No Half Measures - Exodus 10
Click here to download the Word Doc..
Click here to download the PDF..
No Half Measures – 08.14.2022
Sir Edgar Rice Burroughs was a very famous author back in the early 1900’s. For those who don’t know, he wrote lots of stuff, but his most famous was the creation of the character Tarzan. Now you’ve probably seen the Disney movie, well actually – there have been a lot of Tarzan type movies over the years. Man raised by apes to become this unbeatable king of the jungle is a pretty awesome premise. But they all started with a series of books written Sir Edgar Rice Burroughs. And from the beginning people have said – we’ve got to make a movie of this. There’s a story from 1931 when the top executive at MGM, Irving Thalberg, wanted to buy the film rights to Tarzan. So Thalberg sent his guy Sam Marx to negotiate with Burroughs. Go get me the rights to that movie, but don’t spend more than $100,000. Now, in 1931, $100,000 was a massive amount of money. So Sam reaches out to Edgar Rice Burroughs and asks, “how much do you want for the film rights?” Burroughs responded, “I want $100,000.” Marx countered by saying, “well, how about $25,000” – Burroughs walked out of the meeting. But the two continued to negotiate throughout the summer. Eventually Burroughs settled for $40,000. After signing the contract, Burroughs admitted he really wanted MGM to make the movie. He wanted it so badly that he would have given it to them for nothing, if they had insisted. By getting $40,000 he thought he was getting the upper hand. Sam Marx replied, “Mr. Burroughs, if you had held out, you could have gotten $100,000!” Today we are finishing up our sermon series on the plagues of Egypt. We have been walking chapter by chapter through the book of Exodus, and what we have seen is that there is actually a lot to learn about the character of God in this story. Sometimes, when you take a closer look – even in the parts of the bible that most people avoid – sometimes you can discover some truly incredible insights that help you better understand the God who is out there.
So we jump in with chapter ten, where it says, [read v.1-2]. This has been a key focus all along. God is doing things with this method, on purpose to show his glory and power. The ten plagues of Egypt is right up there with David and Goliath and Noah’s Ark, right? This is one of the biggest stories in the bible, and that was the whole point all along. For thousands of years, God’s people would be able to point to this moment and say, “yes, but remember what God did in Egypt? Remember that God stuck with us and never abandoned us? Remember his power and how incredible he is?” We have done, turning the river to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils and hail – and now, in chapter 10 we jump into plagues 8 and 9. [read v.3-4]. The next plague is locusts, and they’re going to eat whatever crops survived the hail. But then, Pharoah tries to negotiate with God. One thing we have discovered in this study, that I have never seen before, is that Pharoah is a lot like us in the evolution of his relationship with God. If you remember, Pharaoh starts out, “I don’t know God, I don’t care about God, I don’t believe in God.” He’s got these magicians who are doing smoke and mirrors and that gives him the excuse, it’s basically the same thing, I don’t have to worry about God. That’s how a lot of non-Christians start out. Then with some later plagues, Pharaoh sees God’s power, he’s starting to pile up evidence in his life and he can’t explain it with his magicians and so then he tries to have a transactional relationship with God. Okay, I’ll say that I will obey you, I’ll say it with my lips – but as soon as I get what I want, I’m going to go back to my lifestyle. I will obey, just to get what I want from you and then I’m out. It’s not a relationship, it’s a transaction. And that’s how a lot of baby Christians start out too. Oh okay, so if I do this church thing – then God will put money in my bank account? Or if I do the obedience thing, if I follow God – then I get to go to heaven. Rather than obeying God because we love God, it’s just a transaction. And the next step is bargaining. Pharaoh wants to know, “what’s the minimum I can give up, and still get what I want?”
[read v.8-11]. Now remember, the conversation at this point does not look like it’s about true freedom. Pharoah is not saying, “I’m going to let my slaves go forever.” At this point, it’s more like Moses is negotiating a three day vacation. They are asking, “let us go, to worship God – have a festival and then we will come back.” So Pharaoh asks, “well, who all needs to go for this festival?” And Moses replies, “all of us, duh.” So Pharaoh says, “no, no, no – you can’t take everybody.” And obviously Pharaoh’s thinking – if you take everybody, you won’t come back. He thinks they’ll be dishonest and sneaky. Now, if you’ve been following this series – you know that God and the Israelites are not the ones who have a problem keeping their words. A dishonest man is always afraid that others will be dishonest. Pharoah says, “no, you can’t all go to the festival.” Actually, his literal words were, “the lord would have to be with you if I would ever let you and your families go.” Pharaoh tries to negotiate. [read v.11]. Only the able-bodied men, because that’s what you want. Now this is a really big deal. You would think in a society like this. Women aren’t as important. Children aren’t as important. Disabled people aren’t as important. This is a social culture with a lot of people on the margins. Pharaoh assumes the only people God cares about is the able-bodied men. Just take the able-bodied men, that’s all you care about anyways. Leave everyone else here. But God says no. God refuses to leave anyone behind. Just because Pharaoh doesn’t think they’re worth anything – they are still infinitely valuable to God.
You know, last week – maybe two weeks ago, I read this bizarre story about an artist who took a pickle off of a Big Mac, and used some ketchup to stick it to the ceiling. He called it “art” and he charged $5,000 for it. Stories like that always make me laugh, and maybe it’s just because I’m an uncultured simpleton – but a pickle stuck to the ceiling is not art. It sounds like a youth group game. And in my opinion, that is not worth $5,000. It’s not worth $5. But as I was reading the article, a phrase stuck out to me. Art, for better or worse, is worth what someone will pay for it. I might not think it’s art, I might not think it’s worth much – but if someone will pay for it, then that is what it is worth. Art is worth what someone will pay for it. When I think about the story of Egypt and the plagues, one of the horrifying realities of slavery is that they do the same thing to people. A person is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for them. Pharaoh says, “abled-bodied men, those are the one’s you want. These others are not worth as much, leave them behind.” And then I remember the gospel. A person is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay for them. You and I might look at a person and think, “they are not worth very much.” Some of us look in the mirror and think that. Some of us look in the mirror and think, “I’m not a great work of art. I’m a pickle stuck to the ceiling.” But ask yourself, what price was God willing to pay for you? God paid for you with his son, he gave up his son. His son, Jesus, gave up his life – voluntarily – for you. The phrase Christians use is that we have been bought with the blood of the lamb. We have been bought with the blood of Jesus. Rachael Denhollander wrote a kid’s book, “how much is a little girl worth?” It’s a poem for children, but it’s based in her love and her advocacy protecting and defending women in the modern world. She asks the same question that I’m going to ask you now. How much are you worth? How much are you worth, you little piece of pickle glued to the ceiling with ketchup? We see it in her kid’s book, we see it in this bible passage – God says you are worth… everything. If we are only worth what someone will pay for us – the almighty God up in heaven paid for us with his blood. Jesus gave up everything for you, because that’s how important you are to him. That’s how much HE believes you are worth.
But Pharaoh doesn’t understand that. He tries to negotiate and fails miserably. The plague of locusts comes, and num, num, num eats up all the plants on the ground. Verse 15 says, [read it]. So Pharaoh does what Pharaoh does best – he fake apologizes, “I’m so sorry, please take away the locusts.” [read v.18-20]. It’s funny, I wanted to note the Locusts come, blown in by a strong east wind, and then the wind changes and a strong west wind blows them all away. And it has nothing to do with anything, but I feel obligated to point out – I’m pretty sure that’s the same way Mary Poppins comes into to town. All the locusts are gone, but Pharaoh’s heart is still hard – and so we continue.
[read v.21-23]. Darkness throughout the land. I love the description, a darkness that can be felt. This isn’t nighttime with the moonlight and candles. This is inky blackness, where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. And you can only bump your shin on the coffee table so many times before you just give up and sit still. They just didn’t move for three days. And then the negotiations resume. [read v.24]. Last time, Pharaoh said, “just the able-bodied men.” And God wasn’t willing to leave out the people on the margins. But this time, Pharaoh says, “alright, go ahead and everybody can go – but leave behind your flocks and herds.” [read v.25-29]. The plague of darkness is the final plague before the finale – which we’re not going to get to this week. When we come back to Exodus, we’ll start with plague 10. But even after everything that Pharaoh has seen – he STILL is trying to give only the bare minimum to God. He is literally living in darkness.
But God’s not going to negotiate with darkness.
The good news this morning is that God does not accept half measures. God does not negotiate with darkness. Now if you’re sitting in the darkness, it might seem like God is being unreasonable. Why can’t we compromise – like Pharaoh wanted – God gets a little bit of what he wants, and I get a little bit of what I want. Seems more reasonable. But let me put it another way. God is not going to leave one molecule of evil in your life. Compromise can be a beautiful thing between two people who are both a little bit wrong and both a little bit wrong. You figure things out, that’s how we live together in a society. But there is no compromise when one person is completely right and the other is completely wrong. That’s like my children, who don’t like wearing the seatbelt harnesses. I say click it and tighten it, they say I don’t want to click it or tighten it. I saw, “that’s too bad, we’re going to click it and tighten it before we go down the road.” Now let’s say one of my children comes up with a compromise. My children are entirely too clever for their own good – so suppose they come to me and say, Daddy, how about I click it one side, and not the other side? Of course I say no, because I’m not going to compromise with my child’s safety. Half doing the right thing is the wrong thing to do. God knows what is best for his people, and he’s not going to let them accept something less than what he has in mind for them.
When he redeems someone, he redeems them all the way. When God sets someone free, he sets them all the way free. Not just the able-bodied men, not just the women and children who have to leave all their stuff behind – but the entire group set free completely. The same is true in your life – God will not accept half a friendship, half obedience, half your heart. Because God loves you, and he knows what’s best. Think about Jesus, the night before he went to the cross. He was in the garden at Gethsemane – do you remember that story? Jesus got down on his hands and knees and cried out to God in prayer. If it’s possible, take this cup from me. It has weird echoes of Pharaoh – take this plague from me. But God’s answer was no, because the job wasn’t done. God knew how good the good would be if Jesus gave it all, instead of only going halfway. The big difference between Jesus and Pharaoh is that Jesus ended his request with “not my will, but yours be done.” God gave it all for his people in Egypt and Jesus gave it all for you – because God does not accept half measures, he doesn’t leave the job unfinished.
God does not accept half measures, and Jesus gave it all up for you – and so my challenge for you today is to give it all to Jesus. Give every single part of your life, every single part of who you are – give it all to Jesus. The thing you don’t give to God, the thing you try to keep for yourself, keep under your control – that is the thing he can’t redeem. Give it all to Jesus. There’s an old story about a woman named Sadie Sieker. I think about it a lot in situations like this. Sadie was a house-parent for missionaries’ children in the Philippines. Sort of like a live-in nanny. Sadie loves books. She would always gladly loan out some, but there were others that she treasured in a footlocker under her bed. Then one day, in the quiet of night, Sadie heard a faint gnawing sound under the bed. After searching all around her room, she discovered that the noise was coming from her footlocker. When she opened it, she found nothing but an enormous pile of dust. All the books she had kept to herself had been lost to termites. If you give everything to God, like God gave everything up for you – He will redeem every letter on every page in every chapter in the story of your life. There is nothing God can’t handle. He wants all of who you are. No half measures, we give our entire lives to God. There is no such thing as part-time loyalty to Jesus Christ.
I think some people hold back, because of shame. We don’t want to talk about our whole life, we don’t want to put our whole life in front of God – because there are parts of our life we don’t want to acknowledge. Things we have done, ways we have lived that we are ashamed of. We think, if God really knew us – he wouldn’t want to save us. For other folks, it’s not shame – it’s pride. We are like Pharaoh, thinking that we know what’s best. I’ll give God my able bodied men, but not the women and children. Or I’ll give God all the people, but not the livestock too. It’s like my child trying to compromise with seatbelt safety. I’ll give God one half of a seatbelt. I’ll give God what I think God should have, but I’m going to keep the rest for myself. I want to be in charge of my life. Jesus gave up everything for you. Every part of your life that you keep for yourself, is the part that God will not redeem. Give it all to Jesus, follow him completely with your life.
90 years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs and Sam Marx negotiated to sell the rights for the story of Tarzan to the MGM movie studio. Edgar wanted $100,000 – but through clever negotiating he accepted less than half of what he could have gotten. Pharaoh persistently tried to negotiate with God to provide the minimum, and keep the maximum for himself. But God does not negotiate with darkness. God does not accept half measures. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you are worth what God is willing to pay for you. May you remember the price Jesus paid, when it gave it all – so you could live redeemed. And finally May you give it all to Jesus, keep nothing back. Amen.