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Famously Adolf Von Harnack asserted in the History of Dogma that much of Christian theology betrayed the “work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the gospel.”  Now to be fair, the old liberal didn't have much gospel himself but the observation has something to it.

On the one hand we have the Scriptures beginning with a very good creation, full of promises of land and seed and a Saviour taking flesh to renew heaven and earth.  On the other we have a Hellenizing spirit which pits body and soul, earth and heaven, time and eternity against each other.   When this spirit meets this gospel - and Harnack was right, this is a perennial danger - it always yields bad fruit.

But in this series I want to look at two towering exceptions in the history of theology - Irenaeus and Athanasius.  In their day they resisted ‘the Greek spirit’ and called the church back to the fertile soil of the gospel.  There they found the Fountainhead of those unities which escaped the philosophers of this age.  In Jesus Christ they saw creation and salvation held together as one work performed by one Word.  And from there flowed a unified account of all reality.

In our own day we would do well to hear their voices.  Because we too find it completely obvious to fall for the old dualisms.

In the realm of the body, we see self-harm and eating disorders, promiscuity and confusion over sexual identity, compulsive dieting and body-building, cosmetic surgery and gender re-assignment.  These are problems commonly found in the world but also in our churches.  We seem deeply uncomfortable with our bodily existence.

In the realm of the environment, we see the extremes of those who simply consume the earth and those who worship it.

In worship there are the ritualists who consider their sacramental practice to work ex opere operato and there are the low church minimalists running scared from anything physical.

And theologically, as we consider the relationship of creation and redemption, some mistake political harmony, social justice or economic liberation for salvation.  In reaction, some cut loose creation from salvation with an anti-physical gospel and an escapist eschatology.  And some will dissolve any final distinction between creation and redemption and opt for universalism.

In view of this, the proper co-ordination of creation and redemption (and its attendant co-ordinations of body and soul, time and eternity, etc, etc) is a vital task for us all.

Irenaeus and Athanasius are going to help us massively.  And they will help because they put Jesus Christ at the centre of their thinking.

More to come...



Mike Reeves talks about Adam and Christ in these great audios on sin and evil.  Once we frame creation and salvation as the story of two men we see things much clearer.

For one thing we're able to honour Christ not only as Substitute but also as Representative.  And we need both.

You see Christ drinks the cup so that - in one sense - we don't have to (Mark 10:38).  But in another sense we do drink the cup He drinks and are baptised with the baptism with which He is baptised (Mark 10:39).  He does die for us so that we do not face that same judging fire - this is His substitution.  But we also die in Him experiencing it as a purifying fire - this is His representation.

We tend to be good at 'substitution' talk but not so good at 'representation' talk.  Consider this fairly common way of conceiving salvation and judgement...


Here the key players are the saved and the damned.  Christ is not in the picture.  But of course once we've set things up like this, Christ becomes extremely necessary.  But He's necessary in that the cross becomes the accounting tool required to balance the justice books.  Without the cross the story doesn't work.  So in that sense Christ is central.  But in effect, He's a peripheral figure only required because other factors are calling the shots.

When things are viewed like this, Christ is very much thought of as 'substitute' but not really 'representative'.  And, when the details are pressed, even His substitution will start to look very unlike the biblical portrait.

We need a better formulation.  We'll think of 1 Peter 4 and then tie this back to Adam and Christ.

In 1 Peter 4:17 it says that judgement begins with the house of God.  It doesn't say 'Judgement avoids the house of God.'  It begins there.  It begins with Christ, the true Temple of God.  It continues with the church, the temple of God in another sense.  But then it flows out to the world - God's house in yet another sense.


Here humanity is judged.  And this is where Adam and Christ will be so helpful for us.

The LORD pronounces His curse on Adam.  And all humanity is in him.  "Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." (Rom 5:12)  It is a universal judgement.  No exceptions.  The only path to salvation is the path through judgement.

But Adam is a type of the One to come (Rom 5:14).  He was only ever setting the scene for Christ to take centre stage.  And He does so, assuming the very humanity of Adam as substitute and representative.


Here centre stage is not occupied by the two bodies of people (the damned and the saved).  What's driving everything is the two humanities (Adam and Christ).  And the former is expressly a type of the Latter.  And the Latter expressly assumes the fate of the former.  So that in all things Christ will have the preeminence! (Col 1:18)

These diagrams were originally used in a blog post on judgement and salvation in Isaiah and for a sermon on Isaiah 2:6-22 (listen here).



We've thought a little bit about how glory language is introduced in Exodus.  Of course John's Gospel makes for a fascinating study in 'glory'.  But it would be too easy to camp out in John and refuse to engage the other 'glory' Scriptures.  So let's think about three other key texts in the glory debates: Isaiah 42; Ezekiel 36 and (in the next post) Ephesians 1.  If you've got others on your mind, raise them in comments:

Isaiah 42:1-8

"Here is My Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight; I will put My Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; 4 He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His law the islands will put their hope." 5 This is what God the LORD says--He who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, Who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness; I will take hold of Your hand. I will keep You and will make You to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. 8 "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.

Usually it's only verse 8 that's quoted in the glory discussions.  But the context is crucial.  Here is the Beloved, Spirit-filled Servant of the LORD.  And He Himself is a covenant for the people.  The love of Father for Son spills over to the whole world and this is all a part of the integrity of the Creator.  The Maker of the ends of the earth will bring reconciliation through His Servant.  Therefore - verse 8 - He will not accomplish His creation-reconciliation project through anyone other than His Beloved, Anointed Son.  And this very commitment is the commitment to be the over-flowing, self-giving God of redemption.

So, no self-centred glory here.

What about, Ezekiel 36:16-32

16 The word of the LORD came to me: 17 "Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, 'These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.' 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. 22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.... 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

You will notice here that the issue is the 'name of the LORD's holiness' which is not exactly the same as 'glory' - but they're pretty connected I think everyone will agree.

The "name" of the LORD has always been the gracious, saving character of the Gospel God (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Num 6:23-27).  It's the name that is in His Divine Angel and, again, is expressed through His deliverance of the people (Exodus 23:20-23).  This name dwells in the temple (Ex 20:24; Deut 12:5) and just as the priests are to put the name on the people (Num 6:23-27), the people are meant to reflect the name out to the nations.

In Ezekiel, the LORD's Glory (Christ) has departed from the physical temple (ch8-10) because the Israelites have profaned it (5:11).  Yet He Himself has been a sanctuary for the people (11:16) - in exile with His people!  And He promises that He will return as the LORD's Servant - the True King David - to make His sanctuary with His people forever (Ezek 37:21-28).

But here in chapter 36, the Israelites have not 'sanctified' but rather 'profaned' the name of the LORD's holiness.  God's people - as the priests He has made them to be - ought to be reflecting out to the world that same out-going goodness of God which they themselves have received.  Instead they do the very opposite.  And the thing that really profanes the name is that the saved people of God have become the wicked and exiled people of God (v20).  The LORD has tied His name so closely to His people that when they are profaned - He is profaned.  He has chosen to be so at one with His people that His destiny and reputation is bound up in their destiny and reputation.

And so He makes them know that this salvation He is about to work is His gracious initiative and not something they've provoked either by their goodness or their badness.  It's certainly not that the Israelites have cleaned up their act enough for God to save.  And it's not even that they are now so pitiable that God goes soft on them.  What moves Him to act is His fierce determination to be this kind of saving and forgiving God.  His gospel name will be vindicated because that is simply who He is.

And in fact verse 23 says the LORD will vindicate His holiness by saving a wretched people!  What kind of holiness is this that is expressed when renowned offenders are treated with extravagant grace?  This holiness is not the holiness of 'splendid isolation' but of gospel grace.

So again, these verses are not proof that God is, after all, self-centered.  The very opposite.  All that He does is motivated by a gospel character that will not be thwarted even by the worst opposition of His own people.  His name, His glory and His holiness are not considerations that would keep Him from engaging His wrath-deserving people.  They move Him out into costly, shame-bearing, sacrificial redemption.  Because His grace is His glory.

UPDATEDave Bish has some great thoughts on Ezekiel 36 just posted.

I love the story Cornelius Van Til tells about  hearing an Arminian preach (sorry, can't remember where).  The Arminian likened salvation to a bus driver coming into town and preaching in the public square through a megaphone, "I'm off to Fort Knox where there's gold enough for everyone.  Whomsoever wishes may come aboard my bus and we'll receive the gold together."

I'm trying to remember the details - it's a while since I heard the lecture.  But as I remember it Van Til went up to the preacher afterwards and thanked him for a brilliant illustration.  "I'd make only one change to it," he said.

"Instead of pulling up at the town square, I'd have him preaching at the cemetary."

Evangelism is basically Ezekiel 37 - prophesying to dry bones.  The people are dead.  Whomsoever may come.  But the star of the show is the Spirit, giving life through the word.


A Sermon on John 3:3 - Audio Here

Mum and Dad bring their newborn baby girl to church to show her off.  Everyone gathers around and sighs and makes faces and says things like “What a beautiful baby!  What a gorgeous little nose!  How soft her skin is!  She’s just adorable!  She’s just perfect!”  One woman calls her husband over and says “Jim, what do you think of the newborn baby, isn’t she just perfect.”  Jim looks her up and down, frowns and asks the mother - “When was she born?”  The mother says “10 days ago.”  Jim says, “I think she needs to be born again.”

Isn’t that the most offensive thing to say?  You need to be born again.  Her mother would be likely to say – “What was wrong with her first birth??!  How dare you say she must be born again!”  It’s very offensive isn’t it?

And it’s no better if you say it to a grown-up.

I was once speaking to a woman at a bus stop.  And we started talking about Christian things – she was a Roman Catholic and told me that she loved the teaching of Jesus.  I said, “Me too, I was reading just last week John chapter 3 – do you know the story of Nicodemus.  She said, ‘Of course.’  I said, well it’s interesting that Jesus says to this very religious man: ‘You must be born again’.”  I asked her – “Have you been born again?”  Instantly she frosted over.  She turned her shoulders 15 degrees to the left and raised her chin 15 degrees in the air, and that was the end of the conversation.  It made for an awkward few minutes before the bus came.

But that’s what happens when you start talking about being “born again.” It is dynamite.  It is offensive.  But Jesus is unrelenting.  He says it again and again.  Verse 3:

3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Verse 5:

5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

Verse 7:

7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.'

You must, you must, you must be born again.

[SLIDE – You must be born again]

Jesus says “Don’t be surprised at this”.  We are surprised though.  Perhaps we’re like Nicodemus, coughing and spluttering in amazement, v4:

4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"

Is that what you’re suggesting Jesus?  Going back into my mother’s womb?  I don’t think I’d like that, and I’m pretty sure she would object.

No says Jesus – not that.  But nonetheless, you MUST be born again.

Are you born again?  I look out on a room and there’s one thing I can safely assume about you.  I assume that you have been born once.  That’s a fair assumption – everyone in this room has been born once.   But I don’t assume that everyone here has been born again.  I imagine there might be quite a few here who have been born once, but not born again.

And Jesus says, v3, unless you are born again you can’t SEE the kingdom of God.  Or again, v5, unless you are born of water and the Spirit which is another way of saying unless you are born again – you can’t ENTER the kingdom of God.  You MUST be born again.

Are you born again?  Jesus says “You must be born again.”  What about your family members.  Bring to mind family members – they must be born again.  Bring to mind friends – they must be born again.  Bring to mind neighbours – they must be born again.  Bring to mind work-mates – they must be born again.  Everyone you pass in the street today – they must be born again.  As we approach the mission next week, may that shape our prayers and our inviting.

...continue reading "You Must Be Born Again"

Dev's glorious blog is here. His last Exodus offering was here.

Exodus 20:2  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

The land of Egypt, the iron furnace, is well-known as a picture of the slavery to sin and the dominion by the wicked snake-prince of this world. Under the illusion of creating a glorious empire, the people are subject to a harsh reality of brutality and despair.

Yet the reason the people of God are in the land of Egypt does not seem to be the same as the one they end up being sent to Babylon. In the latter scenario, it is very clear that the people have been willfully engaging in rebellious behaviour against the Living God, participating in every possible sinful activity - until sin reached its full potential - and the consequence of that gestation was exile - being cast away from the presence of God (represented by His dwelling in the holy temple).

However, no such obvious rebellion has occurred for the people to end up in Egypt. Why are they there - what did they do to deserve such harsh treatment for this prolonged period of time? We know that slavery in the spiritual sense is indeed because of sin, and Satan then is given full authority over those that would allow his whispers to enter into their hearts.

The reason for Israel being in Egypt seems to be one of famine.

Genesis 41:57   Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Indeed a global famine, such that all the earth comes under the dominion of that old Pharaoh. But perhaps the famine was instituted by God so that the whole world would come under the reign of Joseph, God's Elected Prince.

Now if we then back-track to the reason Joseph is in Egypt, it is because of the murderous intentions of his brothers -

Genesis 37:20-21   Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams."

Thus there is one sin that has indeed in some sense caused their 'exile' from Canaan to Egypt - and it is the murder of God's Elected Prince.

John 3:18   Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

The sin of Adam is the same sin of all of us, the sin that we will all be judged for on that day - and it is the rejection, or the murder of the Christ.

Genesis 50:20   As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

The rebellion of a few against the Messiah was commuted to all, so that all may have life an provision in Him, the new prince of the world.

Now as our champion who we once crucified, He holds it not against us and declares:

Genesis 50:21   So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Isaiah 55:1-3   "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.



Read Exodus 17

The Angel of the LORD is in the midst of His saving work as promised in 3:12.  He has brought His people out of slavery, and now He is bringing them to the mountain to worship God.  In the meantime He leads them "by stages" (17:1, ESV) through a desert wasteland where all they have to sustain them is the Angel Himself.  He - the LORD Jesus - is the Rock who accompanies them and provides them with both their natural and spiritual sustenance (1 Cor 10:3-4,9).   The Israelites are being taught a lesson summed up well in the experience of one African Bishop:

"I never knew Jesus was all I needed until Jesus was all I had."

That's the lesson for the Israelites in the desert.  There is no natural sustenance for the people of God as they wait their mountain-top experience.  All they have is Jesus.  But they are being taught time and again - all they need is Jesus.  (For more on this theme see The Church in the Wilderness.)

In chapter 16 we saw grace for the grumbling.  The people complain at their spiritual leaders (16:2) and wish themselves back in slavery.  This is bad enough but Christ reveals that this is really grumbling against Himself (16:8) (pause for thought when you're next tempted to roast your Christian leaders!).  Their sin is much worse than they imagine - but His grace is much greater too.  He would feed this mutinous rabble with the food of angels.  And on Calvary He would reveal the full depths of this grace - He would be torn apart as Bread for the world to feed wicked and desperate grumblers like us.

Chapter 17 shows this cycle of grace for the grumbling repeated.

The people "quarrel" with Moses (v2) - but it's clearly a test of the LORD (cf Ps 95:8-9).  We know what should happen to those who quarrel:

1 Samuel 2:10 Those who quarrel with the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to His King and exalt the horn of His Anointed.

Christ, who does not quarrel (Matt 12:19), will be the anointed Judge of all those who quarrel.

So when the LORD commands Moses to take up the staff from which the plagues of Egypt have flowed (v5), we know what should happen next.  He should strike down those horrible ingrates in judgement as a little sign of what the true Anointed King would do.

Except that's not how it works out.  Instead the LORD Jesus stands on a Rock in front of all the elders.  Remember that "The Rock" is a favourite name for Him (e.g. Gen 49:24; Deut 32:4ff).  So He’s associating Himself very strongly with this physical rock.  And then He says to Moses, Don’t strike them, strike the rock.

Water comes out and their thirst is slaked.  It’s incredible grace towards the grumbling.  Not simply are they spared, they are positively blessed in response to such wicked quarrelling!  And wonderfully, Numbers 20:13 describes this event as one in which the LORD "showed Himself holy."  The holiness of the LORD is not simply that which zaps sinners, but it shines forth when the Rock is struck and the grumblers are graced.

Centuries later, the One who stood on that rock - the Spiritual Rock who accompanied the people - came to a quarrelsome, grumbling, evil rabble.  But again, it was not the rabble that was struck.  He was struck by the rod of divine judgement and the life-giving waters of the Spirit flowed.  That same grace is extended to we grumblers today.  Our thirst is slaked because when our Rock was struck, Living Waters flowed from within Him (John 7:38; 19:34).

From v8, the Israelites learn that their LORD doesn't only provide our necessities - He fights our battles.  We read of the attack of the Amalekites and we are introduced to Joshua for the first time.  His name simply is Jesus.  Here is the one who would bring them into the promised rest.  Moses can only bring the people so far - the one called Jesus must bring them home.  And here this young man will overcome the enemy while Moses holds his hands out on the mountaintop.

So the LORD provides food and drink and guidance and victory for a people who doubt and question and quarrel with Him at every turn.  They groan when oppressed and then grumble when freed.  They will be brought kicking and screaming to the promised rest only by the steadfast love and kindness of the LORD.  They can count on no-one and nothing else for their identity, security, strength and salvation.  The LORD alone is their banner (v15).

A sermon on Exodus 16-17 (audio of second half)


Rich continues from yesterday's post.

Read Exodus 15:1-21

We now find ourselves encamped on the Eastern shore of the Red Sea looking back on the great salvation worked by the Father’s Saving Angel.  His glories shining as brightly here as they would by the waters of Galilee.

Moses has just seen the two biggest, most dramatic and loudest multi-media presentations of the gospel the Hebrews would ever see.  He saw them.  More, he even experienced the Lord’s salvation.  His clothes still smell of roasted lamb, his hair and beard have the salt spray of the Red Sea matting it together.  The cloud of smoke which concealed the Angel of the Lord is billowing just a few metres away.

No wonder he broke out singing the first ever Christian hymn recorded!

Before we delve into the joy of this hymn, we need to consider the terror of it.  This is the reality of the gospel.  There is no salvation without judgement.  Hell will be suffered.  Either by Christ or by you.  For those who reject the Lord’s salvation, like the Egyptians, there is death but for all those who are in Christ Jesus, those who shelter under the blood of the lamb, those who pass through the cloud and the water there is life.

Considering the many warnings Pharaoh had, the mistreatment of the Hebrews and contempt towards the Word of Yahweh, we can (I think) feel that this is just. The Egyptians had ample opportunity to join Israel (as some of them did – Ex 12:38) but they hardened their hearts to the clear gospel presentations they received and so the inevitable consequence for them is to be thrown into the chaos and darkness of the deep.

I am not going to pretend that I find rejoicing in this aspect of our gospel particularly easy – I have to look again at what The Lord Christ has achieved for me for that joy to overwhelm my sadness at the hard hearted rejection of the free gift of salvation.

Moses’ hymn reflects on the events of that night in explicitly salvific language. Moses knew his salvation yes in terms of the great events which he lists and amplifies in verse, but also in terms of his relationship to his Saving Lord. He doesn’t just focus on the events and signs and forget who did them and how real he is – there is no depersonalised view of God here.

Verse 2 – he is my strength and my song and my salvation.  He is my God.  He knows his name verse 3.  Salvation from verse 12 is described in terms of a loving relationship.  Love which leads, which guides and keeps with God’s own strength.  It is pastoral language.

Just think about what this “unfailing love” meant to Moses, in his experience.  In the face of such a strong captivity, such an awful cost to salvation, such a dangerously narrow path. It is so rich a term!  He hadn’t forgotten his people.

Now think what it meant to Moses that God’s people are lead, what Moses knows and saw about His strength and His guidance and leading of His people.  It certainly wasn’t a case of throwing them a map and legging it!  It wasn’t even that he pulled some strings from on high to work salvation from a distance.  He was there.  He was with them.  He stoops down to save.  By his own Right Hand the Father works salvation for them.

This gives him great confidence going forward too.  If His great and unfailing love has moved Him to come in person and lead us thus far, then He will surely bring me my inheritance.  Moses looks beyond the Red Sea to his future hope.  Verse 17 – he is looking forward to being grafted into Zion – not just a bit of land in the Middle East, but the Lord’s actual sanctuary – the one He built and verse 18 his eternal reign.

His rejoicing is relationally focused and that relationship has this eschatological edge to it. He knows the Lord and he wants to know Him eternally. He depends on his guidance, strength and leading to establish him in his future kingdom for all eternity.

Such trust and dependence is built on the affirmation “be still and see the salvation of the Lord, see him fighting for you”.

If you are in Christ today, the Lord is with you – to guide, to provide, to lead you. His Spirit’s great work and goal is to bring you to the Father’s rest, to keep you in his fold, to keep your eyes focused on the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.

Rest in Christ, be still. Enjoy the fellowship of the Spirit as He works to bring you home.


Rich Owen is a minister at City Evangelical Church in Leeds and has some cracking sermons here.

Read Exodus 13:17 – 14:31

Everyone else at the hotel had hired 4x4s to take them to see the lions, but we figured that would show a lack of faith in our clapped out minibus – how hard can it be?  Well, we saw the lions, but we didn’t half get battered about as our driver hurtled round the *bumpy* Ugandan wilderness in his beloved Isuzu.

There is a sense in which we can view the Christian life like holding on white knuckle style, until we get to heaven.  You are saved and now you strive and get battered about trying to live in the light of the promised future – bluntly, between salvation and consummation, we are abandoned to joyless religion.

Our lives are indeed a journey through the wilderness, and Canaan’s rest is still far away.  But we are not left without a guide, a friend who lights our path to the oasis, one who cares and comforts his people and with whom we can fellowship.

This pillar of cloud and fire of verses 21 and 22 acted like a tour guides umbrella leading the people from place to place.  The umbrella shows the tourists where the guide is. Stay with the blue brolly, and you know you are with the guide and heading in the right direction.  Likewise, as Ch 14:19 states it was the Angel of the Lord who was leading the people – he was in the cloud and fire. Walk with the cloud and you know you are walking in the immediate presence of God the Son.  A gospel sign with the gospel word.  Pretty cool huh?

Ch 13:17-21 shows how God wasn’t unsympathetic to the Israelites concerns.  He knew how easy it would have been for them to want to go back and so he leads them via a desert path.  It’s not the easiest route but it is the best one – the one that keeps them in his fold.  The Angel of the Lord was Israel’s shepherd-guide, leading them in person along the way which is best.  He doesn’t chuck a map at them and then leg it!

This is great news for the Hebrews – I love the fact that verse 8 of Ch 14 has them marching out boldly!  Their Saving Lord, the Divine Angel ahead of them in the cloud, they pursued Him with boldness, walking 10 feet tall with their God.

Pharaoh’s pursuit however was equally as bold (Ch 14:1-9).  He sent the best forces after them to cut them down.  They headed the Israelites off and hemmed them in by the sea.

The Israelites thought that they had been abandoned in the wilderness to die by Pharaohs sword.  They turned their eyes from the saving Lord who was with them and instead looked at what was coming and believed that they would have to fight.  Do you see the problem?

They stopped resting upon their communion with the Angel of the Lord.  They un-hid themselves from the Rock and were found standing only on desert sand.  Take your eyes off the Lord Jesus and you end up looking at self and at the world and the inevitable conclusion is fighting, striving … religion.

So what happens next? What should we do when we doubt the presence and fellowship we have with the Father, through Christ and by the Holy Spirit -  His care, his provision? Lets see what happens here first:

A)    Moses delivers a rip snorting call to battle… “you people of the Living God who face adversity, who waver, who have fear, who long for better times, who take their eyes away from the goal – dig in, hold on tight, white knuckle style to the bitter end…”


B)    They are simply reminded of the glorious gospel of free grace which had saved them.  All they need in the face of the wilderness, the enemy and the longing, is to have their eyes turned back to the Lord, their Immanuel.  "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today… The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." (Ch 14:13-14)

Look at the one who fights for you.  Look to the Son of the Most High who brought you out of tyranny, who dwells with you.  Stand upon the Rock and be still for he stands before you to face the great enemy.  He will defeat death this day.  He will loose you from your chains and by the breath of his Mighty Spirit he will provide a path to the rest and perfection of his eternal Kingdom.

In other words, WE don’t DO anything except receive again the gospel. Moses and the Israelites were told to stand a watch – they are given another gospel sign.

And so verse 21 (cf 15:8,10) by His Spirit, the Lord drove back the sea which stood in front of them while Himself guarding them against the Egyptians behind them.  The invitation to cross was clear. They came into and received the Lord’s salvation.  Interestingly, the Lord draws the great enemy into his chosen way to save his people.  It is here that he throws the accuser down.  Salvation for his people and victory over evil occur at the same place.

What a gospel we have!

Be still – your efforts won’t save you.  Rest in the Christ who has gathered you into himself, has gone through the waters for you, lived for you, who has taken you through death defeating the enemy, brought you into new life and taken you to the Father’s side.  Be still and see the salvation of the Lord.

The Israelites saw the salvation of the Angel of the Lord and placed their trust in Him (14:31).



From the marvellous Dev Menon.  If you're not reading his blog - go and subscribe now.

Read Exodus 13:1-16 - The Consecration of the Firstborn

The death of the spotless lamb of God allows us entrance into the promised land...

In chapter 13, just after the institution of the passover, we learn about the opening of wombs, the entering into the land of milk and honey and a reminder of the unleavened bread.

Egypt is the watery grave of darkness and turmoil, where everything is meaningless and heading nowhere, a prison of no hope. Christ, through His Lamb's blood, has torn an opening out of slavery - into the promised land. In this land there is no uncleanness, the old yeast of malice and wickedness is thrown away.

Exodus 13:9   And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt.

This truth needs to be made a memorial on our hand and burned between our eyes - the deliverance of the saints; the redemption of the church of the firstborn (Heb 12:23) - for we are all 'firstborn' in Christ. The animals are given as sacrifice - but the children of God are redeemed.

The King leads us in triumphal procession into Canaan, the city of His choosing. He comes, to raise the bones of Joseph to life eternal in this new land.

As we follow our Champion through the wilderness, He leads us by fire and cloud - we also need to take His path - so also we redeem the beasts of burden, the donkeys, that we may walk similarly through the earthly Jerusalem, till we reach that place outside the city wall, and pass through the cross-shaped doorway, and enter the Heavenly Zion.


And here are a couple of my (Glen's) recent sermons on Exodus 12-15

Passover and remembrance (Ex 12)

Redemption of the Firstborn, Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Red Sea (Ex 13-15)


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