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Br Rd Elders Dedic 3 Oct 04 Pm

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Dedication of Elders

Moses – Dialogue with God

This evening we are breaking away from our series in the signs of John’s Gospel and considering an example of Old Testament Ministry and leadership style.  As styles go there is none quite like it – Moses.

Our problem is obvious – how to distil the long and impressive ministry of Moses into a few points for a Sunday evening.

I want to suggest to you that all service of the Lord – like that of Moses – involves a dialogue, a conversation with God.  In fact if you wish you can trace all the events in the great man’s life to conversations he had with God.

I want to focus on three aspects of his ministry:

v    The Bush           How God called Moses to the task

v    The Bridge         The kind of task that Moses was given

and

v    The Burial          How much it cost Moses to serve God

These aspects of his leadership will give us pointers that are appropriate to the elders we have appointed tonight – so in a sense I am delivering a charge to these three men; advice for us a Church in seeking the man of His choosing for ministry, and for ourselves as followers of Jesus – of whom a life of service is expected – not as an optional extra – but as a natural consequence of His having bought us at such a great price.

I have been reading  “After Eating the Apricot” a series of OT biographies by John Goldingay – he beautifully summarises Moses’ life like this:

Forty years learning to be somebody; forty years learning to be nobody; and forty years showing what God can do with somebody who has learned to be a nobody.”[1]

Here then are some of the conversations in the life of Moses the man of God:

A.  The Bush  How  God called Moses       Exodus 3

It is absolutely true for Moses as for other men of God – that God was at work with Moses before he was born – and certainly for all the days afterward.

His birth was overseen by God, his upbringing in the Egyptian court intended by God, and his outburst and murder of an Egyptian used by God to prepare him in the wilderness of Midian – not far from the mountain where God would speak to him so uniquely.

In the course of a run-down, nothing special sort of occupation as shepherd in the backside of the desert God attracted Moses attention with a burning bush.

That first interruption marks out the rules for any ministry of the Lord.

1.                God, as always, takes the initiative

You do not walk into Christian service – and certainly not the Lord’s service by way of an application, or a CV or an interview – although in fact the events at The Bush are a sort of interview.   God steps into view – an ordinary desert bush burns – but is curiously not consumed.  So Moses’ attention has been caught and God will speak to him about a certain job that He has for him.

It is worth noting that God often called to His service those who were engaged in their ordinary duties.

What makes it different is that God who has taken the initiative – lays down the rules Himself.

3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

I’m sure there were times when Moses regretted ever having seen that bush!  But in truth the great adventure of service – as distinct from being one of God’s people and largely unemployed – began there.

2.                God requires respect as well as a willingness to listen.

That’s an important lesson for all church-goers, for all worshippers, for everyone who ever hopes to hear God speak personally.

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Moses’ first words “HERE I AM”  are like a universal pattern for responding servants.

The words must be accompanied by actions of humility and worship.

They are rewarded with an INTRODUCTION that is full of God’s personal ways with His own people.

“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

3.                God sets out THE BACKGROUND TO MOSES’ CALL

7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey

I HAVE SEEN, I HAVE HEARD, I AM CONCERNED, I HAVE COME DOWN…

And the terms of employment…

10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

It is at this point that the conversation really gets going – for Moses casts doubt upon his suitability – to the point of insubordination.

The dialogue continues into the next chapter.  And at each point God reassures Moses of two things :

I AM GOD

YOU ARE TO DO AS I SAY

4.                In the course of this conversation Moses will be reassured and equipped

He must learn that God is …        Holy

                                                Compassionate

                                                Promising

                                                Personal      “I AM…”

                                                Empowering

                                                Insistent

God does not promise Moses an easy ride – but He assures him that He will be with him and provide that power in which God is the supreme specialist.

You don’t have any choice.

State your case – certainly – but recognise that I’m in charge.

2.  The Bridge – What Moses does     e.g. Exodus 17

8 The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. 9 Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”

10 So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

15 Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. 16 He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”

Of course Moses did many many things – and for that reason is remembered as the supreme leader of God’s people.

I choose this one as an example because it extends the idea of CONVERSATION or DIALOGUE to include that most significant of conversations – PRAYER

Moses prays for the people of God on numerous occasions.

He intercedes for them when God is angry with them.

It is his ministry to be A BRIDGE

A living connection between God and God’s people.  A role of course perfectly epitomised in Jesus – but foreshadowed in Moses, and indeed in so many of God’s servants – men and women.

The battle against Amalek is an easier occasion to remember and to learn from.

The components of the piece are:

v    A badge of office                “the rod of God in my hand”

v    A partnership in intercession                Aaron and Hur on either side

v    A partnership with battle             Joshua overcomes the enemy with the sword

Moses’ ministry will always be a combination of PRAYER and PROPHECY

He will intercede for the people – he will also judge their cases – and tell them what God requires.

In this story we see that ministry which was often lonely – a SHARED MINISTRY

In hand                     the rod

On either hand           the supporters

On the battlefield                Joshua

If you would serve the Lord then make sure you have a grasp on the ROD that marks you out as HIS SERVANT

If you would serve the Lord – engage in prayer for His people – and be seen to be a supporter of others in that ministry and enjoy the support of others. You need them.

If you would be His servant – watch the BATTLEFIELD CAREFULLY  for those who intercede make a difference on the field.

It is worth adding one further crucial narrative to this part of our thoughts this evening – his third great prayer

Exodus 33 12 >>

12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live.”

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

One of the marks of Moses greatness is his desire to KNOW GOD FACE TO FACE

In a discussion like that Abraham had before Sodom – God is persuaded to allow Moses a limited view of His passing by.

Moses pushes at the limits of privilege – never presumptuous – but always asking for more of God.   What an example.

3.            Burial – The cost of Moses’ service     Numbers 20

When Moses led the people out of Egypt you see him placed between Israel and God.

To Israel he says “Stand still and see…” and God says to him “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to advance!”   (Exod 14:11-15)

Moses was always to be IN BETWEEN – and that made very real demands on him.

Demands he did not always meet.

As we saw in the case of Elijah in a recent Bible study – God has others in His plan of service.

Moses will ONLY SEE THE LAND OF CANAAN he will NOT ENTER IT.

20 In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.

2 Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. 3 They quarrelled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! 4 Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!”

6 Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell face down, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 The Lord said to Moses, 8 “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so that they and their livestock can drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”

13 These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord and where he showed himself holy among them.

Of those to whom much is committed – of them, much is expected.

It seems a small disobedience to us no doubt that could cost Moses the entrance to the land of promise!

Such an absolute standard!!

So in the end (literally) Moses is measured by his life when that life passes.

He is called up Mount Nebo to meet his Maker.

Listen to his words to Israel:   Deut 1 37~

37 Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.

Perhaps the greatest mark of all in the life of this man of God is his willingess in the face of a crushing personal disappointment to be able to ENCOURAGE THE NEXT GENERATION.

These then are some of the marks of leadership

In respect of call

In respect of duty

In respect of cost

Are you up to the task?


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[1] Ibid p 158

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