Exodus 23:20-31                                                                  April 3, 2005


INTRODUCTION:  Being a fellow Baptist pastor of the Shelby County Baptist Association, I had the privilege of being invited to attend the special Retirement Service of Dr. Adrian Rogers, pastor of the Bellevue Baptist Church on the evening of March 6, four weeks ago to date. Of all the great accomplishments he had achieved listed on a folder, one thing captivated me more than anything else and that was his persistence, his staying power. He was ordained as a Baptist preacher when he was   almost 20, 54 years since. He came to become the pastor of Bellevue in 1972 and spent 32, almost 33 years of his adult life with one church to grow that church into one of the largest churches in the nation. To this, I call it great persistence. No one would say that pasturing a mega church like Bellevue is an easy job. But he stuck to the called both from God and the church through the ups and downs and that is admirable and respectable. In fact, God has that same expectation on all of us.

       God had that expectation on the people of Israel when He called them out of Egypt intended to bring them to the Promised Land, Canaan. He had a perfect plan to help them stay on the course. Through His servant, Moses, God laid out His plans to them and asked that they stick with it. Their success or failure depended on persistence, their staying power. Let us examine the passage form Exodus and see what we may learn from this precious page of history:


GOD CHARTS OUR COURSE: (23:20-23) In every call God extended to His people, from Abraham to Moses, from King David to Paul, God never charged anyone without personally charting their courses. God always stays behind each call He makes to His people:

1)     God will take the lead: In the form of an angel, God took the lead in leading His people and each one of us to follow His course in our lives. Some interpreted the angel as a leader like Moses. Others said it is the Bible, the Word of God. Still others said both. Either way God took charge of leading our lives. He never leaves us alone without giving us a guiding light and a leading hand. He has chosen our paths and He always will lead the way.

2)     God will protect: No journey of life is ever a smooth sail. That’s why God promised to send the angel to protect His people. David said that “I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Ps. 23:4) No one should expect life to be full of roses all the way. Even Jesus, the Son of God, and Paul, the most of the faithful, had been through many storms and rocky roads. But we are assured of His protection form evil and harm if we stick with Him.

3)     God demands obedience: (23:21) God demands our complete obedience to reach desired results especially when He is leading our lives. The fact that the Israeli suffered delay and defeat was because they chose to plan their own way and disregarded God’s way and His chosen leader, in this case, the angel. We all need to believe and follow Him with all our hearts without being self assertive or wander away like the prodigal son.


BEWARE OF PITFALLS: (23:24-28) In the popular novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan, we see that even with the most faithful, the journey of Christian life is still full of distractions and temptations. The world and everything in it is never helpful to our pursuit of the goal God set for us. See some of the common pitfalls:

1)      Do not create idols: (23:24) The world and the people had created many idols and new ones are added to the list every now and then. Things like worldly pursuits, sinful life style, names and fames, riches and wealth, powers and status, the gratification of lusts in the flesh are only the common ones. We are not called to destroy these idols of the world. But we are called NOT to make anything as idols of our lives.

2)      Do not worship them: Even though we are not to create any idols, there are plenty of them in the world. To worship means to pay homage, to surrender and to subscribe allegiance to. We have our God, the God Almighty, the Creator of the universe our Savior and Lord. No other gods in the world should occupy the throne in our hearts. We are not to listen to or obey what those gods says and wants. We should never allow any worldly god to get into our mind or heart.

3)      Do not follow worldly practices: Don’t buy worldly values. Reject the worldly trends and tricks. Don’t make the world and its idols your value or standard of living. Jesus says, “The gate may be wide and the path may be broad and travelers may be many, but it leads to destruction.” (Matt. 7:13)


ONE LITTLE STEP AT A TIME:  (23:29-30) The story in Our daily bread, March 2, 2005, tells that a little boy with a small shovel was trying to clear a path through deep snow in front of his house. A man passed by and paused to observe the child’s enormous task. “Little boy,” he asked, “How can someone as small as you with such a small shovel expect to finish a task as big as this?” The boy looked up and replied confidently, “Little by little, Sir. That’s how.” And he continued shoveling.

1)       God gives us only small shovels: (23:29) Some Christians expect spectacular performance or results in their journeys of life and were fainthearted when that didn’t happen. But God doesn’t expect nor demands spectacular things in our lives. He knows that we are just products of dusts. He did not ask the Israelites to conquer all the Promised Land in one year. He knew that won’t work. So, He gives us small shovels so we may dig a little at a time but will continue to dig. God never asks how BIG we can dig. But He will ask how LONG we will continue digging. It is the PERSISTENCE that gets jobs done. Like that of Dr. Rogers. It took him over 32 years to finish his assignment.

2)       NO quick fix in life journeys:  God said He won’t drive out the Canaanites and other tribal people in one year because the people of Israel won’t be ready to control all the land and wild animals might grow too numerous to endanger their life. Too often. some Christians are so impatient of the pace in which God does things or allow us to do things. Just as good food takes time, solid spiritual growth also takes time. Every small step forward is a progress in God’s eyes. It is never how fast you grow but how solid and steady you grow. Just keep growing. Be persistent.

3)       Just follow, you’ll get there: (23:30) If we are faithful in doing our duties, one small shovel at a time and continue to shoveling, we will see progress and growth in time. If God is so patient with us, why do we want to out-pace God? Remember God asked the Israelis to FOLLOW the angel He sent, not to overrun the angel. Allowing God to take the lead may not be easy for some, but it is the surest and warranted way of traveling on safe path.


BLESSINGS GUARANTEED:  (23:25b-26, 31) As Paul says in I Corinthians 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollo watered it, but God made it grow.” Even with all that we do, we see that it is God’s blessings on our efforts that brings results. In the above verses, God promised His blessings in many ways if Israelis will follow His lead.

1)     God’s blessings on what we do: (25b) Being in farming and cattle raising business as the ancient Israelis did, blessings of water and food or harvest are indications of God’s delight on His people. We may work hard, but it is God who brings results.

2)     God’s blessings in good health: (26) Taking away sickness and remove miscarriage for population growth were signs of more blessing from God. Even with all the precautions we may take, the right kind of food we may eat, the best exercises we may do, the miracle medications we may take, good health remains the blessing from God. Our life depends on Him.

3)     God’s blessing beyond our imagination: (31) God promised lot more than the Israelis had ever tried to occupy. The Kingdom of Israel had never been to the max of what God had promised them to have. Occupation of territory was and still is a sign of power and dominance. If you don’t see God’s blessings now, just keep doing your duties and be persistent and you will see.

CONCLUSION:  At the end of his life after 40 years leading the Chinese revolution against the terribly corrupted Ch’ing Dynasty, Dr. SUN Yat-san called on his comrades to never slow down nor stop the pace of revolution until its final victory. 

       The Apostle Paul laid out the importance of being persistent in finishing his course of life in 2 Tim. 4:7-8, saying “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.” That’s what we call persistent.

       Do you have God leading the course of your life? Do you have God protecting you from evil and harm? Do you have the promises of God when you finish your journey of life? NOW is the time to ask God into your heart. Trust your life to Jesus and He will bring all of these to you.