"You Haven't Lost Me"#87-34
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 19, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Listen (5-10mb) Download (35-70mb) Reflections
Text: Exodus 14
"You haven't lost anything yet," Nick said to Holly. "You've only lost your sobriety days. That's all. But you haven't lost anything really. You haven't lost me, but you've been through enough to know that if you don't turn back now, you're going to lose everything."
Holly told me later that when she heard those words two years ago, it was like hearing the voice of God. When Holly was a little girl, she would ask these questions of her Sunday school teacher. They'd be listening to the story about how God spoke to Moses in the burning bush or how God is parted the Red Sea to lead the children of Israel through the water on dry land, and she would ask her Sunday school teacher, "Why don't we get that stuff today? Why don't we get to see burning bushes and seas parting?"
I shared some of Holly's story last week on this program. I've changed her name and some of the details, but this is her story. It's her testimony of how God brought a burning bush moment into her life, of how God parted the sea for her. It's her eyewitness account of what God did for her.
Holly will tell you that she knows what hell on earth feels like. She's been deeper into that hell than she thought was possible. And even in that pit, God found her. He warned her, "If you don't turn back, if you harden your heart, then you are going to lose everything. But you haven't lost anything yet. You haven't lost me." It was Nick who said the words, but in them Holly heard the voice of God.
I'm a follower of Jesus of Nazareth who is called the Christ, the Messiah of the Jews, and all over the world there are people just like me. We've become followers of this Jesus and we become so because of an eyewitness account. It wasn't an idea about God that got us. It was a report. It was news from people who walked with this Palestinian Jew, saw Him crucified under the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, sometime in the month of April, sometime around the year 27 and what's called the Common Era. We heard this report about Jesus, and we believed it—that they saw Him alive again, risen from the dead. We became His followers, and now we're just trying to work out the implications.
Now, I understand you might have some doubts about the factuality of this report. But notice that that's what it is: it's a report. It's not an idea that could be more or less attractive or persuasive; it's a report. It either happened or it didn't. It's either true or it's false. Now, I have my experiences of doubt about this truth, and many other Christians do as well, and it's because it's not a normal occurrence. It's not every day that you hear a report about a devoutly Orthodox Jewish man who claims to be the Creator of the universe become human and is executed and put to death over that claim, and then three days later is seen alive again. His body, strangely the same, yet strangely different. It's not every day that you hear that kind of report. In fact, no one ever told a story like that before, and no one's ever told anything like it since. And it makes you wonder why would anyone invent it? And not just anyone, why would devout Orthodox Jews invent it?
No matter what your worldview is in this mortal life, whether it includes God or not, and whether you think it's possible that Jesus could rise from the dead. Whatever your worldview is, you'll never be free from relapses into doubt. But the historical claims about Jesus are solid. Look into them. They'll stand up to scrutiny. And so like many others, I have come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is risen from the dead. And as a community of believers, we're just trying to work out the implications of this.
And one of the implications of this is that God loves the relapsed. The story of Jesus itself is a story about God's love for people who relapse into doubts and fears and denials. And that story has roots in the story of Moses and the Exodus out of Egypt. That's a story of relapse and redemption. It was in love that God sent Moses to confront Pharaoh and tell him, "Let My people go." And when Pharaoh refused, it was in love that God sent plagues. And when Pharaoh repented and asked Moses to pray for him and forgive him, it was in love that God took the plagues away, but Pharaoh relapsed. In the story, Pharaoh relapses six times. And God warned him from the beginning, "If you keep going on this path, you're going to lose everything." But Pharaoh's heart was resistant, and so eventually God gave him over into his own stubbornness. This is the account of it in Exodus 14.
Now, when the king of Egypt was told that the people of Israel had fled out of the land, Pharaoh and his servants turned their hearts against the people and they said, "What have we done? We've sent the children of Israel out and we've lost their services." And so Pharaoh had his chariot made ready, and he took his whole army with him—600 of the best chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over each of them. And the Lord made the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn and he went after the children of Israel.
And as Pharaoh approached, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes and looked, Egyptians coming after them. They were terrified and they cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you when we were in Egypt, 'Let us serve the Egyptians, leave us alone so that we can serve the Egyptians?' It would have been better to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness." Moses answered the people, "Fear not. Stand firm and you will see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you this day. The Egyptians that you see today, you will not see them anymore. The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still."
And the Lord said to Moses, "Have the children of Israel move forward. Raise up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters will divide, and the children of Israel will pass through the sea on dry land. I will make the hearts of the Egyptians stubborn, and they will go in after them and let Me glorify Myself over Pharaoh and all his strength, over his horses and his chariots. And the Egyptians will know that I am who I am when I glorify Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots and his horses." And Moses, he stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind. He made the sea become dry land. The waters were divided, and the children of Israel, they went through the sea on dry ground, wall of water on their right and on their left. And the Egyptians, all of Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen, they pursued them, and they went into the sea after them during the last watch of the night.
The Lord looked down from the pillar of cloud and fire at the Egyptian army, and He threw it into a confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots fall off so that they had trouble driving them, and they were saying, "Let's get away from the children of Israel. The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt."
And the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, and the waters will flow back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen." So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and at daybreak the sea returned to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea and the water flowed back over the chariots and horsemen. The entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the children of Israel into the sea, not one of them remained. But the children of Israel, they went through the sea on dry ground with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And the children of Israel saw the great power of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord. And they put their trust in Him and in Moses, His servant. That's the Word of the Lord. Exodus 14.
Holly began her walk toward recovery almost ten years ago. With the support of her parents and her friends, she went through a rehab program, and that's where she met Nick—Nick, who eventually became her husband. Nick understood Holly. He himself was taking steps towards recovery. He knew what it was like. He had been through the humiliation of a rehab program, of hitting rock bottom, of having everything stripped away from you and learning only to depend on God and learning to do the next right thing. He understood Holly, and that's why she called him when she relapsed. It was ten in the morning when she called. She was drunk; she was afraid of losing him, afraid of a future without him. And he said to her, "You haven't lost anything yet. You haven't lost me, but you've been through enough to know that if you do not turn back, you are going to lose everything."
The Bible is an account of God's love for the relapsed. God knows the pain and the cost and the risk of loving a person through a relapse. To love under these conditions, you must speak the truth in love. Even as they're hardening their heart, even as they're ignoring you and they don't want to hear it, even as they turn away, you must speak the truth to them because you love them. And that's how God is dealing with us in our condition. The Bible calls it sin. It's like an addiction. It's like slavery. It's like we are turned in on ourselves, and it doesn't matter how clean you are or how dirty you are. It doesn't matter how low you've sunk or how high you've climbed.
And so, would you let me speak some truth to you in love? If you keep going in that direction, away from the Word of God, away from Jesus, you're going to lose everything. But you haven't lost anything yet because you haven't lost Jesus.
What about Pharaoh? Pharaoh is a special case, and his situation serves as a warning for everyone. Don't do that. Turn back now. See, Pharaoh wasn't the enemy. It was sin in Pharaoh enslaving Pharaoh. The same sin that enslaves you, the same sin that enslaves me, God was luring sin into its own destruction. That is what happened at the crucifixion of Jesus. All of the powers of sin and darkness and death and guilt—they converged on Jesus and He took them into Himself and God swept it all away. And you pass through the sea on dry land by Baptism into His death, by trusting Him because He is risen from the dead. Loving you through your relapse cost Jesus everything, but you are worth it to Him. He understands you. He understands your situation, so give Him a call.
It's been almost two years since Holly's last relapse. She told me, "That last relapse was the worst two weeks of my life." But now she can see how God used that to save her. No, I don't mean that God caused it. God's not the cause of evil, but God will lure sin, your sin and my sin. God will lure sin into its own destruction to save you. Holly told me that, "Without that last relapse, I might've looked back on my past as the glory days. Like I was losing out on something by taking this path and not that one." But now she knows the truth. Nothing compares to life in Jesus. She told me, "When I first started in recovery, I tried to keep Jesus out of it, but it's impossible unless He's at the center."
I asked Holly how she hopes God will use her story. She said, "I hope that it helps just one other person." I hope that in these words she shared with me, you'll hear the voice of Jesus: "You haven't lost anything yet because you haven't lost Me." And you know it's true because Christ is risen from the dead. Christ is risen indeed. Amen. Amen.
Reflections for April 19, 2020
Title: You Haven't Lost Me
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For free online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Once again, here's Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you, Mark. Joining me in the studio today I have Jessica Bordeleau. She's our co-host for the "Speaking of Jesus" podcast. Welcome, Jessica.
Jessica: Hey, how's it going?
Mike Zeigler: And online Jessica and I are talking with Tim Mackie and Jon Collins from Portland, Oregon. Welcome, Tim and Jon.
Jon Collins: Hi.
Tim Mackie: Yeah, thank you. Hello.
Mike Zeigler: Tim Mackie and Jon Collins are cofounders of The Bible Project. It's a non-profit animation studio based in Portland, Oregon. The Bible Project produces free videos, podcasts, Bible-reading programs, other resources that are designed to help people see the Bible, which is the most influential book of all time, to see it as a unified story that leads to Jesus and is overflowing with wisdom for today. Today, we're celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and remembering His resurrection and its significance by talking about this epic account of how God brought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and ultimately defeated their captors at the Red Sea. And all this is recorded in the book of Exodus.
So Tim and Jon, what video resources in particular do you have that could help someone follow this first part of the book of Exodus?
Jon Collins: Yeah, we have an overview video of the book of Exodus. It's two parts, huh?
Tim Mackie: Yeah, yeah.
Jon Collins: That's in our Read Scripture series. We also have a series we call the Torah series which has a two-part Exodus overview. So there's four videos that go through Exodus in two different ways.
Mike Zeigler: And Torah being the first five books of the Bible.
Jon Collins: Yes.
Tim Mackie: We designed that whole series, all the videos, for people who are actually reading through the Bible. So it's meant to be an aid for people who are reading through the book of Exodus.
Jon Collins: And then in the Torah series, it's a little bit more cinematic, more narrative driven. However, we're walking through the same structure of the book of Exodus, how it's broken up into these two main chunks, and then how the whole book works together.
Mike Zeigler: One of the phrases in that Exodus part one video in the Torah series that stuck with me was this phrase that "God lures evil into its own destruction," and you're specifically referring to the Red Sea account. Why was that phrase important?
Tim Mackie: Well, one of the main themes running through the first half of the book of Exodus which is the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery is the portrait of Pharaoh. And Pharaoh becomes an important iconic figure for the whole biblical story of a human individual. But what he represents is a whole society that has redefined evil as good to enslave, and to begin to kill and murder a whole other ethnic group within your community and to launch a propaganda campaign that defines this as good. That's how the book of Exodus begins, chapters one and two with the babies being thrown in the river.
So, there's this fascinating portrait where the status of Pharaoh's heart is a really key part of that story. What's interesting is that there's a whole generation of Pharaoh, multiple generations, and each one keeps perpetuating this genocide of the Israelites. The more that these human leaders ramp up their violence, it's as if when God finally confronts them, this becomes a showdown of two powers.
The Pharaoh's heart becomes more and more hard throughout the narrative. It's a powerful image. It's repeated like ten times, over ten times. So, Pharaoh sometimes hardens his own heart to his will, to his conscience. Moses and God sends prophets to tell him, "Stop it, you're hurting yourself and your own people and other people." What these warnings do is just keep making him more stubborn and angry. So, it's this interesting image where sometimes Pharaoh hardens his own heart but then after the fifth chance that God gives him to change, to stop doing this, what you start reading is that God hardens Pharaoh's heart. It's as if once a human has given himself over to evil, God will harness that for His own purposes.
Mike Zeigler: That phrase "lure evil into its own destruction" helped me see the cross of Jesus in a different light as well, that you have this opposition against Jesus, and something similar is happening now. God will lure it into its own destruction, through the death of Jesus.
Tim Mackie: Yeah. Though the inversion of that is instead of Pharaoh dying, the equivalent to the Pharaoh in the Jesus story would be Pilate or Caiaphas the high priest, but the inversion is God lets Pharaoh kill him.
Mike Zeigler: Yeah.
Tim Mackie: As his way of luring death into its own undoing.
Jon Collins: Yeah, and evil thinks its won.
Jessica Bordeleau: So, you do all this work and all this research. I want to know what you learned more deeply about God by crafting this.
Tim Mackie: I've actually come to really appreciate the way that the Exodus narrative challenges my modern sensitivities. Violence is a complex topic in our world, and it's treated in a pretty nuanced way in the Bible. The Exodus story is the equivalent of the Jesus story in the Christian tradition. That's how the story is in Jewish tradition. It's the fundamental salvation story. It's the defining story, and so the idea that God is passionate about and that He will involve Himself in the dirt and the tensions of human history and even violence, but yet He's attempting to steer it toward His own redemptive purposes to create a new kind of humanity, a new kind of people.
Jon Collins: This project's really helped me realize God created us to partner with Him. And you see a lot of that beginning in Genesis. And then in Exodus I just love the portrayal of Moses who, really as you read through Exodus, becomes this figure that becomes united with God and partnering with God in a way that really no other human has in the story.
Mike Zeigler: Tim, Jon, what do you want to say to people who might be listening about the God of Exodus, the God of the Exodus?
Tim Mackie: You know, Jews have been retelling and re-experiencing the Exodus story annually through the Passover for like three millennia. Pharaoh is the one slaughtering all of these Israelites and their children and so, the tenth and final warning and plague that God offers before Pharaoh is to bring that evil back on Pharaoh's head, as it were, with a warning about the death of the first-born in Egypt. What's powerful is that God provides something that Pharaoh never did, which is a way to avoid it all.
What God provides is a way of escape through that, to us, strange imagery of the blood, of the Passover lamb. God provides a means of escape so that those who come under His forgiveness through the blood of this Lamb find a passageway through and then through the waters and into the Promised Land. That image right there becomes the iconic image. I mean, why did Jesus choose Passover? Right? To explain the meaning of what was going to happen in His death and resurrection. It was because He saw Himself as the One who would die so that God's mercy could be extended to the many.
The Exodus story is actually really important for understanding what Jesus thought He was doing in the Passover weekend that He died and was raised in Jerusalem. To me that's of enduring significance. This is not just an ancient, interesting story from the past. It's both current, as Jon was saying, and it's vital to understanding Jesus Himself.
Mike Zeigler: Christ is risen.
Tim Mackie: He is risen indeed.
Mark Eischer: For more information, go to bibleproject.com.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)