Several teachers at an African secondary school were visiting one afternoon when one of them picked a stone carving out of his pocket and handed it around.
“This is an idol,” he said. “My yard boy gave it to me. He thinks this piece of rock has a lot of power.”
The head missionary in charge of the school came to his feet. “Give it to me,” he said.
The teacher handed it over, and the head missionary threw it as hard as he could into an open stream that was surging by. There was a gasp as the object hit the surface and disappeared.
“Why did you do that?” the teacher said.
“I’ve had too many reports of missionaries taking these sacred objects back home with them to show around and ending up dying or suffering from a fierce disease or injuries from a major accident.”
“How could that be?” The teacher asked.
“When these idols are formed, they immediately become transformed into a spirit, a deity, in the minds of the villagers. They are given to the ruler of the earth, the one we call Satan.”
“But my yard boy said it would protect me and keep me from getting sick.”
“Ha!” said the head missionary. “Don’t make me warn you again. Stay away from anything that has been cursed by the power of the evil one.”
1. Key question: Who is the Lord? When was the last time you prayed? Were you praying to someone you knew? Or to someone you hoped would find you and rescue you from sin? How well do you know the devil? How popular is devil worship in 2011? Or has that practice been eliminated? You probably have a friend who says, “I don’t need the church.” Or “God hears me whether I worship Him at home or in the church.” Or “Church goers spend half the sermon time sound asleep. I can sleep better at home.” What gives you confidence that the God you worship is the God of all and that He’s worth worshipping in a special place at a certain time?
2. The bush burned. Have you ever lit a fire and watched the flames swoop up and destroy what was close by? Or left the stove burner on until smoke was pouring from the stovetop? Have you ever seen a
forest fire rip through the trees, skimming off the top portion and roaring
onward? Do you suppose Moses ever saw destructive fires like the one described in Genesis 15 in his work as a herdsman? How do you think he felt when he saw a big bush on fire but not burning up? The Bible doesn’t tell us, but we can wonder if Moses “knew” it was God before he heard the voice speaking to him. When he did hear the words of God, how did Moses respond? Did God sense a spirit of reluctance by Moses to His invitation to deliver Israel from its captors? How did He seek to allay his fears? Have you ever felt that God placed more responsibility on your shoulders than you can handle? What should we do when we feel overwhelmed by God’s desired for us?
3. Stranger and stranger. A bush catches fire but does not burn. Moses watches snakes appear from nowhere, sees leprosy appear and then disappear. Why is God giving Moses such a dramatic picture of His power? And what is Moses’ response to God’s invitation to work with divine power to let His people go? Are you a person who eagerly waves your hand when someone asks for a volunteer to do something for your church’s outreach program? Or do you hold back and say, “I’m sure someone else can do better than I?” Why did God choose to work through a human being to achieve victory over tyranny by the Israelites? Couldn’t He have done it by Himself? Maybe better?
4. The first Passover. God carefully explains to His desert children how to carry out the details of the sacrifice. Would you say that the concept of the value of the sacrifice of the firstborn was brought “home” eloquently? How? What about the role of blood in the forgiveness of sin? Why was that important to them and to us today? If God protected the firstborn among the Israelites when they obeyed God in establishing the temple sacrifice, why couldn’t Jesus also have been protected from death because of our sins? Does the blood in the sacrifices of the Old Testament trouble you? Should it?
5. Thunder from Sinai. Have you ever wished you could have heard the voice of God speaking the commandments one by one? Have you ever imagined the real voice of Jesus playing a role in the events of the Second Coming? What does the first commandment tell us about the God that we worship? Why does God demand a role of exclusivity with us? The lesson harks forward to the story of Aaron and the golden calf. Can you explain this total apostasy in view of the equally total rescue so recently enacted by God for His flock of people? How close can people in God’s church be to apostasy before they leave our presence? Can we know which of our fellow worshippers truly worships God “in spirit and in truth?” How? Should that be our mission to discern those who believe in God and only in God from those who are caught in the vale of confusion? If not, what is our primary work today?
6. The glory of riches. Do you think the people of Israel sacrificed gold and silver ornaments they brought with them from Egypt to make the golden calf? If so, why did they still have a good supply that God asked them to remove? What did the removal of the ornaments (jewelry) symbolize? Have you ever known someone who refrained from wearing jewelry because of the example of these people of God at that time? If you are a woman and buy yourself a lovely evening gown, have your hair done at the best beauty shop in town, wear lovely netted stockings and fancy five-inch shoes embedded with gold and silver, and layers and layers of golden strands and beautiful precious stones on your body, is it really going to be easy for you to fall on your knees and worship God and Him alone? Does it really matter to God how we dress before we go to church to worship Him? Would He like it better if we showed up in scruffy jeans and a fluorescent green and pink top layered with mud and dirt from a scuffle on our way into the church and several pounds of lead jewelry, some of it attached to our nose, mouth, shoulders, eyebrows and forehead?
7. Reverence. Do children run about at random in your church? Is there a family with a couple of youngsters who cry all throughout the service without being taken out? Do teenagers slump in deep conversation in the balcony or at the back of the sanctuary or on one side? Do most people fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the sermon? Is the music loud and boisterous? What are you going to do about it? Can a person experience a worship spirit when surroundings are not ideal? Can you show reverence to your heavenly Father whether or not others do so?
May God be near to you today.