July 1 & 2, 2017 Pentecost 4 (Moses Series #2)
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.
Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, “Why have you returned so early today?” They answered, “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “And where is he?” he asked his daughters. “Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.” Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, “I have become an alien in a foreign land.”
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
If you had the power of God Almighty, what would you do with your power? Would you end starvation in the world? Would you eliminate all diseases in the world? It’s an interesting thing to contemplate. There would be a lot of tough decisions to make if you were God. But the fact is, as much as you may want to be, you’re not God. You’re a weak and limited human, one little cog in this world. Chances are that your acts will not make a big difference on our world. That’s hard to accept, because most of us want to make a difference in the world.
Moses was no different. He wanted to make a difference for his people the Israelites. Day after day, for forty years, he had witnessed his people being beaten and abused under the tyranny of his very own stepfather. He wanted to make a difference. But how could he? What about you? Do you want to change the world or a small part of it? You may have an intense desire to bring about some change. But how? That’s the question we’ll look at today, as we ask: How Can I Make a Difference?
Moses wanted to make a difference. He wanted to help his people get out from the abuse and slavery to which the Egyptians had subjected them. He was tired of seeing them beaten and abused. If anyone had the ability or opportunity to free them it was Moses. Stephen tells us in Acts 7 that as Moses grew up he was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. (Ac 7:22) He grew up under the “system” of the Egyptians and he knew how to handle himself among the “royalty.” So if you look at the man on the surface, he was a natural born leader.
Moses wasn’t blind to this. So the picture we get of Moses in today’s text is of someone who was confident in his heritage, abilities and position. One day he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. So he took the initiative and killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?” Since he knew God had given him courage and strength, he wasn’t afraid to show it. He must have assumed, “Since God gave me my talents and my position he must want me to use them. I’m going to help my people.” It seems like a natural conclusion to make.
It may be a natural conclusion, but is it a God pleasing conclusion? God’s Word says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (Jas 1:19). Even though you have a mouth that can speak, and even if you have a lot to say, God actually says that you should still be “slow to speak.” God’s Word says that the sacrifice of Christ has set you free from guilt and shame. Yet Paul also said, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Ga 5:13) In other words, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Why not? So often you hear about someone winning the lottery. More often than not these seemingly lucky people end up broke because they don’t first learn how to manage their money. Just because they have it, doesn’t mean that should use it.
That’s what happened with Moses. Here he had all these abilities and he just couldn’t wait to use them. So he did, in a wrong way. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. So he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Instead of using his mouth to dissuade the Egyptian from beating the Israelite, he used his strength to murder the Egyptian. As a result, what happened? When he tried to bring his people together, what did his own fellow Israelite say to him? “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” His own people looked at him like a self-appointed murderer instead of a man sent from God. Also, when Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, so Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian. All of Moses’ strength was used to flee from the very people he wanted to free. Just because Moses had good intentions, the end didn’t justify the means, and his own talents were his downfall.
What he needed was a good dose of humility and patience. Often times, don’t we need that too? We often think things should happen the way we want them to happen. And when they don’t, we get mad and upset, full of complaints against even God for being unfair to us. These sins condemn us to hell. How we need a Savior, and we have one in Jesus.
Jesus was not too arrogant to live with humility and patience. He had the ability to talk his way out of being crucified. He could have easily defended himself and convinced Pilate and the crowd to free him. Once he got to the cross, he easily could have taken on the challenge of the scoffers to come down and prove he was the Christ. He has divine power. He is God. But he had the call from God to save the world. So the only way he could do that is if he didn’t use his powers. Just because Jesus had the power to do something didn’t mean that he did it. He had all divine power but he humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross. It was through that selfless act of not using his talents that Jesus gave the greatest glory to God. For through that sacrifice God wiped away all of our sins. Jesus died for you and me to save us. Isn’t that humbling?
Moses wanted to make a difference. He wanted to use his gifts to save his people, but it backfired. He had to run to Midian and live with people that he had never met before, miles and miles away from the very people he was trying to free. This was no mere bump in the road for Moses. He ended up in Midian for forty years. Instead of living as a statesman in the palace, Moses lived as a shepherd in the desert. It wasn’t until Moses was eighty years old that God would finally call him for the work that Moses felt he was ready to do forty years earlier.
Yet there were blessings from God, even in the midst of this exile. While he was there, God gave him a wife by the name of Zipporah and an intelligent priest and father-in-law by the name of Jethro. As he lived like a shepherd, he was able to experience what his people had done for 430 years in Egypt. Later on, when he would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he would then be traveling through land that he was familiar with and used to. But most importantly, this forty year hold on his mission taught Moses humility. He had many years to think about and regret the murder that he committed. The time in the desert taught him that even though he had talents, they were to be used under the direction of God, not at his own discretion. With that humility, Moses would then be able to handle the ridicule and rejection of the Israelites and be able to be patient with them and pray for them. With these gifts, he would then be able to make the difference he wanted to.
Living in this sin changed world is like driving in a car. Sometimes you might feel that life is cruising along at breakneck speed and everything is going great: you’re getting promoted, working good hours, making big bucks. But then sometimes you might hit a speed zone where it says, “ten miles per hour.” So you creep along with a broken arm, a run-down car, or a spouse or children that seem to be making your life much slower than you wanted. You want to do so much more. You want to do more and “make a difference”, but you can’t. And it seems “so wrong.”
God knows what kind of a car you’re driving. He’s set the speed limit of your life. You may want to go a hundred miles an hour, but your car may only go fifty. Or your car may go a hundred, but the problems in your life aren’t letting you go over ten. Don’t worry about it. God knows what speed you should be going. He knows where he wants you to go and what he wants you to do. As he told the Israelites through Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” So just wait. God will use your talents. God will use you. You will make a difference in the way God wants you to. Amen.