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Sermon for


									                                The Fulfillment of a Promise
                                           Exodus 1: 1 - 14
                                           September 5, 2010

I. Introduction
   A. Mark Moring tells this story about keeping promises
   A. It was late, and my young sons, Peter and Paul, had been in bed for at least an hour.
       1. My wife and I had just returned from our Bible study group, and I snuck into the boys'
           room to say good night.
       2. "Dad, can I have some ice cream?" "No, Peter, it's late, way past bedtime."
           a. "But Dad, you promised."
   A. He was right. Peter had asked for ice cream earlier in the day, but we didn't have any.
       1. And I had said, "I'll get some for you later, I promise."
   A. Dinner came and went. We cleaned up the kitchen; the boys picked up their toys.
       1. The sitter arrived. And my wife and I left for Bible study.
           a. I'd forgotten all about the ice cream. But Peter hadn't.
   A. So, even though it was after 10 o'clock, I hopped in the car, drove to the convenience
       store, got a half-gallon of ice cream, and hurried home.
       1. Peter and I sat and enjoyed that chocolate-vanilla swirl together.
           a. After all, I had a promise to keep.
   A. This morning we are looking at a story of a people who had been given a promise
       1. A promise that God had made, not directly to them, but to their ancestors
           a. First to Abraham, then to his son, Isaac, then to his son Jacob
       2. It was a promise that held a great deal of hope to these families mentioned here
           a. The twelve sons of Jacob, and their children and grandchildren
   A. Perhaps this promise had something to do with the way these people held on to their
       family identity even while living for generations in a foreign land and culture
       1. It certainly had a great deal of influence on their concept of God
   A. And that is primarily what I want to look at this morning
       1. What does this story tell us about ourselves and our human condition
   A. And what does it tell us about the way we view God’s promises to us
       1. Especially when it may seem as though God is not keeping his promise
II. We are beginning a series of messages this morning from the first part of the Book of Exodus
   A. I didn’t realize until after I choose the direction for this series
       1. That the adult SS lessons for the next few weeks are also from Exodus
      a. But that’s all right, we won’t be covering the same verses
          (1) So maybe we’ll get a better view of this story of God’s people
A. Someone has said that if Genesis is the Book of “beginnings” in the Bible
   1. The beginning of the world/universe, of human life, and of sin in the world
A. Then the Book of Exodus is primarily the beginning of the redemption story
   1. The big picture we see is an account of a people imprisoned by slavery
      a. Led to freedom, delivered from bondage, and set on a journey
          (1) That ultimately would take them into the “Promised Land”
   2. However, that is not the promise that I am thinking of this morning
A. The Bible contains a lot of promises given to God’s people
   1. Promises that we claim for ourselves as God’s people today
      a. The promise of Jesus never to leave us or forsake us
          (1) The promise of a home in heaven to those who put their faith in God
      b. The promise of peace and rest to those who place themselves in God’s care
A. Some of those promises are such that we can see or experience fulfillment
   1. Right here and now – like the little boy with the promised ice cream
A. Other promises God has given to us are for the future
   1. A time when there will be no more tears, when our bodies will be perfected
      a. A time when temptation and sin will be no more
A. We cannot see the fulfillment of those promises in this lifetime
   1. Except in the way scripture says that our faith is the assurance of things hoped for
      a. And the evidence of things not seen
A. In our scripture passage this morning, we find a people living with that tension
   1. Of actually seeing and experiencing the beginning of the fulfillment of a promise
      a. Made by God to their ancestors years before
   2. But at the same time, having their faith put to the test
      a. With a life experience that surely had them asking – where is God now?
A. I don’t know about you, but in my experience I have found
   1. That it is great when we can see God answer to our prayers
      a. Our faith in God’s presence and God’s care is usually quite strong
          (1) When it feels as though God is really blessing our life
   2. But what about the times when everything seems to be going wrong
      a. What happens to our faith in God’s promises during those times

   A. Can you imagine going through a whole lifetime looking for the fulfillment of a promise
       1. When all the while it feels like God is further and further away
           a. Some of you might say we are living in that situation today
   A. Looking at the Book of Exodus from that perspective gives me
       1. A whole new and different way of thinking about the faithfulness of God
           a. Along with a deeper appreciation of what it means for God’s people
               (1) To live a life of faithfulness to God
III. A little bit of background may be in order here – I’ll try to be brief
   A. Maybe it will help if we think of this as the story of our ancestors
       1. In a spiritual sense that would certainly be true
   A. If we look back at Genesis chapter 15 we find the first mention of God’s promise
       1. To Abraham, when God said to him – Abram, go out and look up to the heavens
           a. And count the stars in the sky if you can
               (1) Then God said – So shall your descendents be
   A. Scripture tells us that Abraham believed God
       1. Which was pretty amazing considering he was eighty years old
           a. And he and his wife Sarah didn’t have any children yet
       2. But his belief, scripture tells us, was reckoned to him as righteousness
   A. The promise is repeated to Abraham a couple more times over a period of years
       1. And eventually Sarah does have a son and they name him Isaac
   A. In time, we hear God repeating the same promise to Isaac –
       1. Look around you at this land of Canaan
           a. Settle down here and I will give you and your descendents all this land
       2. Your offspring will be as numerous as the stars of heaven – sound familiar?
   A. As the story goes, Isaac becomes the father of Jacob
       1. And Jacob becomes the father of twelve sons
           a. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel and repeats the promise once again
       2. Be fruitful and multiply – nations and kings will come from your descendents
           a. The land that I promised to your father and grandfather I will give to you
               (1) I will be your God, and you shall be my people
   A. One of Jacob’s sons was named Joseph – he of the “amazing techni-colored dream” coat
       1. Who was disliked by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt
   A. But because he trusted God and became known as one who could interpret dreams

   1. He became a powerful figure in the Egyptian government
A. Eventually the rest of Jacob’s family moved to Egypt, too
   1. Where they were treated very well by the Pharaoh who was ruling at that time
A. Jacob passed on to Joseph and his brothers the promise God had made
   1. That they would become a great nation, they would inherit the land of Canaan
       a. And that all the nations of the world would be blessed because of them
A. So that by the time of our scripture text this has become a part of the family history
   1. Fathers telling their children about this promise God has made to them
       a. Each generation coming to the understanding that the God they worship
   2. Is a God who holds out a promise, not only to their ancestors, but also to them
       a. That understanding of God becomes a key element in the belief system
          (1) That we still hold to today
A. Have you ever thought about how we came to have faith in God
   1. That part of the reason each one of us is here this morning is because
       a. In each successive generation before us, some people have remained faithful
   2. Someone passed along the story of God’s people
       a. Someone extended to you the promises God has given us, and said
          (1) Here, these promises can be yours, too
A. That is not to discount the working of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives
   1. Calling us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation
       a. It’s just to say that the Spirit often works through the words/example of believers
   2. So that there’s a good chance that if you have become a believer in God
       a. It’s because your parents, or a friend or a teacher, or a stranger
          (1) Spoke about and lived out their faith in God in such a way
              (a) That made you want to be a part of God’s family
       b. That somehow gave you reason to hope that God’s promise
          (1) To Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel
              (a) Could become a promise to you as well
A. If you want something scary to think about, consider this –
   1. What would life be like if we couldn’t trust God to keep his promises?
       a. What if we believed God is just a fickle as we sometimes are
   2. What would that do to the way we live now, or our hope for the future
A. This is where I believe our scripture text can be applied to our life today

   1. Because what we see happening in the first few verses of Exodus 1
       a. Looks like God’s promise to Abraham might finally be coming true
   2. The descendents of Jacob, the Israelite people, are being fruitful and prolific
       a. That is, they are having large families with many children
   3. They are growing strong in the land of Egypt, so that the land is filled with them
       a. But then we hear the first hint of trouble
A. A new ruler arose over Egypt – verse 8
   1. One who did not know Joseph, or did not remember how Joseph
       a. Had been instrumental in saving the lives of the Egyptians in a time of famine
   2. This Pharaoh was more concerned about maintaining his own position of power
       a. And he saw the growing numbers of Israelites as a threat to his nation
A. The solution he came up with was to make slaves of all the Israelite people
   1. He put guards over them to make sure that they worked hard
       a. Building walled cities the Pharaoh could use for storing all his supplies
           (1) Tilling the ground to produce food for the whole nation
   2. In my translation of this scripture, the word “ruthless” is mentioned a couple of times
       a. As a way of describing how these new slaves were treated
A. I’ve done a bit of work with cement blocks and mortar before - It is hard work
   1. And I’ll bet those of you who are farmers or gardeners would agree
       a. That farming is not the easiest work to do either
A. Probably even worse than the hard labor, though
   1. Was the idea of being forced to do this work for the Egyptians
A. I don’t know what it really is like to live as a slave
   1. Although I can remember a few times thinking that’s what a job is all about
       a. Getting up, going to work, eating, sleeping, then getting up and doing it all again
   2. That’s still different than having a guard standing over you with a whip
       a. Ready to lash out at you for every little mistake
           (1) Or to yell at you every time to stopped to catch your breath
A. Can you imagine what it was like for this generation of the Israelites
   1. Adjusting from a life of relative freedom/independence to the life of a slave
       a. Not only that, but knowing in all likelihood your children would grow up
           (1) To follow in your footsteps and become slaves, too
A. What had happened to their God of promise?

      1. Here they were, becoming a large nation of people, as God had said
          a. But what did that amount to if they were a nation of slaves
   A. Actually, if we look carefully at the stories we spoke of earlier
      1. When God gave those promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
          a. We would see that even this slavery was a fulfillment of prophecy
      2. But I don’t imagine the Israelite people remembered that part of the story
   A. We generally prefer to hear the good things God has in store for us
      1. And we tend to downplay anything that sounds remotely like suffering
          a. I doubt those people were any different
IV. So what kept them going during this period in the history of God’s people
   A. How did they maintain their faith in the promises of God even when it must have seemed
      1. As though they were being treated so unfairly
          a. And that God must not really care about them after all
      2. How did they continue to maintain their identity as God’s people
   A. Was it through the telling and retelling of the stories of their ancestors
      1. Was there anything about the way they chose to live that gives us a hint
          a. Of how we can deal with times of trial and the testing of our faith
      2. We’ll look at that more next Sunday as we spend time with the familiar story
          a. Of a little baby who was placed in a basket and set adrift in the Nile river
   A. For this morning I will leave you with this contemporary story about faith
      1. As it is told by a lady named Jill Briscoe, who says –
   A. I remember a time when I was waiting for soon to become now.
      1. I went down to a little lake where we live, and I sat there very early in the morning
          a. Praying, and pleading with God that my soon would become now.
      2. "God, I cannot see you working. What about all these prayers that people are
          praying? This is a terrible situation. What are you doing about it?"
          a. And God said to me, "Any fish in that lake?"
      3. I looked at the lake, which was like glass, and I said, "Sure. Of course there are fish in
          a. "How do you know? Do you have to see fish jump to believe they're there, Jill?"
   A. I remember sitting there for a long time until I could say to God
      1. "If I never see a fish jump, I will believe they are there and active.
          a. And if I never see you answer a prayer, I will still believe."

A. God’s promises are sure, even more than the promises we humans make to each other
   1. It’s not always easy to claim those promises, especially when it feels
       a. As though God has forgotten us or doesn’t care about our situation
A. But that is why it is important to keep on telling the stories of our faith
   1. Because this story of the Israelite people says to me
       a. We may be seeing only the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise


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