Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Are We People of the Exodus

Are We People of the Exodus?”

For you, what were the ‘good ole days’? We talk about those times in our past when we perceive that times were easier, or better, or better reflected they way we think things ought to be. Whether times were really better is immaterial to the fact that we tend to romanticize those past times and they get better and better the more we think about them. What we do is take those good times and those good feelings and those good memories and we forget the hard times and the difficulties and the struggles. The ‘good ole days’ are really the good portions of the days gone by. We sit and we reminisce and we long for, not so much the actual days, but just the good feelings that we associate with the good times. We say that we’d like to go back to those times, but do you really? Do you really want to go back? If the genie popped out of the bottle right now and said, you could go back to the ‘good ole days’, would you really go? If you knew you could go back but also knew that things would be exactly as they were in those ‘good days’; that you had to take back the bad with the good….

The Hebrew people felt that way. They didn’t care that life really wasn’t all that good back in Egypt, but they were ready to go back. Let’s go back and remember the story. God began his people with Abraham, who had Isaac, who had Jacob. Then Jacob has 12 sons and through a series of events Jacob and his 12 sons and their families end up in Egypt. For about 400 years, the descendants of Jacob lived and flourished in Egypt and by then they were more Egyptian than they were Hebrew. They walked like an Egyptian, they talked, ate and even thought like an Egyptian. They dressed like Egyptian and as we see later in the desert they even became familiar with the Egyptian gods. Culturally they were Egyptian. Their other benefit was that when God established Jacob and his family in Egypt, he gave them the best land there. It was lush and green and the perfect valley to life and thrive. Until time passed and the Egyptians were in need of people to build storage houses for them and they see all these people living in the land of Goshen and the Egyptians seized them and made them slaves; slaves whose job was to build Egypt’s many storage buildings. It was a long hard struggle. They worked during the day and then had to care for themselves - care for their sheep, grow their crops, carry their water at night. Even the women were forced into slavery helping to make the bricks and the mortar while the men build the buildings. Elderly, young, everyone was made to work - 7 days a week of hard, hard work - there was no rest. They cried out to God for help and God sends them Moses, who made Pharaoh angry and that increased the work the Hebrews had to do. Now they had to provide their own straw to make the bricks - growing, harvesting, processing it to be usable. They were building, they are making bricks, they were trying to raise their sheep and their food and carry their own water and now grow and process hay for the bricks. Finally, Moses is able to free them from slavery and they are taken out into the desert where God promises them he is going to take them to a land of ‘milk and honey’ - the promised land.

But the way to the promised land was not easy. They were no longer in the lush valley of Goshen, but in a dry desert. There was no quick access to water or food. Even though they were hardy people from working as slaves, this desert experience was new and they didn’t have a clear vision of where they were going - only that God - a god they didn’t know very well and Moses, a leader they didn’t know very well - kept telling them that this land of milk and honey would be wonderful… And after a while of this new way of life - this life as a nomad, moving, pitching tents, eating this stuff that fell from the sky and depending on water holes that were few and far between…. It is not that they weren’t use to hard work, it is just that this wasn’t the kind of life they had been use to. It was different and they weren’t real fond of the change. Even though here in the desert they truly had everything they needed; everything was provided for them; there were no Egyptian taskmasters whipping them; forcing them to work harder and harder……

But new is hard; change is hard; and having to move in a direction you weren’t planning on is hard; when you are forced into a transition you hadn’t expected - or even a transition you had expected but it wasn’t quite what you wanted it to be, the tendency is to want ‘to go back’. Back to the way things were before; back to what you were comfortable with - even if the way things were wasn’t all that great…. The past just holds this allure of comfort because it is what we were familiar with. Even if this transition is going to take you somewhere better, you are still a little skeptical.

So the Hebrews began to grumble and complain and they ‘wanted to go back’ to their life in Egypt. And as they reminisced it was the enjoyable things they remembered - the fish they ate, the cucumbers and melons, and the onions and the garlic. They remembered pots of meat and sitting around fires…. They had forgotten the lashes from the whip and the hard work from sunup to sundown - and then the extra work to provide for themselves. The good ole days were just the good times - none of the bad. “We want to go back!” They shouted. “We want things the way they use to be….”
Familiar cry for all of us. Change is hard. Moving forward is hard. And yet that is always what God is asking us to do. He is always asking us to move. There is not one story in the bible where people are told to stay put. It is always, ‘pick up and go’; or this is the new covenant; the new way. Paul reminds us that God tells us we have to grow and learn and do new things.

Jesus respected the fact that there were people who wanted things to stay the same; who wanted the status quo; He didn’t think that is what they should do but he respected it. That is why when approaches the cripple at the pool of Siloam Jesus asked him - “Do you want to get well?” Now we think that should be a no-brainer. Of course we would want to get well. Of course we would want to be healed. Or would we. Remember this fella has been a cripple for most of his life. This is all he knows. He lays by the pool; he begs and receives money and food from those he begs from; this is the life he is used to. If he is healed, that will all change. He will have to find employment; people will treat him differently - some will accept him but there will be those who will shun him because they will suspect that it was ‘the evil one’ who did the healing. The Pharisees were most displeased with him because he was evidence of what Jesus could do. Jesus knew that if he is healed, this is going to be a whole new life for him and not necessarily an easy one. So before he heals the paralyzed man Jesus asks - “Do you want to be healed?” Do you want your life to change? Do you want to move in a new direction? The paralyzed man said “Yes” and immediately he was healed, he picked up his bed and walked into this new life. Do we wonder if sometime in the future this healed man is going to say, “I wish I was back there by the pool. All I had to do was lie there and people gave me money and food. I want to go back to being paralyzed….”

Because that is what we are when we get stuck in the ‘now’; when we are afraid of changes, of transitions, of new directions, of following where God is taking us. The Apostle Paul says to us in the passage we read from Philippians - Forget what is behind and move straight toward what is ahead.” Even like the Hebrews when you don’t know what that straight ahead might be, even if the way is difficult, even if like the paralyzed man you don’t know what your life is going to be like - we as the people of God are called to go straight ahead. Without worry, without fear, knowing God is leading us in the way we should go - even if it is new, or hard, or different, or not what we expected.…
Don’t be paralyzed; don’t be like the people of the Exodus who want to go back to ‘the way things use to be’. Just know that no matter what change may lay before you; whatever transition you may face, remember the words of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plan I have for you” declares the Lord “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”