July 8 & 9, 2017 Pentecost 5 (Moses Series #3)
Exodus 3: 10-15 and 4: 1, 10-17
Dear friends in Christ Jesus:
Think of how closed our society has become. Instead of having open doors and welcome mats, we have closed gate communities with “no soliciting” signs posted everywhere. We have caller ID on our telephones so we can see who is calling, and then determine whether they are worth our time or not.
As we continue with our summer sermon series looking at the life of Moses, we see Moses was called by God directly as God appeared to him in a burning bush. Moses knew who was calling. You would think that Moses would have been excited to hear from God himself. But his response betrays a lack of excitement. Why was that? Moses wasn’t trying to be disrespectful to God. It wasn’t that he didn’t love God or his people. What was it with Moses that made him so hesitant to serve God? Moses said to God after God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11) Who am I? Moses had gone from being a famous and royal son to being a fugitive and unknown shepherd. He didn’t feel worthy to such a task because he was just a “nobody.” Do you see how much 40 years of shepherding changed Moses? He went from picking up the phone and calling God and saying, “When are you going to let me lead,” to saying, “There’s no way I can do it now.”
In reply God doesn’t say, “Oh, you’re not too old. You’ve still got good eyes. Your legs still work. I still think you’re ok.” He doesn’t refute what Moses was saying at all, and with that silence he was really saying in effect, “You’re right Moses. You aren’t anybody. But you still don’t get it. I don’t call you based on who you are or what you’ve done.” The call of God is never based on who you are. God says he chose you before he even created the world, so how could his choice be based on anything you’ve done? It’s never about who you are or what you’ve done. God didn’t say, “Hey, I think you’d make a pretty good parent, I think I’ll give you a child!” He didn’t say, “That person could make a really good Christian, so I think I’ll choose him.” It doesn’t work that way. But like Moses, we think that God only works by works. We get angry when we see immoral people get riches and fame, while we don’t have half of what they do. We always have in the back of our minds that what we get and who we are are really based on what we’ve done.
Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go?” He understood at least that he was nobody now. That’s the right start, isn’t it? When God comes calling, our first reaction shouldn’t be, “It’s about time God!” Instead, when we realize that we are born worthless sinners we should pray, “Who am I, Lord, that you would give me your Holy Spirit? Who am I, Lord, that you would give me this child? Who am I, Lord, that you would give me this spouse? Who am I Lord, that you would give me such a good job?”
So how did God answer Moses who didn’t feel worthy for such a task? He replied, “I will be with you.” (3:12) It wasn’t about how many talents Moses had, but about who would be with Moses. God himself would be with Moses, standing by his side. But then Moses asked, “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?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (3:13-15) The same God who provided Abraham with a child at 100 years old, who saved Jacob from Esau’s anger and who brought them safely down to Egypt would be with them. This was the God known as I AM, not I was, or I will be some day. I AM would be with Moses.
That is the same basis of God’s call to us today. When you are called to be God’s child in baptism, it’s not about who your parents were, how good of a baby you were, or how smart you would become. No, your call at your baptism was based on the fact that Christ loved you so much to sacrifice himself for your sins, to make you holy. That’s why God calls you his child in baptism. The reason you were called is based on who God is, the compassionate and merciful Lord. This applies to everything you have. The reason you have a spouse or children or good parents is not because you deserved it, but because God gave you these gifts by his mercy.
The sad thing is that there are so many people in this world that don’t feel worthy to enter a church because of their past. “God could never love me,” they think, “because I’ve been a drug user or abusive.” Maybe you feel that God really doesn’t want you because you’ve made a big mess of your marriage or your life. God has a message for you, “That’s not why I’m calling you. I’m calling you because I love sinners. I love to give people things. I love to forgive. I love to clean up dirty people. That is why I’m doing it, because as a merciful God that’s just what I like to do. Look at how my Son died on the cross for you. I forgive you because of him.”
Once Moses was able to get past the identity crisis, he had another obstacle to cross. “Ok,” he may have thought, “God’s calling me to lead two million into this desert where I have a hard time taking care of sheep. How in the world am I supposed to do that?” So Moses just didn’t feel like he could do it.
This is something that we need to realize also as Christians. When you were baptized, God wasn’t calling you into a lifestyle of sitting around and having everything handed to you on a golden platter. Just because Christianity is free doesn’t mean it’s easy. Paul said, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12) You have been called into a battle of good vs. evil, against the very forces of hell itself. Not an easy lifestyle.
Moses was realistic about what he was being called into. He said, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (Ex 4:1) Honestly, if a man convicted of murder told you to go to Mexico today because he had seen a vision from God, how many of you would believe him? Moses also said, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4: 10) Even though Stephen said he was “powerful in speech and action,” Moses for some reason honestly felt like his speaking was no good.
Again, Moses was looking in the wrong place for his strength. He wondered how he could lead two million people out of Egypt. But he wasn’t the one who was going to do the work. It was the LORD who would work through him. So God patiently tried to point this out to Moses. For the first time ever God put his power in the hands of man. He enabled Moses to perform three miracles: turning a staff into a snake and back again, turning his hand from clean to leprous to clean again, and turning the Nile into blood. These would be visible proof that Yahweh had sent Moses.
When we really consider what God has called us into, fighting against Satan and his demons, not to mention thousands of hard hearted people who are born dead in sin, it is an overwhelming prospect. How can we fight such a battle? How is an unbeliever born dead in sin going to believe that Jesus died on a cross for him 2,000 years ago to save him? How is someone who is born to think he has to earn his way to heaven going to actually come to the realization that it’s by God’s grace that he is saved, not by works? We aren’t able to turn staffs into snakes or water into blood. But God says to us, “Is not my word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29) God’s Word works miracles. It breaks hearts into two, like a hammer breaks a rock into pieces. Just like Moses was able to change the water of the Nile into blood, God is able to change a child’s heart from death to life through the water of baptism. In another miracle he is able to take a simple meal of bread and wine and make it into a partaking of Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. These things are able to change hearts. Don’t forget about the miracles you have with a Bible and the sacraments.
Finally, when Moses couldn’t think of any other excuses he told God, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (4:13) How did God respond? Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” (4:14-17) There came a point where God’s patience ran out. Even with the miracles and the assurance that he would be with Moses, Moses still didn’t want to go. Yet even in his anger God didn’t kill Moses. Instead, he graciously gave him the support of his older brother Aaron who would stand by his side, speak for him, and treat him with the utmost respect. All Moses needed to do was go and take his staff with him. That was it. So Moses, probably still convinced that God had the wrong man, finally went anyway because God commanded him to and assured him that he would have his and Aaron’s help.
So look at what God did to free his people from slavery in Egypt. He sent two old men and a staff. No military invasion, simply an eighty year old man and his older brother saying, “We’re on a mission from God to set his people free.” How ridiculous. How in the world would they be able to set his people free? It wasn’t up to what Moses could do, but what God could do. So God told him to take his staff. With the power of God on his side, the impossible became possible.
You might think you don’t have the ability to be a parent, a spouse, a boss or a Sunday School teacher. You may feel that you don’t have the power to deal with the sickness that you or a loved one has been given. But God is with you. If he could work miracles through Moses, he can work miracles through you. Remember, it’s not about who you are or what you can do. It’s about who God is and what he can do. That’s what his call is based on. So when he comes calling and you see his name on your caller ID, don’t be shy. Answer the call. Amen.