We find ourselves today in the Book of Exodus. The word Exodus means to “exit.” Like Genesis, Leviticus, Number, and Deuteronomy, tradition tells us, it was written by Moses. Those five books make up the Pentateuch. Those books do not stand independently. They are related one to another. Exodus is a continuation of the storyline that began in Genesis. It is continued in Leviticus, Number, and Deuteronomy. Exodus was written between 1446-1406 BC. The Book of Exodus dominates the rest of the Old Testament. For it is in the Book of Exodus God reveals himself to the Hebrews and establishes a covenant with them.
It is in Exodus, we are introduced to the great lawgiver, Moses. Do you remember his story? You may remember it because you have seen the movie. He was born to a Hebrew couple, yet he was raised in the palace of the Pharaoh. His secret is well kept. He lives in the palace for forty years, but he never forgot his ancestry. That good life ended on the day he struck down an Egyptian soldier. He ran from the law and spent the next forty years building a new life. He married a woman named Zipporah and worked for his father-in-law, Jethro. He could have easily lived the rest of his life in that remote location, but God heard the cries of the Hebrews. God commands Moses to return to Egypt to liberate his own people. Moses illustrates the fact you cannot always run from your past. He confronts the Pharaoh, but the Egyptian ruler will have to be convinced.
Liberating the Jews would not be an easy task because they were the backbone of the Egyptian economy. Moses’s request to liberate the Hebrews fell on the death ears of the Pharaoh. To break the will of the arrogant leader, God sent the plagues. Count them with me:
- Water Into Blood
- Diseased Livestock
- Hail and Fire
- Death of Firstborn
That is the one that did it. The Pharaoh agrees to free the Hebrews. That takes us to our reading for today.
It must have been quite a scene in the Hebrew section of the city. The will of the Pharaoh had been broken and the freedom train had arrived. Everyone was excited about the future. The yoke of bondage had been broken and the dreams of a better life were about to become a reality. Let me state the obvious. They were hungry for change! We can relate to their story because many Americans are looking for change. Did you know, according to CBS News, 63% of Americans say our country needs to change. The problem is change can be a difficult thing. Change would be a difficult thing for the Hebrews. Just think about it for a moment. Everything in their lives was about to change. They had lived their lives within Egyptian cities. They were urbanities, but soon they would be living in the desert. City life and life in the desert are extremely different. As soon as the emotion of the day wore off, the reality of their changing world would take hold. Change is never easy. I remember reading years ago, 90% of Americans hate change. How do you feel about change? Our world is always changing.
How much has the world changed in your lifetime. How much has the world change in my lifetime. I was born in 1957. The world has changed a great deal in the last sixty-four years. Consider these numbers with me.
- the hourly minimum wage in 1957 was $1.00
- the average worker made $4550 in 1957
- the average price of a new home was $12,220 in 1957
- the average price of rent was $90 a month in 1957
- the price of gas was 24 cents a gallon in 1957
- the price of a dozen eggs was 28 cents in 1957
In 1957, Wham-O introduced a new toy, the Frisbee. In 1957, the USSR launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. That event launch both the space age and the space race. In 1957, CBS aired the last episode of I Love Lucy. In 1957, the Asian Flu killed 150,000 people worldwide. In 1957, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States and Richard M. Nixon was Vice President. (Whatever happened to him?) Those are things that grabbed the headlines.
How many changes have you been forced to endure personally? Just think about it for a moment. Our lives are always in a state of change. When you were young your greatest responsibility was getting a passing mark at school. You played on the playground and ran like the wind. Twelve years later, you graduated, and everyone was asking you what you were going to do with the rest of your life. It was, and is, a cruel question. You were forced to make the most important decision in your life when you had the least amount of experience. Were you going to go to college? If so, what college and what were you going to study. Were you going to trade school? Were you going to be an electrician or a plumber? Were you going to enter the work force? Then, you met someone special and had to decide if you wanted to marry. You did not want to live in your parent’s basement, so you had to decide if you were going to live in an apartment or house. You bought a starter house for the two of you, but soon it was not just the two of you, so you bought a bigger house to accommodate your growing family. Then, in what seems to be a matter of weeks, your children left, and you decided to downsize. Then, you woke up one day and discovered you were part of the older generation. Everyone older than you had died. Retired, you sit in your quiet house and think about how the world had changed from your youth, or you sit in your quiet house and think about how you have changed. There was a time when you could run like the wind but now you have a hard time standing up. Our lives are always in a state of change and that is why we can relate to the ancient Hebrews. Everything changes, except God, Himself. He is the one thing in our lives that does not change. He is our stability. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” That is why me must be the foundation of your life.
One of the names also forgotten by history is George Tod (1773-1841). He was a farmer by trade and bought a piece of property on, what is today, Youngstown’s lower north side in 1801. He named that agricultural venture Brier Hill. The area was changed forever when coal was discovered in those hills. Thousands of immigrants came to work in those mines and settled in that neighborhood. Brier Hill is considered Youngstown’s oldest working-class neighborhood. In 1847, the Tod family opened the first iron furnace in the district, drawing more immigrants from Italy, Wales, Ireland, Germany, and African Americans. Brier Hill was known as “Little Italy.” The area thrived until the 1950’s. No area was hit harder than Brier Hill when the steel industry began to decline. Depopulated, the only thing that remains in that area now is an ITAM, an Italian American Veterans Club, and St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church. However, once a year a small section of Brier Hill springs to life. It is like a warm-up to the Canfield Fair, but it is better because we only go for a few hours.
My family has gone to the Brier Hill Festival for years. I remember taking my children when they were young. Do not be afraid, go! It is a good time. The food is great. The beverages are great. The music is loud and annoying, but my wife and I dance. This is the best part. Everyone is having fun. However, none of those reasons is the reason we go.
We go to the Brier Hill Festival because a good friend was raised in Brier Hill. Every year, we make him drive because he knows the old neighborhood. Every year, he drives us by his old family home. It was not built to impress. It was a conservative home. The house was so small, he slept in his parent’s bedroom until he was seventeen years old. (That fact explains a great deal about him. Yes, he has a younger sister.) The house has been declining for years. The first time I saw the house it was in good shape. A few years later, the detached garage was failing, then a few years later the garage was gone. At first, the house just needed painted. Then, a few years later the storm door in the front was missing. The next time the front door was gone. It did not matter because the windows were gone too. The last time, we drove by the house, it was missing and only the sidewalk remained. I never set foot in that house, but it was sad. My friend would tell me how it used to be back in the day. With a certain amount of emotion in his voice he said, “Everything changes!” Have you ever uttered those words, “Everything changes!”?
I hate to say it, but my good friend is wrong! Most things do change, but one thing stays the same. God does not change. God is consistent. His love for us is constant. That is why God must be the foundation of your life. Do you remember the quote from the 90th Psalm? “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”