When Spiritual Egypt is Safer Than Spiritual Israel

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Matthew 2:13-15 NLT
Joseph was warned in a dream to flee into Egypt, that in a heathen land he might find an asylum for the world’s Redeemer.-Ellen White, Confrontation, Page 2
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Should “going back to Egypt” always be considered a bad thing? For a while Egypt was a safe haven for the Redeemer. Jesus could claimHeliopolis 1 as His home town as easily as He could Bethlehem or Nazareth. Besides Egypt being an asylum, do you think having a connection to Egypt, be it ever so brief, aided Jesus in being the Savior of the world?

Are there times that houses of worship that we might compare to “Egypt” could be an asylum to those who have been abused spiritually, physically or sexually in God’s church? Especially if the abusers were not dealt with properly? Is it ever possible that while we get frustrated because someone will not come out of “Egypt” that God could actually be keeping her in “Egypt” to keep her safe from someone in your church?

Several years ago I worked with a pastor who had previously ministered in the Southern United States. I was appalled, when he told me that a black family came to visit his church one Sabbath, and instead of welcoming them in, the greeter gave them directions to the black church across town! The pastor realized the greeters were not safe people in his church.

I have seen older people sit through a church service where the music was blaring so loud that it was causing physical pain to their ear drums. This goes beyond taste in worship music to physical abuse. Still the pastor told them if they did not like it they could just go somewhere else. Never mind the fact that the older people poured their heart and soul into building that church. Was the pastor being a bully? He claimed he wanted to make church a safe place for young people.

Shouldn’t our churches be safe places for blacks as well as whites? Shouldn’t churches be safe places for older people as well as younger people? Do you have to bully one group to make it safe for the other? I don’t think so. I am pretty sure Nicodemus as well as Zacchaeus found Jesus to be a safe person.

Is your church a safe place? Or would some people be more safe worshiping in “Egypt?”

The cold hard fact is, if for whatever reason, Israel was not always a safe place for our Redeemer, spiritual Israel may not always be a safe place either. Having worked 25 years in three different conferences, I have met people in every conference who were abused, sexually, physically and spiritually by a church leader, and the church refused to deal with it. Just moving the abuser to another church is not dealing with it! Should an abuse victim be guilted into staying in an abusive church just because it teaches truth?

Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was not the first Joseph to find asylum in Egypt. A Joseph before him was mistreated and sold into Egypt. I have often wondered, though, if Joseph enjoyed the separation as much as his brothers did! At the end of the story Joseph’s brothers, who were the ancestors of God’s remnant people, by the way, finally repented and became safe people for Joseph to be around. Until then, God kept Joseph safe in Egypt until His remnant became a safe place for Joseph to be, just like God kept Joseph, Mary and Jesus safe in Egypt until Israel became a safe place.

Most all of our Adventist churches are safe. We protect families from domestic abuse and create safe places to grow spiritually without judgment and condemnation. Many a young person has left the church, and been wounded by the world, and then loved back into the church, where they found healing and unconditional love. But let’s be honest. This is not the case all the time. So let’s not be judgmental of someone who may find healing in Egypt, just like Joseph did when his family, the ancestors of the last remnant, was not a safe place for him to be, or like the latter Joseph did, when Israel, for whatever reason, was not a safe place for his family.

  1. S.D.A. Bible commentary, Vol. 5 Page 291 suggests this is where Jesus’ family stayed in Egypt.        You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

The Ten Commandments In Light Of The Cross Part 1

 

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.  Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people. Exodus 19:4-5

Just as the Israelites did not save themselves from the Egyptians, but God saved them; so we will not save ourselves from the power of sin, but He will. He goes on and tells us to obey His voice. My Strong’s Concordance tells me that word “obey” (shama) means to listen and be attentive. God is not demanding a legalistic obedience of works. He is asking us to listen and be attentive to His promises to save and deliver from bondage.

Many have the idea that the Old Testament is about being saved by law while the New Testament is about being saved by grace. But grace is just as real in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. God wants us to listen to His voice of promises! The Lawgiver goes on and says “keep my covenant.” Again, according to my Strong’s concordance, that word “keep” (shamar) means to guard or protect. Shamar is the same word used in Genesis 2:15 when Adam was told to keep the garden. Did God mean for him to obey the garden? No, He meant for him to cherish the garden. Care for it. Protect it. The word “covenant” is also a promise. So in Exodus 19:3-5 the Lawgiver is telling us that just as He delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, He will also deliver us from spiritual bondage, if we will only cherish His promises!

In Exodus 20:2, God begins the Ten Commandments by repeating “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “ The idea expressed is, I delivered you from bondage and if you continue trusting my promises, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In other words, if you trust in God and His promises you will have no other gods, because you will never feel like you need another god. He will be your all in all.

Glimpses of Grace; Standing for What’s Right

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see [them] upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty.  And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses.  Exodus 1:16-21

Even in a godless country, where the king knew not God, God still had a people who feared Him. I could be wrong, but I doubt the midwives knew all about God, but they still followed their conscience as far as they knew right from wrong. They feared God more than they feared the king. God rewarded them for standing for what was right the best way they knew how. They could have just resigned their positions, but instead they stayed and stood for what they knew what right. They could have followed the kings orders to protect themselves, but they would not do this. They did what God would have them to do and God was graceful with them. This should be an encouragement to us, to stand for the right no matter what.

The greatest want of the world is the want of men,–men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.–Education, p. 57.

Glimpses of Grace; Joseph in Egypt

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.  Genesis 39:1-2

As I was reading this tonight, I thought of something I never had before. Up until Joseph’s promotion by the pharaoh, I pretty much considered Joseph a good natured victim. But now I wonder if he actually enjoyed living in Egypt even before the promotion. Let’s face it, I bet he enjoyed the distance from his brothers as much as they did. God is with Joseph and prospering him so why wouldn’t he be happy even as a slave? Even after Potiphar’s wife frames Joseph and sends him to prison God is still with him. “But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that [were] in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer [of it]. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing [that was] under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and [that] which he did, the LORD made [it] to prosper.” Genesis 39:21-23

Seems to me, Joseph was a lot like his dad. In Genesis 31 his dad talked about how his boss had cheated him and changed his wages but was never able to hurt him. Doesn’t look like anything is really able to hurt Joseph either.  The move to Egypt, even though it may have been caused by his brother’s mean spirit, turned out to be a good move for Joseph.  Even when he was framed and put into prison things still continue to go well for him. I always pictured Joseph as being discouraged up until his promotion but maybe he was enjoying the whole ride! Looks like Joseph was able to bloom wherever he was planted or even re-planted. This is seen in the name Joseph gives his second son. “And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52 Joseph was not one of those who say, “If only things were different. If only this or that had not have happened I could have prospered and been happy.” Joseph found joy and prosperity right in the land of his affliction.

 

While Jacob’s struggles with his boss were a reality, and Joseph’s clashes with his brothers and even Potiphar’s wife were real, both of them could claim true what Isaiah said years later, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”  Isaiah 54:17

God’s grace was always with Jacob and Joseph and God wants His grace to follow you too. If you are in the Tampa Bay area, I would like to invite you to a grace filled church at Tampa First. If you are not in the area , you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.

Worship and the Exodus

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me’ ” (Exodus 20:2, 3, NKJV)

The above text is the key text for this week’s SS lesson. It contains a wonderful promise. God is not demanding His people to have no other God before Him as much as He is promising they will need no other God before them.  Earlier, right before giving the commandments, God says in Exodus 19:3-4, “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.   Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” What we have here, right in the middle of the law in the Old Testament is the New Testament gospel! The Old Testament law does not oppose the New Testament gospel. It compliments it.   God is telling His people that they did not free themselves from slavery. He freed them.  The Word, “obey” in Hebrew is the word, “Shawmah” Which means, be attentive and listen. The word “keep” in Hebrew is “Shawmar” which means to treasure and to cherish. It is the same word used when God told Adam to keep the garden. He was not telling Adam to obey the garden but to cherish it and treasure it.  Today a covenant is a two way agreement, but when God uses this word He is often referring to His promises. So, in Exodus 19:3-4 God is telling His people to listen and be attentive to His promises, and cherish His promise to deliver us from sin just as He delivered His people from Egyptian slavery!

So when you read all of Exodus 19-20 in context, what you find is God promising we will need no other gods before us. By His promises we will not be taking on His name in vain, but will truly be His people. He is promising we will have no need to be unfaithful to our family or mistreat our neighbor for He will take care of us, just like He took care of His people in Egypt and delivered them! What we have in the ten commandments is the gospel itself! God promising to deliver and be the Savior of all who believe His promise to save!

 

Jesus Wept; The Bible and Human Emotions, Lesson 7

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

This week’s SS lesson, which can also be downloaded to your cell phone, gives us hope for depression.

If anyone had reason to be depressed it was poor Joseph. Sold by his own family, he became a slave in a foreign country. He tries to keep a good attitude and what does he get for it? Prison time! When propositioned by his boss’ wife, he faithfully resists the temptation. Many in Joseph’s situation would have taken her up on the proposal. After all, Joseph’s life had been full of bad breaks. He could have told himself, this was a break finally come his way. He deserved to have an affair with someone who would love him, after all he had been through. However, Joseph, even when down and out does not think of himself. He says, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9 Joseph does not think of himself. He thinks about God. The God who let him be sold as a slave into a foreign land. What does Joseph get for his  good attitude? Prison. Have you ever endured hardship, and told yourself to have a good attitude, only to have someone come and slap you in the face for having a good attitude? I have. So has Joseph.

In prison Joseph had every right humanly speaking to be depressed and self centered. However, in Genesis 40, we read where Joseph sees two men, a butler and a baker, downcast. Now Joseph’s attitude by now, could have been; “Why do I care why you are sad? You should hear my problems. You would not believe all the bad things that have happened to me. Why should I care about you when I have my own problems?” However, this was not Joseph’s attitude. He asks the two men why they were sad. They tell him their perplexing dreams and he tells them the meaning to their dreams. To make a long story short, one of the men is put back in Pharaohs presence. Two years later, when Pharaoh has a dream, the man remembers Joseph, who can explain dreams. Joseph is taken from prison and now is leader of Egypt! What was his ticket out of the depression he was in? It was his genuine concern for others. If he had never asked the two men why they were sad, he would have died in prison. But he thought of someone other than himself, and that ended up being his ticket out of prison.

There are many different forms of depression. Many say that depression is a chemical imbalance. I have talked with doctors, who have agreed with me, that it may actually be depression that causes the chemical imbalance rather than the chemical imbalance causing the depression. I am no judge though. At any rate, while there are many forms of depression, I believe the best way out of most depressions is for us to get outside of ourselves. This may be hard. It may have been hard for Joseph, but it was his ticket out of the depressing situation he was in.   

Also, while many blame their environment for their depression, I like how, when all was said and done, Joseph says, “God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Genesis 41:52  Joseph did not need to run away from anyone or anything but his own self pity, in order to thrive and succeed.