Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 9-17-23 “A Reason To Come Back” 

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Exodus 16:2-15

In our text this morning, Israel is in the wilderness on their way to Canaan. I believe that by now their supply of food and water is almost gone, and there is no way for them –at least on sight- to replenish it and they know they still have a long way to go. The possibility of hunger and thirst is real, and they are frightened; they are so frightened to the extent that they begin to think about the times when they use to sit around the pots of meat and how they ate all the food they wanted in Egypt. It is believed that by now, they had been on the road for two and a half months. Those two and a half months have been intense, many things had happened, God had broken their chains of slavery, he opened the waters and Israel walked on dry land, God destroyed Pharaoh’s army.

They also sang a joyful song, “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea. “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them;” Exodus 15.
And yet after singing such a great song for the miracle they witnessed, they doubted that God could provide for them and wanted to go back to be slaves and make bricks for Pharaoh.

I know that many of you have seen on Facebook or other social media a post saying, “If someone judges your walk, let them wear your shoes.” Therefore, this morning I do not want to minimize Israel’s situation. They cannot go back to Egypt, even if they wanted to; they were blame for the death of the Pharaoh’s army; at this moment they are on the list of the most wanted of the Egyptian FBI; Canaan is still far; they are lacking food and water and the dessert is big and hot. They are not accustomed to this kind of life. If someone wanted to leave, if anyone leaves there are good reasons to do it, I believe. We cannot blame them.

       Now, let us leave Israel where they are and let us jump forward some 3,450 years, to our days; to our “back to church Sunday celebration.” Many people (maybe some are here today) left the church. Maybe they did it for some good personal reasons, something that was done or said to them. Maybe the church did something they did not agree with; maybe they had a bad experience, I do not know. All I know is that if they left, it means it was valid enough for them to go. As Israel, they did not want to leave God, they just wanted to be away from the situation that made them uncomfortable, they wanted to be away from that environment and I we do not want to minimize their decision, your decision. Today, we as church would like to give you some reasons for you to come back; and to do that let us go back 3450 years, to the wilderness where we left Israel.

Israel did not want to continue with their journey to the Promised Land because the reality surrounding them was too much for them to bear and that stopped them to look forward to the horizon; they stopped looking forward to what God had for them.

They knew they were free, this meant no more violence against them, no more forced work, no more killing of their children, no more whipping; no more bricks to make. But even though, they wanted to go back.  They knew God was with them. They saw Him in the cloud by day and in the pillar of fire by night. However, at the same time they had Egypt in their minds. The did not realized that Canaan and Egypt, even when they were in the same valley, they were in extreme opposite directions. To reach one, they had to turn their back on the other. 

This emotional battle between the known Egypt and the unknown Canaan made them not trust in the Lord, regardless of what God did for them; regardless of the power He displayed before them on their favor. They kept their sight on their current situation; as a result, they lost sight of the future, in what the Lord had for them. Their current condition made them forget what God did and can do.  

            We know how the story ended, they did not return to Egypt, and some forty years later, they were established in Canaan. But I have a hypothetical question: what would have happened if they did not continue their journey to God’s promise land? The answer is obvious, they would have lost the opportunity to know God the way they did; they would have lost the opportunity to be blessed the way they were, they would have lost the opportunity to see God’s hand providing for them Manna and water in the middle of the wilderness. If they would have returned to Egypt, they would have lost the opportunity to receive the tablets of the law and be known as God’s people. In a few words, they would not have been blessed the way they were. They would have not the opportunity to see God’s power on their favor.

            We, the Church of Jesus Christ is the new Israel, and the reality of Israel 3,450 years ago is still the same. Sometimes on our journey, some of us have felt like going back to the place we were in before, some do, and some do not. And like Israel, we face the heat of the wilderness, the lack of food and water and as time passes by, those who remain realize that it is worthy because in our journey, we have seen God’s presence; we have experienced firsthand His faithfulness, His provision and protection. Away from Him, we would have missed all that.

            And those who remain can say with the apostle Paul “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

            I said before that today, we, as a church would like to give those who left the church some reasons to come back.

The fruits of remaining in Jesus are the fruits of the spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

The question: what would have happened if Israel would not have continued their journey to God’s promise land? And the answer: they would have lost all their blessings, was hypothetical for Israel. However, not for us, away from God we are depriving ourselves of his blessings.

Come back, do not keep Him waiting.

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