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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Darkness Before The Light

12/09 The Darkness Before the Light; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20181209_darkness-before-light.mp3

<<Griswold Christmas Lights (23 sec short clean version)>>

Christmas lights. Why are Christmas lights a thing? Why is there a whole aisle of just Christmas lights? We put them on our houses, on our trees, around our windows and doorways, all down main street, little twinkly Christmas lights everywhere. Why?

Here’s some verses in Luke that help us understand why. Zechariah prophesied over his son John:

Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew, in chapter 4, quotes the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2.

Matthew 4:15-16 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

We are enamored by lights shining in the darkness, at least in part because it is an echo in our souls of our hope for a light to overcome the darkness. When you see all those twinkly lights this time of year, remember that there is a longing in every human soul for a light that will overcome our darkness.

Jesus came to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region of the shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.

Deep Darkness in the World

This longing goes all the way back to the beginning

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

There’s this theme of darkness and light throughout the bible. God overcame the darkness at creation by his Spirit, by his Word. The light, he said, was good.

Already by chapter 3, man sinned and went his own way, and he hid from the light of God’s presence in the shadows of the garden.

Ever since, there has been this tension between the light and the darkness.

Darkness Linked with Death

Did you notice in those verses in Matthew and Luke that ‘darkness’ is synonymous with ‘the shadow of death’?

Luke 1:79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Matthew 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

The wages of sin is death. Because we are sinners, death looms over our entire lives. We live under the shadow of death. You never know. None of us know how long we have. We often distract ourselves from this reality – until some crisis or event crashes in and shatters our delusion, snapping us back to the reality that we are mortal. We are finite. Every moment, every breath is a gift. We live under a dark cloud. We dwell in a land of deep darkness. We sit in the shadow of death. Hence this longing in every heart for the light, to be out from the shadow, to see light overcome the darkness.

Blind To The Darkness

But before the light can be appreciated, welcomed, received, the darkness must be felt. This was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and it remains a problem for many in our day.

We live in denial. We refuse to believe that it’s really all that bad. We refuses to see the darkness.

We might agree and say ‘Yeah, it’s a really dark place out there. There’s really bad people doing horrible things and they need Jesus.’ If that’s what your find yourself saying, be careful, you might completely miss the meaning of Christmas. You might completely miss it and miss out. You see, Jesus came to be the light in a dark place. He entered in to the darkness. If you are saying ‘those people over there really need the light of Jesus’ you are putting yourself into a different category. ‘What they are doing over there, that’s really dark. But not me. I’m not in the dark. I can see just fine.’ Be careful, you are saying ‘I don’t need Jesus.’

Jesus was not very kind to hypocrites and finger pointers. He had sharp words for those who looked down on others and thought too highly of themselves.

John 9:39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

The worst kind of blindness is when you think you can see and refuse the gift of sight that is offered to you. Jesus came to offer sight to the blind, but those that deny that they are blind refuse to receive his healing.

You see, it’s not just dark out there. It’s dark in here. It’s dark inside, in me. My heart is the problem. My heart is dark. I need Jesus.

Reaction to Light; Rejection and Hatred

We don’t often notice just how dark it is until the light gets turned on. Our eyes adjust. We get used to the dark. We get comfortable in the dark. You’ve been in a room that slowly gets darker and darker and you don’t notice it, until someone walks in and flips a light switch and bam! Blazing light! What’s your reaction? Turn it off! Turn it off! It hurts! I was comfortable in the dark.

We all have this deep longing in our hearts for light to overcome the darkness, and Jesus is the light of the world, but there is always a reaction when the light gets turned on.

We looked last time at John 1, where Jesus the eternal Word, who was with God in the beginning and who was God, became human and entered our world. We are told of Jesus in verse 4:

John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …7 [John] came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

You see, Jesus coming into the world as light says something about the world. It says something offensive about me. Jesus the light coming into the world says that the world is a dark place. And it is a dark place because it is made up of sinners dwelling in deep darkness. The world is a dark place because my heart is dark. This is offensive. I don’t like to be told that my heart is wicked. That my heart is deceitful. I don’t like to be told that I’m blind, that I’m living in utter darkness. That’s offensive.

We looked last time at John 3:16, where God gave us his only Son. John 3:19 says

John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

We are not just in the dark. We love the dark. We have this love affair with darkness. We are ashamed and afraid and we don’t want to be exposed, so we hide in the shadows. We don’t want anyone to see what we are really like. We know we don’t measure up.

Do you see what this is saying? The light has come into the world; Jesus has come into the world. And we love the darkness and hate the light. We hate Jesus. ‘Whoa! That sounds harsh. I don’t know if I would say it like that.’ Jesus says it exactly like that. ‘I wouldn’t say I hate Jesus; I respect him as a great man, a great teacher, a prophet.’ You can’t say that. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘he has not left that option open to us.’ He claimed to be God. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic …or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. …you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” [Mere Christianity]. Jesus divides. You are either for him or against him. You either hate him or you fall at his feet and worship him. You can claim to respect him as a great man, but that’s not being intellectually honest. If you believe in him, you must receive him completely, as he is, everything he says. And that includes some really painful things to swallow. Receiving him as the light of the world means confessing that my heart is dark, wicked, desperately wicked.

Jesus The Exclusive Light of the World

Notice, Jesus says the light has come into the world, the true light.

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.

Jesus does not claim to be a light in the world, one among many. He is the light – the only true light of the world. Jesus is exclusive. You follow Jesus or you are in darkness.

Jesus Only; Not Jesus Plus

In Matthew 17, some of Jesus’ disciples got a glimpse of his glory.

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail th’ incarnate deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel.” [Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -C.Wesley]. For a moment, as it were, the curtains were drawn back and the pre-incarnate glory of the Son of God blazed out. The light of the world was so bright in that moment, they couldn’t look at his face.

Matthew 17:3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Moses, the one to whom the Law was given, the author of the Torah, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets were there speaking with Jesus. Peter thinks this is great. Three of his heroes; Moses, Jesus, Elijah. We should just camp out, get autographs, bask in the glory. Peter wanted to honor these three, enshrine these three. But the Father would have none of it. He thundered from heaven interrupting Peter before he could finish his thought, putting him on his face.

Matthew 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

What was the message that came through crystal clear to the disciples as their faces were pressed against the dirt? God does not share his glory. Jesus is the only Son of the Father. He is not one among the prophets, givers of God’s word; he is the Word. He alone is to be honored. He alone is to be listened to. He alone is the light of the world. The Law and the Prophets, the entire Old Testament, Jesus said, was pointing to him. It is all about him. Jesus did not come to abolish the law or the prophets; he came to fulfill it. All the scriptures find their answer in Jesus. It is not Jesus plus the law, Jesus plus the prophets; It is Jesus only. We do not enshrine three lights, three great teachers; Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Moses and Elijah were anticipating Jesus, pointing to Jesus. Jesus is the only, the unique Son of the Father. Jesus is the light.

He took our Darkness and Night

We all have this deep longing for a light to overcome the darkness. At Jesus’ last supper, when Satan had entered in to the betrayer, when Judas left, John tells us “And it was night” (Jn.13:30). This is more than just a description of what time it was. Jesus had said in John 9

John 9:4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

I am the light of the world. But night is coming. Judas went out. And it was night. Later, in the garden, when Judas kissed Jesus to identify him to the authorities,

Luke 22:52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? 53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

This is your hour, and the power of darkness. Jesus could have blinded the crowd with a blaze of transfiguration glory, but instead, he allowed himself to be seized, led away, ultimately to be crucified.

Luke 23:44 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Jesus, the light of the world, endured darkness for me. Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus took my darkness, he fell under the shadow of death, he was made to be sin (2Cor.5:21); He bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). The light of the world conquered the darkness by being extinguished by it. He was swallowed up by the darkness, and in doing so, he swallowed up death forever!

The Necessity of The New Birth to See

The light of the world came, but he was not received. He was hated.

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

How is it that we receive him? How is it that we see him for who he is? We are blind to our own darkness and need of him. Those who receive him are those who were born of God by the will of God. God caused us to be born again (1 Peter 1:3).

2 Corinthians 4:6 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.

We sinned. We hid from the light of God’s presence in the darkness. God overcomes the darkness in our hearts by his Spirit, by his Word.

Acts 26:27 …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.’

God’s word and his Spirit opens blind eyes.

Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Maybe you see, maybe for the first time, that you are in the dark, and the only light is Jesus. May God open your eyes to the truth of who he is. May God by his Spirit and through his word shine in your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Receive him today. Believe in his name.

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December 13, 2018 Posted by | advent, occasional, podcast, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 2:11-15; A Deliverer Rejected

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100516_exodus02_11-15.mp3

5/16 Exodus 2:11-15 A Deliverer Rejected

We’re in the second book of the bible, Exodus. In Exodus, we’ve seen God at work keeping his promises to his people. God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would bless them and make their name great and multiply them abundantly. Exodus begins by seeing the blessing of God in the multiplication of the people of Israel in Egypt. But the blessing of God often comes at a cost. God’s blessing on the people of Israel was perceived as an internal threat to the national security of Egypt. The Pharaoh took action to get this threat under control. He appointed taskmasters to oppress the people severely to break their spirits and reduce their population. But instead, “1:12 …the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they were spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” So the Pharaoh took the head midwives into his confidence and commanded them to kill all the boys that were born to the Hebrews. But these two women, Shiphrah and Puah, feared God and disobeyed the Pharaoh.

1:20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.

So, rather than reducing the population as planned, the population continued to increase, with even these barren women now having children of their own.

1:22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.

God moves in mysterious ways. The response we see to this decree is that an unnamed Hebrew family from the tribe of Levi have a baby boy. The mother recognizes the creative goodness of God in this new life, and hides him for three months, then, in faith, she throws him into the Nile herself – in his own personal ark waterproofed with pitch, and sets her daughter to watch over him. The daughter of the wicked Pharaoh happened to come down to the Nile to bathe just at that place, and happened to see the ark, and she just happened to have pity on him and chose to disobey her father rather than drown this Hebrew boy in the river. She adopted him to be her own son, and hired his own mother to nurse him for her. So this evil Pharaoh is foiled in his plan by two God-fearing Hebrew midwives, a Hebrew mother and her young daughter, and his very own disobedient daughter. So this mother who walked by faith in God ends up being payed out of the evil Pharaoh’s treasury to nurse and train and care for her own condemned baby boy during the formative first years of his life. After three or four years of pouring herself and her faith and her history and her God into this boy, she brought him to the Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. Maybe we should all have that mindset when we train our children. We have but a short time before we must turn them over to the pagan world empire, so it is urgent that we do everything within our power to train them up in the way that they should go.

10 When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

I’m sure that when she entrusted him to the Pharaoh’s house, she entrusted him to God, and never ceased to pray for him. Now the narrative jumps ahead forty years.

2:11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

In this passage, we see Moses transition from favored position of prince in the royal courts of the greatest nation in his world to condemned criminal exile hiding in the wilderness. Twice in verse 11 Moses identifies himself with ‘his people’, the Hebrews. He went out to his people… he saw and Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. There is no question where Moses’ allegiance lies. Stephen fills in some background details for us in his sermon in Acts 7:

Acts 7:22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.

He was highly educated in the most advanced center of education in his day. He was mighty in words and deeds. He had a promising career ahead of him. Josephus was a Jewish historian that lived AD37-100. If what Josephus records is accurate, the princess who adopted him was Thermuthis, who had no children of her own and hoped that Moses might one day ascend to the throne. Josephus also records an story of Moses as an Egyptian military leader, leading a victorious attack on the Ethiopians. Whatever the true details of these unknown forty years, Moses could easily have embraced his life as Egyptian royalty and ignored his connection with the slave people. He could have turned a blind eye to the sufferings of his people and held on to his position of power and his life of ease. But a mother’s training leaves a lasting impression. Forty years later he takes action to identify himself with his people and alienate himself from the Egyptians who raised him. Understand, Moses personally had nothing to gain and everything to lose by this move. The writer of Hebrews attributes his actions to faith:

Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

It was by faith he chose to identify himself with the people of God. He abandoned the wealth of Egypt as ‘fleeting pleasures of sin’. We can imagine what kind of sinful pleasure might have been available to him, but it could be as simple as what James tells us:

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Moses knew what was right. He knew what the Egyptians did was wrong. For him to turn a blind eye to unjust suffering and continue to enjoy the benefits of Egypt would have been sin. So in faith, he acts. Faith is trust in the promises of God. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Maybe Moses studied the prophecies of his people and did the math and knew that the time of their slavery was coming to a close. So in dependence on God who is always faithful to keep his promises, he acts.

He went out, he looked, and he saw. The verb ‘he went out’ ( auy yatsa’) is the verb that is used throughout the Old Testament to describe how God brought out the Israelites from Egypt. Here Moses in his own exodus goes out from the Egyptians to his people. “He went out to his own people”.

The verb for ‘he looked’ and ‘he saw’ ( har ra’ah) is the same one that is used in 2:25 and 3:7, 9 of God looking on or seeing the affliction of his people. Just as God would look on his people with compassion and act, so now Moses was looking on the burdens of his people and acting out of compassion. He was not disinterestedly observing from a safe distance. He was investing himself in the situation of his people and doing so at great personal risk to himself.

In Acts 7, Stephen gives us a helpful summary of the Exodus history and even some insight into the thoughts of Moses in this event:

Acts 7:17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, …

Genesis 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Acts 7:17 …the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds. 23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.

Moses understands that God has raised him up to bring salvation to his people. He is defending the oppressed and standing up for slaves who are being wronged that have no voice. Later in Exodus when God gives Moses his laws he says this:

Exodus 21:20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. …23 …you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Moses is acting as avenger and bringing justice to a cruel and hopeless situation. I’m not saying that what Moses does here is without fault, or that it was the wisest action, but it was right for him to take action and defend the oppressed. (cf. Isaiah 59:14-16)

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

There is something in these verses that doesn’t come through very well in our English translations. The word describing what the Egyptian was doing to the Hebrew slave is the exact word that describes what Moses did to the brutal Egyptian taskmaster. Moses saw an Egyptian beating to death a slave, so he beat to death the Egyptian. He saw an Egyptian striking down a Hebrew, so he struck down the Egyptian. What was being done to the helpless slave, he, coming to his rescue, did to the taskmaster. God was giving salvation to the Israelites by his hand. This was indeed a huge act of faith, a David against Goliath move, as he was one man against a powerful nation. I’m not sure what Moses was expecting to be the next step. Maybe the Israelites would rally behind him as their leader and they would fight against the Egyptians. Maybe he expected that God would do a miracle as he stepped out in faith. I don’t think he was planning on what happened.

13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

Again Moses uses the same word that was used in verses 11 and 12. Why are you striking down or beating to death your brother? To Moses it was not an ethnic thing. It was not the Israelites against the Egyptians. It was right against wrong. When an Israelite mistreated another Israelite, that was just as wrong as when an Egyptian mistreated an Israelite. Moses here acts as judge – one of the roles in which he will serve Israel in the wilderness – and he makes a determination of who was in the wrong and confronts him about it. Moses was seeking to make peace between his people. Moses knew that killing an Egyptian would not win him any points with the Egyptians. But he was not expecting the response that he got from his own people.

14 …“Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”…

Moses expected that his people would see what God was doing and embrace him as their deliverer. Stephen tells us:

Acts 7:25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.

Instead of welcoming their deliverer, the Hebrews reject his rule over them. Their question is rhetorical – who made you a prince and a judge over us? But the answer is God. God was giving them salvation by his hand. But they did not understand. Moses came to do good to his people. Instead, they accuse him of intending them harm. Moses is afraid, probably very confused. As he expected, Pharaoh heard and was after his head. This is the second time Moses was under sentence of death from this Pharaoh. The first time he was protected by his parents, then adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Now he runs, a condemned criminal exiled in a strange land. Born of the Hebrews, raised by the Egyptians, now rejected by both. He had nowhere to lay his head. He flees to the wilderness.

I’ve often heard it said that Moses missed his cue and jumped the gun. He was not supposed to do what he did and that’s why it turned out so bad. But throughout this passage, God is persistently keeping his promises, and from our perspective, things seem to be going from bad to worse. But God has his good purposes and is moving things according to his plan. Moses spent four years under the training of his mother, then 36 years under the training of Egypt, and God wanted him to spend the next 40 years of his life under his schooling in the desert. Moses needed to understand that to lead God’s people does not mean glory and praise, but often rejection and criticism and a wilderness experience. Moses needed to feel what it felt like to be an alien and stranger looking for a home. He needed to learn what it meant to lean not on his own strength and wisdom, but entirely on God who guides and gives strength. Moses needed to learn humility and dependence and patience and God taught him those things and more in the next forty years seemingly on the shelf. We can take heart when we end up in the wilderness, because God does have a purpose and he makes no mistakes.

But we can’t miss the connection with Jesus. Moses was another sign to point us to Jesus. Moses himself pointed to this:

Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers––it is to him you shall listen–– …18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

Moses, like Jesus, was preserved from a maniacal tyrant who was afraid of any threat to his power and had all the baby boys executed. Moses tried to make peace among his brothers. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to bring peace. Moses came to his own people and was rejected as their leader. John’s gospel says of Jesus:

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

This is exactly the point Stephen is making to the Jews in his farewell sermon. There is a historical pattern that Israel rejects the deliverers that God sends. Stephen continues:

Acts 7: … 35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’––this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.

Stephen began with Joseph, who was rejected by the patriarchs and sold, moves through Moses rejected by his people, and on to the prophets, where he makes application to those who are about to stone him:

Acts 7:51 “You stiff–necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The whole story of Moses is meant to point us to Jesus. Just like Moses’ rejection by his people was not a surprise to God, So the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people and his reception by a people who were outside the covenant community was all part of God’s plan. It was foretold by the prophet Isaiah that Jesus would be:

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

But we do not have to reject him. John goes on:

John 1:11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

We can receive him. We can believe. We can become children of God. We can be born of God.

 

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

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments