … might be for the praise of his gloryKeep crying out for help! God predestined us to be free as his children – forgiven – redeemed from any bondage by the blood of Jesus – and (please take notice) – as in the Bible book of Exodus – this is promised to happen with the goal of worship in mind. I repeat two phrases from the Bible reading: “… to the praise of his glorious grace … we … might be for the praise of his glory

Maybe in our thinking right now deliverance and worship do not seem to have a strong connection (I may want to be free from drug addiction but have no interest in prayer – I may want to get a job but not commit to Sunday worship) but learn the truth. If you want to be free indeed and aim as high as God has allowed you to aim, then listen to him. God sets you free for worship (and only those who worship will experience complete deliverance).

A brief survey of Exodus makes this clear – Exodus 3:12: “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 7:16: “ … The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me … ” Exodus 8:1: “ … Let my people go, so that they may worship me … ” Exodus 9:1: “ … Let my people go, so that they may worship me … ” Exodus 9:13: “ … Let my people go, so that they may worship me … ” Exodus 10:3: “ … Let my people go, so that they may worship me … ” Exodus 19:3-6: “ … You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself … you will be my treasured possession … a kingdom of priests and a holy nation … ” Exodus 25:8: “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Exodus 29:45-46: “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.” Exodus 33:14: “ … My Presence will go with you … ”

There is a connection between deliverance and worship because the worship of God – our Saviour – comes with his presence – as we worship, he dwells among us – which is the guarantee for ongoing freedom. I say it again: As we worship God, our deliverance becomes complete and he satisfies all of our needs. Any compromise on this point is going to enslave us again because any hankering after other gods, persons or life-styles is bringing us back under their influence which is not giving us the same freedom as God. Therefore, this morning – go for God: Worship him – enjoy all of him – and be free.

However – at the same time – be warned. Guard your attitude. God is not always what you want him to be. It is more than likely – judging by the experience of his people (past and present) – that you will take offense at him. When the people of Israel obeyed God and told their slave master (the ruler of Egypt) to let them go and worship their God, the outcome was not pleasant. The Pharaoh said – Exodus 5:17: “ … Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy. That is why you keep saying, Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord … ” He decided no longer to supply the necessary straw for making bricks but at the same time insist on the same quota of bricks per day. This created a serious predicament – Exodus 5:19: “The Israelite foremen realized that they were in trouble … ” and then attacked God through his leader Moses – Exodus 5:21: “ … You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us

How would you react – how would you feel about God – when he promises to help you but then causes even more misery? Instead of becoming healthier, you become sicker. Instead of going ahead financially, you lose more money. Instead of the family coming together, there are further temper tantrums. Instead of the church going from strength to strength, there are further challenges and heartaches. What would you make of this? Honest now. Many a time we are not that impressed with God and – from a certain perspective – we are actually right to blame God. It is his fault. Only – he has not wavered from his commitments but feels free to follow his own strategy – not ours.

We read in the Bible – Exodus 7:3-5: “ . I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgement I will bring out my … people … And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” Exodus 14:4: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord … ” We may not like this strategy at all. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart which made him even more hostile to the people of Israel but God wanted the showdown – the demonstration of his superior might over all of the powers and demonic forces of Egypt. He wanted a rescue mission which would stick in the memory of his people and the nations around them.

It would not be surprising if God wanted Toowoomba to be saved in the same way. Precisely when everything looks beyond redemption (no water, more family breakdown), he will break through with his glory.

In the meantime – for that purpose – there was (and is) increased hardship, the endurance of plagues – judgements on Egypt which also affected God’s own people – such as water turning into blood, frogs and gnats. Would we (do we) bless God for this? Do we make sense of this? [We always seem to make everything personal and take everything personal. However, God may be bringing plagues of judgement upon our region and people with the consequence that we end up simply sharing in their suffering. Not every hardship in our lives is caused by our own personal sins … Then, put yourself in the shoes of the Israelite leaders. Ten times they were full of courage and faith – confronting the most powerful man of their day – and ten times they did good work – the plagues came – but ten times they made not one little bit of progress. How can this not lead to discouragement and exasperation?]

And then – in the ultimate confrontation – God even trapped his own people in a situation of certain death. They ended up – cornered – with Pharaoh’s army on one side and the sea on the other. What madness. They cried out – Exodus 14:11: “ … Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us … ” Yet, God only continued pursuing his strategy of bringing glory to himself in their deliverance – Exodus 14:13-14: “ … Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today … The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still

Are we willing to come on board with this? Is God allowed to be God? There will never be any lasting deliverance, if we do not learn to trust God’s strategies. With him – hardships have their place but they are serving his purpose (they bring glory to him) and they are not lasting.

Yet – many a time – we do not seem to learn the lesson even with God’s best – ongoing – superb – encouragement. The people of Israel never seemed to snap out of blaming God in premature ways. They grumbled. [When people grumble, it’s not that desperate yet. When they fall silent, then you worry.] To begin with – they had our sympathy. Poor slave people – but then the evidence of God’s goodness kept piling up and there was still no change in their attitude.

Ten plagues broke the resistance of Egypt with God sparing the Israelites from the worst plagues. When the Israelites left Egypt they took with them rich plunder – Exodus 12:35-36: “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favourably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the EgyptiansGod was always with them – Exodus 13:21-22: “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light … Neither the pillar of cloud nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the peopleThen God provided the ultimate escape from Pharaoh’s armies by dividing the waters of the sea for the Israelites to walk through the sea on dry ground – with a wall of water on their right and on their left. When Pharaoh’s army walked into this passage way behind the Israelites, God made the walls of water collapse on the soldiers – drowning all of them. That was an unheard miracle. Full of praise the Israelites sang – Exodus 15:1ff: “ … I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation … Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea … In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling … ”

Yet, the grumbling – for God’s people – nevertheless – became a bad habit. It never took more than a few days – when there was another tight spot – some other hardship – the previous evidence of God’s goodness was forgotten and nothing was learned by anything that God had done for them. Are we same? How quickly do we forget that we are saved – that there is hope – that – so far – God has never abandoned us? [List previous blessings from God.]

Think about this! Our mighty God managed to harden Pharaoh’s heart for the duration of ten plagues but he could not seem to soften the hearts of his own people on another ten occasions of testing hardships. [After ten plagues Pharaoh’s hardened heart finally softened into releasing the slaves and after ten grumbling times God’s soft heart finally hardened into judgement.] At last God threw in the towel in devastating judgement, saying – Exodus 14:11-23: “ … How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? … as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, no one of the people who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but disobeyed me and test me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it

Why did the Israelites persist in grumbling? Why do we keep grumbling? From the very beginning the Israelites learned the wrong lesson. Before God did anything, they were humble and simply crying out in desperation. However, as soon as God showed concern for them and began to act on their behalf (even against their will), they made the proud assumption – the proud demand – that this was the relationship. They had the needs which God must meet. God had to serve them.

Then – as time progressed – this attitude was reenforced because it worked. Grumbling actually works – for a while. [The squeaky wheel gets the oil.] Early on when – Exodus 15:22: “ … for three days they traveled in the desert without finding waterthey grumbled, saying – Exodus 15:24: “ … What are we to drinkThen God provided and even made them a promise – Exodus 15:26: “ … If you pay attention to my [original:his] commands and keep all my [original: his] decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals youNice. This is how it should be – or so the people thought.

Soon afterwards the people grumbled about a lack of food which prompted God to declare – Exodus 16:4: “ … I will rain down bread from heaven for you … ” Exodus 16:11: “ … I have heard the grumbling … At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your GodAt the next place the grumbling was again about water and God again supplied the drink (Exodus 17). Grumbling worked – for a long time – but it was a dangerous habit with a disastrous outcome. [God wanted them to grow up.]

When the grumbling persisted, God no longer just responded with kindness but also judgement – with fire (Numbers 11:1) and plagues (Numbers 11:33; 12:10) – but to no avail. Are we learning from this?

Our grumbling is always based on lies (God cannot be trusted but why would he rescue his people from Egypt, only to have them die of thirst in the desert? This is nonsensical) and – (how is that for a spiritual principle?) if we don’t watch our mouths – the very words of our grumbling will override God’s original intentions. This is what the Israelites said – Exodus 16:3: “ … you have brought us into this desert to starve this entire assembly to deathExodus 17:3: “ … Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and lifestock die of thirst?” Numbers 14:2-3: “ … If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! … ” They spoke these lies for such a long time that they came true. In the end God gave in and judged them from their own grumbling mouths. All of them did die in the desert. None of them made it into the promised land.

What about our own grumbling? Can we snap out of the habit of blaming God for everything and always feeling sorry for ourselves? I come back to my original point. Unless we understand that the goal of deliverance is worship we will never make it. Miracles do not satisfy. The Israelites were amazed and wowed by so much – a dry passageway through the sea, the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, bread from heaven, water from a rock – but none of this sustained them and it was never meant to sustain them.

The goal of the miracles – of the deliverance – was to worship God. The truth was that God promised himself to his people. There is this amazing privilege of connecting with him – praising him in child-like faith – reveling in his goodness – trusting him – enjoying his presence – and so on. Yes – hardships will come – they may even increase before Pharaoh lets us go – but God’s glory never fails. He knows what he is doing. There is enough evidence to know better than grumbling. Agreed?

Therefore – and this is now practical – worship God in all circumstances. Do not believe the lies that diminish him. (Some of the hardships are actually meant to test you in this. Do you honour God with faith?) He is good to you. He is concerned about your groaning (groaning – not grumbling) – he looks with compassion on every tear that you cry – and he loves you. You may not feel like it but try it out: Worship him. Love him. He is there and he will satisfy your soul. Nothing else does.

After Jesus broke our bondage of sin on the cross, the outcome was worship – with joy. I read from the Bible – Luke 24:51-53: “While Jesus was blessing the disciples, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising GodWorship – do not give in to the lies – remember what God has done in the past – worship and see your deliverance come to completion – here and in heaven. Amen.