When I first started in the ministry, I was “the youth guy”. Oh, my TITLE was “Associate Pastor”, but I was “the youth guy”! Even though I had it for 7 years, I didn’t grow into the “Associate Pastor” title until about year 5!
One of the many things the youth did at that church was plan and lead the Easter Sunrise service. It was traditionally held at a beautiful park on the edge of town. If you chose the start time just right (6:30AM was the magic hour), the sun would rise over the trees about midway through the service. It was beautiful!
The 2nd year I was there, I took home one of the big coffee makers from the church, prepared to get up EARLY, start the coffee pot, go back to bed while it brewed, then get back up and head to the park. That was the PLAN! However…“
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley”! Or, for those of you who DON’T speak the ancient Scottish dialect of Lallans, “The best-laid plans of mice and men are often gone astray.” I apparently didn’t set the alarm correctly, because I woke up at…6:20AM! That’s right- TEN minutes before the service was supposed to start! I was a Dagwood Bumstead flight! Clothes were flying everywhere. I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to get ready. I probably even offered up an “excited utterance” or two that would be not suitable for younger ears! But, to my credit, I pulled into the parking lot of the park at…ready?…6:27AM! Yep- a mere SEVEN minutes after being in my jammies, sound asleep in my cozy bed, I was dressed and at the park! I didn’t have any COFFEE…but I was THERE!
Parenthetically and ironically, the next year I was up WAY early and made it to the park in PLENTY of time…only to find that the city, in their infinite wisdom, had suddenly decided to start LOCKING the front gate to the park at night! I had 7 cars of high school students and their parents stuck at the entrance to the park…at 6:10AM…while I called the police department, frantically trying to find someone who could open the gate!!
Today, we continue our current, 8-week sermon series, focusing on destiny. We are walking through the life of Old Testament giant Moses as we consider The Making of a Leader. Through HIS life, we are seeing how God is calling each of US to be a leader in our right. Six weeks ago, we looked at the difficult beginning of Moses’ life- a baby, adrift in a basket in the Nile River. Five weeks ago, we looked at the time Moses, in a fit of anger, murdered an Egyptian for mistreating one of the Hebrews and had to flee into the desert to save his own life. Four weeks ago, we looked at where he went when he fled, as well as his encounter with a burning bush. Three weeks ago, we went with Moses as he traveled BACK to Egypt to confront Pharaoh with God’s ultimatum. Two weeks ago, we saw God announce His intention to free His people once and for and put His wondrous powers on display for all to see. Last week, that promise came to fruition…in a powerful and frightening way through the 10 Plagues of Egypt. Today, we experience a mass departure as the Hebrews are suddenly in a position to pack in a hurry.
Proverbs 20:4-5 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing. The purposes of the human heart are deep waters, but those who have insight draw them out.
Think about that passage- it’s an odd one, to be sure. But what it really says is this- be ready. If you don’t plow in season, then you will NOT be prepared at harvest time. I also like the phrase, “The purposes of the human heart are deep waters”. We are deep, complex beings who are struggling to make sense of this crazy world. And THAT is where God comes into the equation.
Exodus 12:31-38 During the night the king called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Get up and leave my people. You and your people may do as you have asked; go and worship the LORD. Take all of your flocks and herds as you have asked, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians also asked the Israelites to hurry and leave, saying, “If you don’t leave, we will all die!” So the people took their dough before the yeast was added. They wrapped the bowls for making dough in clothing and carried them on their shoulders. The Israelites did what Moses told them to do and asked their Egyptian neighbors for things made of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD caused the Egyptians to think well of them, and the Egyptians gave the people everything they asked for. So the Israelites took rich gifts from them.
So here we are in Egypt. And on the night that the Hebrews finally leave the country, after 430 years of slavery, it is only in response to a great and very personal tragedy. Pharaoh, devastated by the loss of his son, as well as his own hubris, lets the Hebrews go. In fact, he is so anxious to end the devastation God has brought down on the Egyptians that he lets them go with absolutely no restrictions. He not only LETS them go…he DEMANDS that they leave, just as God predicted he would.
Pharaoh, long considered a god, is humbled to the point of asking Moses to bless him. Even the Egyptian people urge the Hebrews to leave quickly- they fear that, if the Hebrews don’t leave quickly, more Egyptians will die. The Egyptians are willing to do anything to get the Hebrews out of their land, including giving them silver, gold and clothing. They leave SO quickly that there isn’t even time to add leavening to the bread dough. They just throw the dough into bowls, wrap the bowls up and carry them on their shoulders. To quote that great theologian Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, “The time is here. The time is now to go, go, go- I don’t care how. You can go by skates. You can go by cow, but Marvin K. Mooney…will you please go NOW!”
After all 430 YEARS of dreaming about it, the time is finally here. It’s so overwhelming that it’s almost too much for the Hebrew people to handle. They had to get ready in a hurry- no time to think, not even really any time to act…just do. As they grabbed the things that they could and began to make their way out of Egypt, they thought about their life of slavery…and what was ahead for them.
The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men walking, not including the women and children. Many other people who were not Israelites went with them, as well as a large number of sheep, goats, and cattle.
Rameses was a city in lower Egypt that was built by Hebrew slaves. As they left the city of Rameses, they went south to the center of Goshen to gather more people. The city of Succoth is where Jacob built a house for himself. It was the 1st official stopping place for the Hebrews on their Exodus journey.
Did you notice that the Scripture said the number of Israelite men was about 600,000? The Old Testament Book of Numbers 1:46 says that the exact figur
e was 603,550! I have two thoughts- 1. That’s a LOT of people and 2. Who counted them? The reality is that, with the women and children added in, the number would have been around 2 million. (I had an Old Testament professor in seminary who stated categorically that the number wasn’t anywhere NEAR 2 million. He said it was more like 50,000. I pointed out that A. he couldn’t POSSIBLY know that to any degree of certainty and B. that’s NOT what the story is about, anyway!) The Scripture also tells us that there were non-Hebrews on the journey- it was a mixed group. The people, much like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, are on the road…waiting for the greatness of God to happen around them!
I want you to imagine for a moment an apple seed. How many apples does that one apple seed represent? Well, it could be million, and then again it could be…none. It all depends on what you do with the seed. It’s all about…potential, and living UP to your true potential. Take a moment and look around you. Right now. Look to the right, then to the left, then in front of you and then behind you. Do you realize what you are looking at? You are looking at greatness, just waiting to happen! It may not LOOK like much at the moment! But take another look…a closer look. You are looking at a person who can make a difference in world- at home, at work, at school, in the church…in the world.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? All joking aside…what do you see? Do you seem someone eager to be what the WORLD wants you to be? Or do you instead see someone eager to be what God wants you to be? Do you see yourself the way the world sees you, or do you see yourself as God sees you? God sees the greatness in you…just waiting to happen. And why does God see greatness in you? Because He created you! He knows what a difference He can make in your life…if you will give Him the chance. He also knows that, sadly, our potential for greatness is often exceeds by our unwillingness to pursue that greatness.
You and I look at a big chunk of rock and we see…a big chunk of rock. But a sculptor looks at that same chunk of rock and sees a magnificent statute hidden inside, just waiting for someone with vision and determination to chip away all that does NOT belong. God looks at us, each of us, and sees something wonderful that can be shaped into greatness. But in order to reach the sense of greatness that REALLY matters, we have to be willing to first reach for God.
Matthew 25:13 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Our ultimate greatness is found in His majesty, His power and His authority. But how does that happen? Well, it doesn’t happen by being in touch with God on a superficial, occasional basis. It doesn’t even happen through consistent church attendance. You can go to every St. Louis Cardinals game, you can even wear a #6 jersey, but that doesn’t make you Stan Musial.
Until you earn the jersey, you are just a fan. You can go to church every week your whole life, but if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ…on His terms…then you are nothing more than fan. And being even a GOOD church fan won’t help you reach the greatness that God has for you.
A man lost his car keys. He was down on his hands and knees, looking closely at the ground, at a very specific spot under the bright parking lot light. Another man saw him and came over to help. Finally, the good Samaritan said, “We’ve been looking under this light for almost an hour. Are you sure you lost your keys here?” The first man replied, “Oh no- I dropped my keys up the street…but it’s too dark up there to look! The light is better here!”
All too often, we go to where WE want to look for answers…instead of looking where the answers can actually be found. Have you ever felt that emptiness when you experience something that you thought would truly make you happy…but it didn’t? Our desire for pleasure, our fear of pain, our unwillingness to wait- they all keep us from being the best that God has for us. They keep us from reaching the greatness that God has right in front of us. We need to keep our eyes on that greatness…keep our eyes on the prize. But let me be clear- greatness is NOT defined by status or power or money. Instead, it is defined by how fully we are walking in God’s will. God wants the best for us. He wants greatness to be a large, tangible part of our lives. But we can’t become champions simply by saying that we want to. Wanting it is simply not enough. We have to focus on the goal. If you are ready…TRULY ready…to take that step of faith, you will discover the road to true greatness. And you will find that it is far beyond anything that you thought possible. You will also come to fully appreciate the fact that God walks the journey with you.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
Tomorrow- The Birth of a New Ministry