Exodus 20:18-21…I remember when I was a child sleeping in my warm bed on a cold night. There is something about the warmth of a bed when it is cold outside. But, sometimes early in the morning I would awaken out of a pleasant sleep and find that I needed to go to the bathroom. I would lay there until the discomfort of staying there in the bed overcame the comfort of laying in the bed. Then I would look out from my covers to see the path I will take on my way to the bathroom. In between my bed and the goal, I would see a monster sitting in one of the chairs right next to my bed. This monster looked like that Monster in Daniel 7 because it came up on one side. And on top of it all that beast was looking at me. I thought to myself, I can probably out run this beast, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look that coordinated anyway. But that beast would seemingly read my mind and point to the closet where there appeared to be 5 tall Giants standing and 3 of them didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have heads. Immediately I would take the cover and put it back over my head. Back to the comfort. Back to the discomfort.
But eventually Mother Nature called so hard that I could no longer safely ignore her. At that point I would jump out of bed and begin my trek to the bathroom. That monster in the chair grabbed at me but I straight-armed that monster just like I saw Walter Payton do on his way to the end zone. Once I got past the monster I realized that I was here in the dark. Monsters all around me. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see where I am going. I need to get somewhere, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how I am going to get there. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go back to the bed any longer without getting past the monsters that stood between me and the bed. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to get to the bathroom because monsters block the way. Here I am in the dark without knowing where or how to go.
Israel found itself in the same place. The Bible records the children of Israel as being in Egyptian slavery. During that time, Israel learned how to live like slaves. They learned how to eat like slaves. They learned how to drink like slaves. It was uncomfortable being a slave. But at the same time it was comfortable being a slave. It was a comfortable discomfort. They learned when to wake up and when to go to bed. They were slaves. In fact they even learned how to worship like slaves. It was a terrible time. However, they were comfortable. We know they were comfortable because they talked longingly about the past in Egypt as soon as they got out of egypt. Folks can get used to anything. Israel got used to being slaves. They knew how much straw they were going to get and how many bricks they had to make. They knew when they had to be at the job site and when they got to go home. They knew what they were gonna eat. Yeah Someone oppressed them. Yeah it was uncomfortable. But just like a warm bed on a cold morning it was comfortable. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be slaves, but slavery did have its advantages. In addition, who knows what will happen if we ever got out of Egypt. In Egypt they know what is going on. Yeah they were uncomfortable, but they were comfortable in their discomfort.
Well in the fullness of time, God took Israel out of Egypt, God sent a cloud that turned into a ball of fire at night to lead Israel. That cloud protected and led Israel. Israel still remembered Egypt. Israel began murmuring about how good it was back in Egypt. How comfortable they were back in Egypt. Yeah it rains bread from heaven, but that gets old after a while. And why do we have to beg Moses to hit a rock everytime we want some water. Here we are out of Egypt out of the comfortable discomfort, and now we are in nothing but discomfort. We ate better back in Egypt. Not only that we had something better to drink than just water. Bread and water. And on top of it all we are marching in a desert. We don’t know where in the world we are going. Somebody said something about a promised land, but all I see is desert. Somebody said something about a promised land but Now I am looking at a smoking mountain. And that dark cloud at the top fo the mountain is dark which completely illustrates how dark our future looks. It was better in the discomfort of Egypt because now all I see is darkness in front of us. The future is dark and the past is bright. Why did you take us out here to die God (and Moses)?
God had brought Israel out of the past physically. But Israel didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to leave the past mentally. And I resonate with the feelings of Isreael. I know why they were afraid. I know why they stood afar off. It was warm in the bed and cold outside of it. There wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t any monsters in the bed and they were all over the outside of it. There wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t any junk all over the floor to walk over in the bed. I knew what would happen in the bed. I knew what the future was like in the Bed. I just stay there and wake up the next morning. I know what Isreal was saying. You know what I am talking about. You were comfortable back where you were before God called you into the future that turned out to look like a darkness full of monsters. You were making good money in a career when God called you out of the comfort of the past to GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promised future. In fact somebody told you that if you keep doing what you are doing you are going places. You were comfortable. You were feeling good. You were up for a raise back in Egypt. You were going to stay in that bed deal with the occasional discomfort, who knows maybe the discomfort will go away with time. However, something within you would not let you be happy with that. Some thing within you pushed you to move. And you finally jumped out of the bed and now you are in the darkness with monsters all around.
The darkness is bad enough with its loss of vision and loss of orientation, but monters inhabit the darkness you have been called into. Isreal was promised a land flowing with milk and honey, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and more recently Joseph. But things stood in the way of their realized dream of the promise. A desert stood in the way like a monster. That monster took away their hopes for water and food. That monster tried to make Israel think that they would not get that promise. You have seen such things standing in the way of your promised future. Looking like the monsters in my dark room. Racism is a monster seeking to keep racial minorities from the goal of GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promised future. Monsters keeping you from the opportunities of others. Sexism is a monster seeking to keep women from GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise for them. Grabbing at them by placing a glass ceiling over their head. Militerism and a false patriotism that places more value on an american military soldiers life than an innocent foreign civilian villiage. Attacking the productivity of humanity. Monsters in the dark. Economic exploitation of the weak and powerless by the mighty is a monster in the dark. All of these monsters seek to make us think that GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise will not become operative in our lives .
Here we are in the midst of darkness. And it is here that God speaks again.
It is here that God starts explaining what it means to live in GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s kingdom in what has been commonly referred to as the 10 commandments. These commands are simply giving Isreal the mindset of the kingdom. God was saying I know where you were and how you lived. Some of what you learned in Egypt was actually good and some of what you learned in Egypt was bad, but all in all you need to learn to live as free people in my kingdom of the future. In my kingdom you only worship that God that brought you up out of Egypt. You only worship the God that has brought you to this place you find yourself today. In this kingdom you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worship God through images of stone or wood. In this kingdom you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take the name of God lightly or in vain. In this kingdom you remember the Sabbath day as a memorial to creation. In short you love the Lord with all thy heart. This was different than the way of life you learned as slaves. Before you worshipped as slaves, but now you are to worshp God as free people. In this kingdom you love your neighbor as yourself by honoring your ancesters, not murdering your neighbor, not stealing from your neighbor, not committing adultury, not lying on your neighbor, or coveting your neighbors belongings. In this kingdom you love Yahweh and you love the other.
Here Israel was in the midst of a darkness with monsters seeking to keep them from the promise and God begins explaining how the kingdom looks and the practices in that kingdom Israel continued to get scared. Here they were in darkness. Here they were thinking they were going to get to a land flowing with milk and honey and God is speaking about requirements. I wanted light and all I see is a list of commands. This wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t what Isreal was looking for. They wanted light. Here they were in the dark and God gives them some rules from a dark cloud? Here they were in the dark of not knowing what was in the future and God just tells them some commands. Here they are in the dark no one wanted any commandments. They wanted to know where the land flowing with milk and honey was. They wanted to know where the permanent water supply was. They wanted to know How God was gonna light the way from Egypt all the way to the promised land. But instead Isreal saw their future of darkness now illustrated in that fact that God was in the midst of a dark cloud. You wanted God to open the way from Egypt to Canaan yourself. You jumped out the Bed and it was dark and so you started wondering why God didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just give you all the food needed for the trip to canaan as well as all the drink. You started wondering why you are in the dark. You even acted like you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if it was God at all.
Moses encourages Isreal to not be fearful. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be scared of the God who brought you here. There is much to be scared of in the dark, but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be scared of the God who brought you here, be fearful of sinning against God not of Godsself.
God didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t take away the darkness. God didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t totally take away the monsters of the future. God dinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t give them a water supply that would always be there. God didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t diversify their dining menu. But God revealed Godsself in the darkness and gave Israel principles on how to live not only in the darkness, but in the final promise. It is noteworthy that this happens while they are in the darkness of not being in the promised future. God gave GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s principles in the darkness. That tells us that we can often find the principles of God not when we are sitting in the basking glow of GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise, niether when we are back in the comfort of our previous life in Egypt, but in the struggle and fight to get to GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise. It is here in the journey to GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise that God tells us how to live today and the future. As someone said you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t control God. I wish God would just remove the monsters from the dark and cut the light on, but God doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t do that God simply gives them principles for living as they struggle towards the promise. Someone said that God was preparing them for the promise. God not only was preparing them for the eventual promise, but God was better preparing them to reach the promise. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know why you have to go through darkness and confront the monsters. You have seen this, you have received some of the most clear presentations of God only as you went though the darkness. God has told some of us how to live from the vantagepoint of the darkness. God doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t will the darkness, but God uses the darkness. The monsters are not the only ones that use the darkness for mischief, God uses the darkness for your good. Sometimes we can only see when the lights are cut off. Sometiems we can only be ready for promise when we are in a place where we have no choice but to trust in the God that brought us out of Egypt and promises a future. Believe me I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to minimize the darkness or the monsters in it. Sometimes bad things happen in the darkness. Sometimes the monsters actually are able to overcome some. Some folks end up hurting. Some folks loose family and friends in the darkness. The darkness causes hurt. But if God calls you into the darkness go on into the darkness and believe in the future the same God that brought you out of Egypt has in store for you.
On those early morning on my trek to the Bathroom I wold sometimes step on a stack of books and almost fall down having to catch myself with my arm. Sometimes I would stub my toe on the way. But inevitably I made it to the destination. I would sometimes look back and see the path I made in the darkness. I would see some of the monsters that looked much less menacing in the light from the future. And I got happy that I went through the darkness. I would someitmes look down on the floor and see a path through the darkness that was made and I would be happy I went through the darkness.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what darkness God is calling you into, but the promise today is that God is in the dark that God calls you into. God will meet you in the darkness. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know where I am going but I know God is leading. David says I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know where I am going but though I walk through the shadow of death God is with me. Job said I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know about this darkness, but though God slay me yet will I trust God. Jesus said even though I want the cup to pass me by into thy hands I commend my sprit. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know where God is leading. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what is in the dark, and I am even afraid of the dark, but if God says Go it is better to go. The past is no longer there anyway. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know why God brought me out of a career to the ministry. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m walking in the dark. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know why God sent me to Vanderbilt divinity school instead of my denominational school that everyone else goes to. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m walking in the dark.
I know you know what I am talking about because I have heard your sermons. You said that you didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have mother and father. But if I may paraphrase you said I am walking in the dark and in the dark God gave me parents and God threw in some brothers and sisters for good measure. I know you know that I am talking about because you said that you lost your family, but you said that you were walking in the dark and you found God in that darkness. I know you know what I am talking about because you have seen God squeeze good out of the darkness. You said that you hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t heard from God in a burning bush but you kept on anyway just like Aaron walking in the dark.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not here to tell you something new, just to encourage you to walk on in the dark. Keep walking in the dark by following GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leading even in the dark. Folks may misuderstand you, but Keep walking in the dark by confronting the monsters that stand in your way by using the principles that God has revealed to you in the darkness. Keep walking in the dark because The Bible says that God is in the darkness. God is with you in the dark. God bless you