Roll Away the Reproach of Egypt!
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 5 March 2005
Some of you who have been following my sermons closely of late may have discerned that I am leading up to the first festival of the biblical calendar, Pesach or Passover. It's been a tough winter for many of us up here in the northern hemisphere and indeed this last week I nearly ended up in hospital. I have accordingly done a lot of soul-searching and come to a number of realisations, about which I would like to share a little of today.
I have long been fascinated by the story of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. A few years ago when I was in the United States, Yahweh revealed to me an astonishing truth: namely, that this physical journey is actually a parable of the spiritual journey that everyone who seeks for the truth must undertake. It astonished me at the time and it continues to astonish me the more I probe into it.
A couple of short articles by Rick Joyner and Lyn Chaffart got me thinking again. Last Tuesday I had a health relapse and once again acutely felt my mortality. Sickness has a way of doing that to you, doesn't it? Particularly if you are very ill. I was in agony for many hours and no medication I took made a dent in it. I could not lie or sit. In desperation, looking for some spiritual guidance, I turned to my Bible and my eyes fell on the words at the end of the Gospel of Mark:
"And these signs shall accompany the ones who believe. In My Name they will cast out demons, they shall speak with renewed tongues, they shall take up snakes, and if they drink any deadly drink it shall by no means hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall get well" (Mark 16:17-18, ISRV).
There were other passages I read as well relating to healing but the one in Mark is what struck me. "They shall lay hands on the sick and they shall get well". As I read the words I felt condemned because if there was one area of ministry I have felt utterly helpless in, it has been the physical healing ministry. As I sat there, doubled up in pain, remembering the occasion I was forced to go to hospital two years before with the same complaint, I wondered what it was that I was lacking in my faith. I knew that a time would be coming when Yahweh's people would not have access to the medical system, not because they refused to use it, but because it will be denied them, and I thought to myself: "How will we ever survive those days of tribulation if we do not develop the faith now to do without it?"
One of my favourite men of faith is George Müller, a Prussian who established orphanages in Bristol, in England, in the early 19th century, and who by faith relied 100% on Yahweh's providence. Having pondered the New Testament passages about healing, I picked up Müller's biography and it opened up on a page about faith. The words hit me hard - this is what was written:
"Only by using faith are we kept from practically losing it, and on the contrary, to use faith is to lose the unbelief that hinders God's mighty acts" (George Müller of Bristol, p.82).
Now if we're honest, most believers believe in what the Bible says but somehow have problems taking that one step further in making it a living faith for themselves. We somehow believe that the Word is sacred and yet because we have no faith we are unable to make it become real in our lives. So the question I asked myself, as I sat at the end of my bed in agony, was: Why are we unable to make it become real in our lives? And the answer I got was this: Things which are sacred forbid even a careless touch. That's right, we are careless about the Word. They are words on paper which have a certain mystique because we believe them to be infallibly inspired yet somehow we are not able to always transpose them from those printed pages into our lives. Why?
Fortunately for me last Tuesday I had no transport to drive me into hospital. I knew what they would do there. Give me some rather unpleasant pain killer and hook me up to a drip for 24 hours, and then I would be able to go home again. I could have called for an ambulance but I decided otherwise. I recall the same dilemma I faced two years ago when I recalled the same scripture passages I had read, yet then I yielded and went to hospital. I had no elders at hand to anoint and pray over me so I anointed myself. It was agony lying down but I determined to do so and handed myself to Yahweh for healing. My faith was, I admit, not strong, but I chose to exert by an act of will my determination to trust Him to the best of my ability and endure the pain. I literally willed myself to sleep, how I do not know, for every part of my pain-wracked body wished to leap out of bed and run! But I did. Even asleep I could feel the pain. An hour or two later I awoke to the sound of our car returning home to discover to my amazement that the pain had nearly all gone. It was an occasion for much praise.
I know that this was nothing very spectacular - it wasn't a complete healing - but it gave me greater confidence, in an area where my faith had traditionally been weak, in seeing what Yahweh could do. It made me see a dimension to faith that I had not before seen but which I had for so long longed for. Now for some people this might seem an 'elementary' facet of their faith, and if that is so, I do not begrudge them that faith. They, in their turn, marvel at my gifts, such as seership, which is something remote and unattainable to them. And yet they too may, if they have faith enough, attain to Yahweh's gift. Certainly my wife has. There was a time when she thought it was beyond her ken, yet over the years she has acquired it, fulfilling a prophecy I made to her some years before, and we are able to operate in the same giftedness together to serve others in the Kingdom. It is all a matter of faith.
All of this happened on 1 March. So refreshed was I following this healing, in fact, that I got up in the middle of the night the same day and began preparing this sermon, and as I began to write it, so Yahweh revealed to me new things.
I think we are all frustrated at times at how helpless we are in the real world. Bad health is certainly a cause for despair for many of us and has led us to ask many questions. There are those, as we know, who, twisting their Bibles, say that all ill-health is a sign of God's displeasure and that it is a sign of a lack of faith. In some instances it is, but we also know from Scripture that Yahweh uses all kinds of physical disadvantage to bring us into a position where we can really get spiritual issues fixed. It may take a number of 'repeat performances' to bring us into the right state of humility. However, the important thing is that it effects lasting change in our hearts and minds. And we need to remember one other thing which I know I have told you many times, and it's this: when Yahweh heals us, it is always accompanied by a forgiveness of sin. Let me repeat that: true divine healing is always accompanied by a forgiveness of sin, which will lead you to a heart- and mind-attitude that is qualitatively different from the time before you were healed. Not only does it require genuine faith to accomplish this, but the healing and forgiveness of sins leads to even greater faith. Let's read what the Apostle James said so as to be convinced of this truth:
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:13-16, NKJV).
There are many forms of counterfeit healing but none of these leads to forgiveness of sin and renewed faith in saving truth. Satanists heal but they remain in their sins and their faith is therefore ultimately in vain. And so do groups of Christians who teach false gospels.
When Yahweh acts, multiple processes are always in action. If you are physically ill, Yahweh wants first of all to purify your hearts and minds. Healing the physical body is a bonus, a visible sign of what has been accomplished inwardly.
None of us particularly wants to feel vulnerable. We want to feel in control and on top of our circumstances. But that is not a luxury a true Christian can afford. Indeed, the core of the true faith is relinquishing control to the One who made us and, at times, to His representatives. We are sown in weakness but raised in power (1 Cor.15:43). You must start small before you can become big, and even then there is a long growing process, like the mustard tree in Yah'shua's (Jesus') parable of the Kingdom (Mt.13:31-32). Instant healing may be wonderful but spiritually we learn only in processes, often drawn out over long periods of time. Whatever causes us to grow spiritually is therefore good and to be sought after. And we must never forget the fundamental principle of spiritual growth, which is the diametric opposite of occultism, which jars against our carnal nature, which is the legacy of our forefathers' sins and foolishness. What is that principle? It is what Yah'shua (Jesus) revealed to Paul:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor.12:9, NKJV).
Which takes me back in time to the Israelite Exodus, where we started this sermon. The Israelites had wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, suffering and dying as their pagan Egyptian world outlook and behaviour patterns were ruthlessly burned out of them as a nation. And as I mentioned last week, only two of that vast horde of people survived to enter into the Promised Land. First was the baptism of physically leaving Egypt, symbolised by the parting of the Red Sea - or as Paul writes: "all passed through the sea, all were baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor.10:1-2, NKJV). That was the first baptism. The second was like unto the first, only this time the Jordan River was blocked upstream supernaturally as the Priests, splendidly adorned in holiness, crossed with the Ark of the Covenant. Both these events sent shudders up the spines of the native Canaanites, and you will remember that physically these Canaanites were giants - so big were they, in fact, that after the Israelite spies were sent into the land, 10 of the 12 drew back in fear, their faith deserting them on account of their perceived physical weakness. Only Joshua and Caleb gave a favourable report. The Israelites were midgets by comparison and they feared. Their carnal nature, unburned out, overcame them. And because they were unprepared, they had to await another 40 years.
Now the interesting thing is that the second generation, after it crossed the Jordan and made camp on the west bank, full of faith and holiness, was ordered by Yahweh to do - from the carnal point-of-view - the unthinkable. He ordered them to render themselves physically weak and helpless - so helpless, in fact, that had the inhabitants of Jericho come out and attacked them, they would have been massacred. Now does anyone know what it was Yahweh ordered them to do?
Some rather extraordinary events took place, which the casual observer might miss, before this act of rendering themselves temporarily helpless. Let's read the historical account so that you will know what I am talking about:
"So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that Yawheh had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel. At that time Yahweh said to Joshua, "Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time." So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of Yawheh -- to whom Yahweh swore that He would not show them the land which Yahweh had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, "a land flowing with milk and honey." Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed. Then Yawheh said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day" (Josh.5:1-9, NKJV).
There is so much here to talk about! Before attacking Jericho, the Israelites did an extraordinary thing - they were circumcised. Now this is not only a painful operation for an adult male but it renders the one being circumcised weak and feverish for several days. It was by this means that some of Jacob's sons were, earlier in their history, able to treacherously slaughter the inhabitants of Shechem whose prince had raped their sister Dinah. So here the Israelites were, weak and helpless. Had the Canaanites attacked them, they would have been defenceless. So why did Yahweh do this? What was His purpose? That purpose is given in His own words to them: "This day I have rolled the reproach of Egypt from you."
People think that engaging in the world system is inconsequential. But the lesson of the Exodus tells us that this is a major lie, for as the Apostle James points out: "friendship with the world is enmity with God ... whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4, NKJV). It is not just a little thing to be worldly - to be worldly makes you an enemy of Yahweh. He hates it! Worse, from our point-of-view, getting 'out' of the world is not merely physically leaving it. Getting out of its mindframe is tough and the only way you can accomplish it is by a 40 year-like wandering in a scorching desert of affliction if your disposition is rebelliousness. And why is this necessary? Because Satan's system completely inverts all that is holy - he turns everything upside down - our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. This is manifested in our satanic behaviour - look at all of Israel's rebellions! Look at her many rash actions! Look at her impatience, ingratitude, and faithlessness. And as I pointed out to you last week, faithlessness is evil - it is satanic.
Most new believers have this naïve idea that coming out of Egypt, the world system, or Babylon (it is known by many names in Scripture) is just a matter of 'trusting' in Yahweh. Well, certainly trust is a major part of it. However, not one of us can accomplish this by a solo relationship with Yahweh alone. Do you remember how Paul told the Corinthians that the Israelites were baptised into Moses? He was their supreme leader. When Miriam and Aaron rebelled, Yahweh soon made it plain what He thought of their "I'll do it my way" behaviour. He punished them! That is why in those days, and today in the New Covenant, He has given us apostles, pastors, teachers and others who are mature in Yahweh's ways to guide the flock ... and that is in addition to out fathers. We just can't manage it alone, even though in our naïvity and vain self-confidence we may wish to believe we can. True, these divinely appointed guides are temporary and imperfect, and a time will come when we won't need to be taught anymore, but people are usually far too much in a hurry to do their 'own thing' and long before they are ready ... as the Israelites did when they attempted to invade Canaan in their own strength and were roundly defeated. They learned the hard way. Do we in any case believe that in our own immature imperfection we can do better than those in their maturer imperfection?
But you know, circumcision was not the only thing Yahweh required of Israel before the attack on Jericho commenced. He commanded them to celebrate Pesach or Passover! And on that day that they did so, the miraculous supply of manna, which had sustained them in the wilderness for 40 years, stopped also. Only after circumcision and the rolling away of the reproach of Egypt, and the celebration of Pesach, did Yahweh issue His instructions for the attack on Jericho - the mightiest Canaanite fortress of all, which represents the demonic strongholds in our own lives preventing us from taking possession of that spiritual land which Yahweh wants to give us (Josh.5:13-15, 6:1-5).
Brethren and sisters, the Promised Land represents rest. There is no spiritual rest for us until we have gone through the process. And that means admitting, for one, that we are all in spiritual bondage to one degree or another - and yes, I am speaking of the saved! It insults the pride of carnal Christians to hear that they are in bondage, but the story of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan fairly screams this truth at us. It isn't just a matter of reciting the 'Sinner's Prayer' - that corresponds to no more than trusting Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt while they are still there! The fact of the matter is, even after you have given your heart to Yah'shua (Jesus), you still have problems. You are still tempted by torments and bondages. The honest know this is so but such an admission conflicts with the cheap grace and salvation the gullible have been fed by false churches who have one foot in the Gospel and one in Egypt. It is an affront to the self-sufficiency of pride. No, the reproach of Egypt - of Babylon, the world system - still has to be rolled away from us even after crossing the Jordan River, which represents the actual spiritual birth and not the fertilisation which was the original trusting in Moses. For the Sinai wandering was a gestation period, and the Jordan crossing the actual birth, followed by circumcision (in the New Covenant, water baptism) and the celebration of the Passover. Paul said:
"In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" (Col.2:11-12, NKJV).
Brethren and sisters, we do not obtain our rest in Yah'shua (Jesus) until we have been circumcised without hands, of which water baptism is a representation. We must be spiritually raised with our Messiah through faith in the power of Yahweh. When that happens, the reproach of our old lifestyle is finally rolled away and no longer counted against us. Paul said:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus), who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Ruach (Spirit). For the Torah (Law) of the Ruach (Spirit) of life in Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) has made me free from the torah (law) of sin and death" (Rom.8:1-2, NKJV).
You are only free of the fleshy nature when you stop sinning, and you can only stop sinning through the power of Yahweh. That conquest or overcoming of the flesh takes time, as it took the Israelite nation 40 years in the wilderness to die away from their Egyptian hearts. Every New Covenant Christian must likewise do the same - none can enter the end-time cities of refuge until they have first rolled away the "reproach of Egypt".
In a month's time it will be Passover again. It is my prayer that by that time many, if not all, of us will have become circumcised in our hearts, through faith in, and obedience to, Yah'shua (Jesus) and His Torah, and have found Yahweh's true rest and safety. And when you have done that, then those demonic walls around Jericho will just come tumbling down. Amen.
This page was created on 5 June 2005
Last updated on 5 June 2005
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