MOSES 40-40 Recording:
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 11, 2020
Text – Exodus 3:4
“God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses,” and he said “Here am I.”
There are events in the lives of all of us that come unannounced and unheralded, and often pass unnoticed but, when we look back on them, we realize that these events were the turning points in our lives.
Moses had been born to slave parents who were of a persecuted minority in Egypt.
Miraculously, he had escaped death as a baby. Hidden in the bulrushes at the river’s edge by his family, he had, nevertheless, been discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him. As a result of this, he was raised in the Palace of Pharaoh and was treated as one of the princes of Egypt.
As Moses grew older, however, he became aware of his Hebrew origins, and the sufferings of his people weighed heavily on his conscience. One day he observed their plight first-hand and intervened, killing an Egyptian in the process. Far from being accepted by the Hebrews as a hero and potential savior, he discovered to his dismay that he was resented and hated. In trying to keep a foot in the two worlds, he lost the favor of both, and was forced to flee to the wilderness for fear of his very life.
Who would have ever thought that this man, now so eminently qualified on a human level, would so quickly be reduced to poverty and hardship? Here was a man, trained to rule a nation, yet was soon forced to content himself with keeping his father-in-law’s sheep.
Little did Moses guess that this part of his life was really the most important. His first forty years had seen the efforts of man to train him for leadership. The second forty years saw the efforts of God to prepare him for God’s service.
So it was, on that memorable day in the life of Moses – a day that started like any other day in the arduous life of a shepherd. The hot sun rose as a ball of fire over the vast expanse of desert sand. The sheep were browsing, as usual, on the minimal grass patches, or lay lazily in what shade they could find. Nothing gave evidence of the fact that this was to be Moses’ day of destiny. Then, all of a sudden, a nearby bush “appeared unto him to be in a flame of fire…but the bush was not consumed.” And, from the heart of the fire came the voice of God breaking the silence of the desert, “Moses, Moses,” and Moses replied “Here am I.
God’s call came to Moses in a most unusual way, most unexpectedly, while in the line of duty tending the sheep – and the call came from a most unexpected way. Who would ever expect to learn the will of God from a burning bush? Moses had been passing this same spot for forty years. He had seen that same bush a hundred times. But, this time was different.
That in itself tells us something about God. Seldom does God speak to any of us in the same way. While faithful in His commitments to help us if we seek His aid, He is most unpredictable in the way He brings things to pass. Never does He force Himself upon us. How reassuring it is to know that He is ever present, ever near, and still the same powerful God as in the past. “I am the God of thy Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
Think how often you and I start out as Moses did, in some well-intentioned escapade; we put our hands to the plough and go forth in our own strength to do work that needs to be done, and perhaps even ask God’s help in undertaking this task. But, when the going gets tough, we give up in despair and flee to the desert ~ to pout and feel sorry for ourselves. I know that I am guilty of this to a certain extent. We must understand however, that in the desert of life, the lessons of waiting on the Lord can be learned; and in God’s time, that call will come; and, in faith, we must believe this to be true. When the opportunity comes to redeem ourselves, we dare not fall back or hesitate to continue to try for fear that we will fail again. Such was the case with Moses.
Moses had four basic excuses as to why he did not want to heed God’s call. 1) His first excuse was quick in coming; “Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” This was far more than mere humility. It was an honest appraisal of his own inadequacies to do the job that God was calling him to do; but surely it is God’s business to choose His servants and, when we are persuaded that we are in the line of His purpose, we have no right to question the wisdom of His call. To do so is to doubt His wisdom and His power. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and on earth,” and it is He who commands us to go forth into all the world.
2) Moses had a second excuse ready and waiting on the tip of his tongue. “When the people ask me by whose authority I come and what is His name, what can I say?” And God answered, “Tell them I am – That, I am hath sent you.” The Egyptians worshipped many gods, just as we do today. We may have different names for our gods, and they may take on different shapes, but, they are true symbols of our adoration. Some of us worship money, others crave for power, some focus on popularity or prestige, or position. The God who calls us to His service, however, is Jehovah God – the unchangeable, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing one – the one known to the ancient Hebrews as I am – That – I am, and in the New Testament, we find Jesus giving a face to these words and going beyond them with His life, declaring, “I am the true light. I am the bread of life, I am the Good Shepherd.”
3) Moses also had a third excuse to fall back on in case the first two fell through. “The people will not believe me, nor harken unto my voice.” Once again, God met that excuse by graciously showing him miracles that could be produced with his rod which he might perform in Egypt. It was just a lowly shepherd’s crook, but Jewish history is filled with the exciting incidents that occurred through its miraculous use: 1) the Red Sea parted, 2) water came forth from a desert rock, 3) victory was won over the hosts of Amalek. When God calls us for service, we can be sure that He will give us the tools to do the job. We can also be sure that a rod with God behind it is mightier than the greatest army on earth.
4) Moses’ final excuse was one that is most commonly and most often used today. “Lord, I am not eloquent…I am slow of speech and have a slow tongue.” Surely this was no obstacle to the One who gave him his tongue and his life. God was able to do the impossible, but only if Moses was willing to trust Him. “Go, God told him, “And I will be with thy mouth and teach thee what thou shalt say.” And Moses went, and the rest is history. This message does not talk about the impatient grumbling of the people, it does not deal with the receiving of the ten commandments, or the failure of Moses to be able to enter the promised land. It does not cover the appointment of Joshua to take up the leadership of the people of Moses as he takes them into the land of promise. These are subjects for another sermon.
As we recall the story of Moses’ life, we become aware that his response was a grudging “yes.” God had uniquely prepared him and answered his every excuse. Yet Moses hesitated, and so it was that God agreed upon Moses’ request to send his brother, Aaron with him to be his colleague and spokesman. It would have been much better if Moses had trusted God for speech rather than to have limited his effectiveness by being tied to one less committed to the things of God. Aaron would lead the people of Israel to shape the golden calf and thus become a thorn in the life of his brother, Moses.
And so Moses went forth – but only half-heartedly. At this point he made the mistake of not being permitted to complete his journey by leading Israelites into the Promised Land. That responsibility ultimately fell on the shoulders of Joshua and Moses had to stay behind where he died. This all occurred because Moses became frustrated and impatient with his people. For the second time in these forty years, they needed water and God instructed Moses not to strike the rock with his staff as he did in Rephidim forty years earlier, but instead he was instructed to speak to the rock and it would produce water. Through his frustration, Moses did not follow God’s instructions and instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it with his staff. The water came forth, but Moses had misrepresented God, because he let the people think that God was angry with them, therefore, Moses’ penalty for his disobedience was that he could not enter the Promised Land.
The two episodes with the rock were important to God: in the first episode the rock was smitten like Christ was in His crucifixion and as a result, the people benefitted with living water; the second rock, years later, was not supposed to be smitten because it represented the second coming of Christ. If Moses had done what God had told him, these rock episodes would have modeled the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. Because Moses blew it, he blew the model and was only permitted to observe the people entering the Promised Land from the top of the mountain as he was left out of this historic event.
We could also have a tendency to shrink back from the sacrifice or mission to which God calls us. Perhaps because of our own sense of inadequacy or because of our lack of faith, or even because of our fear of not being accepted. We seek every reason for evading God’s will, quite convinced that it will be the undoing of us all, when all the while, those things that God has in store for us are simply great and mighty victories.
Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always.” Because He is with us, even our weakness becomes strength. Because He is with us, our strength is as the strength of thousands.
If we are indeed led by the Spirit of God, as the words of St. Paul assure us: “We are the children of God,” then we can dare anything, we can overcome anything and we can achieve anything through the power of Almighty God who will always be there to sustain us.
Offered by: Bobby Swineford
October 11, 2020