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Passing Lanes

Happy Birthday America! Our country is now 234 years old. On July 4th 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed.  

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  

Exodus 3:7 NIV)

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  

. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.  

But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.  

9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  

We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.

 Exodus 5:22–23 (NIV)

God Promises Deliverance

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

  We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in GENERAL CONGRESS assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions, DO, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly PUBLISH and DECLARE, That these United Colonies are, and of Right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown

 Exodus 5:1 (NIV)

5 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’ ”

  We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

 Exodus 6:1 (NIV)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” 

 Just like the Pharaoh of Egypt tried to hold on ever so tightly to Israel and the cheap labor that it offered, Britain tried to hold on tightly to what God had also intended to be an independent nation. Britain was treating the colonies like slaves. They weren’t granted the same legal rights as the homeland. The idea of a human king needing to be accountable under the law was not a new concept. The Magna Carta had been established as a standard for that in England already for few hundred years at that point. King George knew better, he just tried to pretend that he didn’t because they were just colonies after all.

 All that said, our nation like the nation of Israel was oppressed by an elder brother nation that had originally provided the initial growth. Israel was just a family when it came to Egypt and it left a million strong. In much the same way, America owed its heritage, culture and language to England.

 The first fifty years of our country were quite dramatic. They started out with a war that lasted eight years. And in truth, that war was a world war because not only because it crossed the ocean, but because it officially involved five nations through declarations of war:  England, France, Spain, the Dutch and America. Shortly after that our Constitution was established. The first five Presidents take and leave office during this time, the Bill of Rights is put into place, the court system is established, the Nation’s Capitol changes, trade with other nations starts as does another war with England.  

Our nation’s first Civil War would still be another thirty five years in the offing. And here we are a few hundred years later, the most powerful single nation on earth . . . for now. God has truly blessed our country but just as with the Nation of Israel there were a lot of ups and downs. There were failures and victories of all sorts. Sometimes we’d rather not look at our culpability in the failures or who we had to step on to win them—Native Americans, men, women, and children from Africa. Other times it seems like we’ve really stepped up and helped the world not destroy itself. Our country did this by intervening and putting an end to the same type of tyranny that would have oppressed our own nation.  

To be a nation chosen by God to be a blessing to the world is an awesome responsibility.  

Israel was just such a nation. They started off in slavery, oppressed. God set them free, showed them who He was and established their identity. Their identity was to be based in God, they were to be known as God’s people.

 Exodus 6:6–7 (NIV)

6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 

They learn about God in the desert. He is their Declaration of Independence, He establishes for them not only a Constitution in Exodus and Leviticus, but a manual for diet, health, agricultural practices, a judiciary system and a standing military.  

Major Events:  

The first Passover.  

The Israelites leave Egypt while the Egyptians bury their dead.  

Firstborn set apart for Jehovah.  

The crossing of the Red Sea  

Israelites learn about the God they are worshiping and how to worship.  

God provided manna, quail and water for his people in the desert.  

God shows them victory against the Amalekites.  

They are given the law.  

First civil war.

 And yes, it is true as we’ve seen. There were some failures. Even Moses failed to regard God as holy when the Israelites grumbling drove him absolutely buggy. 

Numbers 20  

‎9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

‎12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” 

And like that Moses is not making it to the promised land. I just know that I could’ve blamed him though. The Israelites were always complaining it seemed:

 Numbers 21  

‎4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”

‎6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

‎8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.  

A snake on a pole…hmmm…that seems familiar to me. I don’t know why. Seems like I’ve seen it somewhere before. Anyway, I think of it later…moving on.  

How many people here can actually be grateful that there are hospitals to go to when we need to? Well, you need to go kiss a Jew, then. I say that because it has been the church that brought about the proliferation of hospitals. Notice how all the hospitals have some churchy sounding name? Even the ones that don’t owe their legacy to the ones that do. The ones that do, owe their legacy to the church which was responsible for the proliferation of hospitals in the middle ages. The church owes its legacy to Jesus Christ whose national earthly heritage was from Israel whom God preserved from the barren womb and ancient loins of Sarah and Abraham.  

According to the Encyclopedia of Medical History:  

The adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. urged the church to provide for the poor, sick, widows, and strangers. It ordered the construction of a hospital in every cathedral town.

 This influence of providing care for the poor, sick, widows and strangers has set a standard for the world follow. These stragglers in the desert looking at a bronze snake hoisted up on a pole for healing didn’t know they were paving the way for the civilized world to care for their sick—looking at that same image, the snakes on the pole.

 It seemed like God was just angry with them all the time. But just as physical therapy is painful so was it painful for this seedling nation to grow and sprout in the desert. That is amazing, moving a million or more people across the desert over forty years.  

Everything God says about Israel isn’t all bad. He brags about them to the Midianites through a sorcerer who was paid to curse them:

 Numbers 23:

 

‎9     From the rocky peaks I see them,

‎from the heights I view them.

‎I see a people who live apart

‎and do not consider themselves one of the nations.

‎10     Who can count the dust of Jacob

‎or number the fourth part of Israel?

‎Let me die the death of the righteous,

‎and may my end be like theirs!”

21     “No misfortune is seen in Jacob,

‎no misery observed in Israel.

‎The Lord their God is with them;

‎the shout of the King is among them.

‎22     God brought them out of Egypt;

‎they have the strength of a wild ox.

‎23     There is no sorcery against Jacob,

‎no divination against Israel.

‎It will now be said of Jacob

‎and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’

‎24     The people rise like a lioness;

‎they rouse themselves like a lion

‎that does not rest till he devours his prey

‎and drinks the blood of his victims.”

Numbers 24:

 

‎5     “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob,

‎your dwelling places, O Israel!

‎6     “Like valleys they spread out,

‎like gardens beside a river,

‎like aloes planted by the Lord,

‎like cedars beside the waters.

‎7     Water will flow from their buckets;

‎their seed will have abundant water.

‎“Their king will be greater than Agag;

‎their kingdom will be exalted.

‎8     “God brought them out of Egypt;

‎they have the strength of a wild ox.

‎They devour hostile nations

‎and break their bones in pieces;

‎with their arrows they pierce them.

‎9     Like a lion they crouch and lie down,

‎like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?

‎“May those who bless you be blessed

‎and those who curse you be cursed!”

This guy, this sorcerer Balaam was paid by this cat Balak, the son of Zippor. Having a name like that alone would make me bitter. He was paid to curse Israel! God tells Balaam under pain of death that he is only allowed to say what God would have him say.

 Numbers 24:10–11 (NIV)

10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded.”

  So, Balaam suffered a loss for this. He didn’t get paid. He’s bitter about this so what does he do since he’s not allowed to use magical arts against Israel, he goes over to the Moabites and gets the daughters of Moab to seduce Israel into sexual idolatry. Because he knows that only God is the one that can destroy them. So what they do is bring all their little carved God’s depicting sexuality in various forms and say, “this is how we worship our gods.” Those young Israelite men were all over that.  

It partially works:  

‎‎25     While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.

7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them—through the Israelite and into the woman’s body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; 9 but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000.

  We find out that Balaam was behind it in chapter 31:  

Numbers 31:15–16 (NIV)

15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16 “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 

That would be like an Internet porn flick distributor setting up a website with a churchy sounding name to trick God’s people into sexual sin. Oh, wait, that really happens.  

Anyway, we know that Balaam was behind it because the text says:  

Balaam might have been smart but he wasn’t wise. He begged the question: Can God create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it? He was trying to get God to go against His own integrity and destroy the nation the he, Balaam had just proclaimed God’s protection over. He was trying to trick God.  

So, another 24,000 bite the dust. But in spite of that, in spite of the vast array of nations lined up against her, her constant testing of God’s patience, Israel is going to make it. The fact that you are here in this room together is proof of that. They were to become a light to the nations and a blessing to the nations.  

And they did whether they wanted to or not and we should be glad of it. For out of the tribe of Judah, of the sons of Israel who toiled in the desert for forty years and did not see the Promised Land, came a deliverer, the messiah, the author and perfector of our faith.  

Toil, hardship, and difficulty—have their purpose and bear their fruit.  

Today, we celebrate 234 years of being country. Not all of it, so glorious, but then neither were the first several hundred years for God’s first string line up—the nation of Israel. But there have been some good things. America really has done some amazing things in the past few hundred years.  

Just in the last fifty years look what has happened:  

America a Timeline  

1960's Vietnam War, the Assasination of JFK, Lasers were invented, Beatles, Muhammed Ali becomes champion, Star Trek Series, the first Super Bowl, Sesame Street first airs, U. S. population reaches 200 Million.  

1970's Beatles break up, Mark Spitz wins seven gold medals in the olympics, abortion legalized, Microsoft is founded, the death of Elvis, Star Wars the movie is released  

1980's Mt. St. Helens Erupts, AIDS is identified, Sally Ride--first woman in outer space, space shuttle Challenger explodes, savings and loan crisis,  

U.S. President Bush Sr. Announces That He Doesn't Like Broccoli  

1990's Rodney King Riots in LA,

 Cult Compound in Waco, Texas Raided,

 Official End of the Cold War

 Use of the Internet Grows Exponentially  

World Trade Center Bombed,  

O.J. Simpson Arrested for Double Murder,  

Viagra on the Market, First Harry Potter book is published  

2000's 911,  

Wireless technologies are beginning to play a greater role in people's lives, U. S. population reaches 300 million, Michael Phelps wins 8 gold medals in the Olympics,  

Barack Obama becomes the first African-American president of the United States, Enron debacle, Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrates on reentry, housing loan crisis  

What about your life? Your walk with Christ? What has it been like? Overall, it’s been a pretty incredible journey. Do remember what it was like to not believe in Christ? What about that moment when, maybe you were in a church or a Bible study, you said yes to Jesus as your personal Lord and savior? What was that like? Do you remember how the freshness of life as you started to get to know Jesus Christ? As you studied the scriptures and felt like God was reading your mail and you didn’t mind because the maker of the universe was paying attention to YOU! Do you remember that?  

Do you remember some of the not so nice times where God pointed out some areas where you needed to grow in? You may have set up your own little Korah’s rebellion in your heart refusing to give some area of your life over to God? Do you remember times when you felt refreshed by God after a period of not hearing his voice? Do you remember what it was like when you first shared your faith?  

It’s been a good journey. It still is. Where are you today with Christ? Where are things going? Are you excited about it? I hope so.  

Jesus has great hopes for us…listen:

 John 17:20–23 (NIV)

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 

Paul writes:  

Philippians 1:3–6 (NIV)

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 

We see that for God’s people in the Old Testament and we see it in the New Testament. What is that? What is that completion toward? Being conformed to the image of Christ. What does that mean?

 Being fully alive, being an image bearer of God as Christ was.

 John 14:11–14 (NIV)

11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 What has Jesus been doing? Healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, setting the captives free! “I tell you the truth . . . anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

 Greater? Greater?!? Why does he say that? Time, for one. Jesus would only spent three years on this earth before he died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. When Jesus left, what did he give us? The Holy Spirit. That means that all of us have the power that he had.

 God has created, designed us to do great things—being a healing hand to the sick, giving sight to the blind and setting the captives free. Even if we don’t do those things physically, we do them spiritually. We are empowered to open people’s eyes to the truth, we are empowered to be agents of healing to the those who have been kicked around through love and compassion, and we are empowered to set the captives free by proclaiming the truth of the gospel.

 Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So, let’s celebrate the life that God through Christ has given us. It is a good life. Let’s celebrate the true author of freedom, Jesus Christ, for he has set us free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amens

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