Think about this biblical concept: first comes trust, then comes service.

I want you to consider why that is true. (1) The quality of service rendered depends on the extent of the person's trust. (2) The amount of service rendered depends on the depth of the person's trust. (3) Sacrificial service depends on total trust. We all make sacrifices when there is unquestioning trust. As service increases, trust must increase.

This basic principle always has characterized God' relationship with humans. The first thing God always has sought to produce in the hearts and minds of those who follow Him is trust. God always has given those who follow Him reason to trust him. God always has devoted His efforts to creating reason for trusting Him before He declared His expectations. God always wanted obedience to be an issue of trusting appreciation rather than a control issue. When we seek to get people to yield to God as a matter of letting God control rather than first helping people create trust in God, we misunderstand God and His purposes. We take a "short cut" God never took. The consequence of that "short cut" is commonly disaster.

  1. Let's begin our insight with considering Abraham's direct descendants in Egypt who became the nation of Israel.
    1. Let's begin by considering these people's spiritual condition in slavery.
      1. Did they practice circumcision as a religious rite?
        1. I would conclude they did.
        2. I base that conclusion on the statement made in Joshua 5:2 when God commanded Joshua to order massive circumcision again.
        3. Joshua 5:4,5 gives the reason for this circumcision: all those who left Egypt were circumcised; all of those born in the wilderness (the past 40 years) were not; and all the adult males who left Egypt died in the wilderness.
      2. Did these people have a good, clearly defined understanding of Who God is and what His nature is before Moses came back to lead them out of slavery?
        1. I conclude they did not.
        2. I base that conclusion on these people's devotion to idolatry.
        3. I think their worship of the golden calf after their deliverance supports that conclusion: remember what they were told about the image of the calf in Exodus 32:4? "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt."
        4. The next day was declared to be a "feast to the Lord" (Exodus 32:5).
        5. I think their constant reverting to idol worship in Canaan supports that conclusion.
        6. The freed slaves had a very poor concept of God and His nature when they were free.
      3. Did they have a tabernacle, or a temple, or any form of devoted sanctuary for worshipping God as slaves in Egypt?
        1. There is no mention of such a place.
        2. There is no mention of such activities.
      4. Did they have a set of religious laws and directives they followed?
        1. Aside from the rite of circumcision, there is no mention of religious laws.
        2. Aside from the rite of circumcision, there is no mention of special behavior associated with religious commands.
        3. And it is obvious that they could practice circumcision and worship idols at the same time.
      5. In that period did they have any revelations from God?
        1. There is no record of these people receiving any revelations from God.
        2. In fact, the key revelation from the exodus forward would be, "I am the God who brought you out of Egypt."
    2. God's self-defining act in the people of Israel, God's gift to Israel that forever thereafter said they had reason to trust Him, was the exodus from Egypt.
      1. So if these people were asked to declare the nature and character of God in Egypt prior to any influence from Moses, could they do it?
      2. I personally doubt it.
      3. They might identify God with the golden image of a calf--they did later!
      4. They might identify God with the Sun--that was a significant divine force in Egypt.
      5. They might identify God with fertility rites--they did later when they worshipped the Baals!
    3. I submit to you that prior to Moses that these people had an extremely poor understanding of God and knew of no reason to either trust or love God.

  2. Note what God did first.
    1. God did two things simultaneously.
      1. He gave them clear reasons for trusting Him by benefitting them and punishing their owners.
      2. At the same time, He declared His basic nature, basic character, and basic power of supremacy over all things--from Pharaoh to nature.
    2. In this entire period, God had one primary request of these people: trust Me.
      1. "Trust Me enough to follow me."
      2. "Trust Me enough to know (without doubting) that I can take care of you."
      3. He declared Who He was by directly addressing the greatest problem they had: slavery.
    3. How did God identify Himself, give the people reason to trust Him, and address their problem of slavery? He did this through powerful acts we know as the plagues.
      1. Listen to God's statement initiating the period of the plagues:
        Exodus 6:6,7 Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, "I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians."
      2. The powerful acts of God:
        1. The water became blood
        2. There were frogs everywhere
        3. The insect infestation was a common as dust
        4. A swarming insect infestation would invade all Egyptian homes, but not any the slave homes in Goshen
        5. Egyptian livestock died, but not the livestock of the slaves
        6. The Egyptian people and animals had sores
        7. A very heavy hail fell and caused death and destruction among the Egyptians, but not among the slaves
        8. A heavy infestation of locusts destroyed remaining crops
        9. There was a three day period of extreme darkness among the Egyptians, but the slaves' lights worked in their homes.
        10. The death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians.
      3. What was the point?
        1. It declared to Pharaoh Who was God, Who was in control.
        2. It declared to the slaves Who was God, Who was in control.
    4. Did God have expectations that would be fulfilled in the attitudes and behavior of the slaves?
      1. Yes!
      2. However, God's expectations were not declared until He gave Israelites undeniable reason to trust Him.

  3. To me, the parallel to what God did for us in Jesus' death is overwhelming.
    1. Consider:
      1. Just as Israel was victims of a slavery they could not escape by themselves, we were victims of a slavery we could not escape.
      2. Just as the slaves had a very poor concept of God, we had a very poor concept of God.
      3. Just as God acted first to gain their trust, God acted first to gain our trust.
      4. Just as God gave them reason to trust Him, God gave us reason to trust Him.
      5. Just as the only request God made of them at first was to trust Him enough to follow him, the only initial request God made of us at first was to trust Him enough to follow him.
      6. What is the forever proof that God loved/loves Israel? The exodus.
      7. What is the forever proof that God loved/loves us? Jesus' death.
    2. Consider:
      1. Israel abused God's love and insulted God in their attitude and their behavior, and the God who brought them out of Egypt was forced by them to make Israel suffer the consequences of their rebellion against the God Who delivered them.
      2. Of this we can be certain: in spite of Jesus' death, if we abuse God's love and insult Him by the way we think and live, we will force God to allow us to suffer the consequences of our rebellion.
      3. It has nothing to do with how deeply God loves!
      4. It has everything to do with our rebellious lack of appreciation!

  4. In Jesus' death and resurrection God has given us every reason to trust Him.
    1. He has shown us that He is bigger and more powerful than death.
      1. The issue is never how big is God's love for us.
      2. The issue is always this: do we trust Him?
    2. Do we?
      1. If we do, that trust is seen in our attitudes toward God and people.
      2. If we do, that trust is seen in our behavior.
      3. If we do, that trust is seen in our service.

Trust without service is empty and meaningless. Service without trust is empty and meaningless. It is not an issue of control. It is an issue of appreciation based on affection.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 19 October 2003
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