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The New Exodus (17)

May 3rd, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Rev. 15 and 16

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,

Lord God Almighty.

Just and true are your ways,

King of the ages.

Who will not fear you, O Lord,

and bring glory to your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come

and worship before you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened. Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:

“You are just in these judgments,

you who are and who were, the Holy One,

because you have so judged;

for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets,

and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.”

And I heard the altar respond:

“Yes, Lord God Almighty,

true and just are your judgments.”

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

“Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.”

Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.(NIV)

The sea or a sea of glass (Exodus imagery), God’s people stood on the shore of the Red Sea with Pharoah’s army coming behind them, and the Red Sea before them. They would have to trust that God would act! He does, and delivers them. The next image of the sea in Rev. 15 is the ones who had been victorious/martyred. God had seen them through!

Fire, reminiscent of the pillar of cloud and fire by night that represented the presence of God in the wilderness. The victorious ones are pictured Singing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, again Exodus language.

Temple/tabernacle of the Testimony, the tent was the place where the Israelites met with God in the wilderness. Here in Rev. 15 is a visible reminder of the presence of God, and the place from which the judgments stem is from God. Smoke of God’s glory, his presence, also points back to Sinai!

John doesn’t stray to far from the Exodus imagery, “the eschatological woes are plagues (16:2 sores, Exod. 9:10-11; 16:3-4 sea and rivers become blood, Exod. 7:17-21; 16:10 darkness, Exod. 10:22; 16:12 drying up the waters, Exod. 14:21-22; 16:13 frogs, Exod. 8:3; 16:18, 21 thunder, fire and hail, Exod. 9:24)”.

As in the Book of Exodus, so in the Revelation: the crucial event is not the plagues, but the redemption which opens up the way to the new world.

John’s usage of the Exodus imagery is helpful for us not only as readers, but also as fellow sojourners. We see the continuing application and reapplication of God’s great rescue throughout history. We too are drawn into this story, because likewise we have at one time or another been stuck on the bank of the Red Sea and being pursued by the enemy, waiting for God’s intervention. We likewise have tasted victory and have shared in the singing of the chorus of the Song of Moses and the Lamb. And while we sing in victory now, we also know that we haven’t full arrived yet.

There is more to Christianity than our personal sins.  Of course, dealing with sin and our own insidious propensity towards hatred and violence is incredibly significant, (We will talk about that subject next series) but it can only be done when we are fully engaged with God’s bigger picture for the human race and the future of life on earth. More and more we will lift our gaze and begin to see the wide and open space of freedom and life God is inviting us to.

Message for the Day

The New Exodus (16)

May 2nd, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Revelation 5:1-14

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

because you were slain,

and with your blood you purchased men for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation.

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.(NIV)

This exodus imagery is expanded in the book of Revelation.

The warrior Lamb thus has “conquered” through his accepting the role of the sacrificed Passover Lamb, and so made possible a second exodus.

We are told that by his death and resurrection the Lamb has “conquered”, and that through his sacrifice he has “ransomed men for God and … made them a kingdom and priests to God”. The long awaited deliverance that initiates the new age has then been achieved. The new exodus has come to pass. And the Christ Redeemer, unlike Moses, whom the Jews viewed as the first Redeemer, is not merely on the march to the promised land; he has entered upon the inheritance and ascended the throne prepared for him by God.

The Christ has commenced his rule, and he incorporates his people into his royal priesthood. Heaven has acclaimed his sovereignty already, but the rest of creation has yet to render the acknowledgement due to the Lamb.

Message for the Day

The New Exodus (15)

May 1st, 2010
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Scripture of the Day: Deuteronomy 30:1-10

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. You will again obey the LORD and follow all his commands I am giving you today. Then the LORD your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The LORD will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the LORD your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.(NIV)

The book of Deuteronomy is essentially the covenant charter of the people of Israel. It explains at length the relationship between God and Israel. In chapter 28, blessings are described, which are for Israel if they keep the covenant, while curses are described for Israel if they do not keep the covenant. Interestingly, these blessings and curses are not for individuals, but are for the nation as a whole with regards to corporate obedience or corporate disobedience.

The result of obedience is that God “will establish you as a holy people” and consequently, they will be blessed and prosper, specifically with regard to the surrounding nations of political adversaries. However, if as a nation they do not follow the covenant, they are told that “the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth” and that “The LORD will bring you back to Egypt in ships.”

In other words, God’s deliverance of the people from the Egyptian captivity (the exodus) will be reversed by virtue of their corporate disobedience. Chapter thirty also promises that if while in captivity in foreign nations, if they will return to the Lord, he will bring them out of captivity, restore them to the land and bless them abundantly. In summary the result of corporate disobedience is exile and the result of corporate repentance is return from exile.

We saw this language of the exodus associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. He is the true deliverer from sin. He is the one who fulfills the expected New Exodus.

Message for the Day