Girdwood Chapel Sermon, 09/04/2016 "Be Delivered" by Wiersbe is Utilized in Format
Exodus 2: 1-10
Exodus 3: 1-12
I looked at my Aurora Borealis App all week; waiting, watching, and praying to see the Northern Lights. Duane had posted some pictures earlier in the week from a night where I was unable to stay awake any longer. So, I was even more excited to see these beautiful lights that were evading me. Thursday night proved to be suspected perfect conditions for the lights to appear. All of the charts and maps, the solar energy and winds calculations, and the sky conditions pointed to the likely occurrence of a major demonstration of the Northern Lights. I stayed up as late as I possibly could, hoping to see the show. I was sadly disappointed though, as the sky failed to illuminate with the lights in any major way. The following day I was tired and, after putting the girls to bed, I only had hopes laying my own head down very soon. Almost habitually, I pulled out my phone and clicked on the Aurora App. The KP Index was very high and the chance of seeing the lights was the highest I had seen. I stepped out on my deck and slowly began to see a streak here and a streak there. At first, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I had to ask myself if I was really seeing something or was I putting the effects in place. The faint lines became brighter and the occurrence more rapid. My camera was able to provide visual proof the light show was underway! Excited, I ran into the house and woke Alicia up. “It is beautiful!” I exclaimed, “You have to come see it!” We watched for a while as the show continued to grow and then we woke up the kids and brought them out to see this mesmerizing and mystical show of lights that were dancing over head. My ears rung with songs of grace and glory to our God, because for sure, God was the only one capable of creating such natural and unbridled beauty. Rylyn looked up at me and said, “Dad you are going to use this in a sermon aren’t you?” My response was, “No...well not this week.” I was wrong. Because what I saw, what my family experienced, was the amazing sight of seeing something we knew we could not explain and that, to us, clearly came from God. Then it hit me, perhaps this is what Moses felt when he first saw a bush engulfed in flames without being consumed. Happiness, fear, excitement, and awe.
So much happens before Moses has this fantastic first encounter with God on the mountain. It has to have been quite a while since we last left off with Abraham; over 400 years. Don’t you recall that from our scripture last week? (Genesis 15:13) God told Abraham His people would suffer for 400 years before he brought them up to be great among nations. Now God is making true on that part of his covenant with Abraham...for as Robert Service would write…”a promise made is a debt unpaid.” (I hear by the way that I need to get acquainted with Robert Service if I am going to live in Alaska). Nonetheless, God is doing exactly as He indicated to Abraham and is going to rescue God’s people from their oppressors. Something very important has happened though and if I don’t mention it, many passages in the New Testament and a very significant passage in our text today will not make sense.
When we discussed creation, how many creation stories or viewpoints are relayed in the Bible? Two, right. The same is true with God’s covenant with Abraham. The first one we discussed last week had no responsibilities outlined for Abraham, but the second one in Genesis 17:9 provides the command that Abraham and all of his household must be circumcised to show their obedience to the Lord. Circumcision will be a symbol of the covenant. While we are talking about the covenant let’s recap the threefold promise, shall we? God promises Abraham to 1. Give him many descendants, 2. Make his name well respected, and 3. All of the earth will be blessed by him and his descendents. By this time in Exodus, the Israelite population is booming. In fact, it is the reason that the Israelites have found themselves in bondage.
Pharoah, fearful that population outnumbers the Egyptians, thinks that an overthrow is likely. He chooses to make the nation slaves so they cannot side with their enemies and he wants to cut their population by killing all of the boy offspring. This plot is thwarted by two midwives, however, who, in one of the first acts of social and civil disobedience, order their assistants to arrive too late to the births. Therefore, they cannot kill the children during birth if it is a male. There is a line in the story that I love, because it drips with the strong and assertive woman when it is said, “Hebrew women aren’t like Egyptian women. They are much stronger.” It is a subtle, but strong, jab at Pharoah’s decree. God responds by giving the women many offspring of their own. Pharoah responds by making the decree more formal that all male children should be thrown into the Nile River.
The providence of God was followed by the midwives, who failed to kill the babies. But, it was also followed by Moses’ mother who followed the law in theory. Prior to throwing Moses in the lake she coats a basket in tar so it floats, then releases it strategically to catch the attention of Pharoah’s daughter. God rewards her for her ingenuity by allowing Moses to end back up in her arms to be raised through his younger years, before he must return for an education in the Pharoah’s palace. Trusting in the providence of God also allows for God to take a specific route in equipping Moses for all he will need for the great task he is to accomplish for God and the nation of Israel. Trust and faith paves the pathway for salvation.
You may have noticed in your life that God takes time to prepare His servants. In the case of Moses, he was educated as an Egyptian and in the house of Pharoah. Don’t forget though, that he was raised by his Hebrew mother for a while in his young age, so he also knows the way of the Israelites. You have heard the old saying know your enemy better than you know yourself. Well, unwittingly, Moses has received this education. He also has always known where he came from and who his ancestors are.
This probably leads to Moses’ biggest failure. In trying to act in a formidable fashion to save a single Israelite, he kills an Egyptian taskmaster. The act is impetuous and without regard for consequence. Worse than that, it is act of personal anger and is separate from God’s design and counsel. As a result, Moses knows he must flee Egypt. He flees into the mountains and becomes a shepherd. He operates in solitude and lives a much different life than the one he grew accustomed to in the palace.
See, in God’s shaping of Moses He gave Moses the knowledge he needed, let him experience failure, and then humbled him to the point where he had no choice but to rely on God and God’s presence in him to accomplish the task.
Moses Tries to Get Out of It
Even after recognizing all of this preparation, Moses still tries to get out of it. God is speaking directly to Moses and after everything God says, Moses responds like God has definitely got the wrong number. Moses responds with five reasons why he is the wrong person for the job:
I am nobody. “C’mon God, neither side is going to listen to me. I am not really a Jew and I have committed crimes against the Egyptians. When it comes to these folks I am a nobody.”
I don’t know your name. God makes quick work of this one. “I AM” is my name. You tell them, “I AM” sent you. Let’s see what they have to say about that! In the New Testament, our Savior, Jesus, will complete this statement…”I AM the bread of life”, “I AM the living water”, “I AM the true vine”, “I AM the light of the world.”
The elders won’t believe me. God demonstrates for Moses his power by turning his shepherd’s rod into a snake and causing his hand to be stricken and healed from leprosy. God shows Moses that he will reveal His power through Moses so they will have to believe him.
I don’t speak well. By this point God is getting a little frustrated. I will give you the words to say! But Moses continues, “Well, it is my speaking voice that is the problem”. God indicates that his brother Aaron can speak for him to the people then. God knows what He is doing though. Don’t let Him fool you. It will prove that Aaron sometimes falters in his leadership role.
Somebody else can do it better. This is kind of the last argument for all of us when we are given an assignment that we don’t want to do. We seem to say, “Look, I appreciate the support and am flattered by the confidence, but there is really someone out there more qualified for this than me. So, just go with them. I won’t be upset.” God moves past frustration and to anger. “Therefore, go!”
Something odd happens next. After this exchange of how Moses is the right person for the job. We read that God’s messenger tried to kill Moses. I have been taught on some occasions that these passages of fighting with God mean can mean wrestling with faith. Moses could not be the leader he was supposed to be if he did not believe in his cause and identify with his people. God wanted Moses to accept who he was and be faithful to the covenant. As he wrestled with how to do that, Zipporah helps him by revealing what is needed. She performs the circumcision ritual and now he is marked as a man of God and fit for leadership in Israel.
Burning but not Consumed
God equipped Moses by educating him, letting him experience failure, humbling him, calling him, providing him with all he needed, then helping him to find his faith. Being called to service is a rough road to take and to accept. But, God prepares the individual and the way.
By now you are thinking, why in the world did we start this whole thing talking about the Northern Lights and a burning bush? My answer is because that is what God wants from all of us. Like the Northern Lights, the burning bush is mesmerizing and it attracts Moses attention long before God speaks. But, in his heart, Moses knows that this bush is from God. The beauty and the strength of the object combines with mystical nature that the wood from the bush is not being consumed, to create a curiosity to know more about the subject and to understand why it is manifesting the way that it is. Why does it shine so brightly? Why does God choose to reveal himself in this way? How can I know it better? How can I be part of it?
You see the beauty of God’s revelation of the burning bush is that in His appearance to Moses he is revealing what he wants Moses to become. Moses will burn with the grace and glory of God and he will radiate God’s light for all to see. As God becomes stronger in Moses, Moses will burn hotter and shine more brightly, but he will not be consumed, instead he will be magnified, because he is fueled by the great “I AM”. As Moses becomes less of himself and more who God has created him to be, he will find more strength, wisdom, and people will speak of him as if he were an anomaly such as the burning bush.
So much of life consumes our bodies, our hearts, and our attention. We consider so many things as important and necessary, yet those same things, detract from our obedience and our identity in Christ. Plus, God, in divine providence, already has a handle on those things if we will give them up to Him. We need to allow our trust and faith to lead the way.
As we continue in this season of the Northern Lights. I hope that you can look up to the heavens and picture the beauty of the dancing lights transfixed amongst the bright stars and consider for yourself the beauty of the burning bush. Will you let God light your heart on fire, knowing that you will only be made stronger and not be consumed by those things like fear, anxiety, worry, and sadness. Let God’s fire take hold and let your heart shine brightly like the Aurora Borealis, or a burning bush. Ask yourself, am I shining like God has created me? Then with fill yourself with the power of God and answer, “I AM”.