Text: Ex 3:1-22
Theme: God uses all servants, even reluctant ones.
Doctrine: Providence of God
Image: servant dragging his feet
Need: encouragement in service
Message: lift up your head, your reward is near.
As the sun was sinking behind the western horizon, the Israelites were returning from their work on one of the many work projects the Egyptians were forcing them to build. Crawling into their various tents many of the people were asleep before their heads hit their pillows. For some reason, Seth was having difficulty sleeping this night. Wrapping his cloak closer around him he tried to fight off the chill which was beginning to sink into his bones. He gave up trying to sleep and sat up in his cot. It was miserable working out on the desert. He looked around the tent and spotted Caleb. He sauntered over to him. Caleb was an old man now, and Seth loved to here the old stories Caleb's father used to tell him. Seth asks Caleb, “Will you tell me another story?”
“Sure”, replies Caleb. “About 80 years ago Pharaoh had all the baby boys thrown into the Nile. Well, all the boys died those years, except one. He was placed in a basket on the water where Pharaoh's daughter found him and named him Moses. She raised him in Pharaoh's own household. Imagine that,” chuckled Caleb. “One of the children Pharaoh is trying to kill is playing with his grand-kids. Well, when Moses was older he saw a guard mistreating one of the slaves and he was extremely upset. You know what he did? He killed that guard. That story spread like wildfire through the camps. Moses was forced to flee for his life. Where he is now, no one knows. Everybody hoped that he would come back and release us from Pharaoh, but its been forty years since he fled.”
“Do you think there is still hope?” asked Seth.
“Anything is possible with God,” replied Caleb.
Page 1: Moses is reluctant to do God's work.
After Moses fled, he joined the family of Jethro. While tending the flocks one day, Moses decided to head out to the backside of the desert. It took him almost three days to cross the desert to the mountains with his herd, and he was very happy when he got to some grazing land. As the sun began to sink behind the mountains it turned the land a deep shade of purple. Moses went out to check on the flock before turning in the for night. He set out from the foot of the cliff where he had made his camp. As he was walking along he noticed a bush that appeared to be burning in the distance, but it was not burning up.
“I gotta see this,” says Moses. “Why doesn't the bush burn?” He turned aside from his flock and as he began to approach the bush, a voice says, “Moses, Moses.” “Here I am.”, Moses answers. “Take off you sandals,” said the voice from the bush. “For you are on holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Quickly, Moses ripped off his sandals, threw them on the ground, and covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. God said to him, “I have seen the affliction of my people. I have heard their cries, and I know their suffering. So, I have come down to rescue them, to release them from their slavery, and to bring them out of the land of Egypt to another land, a land good for livestock and crops. I am sending you back and to draw them out for me.”
Moses did not think this was a good idea. He barely got out of there the first time, why should he go back? He was enjoying his freedom. He had to think fast to come up with an excuse. “Who am I, that I should go?” argued Moses.
“Don't worry, I will be with you,” replied God.
“OK, but in case the Israelites should ask. Just who are you, exactly?” counters Moses.
“I AM who I AM. Tell them, 'I AM has sent me to you.' Tell them that Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has sent me to you. The elders will listen to you, and you will go to Pharaoh.
“But what if the elders do not believe me?” questions Moses. He tests God's word. God had just said they would believe him, but Moses wants some kind of a sign. God gives him three signs which provide enough proof so Moses moves on to another objection. “But I am not eloquent, I don't speak well in front of crowds.”
“Who do you think made you mouth?” God replies. “I will be with you and teach you what to say.”
Now, Moses is out of objections. He simply says, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” He simply does not want to go, and makes that abundantly clear. This made God angry.
“Fine,” said God. “I will send your brother Aaron along with you. I will help both of you speak, and I will teach you what to do. Take this staff, with which you will do the signs.”
Moses was not willing to do what God had called him to do. He continually refused God's call, and that made God very angry. God was angry with Moses for being reluctant to do his work.
Page 2: We are reluctant to do God's work.
God is angry with all his people who are reluctant to do his work. We have been given the most blessed gift in the world, and we tend to keep it to ourselves. We love the grace that has been extended to us, but we are often content to enjoy our freedom while ignoring the call to help others still trapped in slavery to sin. God calls us to serve one another; to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. Yet we would rather join the local soft ball team than serve as a deacon We would rather spend a bit more time at work than serve as an elder. There is nothing wrong with serving God in the world, but his church should be looked after first. God cares for the lost and hurting, the lonely and the sad, and he often does this through the church community, through the servants that his body has chosen as its leaders.
Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations, yet many of us rest on our laurels and let others do it. We would rather give a bit more money in the offering plate for World Missions than witness to our neighbours, whom we have known all our lives. There are people who are trapped in a life that has no meaning, no depth, no truth.
Sara, a young woman from Iran is a perfect example of this. She grew up in a Muslim home and one day she asked her mother if she could learn the Muslim prayers. She was searching for answers to her need for God, and thought that she could find it in Allah. She explains her situation in The Voice of the Martyrs.
“I would lay out my white prayer cloth on the floor then place another cloth on top, then lay a handkerchief with a stone, a tablet of compressed dirt from Mecca. We have to put our nose on the stone. After I would finish praying, I would pick up this stone and the white, decorated material, and right underneath it would be money. I thought that the god I was praying to had put the money there, but I didn't want the money, I wanted the Truth. In high school I was a Baseige (bah SEE gee) for three years, part of an elite Islamic group. When I prayed in school, the girls would all look to me to lead them. Everybody had to pray. ... Then we hit ourselves. Because I had the microphone in one hand, I would hit myself harder than anyone else, and I would bleed. In school I was taught that whoever would fast the longest would have a more secure place in heaven. I once fasted for such a long time that I ended up in the hospital.”
Thankfully, none of us here are in the same position as people who are born into a Muslim family and raised in Islam. Many of us are part of God's chosen people who have been freed from the slavery of sin and death. Others here are searching for the freedom they hope exists, the kind of freedom to be the type of person they want to be. Holy, Just, Righteous, Loving, Kind. Those of us who have accepted Christ have been freed from the tyranny of sin. Just like Moses we have been blessed with freedom and abundance. Yet, all too often we ignore God's call to help those still trapped in sin. We pass by the neighbour on the street who we know is not a Christian without every witnessing to her. We ignore the local bar full of people on Saturday evening who are looking for acceptance and companionship. We offer excuses to God like, “Well I don't know anyone there.” Or, “I don't want to alienate them by witnessing to them.” Or, “I'm sure they have heard the gospel story.” Or, “I don't want to be inconvenienced, I'll just let someone else do it.” Or, “I am too busy with work and family, I'll give a bit more to the church instead.” This is unacceptable behaviour.
Last Sunday was pentecost Sunday, the day that we celebrated the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all God's people. The power that allowed Peter to stand up and deliver a sermon that added three thousand people to the church is still with us today. We do not have to hope for that kind of power, it is still here, among us. We must remember that God was not content to leave us in our sinful condition, that he came down to set us free from our slavery to the devil. The Almighty Lord and creator of the universe emptied himself and became human, a baby. God has blessed his people to be a light to the nations and to call all people to him. He has poured out his Spirit upon us, so that we can be his witnesses in Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. He has blessed us with freedom from slavery to sin, not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of others.
Our freedom comes with a call. God has called us to serve his body, his people, his church. We celebrate the willingness of these church officers to serve this part of Christ's body. I am sure many of us had some reservations about serving, I sure did.
(some of my reservations?)
Page 3: God uses Moses to be his instrument anyway.
God blessed Moses with freedom not only for his own sake, but also for the sake of the other Israelites. God remembered his covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God saw their affliction, he heard their cries, he knew their suffering, and he came down to save them. He needed someone to do his work and he equipped Moses to do it for him. Every single one of Moses's objections were answered by God. He patiently solved all of Moses's dilemma's and gave him what he would need for the work.
How many of us would have continued to answer all of Moses's excuses. This was probably the most excuses he had ever had to give. Maybe that's why he finally simply said he did not want to go. Notice that this is what made God angry. If there was something else which would have equipped Moses better, no doubt God would have done it. God waited and listened to Moses's complaints and provided answers. All he had to do was ask and God would have given him what he needed. Even though Moses was reluctant to be God's servant, God used him for a great task.
God had a plan for Moses which was crucial to the plan of salvation. God knew what he was doing, even though Moses was not too sure. We know what happened as a result of Moses's reluctant obedience. The Israelites were set free from captivity under Pharaoh in order to serve God. God gave Moses one of the most important jobs in history. He is mentioned 847 times throughout the entire Bible. Through his work God gave the Law to the people, and eventually sent his son to the earth through the people Moses helped lead up from Egypt. God used Moses to do great things, even though he was a reluctant servant.
Page 4: God uses us to be his instrument anyway.
God uses us to do great things, even though we may be reluctant servants. He has given us the greatest gift imaginable, new life. He saved us from our bondage to sin. He freed us from the tyranny of our desires to be his sons. We who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our saviour can say with the apostle Paul that we “are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” We are heirs to the promise given to Abraham. Yahweh is our God, and we are his people. He blesses us to be a blessing to others. Sara, the young woman in Iran realised this. She explains,
“When I was about to enter university, one of my sisters came back from college to our small town and brought a movie with her. It was about the life of Christ. I went to a room of our house and sat on the carpet where we all watch TV. I put the movie in and watched how Jesus loved people. I began to cry. At the end of the film, there is the prayer of repentance. I prayed it six times. I rewound the tape to the prayer, backwards, forwards, backwards and forwards. I don't think I realised what repentance meant, but I wanted to be near God. ... [W]ithin six weeks of seeing the film, I started sharing on the bus. ... On the bus in the morning on the way to work and in the evening on my way home, I would witness to two or three people. In the middle of the bus is a big, long rail dividing the men from the women. I would be on one side witnessing to a woman, but the men across the rail would be listening. ... I realised I've been freed of so many things, and these people are in the same sort of prison that I was in. Therefore, I must tell them what released me.”
God has blessed Sara with freedom from bondage, just as he blesses all who call on him. He blessed her and she has been a blessing to many others. God used her to set others free from bondage, just as he used Moses to free the Israelites. God uses us in the same way. He uses the Gems and Cadet programs here to reach to many children of the community. He uses this church to support missions around the world. He leads the CRC to erect signposts of the kingdom through disaster relief and missions work, and other agencies.
A friend of mine told me of a time he went to Mexico. He got into a cab and noticed a Bible on the dashboard. He asked the driver, “Are you a Christian?” “Yes,” responded the driver. “I have been a Christian now for five years.” “How did you hear about Jesus?” wondered my friend. “Well”, he said, “I was listening to the radio and I came across a program called 'The Back to God Hour'. It was this program which led me to Jesus.” My friend was amazed and was able to share more fully in the joy of this convert because he had helped support that ministry through his church. This is just one example of how our denomination is touching the hearts of the lost al over the world. God is using us to further his work, even though we may be reluctant to get started. He helps us bless others, and build up his kingdom.
Let us pray.
Almighty, holy God. We thank you for the free gift of salvation which you have given us. We thank-you for the blessed gift of new life you have given us through the death of your Son on the cross. We thank-you for the gift of your Holy Spirit, which enables us to be a blessing to others. Help us to be less reluctant to follow your call to make disciples of all nations, and to serve your body. Help us to listen to your call and to act on it. Amen.