In the beginning of Genesis everything is so good and beautiful in the Garden of Eden and man is having a great fellowship with God but in the beginning of Exodus we see pain, suffering, difficulty. In Genesis 2 and 3 we all know what happens. Man falls into sin and for the first time sin enters into the relationship between man and God. That destroyed everything and from that time man has been disobeying, rebellious, we've been making wrong choices. And that's how we landed up in Exodus chapter 1 - a point of slavery. It's because of our own wrong choice and our own disobedience and rebellion against God.
1. God's plan for salvation is justification
23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.
24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.
25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
The Bible says here that Israel was going through so much pain, they cried out in their slavery. It doesn't say they cried out to God but it says God heard their cries. In v25 it says, 'So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them'. This is the beginning of Salvation. God looks at mankind and his heart is moved. He sees man in a state of lost-ness, he sees man completely fallen away from him and, the Bible says, God was concerned, his heart was moved. We've got to understand, brothers and sisters, that salvation begins with God, in God's heart. It is God who feels for us. It is God who reaches out to us. It is God who comes up with a plan.
7 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.
We see here how God sees their suffering and he says in v8, 'I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptian'. That is the beginning of salvation. God coming down to man. God coming down to save man. If God doesn't have a heart of compassion, we are all lost for eternity. If God doesn't reach out to man, man is lost in his sin. This shows the heart of God - how he feels for his creation. He created man but man disobeyed and gone away but he feels for man and remembers the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He remembers all that he has done for man and comes up with a new plan.
Today, we are saved by the blood of Jesus and we've got to remember our salvation, not because we are worthy, not because we are good people. No, we are slaves and in slavery. God decided to reach out to us. God rescued us and it is God who promises to restore us and it is God who has plans for us. This is a gift from God and it is by his amazing grace that we are saved. Justification is in the name of Jesus. It is Jesus' blood that cleanses us and justifies us and that's why we can stand before God. We cannot go and defend ourselves before God. We cannot show our righteousness before God. It is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us.
Many times I hear people say, 'God is on my side'. We've got to be careful about what we say. Is God really on our side? Why should God be on man's side? It's not that way, brothers and sisters. We need to be on God's side. We better be on God's side. We should be on the side of the truth. The truth is not on our side. The truth doesn't listen to us - we need to listen to the truth. Some of us think we can fold God and keep him in our pockets and say, 'God is with me. Everything will happen the way I want it to'. No, we need to submit to God's plan. God is great and we need to submit to his way. He's not going to submit to our way. Justification is by the arm of God. By the blood of Jesus each one of us is justified.
We are justified, we are saved by the grace of God but then, we have not yet reached the Promised Land. That's where we must remember we are on a journey. From the day of our baptism, from the day of our salvation it is a journey and that journey is called sanctification. We are being renewed and purified and saved. Let's turn to Exodus 13. We see God did mighty acts of judgement and incredible miracles and they crossed over the Red Sea and they begin a journey.
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt."
18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.
The shortest route from Goshen (where the Israelites were staying) to the Promised Land Canaan takes around 14 days i.e. two weeks. But you know what? God did not take them through that route but, instead took them round a much longer route which ultimately took them 40 years to reach the Promised Land. That's why we should remember our Christian life is a journey. The day we are baptized is not the day we step into heaven. We still have a long life to live and we have so many tests that are going to come our way, so many crises that are going to come, so many problems that are going to come. How we respond to all of them will show where we are going to land up ultimately.
Man is very impatient. We want to reach heaven immediately. God is very patient. He doesn't mind seeing us cry because he knows we will change. The change is more important than the pain, which will be for a short time. Suffering is good for us. Suffering will always bring us closer to God if we respond in the right way. The longer route is always the better route. Short cuts never work. The world loves short cuts. The world wants instant money - instant coffee, instant noodles. But as Christians God is not 'instant'. God definitely calls us to salvation, he saves us but we are still living in the promise. We still have a long way to go.
20 After leaving Succoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert.
21 By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.
22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
We see that though we go through a longer route there is good news. The good news is that though we are going through the longer route, God is going to be with us. He is travelling with us. It says the Presence of God was with them. There was a cloud in the daytime and a fire in the night to guide them. In the same way, as Christians, God has allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in us to guide us. So, though the route is longer, though the journey is difficult, God has given us his Spirit to guide us and help us to reach the Promised Land.
Our goal as Christians is to be like Christ. That is our journey. From the day of baptism we are picked up at whatever point we are, to become like Christ so that when he comes we will be just like him. That process is called sanctification. That process is how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, works in our hearts and transforms us to the original image that God created us - the image of Christ. That's where we have to be faithful, that's where we have to cooperate with God, that's where we have to submit to the Holy Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and being like Christ.
First justification - God justifies us, the blood of Jesus redeems us and we are saved. Secondly, sanctification - the Holy Spirit continues to work in our lives from the day we are baptized till we die. And thirdly, glorifications where we are glorified to be like Christ. For the Israelites, in Exodus, their glorification was the Promised Land. That was their destiny. For us, reaching heaven is our glorification. One day where we can see God, where our faith can become sight. Now we are all living by faith but one day our faith will become sight.
Before they stepped into the Promised Land, the Israelites had to cross the Jordan river. They started their journey by crossing the Red Sea (i.e. our baptism) and then the Jordan river symbolizes our death. As Jesus said, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. In the same way unless we die physically, we will never resurrect. God has given us an incredible opportunity to live forever, to live for eternity. But for that, we definitely have to be baptized and then, when we die and we will spiritually resurrect. But we need to be reminded that we are heading for the Promised Land.
The world is so scared of death. Death is the end of everything in the world. But for Christians death is the beginning, where we start a new life. The everlasting life that God has promised, we begin to experience after we die. That thought should make us very courageous. It is only when we are worldly we are sad by the world's affairs, we are controlled by the world's affairs. But if we are focussed on the Promised Land, this world is just a journey that we are passing through. This is not our home. This is just a time- being passage that we are going through. Some of us live like we're never going to die and then we die as though we had never lived.
But a Christian is not like that. A Christian knows he is going to die and rejoices because tomorrow starts his real life. After death, he sees God and he is looking forward to that. So, let us live as strangers because we know that we don't belong to this land forever. This is just a wilderness we are passing through. Our land is beyond this. We have a better country, a better life, a better future, a better hope, and a better resurrection.
God has incredible plans for us and he has promised incredible things to us. The plan of salvation, we see, starts from God, from his heart. It is God who makes the first move, it is God who makes the plan, it is God who sends the word, it is God who sends the man, it is God who does everything. Secondly, sanctification where we are in a process of transformation. Our goal is to be like Christ. God starts from whatever point we are at and our goal is to be like Christ. For that we've got to repent of our old sinful ways and continue to walk in the light. Thirdly glorification where our goal is to reach the Promised Land.
Our destiny is the Promised Land, heaven, which we reach after we die. We have crossed the Red Sea but we still have the Jordan river to cross. Let us continue to persevere, to remain in the faith, to live life to the full, to be faithful to God so that one day we can make it to the promised land. It is, as we sing, ''Tis grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home'.