Title: Israel: A Nation is Born
Text: The Pentateuch
Introduction: The Pentateuch is the name given for the first 5 books of the Bible. Often times you’ll hear it called the Law or as it is known in Hebrew, the Torah. It is these books that give us a foundation for understanding our faith and religion. We understand better who we are through these books. We understand how we got to where we are through these books; that is, our beginnings and our journey. The world makes more sense to us when we get this background information. These five books provide the foundation for the rest of the story.
We’re in the midst of a sermon series entitled: His Story. We’ve looked at Creation and the perfection of the Garden of Eden. We next covered life in the Fall. Last week we covered the Patriarchs from Abraham down through the 12 sons of Israel. And that is where we pick up this morning, with the 12 sons and how they grow into a nation.
Let’s walk through these five books this morning to see a nation come into existence.
exp.: Genesis presents the stories of Creation, the Fall, and presents God’s plan of redemption through Abraham…
- Abraham (had Ishmael & Isaac)
- Isaac (had Esau and Jacob)
- Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel, had 12 sons
- The 12
Israel had 4 wives. The one he apparently loved the most was Rachel. She died while giving birth to Benjamin, his 12th son. The two boys she gave him were his favorites. And Joseph, the oldest of the two, was doted upon without hesitation in front of the others. Joseph’s apparent arrogance didn’t help matters either.
You see, Rachel was the wife he loved the most, but she was the wife who bore Israel no children. And for a woman who was barren – a common theme we see throughout His Story – the shame was almost unbearable. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was considered barren. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife was, too. And it appeared, Rachel was, too. So here is this man who loves this wife more than the others and when she has a son, he is most cherished. She dies giving birth to another son. You can understand why Israel might have favored these two more than the others. They were growing up without a momma.
But Israel’s favoritism and Joseph’s arrogance led to a lot of heartache. Some of the older 10 brothers wanted to kill him, but sold him as a slave to some of their distant cousins, Midianites, descendants of Ishmael, who were headed down to Egypt.
Summed up: God used the mess of their family to get Joseph down to Egypt, where the whole family would eventually come to be saved. At first he was a slave, then a prisoner. But God took him from the lowest of places and raised him up to be 2nd in command of all of Egypt. And though it seems harsh, it would be Joseph’s unfortunate circumstances of slavery and imprisonment that would provide for him a move to be 2nd in Command of all Egypt. His family in Israel would have to come to him for food during a horrible famine and Joseph would keep them there, providing for them – saving them.
t.s.: And there they would stay for 100’s of years as they multiplied and filled the land. Let me show you:
II. The Exodus
exp.: According to Exodus 1.5, there were 70 people in Israel’s family that moved down to Egypt. rd 1.5-7; this sounds like the covenant with Adam and with Noah – be fruitful and multiply… But a ruler would rise to power who did not know Joseph and was bothered by their increase in numbers. So he enslaved them. Basically, Exodus 1 covers 400 years of history. Chapter 2 covers 80 years, the 1st 80 years of Moses’ life. From Exodus 3 through Leviticus and to the middle of Numbers covers about 15 months.
At the age of 80, Moses returns to Egypt to lead his people out of Egypt as a free people. There in the wilderness they would get organized. They would learn what it means to be God’s people. They would be structured for mobility. They would be given ample opportunity to grow in their faith.
God will perform incredible miracles before them to help them come to faith in Him.
- The 10 plagues
- The Cloud by day and the Pillar of fire by night.
- The parting of the Red Sea; crossing on dry ground and then, drowning Pharaoh and his army.
- Bitter water turned into something they could drink.
- Water from the Rock
- At Mt. Sinai, they beheld the glory of God in the peals of thunder and lightning, smoke, fire, trumpet blasts…
…where God gives his people his commandments and laws. For these first few months the Israelites set up camp and God would be outside their camp. They’re probably camping in their tribes and clans, but there seems to be no order or structure to their set up.
The picture was clear: God was saving his people. Now, he would do what he must to make them a people worthy of being called his people.
God called Moses to come up to the Mountain at Sinai to receive his commands – commands these people needed to learn. By the way: this was their request. They begged Moses to intercede for them. God was too ‘scary’ for them. They were too terrified to get anywhere near God. So, they begged Moses to intercede for them. He would go and visit with God and then come back and tell them what God said.
But, while Moses was up on the mountain of God, the people lost faith. Moses didn’t return for a long time and so they asked Aaron to make them another god of gold, a calf. Big mistake!
God was so angry with them that he was going to destroy them. But, Moses interceded for them and God relented from destroying them.
Summed up: In the book of Exodus the people are set free and brought out to the Wilderness of Sinai. There God gives them the 10 commandments and establishes a place for Him to dwell in their midst. The rest of the book is filled with instructions for constructing the place where God’s presence would dwell among the people. This place is called the Tabernacle. In this book, the tabernacle is built and the Glory of God moves into the Tabernacle.
t.s.: There is still so much for them to learn, though. A lot is happening here and very quickly. Which brings us to the book of Leviticus
exp.: The book of Leviticus is basically more instruction. The Laws that would make them different and distinct from all other people are given in Leviticus. God gives them his precepts, laws and commandments to follow so that they would become more like him and image him to the world… they would be distinct and different from all other people in the world. Then, they could be with him: he would be their God and they would be his people.
You see, up to this point there was just one problem preventing him from dwelling in the midst: their sin. You see, God is perfect and holy. They are not. And the two don’t mix.
The one thing the laws of Leviticus would demonstrate to them was their sinfulness and their great need for atonement.
Think about this: since the beginning of creation man has rebelled against God and done things his own way. From the first bite of the forbidden fruit to Abel killing his brother to …. Man’s standard has been to rebel against God. Man’s standard is sin. God’s standard is holiness. When I say ‘holiness’ think: perfection, clean, uncommon, unblemished, unmarked, pure, and righteous in every way. The law was given to show his people that they were sinners, imperfect, common and unclean, blemished, marked, impure and unrighteous in every way. – They were the antithesis of Him. To be with Him, their sin would have to be removed – it would have to be atoned for.
So, laws were set in place to show the standard of perfection. The punishment for rebellion against God’s law was death. But, to demonstrate God’s great love for his people, he gave them the sacrificial system to pay the penalty and take the punishment for them. The idea was that they didn’t have to die; a substitute could be sacrificed on their behalf. Then, through faith in God through that sacrifice, they could be holy and have a relationship with Him.
God instructs them to build a ‘place’ for him. Really, no place can contain him, but they need something to demonstrate the presence of God. So instructions are set for a Tabernacle to be built. This Tabernacle will be a holy place and the inner part where God dwells will be the most holy place (holy of holies). This is all very new to them. Their whole lives have been spent in slavery. They’ve only known what has been passed down through oral tradition. Now, God has saved them and set them up so that He might dwell with them; that He might Tabernacle with them, that He might pitch His tent in the midst of theirs.
So a standard is set and a redemption policy is put in place to accommodate their failure. We read about this in Leviticus 16 – it is called the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Their sinful state is described in 17-18. And by the time we get to 19, we see the holiness of God and the call for His people to be holy. Rd 19.1-2; 1And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. And the call is repeated throughout Leviticus: Be Holy as I am Holy.
Transition: Once God teaches them of his standard, then he moves to set them in place so that He might dwell in their midst. And that leads us to the book of Numbers.
exp.: It is here in Numbers that they get organized. God has taught them that He is holy and they must be holy to be with him. And then to demonstrate this, he moved them around Him. No longer was he outside of where they camped – or I guess better understood, no more were they outside and away from him…now they were around him…literally, surrounding him.
Let me show you what I mean:
- Exodus 33.7-11: The Tent of Meeting
7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
- Numbers 2
- East: Judah, Issachar, Zebulun
- South: Reuben, Simeon, Gad
- Levites around the Tabernacle
- West: Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin
- North: Dan, Asher, Naphtali
And by his commands, sin was to be taken outside the camp. They would take a shovel with them outside of the camp to go to the bathroom. If someone was sick or unclean, they would be sent outside the camp.
Once everything was set, they celebrated the Passover – for the 2nd time. So, they’ve been out there for a year, learning about what it means to be God’s people. After the Passover, God said it was time to move out and head to their new home – The Promised Land! And he gave them specific instructions on how they would travel.
And they do, just as God had established. From now on until they enter the land, they would move this way; they would camp this way with God dwelling in their midst. Look at Numbers 9.15-23; And in Chapter 10 they take off. By the next chapter they’re complaining again! Even Miriam and Aaron get in on dogging Moses in Chapter 12. By Chapter 13 they arrive just outside the Promised Land. Finally, freedom from slavery and the opportunity to experience Eden Restored, God dwelling in their midst, and a land flowing with milk and honey. All they have to do is follow God into the land.
Then God does something very interesting: he orders Moses to send in spies to spy out the land. One man from each tribe. I’m sure you know the story by now: the 12 came back with the most wonderful stories, but 10 of them had fear in their eyes. We can’t do it. They’re too big! Remember the Nephilim of Genesis 6? Well, they’re here in Numbers, too. 10 of the 12 Spies told the people to turn back and surrender to Egypt. If they go into the Promised Land, they’ll all die. Better to take their chances in the desert – to die trying to get back to Egypt by way of the desert. If they continue into the Promised Land, their children will become prey to these Giants in the Land.
Man, they upset God one time too many. He told Moses once again, Get out of the way. I’m gonna kill them all! I’ll raise up a new nation with you. But Moses pleads with God and intercedes for the people once again. We pick up where Moses has interceded for them. Look at Numbers 14.20-23; 28-35;
So God gives them just what they asked for. They will all die in the desert and their children, all of those alive 20 and under will enter the land. Only Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who encouraged obedience and trust, would enter into the land.
app.: And that is just what happens. One by one, beginning with the 10 that led the people astray, they all die.
t.s.: Over the next 40 years all will die who were in the Census – that is, 20 years old and older. Only Caleb and Joshua will enter the land.
exp.: Deuteronomy means 2nd Law. This book is about this 2nd generation preparing to enter into the Promised Land that their parents and grandparents rejected. Moses presents the Law to them again and leads them to make a covenant with God.
Application: there are so many points where we could apply this story to ours.
- The Holiness of God. How often do we forget how awesome and great God is in His Holiness? How often do we treat Him with contempt by making Him common in our eyes?
- The sinfulness of man and the need for forgiveness and atonement. Do we realize the wickedness of our hearts? Do surround ourselves with so much of the world and sinfulness that we become callused to our own depravity?
- We as God’s people are to image God to a lost world just as they were supposed to do. How are we doing in that?
- Do the leaders lead people astray because they’re scared or don’t like what they find as God is leading? Leader: are you more like Joshua and Caleb or more like the 10 whose names we don’t remember?
- As a follower, are you pressing onward in faith? Or, do you find yourself grumbling and complaining against the leadership, the ministry, or God himself? How are we doing with that?
I worry, though, in pressing for application, that we would forget the point of these stories all being tied together; it is too easy to forget about the Snake Crusher and the Lion from the Tribe of Judah who would be King when you get lost in the stories, chapter after chapter and book after book. But really, God is reminding them all along; they’re just not listening. And the same goes for you and me.
Conclusion: It truly is amazing to see this storyline being written throughout all of history. Here today we’ve seen a nation come out from Egypt and be set free from their slavery. Moses led them. But this Moses was not the Snake Crusher. He’s not the lion of Judah, but rather a descendant of Levi.
Look at Deuteronomy 18.15-18; yes, there will be many prophets who will rise up and lead them, sharing God’s Word with them. But here is a prophecy about the One who is coming. A reminder that He is the one who will crush the head of the serpent and is Abraham’s son, and is the lion from the tribe of Judah and will be a prophet like Moses – a rescuer, ruler and redeemer, as Stephen calls him in Acts 7. Don’t miss that now. Stephen is reminding them that they have been looking for this Promised One… ‘the Prophet’ as he is known. Peter does the same thing in Acts 3.22 when proclaiming Christ in the Temple.
Each Gospel points out that the Israelites were looking for this Promised One (Mt 17.5; Mk 9.7; Lk 9.35) Jn 1.1-25; 5.45-47; Jesus is very plainly telling them right here that He is the One they’ve have been hearing about all of their lives. He is the one they have been waiting for.
If you’ve not heard, let me share with you, his name is Jesus. He fulfilled all of these promises and more we’ve not even looked at yet. He is the one this story is all about.