Moses: Fear vs. Experience

(Today’s message summary was submitted by Lisa Woicik, who gave the message at UPPC on July 21, 2019. Watch it at UPPC.org!

It doesn’t take long after the Israelites leave Egypt before they face what looks like impending death.  Camped at the edge of the Red Sea, they look up and see Pharaoh’s army fast approaching them.  Trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Sea, they respond, as any of us would – with panic!  Yet, Moses’ response is calm, confident in God’s deliverance. 

Does this seem like the same Moses who seemed to fear and doubt everything God asked him to do (see Exodus 3-5)?  Only a few weeks have passed since Moses let fear get the best of him and questioned God’s intent to help Israel (Ex. 5:22-23).  Now, when death seems to be knocking at the door, Moses is outwardly calm and confident.  How can that be?

When we look at this story, it is helpful to remember that Moses was still human.  He felt fear and panic just like the rest of us do. The difference between the Moses at the Red Sea and the Moses of Exodus 5 is that Moses now had experienced God’s faithful provision at least 10 times.  With each plague that God brought upon Egypt, God told Moses what would happen, Moses followed God’s instructions, and Moses saw God fulfill what was promised.  

Repeatedly experiencing God’s faithful provision allowed Moses’ trust in God to grow stronger.  Just like we trust that the sun will rise tomorrow because we don’t know of a time when it hasn’t done so, Moses’ faith in God grew stronger every time he witnessed God’s provision.  Because Moses was confident in God’s provision, he was able to set aside his fear in that moment and calmly do what he needed to do so that God could deliver the Israelites to safety.  

1.      How have you experienced God’s provision in your own life? 

2.  Have you ever had a moment when you were in full panic mode?  What did that look like?  What brought you out of it?  

3.      When is fear a healthy response?  What does unhealthy fear look like? 

4.      What is happening in your life now that seems unbearable?  How might you be able to practice setting aside your fear and take the next step trusting in God’s provision? 

Blessings,
Lisa Woicik

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Moses: Fear of the Hyksos

Heroes sometimes come from unlikely places. Spider-Man is an otherwise ordinary teenager. Bilbo Baggins is a simple hobbit from the shire. In the non-fiction world, Malala Yousafzai was just a girl who wanted to learn, and now she is a Nobel laureate. Terry Fox was a kid from British Columbia whose legacy still inspires millions every year.

Moses was an orphan and then a prince; a murderer and then a fugitive; a shepherd and then a prophet. Eventually, the book of Deuteronomy would remind us that Moses was even one who saw God face to face.

The reason Moses’ infant life was endangered in the first place was because he was hyksos, that is, a foreigner in the land of Egypt. And when the Hebrews multiplied in number, though they had done nothing wrong, the Egyptian pharaoh feared that the hyksos would try to rebel and claim power over the region (Exodus 1:5-14). Pharaoh ordered systematic infanticide to control the Hebrew population. Had it not been for the courage of several women, we may never have known about Moses or even about the Jewish people at all. Pharaoh’s decree was one of the earliest attempts at ethnic cleansing in what would become a repeated phenomenon in history.

Xenophobia literally means “stranger fear.” A phobia is an irrational fear, which of course leads to irrational behavior. So when this kind of fear dominates one’s mind, as it dominated pharaoh’s mind, great destruction can be the result.

So, centuries later when Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph, word of his birth made its way to the Judean king, Herod. Herod let his fear dominate his mind in the same way pharaoh had, which led him to the same decision: a eerily similar decree to murder the firstborn boys of the region in order to maintain his power.

Can you imagine the kind of destruction that can occur when it’s not a single monarch who succumbs to such powerful fear? When it’s a group, or even the majority of a population? Unfortunately, history has recorded plenty of those examples, too. So as we move into the second week of our deep dive into this study of Moses, let’s reflect on our own “stranger fears,” and ask God to challenge us and empower us not to give in to fear of the hyksos and instead reflect Jesus’ gracious love: “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

For reflection:
– In what ways do you struggle with fear of those who are different from you? (It’s okay, we all do in one way or another.)
– Can you identify the source or foundation of your fears?
– Which of your fears are probably irrational?
– How have you let fear lead you to act contrary to how Jesus calls us to act?
– What is one step you can take this week to overcome your fear and by led by love instead?

Blessings,
MM

Free to Remain Connected

Colossians 2:16-23

As we grow up, we have to learn to process and discern multiple different sources of advice and wisdom for life.  When we’re quite young, it’s 100% parents or guardians.  As we grow up, we broaden our sources to include friends, teachers, coaches, and more.  Many times, we learn conflicting things about the best way to live.

This is similar to what the Colossian church was facing, which Paul gets into detail about in the latter half of chapter 2.

A lot of the advice they’re being given appears wise.  (Doesn’t it always, in the moment?)  But Paul has a perspective that isn’t subject to the same kinds of pressure.  And from that perspective, Paul reminds the Colossians of this paradox: the kingdom of God has already come, but is not yet fulfilled.  Now, he doesn’t say it in that exact way.  But Paul’s audience has had a thorough and fruit-bearing experience of Christ already.  But they are not yet fully mature.  It appears that Christ guaranteed God’s kingdom, but it is being worked out in our world over time.

What does this mean for us?  First, the “already” means we can live in freedom from otherwise empty religious obligations that only foreshadow that which Christ fulfills.  We can live in freedom from the judgmental eyes of those who are puffed up with what they claim are special spiritual insights.  Second, the “not yet” means we are called to remain connected to Christ, the “head” by which the whole body grows.  This connection has a twofold purpose: to grow and mature us, and to be examples of God’s kingdom to the world.

For reflection:

  1. Looking back on your life, did you ever do anything that you now realize was unnecessary?  Why did you do it?  (If you heard my sermon, think “enormous gym bag.”)
  2. Is there anything you do now that is based more on fear-filled duty than on joy-filled living?  What are you afraid of?
  3. If you lived out God’s “already” kingdom, how would it affect your daily life?
  4. If God’s kingdom is also “not yet” fulfilled, what role might you play in its unfolding in our world?

Many blessings,

MM