Ex. 3:1-7:7 Theme: Moses meets his maker
Sermon by Pastor David Williams. Strathalbyn Church of Christ.
Mothers’ Day. 9 May 2021.
Last week I started on a series on the early chapters of Exodus. Each Sunday, I’ll be taking a few chapters at a time. So today, we will focus on Exodus 3, but delve into chapters 4 to 7 also. I would encourage you to read on ahead in the following weeks. You may also find it helpful to come to our Thursday bible study, where we explore the chapters in more depth.
Prayer: Lord, open our eyes to understand your word, and shape our wills that we will believe and obey you.
Have you ever felt completely out of your depth? And then someone who really knows what they are doing comes along and shows you exactly what to do, and it all falls into place? Now my mum was a good cook but didn’t pass on her skills to her son. When I started cooking for myself as a student, I only had a few eggs left in the fridge, so I put a couple in the saucepan. They didn’t turn out so well. Fortunately, a friend turned up and suggested it helps if you add water to the saucepan. Today’s story of Moses and God is a bit like me and my more capable friend.
We first met Moses in Exodus 2. He was a Hebrew but adopted at birth into Pharaoh’s family. But he killed an Egyptian and had to flee from Pharaoh. His fellow Hebrews also rejected him. He fled to Midian. He married a daughter of a priest of Midian, and we find him in chapter 3 tending the sheep of his father-in-law. Now things are about to take a dramatic turn for this refugee, this shepherd, Moses. He is being commissioned by none other than his creator – he is being commissioned to lead his people out of slavery.
Today, we will look at four characters
God revealed himself to Moses. How well do you know God? How is it possible to know him? God has given his word to us as the main way of knowing him. Jesus promised, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”, John 8:31-32. “If you abide in my word … you will know the truth”. God reveals himself in his word. Let’s dig into God’s word now that we may know the truth of God. In Exodus 3-7, we can learn much about God. This is the key point of this passage – what can we know of God? Here are eight things we can know about him:
1. God is creator
His power as creator was shown in “the bush that was burning, yet was not consumed”, Ex. 3:2. As creator, he could work such a miracle.
2. God is holy
God said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground”, 3:5. We can become a bit casual with God – and we can forget that he is utterly different: we are creatures, he is creator. We are sinful – he is pure. Moses quite rightly “hid his face, for he was afraid to look” at a holy God, 3:6. We as sinful creatures cannot approach our Creator except as he allows. We can lose sight of how amazing it is that we can approach this holy God.
3. God defines himself. He is incomparable.
Names were important to the ancient people. Names had meaning and significance. They often told something about the person or their family, so Moses meant “draw out” for he was drawn out of water, and his son Gershom meant “sojourner” for they lived as refugees (2:10, 22). So it was a natural question to ask God – I know you are the God of Abraham, but tell me more about yourself. Tell me - your name?
Now God was not simply being clever and dodging the question. As we’ve seen God is creator. Everything else in the universe is created. That is, there is nothing like God. He is beyond comparison. He is beyond definition. In fact, he defines himself: “I am who I am”, or his response can also be translated, “I will be who I will be”, 3:14. We may want to put God in a box, and label him – but he is beyond our definitions. God can only be known as he chooses to reveal himself to us. We cannot know anything about God that is not revealed by him.
But praise God that this has not hidden himself; it requires no mystical hocus pocus or meditation techniques to know him. God gave us his Word that we might know him. Do you want to know God better? Then immerse yourself in his word, with humility and prayer. When I first became a Christian, I read lots of stuff from other religions and philosophies – thinking that somehow this would help me understand God. It didn’t. As only God can reveal himself, it is utterly pointless looking elsewhere to know God.
4. God is sovereign, despite appearances.
After this meeting with God, things took a turn for the worst. Moses goes to Pharaoh in chapter 5. Far from letting the Hebrews go, Pharaoh makes their slavery even harder. Yet God will have the victory. God knows what will happen. He said, “Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring … my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment”, 7:4. God is in control – he is sovereign. He is carrying out his plan – so we don’t have to fret. He knows what he is doing.
5. God makes promises and keeps them
Up till now, Moses simply knew God as the God of his fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (3:6). The promises that God made to these fathers would have been passed down through the generations. Moses would have known that God had given four promises to Abraham: that he would make his descendants a great nation, blessing them, giving them land and making them a blessing to other nations (Gen 12:1-3). God had multiplied the Hebrews and so was keeping his first promise. They would see the other promises being fulfilled in the Exodus story. God makes promises and keeps them.
6. God is compassionate and rescues
God “saw the affliction of his people in Egypt”, he “heard their cry”, he “knew their sufferings”, 3:7. So he promised “to deliver them”, 3:8. This compassion extends to us too. God will save all who turn to him. No exceptions.
7. God is present with his people: “I will be with you”, 3:12.
8. God is father. “Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son”, 4:22. God was a father to Israel. And in Christ, he has adopted us into his family. We can know him as father. That might cause some of you problems because our fathers are far from perfect. Some far from perfect. Even our mothers. And Mother’s Day can create a raw sore for some, remembering mothers who have died or mothers who they are separated from; children who won’t talk to them anymore. It can be a hard time, I know, for many of you.
Now little kids will go up to mum or dad, fully trusting that whatever toy they have broken, whatever they have mucked up can be fixed. And as for Grandma’s they are omniscient, aren’t they? Grandmas know everything. It doesn’t always seem to work for Granddads though. My grandchildren don’t seem to think Grandad knows much about anything!
But isn’t it true of our heavenly father? We can bring anything to him knowing that whatever we have mucked up, he can put right. He will put all things to right, in his own way, in his own time. We can bring all our concerns to him knowing that he cares for us and that he will act
To sum up what we may know of God from these chapters, God is so far above and beyond us as to be totally incomprehensible. Yet he chooses to be with us, to rescue us; he promises to bless us, to make us his own people. There is a tension here, but we need to hold both in balance. The almighty creator is also the father who promises, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God”, 6:7. God is both powerful and good – we can have complete confidence in him.
In Chapters 3 to 7, we don’t just learn about God, but of his chosen one. And it is not a promising picture. Put yourself in Moses’ sandals. You have just had an extended job interview with God. He has given you a commission. How would you respond? Seven times Moses questions, rejects or avoids God’s call. The stubbornness and audacity of the man! But this is just what the Hebrews will do again and again. Seven times Moses objects, six times God patiently responds. This would have made a great comedy sketch for Monty Python. Now to be fair to Moses, the first question or two are perhaps reasonable. Let me list them, with God’s answers:
Moses: “Who am I to deliver this people?”
God: “I will be with you.” (3.11-12)
2nd objection: “But who are you?”
God: “I AM.” (3.13-22)
Moses: “The people won’t believe me”
God: “I will confirm your authority with 3 signs” (4.1-9)
Moses: “_I am not a good speaker”
_God: “I will teach you what to say.” (4.10-12)
Moses: “Pleeease send someone else”
God: “Take your brother Aaron with you”. (4.13-17)
Moses: “Pharaoh will not listen to me”
God: “Just … do as you are told” (6.12-13)
7th Objection: “Pharaoh will not listen to me” (6.30)
God: … [silence]
Moses has moved from reasonable questions and doubts to sheer stubborn unbelief. He doubts the ability of the creator to use his mouth and change Pharoah’s heart. “Who made man’s mouth?” God asked (4:11). To begin with, God was patiently responding. But in the face of this blatant refusal to trust God, God gets angry. Moses’ failings don’t stop there, however. God nearly kills him for failing to have his son circumcised (4:24-26). Even Israel’s rescuer needed rescuing from God’s just anger. These chapters are meant to highlight Moses’ total inadequacy.
Does this encourage you? If God can call someone as difficult and inept as Moses, surely, he can use you and me too? The message is trust in God. He is good and powerful. Don’t trust in humans. Even the mighty can and do fall. There is scarcely a single human in the Bible who didn’t slip up – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Peter. If these prophets and apostles failed, surely it should warn us against trusting in any Christian leader. Ravi Zacharias is one who failed.
But God chooses to use us. His method is to save and grow people through people, through his church. So don’t ever say, I’m not good enough. You’re right – you aren’t. But that’s no excuse for disobedience, for unbelief. Trust that God will use even your fumbling lips, even your feet of clay. I suspect he can make better use of many of us here than of some of the self-proclaimed prophets and apostles who market themselves today. If God has spoken to you today, then praise God – don’t praise David Williams! Remember his promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”, 2 Cor 12.9.
Like Moses, Christ too was commissioned by God. His baptism marks the start of his ministry. Let’s compare Christ with Moses. Like Moses, Jesus was sent. In John, Jesus often spoke of “the Father who sent me” (e.g., Jn 6:44). He also was sent to deliver captives – captives rescued from death for life. Like Moses, he had a very ordinary job before his ministry began. Like Moses, Jesus had his struggles, at Gethsemane, and the cry from the cross – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Yes, unlike Moses, he was at one with the Father. And so there was no doubting, no stubborn resistance, no feelings of inadequacy. God commissioned his son, perfect and holy, to deliver. He did deliver. He is the rescuer we can trust completely.
4. Our calling.
We are probably not going to be called to deliver a nation of slaves from physical captivity, but we are called to deliver from spiritual captivity. The word, “calling”, has been hijacked for so-called special jobs – like pastors and missionaries. But in the New Testament, the words for calling are used to call people to repent and believe. If you are still alive and breathing (that looks like most of you), you have been called – first to believe, and then to be salt and light, to be ambassadors for Christ. Are you being faithful to your calling?
But I don’t have the words? People won’t listen to me! Can’t someone else do it? I don’t want to! Now where have I heard these objections?
The clay can’t tell the potter how to do his work. If God has placed an opportunity before you, will you trot out the doubts and objections, or will you trust and let him use your mouth – the mouth that he has made - to deliver people from slavery.
Remember, Christ has already delivered – he did that work on the cross. Moses was promised that God would be with him. We have an even greater assurance, for God is not just with us. His Spirit now lives in us. Who are we to doubt that he can use us?
Every time there is an opportunity, we may have a Moses moment. Will we doubt, object, resist – or will we go forward, yes stumbling, but trusting. Success depends not on my abilities but on his.
Is it not incredible that a holy God would use us to bring the message of hope and life to those with no hope? What a privilege it is to be used by him to carry out his work.
What opportunities may cross your path this week? Pray with me for such opportunities, and the faith to speak his words into the lives of others.
Pray: Lord, thank you that you have called us to be your ambassadors. You have given us mouths to speak your words of life to those who have no hope. Give us faith to speak about you. Give us an opportunity this week to speak to a neighbour, a family member, a stranger. Amen.
· Reid, A. (2013). Exodus: Saved for service. Sydney: Aquila Press