Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Moses: God has a big plan

March 1st, 2009 by Vic

Exodus 1-6

God’s people were slaves in Egypt over 400 years.  Where was God all that time?  In all our lives there are times when God seems absent.  But it is part of our story.  Feeling abandoned by God is not unusual, preventable, nor a sign of judgment on the way we are living.  The experience of absence doesn’t fit our expectations for a child of God, but sometimes God seems absent even though Jesus promised to be with us always.

Belief in God does not inoculate us from feelings of abandonment by God.  Praising God does not inoculate us from doubts about God.  Meditating on God’s word is not a magic cure all.

Psalm 22:1-2 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  The experience of the absence of God is integral to our story of salvation.  Ps 10:1; 13:1; 69:3; 88:14; 119:123.

The Biblical writers neither liked nor understood the feelings of abandonment.  But it kept them attentive to the mystery of God whose ways are past finding out.  Our Western culture tries to figure out the mystery of God mystery.  Christians have trouble with the mystery of God’s silence.  So we plant spiritual backyard promise gardens with promise boxes or positive choruses.  When God seems absent, rather than wrestle with the saints of old and revel in the mystery we go to the garden we have planted and find something to satisfy our spiritual sweet tooth for the moment so we feel better.  All the time God is present and doing something new in our lives.

The life of Moses demonstrates the continual presence of God.  In a new way God reveals Himself as a verb, “I AM THAT I AM”.  God becomes present to Moses in a flaming bush while he is tending sheep in the wilderness.  God is always with us so why do we sometimes feel forsaken?  Why do we at other times experience a burning bush?  I don’t know.

God wants to be understood, but not defined.  This revelation of God as The I AM THAT I AM was shortened to a verbal noun of 4 letters, YHWH, pronounced Yahweh.  This term is used 6,700 times in the OT.  God becomes present and personal to Moses and remains that way with us.

The earlier names of God are all nouns.  Elohim is the common word for God (2,500).  Elohey Avoth is God of our Fathers.  El Shaddai is God Almighty.  El Elyon is God the Most High.  Elohey Tsvaoth is God of Hosts.  Now God says I AM THAT I AM actively present with you.

300 miles west of the flaming bush was the Egyptian Empire.  It had been powerful for over 1,000 years.  The Pyramids we see in pictures were already hundreds of years old when Moses was born.  Egypt dominated the Middle Eastern world, but it was a dominion of death.  The pyramids were tombs.  They were very elaborate tombs.  They were engineering wonders of the world but the Bible story does not mention them.

The Pharaoh claimed to be in control of all the gods and goddesses.  He promised immortality and an afterlife by using the engineers and embalmers.  But throughout the biblical story, Egypt is synonymous with death.

The splendor, breathtaking architecture, dazzling art, and abundance of gold seemed to confirm that Pharaoh was god.  There were no other options.  It is the way things had been at least for 1,000 years.

The Israelites were in the middle of an obviously hopeless situation.  They were slaves.  They were immigrants who never fit into the Egyptian culture.  They were on the losing side.  The Egyptians and their gods were against the children of Israel.  How can the Israelites believe in the God of their Fathers when He seems to be doing nothing?

This dominant Egyptian worldview was the only reality they knew.  They did not hear about the God of their fathers on Christian radio.  They did not travel much.  They could not imagine any world beyond the one they were in.  So if by some miracle they became free, they would create a nation just like Egypt except they would be the oppressors instead of the oppressed.  Even if God set them free they only knew how to act like slaves.  They only knew how to worship multiple gods.  The great I AM God had to do a new thing.  God had to create something new.

So how did God rip off the veneer of all this power and majesty and beauty and success and expose it as empty and evil?  How could God expose Pharaoh as a phony?  Who would ever believe that the Egyptian gods were powerless?  The power of the Empire was built on the gods.  How could the real God change everyone’s assumptions about the hierarchy of gods in this powerful empire?  How could God keep His children from reproducing a little Egypt in the Promised Land?  For them this is life.  To succeed would be to have power.  They knew of no other way to do government or practice religion.  This is what works.  This is the way to enjoy life.  The gods and building projects dominated the imaginations of their hearts.  How was God going to cleanse their imaginations?  What must happen for a major paradigm shift?

What about us?  Have we been squeezed into a culture of death?  Do we value the achievements of man?  Do we value the things plated with gold?  If we are blind and naked and don’t know it, how will God change us?  How will He get us to see that reality is the Kingdom of God?  If all the truth we have is the wisdom of this world, what is God doing to help us see reality?  Are we starting to see 10 plagues?  What about our church paradigm?

We don’t even know Pharaoh’s name, but we remember Shiphrah and Puah, 2 midwives from the lowest social and economic strata of that society.  When the world’s most powerful king orders them to kill babies, they simply and without fanfare defy him.  They did not form a political lobby.  They did not collect petitions.  They did not organize a protest.  They simply did what was right.  Aaron and Moses were born and kept alive because 2 ladies defied the powerful empire of death.

God has a big plan and he uses the weak to confound the wise.  The unnatural family growth is because of God building a nation.  Did they realize it?  Did they notice that God was fulfilling His promise?  The focus of the Exodus story is God.  Salvation is a God story.  God is doing what we cannot do for ourselves.  He does not consult us about timing.  God’s work will be done in God’s way.

Every Christian has a ministry.  Real joy and fulfillment comes by participating in what God is doing.  How can I be part of God’s plan?  Look around and see.  The glory of the Lord is filling the earth.  As you have opportunity, do good.

1. God protects you to be a protection of someone else.

a. The courage of the midwives to defy Pharaoh.

b. The courage of the parents to go against the flow.  Teach your children to be lights in a dark world.  Teach your kids about sin.  Homosexuality is sin.  Going along with the crowd can be sin.  Tolerance is not always a virtue.

c. The compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter.  The Nile River was the highest god of the Egyptians.  Moses was not given to the god, but pulled out.  She should have thrown the baby in the water.  Instead she adopts him as her son.  (2:10)  The word for basket is that same word used for Noah’s boat that saved his family.

d. The calling for the nurse.  Jocobed was an unemployed slave.  Now she’s getting paid to be a mother.  The Lord is good at turning things around.  The princess probably assumed that Miriam was hanging around watching her regal routines.

2. God’s Preparation of Moses

When Moses was 40 years old, he felt it was time to take charge.  He was ready to lead.  He was probably trained in the martial arts, astronomy, hydroponics, warfare, religion, science, engineering, language arts, etc.  He would have had the equivalent of at least 8 PhD degrees.  He knew his mother was praying for him to deliver his people from slavery.

2:11 Moses was not ignorant of his ancestry.

2:12-13  The word used for ‘strike’ suggests that Moses did not intend to kill the Egyptian.  He looked this way and that way and took matters in his own hands.  Be sure your sin will find you out.  Sin does not stay buried.

Acts 7:20-29  He thought the slaves would recognize him as a deliverer.  He thought it was his time to lead.  But in God’s kingdom, when you think you are ready to lead, you probably aren’t.  When you think you are not qualified, you probably are now ready.  God uses the weak and foolish.  It is not the skill that God is looking for, but the attitude of the heart.  Does God need our help to build this church?  No, but he wants us to trust Him and see Him present.

Heb 11:24-28  Moses refused to be an Egyptian.  Did he flee because he feared the Pharaoh or did he fear what Egypt was doing to him?  Did he fear getting sucked into the world’s mold?

Exodus 2:17  Moses helped the daughters of a priest.  What was he thinking?  He was royalty hanging out with shepherds.  He was prepared to do all these great things, but soon felt at home tending sheep.  He was content to be faithful in the small things.  (21)

2:22 Gershom means stranger, “because I have been in a land foreign to me.  Egypt, the place of Moses’ birth has never been his home.  Now in Midian, Moses is at home.  Moses is with a people who worship God and are free to do so.  He is at home because this God is his God.

40 years after arriving in Midian Moses is

3:1-6 surprised by God  (3:6 God of his father, singular, and God of the fathers, plural.)

3:7-10 commissioned by God  (God calls Moses to be His agent of deliverance.)

3:11-4:17 convinced by God (Moses argues with God.)

The best leaders know how to tend sheep.  They are faithful in the little things.  Moses is very content.  He has a family.  He’s living in a country that worships the God of his fathers.  He is free to explore new pastures in the west.

He spent 40 years in Egypt becoming somebody.  He spent the last 40 years in Midian becoming nobody.

3:2 An angel/messenger appears, God calls, and he is afraid.  This angel of the Lord may have been Jesus.  God’s presence is often pictured as a flame of fire.

3:10 God says, “Its time now for you to bring my people out of Egypt.”  God announces His intention to deliver His people from slavery.

3:11 Moses says, “I can’t do that!”  “Who am I?”  He thought it was about him.  Who Moses is is not the question; it is rather Who is with Moses?  Moses keeps saying, “I,I,I” (an emphatic form)

3:12 God says, “But I’m with you.”  (God also uses “I” in the emphatic form)

3:13 Moses says, “Who are you?”  Can you accomplish what you are promising?  Do you realize how many Egyptian gods are against you?

3:14 God says, “I AM THAT I AM”  God describes Himself as a verb.  The presence of God and God present are the centerpiece of Exodus.  The presence of God is the center of salvation, worship, and covenant.

4:1 Moses says, “They won’t believe me.”  Moses is right.  The people won’t believe him, but it is not his story.

4:2-9 God says, “I’ll use what you have in your hand to make them listen.”  Serpents were one of Egypt’s many gods.

4:10 Moses says, “I stutter”

4:11 God says, “I made your mouth.”  Moses’ protests were invalid and irrelevant.  The Presence makes the difference.  God is bringing to Pharaoh an experiential knowledge of His presence and not Moses’ truthfulness or Aaron’s eloquence.  It is God’s plan.

4:13 Moses says, “Send someone else.”

4:14 God says, “I’ve already talked to Aaron about going with you.”

5:22 Moses went back to God and said, “I’ve just made a mess of things.”

6:2 God reassured Moses

6:12 Moses again says, “I told you so.  The Israelites don’t listen to me.  I stutter.”

6:29 God says, “I am God. Tell Pharaoh everything I say to you.”

6:30 Moses says, “Look at me. I stutter.  The people did not listen to me.  Why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

7:1 God says, “Look at Me.”

God used the 10 plagues to expose the emptiness of evil and the insecurity of 401k’s.  He was cleansing their imaginations and their envious admiration of an evil system.  The 10 plagues were an exorcism that freed the Israelites from the Egyptian way of understanding reality.  It was a paradigm shift.  They were to see life in a totally different way.  They would be free to live and worship the present God.

The main issue in the plagues is sovereignty.  Who’s really in charge here?  Who is really running the show?  The first 2 rounds end in a little more than a draw.  After that God wins.

None of the plagues are supernatural as such.  They are distortions or hiccups in the natural order of things.  And everyone knew that Pharaoh was in charge of keeping the cosmic order of all nature.  That was his job description.

But while a nation was watching, God dismantles Pharaoh’s sovereignty.  His claim to control the workings of the world and cosmos are exposed as a fraud.  He is publically discredited and Yahweh is God.  He claimed he did not know the God of Moses, so God did a little teaching.

The world was watching God discredit Pharaoh.  The people of God were being prepared for their salvation.  The imaginations of their hearts were being changed.  They could start imagining being free.  God was using the plagues to demonstrate who He was.

Notice how God works in contrast to Pharaoh.  Pharaoh uses size, numbers, force, prestige, and lies to keep control.  God uses simple ladies, an 80 year old shepherd and his brother, a stick, and some despised slaves to bring freedom to the world.

Like Moses, Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem, a godless place, using their power and control to suppress the weak and poor.  Who was sovereign, the rich high priest or the poor Jesus?

How is God trying to cleanse our Temple?  Who has authority?  Have we forgotten that God is with us?  Have we let ourselves be squeezed into the world’s mold?  Are we living our lives more like Pharaoh and Herod assuming that priests and politicians have power?  Or are we living like Jesus who kept entrusting Himself to the Father?  How will He change the imaginations of our hearts?  How is God changing the imaginations of our hearts?  The pure in heart see God in everything.

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