Privilege of Worship
By: Jim O'Brien
Having just gone through the account of the Israelites coming out of Egypt, I am drawn to the purpose for these catastrophic events. There was more to it than simply making people free, though that was the means to the end.
God does not hide His intent. In fact, He gave Moses a blunt message to deliver to the recalcitrant king. "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: Israel is my firstborn son. I said to you, "Let my son go that he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son." (Exodus 4:22-23 NRSV).
Picture Moses standing in front of the most powerful man on earth, probably surrounded by guards with weapons, and telling him that God is going to kill the Crown Prince, his eldest son. One doesn’t have to read much of history to know the importance a monarch placed on producing an heir to the throne.
But it doesn’t end there. You know the story. The firstborn of every family in Egypt was killed, even of the cattle.
What crime rises to that level?
Today we fight wars with weapons of mass destruction. Often the weapons are so destructive that hardened warriors are reluctant to unleash such devastating force on enemies during war. America pilots who had fought in combat missions thought long and hard before sending waves of planes to carpet bomb Germany, even after Hitler had attempted genocide on the Jews and threatened the world with extinction. Self-righteous historians still question whether America’s leaders had the moral right to use atomic weapons in Japan to defend our right to be free.
But the biblical account of the Exodus is the story of El Shaddai, God Almighty, making a deliberate and studied choice to kill every firstborn child in the nation of Egypt for a crime the people of Egypt had committed. What was the crime?
It was the most serious transgression a nation can commit—preventing people from worshiping God. If it’s possible to do something worse, Egypt prevented the firstborn of God from worshiping Him.
God told Pharaoh, "Let my people go that they may worship me." (Exodus 4:23). Later, after the death of his firstborn, Pharaoh commands Moses to leave Egypt saying, "Go worship the Lord as you have requested." (Exodus 12:31)
It was clear in the beginning that Pharaoh understood he was taking an adversarial approach to the God of Moses because Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:1) .
Such events give us more than just a clue about how important it is to worship God. Government leaders should take note of the events of history. Egypt really did exist as a nation. Moses was a real person. The wheels of the chariots that carried Egyptian soldiers into the Red Sea can still be seen buried beneath the water.
Does a state governor—or mayor or any American politician—possess greater power than did the Pharaoh of Egypt? Has the God that brought Pharaoh to his knees ceased to exist? Before a governor legislates that Christian and Jewish churches cannot meet to worship God, they should ask what the result was for Pharaoh. So far, politicians that have made such decrees are not faring well.
The history of the past year has shown that the threat of COVID-19 is severely overrated. The history of mankind is that the power of God has been underrated.
In all of the millennium since man first walked on the earth the most important responsibility of man has never changed. Worship God! The strategy used by Satan when he tempted Jesus was intimidation—intimidation to change the worship of God to worship of the devil. Jesus was not deceived. He "answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’"(Luke 4:8).
It is after all, the first commandment.
Living in a free country confers great privileges. The greatest privilege of all is the freedom to worship God. Without that freedom, none others matter.
Until next time,
September 30, 2022
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
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