Exodus 18&19

Exodus 18-19: Imitation of Life

Imitation  is defined as the action of imitating. Imitating is defined as “ to follow as a model.”  ( Webster’s American English Dictionary)

In chapter 18, we see Moses’ reunion with his father-in-law, Jethro, and a model of government or structure that allows a ministry to grow and be flexible within the boundaries of Gods’ principles.

Jethro upon being reunited with Moses wanted to hear all the details of everything that had happened with the Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  Telling our story of what God has done in our lives is the most effective way of witnessing.  The man who was born blind repeated what had happened several times to those who wanted to know. In doing so, he became proficient in summarizing what had happened to him.  Listen to what he had to say as the Pharisees questioned him. “ He ( Jesus) put mud on my eyes and I washed and now I see.” Further questions from the Pharisees resulted in this response:  “ Whether he is a sinner or not,I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind and now I see.” This blind man was no theologian, but his story was his story and nothing could change what had happened.

Having told my own story of conversion many times , I am able to condense it when necessary. I recently was at a funeral where I saw an old friend I had not seen but once in the last 40 years. He asked me how was I doing?  Having a limited time to tell him what was the most significant thing in my life I told him this: “ By age 31, I was an alcoholic, without hope.  On September 16th, 1977,near suicide, I asked the Lord Jesus to save me. From that day forward I was not only saved, I got sober, sane and successful. It was the Lord who did it.” My old friend smiled at me, but also looked at me rather strangely.

Many of us will attend reunions of various types in our lives, family reunions, school reunions, etc.  We need to remember what Jesus said to the Gadarene demoniac who was demon possessed man who lived in the graveyard ; did not wear clothes and cut himself. Jesus delivered this tortured man from the demons and the people came to see him. The formerly demon possessed man was dressed and in his right mind sitting at the feet of Jesus. This delivered man who had been set free wanted to stay with Jesus, but Jesus told him to go home and tell how much God had done for him.    I can identify with that man. That is why I tell people – Jesus saved me, and got me sober, sane and successful.  I have been sitting at his feet ever since.  So tell your story as Moses tells his story of what God has done. Go home and tell them all that God has done in your life.  You do have a story to tell, don’t you?  To God be the glory- great things He has done.

Upon hearing the story of what God had done in rescuing the Israelites from Egypt, Jethro is moved to praise the Lord. In fact, I believe Jethro becomes a believer. Listen to his response to the testimony of Moses: “ Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for He did this to those who treated Israel arrogantly.”

As  Jethro stayed on for several days, he observed Moses’ average day. Moses served as judge for the people and from morning until evening, he listened to cases and their disputes. Jethro tells him this is not good. You will wear yourself out and be no good to God or the people. You cannot do this alone. You need help.  As Christians we are to bear one another’s burdens. The pastor and staff cannot do the work of the ministry alone, they need help.

Jethro  suggests a representative structure where there are those in positions of leadership over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. Therefore everyone knows who they can go to for help or to resolve problems and disputes. If the case is too difficult for the one who is over 10; they go to the one who is over 50 and so on , until only the most difficult cases go before Moses.

As Chapter 19 of Exodus starts we hear God speaking from the mountain top:

“ Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said,” This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: “ You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on  EAGLE’S WINGS and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” ( Exodus 19:3-6)

Let us look at some scriptures that reference to the eagle and also look at the eagle and how God created them to be an example and illustration for us.

Deut. 32: 9-11:  “ For the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted inheritance. In a desert land he found him in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an EAGLE that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on pinions. The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him.”

Isaiah 40: 30,31: : Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.:

Psalm 91: 1-4: “ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler,and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover me with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be my shield and buckler.

Psalms 103:5- “ Who satisfies my mouth with good things; so that they youth is renewed like the eagles.”

Jeremiah tells us the eagle builds his nest in lofty places. However, did you know eagles are not born knowing how to fly instinctively. Eagles have to be taught how to fly. Eagles are born with a different instinct called imprinting. It means they imitate what they see and observe. They imitate their parents. Do you remember what Paul said in I Corinthians 11: 1?  Paul said ‘ imitate me as I imitate Christ.’ And Jesus who came to give us the example we are to imitate, lived his life this way:  “ I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” ( John 5:19) Jesus lived his life as a man imitating what his Father showed him what to do. He did this so we could imitate Him, or as the popular wrist band- ‘wwjd’ stands for ‘what would Jesus do?’

So it is with the eaglet who learns how to fly, hunt for food and live as the parents model for the eaglet how they are to do those things.

The eagles nest is not only built in high places, it is quite a strong structure. A full grown eagle weighs 8-10 lbs. The nest is built of strong sticks, lined with mud and feathers and often fur of animals. So it is strong, warm and secure. As a way of getting the eaglet ready for life on their own or maturity, the eagles take the following steps. First they remove the inner lining of the nest, so it is less comfortable, not as cosy as it used to be.  The mother and father eagle bring food to the young eaglets and often hover above them so the little ones begin to beat their wings in hunger and anticipation and the beating of their youthful wings causing them to rise a few inches above the floor of the nest.  It is like a baby learning to first roll over, sit up and crawl.

The next step in dismantling the nest is the destruction of the sticks. By now the eaglet has reached a stage of growth known as the ‘ fledgling’. At this stage in development and maturity, the eaglet is losing the baby down and growing flying feathers.  Now the nest is no longer a place where they must stay. They must leave their nest.  For the Israelites, Egypt was their ‘nest.’ It was like a prison of which they could not free themselves, but it was a type of comfort zone- they had food to eat, shelter and life was a predictable routine. But as God made it less comfortable, He stirred up the nest, so they no longer wanted to be there.

The next step is the scariest one. The eagle pushes the eaglet out of the nest. The eaglet begins a free fall and in desperation begins to flap their wings . The parent eagles are nearby and with the capability of diving at speeds up to 100 m.p.h. they can swoop down and catch their young before they are dashed on the rocks. This event occurs several times until the young eagle has learned to soar upon the currents of air.

Then they are ready for the next step to learn how to hunt and gather food and nourishment for themselves, so they can mature, have a family of their own and in turn teach others to imitate them as they learned to imitate their parents.

So we see the three stages of life in this example in nature that God has given us and referenced to for our study.

We are in one of three stages:

  1. Baby Christians.  Still in the nest the baby Christian has to be fed the milk of the word. They are learning to trust the Lord and to imitate those mature Christians around them.
  2. Eaglets experiencing the ‘ stirring of our nest.’ God has brought troubles into your life. You are being stirred out of your comfort zone, and you don’t like this change.
  3. Some of you are in that free fall right now today, having been pushed out of the safe nest of a comfort zone. It was a structure you were accustomed to and had spent considerable time furnishing. It is scary- it can sometimes seem like a nightmare but He will catch you and bring you to Himself.  Remember it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. He is teaching you how to fly, for it what you were created to do. He will also teach you how to gather food for yourself and He will never leave you or forsake you.

Until the eaglet is set free from the nest, it can never experience the freedom of flying as God intended and created it to do.  Let’s take a closer look at our story of the Israelites in Egypt.

When Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers and ended up in Egypt, God was using Joseph to build a nest for the ‘fledgling’ nation of Israel. A famine drives Jacob and his family to Egypt where they are reunited with Joseph who now is the 2nd most powerful person in Egypt. As a favor to Joseph, the Pharaoh of Egypt gives them  a place to live in Goshen. The nest is being built. It is comfortable, there is plenty of food, and it is a secure place. But is a place of preparation- it is not their home and destination.

Then 400 years later, there comes a king who no longer remembers Joseph and the Israelites, now a nation of two million people are viewed as a threat and become the slave labor force of the Egyptians.  The nest  is becoming uncomfortable. God uses the Egyptians to stir up the nests and make their lives uncomfortable. They have a desire to get out of the nest, but as we have seen in the story so far- it gets scary outside of the nests at times and the desire to return to what is known, seeing it as being better than the unknown.

So if it is for freedom for which Christ set us free, the first freedom is freedom from the nests. This is a picture of redemption. We have been set FREE FROM in order to discover the FREEDOM GOD INTENDED FOR US TO LIVE IN.   An eagle was not born to live in a nest, no more than a baby is  born to live in a crib and a high chair.  We must first experience the freedom from the nest to discover the freedom we are to live in. The eagle is created to be at home in the air, to soar above the earth. Only there can the eagle enjoy the FREEDOM TO  live the life for which they were created, fulfilling their purpose.

We were set free from that which enslaved us. (Redemption)

This freedom allowed us to grow and mature.   (Sanctification)

And with maturity came the freedom to fulfill our purpose for which we were created- the ministry, the Lord had for us. ( Walking in the Spirit)

When we experience the trials and tribulations that God uses to mature us and take us to new heights and complain about the tests we are behaving like children again, aren’t we? And what does God do with these immature Israelites?  He disciplines them.

Who shall renew their strength and mount up with wings as eagles? Who shall run and not grow weary? Who shall walk and not faint?

Those who wait upon the Lord. Waiting is the act of staying in our present circumstances for further instructions.

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait,I say on the Lord!” ( Psalms 27)

Can you imagine some eaglet wanting to fly before it has its flying feathers?  Can you imagine a ‘teenage eaglet’ who just learning how to fly- wants to dive at 100mph before it knows how to use its tail feathers to navigate?

Learning to fly for the eagles involves a step-by-step process. Trust is a learned response. Faith is a condition of the heart. “ If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe…” ( Romans 10: 9, 10a)  God the Father wants to teach us to trust Him with all our hearts. So the strong winds of adversity will stretch our wings of  faith, as we learn to soar above the troubling circumstances on tested wings of faith.

Do we panic sometimes and resort to childish behavior?  Of course, we all fail tests at times, but in each failure you learn something, don’t you?  You learn what not to do. Those costly lessons of failure are often the most useful. The most common mistake we make is to get in a hurry and thus get ahead of the Lord.

You cannot learn how to solve problems without having problems to solve. You cannot learn how to swim by watching a video and practice your swimming strokes on the den floor, you have to get in the water. You cannot learn how to trust the Lord until He puts you in a situation where you have to trust the Lord and not lean on your own understanding. And each time you learn how to wait for the Lord, to wait upon Him, even though it gets scary- guess what? You learn to soar like an eagle.

Quite often as parents we experience what is known as the ‘empty nest.’ Our children reach a level of maturity and leave the nest. Our job as Christian parents was to imprint upon them our life in Christ for them to imitate.  To prepare them to leave the nests, for that is where they will learn to trust God and find the life they are intended to live.

Freedom from our sinful nature at redemption leads to freedom in the  process of sanctification. There we are being conformed to the image of Christ to grow up to maturity. This process leads to freedom to carry out the purpose for which we were redeemed – the ministry the Lord has for each of us.

When we choose to wait on the Lord, He rewards us by allowing us to discover His will and renews us with physical energy. He enables us to win battles and receive answers to prayer. He fulfills our faith while working on our behalf.

If we have the instinct of ‘imprinting’ as eagles do, the one we are to imitate is the Lord Jesus who showed us how we are to live.

“ Be imitators of God, therefore as dearly beloved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loves us and gave Himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” ( Ephesians 5:1,2)

“Dear friend , do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” (3 John:11)

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. “ Hebrews 13

“ We do not want you to become lazy, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.” ( Hebrews 6:12)

These things were written for our examples. We are write them, imprint them on the tablets of our heart.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Our life is to be an imitation of His Life.