Preparing and Persuading Moses - Exodus 2-4 (Part 2 in a Series of 11)
July 6, 2008
Jesus, you have challenged us to walk worthy of You and to fully please You. This is too high for us - to please You in every way is a life worthy of You. How can we possibly do this? When we look at our lives, we’re so often concerned with living up to the expectations of others rather than the expectations You have for us.
We desire to proclaim Your name to the unsaved people we love and have contact with daily. Help us to stay away from manipulating them. We desire to lead believers to Your Word through acknowledging Your pardon, mercy, and grace in their lives. Help us to stay away from guliting them, forcing them, or conforming them to our ideals instead of Your ideals.
Our gathering this evening is touched by the indifference of our times. We have to be to some extent. Help us to please You with every thought, every word, and every action or reaction in our lives this week. We realize that this is impossible without our dependence upon You. We voice that collective dependence this evening. Help us to work, to play, to communicate with our husbands …with our wives. Help us to raise our children and fulfill our responsibilities this week. Guard our minds. May we read, watch, and wear that which pleases You. The money we spend or don’t spend …let it please You. Hot tempers, loud voices, quick solutions, and independence are coveted by so many of us. Give us greater patience and endurance. Give us the power of Your Holy Spirit.
If our greatest need were economic, then You would have sent us an economist. If it had been entertainment, then You would have sent an artist or comedian. If political stability were the goal, then You would have sent a politician. If it had been our physical health, then You would have sent a doctor. But Lord God of Heaven and earth, our greatest need involves our sinfulness so You sent Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. How can we not respond with joy and gratitude this evening? Please bless the preaching of Your Word and the fashioning of our spiritual lives.
Background, Review, and Introduction:
Last week, we studied how the children of Israel multiplied no matter how intense the bondage and affliction suffered at the hands of Pharaoh and his cruel taskmasters. God kept the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Exodus 1 establishes the fact that our greatest need involves deliverance. We may not be escaping the slavery depicted in this passage, but we do need redemption from ourselves and others. From ourselves because we are dead in trespasses and sin. From others because the world and the devil seek to exploit and destroy our testimony for Christ. This week, we turn to the preparation and persuasion of one of God’s choice servants: Moses. Instead of reading the passage under consideration this evening, allow me to walk us through the next three chapters of Exodus - chapters 2-4:
A beautiful child is born to Levite parents (2.1-2). He is safeguarded from Pharaoh’s heinous command to kill Hebrew infant boys by casting them into the Nile River. This goes on for three months until the parents can no longer hide him. They build an ark of bulrushes to save the child. Interestingly, the only other time that an ark is mentioned in Scripture is in reference to Noah’s ark.
They thrust Moses into the Nile evidently obeying the letter of Pharaoh’s command but not the diabolical spirit of it. Ironically, the child is found by Pharaoh’s daughter. The understanding of many conservative Bible scholars is that this daughter is none other than Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I. She was a powerful woman who actually wielded quite a bit of control and influence after her father died.
When the unnamed beautiful child of the unnamed Hebrew parents weeps, the daughter of Pharaoh shows compassion. At this moment, the child’s sister steps forward. She asks if she should find a nurse for the child. With that, the child’s mother is reunited with her baby boy for three years. Verse 9 of chapter 2 states that she was even paid a wage to nurse her own child! It is here that Pharaoh’s daughter calls him Moses because he was drawn from the water. Interestingly, the Egyptian equivalent for the Hebrew name means Son of the Water (a reference to the Nile). Just as Thutmose is Egyptian for son of an Egyptian God Thoth.
Moses matures and reaches 40 in a matter of a few verses. We meet him next when he witnesses one of the taskmasters beating a fellow Hebrew brother. We ought to pause and think about this. God has been preparing Moses for 40 years. The children of Israel have been suffering greatly an additional 40 years! But God is not in a hurry as is evident in what unfolds next. Moses kills the Egyptian taskmaster and hides the body in a sandy grave. Pharaoh heard of it and sought to kill Moses. Moses escapes to the Sinai wilderness and spends 40 additional years as a shepherd preparing to deliver and lead God’s children from Egyptian bondage. During this time, he gains a Midianite wife and two sons. Exodus mentions only his son Gershom but Stephen recounts Israel’s history in Acts 7 and mentions that Moses had two sons (Acts 7.29).
Exodus 2:23-25 (NKJV)
23Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. 24So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.
Tending his flock upon the very mountain that he would later receive the 10 commandments of God, the Angel of the LORD appears to Moses in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. The bush burned with fire and yet it was not consumed. God spoke to Moses from the midst of this bush:
Exodus 3:4-6 (NKJV)
4 “Moses, Moses!” And [Moses] said, “Here I am.” 5Then [God] said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 6…I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
Moses hid even as Adam hid. He was a sinner, a man who had murdered another man created in the image of God. Yet the LORD said to Moses…
Exodus 3:7, 10 (NKJV)
7“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. …10Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Moses had learned no not be so rash in his 40-year stint in the wilderness. I know this because, now at 80, Moses struggles greatly with confidence in assuming the mantle of leadership thrust upon him by God Almighty. God is careful and patient with Moses right through chapters 3 and 4:
1. The LORD grants Moses a sign - Moses would serve God with the children of Israel upon the very mountain that contained the burning bush.
2. The LORD reveals to Moses His eternal name, His memorial to all generations: I AM WHO I AM.
3. The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart was foreknown by the LORD and relayed to Moses, the readiness of the children of Israel’s acceptance of Moses’ leadership was foreknown by the LORD and relayed to Moses, and the favor of the Egyptian populace in giving the children of Israel treasure as they left was foreknown by the LORD and relayed to Moses.
4. A rod of God served as a sign for Moses, the children of Israel, and the Egyptians. When thrust upon the ground by Moses it became a serpent. When retrieved by the tail, the serpent became once more the rod of God (4.1-5).
5. Another sign involved the literal hand of Moses. When he thrust his hand into his bosom or under the folds of his tunic, it became white with leprosy as he withdrew it. When thrust within the folds of his tunic again, it was restored back to normal as he brought it out (4.6-8).
6. God graciously and mercifully gave Moses yet a third sign. When the water, retrieved from the Nile by the hand of Moses, was spilled upon the dry ground, it became blood (4.9).
Amazingly, Moses continues to resist the mantle thrust upon him. He claims that he is not eloquent nor can he speak well. As if this would surprise God! God assures him that He will be with the mouth of Moses, but Moses finally cuts to the heart of the matter and begs God to find another to deliver His children (4.13).
The Bible states that God is angry, but He continues to assure Moses with the promise of his brother Aaron’s presence. Aaron would be a spokesman for Moses, a mouth for Moses.
Moses takes the rod of God in his hand (4.20), meets his brother in the wilderness, and approaches the elders of the children of Israel in Egypt. After presenting the aforementioned signs that pointed to the veracity of Moses’ claim to leadership,
Exodus 4:31 (NKJV)
31…the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.
Transition: So we move from this divinely inspired historical narrative in Exodus 2-4 to the preparation and persuasion of God’s servants. First, there is…
The Preparation of People God Uses
Explanation: Step by step, God prepared Moses to be a great leader of His people. From the birth narrative to his confrontation with the elders of Israel at 80 years of age - God meticulously prepares Moses for the job He calls him to do. God’s providential hand guards this man’s life as it is threatened by Pharaoh. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews states it most eloquently:
Hebrews 11:23-29 (NKJV)
23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command. 24By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. 27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. 28By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned.
· The faith of Moses’ parents gave them discernment when they saw that he was a beautiful child, set aside for God’s use.
· The faith of Moses led him to refuse sonship in Egypt. Instead he chose to suffer with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting fancies of sin.
· The faith of Moses led him to forsake his 37-year Egyptian upbringing. He kept his eyes on the unseen.
God prepared Moses and Moses responded by faith. At times Moses seemed to buck against God’s authority in life, but he responded to the corrective discipline of the Lord. There is a sense in which we might tend to think that we are unpacking the life of a man, but we are not. This is no mere biography of Moses in the Exodus account. This is about the preparation of a man. It is about the LORD God’s working in securing deliverance and redemption for His people. It never is about one man; it is always about the one True God of Heaven and Earth, the God of the Bible. Through the trial and affliction to the soaring experience of a burning bush, Moses learned that the Great I AM WHO I AM was worthy. Moses chose to esteem His reproach rather than esteem the treasures of Egypt.
What paths did Moses take in order to prepare for God’s calling upon his life?
Three Paths of Preparation:
1. A Path of Opposition - He faced external opposition from the time he was born to the time he fled Egypt after killing the taskmaster. He faced internal opposition as he battled with God over his self-perceived inadequacies.
2. A Path of Obscurity - Moses fled to the wilderness in obscurity for 40 years! As a shepherd he learned to lead rather than force people. He learned to draw near to the very presence of God.
3. A Path of Obedience - Moses by faith trusted and obeyed the LORD God in the final analysis. He was by no means perfect. Even later in his story, we find that one proud mistake would keep him from entering the Promised Land. But Moses knew God because he obeyed God.
Illustration: One man has said that a lasting work requires extensive preparation. We know this to be the case in many areas of life.
Take for instance the Hibernia oil platform in the North Atlantic. It is 189 miles east-southeast of St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. The total structure, from the ocean floor to the top of the derrick, is 738 feet high and cost over $6 billion to build.
Unlike the fated Ocean Ranger, a platform that sank in 1982 with all 84 men aboard lost at sea, the Hibernia's design incorporates a gravity based structure or GBS which anchors it to the seabed. It is fastened to the ocean floor in 265 feet of water.
The structure does not move. It is stationary because it sits in the middle of a place called ‘iceberg alley,’ where icebergs can be as large as ocean liners. Sixteen huge concrete teeth surround the Hibernia. These teeth were an expensive addition, designed to distribute the force of an iceberg over the entire structure and into the seabed, should one ever get close.
Hibernia's owners take no chances. Radio operators plot and monitor all icebergs within 27 miles. Any that come close are ‘lassoed’ and towed away from the platform by powerful supply ships. Smaller ones are simply diverted using the ship's high-pressure water cannons or with propeller wash. As rugged and as strong as this platform is, and as prepared as it is for icebergs to strike it, the owners have no intention of allowing an iceberg to even come close.
But the big one will come, and Hibernia is designed accordingly. It is built to withstand a million ton iceberg, with designers claiming it can actually withstand a 6 million ton iceberg with damage that could be repaired.
What's amazing is that a million-ton iceberg is expected only once every 500 years. One as large as 6-million-tons comes around once every 10,000 years.
That's what I call preparation and vigilance.
J. Richard Love, Rushton, Louisiana; source: Robert Kiener, "Marvel of the North Atlantic," Reader's Digest (December 1998)
Application: Remember that a lasting work requires extensive preparation. As God prepares you to serve Him, will you remain faithful?
· The path of external opposition presents dangerous icebergs that seek to bring us to the bottom of the Sea of Uselessness. Circumventing the preparation of God here removes the opportunity to build character and perseverance needed for the future. How will you face rejection from those that don’t know all the details but have decided against you anyway? What about those who love and esteem the world rather than Christ? Will you be swayed by them or will you stand firm and allow God to prepare you? What about the internal struggle against the flesh? How do we do the things we should and not do the things we shouldn’t? Only through the power of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
· What about when you are asked to serve in obscurity? What about the times of preparation that don’t seem so glorious? What about the struggle with jobs we feel are beneath us? Do you see the preparation of God in times like these? What about when God asks you to move from the security of obscurity? When He thrusts you into the light of His presence and asks for boldness as you reach out to the lost or lead the people of God under your influence? Are we ready to answer the call?
· No one can really know God if they will not obey God. Is there anything that God has revealed to you in His Word that you refuse to do? Anything among the treasures of this world you refuse to give up? God prepares us by sifting us. He wants our loyalty. He wants our obedience. Half-hearted compliance will leave us in the wilderness still seeking to learn what we should have by now.
Transition: God not only prepares but fully convinces people to do His will because this the wholly satisfying way of the believer. We have the preparation of people God uses and also…
The Persuasion of People God Uses
Explanation: How does God move Moses to lead and the children of Israel to respond? For Moses, the answer lies in the manifestation of God’s power and presence in and through him as a leader for God. For the children of Israel, the answer is found in Exodus 4:31 (NKJV) 31So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.
Realize here that the people believed when they heard that the LORD had visited them and that He had looked on their affliction. It is then that they respond with bowed heads and worship. Also, recall Exodus 3:7 (NKJV) 7And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.
Moses was built to lead and the children of Israel to respond. But it was God leading them through the instrument of Moses. They would learn this. When they rejected the leadership of Moses in the wilderness, remember that they were rejecting God not him.
Moses REALLY needed to be persuaded. God graciously tolerated Moses’ initial unwillingness to go and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He continued to assure Moses and convince him to do right! God never gave up on Moses; He will never give up on you!
It is important that we know the same three realities that the children of Israel knew about God’s persuasive work in our lives:
1. God sees.
2. God hears.
3. God knows.
Application: We are God’s - bought with the precious blood of His Son. He looks down upon us this evening and claims us as His people. Does God care for you? Do you ever wonder about that? Exodus shows us in a dramatic way that God knows exactly what you are going through! He knows what is happening to you every moment of every day. He sees the suffering. He cares and will respond to our prayer for help and deliverance.
God is compassionate and this fully persuades me. He is concerned and this fully persuades me. He is personally involved in my life and this fully persuades me!
We have a relationship with God. Think about that! He knows us. He calls us by name. Not one hair falls from our heads without Him taking notice!
Isaiah 43:1-3 (NKJV)
1But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, …“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. 3For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
God has never met me or you at a burning bush. He has not spoken to us in an audible voice. But He uses the preaching of His powerful Word to persuade us, to compel us.
If you’re not a believer here this evening, know that God sees, hears, and knows you. He IS. He IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the children of Israel, you and me. He is a living God with a desire to save you from sin.
· Jesus came to redeem you. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
· Saving repentance requires no work of man. It is simply turning from every work that we ever thought would accomplish or salvation and looking to the only work that matters to God: the finished work of Jesus Christ.
· Salvation is by grace through faith. It is not something you can do. It is by grace through faith. It is a gift of God not of works.
· God is! Whether you acknowledge Him or not; you cannot change the reality of the great I Am.
· Jesus claimed the title of the great I AM WHO I AM because Jesus is God:
o “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6.35-48, 51) - there is no other sustenance for eternity!
o “I Am the Light of the World” (John 8.12) - there is only darkness without Him!
o “I Am the Door” (John 10.7) - no other access to Heaven exists!
o “I Am the Good Shepherd” (John 10.11) - only He can safely lead us through the valley!
o “I Am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11.25) - He is risen! makes our resurrection a reality!
o “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14.6) - there is none other!
o “I Am the True Vine” (John 15.1) - every other vine is false!
· Come to Christ this evening. Find in Him a refuge from sin. You may understand that He is, but do you understand that He is for you?
If you’re a believer , know that God sees, hears, and knows you. He IS.
· God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deut 4.24).
· God is a merciful God, He will not forsake you (Deut 4.31).
· God is the faithful God who keep covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deut 7.9).
· God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome (Deut 10.17).
· God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deut 13.3).
· God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you (Deut 20.4).
· God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut 33.27).
God is with us. He will not forsake us. This ought to fully persuade us!
Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV)
38For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Conclusion: God prepares and God persuades. There is great comfort or great chastening when one is aware of this. Let us cross over to the other side and take the land God has prepared for us. Let us work and prepare and let us be fully convinced that God will fight for us!
Hymn - 389 I Am Resolved