Monday, August 20, 2012

"Real Characters" - Moses

“Real Characters –Moses” Exodus 3:10-15

Let me ask you a question. Where were you when your life completely changed? By that I mean do you remember where you were and what you were doing when something happened that completely changed your life? Maybe it was the beginning of your walk with Jesus. Most of you were probably in church but not necessarily. I hope you would include that as a life-changing event. If not, I need to see you after the service so we can talk about it. Where were you when your wife came to you and told you for the first time that she was pregnant? At least I hope she was your wife. If not, then again, I need to talk to you after the service. Pregnancy has a way of changing your life a little bit, right?

I’m sure if you were alive you remember where you were when you heard JFK was shot. Some of you may remember where you were when you heard Lincoln got shot but I’m not going to ask for any hands on that. We can all remember what we were doing on September 1st, 2001 when we first heard the news of the twin towers and the airplanes. And ever since that day our whole world has changed, hasn’t it? We went to war. The way we fly in airplanes, our treatment of other nationalities, our appreciation of the flag and our troops; all of that has changed.

So many times things like this happen just as our world starts to settle down. Just when we retire and get all the kids all grown up and living semi-responsibly something comes along and God lets us know He is not ready for us to sit on the sidelines just yet. Or maybe you finally feel like this is the right job for you and the money is finally starting to show up and things look pretty good and God says, “Um, yea, that job that you like so much, I need you to walk away from that and do this thing over here that you have no experience with.” And everything in your life changes and all the plans you made go down the drain.

You’ve heard it said that if you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans. James 4:13-14 says, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

We are starting a new series today I’m entitling “Real Characters”. For the next few weeks we will look at some different people of the Old and New Testaments and see how we might become more Godly by seeing what they did right and what they did wrong. The first character we will study is Moses. Now, up until Jesus, Moses was the most important character in Hebrew history. Just like when you talk about who was the greatest boxer who ever lived and somebody will say Joe Louis. Somebody else will say Joe Frasier or even Mike Tyson but the end of the conversation comes when somebody says Muhammed Ali.

In the same way, I can envision a conversation between Jewish Rabbis thousands of years ago talking about the important people in their history. One would mention all the things Abraham did. Then Jacob and then Isaac and even David but Moses ends the conversation. He wrote the first 5 books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. You might remember the 10 Commandments. God gave those to Moses. When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain, He talked to Elijah and Moses. There’s a pretty cool story about how he was put into the river as a baby and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. When the Bible (New and Old Testament) talks about “The Law”, that is the Law of Moses. You might say he was a pretty big deal back in his day. If he lived today he might even be a judge on American Idol. He was that big.

But most of the really important stuff happened to Moses when he was, what we would call, in the twilight of his life. His first 40 years had been fairly tumultuous but the next 40 years things seemed to settle down. He was content to herd some sheep around. His life was predictable and good. He had a few shekels in the bank, the kids were growing or grown and finally Moses had a good grip on his life. That’s when God introduced Himself.

Turn, if you would, to a very familiar passage in Exodus chapter 3. In this chapter we read about Moses seeing the burning bush and upon getting closer, he hears the voice of God that tells him that God has heard the cries of His people who were slaves in Egypt. At that Moses must have been overjoyed. Finally they were going to get some help. He told Moses that He had heard and was ready to deliver them. I bet Moses was saying, “Yea God, you get ‘em!” And then God tells Moses to go because Moses was going to be the one through whom all this happened. Can’t you just see the face of Moses change? His eyes got big. His eyebrows went to the top of his head. His jaw dropped.

Let’s read what happened in Exodus 3, verses 10-15.

10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[a] will worship God on this mountain. 3 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[b] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[c] 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,the name you shall call mefrom generation to generation.

In just the matter of a few minutes, Moses' world has gone from safe, secure and stable to shaky, senseless and scary.  Maybe you can relate to that.  Maybe you know how he feels to some degree.  How do you face tomorrow when everything you know has been turned upside down?

I want us to see just 2 things today.  There are 2 things we can learn from this passage about how to face an uncertain tomorrow and God put them here for just this reason, so that we would learn them and live them.

1)  God is present.  2)  God is personal.

You see, there is more to this command of God than meets the eye.  Yes, it is going to be a long trip.  Yes, Moses is getting up in years and yes, the thought of a sheep farmer convincing a pharaoh to let 3 million slaves walk out the front door is ridiculous.  But Moses is also a murderer.  He killed a man back there in Egypt and the last he heard Pharaoh was looking to kill him.  Add all of that together on top of the fact that Moses had no experience, had trouble speaking, he had that sin hanging over him and it's no wonder he asks God in verse 11, "Who am I to do this?"

Moses gets a lot of flack for asking God that question.  Preachers all the time say he should have just said, "Yes, God.  Ok.  Send me."  And that's easy for them to say.  I would have said something similar, I think.  Moses wanted to hear from God why he was chosen.  Moses wanted to hear God say, Well, it's because of your good heart and your willingness to be used." 

Moses wanted some affirmation about what it was in him that made God choose him.  But instead of God telling Moses he was a good person or he was smart or it was because he was good-looking, God says nothing about Moses because there was nothing about Moses that was special.  Look at what God says instead in verse 12.

"I will be with you."  "I will be with you."  God says, "I got this.  There is nothing special about you old man!  Just do what I tell you to do and let me worry about what happens!  Let me worry about Pharaoh.  Let me worry about putting words in your mouth.  Let me worry about what happens next."

And I love the guarantee that God gives Moses that everything will be ok.  Sometimes we want to make God promise us that He is going to handle everything and here God tells Moses that the proof that I am going to be with you is that you will come back here when it's all over and worship me.  You will see proof when it's all over, not before it starts. 

Ok, I have another question for you.  What do you think would have happened if Moses had heard all of this, sat down on a rock with his arms folded and told God, "No!"?  Would God cry and beg and try to talk him into it?  Would God strike him deaf and make him talk in pig Latin?  I can't speak for God in a hypothetical situation but whatever God chose to do His will would be done. 

Maybe God would have chosen one of Moses' own sheep to go to Pharaoh and talk, I don't know.  I don't know why God chooses people at all to do His work but that is how He chooses to do most things, through other people.  You see, your qualifications for the job have nothing to do with it.  In that respect, it is not about you.  But when you are obedient and you allow God to use you, then it is also for your benefit.

I remember when I was a kid watching Candid Camera with Allen Funt.  One episode he had somebody pretend to be a school guidance counselor.  He called 2 high school boys into the office of the counselor and had them fill out all this paperwork describing themselves and what qualifications they had and what their dreams were.

The supposed counselor went out and came back in a few minutes and announced to the 2 boys that they would be perfect candidates to start a career in shepherding.  “You will be great shepherds, I’m sure.”  You can imagine the looks on the boys’ faces.

If qualifications were how God chose what He wanted Moses to do, Moses would have been called to be a shepherd.  But God was with Moses and what did Moses get out of the deal?  Well, we talked about some of it earlier.  He became one of the most important men to ever walk the planet.  And the path to get there included having his faith strengthened, his character proven, his wisdom increased, and his Heavenly blessing count went through the roof!  All because God was present in his life as he was obedient.

Now, let's look at how God was personal to Moses.  I have to admit that Moses is a lot more clear-headed talking to God than I would be.  I'm afraid I would babble something about the bush still burning or something stupid but Moses is actually thinking this through.  Moses asks God a very logical question and I love God's answer to it.  Read 13 and 14.

Names meant a lot more back then than they do to us now.  The name Moses meant “drawn out of the water”.  That makes sense.  It tells something about the person. 

A man was invited for dinner at a friend's house. Every time the host needed something, he preceded his request to his wife by calling her "My Love", "Darling", "Sweetheart", etc., etc.
His friend looked at him and said, "That's really nice after all of these years you've been married to keep saying those little pet names."

The host said, "Well, honestly, I've forgotten her real name."

Names don’t mean as much to us anymore but back then your name defined your life and your ministry.  Moses is actually checking to see if God could deliver if he returned to Egypt.  Now to us that sounds ridiculous.  We would say that we know God is powerful enough to deliver us.  We would never question God about that, right?  Only someone with an immature faith would question God’s power.

Well, if that’s true then how do you explain our sin?  Because all sin is a lack of faith in God’s power.  You may say with your mouth that you believe God is powerful enough but when you do something you know is wrong, you are telling God with your actions that you don’t believe He is powerful enough to see you through. 

When you don’t tithe, you might as well have a neon sign on your head that says “I Don’t Trust God”.  When you lie, you are telling God that you don’t believe He is powerful enough to deal with the consequences of the truth.  When you lust you might as well holler out that God can’t provide everything you need.

When God said “I AM”, He is saying that He is the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, the satisfaction of every need.  He is all-powerful and all-knowing AND He is personal.  He is not just the God of Moses.  He is not just the God of the universe, some “Higher Being” like Mother Nature or the earth God or the sun God. 

He is your God and you can choose to ignore Him or you can put other things in front of Him, you can even deny He exists but you have to make some kind of personal decision about Him whether you like it or not because God is personal.

I met a man in New Orleans who told me that God had killed his son and so that is how he knew God didn’t exist.  You say that doesn’t make sense and you’re right but it makes as much sense as saying with your mouth that God is all-powerful but continuing to prove with your lifestyle that you don’t believe He is.

In Mark 9, a father brings his son to Jesus to heal him from an evil spirit.  The man asks Jesus that if He can, would He please heal him.  To that Jesus replies that everything is possible for him who believes.  I can relate to the father’s response to Jesus after that.  The man said, “I do believe.  Help me overcome my unbelief.”

Moses was the same way.  In the next chapter he asked God  what was going to happen when people don’t believe that God sent him.  Moses believed God.  He believed Him enough that he was willing to do what God said but he just asks for some help with his unbelief.  What happens?  God performed a miracle right there and turned the staff in Moses’ hand into a snake.

God was telling Moses that “I AM.  I CAN.  I WILL.  I have the power.  I have the knowledge.  I am aware of your situation and if you are obedient to Me then I will provide everything you need.”

Do you believe that today?  Do you believe that we are here today to worship the same God Moses worshipped?  Do you believe Jesus when He claimed that same name?  In John 8, the Jews asked Jesus, “Who do you think you are?”  Jesus replied, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.”

Are you going to continue to ask for a sign before you truly believe?  Just in this little group we have seen staffs turn to snakes.  We have seen that God can make an electric bill shrink.  He continues to put the right people at the right place at just the right time.  He has proven that he can heal knees, hips and necks.  He has protected us from fire, theft, storm, traffic and ourselves.  He has taken a church with a bad reputation and turned it into a place people know they can come to get help.

Moses would look at all that and say, “Wow!”  Moses was a biblical character but he was a real character.  He was a real shepherd tending real sheep on the side of a real hill and he had real problems and real doubts just like us.  But God proved Himself to Moses just as He has proven Himself to us.  He was present and personal with Moses and He is present and personal with us today.
And He wants to have a growing, dynamic relationship with you this morning, right now through His Son Jesus, the Great Shepherd.

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