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Exodus 4:10-17; The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100718_exodus04_10-17.mp3

7/18 Exodus 4:10-17 The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”-so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand- 5 “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.” 6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” 10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

The Excuses of Moses and the Anger of God

We’ve seen Moses struggling to believe who God is and what he says he will do. Moses is raising objections and asking questions, and God is patiently answering those questions and meeting those objections. God is not afraid of the questions of his people. God is not the wizard behind the curtain pretending to be something he’s not. In the truth there are answers to every question. God is removing one by one the excuses of his servant. Moses has objected that his reputation is not adequate to the task at hand. His resume is lacking the necessary qualifications. “Who am I that I should go?” God answers that it is not about who you are, Moses; it is about who I am. Moses asked ‘who am I?’ God answered ‘but I will be with you’. So Moses asks ‘then who are you? If it doesn’t matter who I am, then what are your credentials? Who do I say sent me?’ God answers ‘I AM THAT I AM, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the self existent uncreated creator of all that is, the uncaused cause of all things.’ Tell them that, and tell them what I promise to do. I promise to bring you up out of the land of affliction. And the elders of Israel will listen. But Moses again objects, this time directly contradicting what God has said. ‘They will not believe me or listen to me.’ So God patiently grants to Moses three terrifying supernatural signs that will demonstrate to the people that God is indeed with him. The signs together with his testimony about the one true God of history will convince the people of God, but they will not persuade the Pharaoh. Now in this passage Moses raises two more objections to being the instrument God uses to deliver the Hebrew people from Egypt.

Here in this section we have the third time God tells Moses to go. He said in 3:10 “come, I will send you to Pharaoh”. In 3:16 after answering his first two objections, he says “go and gather the elders of Israel”. Now in 4:12, after answering two more objections, God again says “now therefore go”. God is amazingly patient with his people. God does not give up on us.

Psalm 103:13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Let’s look at Moses’ 4th objection.

10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

Moses has objected that he doesn’t have the credentials and won’t be listened to. God promises that the people will listen. His next objection is that he doesn’t speak well. His objections are getting more trivial. First he was concerned about his identity and his reputation; then, when God pointed Moses away from himself, he asked who God is. Next is more of a dispute or complaint; God told him the people would listen to him; Moses argues ‘but they won’t listen’. God gives him three signs to perform that will cause the Israelites to listen. Now Moses’ concern is that if they do listen, they won’t be impressed with what they hear. We don’t know exactly what Moses’ concern is. He claims to be slow of speech and tongue. Some have speculated that Moses had a speech impediment. Literally he says he has a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue. Maybe after 40 years of talking to Midianite sheep in the desert he has lost his command of the Egyptian language. Maybe he was just self-conscious that he was not the best orator of his day. Whatever the case, we find later in the book that Moses does more than his share of public speaking and he seems to do just fine. It appears that Moses is grasping at straws to weasel his way out of God’s commission for him. He has moved from the content to the style of delivery.

Notice that Moses’ complaint takes the form of an accusation against God. ‘You know I’ve never been eloquent in the past, and not even you showing up and talking to me has been able to change that. Moses is dictating to God the skills inventory necessary to carry out the task at hand. Certainly the person who is to go into the presence of Pharaoh and demand the release of the slaves must be a smooth talker. Certainly God could miraculously bestow eloquence on someone slow of speech – but it hasn’t happened yet. Moses is complaining that although you’ve called me to this task, you’ve failed to give me the proper equipment for carrying it out. My disobedience is your fault, God, for not giving me the gifts and abilities to do what you’ve asked me to do. I can’t, and you haven’t done your part. Moses is questioning the wisdom of God. He is giving God advice. ‘God, I don’t think your plan was very well thought through. If you’re going to send someone to save Israel from Egypt, this is how you should do it. You should choose someone who is popular, a natural leader. They should have a real way with words. Someone who has connections and influence, both with the Hebrew slaves and with the Egyptian royalty. I wonder if there was a bit of thunder in God’s response to Moses here:

11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

This reminds me of God’s response to Job when Job challenged demanded an audience with the Almighty. God goes on for four chapters questioning Job out of the whirlwind.

Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding…

God answers ‘Who has made man’s mouth?’ Moses, are you insulting my creative ability? Moses, I made you exactly the way you are. I made you with a purpose in mind. Do you think I made a mistake? That I didn’t have the foresight to know what I was going to call you to do? Do you think I forgot to give you some necessary equipment? It is interesting to me to see what God claims here. God claims to be the author of things we would consider disabilities. We might be inclined to attribute the inability to see or hear or speak to the fact that we are living in a sinful fallen corrupt world. But to clear up any misunderstanding or confusion we might have, God answers his own question. ‘Is it not I, the Lord?’ I made man’s mouth. I make men mute and deaf. I determine whether a man will see or will be blind. I am ultimately in control over these apparent disabilities. I cause these things and I cause them for a purpose. I am reminded of the man Jesus healed in John 9 who was born blind. The disciples assumed his condition was a consequence of sin, so they asked who sinned, this man or his parents. Jesus’ answer is in line with what God told Moses here. Jesus said:

John 9:3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

This is consistent with the rest of scriptures on this matter. Look what else God claims responsibility for:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

Isaiah 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

How can this be? How can things we consider bad – calamity or blindness or slowness of speech – how can they display the works of God? In the man who was born blind, Jesus character and nature was put on display to the blind man, to his parents, to the Jesus-rejecting religious leaders, and to all the people who attended church with him. And this man had the eyes of his heart opened to see Jesus for who he is and to believe in him, to become a bold witness for him, and to worship him as God.

Paul is another example. People who heard him said:

2 Corinthians 10:10 For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”

But Paul says:

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

In fact, there is an eloquence that can nullify the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

For Moses, the same is true. God intentionally chose a man who knew he was not sufficient to the task, someone who did not have the right credentials or resume or skill set specifically so that everyone would know that it was God who delivered Israel from Egypt, not some highly gifted charming individual. Moses, I made you just the way you are so that you would not mistakenly think that it was you who did it; so that you would be under no delusion that you could do it; so that you would depend only and completely on me to do what is impossible for you. God says ‘I made your mouth just the way I want it to be for my perfect purposes.

Even after all this, God is still magnificently patient. For the third time he tells him to go, and he promises again to be with him.

12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

Moses asked ‘Who am I?’ and God responded ‘but I will be with you,’ the great I AM is with you. Here Moses asks ‘but what about my slow speech?’ and God answers ‘I AM with your mouth’. I will teach you what to say. It would not matter if Moses were completely unable to speak. The issue is not at all about who Moses is or what Moses can do. The issue is that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do and he will use whomever he chooses to use. That’s what makes Moses final protest so striking.

13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

Literally, Moses says ‘send whom you will send’. This is a polite way of saying ‘I don’t want to do it’. This final protest of Moses is unique, because he doesn’t give a reason. He simply politely declines the invitation. Each of the other protests were based on a fear that could be specifically addressed and answered. At this point Moses says ‘you’ve taken away all my excuses, but the fact is that I just don’t want to do it.’ God has said ‘you, Moses, are the man.’ Moses says ‘no, I’m not your man. Choose someone else.’ This is not wise. Jonah was another prophet God sent on a specific mission and Jonah jumped a ship going the other direction. God chased him down with a storm and booked him passage in the cargo area of a great fish who barfed him up on the shores of Nineveh, where God had told him to go in the first place.

Jeremiah was called by God to speak. He said:

Jeremiah 20:9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Paul, who was abruptly called by Jesus to preach the gospel said:

1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

God will conquer the rebellious hearts of all he calls into his service. When Moses says ‘I’m not worthy, please send someone else’, this is not an expression of humility, but of pride. C.H Mackintosh put it this way:

Unbelief is not humility, but thorough pride. It refuses to believe God because it does not find in self a reason for believing. This is the very height of presumption. If, when God speaks, I refuse to believe, on the ground of something in myself, I make Him a liar (1 John 5:10). When God declares His love, and I refuse to believe because I do not deem myself a sufficiently worthy object, I make Him a liar, and exhibit the inherent pride of my heart. The bare supposition that I could ever be worthy of aught save the lowest pit of hell, can only be regarded as the most profound ignorance of my own condition and of God’s requirements. And the refusal to take the place which the redeeming love of God assigns me, on the ground of the finished atonement of Christ, is to make God a liar and cast gross dishonor upon the sacrifice of the cross.” (C.H.Mackintosh, Notes on the Pentateuch, p.161; originally published 1881)

It is in response to this pervasive pride that God responds in anger:

14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

God is rightfully angry with Moses. But again the patience of God shines through. Even in his anger the kindness of God is displayed toward the weakness of his servant. God doesn’t back down and allow Moses to walk away. God said he would send Moses, and Moses he will send, but he agrees to send Aaron along with if it will make Moses feel better. There is comfort in the camaraderie, but this may not be an entirely good thing. It would be Aaron who would fashion the gold calf for the Israelites to worship while Moses was on the mountain with God receiving the commands to have no other gods before him and to make no images.

Here we have a picture of what God’s prophet does.

15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

Aaron was to speak for Moses to the people. He was to speak only the words that Moses put into his mouth. Again we see the superabundant grace of God at work. Even in the midst of blatant disobedience – ‘please send someone else’ – God brings a helper and promises his own presence. God promises his presence with both Moses and Aaron. “I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do.” We tend to trust in a friend we can see rather than the faithful one who is always there. Our hearts are inclined to put more confidence in an eloquent tongue than in the one who created it. For us, if God is with us that should be enough.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Hebrews 13:5 … be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

This is what brings true contentment, true fulfillment, true joy.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalms 65:4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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July 18, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 4:1-9; The Unbelief of Moses and the Superabundant Patience of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100711_exodus04_1-9.mp3

7/11 Exodus 4:1-9 The Unbelief of Moses and the Superabundant Patience of God

3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 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. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” 2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”-so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand- 5 “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.” 6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

***

The unbelief of Moses and the superabundant patience of God

This passage is about belief in God’s word. The word ‘believe’ or ‘trust’ occurs 5 times in these 9 verses. The word ‘listen’ or ‘obey’ occurs 3 times. God has spoken. God has interrupted history and introduced himself to his servant and called him to a specific task. He has promised the outcome in detail in advance. Moses is a skeptic. Moses is struggling to believe. Already in the process of God’s revelation of himself to Moses, Moses had questioned the wisdom and the word of God. We will see in this passage the unbelief of Moses and the superabundant patience of God toward a questioning skeptic.

YHWH had said in 3:8 ‘I have come down to deliver’; in 3:10 ‘come, I will send you to Pharaoh’; in 3:11 Moses said to God ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ God answered ‘but I will be with you’. In 3:13 Moses says ‘what if they ask about you? What if they ask ‘who sent you?’ What is your name?’ God answers ‘I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent you; the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. Go to the elders of Israel and tell them ‘I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt.’ In 3:18 God says ‘And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt’ Then he says ‘ I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it’ He says ‘I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty … you shall plunder the Egyptians’.

But Moses is tripped up all the way back in verse 18. God tells Moses to go to the elders of Israel and he says ‘they will listen to you.’

4:1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’”

This is a direct contradiction to the words of God. God says ‘they will listen’. Moses says ‘but look, God, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.’ Moses is projecting his own doubt onto the Israelites. He is struggling to believe God, who is appearing to him, so he assumes that the Israelites, who have not seen what he has seen will certainly not believe a mere verbal report of what he claims to have seen and heard in the desert.

A definition of belief:

The belief he is talking about is more than a recognition that certain facts are true. That is part of the question – Moses, what you say happened in the desert – did it really happen or did you just make this up? You had a real experience. Was it God or is there some other explanation? ‘Moses, we believe you. We believe you really had this experience and that it was really God. Now everybody, back to making bricks!’ That’s not the kind of belief we are talking about. This belief demands a response. This is what James is talking about when he says ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:14-26) That’s why Moses says they will not believe or listen. He doesn’t think they’ll have any reason to buy his story, and he doesn’t think that they will respond to his message. The word ‘listen’ could be translated ‘obey’, because when I tell my children to go and do something, the evidence that they heard me is the going and the doing. If they aren’t gone and it isn’t done, they I might ask ‘didn’t you hear me?’ And they might look up from their toys and say ‘yes, we heard you quite clearly. You asked us to go and do such and such.’ and they might look back down and continue to play with their toys. I am not an auditory specialist performing a hearing test. I wasn’t checking if your ears worked. In that setting listening and obeying are one and the same. If there is no action, they did not listen.

The cost of belief:

What does this mean for Moses and for the elders of Israel? God is sending Moses to Egypt to talk to the elders of Israel, to tell them that he is coming down to deliver them. The elders of Israel who are slaves in Egypt are to go with Moses to Pharaoh to ask for the religious freedom to travel into the desert to make offerings to their God. This would be a great risk for the leaders of Israel. God had already told Moses that the Pharaoh wouldn’t listen and that things would get worse before they got better. This could cost them their popularity, their positions, their families, even their lives! These leaders would have to trust Moses. Out of their confidence in him they would have to step out to do what he asks that they do. They would have to take Moses’ word for it that YHWH had met with him and sent him to deliver. What is the credibility of Moses? This would be the first time in over 400 years that anyone had claimed that YHWH had appeared to them. And Moses was raised by the Pharaoh’s own daughter. He was rejected once before by his people. Now he’s been exiled in the desert for the last 40 years doing who knows what. Why would anyone believe him? What reason would they have to trust him? They had hoped the new Pharaoh would bring some relief, but their hopes were soon crushed. What would cause them to hope in the words of Moses?

All this and more may have been rushing through the mind and emotions of Moses, but Moses had God’s word on the issue. Moses, they will listen to you. So Moses has his experience and his reasoning and his past failures and his fears over against God’s word to him. And Moses, the one who is to lead Israel in this pivotal event of history is swayed by his fears to disbelieve God’s word. God said ‘they will listen to you.’ Moses says ‘but look, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.’ One older author put it this way [1881]

“How hard it is to overcome the unbelief of the human heart!How difficult man ever finds it to trust God! How slow he is to venture upon the naked promise of Jehovah! Anything, for nature, but that. The most slender reed that the human eye can see is counted more substantial, by far, as a basis for nature’s confidence, than the unseen ‘Rock of Ages.'” C.H.Macintosh, p.159

The Patience and Perseverance of God:

God is so patient! God is so merciful. God is so kind. He is so long-suffering. He bears with the shortcomings of his servant. Remember, God is all-knowing. He knows the weaknesses of his chosen instrument. He knows exactly what he is getting himself into. He knows he is purchasing damaged goods – used, as is. And he plans to get glory for himself by accomplishing stunning things with broken people. God is so persevering! He doesn’t give up on Moses and walk away and say ‘Fine, if you don’t want to cooperate, I’ll find someone else!’ God takes Moses as he is and does everything necessary to overcome his unbelief and create in him the required faith.

Sign #1:

God answers Moses’ unbelieving statement with a question. ‘What is that in your hand?’ God already knew what was in Moses hand. It was a shepherd’s staff, a stick. God knew what kind of wood it was and where it grew and how old it was. He knew every knot and twist of the grain. He knew its weak points and exactly how much force it could withstand before it snapped. God’s questions are not for his benefit to learn from our wisdom and experience. When God asks a question, it is for our benefit to cause us to reflect on what is true. God wanted Moses to verbalize exactly what it was that he was holding on to. Moses says ‘Ahh, I’m glad you noticed. This is my supernatural wonder working miracle stick.’ Far from it. Moses looks in his hand and sees an ordinary stick. A useful tool for a shepherd, but just a piece of wood. Maybe Moses even remembered where he picked it up. A staff in ancient culture was a form of personal identification – because no two sticks are alike. It was useful for personal protection, and it was a symbol of the person’s power. Moses’ staff would not be an ornate scepter like the Pharaoh of Egypt would possess. It was the ordinary staff of a shepherd. After Moses verbalizes that it is nothing special – a mere ordinary stick, God commands him to throw it on the ground. Put yourself in Moses’ sandals. He doesn’t know what’s coming. This seems like a weird request. I told God that no one would believe that he sent me, and he’s telling me to throw my stick on the ground. Not sure how that relates, but whatever. This would be like God asking you, ‘What’s that in your back pocket? A wallet? Take out your personal identification and throw it on the ground. Take your handgun or your pocket knife or whatever you might carry for self-defense and throw it on the ground.’ Watch what happens:

2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it.

That must have shocked Moses. We chuckle at Moses running from his staff become serpent. Remember, Moses has his sandals off. He’s got bare feet. He’s just thrown down his main form of self-protection. And let’s picture if Moses is 5′ 8” then his staff is maybe 6 foot tall and thick enough to support his weight and be a useful tool herding sheep in the desert. Now he’s got a 6 foot long cobra rearing up and flaring out its neck and staring him in the face. I’m guessing it was a cobra because the cobra was the power symbol of the Pharaoh in Egypt, worn on his headdress and around his arm. Moses is barefoot and unarmed. No surprise that he ran. What is surprising is what God tells him to do:

4 But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”-so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand-

If anyone knows anything about snakes the first rule is leave it alone! Stay far far away. But if anyone knows anything about catching snakes, rule number one is never try to catch it by the tail. Snakes are fast and flexible and strong and they can double back in an instant and strike. If you’ve got a snake by the tail, it can not only see and smell you, but now it can feel exactly where you are and it’s not going to miss. Catching a snake by the tail leaves you completely vulnerable to the venom in its fangs. God commands Moses to stop running away and stretch out your hand grasp or take hold of the snake by the tail. God has told Moses ‘I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt’. Now he is telling Moses to stretch out his hand and take a snake by the tail. The word that describes what Moses did is a different verb. He snatched at it or grabbed it cautiously. Moses’ obedience is impressive. God didn’t tell him what would happen. He didn’t tell him it would be safe or that it would all turn out OK. Moses didn’t know until it was in his hand that it was going to turn back into a stick.

By the way, I believe this was a real stick that really turned into a real snake. This was not some slight of hand trickery or illusion. The God who can speak everything into existence can surely turn a shepherd’s stick into a snake and back again. Notice again the stated purpose of all of this:

5 “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.”

The purpose is belief, trust, confidence. God’s purpose in the sign of the snake is to stimulate belief in the elders of Israel. The snake is the power symbol of Egypt. Moses has met with the One who holds all power in his hand.

Sign # 2

Moses is probably still a bit shaken and stunned by what just happened. But God doesn’t leave it at this:

6 Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.

Moses is told to put his hand against his skin by his chest. Again, Moses has no idea what to expect. This would be a terrifying turn of events. Leprosy was an incurable skin disease that banished the infected person from all society permanently. Moses, you thought you were lonely before! Now you’ve got leprosy. Even the Midianites won’t accept you now. You’ve become a total outcast. What God told Moses to do next was probably even more loathsome than taking a serpent by the tail.

7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.”

You never touch a leper. Leprosy is extremely contagious and God would give Israel clear laws about how to quarantine and control the spread of this debilitating disease. The main rule is that leprosy is spread by contact, so keep leprosy as far away from you as possible. Now God is telling Moses to take the diseased flesh of his hand and press it against the clean flesh of his chest. Again, identify with Moses. He didn’t know what was coming. He only knew the natural consequences of putting a leprous hand against clean flesh. The leprosy would spread.

7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh.

Moses had been an outcast from his people for 40 years. Moses is now face to face with the healer of all disease – One who can make the outcast clean

Deuteronomy 32:39 “‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.

God alone has the authority over sickness and disease, over life and death. That is why the king of Israel was terrified when he received a letter from the king of Syria asking that he cure one of his generals of leprosy:

[the king of Syria] 2 Kings 5:6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

We can’t help but see how this points to Jesus. In the law there was a detailed procedure for cleansing a leper who had been healed. But never in history had a leper been cleansed of leprosy. That is what makes Jesus action so staggering:

Luke 5:12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.”

If you touch a leper you contract leprosy. Jesus is the only one who has the cleansing power and compassion to touch the unclean and make them clean!

Sign # 3

Again the object is belief. God intends to create belief in his people by any means necessary. This is not intended to cause the Pharaoh to believe. God has already said that he will not listen, but he has promised Moses that the elders of Israel would listen:

8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

The Nile was the life of Egypt. Without the Nile river, Egypt would not exist. Here God is previewing the first of the ten plagues, and declaring his sovereignty over the Nile river and over the Egyptian god of the Nile, and over all of Egypt. Blood is a symbol of life and death, and YHWH is the true life giver. Egypt’s rebellion against YHWH would cost them the lives of their firstborn sons. Ultimately God would triumph over sin and death an hell by the blood of his own dear Son, shed on a Roman cross

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

This is all about belief. But it is not about belief in Moses. It is about belief in God. God is the one who is the life giver. God is the one who is judge and can heal and make the outcast clean. God is the one who holds all power in his hand, even the power of that old serpent, the devil. God is the one who triumphed over him at the cross.

This should be so encouraging as we proclaim the good news of Jesus to unbelievers. It’s not our eloquence or winsome personality or flawless logic that will persuade someone to believe in Jesus. Paul was sent with this same purpose:

Acts 26:17 …the Gentiles––to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

We are sent, not in our own authority and with our own wisdom, but with the power of God to open blind eyes.

2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God has the power to create sight, and he promises to be with us!

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 3:16-22; God Knows

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100704_exodus03_16-22.mp3

7/4 Exodus 3:16-22 God Knows

3: 7 Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 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. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

God made himself known to Moses. He told him that he has compassion on his people. He has seen, he has heard, he knows, and he has come down to deliver them. He is sending Moses to deliver them. Moses asks the question ‘Who am I?’ God clarifies that it is not who you are, Moses, that makes a difference, but who I am. So Moses asks God ‘Then who are you? Tell me your name. What are your credentials?’ God gives him the verb ‘to be’, He says I AM THAT I AM; I am the uncaused cause; I am the only independent being in existence, the self existent source and ground of all that is. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I am the same God now that I was then. I am the same God who made the magnificent promises to the patriarchs, and I will keep those promises because I AM. I am that I am, and I am to be remembered in this way throughout all generations.

Now that God has revealed something of who he is to Moses, he clarifies his instructions. He had told Moses

10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Now he tells Moses to go and gather the elders of Israel. this is the first time in the bible that we hear of the elders of Israel. Genesis 50:7 talks about the elders of Egypt, but Israel had no need for structured leadership. Up to this point in their history, Israel was merely a family with promises that God would make them into a great nation. Now, during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had taken them from an extended family of 70 people, to a nation that is a national threat to Egypt, organized with elders. Moses is to go to these elders, gather them as a group, and declare these words to them:

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

Moses is to reiterate what is said of God in 2:23-24 and what he said to him in 3:7-9 that he has seen and heard, he knows, he cares, he remembers his covenant, and he is doing something about it. Moses is to introduce God as ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.’ God wants the people to be reminded that he is the same God who made promises to the patriarchs and is now fulfilling those promises.

God tells Moses to tell them this: “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.” This would be a mixed message to anyone. Imagine you are having a hard time with someone at work and God says to you “I have observed you and what has been done to you.” God knows what has been done to me – that’s good! But he’s also observed me. He knows how I’ve responded to the pressure. He’s seen me at my absolute worst. He knows every thought I’ve thunk and every motive of my heart. That is a sobering thought, is it not? It’s a sobering thought, but it is also a freeing thought. I have nothing to hide because I can hide nothing. God knows everything I’ve done, he knows all my sin. He sees my heart even more clearly than I do myself. He knows me more intimately than anyone else, and he loves me! Do you realize how freeing that is? I don’t have to put on pretensions or wear a mask and pretend to be someone I’m not. We have one who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he still pursues us in relationship. This does not mean that God doesn’t care how we think or feel or act, or that we can continue to sin that grace may increase. No. God is a holy God. But he knows that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1) and we cannot improve ourselves. He knows he is buying ‘damaged merchandise – used – as is’ and he has counted the cost that he will expend in time and labor and most importantly the blood of his own dear Son to wash us and heal us and restore us to mint condition and present us to himself as a people for his own possession, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

God says to Moses, tell the elders:

16… “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

God is making a promise to his people. The word translated ‘promise’ is simply the word ‘said’, the same word that is found throughout the creation narrative; ‘and God said let there be… and there was’. For God to speak is to promise. If God said, then what he said is as good as done. Tell them “I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt”. In verse 7, God said that he had seen their affliction. Now he says he is going to bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt. Affliction has its purpose in the plan of God. Joseph named his son Ephraim, because, he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen.41:52). Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God does not promise his people a trouble free existence from this point on. He does not promise them exemption from all affliction. They will continue to have their share of affliction. But the affliction of Egypt has served its purpose, and God will now bring the people up out of the affliction of Egypt. He will bring them to the land. God had promised to give his people the land:

Genesis 12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. …7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

Genesis 13:14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 15:18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”

Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

[to Isaac] Genesis 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,

[to Jacob] Genesis 28:13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 35: 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

Genesis 48:4 and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’ …21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you and will bring you again to the land of your fathers.

Genesis 50:24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

God is promising to bring his people out of the land of affliction and to the land of six enemy nations. This would not be easy. God was preparing his people from the very beginning for what they would face. There would be plenty of obstacles to overcome, but God promised to accomplish what he had promised if they relied on him. This was a good land, described as ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’, a land abundantly overflowing with blessing.

What comes next is an amazing promise that God gives to encourage Moses. Moses has questioned his qualifications for the responsibility of representing God to the people. Then he questioned who it was that he was representing. If I go to the people and they ask who it was that sent me, what should I tell them that your name is? Moses has gone out to the people once before, thinking they would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand (Acts 7:25). Now, 40 years later, Moses is apprehensive about going back. Moses doubts the reception he will receive with the people who rejected him before. God gives Moses a staggering promise. Verse 18 says “And they will listen to your voice.” How can God say that? How can God know how the people will respond? This God, this one who says I AM, I am the ground and source of existence, I cause to be all that is, this God guarantees to Moses the future actions of free moral agents. God says to Moses, I am sending you, and I can tell you exactly how the elders of Israel will respond. How can he say that? This same God who is acting in Moses life to send him is also moving in the lives of the elders of Israel to prepare them to hear Moses and his message.

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Not only will they listen, but they will go with you to Pharaoh. God gives Moses the script. When you and the elders of Israel go to the king of Egypt, this is what you are to say:

The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’

Moses and the elders of Israel are to ask politely for a week off. We’ve been slaving for you for 400 years. Can we please have time off for religious reasons? YHWH, the God of the Hebrews has met with us. Adam and Abel and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob sacrificed to YHWH. We have neglected to sacrifice to our God for the last 400 years. We will go out into the wilderness where we won’t offend your people or your gods to sacrifice to YHWH our God. This is a very reasonable request. According to ancient Near Eastern customs, the Pharaoh should have respected their request and allowed them to perform their required religious duties (Enns, p.107, fn.34). But God is seeking an occasion against this king of Egypt, as he makes clear by his prediction of what will happen, again another stunning statement of his sovereignty, and a gracious preparation for his people to brace themselves for what is coming.

19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 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.

I am asking him to do something so reasonable and so modest that his rejection will demonstrate the depth of the hardness of his heart. God knows the future response of this pagan king to a question that hasn’t been asked yet. God knows exactly what it will take to break him and cause him to surrender. It will take more than military might or political power to move this king. It will take the divine intervention of a sovereign God. Moses, remember when you went out and saw the Egyptian striking down the Hebrew and you had compassion and were moved to intervene and strike down the Egyptian? I have compassion on my people, and I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt. It will take a mighty hand, and I am that hand. I will strike Egypt with all the wonders I will do in it. After that, he will let you go. I will work marvelous, surpassing, extraordinary things, things that are beyond anyone’s power to do. This word was used only once before, in Genesis 18:14 when God is answering the doubts of Abraham and Sarah over the promise of a son in their old age. “Is anything too hard (wonderful) for the LORD?” God is setting the stage for an epic display of his awesome power through the ten plagues. The Exodus is all about God and his glory. Listen to the first person pronouns: I know… so I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it.

And there’s the promise. Then he will let you go. You go to Pharaoh. He will not listen. I will strike Egypt with all (not some but all) of the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. What precision of prediction! What clarity of purpose! What encouragement of ultimate victory in spite of repeated setbacks! After that he will let you go. Rescue! Salvation! Deliverance at last! The Pharaoh will let you go. But that’s not all. God does exceeding, abundant, beyond all that we can ask or imagine.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

God is not merely going to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. He says “you shall not go empty”. God has a perfect plan. For shortsighted me, it would be good enough just to escape. Then I’d have to figure out how to make it out there. But God is going to provide for the needs of his people. He is going to bless them beyond what they could possibly conceive. And he promises this up front, so that when it happens, they can marvel at how awesome this God is. God says ‘I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. That’s a remarkable statement. This is a people who is so fearful and resentful that their government could tell them to throw the Hebrew babies in the river and they would obey. Now God says ‘I will give you favor in their sight’. They’ll give you anything you ask for. God’s sense of humor is beautiful. The mighty Pharaoh’s plan was frustrated by a handful women. Two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who feared God. Moses’ mother, who creatively obeyed the king’s command by placing her baby in the Nile in an ark, and the Pharaoh’s own daughter, who raised his arch-enemy under his own roof. Now, God says you are going to plunder the Egyptians. But not because you were victorious in battle. I will get the victory and your Hebrew women will plunder the spoil. The most powerful nation of the world willingly, voluntarily plundered by women and children!

Paul prays for us that we would understand how lavish God is:

Ephesians 1:18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might

God is awesome beyond our capacity to comprehend, he knows the end from the beginning, he holds the future in his hand, and he blesses his people far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! God has given us everything in Jesus.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

21 And I will give this people favor …you shall not go empty,

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 4, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment