"Time to pull up the tent pegs." Those were God's words to the Israelites. Why would He say that to them? And what does it have to do with us?Greensburg Church of the Nazarene
**not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript**
On October 13, the Church of the Nazarene turned one hundred and thirteen years old. The Church of the Nazarene official Facebook page shared this about that historic day:
On this date in 1908, the merger of the Holiness Church of Christ with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene was completed in Pilot Point, Texas. The minutes of the Second General Assembly state that “the motion being put, it was passed unanimously by a rising vote, amid great enthusiasm” at 10:40 am. “The burst of holy joy continued for several minutes, brethren of the South throwing their arms around brethren of the North, East and West, at the same time singing a new hymn for the occasion… Soon the inside of the tent became too small for the freedom of such joy, and the people began marching out and around the great tent, with handkerchiefs and shouts of joy…”
The picture used for the sermon graphic is a photo from that day. We see that tent, those early Nazarene pioneers marching around it. But is our tent still staked there? That is our question for the text today.
READING THE TEXT: Deuteronomy 1:6-8
6 The LORD our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. 7 Resume your journey, and go into the hill country of the Amorites as well as into the neighboring regions—the Arabah, the hill country, the Shephelah, the Negeb, and the seacoast—the land of the Canaanites and the Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. 8 See, I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their descendants after them.” (NRSV)
This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.
IN THE TEXT:
In verse 6, “God spoke saying, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.’” This verse is the key to the passage. But first we must understand why God spoke this to the Israelites.
***Why they had to go***
These are the Israelites that were slaves in Egypt. Remember, God sends Moses to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5:1) Of course, Pharaoh thinks himself to be a god. This leads to an epic smackdown of Pharaoh of the Egyptians, who let God’s people go. From Egypt, God leads them to Sinai, a mountain in the group of mountains known as Horeb. (Exodus 19:1-2)
But in verse 6, God is telling them to leave because His ultimate call for the Israelites was not to the mountain, but to the Promised Land. Way before Egypt, God told Abraham that the land of Canaan would belong to his descendants. (Genesis 15:18-21) That same promise was made to Abraham’s son, Isaac, who passed it onto his son Jacob.
This land promised to their forefathers by God was a distant dream. But now in verse 8, God says to them, “I have set the land before you; go in and take possession of the land.” The promise to Abraham was a fact, but the Israelites had something better than fact. They had divine authority. Charles Henry Mackintosh wrote, “Facts may be reliable. Divine authority is absolutely infallible.”
***Why the hesitation***
Having the promise to Abraham as a fact and the assurance to them from God, why are the Israelites still at Sinai? Why the hesitation?
Verse 7 says, “Resume your journey.” That word “journey” in the original Hebrew can also mean “to pull up,” which is the idea of pulling up tent pegs to move out. (Strong’s Definitions) God not only gave them the assurance to take possession of the Promised Land, but He was also commanding them to leave the mountain so they could do so.
So why were they hesitant? They had to go into “the hill country of the Amorites.” How would that country feel about them immigrating through? It was not only the Amorites, but “the neighboring regions,” who could support or be additional barriers. Once they got to the Promised Land, there would be “the Canaanites and the Lebanon.” They were command to go, but being obedient to this command would lead them to difficulties. It was not going to be easy.
***Why they had to go***
The Israelites must go because in verse 6, God spoke and said, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” Notice the words “long enough.” That tells us the Israelites had been camped at Sinai for a lengthy period. Tracing it back to the Exodus 19, we learned that time was almost a year. God had called them to the Promised Land, but they had stayed in place for a year.
Sinai was a significant place for the Israelites. They had encountered God at this place. This is where God gave them the law and instructions for worship. Those were important, things needed for the days ahead. But while Sinai was a place of experience, God was calling them to pull up the tent pegs so they could move on to the Promised land.
The Israelites had a choice. They could remain camped at Sinai, stay where they had experienced God before, free from any new difficulties. But if they stayed, God’s presence would not be there. To stay in God’s presence, they would have to trust Him enough to encounter the wilderness.
FROM THE TEXT:
How does this apply to us? And how does it connect with the Church of the Nazarene? Is that old tent those Nazarene pioneers joyously marched around still staked in that place? No. The tent pegs had to be pulled up to take the gospel and the message of holiness to a country that would endure two world wars and the Great Depression. After those events passed, the tent pegs were pulled up again, this time to be staked at the mountain of American progress.
And that is where that tent has stayed for decades, with you and me camped at that blessed mountain. The Church in our country wielded influence and had respect. Those who attended made a point to be there every time the doors were open. Put up a sign, offer some programs, and solid preaching, people would come.
As blessed as I was to grow up in such a time, I have some tough news. God is saying to us, “pull up the tent pegs.” This is not a call to abandon the truth about Jesus or His Word. Just like the Israelites, we are not called to the mountain but to the Promised Land. On our way to this Promised Land, Jesus gave us a command to make disciples as we go.
How do I know God is telling us to pull up the tent pegs? Because the culture is changing around us. In a country where the Church once held influence and respect, instead we find scorn, contempt, and skepticism. While the doors are open, even less and less members are at the Church as days gone by. We have a sign, website, Facebook page, and do as much as we can to make the community aware of our existence, people are not as willing to come.
God’s presence is leaving the mountain, going towards those who hate the Church, leaders who make laws that oppose His laws, and hearts hardened because they have been broken by death, addiction, mistreatment, and apathy of a world that barely notices their existence. He is calling us to “pull up the tent pegs” and follow Him into the wilderness towards the Promised Land, making disciples of these groups as we go.
I must admit, I have no idea what this will look like. No one really does. But if we are obedient to God’s call, following Him, I know how we will face the unknown and make disciples. (1) We will face it with the indwelling presence of Holy Spirit, He will not lead us astray or to an obstacle that His power will not help us overcome. (2) We will face it with the Word of God. Making it a point to study it for ourselves and with one another. However, we will also be doers of it. (3) We will face it with the abilities and resources God has given us. And where those fall short, our faith will believe God is more than big enough to make up the difference.
BEYOND THE TEXT:
God had not called us to the mountain, but the Promised Land. That call comes with a command to make disciples as we go. But will we go? Will we pull up the tent pegs ?
Season 1 Episode 33, "Most important question." The text for the message is from Mark 8:27-30, part 1 of a series called The Son of Man. The question we are trying to answer is "What is the most important question?"