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Exodus 3-4: The Lord and His Servants Print E-mail
Exodus
Sunday, 12 July 2009

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God is the One who delivers Israel from their slavery in Egypt.  We saw last week (see 2:23-25) that He had heard their cry and knew what was going on.  Moses seemingly tried to set at least one Israelite free and that did not go very well (see 2:11-15).  By the end of chapter 2, we are prepared for God to act.  Israel has groaned under their oppression and God is going to deliver His people.  Yet, how exactly is He going to do this?  Chapters 3 and 4 begin to answer this question in a way (if we were not so familiar with the story) we would not expect.

Chapter 3 begins with Moses in Midian tending to the flock of his father-in-law.  While he is doing this, the Lord somewhat unexpectantly appears to him in a burning bush.  Moses is not looking for the Lord or seeking the Lord, no, the Lord comes to Him.  As Moses draws closer to see this great sight, the Lord tells him: Do not come near, take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground (v. 5).  The Lord then identifies Himself: I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  After Moses hides his face in fear, the Lord goes on to tell him that He is aware of Israel’s suffering in Egypt.  He tells Moses that He is going to deliver them and bring them to the land of Canaan.  Sounds like a great plan. 

Yet, listen to what He tells Moses in verse 10: Come, I will send you to Pharaoh they you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.  Wait a minute, I thought the Lord was going to deliver His people, so why does He say that Moses will bring them out of Egypt?  The truth of the matter is that God is going to use means, His servant Moses, to accomplish His end, the deliverance of the people.

We see God using means to accomplish His plans over and over again in the Bible.  As we consider the calling and commissioning of Moses this morning, I want to identify some parallels for us and our mission.  Of course, we are not Moses and we are not called to go to Egypt to set the Israelites free, but the same God that commissioned Moses has commissioned us through His Son. 

What I want to focus on this morning is the places where his mission and our mission are parallel.  To begin with, just as the Lord used means to accomplish His plan of delivering Israel, so does He also use means to deliver His people today.  In the passage from Romans 10 that we read to open our service, Paul states God’s plan in verses 11-13.  Look at those with me.  Then he goes on in verses 14-17 to state how this plan will be carried out.  God will use the means of His people preaching the gospel to save those who call on His name.  Thus, there is a parallel between our mission of preaching the gospel to any and all and the mission of Moses.  Just as the Lord used His servant Moses to deliver a message, so He uses His people today.

What other parallels can we see from the call of Moses?  Let me identify three more.

The Lord encourages His servants with Himself.

After the Lord tells Moses what He wants him to do, Moses responds with doubt.  Look at 3:12 with me.  Moses will question the Lord no less than five times in these two chapters.  Needless to say, he is not all that confident in himself.  His first question is simple: who am I?  ‘Surely you can find someone more deserving than me.  There is no way that I can pull this off,’ Moses is saying.  In one sense, Moses is just being honest at this point.  There is no way that he can pull this off by himself.  The Lord does not contradict this by feeding Moses’ self-esteem.  No, look at His response in verse 12.  The Lord knows that Moses cannot do this by himself and He has no intention of sending him alone.  No, the Lord says to Moses: ‘I will be with you, I will do the work, I will make up for your shortcomings.  Look to me and not yourself.’ 

The next question that Moses asks is essentially: ‘What is your name?’  He fears that he will come to the people and they will doubt if he has actually heard from the true God.  Thus, they will ask for God’s name.  The Lord responds in verses 14-15.  Look at those with me.  The Lord’s answer has been discussed and debated to no end.  Yet, wherever you come down on all the questions, some things are fairly obvious from the text.  First, the Lord does not hide Himself from Moses.  He says to him: ‘You tell them that I AM has sent you, the LORD, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’  Second, it seems that these identifiers would be recognizable to the people.  They knew Yahweh.  They knew the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God is not hiding from Moses or from His people.  He is known and He is making Himself known.  The Lord encourages His servant with Himself.

When the Lord Jesus gives us the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, we may well respond like Moses: ‘Lord there is no way that we can do this, no way that we can pull this off.’  Yet, He reminds us: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  He has the power and the authority to accomplish this mission.  And lest we think we must go it alone, He closes with these words: And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  He promises His presence.  And we experience this through the gift of the Spirit (John 14:16-17).  The Lord is with us.  We can take our eyes off of ourselves and look to Him as we labor to serve Him faithfully.

The Lord reassures His servants with His sovereignty.

As we just saw in the Great Commission, the Lord reminds Moses that He is in complete control of the situation.  Moses is to go to the elders of Israel and tell them that the Lord is going to deliver them and give them the land of Canaan.  But what if they don’t listen?  Look at 3:18.  They will listen to your voice.  The Lord already knows their response.  His knowledge is confirmed at the end of chapter 4.  Look at 4:29-31.  The Lord knows what is going to happen and encourages Moses with that truth.  Not only does He know the elders response, but He also knows how Pharaoh will respond.  Look at 3:18b-19.  Pharaoh will not let the people go until he is compelled by a mighty hand.  Thus the Lord says in verse 20: So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.  The Lord is in control of the situation.  He knows what is going to happen.

In fact, the text actually says that the Lord is sovereign even over Pharaoh’s response.  Look at 4:21.  This verse brings up an interesting question for the book of Exodus: who hardens Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh or the Lord?  Well, according to 4:21 it is the Lord who does it.  But there are others places where the text says that Pharaoh hardens his own heart (see 8:15 among others).  So, which is it?  Well, if we are going to let the text stand, then we have to say that both are true.  In other words, God is sovereign even over Pharaoh’s decisions and He hardens his heart.  Yet, Pharaoh is responsible for his actions and God cannot be blamed for his sin.  As we have seen before, even though this does not answer all of our questions about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, this is how the text presents.  Both are true and both are to be believed.  God is sovereign and we are responsible for our actions.

God’s sovereignty over all things should be a great encouragement to us in our mission.  How do we know that people will respond to the gospel?  Why should we send missionaries to every people group on the planet?  Why should we keep preaching the gospel to those who have heard it over and over again?  The answer: we do it because Jesus told us: I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  They will listen.  We don’t know who ‘they’ are, but we know they will listen to His voice.  Thus, we go with confidence, just as Paul stayed in Corinth with confidence in God’s sovereignty (see Acts 18:9-10).  God’s sovereignty is a doctrine that should reassure us in our mission.

The Lord equips His servants with what they need.

Even after these first two responses, Moses is still struggling to believe that the people will listen to him (4:1).  So God gives him three signs to demonstrate to the people that he has heard from God.  They include: his staff turning into a snake and back into a staff, his hand turning leprous and back healthy, and the Nile turning to blood.  The Lord gives him these signs that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you (4:5).  Yet, Moses identifies another reason why he thinks he should not go, namely his inability to speak well.  Boy that sounds like us don’t it?  ‘The Lord is not calling me to speak the gospel because I cannot speak well.’  The Lord answers Moses (and us) in 4:11-12.  Look at those with me. 

Who made our mouths?  Who gives people the ability to speak and communicate well?  The Lord does all of this, so when He calls, we should obey in faith.  Still, Moses is simply not convinced and he makes one final attempt to get out of it by saying: Oh, my Lord, please send someone else (4:13).  Again, sounds a lot like us.  At this point, the Lord is angry with Moses for seemingly his lack of obedient faith.  He tells him that Aaron will go with him and be his voice.  All of the excuses that Moses gives are met faithfully by the Lord, so that in the end, he is without excuse.  Yet, the Lord in fact does meet one final need that Moses is seemingly unaware of, namely the circumcision of his son.  But once again the Lord meets his need and this time through his wife Zipporah.  Over and over again the Lord equips Moses will all that he needs to serve Him.

And of course, the Lord does the same for us.  Just like Moses, we can try and come up with excuse after excuse, but in the end, the Lord equips us with all we need to carry out our mission (see 1 Corinthians 12).  We have what we need as a Church to serve the Lord faithfully.

All of these parallels between God’s dealings with Moses and His dealings with us, leave us with only one question: are we or are we not going to serve Christ faithfully.  The good news of Christ dying on the cross for our sins and being raised again is a message that we are charged to deliver.  We may not be Moses, but we are called to be servants of the Lord.  He encourages us with His presence.  He assures us with His sovereignty.  And He equips us with all we need.  Thus, we are left without excuse.  We may struggle like Moses, but I pray that at the end of the day, we will go forth by God’s grace and in His strength to be faithful servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For His glory!  Amen.

Last Updated ( Monday, 27 July 2009 )

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