September 26, 2021 Service
Building a People of God With Unusual Characters: Moses, Part 2: The Difference God’s Plan Makes
- Moses, One of God’s Unusual CharactersA man born under the threat of death because he was a Hebrew mail, Moses was raised in a Pharaoh’s family. But the first thing we hear of him as an adult is that he is the murderer of a slave-driver, who was beating a Hebrew slave. But that didn’t make him popular with the Hebrews, who had no reason to trust someone who came from Pharaoh’s court, no matter what he said about his heritage or how he was a champion for the slaves.After Pharaoh heard about the murdered slave-driver, Moses left Egypt under another death threat.He ran as far as Midian, where his distant cousins were. They were the descendants of Abraham’s son Midian from his second wife Keturah, whom he married after Sarah’s death.We read this is Genesis 25:1 Abraham had taken another wife, whose name was Keturah, 2 and she bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.4 And Midian’s sons were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were sons of Keturah.It was through these offspring of Midian, the 4th son born to Keturah and Abraham, that the Midianites were established in the land, on their own—for Abraham had left everything he owned to Isaac, and all his other sons had to make their own way.Over the generations the Midianites had become both nomadic shepherds and some were traders who had something to do with Joseph’s trip to Egypt over 400 years before.Now, we talked about the burning bush where the angels of the Lord God appeared as fire, and where the voice of the Lord God told Moses to go to Egypt, and the 5 excuses that Moses made to God, with God’s replies:Moses: I’m a nobody.God: It only matters who I am because I am with you.Moses: I barely know who you are.God: I will show you more of myself as you go.Moses: They’ll think I’m nuts.God: I will give you favor where I send you.Moses: I can’t talk in front of people.God: I am responsible for your abilities.Moses: I don’t want to go.God: I will give you everything you need and more.So now we move to the next major section of Mose’s life, as he comes face to face with the Hebrews, with Pharaoh’s cruelty, with Pharaoh’s dismissal of Yahweh God, and finally with the event that makes Pharaoh glad to be rid of the Hebrews, the death of the firstborn of Egypt.How much of this do you think could have happened with Moses trying to do it on his own steam, with his own wits, and through his own plans?>>>I am convinced that Moses would have gotten nowhere, either with the people of the Israelites, or with Pharaoh, except that Moses gave in to the demands of the Holy God who called Abraham to leave the land of his birth and set out to the promised land of Canaan, where God would settle his people in the region of modern Palestine. So let’s look at . . .The Difference God’s Plan MakesMany of us might question why God had the Israelites go through so much before becoming a people that was willing to take and hold the land of the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The tribes of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, needed to have a story that would describe them, a story that would define them, a story that would defend them from all future threats.Now, certainly, God could have chosen differently in how he developed his people. God could have visited ancient Egypt himself, to turn the hearts of the Pharaohs to the One Creator God. God could have burst into that society that was so very proud of its massive accomplishments and leadership in the ancient world to build a people from these who had already been successful for some thousands of years.Or perhaps he could have upset the pantheism of ancient Greece, with their victories and their great cities and architecture, and from the throne of Zeus depose all false gods and set himself up as the one and only God deserving worship.But God did not choose Egypt, or Greece, or the Hittites, or the Babylonians, or Sumerians, or any other developed society or culture. Why? Because human building projects and human endeavors and human empire-building is not God’s best plan for his people.Now, by the time we get to our own day, we are more than full of all of those things, and our own accomplishments have the enticement to draw us away from God to celebrate our own greatness. Believe me, I am well aware of that, as I just returned from a quick trip to Las Vegas to assist my brother, where we had a hotel room on the 31st floor of a hotel funded by the lost wages of many others who couldn’t afford it. I know that because, mid-week, I paid less for that 4-star hotel room than I would have for the Super-8 down the road a couple miles. I God were to choose his people from those who were already successful empire builders, He would have a people without a story. And in 2, 4, 6 or 8 years God would have been voted out of office by those he created. After all, we have politics because we can’t all get in line behind one unifying ideal.So instead of choosing a ready-made nation, or a successfully built empire, God chose a man, Abraham, and his wife, Sarah, who were so old as to be as good as dead when it came to having a child, a son, as God promised. God trained Abraham’s faithfulness over years or decades of fostering hope that was driven by faith. And finally Isaac was born. Then there were his twins Esau and Jacob, through whom God chose the younger to become his child of promise.The story told us how Jacob went through 20 years of servitude as his own family increased to 12 sons, which is part of the story of the Israelites, these 12 sons of Jacob Israel who would become the clans of the Hebrews.But God wasn’t done building the story that describes them, defines them and provides a defense for their own existence even down to our present day. Joseph, the first-born of his favorite wife Rachel, and Jacob’s 11th son, was sold into slavery by his own brothers so God could break his pride and form his character into one of the best administrative leaders the world had known, whose God-given wisdom and talent would save Egypt and his own family through the long, severe drought that brought every surrounding nation to its knees.We picked up the story again after the old Pharaohs had died, and the Israelites were becoming a great people as they were planted in some of the best farm and pastureland in Egypt, the land of Goshen, which also made them the eastern defensive line against any invaders against Egypt. So it wasn’t only bricks that the Pharaohs would lose, it was also a big hunk of their security.While the intensity of the slavery was increasing, God heard the cried of the Israelites, called Moses to meet him at the burning bush, then sent him on his mission, meeting Aaron before he met the leaders of Israel.Moses Begins His MissionDeparting Midian with his wife Zipporah, leaving the realm of Jethro-Reuel, the priest to the Midianites of the God that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and now Moses, had heard.18 Then Moses went back to his father-in-law, Jethro, and said to him, “Please let me return to my relatives in Egypt and see if they are still living.” Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 Now in Midian the Lord told Moses, “Return to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took God’s staff in his hand.The Lord God’s Marching Orders21 The Lord instructed Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, make sure you do before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put within your power. But I will harden his heart so that he won’t let the people go. 22 And you will say to Pharaoh: This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. 23 I told you: Let my son go so that he may worship me, but you refused to let him go. Look, I am about to kill your firstborn son!”Moses Meets His Brother Aaron27 Now the Lord had said to Aaron, “Go and meet Moses in the wilderness.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 Moses told Aaron everything the Lord had sent him to say, and about all the signs he had commanded him to do.The First Meeting With Israel’s Leaders29 Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. 30 Aaron repeated everything the Lord had said to Moses and performed the signs before the people. 31 The people believed, and when they heard that the Lord had paid attention to them and that he had seen their misery, they knelt low and worshiped.The First Meeting With Pharaoh1 Later, Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival for me in the wilderness.” 2 But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him by letting Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”3 They answered, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go on a three-day trip into the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, or else he may strike us with plague or sword.” 4 The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you causing the people to neglect their work? Get to your labor!” 5 Pharaoh also said, “Look, the people of the land are so numerous, and you would stop them from their labor.”The First Meeting Backfires6 That day Pharaoh commanded the overseers of the people as well as their foremen, 7 “Don’t continue to supply the people with straw for making bricks, as before. They must go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But require the same quota of bricks from them as they were making before; do not reduce it. For they are slackers—that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Impose heavier work on the men. Then they will be occupied with it and not pay attention to deceptive words.”The Israelites Complain19 The Israelite foremen saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You cannot reduce your daily quota of bricks.” 20 When they left Pharaoh, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who stood waiting to meet them. 21 “May the Lord take note of you and judge,” they said to them, “because you have made us reek to Pharaoh and his officials—putting a sword in their hand to kill us!”Moses Complains To the Lord God22 Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”Yahweh Reminds Moses of His Plan1 But the Lord replied to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of a strong hand he will let them go, and because of a strong hand he will drive them from his land.”Yahweh Encourages Moses2 Then God spoke to Moses, telling him, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but I was not known to them by my name ‘the Lord.’ 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land they lived in as aliens. 5 Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are forcing to work as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.A Covenant Promise for the Israelites6 “Therefore tell the Israelites: I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians and rescue you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the forced labor of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.”Too Burdened to Hear from God9 Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor.God Sends Moses Back to Pharaoh10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, 11 “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go from his land.”Moses Complains a Second Time About His Role12 But Moses said in the Lord’s presence, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, then how will Pharaoh listen to me, since I am such a poor speaker?”>>>Then, after a short genealogy of Moses’ branch of Levites, we read. . .The Third Time Moses’ Complains He Can’t Do It28 On the day the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 he said to him, “I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I am telling you.” 30 But Moses replied in the Lord’s presence, “Since I am such a poor speaker, how will Pharaoh listen to me?”God Elevates Moses’ RankAnd Moses, for the time, becomes second only to God himself before Pharaoh:1 The Lord answered Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your prophet. 2 You must say whatever I command you; then Aaron your brother must declare it to Pharaoh so that he will let the Israelites go from his land.But that doesn’t mean that all will be rosy. Just because God speaks, whether through a bush or through a prophet, doesn’t mean anyone will pay attention to what God has to say,>>>So Moses is told right up front that . . .There Will Be Resistance and Judgement3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you, but I will put my hand into Egypt and bring the military divisions of my people the Israelites out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.So They Will Know5 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the Israelites from among them.”This is God’s Show6 So Moses and Aaron did this; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.Moses and Aaron had to trust God in what they did and trust God for the outcome. And, as octogenarians, they weren’t the same spry young men they once were. They weren’t going to be able to stand up on their own to big challenges or strong challengers.>>>And that’s OK, because Pharaoh was about to see. . .God’s Power Revealed in PlaguesIn chapters 7-10 the first 9 plagues are described. I won’t go into any detail on those today, for we are looking at the man Moses mostly.Yet the scripture events are important to us. There is a common pattern. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go. Pharaoh refuses, and the plague hits all Egypt.One: The BloodFirst the waters of the Nile are turned to blood. That doesn’t impress Pharaoh at all.Two: the FrogsThen the Frogs infest the land. You couldn’’t walk across the street without stepping on one, in Egypt. No Dice. Pharoah was resolute.Three: the GnatsThen the gnats. That must have been fun. I can’s even imagine, after getting bothered by little clouds of the buggers sometimes while camping. Still, Pharaoh’s heart was hard.Four: the FliesSo come the flies. Oh, Joy!! But It was only on the Egyptians. Not bad for the Israelites. Pharaoh was almost moved to action by that, telling Moses “OK, go make a sacrifice in the wilderness, if you pray for me.” Well, Moses prayed for relief before they left, an Pharaoh backed out of his promise.Five: the Livestock PlagueThen the livestock suddenly started getting sick and dying off. The plague was just what Moses told them. Pharaoh didn’t even think about this being tied to setting the Israelites free, even though not a single head of Israelite livestock was gone. “But Pharaoh’s heart was hard” so no release for the people.Six: BoilsThen the plague of super painful, ugly, infected boils all over the body. I don’t know if you have ever had a boil. I still have a scar on my back from the one I had as a teenager. You would think that would be a wake-up call. Pharaoh didn’t even think about this being tied to setting the Israelites free. “He would not listen to him.” says the Bible.Seven: HailFor act 7, Moses is told to tell Pharaoh he could have just stretched out his hand and obliterated Egypt, but all this is to show his power. So better bring everyone and everything inside if you want them to survive. And now comes the lightning and the hail, and flattens the crops and all the servants and livestock out in the open. Except in Goshen.Pharaoh was a little more contrite, for a moment. But as soon as the hail stopped, so did Pharaoh’s thoughts of letting them go.Eight: Locusts3 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and told him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may worship me. 4 But if you refuse to let my people go, then tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory.7 Pharaoh’s officials asked him, “How long must this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Don’t you realize yet that Egypt is devastated?”But of course it is the same story. Pharaoh agrees to let the people go worship, but only the men. The women and children would still be hostages.The locusts devastate what is left of grass and trees and plants.20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the Israelites go.Nine: DarknessSo now would come something that would keep the whole nation of Egypt scared for 3 days.Darkness over the land. Pharaoh wasn’t even given warning of this one. People couldn’t even see each other. Except in Goshen, where the Israelites lived.Pharaoh once again told Moses they could go. Moses said everything was going with them. So Pharaoh said no. Again.The Final Plague Against Egypt: The FirstbornTime for the last stroke of God’s hand. Time to hit Pharaoh and his people where it really hurt.All the firstborn would die throughout Egypt, except for the Israelites there would be a Passover when the blood of their sacrifice to God was spread on the doorposts and lintels of their houses.Ex 12:2929 Now at midnight the Lord struck every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and every firstborn of the livestock.30 During the night Pharaoh got up, he along with all his officials and all the Egyptians, and there was a loud wailing throughout Egypt because there wasn’t a house without someone dead.Pharaoh Sets the Israelites Free31 He summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and said, “Get out immediately from among my people, both you and the Israelites, and go, worship the Lord as you have said.32 Take even your flocks and your herds as you asked and leave, and also bless me.”33 Now the Egyptians pressured the people in order to send them quickly out of the country, for they said, “We’re all going to die!”34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their clothes on their shoulders.The Israelites Don’t Leave Empty-Handed35 The Israelites acted on Moses’s word and asked the Egyptians for silver and gold items and for clothing.36 And the Lord gave the people such favor with the Egyptians that they gave them what they requested. In this way they plundered the Egyptians.God’s Plans Beat Man’s Plans Every Time
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