Exodus Teaching - 25 - Passing the Test

Title: Exodus Teaching - 25 - Passing the Test
Category: Bible Studies
Subject: Exodus Study

Exodus Series # 25
TEXT: Deuteronomy 6:16; Matt. 4:1-11


“All I ever ask anyone to do is to give me a test.” I heard him say it, so I know he said it. Even though I heard him say it, and know he meant it, it is still hard to believe I heard it. It is even harder to believe it when I remember that it was my baby brother who made that statement. He not only made the statement, he meant it! But I will hold that for now and look at it later. 

We are going to be looking at two words, representing distinctly totally different concepts. Those two words are “tempted” and “tested,” or temptation and trials. James wrote:

“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. (14) But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. (15) Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15, HCSB)

God cannot be tempted because He is absolutely holy, righteous, morally perfect, and incorruptible. He cannot tempt human beings in order to get them to sin for those very same reasons. At the same time, the Lord might put an individual to the test to see how he will measure up morally and spiritually.

We test things all the time. I used to love to fish and I was careful to buy line that was a match for my reel. Manufacturers tested the line so the fisherman would have a good idea what size fish the line would handle and how aggressively he might reel in the fish. The same kind of tests are run on ropes and chains. I remember when my father bought his first pickup truck he called it a half-ton pickup. Our neighbor, he explained, had a three-quarter ton truck, and Mr. Box had a two ton truck.
Those trucks are tested so the owner will know heavy a load they will carry. Tractor manufacturers tested tractors an we know which tractor to use for various jobs. The tractor that was ideal for cultivating a garden might not have had enough power to pull a wide disc in buckshot soil.

When I was growing up my favorite sport was boxing. I loved it so much that I would go outside every Friday night, get into an automobile and listen to the Friday night fights from Madison Square Garden. I loved it. By the time I was in the seventh of eighth grade I had memorized the champions by their divisions - all the way back to around 1920. As I got a little older my father bought a set of boxing gloves for me and I would spar with my younger brother and various friends. By the time I was in college I had the same size chest, biceps, forearms and wrists as my favorite fighter, Rocky Marciano. He weighed more because his waste and legs were bigger than mine. Someone joked that I had jay bird legs, and they were not very large, but I worked long hours on the farm, walked, and ran a lot. One day, I asked my brother James to count my deep knee bends, because football training was getting close and I wondered how I would measure up, especially if teammates had been working out all summer. I live in Tunica County and went to school in Quitman County, Mississippi, and I didn’t see much of my friends from school during the summer. I really didn’t want to be embarrassed, so I began doing deep knee bends as James counted. I quit at 500, and that was the only time I had ever tested myself. Every time I took a step my knees would try to bend just a little, but a week later I kept thinking that I should have done all I could do, so I called James in and did 1,000 deep knee bends. I felt that I was safe and would not be embarrassed. I felt that I had tested myself and could live with that number. There is no way I would have admitted that I was afraid I might not measure up, which would have been embarrassing. Most boys are subject to those feelings when they are teenagers.

I came in from Mississippi College one day and found that a number of people were picking cotton in a field near our house and when my brother and I put on the gloves to spar around a few minutes a big man came into the yard and watched us a minute or two and came over and asked, “What would you do if someone threw one like this at you?” And the threw a punch at my face. I said, “Wait a minute! If you are going to do that you need to put the gloves on.” I didn’t mean that I wanted to fight him, I just wanted to remind him that no one should be throwing bare knuckled punches at someone who was wearing boxing gloves - especially, if he was only sparing around with younger boys. The man grabbed some gloves and started putting them on. It would not be easy to back out now! He had bragged that no one who had ever put the gloves on with him had ever put on boxing gloves again.

I asked this man if he wanted box or just spar, meaning hitting in the body but only hitting in the face with open gloves. He said, “Let’s block.” I very quickly saw that blocking to him meant fighting. He did everything he could to take me out, but I stayed with our rules and only sparred with him, slapping him and moving, punching to the body and moving. I had no idea how well I would do with this man. When he was in school he would slam his fists into the brick wall of the school building. I soon saw that he could not hit me, so I was content to let him swing away, that is, until I backed into a fifty-five gallon barrel someone had left in the yard. That was not unusual on the farm at the time. My first thought was, “is it full or empty? If it is empty I can kick it out of the way, but if it is full I can’t do that.” I faked low with my left hand and when the man dropped his guard I hit him with the open glove on the chin and he landed on his shoulder blades. His older wife laughed at him and he came up charging me like a bull. I still only sparred with him but within a few minutes his face was covered with blood and mucus. I finally said, “You are getting mad and it is time to stop.” He agreed, but assured me, there will be another day!” Ten days later, he had to go to the doctor and they found that he had epilepsy. I was relieved that I had not really hit him hard. I mean, I was really glad I had not hit him hard around the face.

But I learned something about myself. I was not afraid of boxing man who was three of four inches taller than I and 35 pounds heavier. I was not afraid of getting hurt or being embarrassed. Then, I remembered that before a football game many of the players would feel some butterflies in our stomach. They disappeared with the kick off. Spiritual tests are not the same as boxing of football, but both can tell us something about out selves, about our ability, commitment, courage, and skill.  
The Lord may test us so that we may have some idea what we may be able to do for Him. I believe He already knows what we are capable of doing, but we do not know what we may be able to do until we are tested.

In the Book of Hebrews we see a sharp line drawn between temptations and trials: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15, KJV) God the Son cannot tempt others to sin, nor can He be tempted to sin.” (James 1:13-15) However, when Jesus came into this world to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, Satan did not hesitate to tempt Him to sin. In the first place, Satan seemed to believe he was empowered by the human nature of Jesus when He walked the highways and byways of the world. When he tempted Jesus in the wilderness he knew Jesus was tired and hungry. Who would not have been hungry after forty days without food or water? This, of course, reminds us of the fact that Moses spent forty days on Mt. Sinai without food or water when he me with Yahweh. Forty days without food or water? Impossible! Humanly speaking, it is absolutely impossible, but with God all things are possible. 

What happened with the Israelites while Moses was on Mt. Sinai forty days? Their faith was put to the test and they failed the test. Satan found in that which should have manifested the glory of God an opportunity to tempt the people to rebel against Him. Over and over, Yahweh demonstrated His power and His desire to bless them, and over and over, they rebelled against Him. They would promise to obey Him, but turn around and rebel against Him. Christians today find it hard to believe they would see the power of God, the commitment of God, and the glory of God before their eyes and promise to follow Him, only to rebel again at the first opportunity.

The Lord’s people do the same thing all the time today. They go to church on Sunday, pray for forgiveness, promise to follow the Lord and be faithful to Him, only to forget that promise by the time they get back home. In so doing, they are sinning against a greater light, for we know a lot more about the ways of the Lord than those people did in the wilderness. To some modern day Christians, condemning those ancient Israelites for their infidelity seems like a part of their commitment to the Lord. They never seem to realize just how little it takes to keep them out of church on Sunday. They rationalize, they make excuses, and they promise never to be unfaithful to Him again, but they do.

In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan “tempted” Jesus, but in the mind of Jesus Satan was doing nothing more than putting Him to the test, something Yahweh, the heavenly Father, had specifically forbidden in (Deuteronomy 6:15). Jesus submitted Himself to both trials and temptations when He walked the roads and paths Palestine. Yet, He did not sin.


A. The Devil Set out to Destroy Jesus.

When I was a teenager I can remember neighbors who would hear someone arrogantly attack another person to his face and then offer the comment, “That takes gall!” I supposed they meant something like a mix of arrogance, bitterness, insolence, and possibly even hate. When Satan, in the form of a serpent approached Eve in the Garden of Eden, he had to know the Lord would be well aware of what he did and what he said. His hate for God was so intense that he did it anyway. He knew how much the Lord loved his new creation, and the plans He had for this special creation, created in His own image, capable of having fellowship with the Creator. Some have suggested that the creation of man might well have been that which prompted the devil to lead the rebellion against the Lord which led to his being kicked out of heaven (Is. 14:12). In Genesis 3:1-12, the devil approached Eve, knowing that the Lord would be aware of every word he said. He must have been very pleased with himself when Eve sinned, and then tempted Adam, who also sinned. Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1, HCSB) When Eve told him they could not eat of the tree in the midst of the garden: “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. (5) “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5, HCSB)

Later on, Satan came into the presence of the Lord and challenged Him concerning his faithful servant Job:

(9) Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out Your hand and strike everything he owns, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” (Job 1:9-11, HCSB)

We should all read the book of Job from time to time. That might even help those who do not believer there really is a devil. I sat under some professors who denied the existence of Satan. Jesus knew about Satan and at the end of forty days in the wilderness He was about to see just how bold His enemy could be. Now you talk about Gall! Look at Matthew 4 and read about how the devil tempted Jesus at the end of the forty days He had spent with the Father without food or water

To the devil, the encounter at the end of forty days in the wilderness was all about derailing His Messianic ministry before it got off the ground. He was cunning, subtle, and very religious. Jesus had just been baptized by John the Baptist and He was about to launch His very special ministry, which would fulfill both all the commitments of the Law and all the hopes and promises of the prophets. Remember who met with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses, who represented the Law and Elijah, who represented the prophets:

“He was transformed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun. Even His clothes became as white as the light. (3) Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” (Matt 17:2-3, HCSB)

Following His baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, Jesus separated Himself from family, friends, religious leaders, and the everyday matters of this world in order to be alone with the Father, and to make specific plans for his Messianic ministry.  It was at the end of that time that the devil came to him to “tempt” Him. Please note that Satan was not trying to “test” Jesus in order to strengthen Him or to guide Him. The devil’s purpose was to corrupt and defile Him in order to destroy His ministry. Jesus was the Lamb of God, the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev 13:8, KJV) A sacrificial lamb must be without spot or blemish and Jesus, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, was that and more. Now, let us look at Satan’s three attempts to trip up Jesus as He was preparing to launch His Messianic ministry.

Let us note that, to Satan, he was tempting Jesus to compromise His ministry by either refocusing His Messianic ministry, or to destroy this ministry before Jesus could get it off the ground. He had observed Jesus from the time of His birth and, even though he had never been able to get Him to sin. Now, if he can just persuade Jesus to refocus His ministry or to altar His ministry in some small or great way he might be able to block everything Jesus had come into the world to do. After all, what had Jesus done in three decades that would qualify Him to be the Messiah? Well, for one thing, He had remained unspotted by the world. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15, KJV)

Satan would have been happy to have persuaded Jesus to refocus His ministry, and he would have been ecstatic if Jesus had begun a world wide ministry just to do good deeds for the masses. The devil would have been highly pleased, and would have encouraged Him and drawn men unto Him, if He would only make it a world wide charitable program rather than the ministry Satan feared: “ For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10, KJV).

B. Jesus Knew the Difference Between Being Tempted and Being Tested.

Jesus, who was as much flesh and blood as any human being had to deal with temptations for the whole time He was in the flesh. John wrote, “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 (HCSB)

1.  Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread. In the first place, Jesus was hungry and bread would meet His needs for the moment. In the second place, the sensationalism of turning stones to bread would attract a following, just as some modern day “evangelists” have used sensationalism to attract a following. My family and I drove through a well known school that bears the name of the preacher and “miracle worker” who founded it. A man from Oak Grove, Louisiana who was working on a pipeline, made a point of driving through that campus. After all, he had sent in regular contributions to support this ministry. Afterwards, he stopped at a service station to fill up with gas. He commented to an attendant on the amazing campus and the attendant said, “If you think that is something you ought to see his mansion.” The attendant said, “If you think that is something you ought to see his mansion.” The visitor was surprised: “What mansion?” The local man said, “Just drive on down this road and you will see the driveway and the gate. You can’t get through the gate, but you can look through it and see his mansion. After seeing it the man said, “I have sent him my last check!” That tel-evangelist had made a name by touring the country and holding crusades in a huge tent. He would preach and then invite a long line of people who had been screened to come by him so he could heal them. The “faith healing” ministry was widely publicized. A lady from our community who was both deaf and mute, had been taken through the line and when she got to the “faith healer” she handed him her card. He looked at it, announced her condition, slapped her on the forehead with the heel of his hand and shouted, “Healed!”

This is not hear say, I was sitting there watching it all. I was about twelve years old and a lot of people from our church were there. When Virginia came back to her family she could neither hear not speak. The following week her family watched her and one time she stopped and looked up. There was a small airplane flying over and she may have seen its shadow, but her family was excited because they thought the healing miracle had finally happened. When, after a couple of weeks, there had been no change they wrote to the “faith healer” and explained that they had followed all the directions and prayed for their daughter, but she still could not speak or hear. Several days later the family received a letter explaining that “she may have gotten out of her place in the line.” She got out of her place in line?” And that confused God?!

A man came up to two friends and me outside the tent and asked, “Isn’t he the greatest preacher you have ever heard?” My friends nodded and said, “Yes, Sir.” I said, “No, I had rather hear my pastor.” A few weeks later the monthly magazine came out and there was a picture of the three of us, with the note that these young men had said, “He is the greatest preacher we have ever heard.” If you had been sitting there when he told the audience that he was about to cast demons from the person before him, “And if you don’t hold onto the chair in front of you, those demons may come into you. They will be looking for a place to go and if there is no ‘point of contact’ they will go into you.” During the invitation the so-called evangelist said, “If God is calling you to come down the aisle you had better come. One night last week He was calling one man and he didn’t come, and he walked right out that side of the tent and was hit by a car and killed.”

By the way, the day I drove through that campus? It was that night that the “faith healer” announced that someone had died in one of his crusades and he raised that person from the dead.” That is not hear say, that statement was widely publicized.

Jesus had not eaten for forty days and Satan knew He had to be hungry. Satan also knew he could provide a following for Jesus - if He would just play ball with him!

(1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. (2) After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. (3) Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (4) But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

2. Satan tempted Jesus to do something spectacular.

(5) Then the Devil took Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, (6) and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you and, they will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (7) Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”

Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16: “Do not test the Lord your God as you tested Him at Massah.(Deut 6:16, HCSB)  Where was Massah, and what happened there that was significant to the Israelites during the Exodus? The Israelites found themselves without water as they marched to Rephidim (Ex. 17:1ff), so they began to complain to Moses who feared that they might stone him (Deut. 17:4). The Lord told Moses to

“Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. (6) I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (7) He named the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites complained, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex 17:5-7, HCSB)

Read this passage again and you will see that God did not condemn the people for complaining against Him, or for their lack of faith in Him. Yet, in Deuteronomy 6:16, He handed down the law: “Do not test the Lord your God as you tested Himat Massah.Why is it that the Lord did not condemn the people at Massah, but commanded them in Deuteronomy 6 never to do that again? The answer is simple - and not doubt a problem for Bible students. They had been to Sinai! They had entered a covenant relationship with the Lord at Sinai, and after entering a covenant relationship with Him they should never “test” Him again. Now, before condemning those ancient Israelites, pause and consider how many times professing Christians today sin against a much greater light. How many of those ancient Israelites traveled with a copy of the Bible in their brief case? How many of those families sat around the camp at night and read their daily Bible reading from the family Bible?

The answer, of course, was that there was no Bible, even though the Lord was instructing Moses, a highly educated man for his day, to write certain things in the “book.” Interestingly, Joshua would later write that whatever Moses wrote in the book, they did it.

3. Satan offered Jesus the world. After all, He came into the world to provide salvation to the people of the world. What more could Satan to than give Him everything He had dreamed of since He was old enough to really understand His mission.

(8) Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (9) And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”

(10) Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” (11) Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.” (Matt 4:1-11, HCSB)

For Satan, what he proposed to Jesus was a temptation to compromise. For Jesus, it was only a test, for He was determined that He would not sin. While in the flesh He was tempted in all points as we are, but He never sinned. For the Ascended Lord, it is impossible for Him to be tempted, and foolish for anyone to think He can sin or be tempted to sin.


A. The Exodus Was a Learning Experience.

1. They cried out to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were, according to the Lord’s promise to Abraham, supposed to live in a foreign land for 400 years (they had been there 430 years), which would allow the descendants of Jacob time to grow from a family of seventy people into a nation of some two million people, with 600,000 men who could bear the sword. The Pharaoh enslaved the people, imposing a very radical form of slavery on them, designed to reduce the make population so they would not be a threat to Egypt. The Pharaoh ordered all male babies be killed, but the Lord spared Moses when his mother placed him in a basket and set it among reeds in the Nile where the daughter of Pharaoh went to bathe. Miriam, his sister watched her little brother until the daughter of the Pharaoh spotted the baby and sent her slaves to get the basket and bring it to her. When she saw that it was an Israelite baby, Miriam asked if she wanted her to find an Israelite mother who could take care of the baby. Moses’ own mother nursed him and cared for him until he was old enough to be taken back to the daughter of the most powerful man in the world they knew at the time. Moses was educated by scholars in Egypt, and trained as men in a country like that were trained for war.

2. At age forty Moses killed an Egyptian who was abusing an Israelite. To escape the wrath of Pharaoh he fled to Midian where he met Jethro, priest of Midian, whose daughter he married and whose sheep he tended. He remained in Jethro’s service for another forty years, working in the area of Mt.Sinai (in Arabia, according to Galatians 4:25).

3. Forty years later, God appeared to Moses from a burning bush. The Bible tells us Moses spotted an unusual site in the wilderness, a bush that was on fire but not being consumed. Moses approached the burning bush and saw that it really was on fire, but that it was not being consumed. Of course, if you want to learn the truth about all things miraculous, just watch a program on the History Channel about most any miracle recorded in the Bible. There is a concerted effort to debunk anything miraculous in the Bible. Moses was one of the best trained and most highly educated men in the world, thanks to his relationship to the daughter of Pharaoh. He would never have been deceived by the sun shining through a bush, as some have suggested. The Lord told Moses He had heard the cries of the people of Israel and He was sending Moses to deliver them.

B. Israel Put Yahweh to the Test.

They questioned Yahweh, demanding food and water. Did they really believe He would have delivered them by His mighty hand from Egypt and from Pharaoh’s army only to bring them to the wilderness and let them die of hunger and thirst? They complained against Moses and Aaron - after singing His praises! Moses and Aaron were convinced that the people were threatening them. They were in rebellion against the Lord, whom they promised to obey. The Lord gave them manna to eat and converted bitter water to sweet water. Then, He gave them all the water they could use for the year or so they were at Sinai. As we have seen, they put the Lord to the test at Massah and the Lord did not condemn them. However, after they entered a covenant with Him at Sinai He ordered them never to do that again.

In the same way today, when one is lost he may obey the basic laws of God, and he may enjoy the great Bible stories, but the lost person cannot possibly fathom the depth of the Word of God. He or she cannot understand the depth of human relationships, nor can they relate to the living God whose Holy Spirit is placed in the heart of each person who is, by God’s grace, born again. The Holy Spirit is the living presence of the Lord in the heart, mind, and spirit of the believer. The lost person may think he is keeping God’s laws, but he cannot possibly fathom the depth of them, the blessings they bring to the individual, to the church, and to society.

C. God Put Israel to the Test.

He Did not Tempt Israel to sin, but He did test them. They cried out to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to deliver them. If the Lord had asked them, “Just how would you like for Me to deliver you?”, what do you think they would have said? Do you really believe any one of them would have said, “Lord, do you remember the man Moses, who killed an Egyptian forty years ago and then escaped to Midian? I know that was forty years ago, but do you suppose you can find him and send him back to deliver us from this horrible slavery that is designed both to get free labor from us and to see a lot of the men die so we will not be a threat to Pharaoh?” Other than his brother Aaron and sister Miriam, it is doubtful that anyone else had given much thought to a man who had fled from Egypt forty years ago.

1. The Lord tested the Israelites when He told them to leave Egypt. There must have been the fear in many of the Israelites that Pharaoh’s chariots and calvary would overtake them before they got out of the country. In fact, Pharaoh received word that the Israelites were wandering around as though lost, and he sent his army after them to return them to the brutal slavery from which they could not escape on their own. They had eaten Passover the night before they set out on their journey out of Egypt. The blood on the lintel of the door worked like hand in glove with the tenth plague, and both pointed prophetically to the Cross where the Lamb of God poured out His life’s blood for you and me.

2. He tested them at the Red Sea. They had seen the power of the Lord up until they arrived at the Red Sea. As soon as the Israelites saw the Red Sea ahead of them and Pharaoh’s chariots and calvary charging toward the from behind them they panicked:

(10) “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw the Egyptians coming after them. Then the Israelites were terrified and cried out to the Lord for help. (11) They said to Moses: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you took us to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? (12) Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt: Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Ex 14:10-12, HCSB)

Moses pleaded with the Israelites who are now in a state of panic as they see the 600 best chariots of Egypt, and all the other chariots, rushing full speed toward them. When something like this happened the people panicked and cried out against Moses and against the Lord.

(13) “But Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord’s salvation He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. (14) The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet.” (Ex 14:13-14)

After all Yahweh had done to protect the Israelites while sending plague after plague upon the Egyptians they still had not learned to trust Him explicitly. Fear often comes between individuals and the Lord. These people had seen both the power and the protection of the Lord when He sent the tenth plague on the people of Egypt. His death angel slew the first born male in each home in Egypt, but on this Passover night, the death angel passed over every home in which the blood of a lamb had been smeared over the lintel of the door. Had they forgotten that? When they saw the chariots charging toward them they forgot everything they had seen before they arrived at the Red Sea.

How many times have we seen someone forsake the Lord after praising Him for His blessings? Right out of seminary I accepted a church with some members who loved the Lord and His church. One of our deacons explained to me that one man for whom he was concerned had been very active in the church until his four year old son ran into the street and was hit by and automobile and killed. When friends from the church tried to minister to him his response was, “If God had wanted to He could have saved my son.”

There is something else we need to see in the chapter from which we have been reading from Exodus:

(19) “Then the Angel of God, who was going in front of the Israelite forces, moved and went behind them. The pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and stood behind them. 20 It came between the Egyptian and Israelite forces. The cloud was there in the darkness, yet it lit up the night. So neither group came near the other all night long.” (Ex 14:19-20)

In the first verse in the Bible we are introduced to God, the Creator. In John 1 we learn that Jesus, the Son of God, was the Agent of Creation. The Father said, “Let there be...” and Jesus caused it to happen. Here we read that the Angel of God (often it is the Angel of the Lord), who is associated with the pillar of cloud, moved to protect the Israelites. The Angel of God moved from in front of the people to an area behind them and came between the Egyptian forces and the Israelites. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translators capitalized the words the Angel of the Lord (or God) as Dr. Ed Blum explained to members of the Board of Trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources who served on the Broadman and Holman Committee that when the translators came to the words “the Angel of the Lord” and it seemed to point to the pre-incarnate Christ, they capitalized the word “Angel.” That day, we recommended to the full board that we go forward with this new translation.

If you have a problem with associating the pre-incarnate Christ with the cloud, you may want to see what Paul has to say about the rock from which water flowed to meet the needs of the entire Nation of the Israelites: “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10:4, KJV)

Not only did the Lord test them at the Red Sea before delivering them, He parted the waters of the sea so they could cross on dry land, and when the Egyptians followed them he caused the great walls of water on either side of that crossing place to collapse upon the Egyptians, destroying the soldiers, the horses, and the chariots. How did the Israelites respond to that? They sang a song of praise to the Lord (Exodus 15).

3. He tested them at the bitter springs of Marah (Ex. 15:22-26). Earlier in this series I showed a video about the journey taken by Bob Cornuke and Larry Williams to Sinai. Larry Williams financed the exploration and Bob Cornuke followed the Bible to help them move from one place to another. They drove what they considered to be about a three mile march into the wilderness and there they found the bitter springs of Marah. Bob Cornuke said they tasted the water and four hours later he still had a bitter taste in his mouth. The Lord told Moses to throw a certain tree into the water and when he did it became sweet. How do we know Yahweh was testing them? He says so:

“He made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah and He tested them there. (26) He said, “If you will carefully obey the Lord your God, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His commands, and keep all His statutes, I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am Yahweh who heals you.” (Ex 15:25-26)

Interestingly, their next stop after Marah was Elim: “Then they came to Elim, where there were 12 springs of water and 70 date palms, and they camped there by the waters.” (Ex 15:27) In verse 26, he Lord declares that He would never inflict any illness on them as had upon the Egyptians, and added, “I am Yahweh who heals you.” 

4. He tested them when the Amalekites attacked them (Ex. 17:8-15). They had 600,000 men who could bear a sword, but they were completely untrained. Furthermore, the fact that they were old enough to use sword did not mean they all had one. In addition, they knew nothing of warfare. Yet, the Lord gave them a victor over a people who would plague Israel for hundreds of years.

5. He tested them at Sinai. Yahweh revealed His glory to the Israelites and then and then called Moses to come up on the mountain to meet Him. He sent him back down to caution the people not to touch the mountain while He was upon the mountain. Barriers were set up around the base of Mt. Sinai to keep the people back from the mountain and to keep their livestock from touching it. The amazing thing here was that the Lord was so careful in protecting the people. Some may think He was less than merciful if he would kill anyone who touched the mountain while He was there meeting with Moses, but the simple fact is that He was there to bless the people, and He was making every effort to protect them from His presence and glory.

Electricity is an amazing blessing, but if we are not careful in handling it we can be electrocuted.

My brother, Mike Sanders, is an attorney who specializes in injury litigation on the defense side. I see adds for attorneys on park and bus stop benches, billboards, and radio and TV ads. Mike has never advertised and I have seen his desk piled so high with briefs that it was hard to see him behind them without standing. A number of years ago he advised me to bump the button on an electric hand dryer in rest rooms because he had represented someone in a case in which he was seriously shocked when he touched the switch on a hand dryer with a wet hand. When you touch something with an open hand the shock will cause the hand to close, thus inflicting a more severe shock. Electricity is a blessing, but it is dangerous if not handled right. Our Lord is a God of love, but in the wilderness He was trying to protect the people from the power of His presence and glory.

6. He tested them when He gave them the law. He began with the Ten Commandments and then He began giving His Chosen People the Levitical Law, which was, in essence, the practical applications of those commandments. He gave specific instructions that covered every day situations, providing for His people, protecting them from one another, and guiding them in their relationships with one another. He also gave them careful instructions for sacrifices and offerings, including specific instructions for Passover. If you could record the entire sacrificial system and project it onto a screen we would see Jesus Christ portrayed on that screen. We would see Jesus on the Cross. Paul was inspired to write, “For Christ our Passover has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor 5:7, HCSB)

Yahweh redeemed them, forgave them, blessed them, protected them, guided them. Their prosperity, and their daily blessings depended upon their obedience to the Lord. Those who obeyed Him were blessed, those who rebelled against Him suffered the consequences. He demanded obedience and the people promised, “We will obey.” This is the promise God made to the Israelites at Marah, before they ever reached Sinai, just as we have already seen. Look at the relationship between His blessings and their obedience: “He made a statute and ordinance for them at Marah and He tested them there.”

(1) He said, “If you will carefully obey the Lord your God,

(2) - do what is right in His eyes,

(3) - pay attention to His commands, and

(4) - keep all His statutes,

“I will not inflict any illnesses on you that I inflicted on the Egyptians. For I am Yahweh who heals you.” (Ex 15:25-26)

The Lord promised to bless them if they would obey Him (Exodus 23:20-26).  “He then took the covenant scroll and read it aloud to the people. They responded, “We will do and obey everything that the Lord has commanded.” (Ex 24:7) They promised often to obey the Lord, but they never kept their promise for an extended period of time. Have you ever read this section of the Law and wondered how those ancient Israelites could have been so foolish? The Lord promised to bless them if they obeyed Him; they promised; and then rebelled against all He had taught them. How could they rebel against the Lord who had redeemed them? How can we, with so much more light, so much more information than they had, rebel against Him? Yet, in the most blessed country in history we have been in rebellion against the Lord our God for decades. One of the first tests we failed as a nation was to reject God’s explanation of Creation, preferring an ungodly evolution to God’s record of His creation. If we accept Him as our Creator, are we not obligated to obey Him? The so-called “Monkey Trial” in 1925 set the stage for the teaching of evolution in public schools in America.

“The Scopes Trial, formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and commonly referred to as the Scopes Monkey Trial, was a famous American legal case in 1925 in which a substitute high school teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school.[1] The trial was deliberately staged in order to attract publicity to the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, where it was held. Scopes was unsure whether he had ever actually taught evolution, but he purposely incriminated himself so that the case could have a defendant.”

“Scopes was found guilty and fined $100, but the verdict was overturned on a technicality. The trial served its purpose of drawing intense national publicity, as national reporters flocked to Dayton to cover the big-name lawyers who had agreed to represent each side. William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, spoke for Scopes. The trial publicized the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy, which set Modernists, who said evolution was not inconsistent with religion,[2] against Fundamentalists, who said the word of God as revealed in the Bible took priority over all human knowledge. The case was thus seen as both a theological contest and a trial on whether modern science regarding the creation-evolution controversy should be taught in schools.”  [Wikipedia]

The late Francis Schaeffer once declared that England entered the post-Christian era in their country in 1895, America in 1925. Both nations kicked God out of the public schools and invited the most anti-God curriculum into the schools in is place. Within a decade in America it was obvious that evolution was there to stay, and within four decades we saw both prayer and the Bible officially removed from the classroom. That opened the door to atheists like Madeline Murray O’Hara and others. Rowe v. Wade opened the door for abortionists to legally kill unborn babies in the womb - and since them we have read about doctors who killed live born babies in their clinics.

Under the title, “The monstrous abortion trial the media don’t want you to know about,”

“Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim, File:

“When the Newtown shooting took the lives of 20 children, the nation was justifiably horrified. Journalists reported round the clock on ways to change public policy to prevent another shooting. But when seven children and a mother died in a Philadelphia abortion clinic dubbed a “house of horrors,” the major media couldn’t have cared less.” [Dan Gainor wrote for Fox News: [Published April 10, 2013, FoxNews.com, Facebook6086 Twitter870 Gplus60, 660 gosnell kermit.jpg]

Seven children and one mother were murdered and the popular media couldn’t have cared less! Reporting on cases like this could over turn Rowe v Wade, and we cannot have that, can we? America has failed one of the most important tests any nation can face. We must expect to pay a price for thumbing or noses at God our Creator. What can we do?  The Lord has given us the answer: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, HCSB)

7. He tested them when the 12 spies gave their report. Is it not interesting that after all their time and all their experiences with Yahweh they still did not trust Him? As directed, Moses sent one spy from each of the twelve tribes to spy out the land of Canaan. When they returned, ten of the spies told the people that Canaan really was a land flowing with milk and honey, but they had fortified cities, powerful armies, and giants in the land. They assured the people that they could not conquer the land. Joshua and Caleb assured the people the Lord would give them a victory. The people listened to the ten spies who did not believe they could conquer the land, while Caleb and Joshua tried to convince them that the Lord would give them the victory. The people believed the ten spies and refused to begin the conquest of Canaan.

You know something? You and I may well have voted with those ten spies. With their fortified cities, trained soldiers with their chariots and weapons, the nations in the land of Canaan had every advantage over the Israelites, as far as man’s reason was concerned. What did Caleb and Joshua know that the others did not know? Think about it: what had they done when the brutal slavery became more than they could bear? They called on the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Did He deliver them? He did that and more. He humiliated the Pharaoh, caused panic trough out the land, and led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt with everything they would need for their journey to Sinai and on to the Holy Land. When Pharaoh’s arrogance resurfaced and he sent his army, consisting of 600 of his best chariots after them to bring the slaves back and put them to work, the Lord blocked them from contact with the Israelites by sending his pillar of cloud to stand between the Egyptians and the Israelites. God did that, they didn’t!

 The Israelites made a choice, a choice that defies belief when we consider how the Lord had led them, how many time He had directed their journey, and how many times He had been right. If they had chosen to listen to Caleb and Joshua they would have been living in the land flowing with milk and honey in a matter of months. Instead, they listened to the ten spies who did not trust Yahweh and as a result, all those twenty years of age and older died in the wilderness, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. The Conquest would not come for another 40 years. What a waste! Had God ever failed them? Had He ever misled them? Had He ever made a mistake? Had He ever been wrong? Of course not. When they followed the Lord they always got where they were supposed to be. When they needed food they received manna from heaven and quail to eat. When the needed water to drink they had an abundant supply. When they needed protection from the Egyptians the Lord provided it. When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites were victorious. When they needed guidance and direction at Sinai the Lord blessed them with the Ten Commandments, the Law, and a sacrificial system through which they worshiped the Lord.  Whatever they needed He provided. He had never failed them, so why would they not follow His directions now?

Rather than answer that question, will you answer this one? Has the Lord ever failed you? I am not asking whether or not you always understood all of His ways, I am asking whether or not He has ever failed to honor any promise He has made to you. Now, answer this question: Have you ever failed the Lord? Some promise to keep His commandments, but they use His name in vain, they lie to others, they take things that do not belong to them, or covet something that belongs to a neighbor. We promised to keep the Lord’s Day holy and to bring the tithes unto the store house. How are we doing with that?

The Lord promises us eternal life. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. He promises to sanctify us, to make us holy and bless us, if we only trust Him and obey Him. He promises to hear us when we pray. Are you praying? I remember when two foot specialists all but totaled me out. By the time I got my shower in the morning the bottoms of my feet burned as if they were on fire for the rest of the day. I prayed and prayed for healing. In fact, I quoted Scripture the Lord: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16, KJV). Was I trying to force His hand? I didn’t intend to do that, but I wondered about that later. However, in time I came to appreciate a new direction He had for me in His ministry.

I loved preaching to a packed house every Sunday. I loved seeing people come forward professing their faith in Jesus as Savior. I loved knocking on doors and hearing a shut-in tell me how much they appreciated our tape ministry, the visit by one of our deacons, and the message from the previous Sunday they had just heard on the tape. When everything was looking so good and we were excited about the opportunities in the area two foot specialists all but totaled me out, and the people I had served in another church asked me to return. After I got over the shock, my wife Becky and I soon determined that this was the Lord’s will for us.

The Lord replaced that with an opportunity to teach Bible studies all over the area, to develop my Bible Notebook and share my work with a pastor here and there. Little did I imagine that one day Dr. J. Mike Minnix, creator and Editor of SermonCity.Com would be posting my sermons, commentaries, and articles on that site for anyone in the world to read. I returned to a small church (and smaller salary!) and to years of sitting on a bar stool to preach and teach the Word of God. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I have been especially blessed to be able to do what the Lord was leading me to do. And - after years of sitting on that bar stool to preach an teach the Word, I stood up one Sunday morning to preach and a number of elderly ladies came to me at the close of the service and said, “We have been praying for this!” The next Sunday I stood up for both services. It has been worth everything I suffered to be able to do what the Lord has led me to do.

My good friend Dr. William R. Cooper shared some exciting new with me after having surgery and radiation for a sarcoma on the under one arm and then two places on his chest. After radiation he was clear in those areas as well as in his lungs. I celebrated with him, but wondered how this effected a rare form of Leukemia which might well have sent him on to heaven years ago. Here is the latest word from Bill on his Leukemia:

“...I'll tell you something amazing. With my leukaemia my white cell count rose to 279 recently. The maximum safety level is only 4. Which means I was running at 70 times over the safe limit! Do you know of any manmade device - tv, car, spacecraft - that could suffer that level of maladjustment and still function? We are fearfully and wonderfully made, Johnny. What a Creator! What a Saviour!” (E-mail, 6-9-14)

If you read all the books he has written about the Word of God you may have your own idea as to why the Lord has kept him around - and busy. I have all his books, and have read a few of them two or three times. Most volumes are available as E-Books.

D. He Who Cannot Be Tempted Will not Tempt.

1. Yahweh did not tempt Israel on the way to Mt. Sinai. Temptation is the work of the devil who has two basic commitments as far as this present world is concerned: (1) to keep lost people form coming to Jesus Christ, and (2) to keep Christians from living the Christ-life hear on earth. He would like to trip up every servant of the Lord. Satan would destroy everyone who is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and he would hinder everything the Lord is trying to do with those whom He has created in His image. There was never a time when the Lord wanted His Chosen People to sin or fail in any way. Satan did want them to fail, just as he wants every servant of Jesus to fail.

2. God put them to the test. Is there a difference between tempting and testing? Absolutely. The difference may be seen in the way in which Satan approaches people. There is no love in his heart for the people whom God created in His own image. He is filled with hate and loathing for mankind, as we see in the Book of Job. The Lord, however, wants to nurture and develop His servants so they can be the best they can be for a relationship with Him and for His service.


A. We Must Flee Temptation.

The first tool in the battle against temptation is FAITH. Joseph provides us with a good example of what to do when we are faced with temptation. First, he was a man of faith and he trusted the Lord in all things. He may have been a spoiled brat when he was growing up, but he became a giant among men because of his faith in the Lord. He had personally been blessed by the Lord through his faith. The first step in resisting temptation is faith. He never took his eyes off the Lord.

The second tool in the battle against sin is FIGHT. Avoid temptation whenever possible. If you hang out in places where they serve alcoholic beverages, where the entertainment may create lust, and where people are using profanity and obscene language you can expect to be tempted. Fight to avoid temptation, but if you are not able to avoid it, fight the temptation, just as Joseph did.

The third tool in resisting temptation is FLIGHT. When Potiphar’s wife persisted in her efforts to seduce Joseph his next step was flight. He ran.  There are times when we must run from temptation.
So, in order, we have faith, fight, and flight. It worked for Joseph - but wait, you say. Potiphar threw Joseph in prison! But Potiphar was not able to separate him from the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He remained faithful and the Lord not only delivered him, He made Joseph the second most powerful man in that part of the world, and used him to save his family and continue the Abrahamic Covenant(Gen. 12).

B. We Must Recognize the Tests of Life.

A fisherman buys line that has been tested before he cranks it onto his reel. He buys line designed for the reel he is using and he chooses a reel designed to help him land the fish that he wants to catch on that fishing trip. You do not normally use ultra-lite line to fish for catfish. On one reel I used to use I would use a 20 pound test line because the real would handle it, and because there were a lot of fallen trees in the lake. I wanted a heavy enough line to crank in a big fish without letting it get under a limb or log. The fisherman may have more than one reel and more than one strength line in his boat.

You need to haul a load of concrete blocks. You can use a small truck like mine and make a lot of trips, or you can use a truck that has been proved to haul that kind of load. I drove from Louisiana to visit my parents on our farm seven miles west of Sledge, Mississippi. When I came to the long private road that led from the main road to our house, I looked to the right, opposite our drive, and saw my father’s biggest John Deere tractor parked beside a drive between Garfield Ellis’ house and barn.  My father had retired from farming and had rented our farm to someone else. He had sold some tractors and implements, but there sat the 730 John Deere, a big tractor in its day. When we went inside, I said to my father, “I saw the 730 parked out at Garfield’s.  Did you run out of fuel? He said, “No.” I then asked, “Did you sell it to him?”  “No.” He offered no explanation, so I asked if it stopped running. “No.” After about four attempts, I finally asked for an explanation. He said, “Little Garfield came home from Chicago and he wanted to farm his daddy’s land. He only had that 50 John Deere and it is to light to pull a disk in that buckshot, so I let him use the 730. I asked my father if he was renting the tractor to Little Garfield. Again, he said “No.” He was letting him use the best tractor he had free of charge for whole season! I wondered how many of those professors, social workers, and politicians who were constantly talking about thier relationship with their black neighbors would have done that. They often condemned those farmers in Mississippi, but how many did anything beyond talking. For years, Garfield and my father were close neighbors. My father had just underscored that relationship.

The tests we face may be financial, family issues, professional, medical, or personal relationships. We must depend upon the Lord to guide us through the tests and trials of life. We sing, “Trust me, try me, prove me, saith the Lord of Hosts and see if a blessing I will not pour out on thee.” We also sing, “Yield not to temptation.” We must make a distinction between temptations and tests. Tests are for our benefit, and we may be blessed by them if we recognize them for what they are.

C. We All Need Good Examples.

I was pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church, Nederland, Texas back in the seventies. We were still trying to make the adjustments to the new church, new staff, new town, and new state Baptist Convention. I had new responsibilities, including writing the Pastor’s Column for our news letter to our members printed on the back of the Texas Baptist Standard. We had an early service at 9:00 A. M. Sunday morning, Sunday School at 10:00 and the regular morning worship service at 11:00. The building was completely packed for the morning worship service. Someone had, in those days before high speed copiers, installed a board in the sound room where he could record my sermon on eight to ten different tape recorders at the same time. Men would take those tapes to shut-ins Monday and pick up the tape from the previous week.

Another discovery was that I was following some interesting pastors, including Evangelist Manley Beasley, whose sister still handled his scheduling, and George Clarke my immediate predecessor, who went on to serve as Editor of the Church Administration Magazine for LifeWay Christian Resources for some twenty years.

We had to adjust to totally different environment than anything we had known before. We lived in one of three small residential cities, Nederland, Port Neches, and Groves, which are located the center of the Golden Triangle, composed of Beaumont, Port Author, and Orange. We were also surrounded by three oil refineries, Texico, Gulf, and Mobil. There was also a large tire manufacturing plant at Bridge City.

Our memories include some of the most gracious people you would ever want to meet. It was not just our church. My wife was checking out at a supermarket and trying to hold our younger son Mark who was about nine months old at the time. A lady saw her and came over and asked, “Would you like for me to hold your baby while you check out?” No, she did not sense that the lady had any ulterior motives. I asked a deacon bout someone I might call to repair a washer or dryer. He said, “Let me send someone out here.” He did and the man repaired the machine and I asked how much I owed him. He said, “You don’t owe me anything.”

I preached a revival at Hillcrest after I had been pastor for a few months and I was amazed at some of the decisions made by some of the various people. I was also amazed at those who brought someone else to me and said, “My sister is asking me questions I cannot answer. Will you talk with her?” She was saved. A man brought his twelve years old son with practically the same request. An older teen aged boy asked to talk with me and he was saved in my study. The next night he brought his girl friend, who was also saved in my study. It was exciting.

I could go on and on about memories of that very special church, but I have one memory that would resurface over and over during the years that followed. My younger brother Mike came to visit us and at some point called an Army recruiter and talked with him about joining the Army for two years. He had dropped out of school to help our parents after someone caused a fire at an automobile shop my father had bought. Actually, it was the old Dodge dealership, so he had a large office area as well as a large garage. A man drove a propane truck into the garage without turning off the propane valve. When an employee drilled a hole for a reflector the spark from the drill bit ignited the gas and it burned the whole building down. Mike was in his sophomore year at Delta State University and when he heard about the fire he went to the registrar’s office and asked if it was too late for him to drop out without it counting against him. He was assured that there would be no problem. Later, he received his grades and learned that they did not handle the withdrawal and he had all Fs for the semester. He called and tried to tell them they had told him his withdrawal would not count against him, but hey would not change it.  That meant he could not enroll the next semester.

He wanted to complete his degree and then go on to law school, so he contacted the Army and went in to take the test they were giving. They looked at his score and told him that if he would sign up for another year they would train him and put him in an embassy somewhere and let him work with languages. He assured them he only planned to serve two years and get out and finish his college work and then go to law school.

When he came back from the Army recruiter’s office he told my wife Becky and me about how his score had impressed the Army recruiter.  He was told that if he signed up for three years they would place him in a foreign embassy, in civilian clothes, and train him to speak in another language. He
wanted to stay in the army two years and then go on to law school.

He then made a statement that I have recalled many times over the years. He said, “All I ever ask anyone to do is give me a test.” Think about it! “ALL I WANT ANYONE TO DO IS GIVE ME A TEST.” Most people dread certain tests. Mike welcomed them.  He served two years in Germany and then returned and enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and then went on to LSU Law School. My older son John is an attorney to whom his Uncle Mike has been a great role model. John does not boast about his own accomplishments and seldom mentions the accomplishments of friends and family. However, he recently responded to something I said about Mike: “Uncle Mike is one of the most highly respected attorney’s in this state.” He added, “Uncle Mike is about the most brilliant lawyer I know.” One judge said to an out of town lawyer, “If Mr. Sanders tells you something, take it to the bank.” He is a Christian lawyer who doesn’t trade on the image of a “Christian lawyer.” He believes it is more important to practice his Christianity in such a way that others will know he is a Christian.

While some people panic at the thought of a major test, Mike welcomed them. He did not panic, he did not get nervous. In fact, he did not panic because he wanted to see what he could do. When he was still a very young lawyer he went up against a team from the biggest law firm in north Louisiana and watched them as they tried to trip him up, fool him, embarrass him, or confuse him. Our brother James told me that Mike took them to school for four weeks. In those days a little before cell phones, texting, and Internet mail, he had my son John standing by at the office so that he could call him and ask him to bring certain files or testimonies to that out of town courthouse. Mike won the case for his client and after the trial the attorneys had the privilege of talking with members of the jury. They avoided talking with the other side, but freely told Mike what points had convinced them. Interestingly, some of the points were simple down to earth facts, not games or gimmicks. Mike likes to think on his feet and he welcomes those kinds of surprises. All of us would like to be so well prepared.


There are church members who compromise their profession of faith in Jesus Christ with open and blatant sins every day. In preaching on keeping the Sabbath Day holy I have asked, “Just what is it that is more important to you than the Lord on the Lord’s Day?” If those who are constantly missing service would only tell you the truth - if they would only tell the Lord the truth - maybe they would realize how hypocritical they are. I was a Youth Minister many years ago when a mother told me that her little boy was in his Sunday School class when the teacher asked the class, “Boys and girls, why do we come to church on Sunday?” After some discussion she said, “That’s right! We come because we love Jesus.” Little Jeff said, “Mrs, Smith, don’t you love Jesus on Sunday night?” How many of our church members today would like to answer that one?

When professing Christians promise to obey the Lord, but begin to compromise, some will step out and offer to be a leader in a certain program or ministry, but as soon as that is over they go back to Sunday little league baseball, hunting, fishing, livestock shows, rodeos, and Sunday movies, often without paying a lot of attention to the rating. You may be wondering how that can compare with what the Israelites did when they marched against the Amalekites, Moabites and Canaanites. Don’t you see the parallel? Those Israelites were soundly defeated. Those who profess to be Christians, but compromise their profession of faith are losers. They are being defeated by the world and by Satan. The major difference is that they may never know it until they stand before the Lord on that great judgement day. They say prayers, but have no assurance their prayers will be answered, they claim to be a witness for the Lord but do not realize that even lost people can see the hypocrisy in their lives.

The wilderness believer is living in the flesh, not in the spirit. He, however, cannot see the difference. He does not understand that while one may slip from Canaan back into the wilderness, no one slips from the wilderness into Canaan - from the flesh into the spirit filled life. It took the mighty hand of God to bring the Isaelites from the wilderness into Canaan and it takes the mighty hand of God to bring the carnal believer, who is living in the wilderness of sin and rebellion, into the spirit filled life - into Canaan. Some who are living in the flesh convince themselves they are living in the Promised Land because they are religious. However, the Holy Spirit will convict those who find themselves in the wilderness that they should repent and ask the Lord to forgive them, deliver them from the flesh and restore them to the spirit-filled life. He can do that, and He will do it if the person is sincere. The worldly professing Christian may think a New Year’s resolution may restore him or her to “Canaan’s fair and happy land where their possessions lie.” It doesn’t work like that.

Every believer has spent some time in the wilderness. He or she may have been in Sunday School every Sunday, seldom missed a worship service, read his daily Bible reading, and contributed to special mission offerings and certain “love offerings” to help the needy. He or she may applaud good new about souls that are being saved, churches that are being planted, and appreciate the mission work going on at home and abroad. Yet, there is something missing in their daily walk with the Lord. If you find yourself in that situation I want to assure you that you cannot deliver yourself from the wilderness - the flesh - any more than you could deliver yourself from Egypt - spiritual death and slavery to sin. That takes the mighty hand of God. The good news is that He is ready, willing, and able to restore you the moment you confess your sin and asked forgiveness. He will place you, spiritually speaking, in the Land of Canaan where you may possess your possessions - your spiritual gifts. He will do it now if you really want to walk with Him in the Spirit. Confess your failures or your sins, ask Him to restore you and trust Him to do it. Who know what blessing awaits you? You don’t want to miss it!

A number of years ago, a pastor had been at a church long enough to realize there were undercurrents and one day he mentioned, from the pulpit, that the sins of his congregation were not drugs and alcohol, but the attitude some members held toward other members. Both sides urged him to stop preaching on that subject. The church was filled with jealousy, envy, and strife, but members who stayed with their group, or “friends” would leave saying it was good to have been in the house of the Lord!

Then the night came when the pastor was moderating a regular business meeting and when he asked if there was any other business, a man raised his hand and when he was recognized he said, “A year or so ago someone said the deacons were looking into the election of some new deacons. I was wondering where we stand on that.” The pastor looked around and discovered that a number of people were looking at this man with animosity that it showed on a number of faces. In fact, he said he had to look a second time at a lady he had known for ten or more years to be sure who this lady was. Her jaw was so set as she looked at this young man that she had taken on a new and disturbing appearance. He had to look back at this lady two of three times to try to identify her. Then, he remembered those with whom she entered the building and only then was he sure who she was. He realized that a few people there were either in Canaan (the flesh) or they had never been delivered from Egypt (spiritual death). That was a shocking experience.

This pastor realized there were some serious spiritual problems in his church, but he didn’t realize how serious it was until visitors began to ask what was wrong with the church. One visitor, a committed Christian who seemed to have a spirit of discernment, asked the pastor several weeks after visiting the church, “What is wrong with your church? We felt a strange spirit in the services.” He was not the first to mention that strange spirit in the church. There were godly, dedicated members there, but there was also that other spirit. One man said of some of the members of his church, “They will run it, or they will ruin it.” Those to whom he referred were obviously members who were in the wilderness of sin and rebellion, regardless of their testimonies. Many pastors have witnessed a member here and there who acts like that. I was preaching in revival services out of state many years ago when a man came into the office and said, “I hear our Youth Pastor is moving to a church in Arkansas.” He added, in what seemed like an arrogant spirit, “I wonder what it cost God to move him?”   

What pastor or youth minister has not observed how one lost teenager can have a negative influence on a bus load of active young people? You invite lost teenagers with a prayer that they will be influenced by Christian young people and by the speakers at the camp or retreat to repent and trust Jesus Christ for their salvation. Instead, the lost boy or girl gets a group of your church kids off in a corner and begins telling them off-color stories and you have to deal with that. One pastor heard a guest using profanity before they finished loading the van and asked who had used the profanity. The guest raised his hand and apologized. He was no more trouble in that trip. When they arrived at the camp he observed that one church had a number of rowdy young people with them. By Thursday night they had heard the Gospel, come under the influence of Christian young people and adults, and at the close of the sermon on Thursday night a large number of those young people made professions of faith. It is a good thing to invite lost young people, but counselors and pastor must monitor the behavior, and to an extent, the conversations along the way.  As some have said, good morals are corrupted by bad company.

God brought the Israelites out of Egypt to take them into Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. We have seen that the Lord delivers us from spiritual death, not for us to wander in the wilderness called the flesh, but for a close relationship with Him, which may be referred to as walking in the Spirit. As He wanted Israel to live in Canaan, He wants us to live in the Spirit. Up to a point, I am following the thoughts of Major Ian Thomas by comparing the lostness of the Israelites in Egypt to the lostness of the person who does not know the Lord Jesus Christ. He cannot deliver himself.  Only the Lord can deliver him.

When the lost sinner is delivered from death it is not for him to wander for forty years in the wilderness called the flesh, but to go directly to Canaan where he may enjoy the blessings of the Spirit filled life, walk in fellowship with the Lord, and enjoy both the provisions and protection of which David wrote in Psalm 23. The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt in order to take them into Canaan - out of Egypt, into Canaan! He had an appointment set for Israel at Sinai and this was crucial. From there they were supposed to march on to Canaan, conquer the land and really possess their possessions, meaning the land which was divided among the Twelve Tribes. Failure to obey the Lord caused the Israelites to flounder for 40 years in the wilderness, a land without water, a land without food, a land without beauty, a land without joy. They had to depend upon the Lord for everything for 40 years, and then only those who been under 20 years of age were permitted to enter the Promised Land. Of course, Joshua and Caleb were the two exceptions to that. They showed their faith in the Lord in the wilderness and He blessed them by letting them be a significant part of the Conquest of Canaan.

Sadly, countless Christians are delivered from death and slavery, but by their own choice they flounder in the wilderness of the flesh for years. They are powerless and fruitless, but they have convinced themselves that they are doing the best they can do. Those in the wilderness had never seen a land flowing with milk and honey, but they had filtered memories of Egypt that left out the slavery, death, humiliation, and deprivation. They only thought of fish, melons, garlic, and onions.
They wanted to return to the land of death, slavery, and misery. That is what life in the flesh will do for people today. Have you ever known a man who professed to be a Christian and could give his testimony about the day he was saved, but in his private conversations he would recall various women with whom he had committed adultery. He gloried in fights with various people, repeated the profanity he had used when his neighbor crossed a corner of his land. He might recall fights he remembered with classmates or neighbors he had cheated, but seldom mentioned anything of a spiritual nature. He might share stores about things in his past that should only shock a true believer, but this man was proud of it. People like that are either still in Egypt (dead in sin) or they are living in the wilderness (walking in the flesh).

Only Yahweh can write history before it happens and He has been doing that since the days of Adam and Eve. There is a progressive revelation of His redemptive plan we will see as we move through the Old Testament, just as there is a progressive plan for those who look to the return of our Lord.

Sadly, many who profess to be born again Christians act more like lost people than believers. The Christian who wastes his life in the wilderness of the flesh is likely to spend more time thinking about the life lived in sin (Egypt) than that which is available to him as a Spirit filled Christian (Canaan).  Tragically, many professing Christians know a lot more about Egypt than they do Canaan. They may sing of the Sweet Bye and Bye, but they have a more intimate knowledge of the life of sin than they do a life of holiness. In fact, the person in the wilderness (the flesh) may actually be embarrassed when people talk of Canaan, where one walks with the Lord in faith. Sadly, some people who have been delivered from Egypt have resigned themselves to a life in the wilderness and never catch sight of Canaan where their possessions await them. If you are in such a situation here is a verse of Scripture for you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, HCSB