July 15 & 16, 2017 Pentecost 6 (Moses Series #4)
Selected passages from Exodus 5, 6 and 7
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
After the fall into sin by Adam and Eve God promised to send a Savior who would come from Adam and Eve’s lineage. That was his plan to save the world. Later on God narrowed it down that the Savior would come through the lineage of Abraham, then Isaac and then Jacob. God’s purpose was for the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob, to live in the Promised Land and, finally, the Savior would be born from them. That was the plan. The problem was that the Israelites were in slavery down in Egypt. So God chose Moses, at the age of 80, to lead his people out of slavery. But there were many obstacles to accomplishing this task. God’s Word for Moses and for us is to Stick to the Plan.
After 40 years apart, Moses and Aaron had been reunited at Mt. Horeb. Now it was time to get to work. God called them to go straight to Pharaoh himself. Pharaoh was the leader of the world’s super power. So here 80 year old Moses and 83 year old Aaron went up to Pharaoh, who considered himself the only intermediary between the gods, and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’” (Exodus 5:1) Notice that they didn’t say, “We were wondering if it would be okay if we took the people for festival in the desert?” They simply said, “The LORD, the God of Israel says, “Let my people go.”
Pharaoh in his mind must have thought, “Why should I respect this LORD of these slaves? I don’t owe him anything.” Yet notice that Moses and Aaron didn’t back down. Instead, they upped the ante by saying, “Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” (Exodus 5: 3) They actually went so far as to threaten a punishment to Pharaoh if he didn’t cooperate. It would seem like a bold thing for them to do, but all they were doing was conveying the words that the LORD wanted them to speak. The fact was that the LORD wasn’t intimidated by this Pharaoh. He would not negotiate.
We hear a lot lately about how bad bullying is. They say the only way to treat a bully is to stand up to him. That takes courage. And that’s how God wants you to deal with this world in a spiritual way. The more we give in to the immoral world and say nothing, the worse it gets. If your children are hanging out with some kids that you know full well are evil, you might think, “Maybe we can influence him or her for the better.” But then, before you know it, your child may be getting into all sorts of trouble, even with the law. You can’t just assume these things will go away. You’ve got to put your foot down and address the evil behavior and who the friends are. It takes courage, but evil has to be confronted straight up because that’s the only thing that it will listen to, God’s law. Pharaoh wasn’t about to listen to sweet talk, and God didn’t give him any. He said, “Do it or else!”
So how did Pharaoh deal with this threat? He became angry and said, “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.” (Ex 5:7-9) Instead of backing down, Pharaoh became more aggressive and called the Israelites lazy and tried to make the LORD be the bad guy. As a result, the Israelite foremen came to Moses and said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (Ex 5:21) Unfortunately, when Christians fight evil, the very people they are trying to protect sometimes become angry with them. Kids will say to parents, “Don’t you love me. How could you do this to me? Nobody will want to be my friend if I don’t get to go to this party.” You may well be told by friends or family, “Who are you to tell me what’s right and wrong. Do you think you’re God? It’s none of your business. I can do what I want.”
How did Moses respond to this? Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (Exodus 5: 22-23) Moses in turn became frustrated and angry and even accused the LORD of sending him to bring trouble on his people. But the LORD knew that Moses was responding out of the pain he felt for his people. So how did the LORD respond? “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country. . . I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. . . . ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’” (Exodus 6: 2-3, 6-8) With great love and patience God was saying, “Calm down, Moses. All of the promises I made to Abraham are now going to come true. I’m not just going to be a God of the fathers, I will be their God. They’ll know that I AM and I still exist. So stick to the plan, even though it hurts right now.”
Stick to the plan, even when it hurts. It’s not easy, when we know our children or friends may become angry with us for challenging their bad behavior. It isn’t easy when unbelievers call us unloving, judgmental, and hypocritical for pointing out their sins. But God never said it would be easy. Instead he says in Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.” (Is 43:1). God tells us to remember who he is, a God of compassion and mercy. He tells us to remember who we are, redeemed children of God bought by the blood of Christ. When you were baptized, God called you by name. Keep on looking at the cross and remember that God used his own blood to pay for your sins. God will never disown you, even if your friends and family do. Stick to the plan even when it hurts.
After this wonderful explanation of who he is and what he would do, how did Moses and Aaron respond? Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage. (Exodus 6:9) The Israelites couldn’t believe that the LORD would deliver them. All they had experienced was suffering and slavery. It’s all they knew. So when God said to them, “I’m going to deliver you into a wonderful land and give you freedom”, they couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t believe because their faith was based on their feelings. What they failed to realize was that faith isn’t based on what you feel or what your past experiences have been. It’s based on the promise of a faithful God. When Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, every feeling that he had went against what he was about to do. He loved Isaac. God had given him that child at 100 years old. He was the one who would carry the line of the Savior. God said, “You shall not murder!” Every bit of logic told him not to do it. But he had God’s clear command which told him to kill Isaac and sacrifice him to the Lord. And so, against everything that he felt, he raised his hand to kill. That was faith. It’s believing that God is forgiving, even when your aches and pains tell you he’s punishing you. It’s believing that God wants the best for you, even when you’re going through the worst. It’s believing that you are holy and going to heaven through the blood of Christ, even when your conscience and God’s law tells you that you are a filthy sinner on the way to hell. That’s what God was calling on the Israelites to have here, faith that he was the LORD who would fulfill his promises to the Israelites that he made long ago. But they wouldn’t believe it.
After this rejection, then the LORD said to Moses, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.” But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (Ex 6:10-12) It was a logical conclusion, wasn’t it? If my own people won’t listen to me, how in the world will this hard hearted Pharaoh listen to what I’m saying? He’s not going to listen to me no matter what I say. Moses committed the same sin as the Israelites. He based his actions on what his logic told him, instead of what his God told him. But how did God respond? Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you.” (Exodus 7: 1-4) Isn’t that interesting? He says to Moses, “I know he won’t listen to you. But tell him anyway. Stick to the plan!”
God’s plan is to have the whole world be saved. Yet we know that the world is born in sin and hostile to God. We know that many of the people we tell about Jesus will not listen and don’t even want to listen. The last thing they want to be is “preached at”. So we reason to ourselves, “I won’t bother saying anything to them. I won’t preach at them, because they won’t listen anyway.” Remember what faith is, however. It is not based on how we feel or what we think will happen. It’s based on the Word and promise of God. If the LORD wants us to say something, who are we to say, “Nobody will listen”? God commands us to tell others about Jesus even if we know they won’t listen. It takes faith to do something like that. God says, stick to the plan, even when it doesn’t make sense.
God didn’t have to give Moses a reason to speak to Pharaoh. But he did. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” (Ex 7:4-5) God knew the future, and he revealed it to Moses. The LORD wasn’t going to release the Israelites through Moses’ words, but through God’s power. But Moses’ words would harden Pharaoh so God could show his power and release the Israelites. Knowing this gave Moses the courage to go forward. So Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. (Ex 7:6)
It wouldn’t be very glorious for Moses to get ridiculed and rejected by Pharaoh every time he went to him. It isn’t very glorious for us to be ridiculed and rejected when we tell people of Jesus. But when we are rejected and humiliated, it will provide evidence on Judgment Day that God’s judgment was correct. This evidence will give God good reason to say to those who rejected us, “Depart from me into the eternal fire.” It will prove that our God actually is a just and loving God. In sticking with the plan, the Word of God that we deliver will also work to convert some to faith.
All God says to us is, “Stick with the plan.” What is the plan? The same as it was with Moses, to save the world. So God says, “Stay in the Word and keep preaching my Word and I’ll lead you home.” Stick with the plan. Sometimes it hurts and doesn’t make sense. But rest assured, God knows what he’s doing. Amen.