Description / Transcription
This sermon originally delivered by Kevin DeYoung at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan
God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of Glory! Blessed are you, eternal God, giver of all wisdom and knowledge. Grant to us a spirit of wisdom and revelation and the knowledge of Christ. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we have been called. Teach us your ways. Show us your will. Give us the gift of your presence now and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to Exodus 3:1-12. It’s always a good idea, whether you’ve been to church 10,000 times or this is your first time, to open up the Bible so you can follow along as the Scripture is read and so you can also follow along throughout the sermon. It will help you understand what’s being preached and help you discern and evaluate what you hear.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:1-12
Revival in the Modern World
What would it look like if God began to do something really big in our day? What would you see? And you can imagine what that would look like… revival; churches full; people gathering in prayer; great unity; great worship; people being converted; maybe a great missionary movement, a new movement of students raised up and sent out to the uttermost parts of the earth; to see people in their retirement age going faraway places, learning a language, or sharing the gospel. What would a great big thing look like?
Maybe it would be that North Africa, which was—at one time—part of the cradle of Christianity, turned back to Christ. Maybe it would be the Muslim world throughout the 10/40 window turning to the living God and worshiping Christ and him crucified. Maybe it would be a great breakthrough for the gospel in Europe, where it seems as if the gospel was won only to be lost. Maybe we would see a great reduction or the end of human trafficking or abortion. Or perhaps we would see governments around the world cease from oppressing their own people and from persecuting Christians. What would something really big look like? How would it start?
Maybe it would start with a great, decisive electoral victory, where everyone was united that this candidate was going to solve our problems (if we were all united on that, that would probably be a bad sign) and that person is elected. There it is! There’s the beginning! Would it be the announcement of some great scientific breakthrough? Would it be NASA announcing that there may have possibly been certain streaks on the planet Mars that could have been conducive for water at one time? Maybe! Sign up for the next ship out there. Would it be ten million signatures on a petition? Would it be the U.N. passing some great multi-national resolution of humanitarian concern? What would it look like to say, “There it is. There’s the beginning of God doing something really big” ?
I don’t know what it would look like in the beginning. The result would be prayer, worship, truth, faith, hope, and love; but what would it look like in the beginning stages when God was just starting to roll out some great plan? The only thing we can really be sure of is that we can’t be sure what it would look like, because when God begins to do something really big, he has a penchant for doing it in surprising ways.
These verses in Exodus 3 represent the first steps in God’s great work of deliverance for his enslaved people in Egypt. And while the story may be familiar to many of us, it wouldn’t have been expected for the Israelites. Some of you know this story and you are thinking, “Okay. We are getting into the good stuff now in Exodus. This is going to be good. We have a lot of good stuff until we get to the end, and then there are laws and there are tabernacles, but we have it good for a while.”
We have plagues, and we have the burning bush; we have all of these great stories. You learned about them in Sunday School. Maybe you saw a picture of them in the sheet that you brought home or you saw the “Ten Commandments” movie. Or maybe you had a flannel graph in Sunday school which was like a piece of carpet on the wall, and your teacher would put up a little picture of what’s going on. Think of it as being like an app before computers—that’s what it was. You can picture it! “Ah! Moses, there with the bush!”
You know the story, but you probably don’t really know the story, because God works in surprising ways, and, as familiar as this story may be to us, it was certainly surprising as it unfolded to them. The same is true in our own lives. God is doing things. He’s doing things in your life. He’s doing things in this church. He’s doing things in this land. He’s doing things in his world. He’s up to stuff! Now how he is doing it, and what it will look like, and whether you will be able to detect it from the first signs remains to be seen. But if we don’t know at least a little bit of what we should look for, we will miss it.
God’s Timing is Surprising
God’s timing is surprising, both the “when” of his timing and the “where” . It is surprising that God would act after seeming to be absent for such a long time. Back at the beginning of chapter 3, Moses is keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, in this desolate land (far away from Egypt) called Midian.
Now, you may recall that Moses’ father-in-law was called “Reuel” , but he is more often called “Jethro” . Reuel may have been a family name, but he’s known by “Jethro” . And before you say, “Ah! Well, nobody has that name!” , the second “R” in “J.R.R. Tolkien” is “Reuel” , so there you go! He did!
To show just how humble Moses has become, he is working for his father-in-law, far away from Egypt, where he once was a kind of prince. Now he is tending to the flocks. Do you remember back in Genesis when Jacob and the Israelites were settling in Egypt? They said they were shepherds and that to be a shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians. The Egyptians thought, “You’re a shepherd?! It’s dirty. It’s beneath us!”
I don’t know what job would be equivalent. I do know that many Dutch people have made a lot of money by taking care of garbage. You read stories about when they came and settled in different parts of Chicago. Nobody wanted to handle the trash, and I think the Dutch people said, “Can we make money on this? Okay! We’ll take your trash.” And so they took the trash and said, “This is not beneath us. You know, we’ve got a Calvinist work ethic, so we’ll take your trash, and you pay us for it.” So, whatever it is—he’s a garbage man or whatever—“Shepherding,” Moses says, “is not beneath me.”
And while tending the flocks for his father-in-law, he sees a strange sight: a bush that’s burning and burning, but is not consumed. And from the bush, the angel of the Lord speaks to him. Now, you need to know that, in this instance, “the angel of the Lord” is the Lord himself. Sixty-seven times in the Old Testament, we have this figure, “the angel of the Lord” . You could translate it, “the angel that is YHWH” or “angel YHWH” . We see from the following verses that the angel of the Lord is not Gabriel, or Michael, or some angel who is giving a message for the Lord, but is an angelic representation of the Lord himself.
You see in verse 4: “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush…” So, “God,” “Lord,” and “the angel of the Lord” are used interchangeably. Same in verse 6: “And he said…” —the angel of the Lord—‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Verse 7: “Then the Lord said…” Verse 11: “But Moses said to God…”
So, do you see how they’re used interchangeably? “God” is normally the Hebrew word: “Elohim” . When you see, “Lord” , like you do in verse 2: “…the angel of the Lord…” ; or verse 4: “When the Lord…” and it’s written out in small capital letters; that’s translating the Hebrew word, which really can’t be translated, YHWH. It’s just four consonants in Hebrew. YHWH, the angel of the Lord, is the Lord. He calls to Moses.
You see that he repeats his name in verse 4: “‘Moses, Moses!’” This is what God does in the Bible when he wants to get someone’s attention, and he wants to speak with a certain passion. “Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Samuel 3). “My God! My God!” is what Jesus says on the cross. In Luke 10, he says, “Martha! Martha!” To Peter, he says, “Simon! Simon!” He says, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” Here he says, “Moses! Moses!”
It’s almost a exact parallel to Genesis 46. “So Israel…” —another name for Jacob—“…took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again…’” Isn’t the similarity striking? He says, “Jacob! Jacob!” Jacob says, “Here I am.” And God says, “Don’t be afraid. You are going to go down to Egypt, and I will bring you up again.” Now, centuries later, he says, “Moses! Moses! Here I am, and I want you to go to Egypt. And just like I promised to Jacob, I’m ready to bring you out. You have to go.”
You notice, the one difference is that he tells Jacob, “Do not be afraid.” Moses—it says immediately—was afraid. This is speculation, but it is interesting to consider: Might there be a difference? Jacob is at the end of his life and end of his ministry. He has encountered God before and he knows now what sort of fear to have and not to have of God. And God says, “Don’t be afraid.” While Moses, in his first real encounter with Yahweh, is afraid and hides his face. The timing is surprising. “God, you said this to my ancestor, Jacob, centuries ago, and now, finally, you’re doing something? Why did it take so long?”
Maybe you could say that Egypt deserved it. No. Maybe you could say that the cries of God’s people had accumulated to such a degree that God was now ready to act, similar to the Parable of the Persistent Widow: “Keep yanking on the judge’s robe and saying, ‘Give me justice!’” Don’t stop praying. Perhaps it was because the sins of the Amorites had been filled up, so that now God would be just to wipe them out and send Israel into the Promised Land.
Look at Genesis 15 for a moment. You may not have noticed this before. One of the most difficult questions, as a Christian, is when someone says, “How can you defend a God who wipes out the Canaanites, demands all of the Israelites to kill them and slaughter them, and then gives their land to them? What kind of God does that?” Well, at least part of the answer to that difficult question is to realize that, in doing so, it was not an act of arbitrary cruelty. It was an act of justice. Those people in the land had sinned grievously and so deserved to be wiped out. Almost any of us—no matter how militaristic we may or may not be—would look at something like World War II and defeating the Nazis and say, “That was right. That was just.”
Now, listen what God tells Abraham in Genesis 15 verse 12: “As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.’” This is the prophecy about slavery in Egypt. “‘But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here…’” —that is, to Canaan—“‘…in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
Isn’t that fascinating? The Lord says, “I am not ready to give you the Promised Land, because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” The Lord was waiting. Part of what he was waiting for all this time, was for the sins of those people to so accumulate that God would be utterly just in wiping them out. It is a bit sobering to think that God may view this country, or any country, in the same way. “Not yet; not yet; not yet! Now. Their iniquity has been fulfilled. And now, their destruction will be completely and utterly deserved.”
God’s timing is rarely our timing, which is why one of the most frequent cries in the Psalms is, “How long? How long? Why not now, God? What possible reason could you have for making this protracted suffering even longer?” Faith is at least, in part, the ability to trust that if you knew everything God knew and if you understood everything that God understood and if you could see everything God sees, you would say, “That is right.” It takes faith to believe that, because our vision is so limited and our pain can seem so long, but if we knew what God knew and could see what God sees, we would say, “Of course! I see why that had to happen to them, to that country, and to those people. I understand that decision.” God knew what he was doing!
But here in the Midianite desert? Why should this day be any different than ten thousand that had come before? This was the day that the Lord had appointed to be the beginning of the exodus of his people!
I love what Victor Hamilton says in commentary: “God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials.” And as some of you endure what seems like a long period of God’s delay, know that it is not necessarily his denial. They had languished in Egypt for four hundred years, but now, on this day, God would publicly call a man to go and initiate their deliverance.
The timing was surprising—not just the “when” but also the “where” . Look at where Moses is! He’s not in the Promised Land. He’s not in Egypt. He’s not in the heart of power. He’s in Midian, on the far side of a mountain, talking to a shrub in a field! He’s not in a great meditative trance. He’s not in the midst of prayer or sacrifice. He’s not in a temple, He’s doing his menial labor, probably somewhat boring, tending to these flocks in remote pasture lands, and God meets him there! Do you know that God can meet you anywhere? And God says, “Take off your shoes. I don’t care where we are. I don’t care that we’re in Midian. I don’t care that we’re in some remote pasture land. I’m here, and now this is holy. So, get your shoes off.”
We don’t often, in Western cultures, have that habit. Maybe when some people get new carpet, they want you to take your shoes off. But if you go to other parts of the world or to the homes of people from Eastern cultures, it will be a very important part of their hospitality that, when you come over, you remove your shoes. Part of what God is saying is not only, “You are on holy ground in the presence of a holy being” , but also, I think, “Welcome. You’re my guest, and I’m a host—a holy one! Remove your shoes. Before you go any further, before we talk, let’s get things straight.”
God’s Compassion is Surprising
Now, it’s not surprising that God would be compassionate. We expect that. What we may not realize is that God cares for us deeply, even when it seems as if he’s not paying attention! Some wives have husbands who often seem as if they’re not paying attention, but, unlike your husband, God is actually paying attention! He can actually do more than one thing at the same time! He is not just locked into the game. He is listening, even when he seems to be gone!
Exodus 3:6 is the realization of what we saw last week in Exodus 2:24. “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” All we saw at the end of Exodus 2 is that God, in his own head and heart, has remembered and has called to mind his covenant and his promises. All we have in Exodus 2 is what God knows about God. Now we see the public realization of it, for he says to Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” That may have been the first time Moses heard it, but it was not the first time God remembered it.
Similarly, with verse 7—remember the end of Exodus 2? God heard, God saw, and God knew. What does verse 7 say? “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings…” Don’t think that when you begin to see God act that what you see is the beginning of God’s plan. We saw last week that he had seen, and heard, and knew, but all we knew was that God knew. And now, God will let Moses know, “I’ve heard it; I’ve seen it; I know it. And I’ll come. I’ll send you, and I’ll come. I’ll give you this land.”
That was part of the promise to the patriarchs: “a land flowing with milk and honey” . This famous description appears some twenty times in the Bible. “Milk” could also be translated as “fat” and “honey” could also be translated as “sap” , because it probably refers to nectar from fruit, not what bees would make. But it sounds nice to say, “a land flowing with milk and honey” , rather than, “a land of fat saps” . I mean, that does not sound as appealing. You’ve got fat, sappy people! “Milk and honey” is an ancient way of saying, “It’s a good land! And I’ll give it to you, because I promised.” God’s compassion is present, even when his plan seems to be absent. “I’ve seen your affliction; I’ve seen the taskmasters; I know what they’re doing; I’ve heard your cries; I’ve seen your oppression; and I’ve not left you. I’ve not forgotten about you! I’ll be back. I’m coming. I never left!”
Have you ever seen those videos of when servicemen or women surprise their families and return home? When I see those pop up, my first thought is always, “These are so cheesy!” And then I watch it, “Oh! This is so touching!” You know, the dad pops out of a cake, or he turns around and he takes off a mask, and there he is! The husband is home or the dad is home, and the kids are crying. He hasn’t forgotten you! He has returned from some faraway place and he is there! He’s shown up again! God has not forgotten about you!
One of the most helpful things about being a parent is that it has given me a little glimpse into what God must think about us as we doubt his plan. Now God is thankfully much more patient than I am as a father. Don’t you, as a parent, want to say to your beloved children, “I’m not as stupid as you think! I’m not! Trust me. Okay? You’re 5, or you’re 15, or you’re 25! Okay? But I’ve been around a little bit more. I know a few things! I really love you! I’m not trying to punish you, okay? I’m trying to help you, because I know just a little bit more than you know!” But for your child, in that moment, it feels like, “This is a tyrant! How could I have a parent who is both cruel and stupid? All my other friends have a parent that’s one or the other; I have both!” And you think, “We, who are such imperfect parents, love imperfectly, make imperfect decisions, and yet, most of the time, we do know a few things!” How much more does God know?
A few weeks ago, it was a typical night of chaos at the DeYoung household, not knowing where our children were. My wife had taken some of the kids on a walk, and I didn’t know where all of them were. I was left with Mary, our 4-year-old, and I just wanted to make sure, you know— Once you’re six or so, you’ll be fine— But, there was a baby involved, and it’s always good to keep an eye on a 1-year-old. So, I just wanted to make sure: Did Trisha go off on a walk with Benjamin? And so I just said, “Mary, just hold on. Hold on. Can you just wait here one minute? One minute—I promise—Daddy will be right back! Just one minute!” I hopped on my bike and I rode around the corner. “Trisha, do you have everyone? Alright. You have everyone.” She’s going on her walk.
So I turned around, and I came back ready to win the “Worst Father of the Year” award, because there was Mary, standing in the front yard, crying. And I was just looking around, checking that there was no officers over here. I mean, it was 90 seconds, but she felt like, “I have been completely and totally abandoned! I will have to raise myself in this house!” And so I came, and I gave her a hug, and I said, “Mary! No, no, no! I was just around the corner. I was coming right back. Daddy wouldn’t leave you! I love you!”
How much more does our God, who can be with us at all times through the Spirit of Christ and say to us at all places, “I’ve not left you. I will not forsake you. Even when my compassion seems absent, it is ever present with you.” ? I had not forgotten my daughter. I had not abandoned her. I was coming right back.
What did Gandalf say? “A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.” Just like Jesus came after all those years. “Wait a second, God! You said after the very first sin that you were sending somebody to crush the serpent! And we keep waiting, and waiting, and waiting!” But then, in the fullness of time, God said, “Alright. This will be good. My son, you ready? Go.” And he came! And God had not forgotten his promise!
Do you see verse 6? “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Do you remember where this verse is used in a very famous incident by Jesus in the New Testament? The Pharisees and Sadducees argue about the resurrection. The Pharisees believe in the resurrection and the Sadducees do not. The Jews had this little inter-mural discussion about whether or not there was a resurrection, and whether you could prove the resurrection from the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
It’s kind of like, “Name That Tune” . “I can prove the resurrection in five books! No, four! No, three!” Jesus gives his famous answer in support of the resurrection. He says, “Well, it is written: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God is the God of the living and not of the dead.” Jesus’ point was, “Look. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have died, but they are still alive. They are in paradise. They’re in “Abraham’s bosom,” as it was called. They are awaiting their resurrected bodies.” Jesus looked at this verse to be one of great hope, compassion, support, and power.
Have you ever thought that there may have been something else Jesus was getting at? Not just to point out that those three men were living in heaven, but that he was also saying something about their wives? Every one of their wives was barren and God had to intervene in miraculous ways for any of them to have children. So could it be that Jesus was not only making a statement about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being alive but about Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel, who seemed as good as dead? Yet God opened their womb and gave life where there had been no life1 Perhaps that was part of what Jesus was saying: “You doubt the resurrection? Jews? You doubt the resurrection? You’re here! You come from these women, none of whom were supposed to have children, and God gave them children.” God brings dead things to life! God’s compassion is surprising. It is present even when we do not see it. It is waiting for us even when we do not expect it.
God’s Way is Surprising
He uses people! You ever think, “God, why do you do it that way? You have angels! They are ministering servants! You tell them, and they go! You could maybe use the weather even! Design a legion of super-intelligent robots! God, why do you have such a hankering for working with people?” It’s difficult. My mother-in-law will say sometimes, “Kevin, you should have worked with animals.”
Here is God. He has this great, grand, glorious plan, and he wants to use Moses to help carry it out! Now, you would think that Moses would be ready. He had eighty years. He’s entering the retirement age of his life. He should have some things figured out! He has a history of pursuing justice. We saw that last week. He has learned from humility and hard work. He has been refined by family and farm life. He has had a host of fears and failures, but when God comes to him, he says, “Who am I?” And I don’t think it’s just polite, ancient culture—maybe that’s some of it—but considering that this is the first of five times that Moses is gonna say, “I think you got the wrong guy,” this is more than just politeness. This is, “Um, me?”
Maybe Moses still had in his mind what happened forty years ago, because we know that when Moses intervened to save his countryman from the Egyptian oppressor, he was not just trying to break up a fight. He thought that the people would gather around him, and it would be the beginning of the exodus. “I’m gonna be your deliverer. I’m gonna strike this Egyptian down, and—alright?—you guys ready? You ready?” He had no followers. They said, “Nope.” And then when the Egyptians came in and wanted to know what happened they said, “That guy! Moses.” It had been forty years and Moses was still wondering, “Can I do this?”
Isn’t it striking how long failures can stick with us, especially spiritual failures? “God, I tried that one time. I was horrible, remember? Remember? Get somebody else.” Maybe Moses thought, “God, I got my new assignment. I got married. I got some kids. I’ve got a father-in-law. I’m tending to some flocks. Right? I’ve got my life here! I left Egypt a lifetime ago! You want me to go back there?!” It’s surprising that God uses people. Be careful what you pray for. You may just be God’s answer to your own prayers.
Remember this great incident in the life of Ruth and Boaz? Ruth needs help, and depends on everyone for help, and Boaz can help her. And Boaz, in Ruth 2, has this beautiful prayer. He says, “May you find refuge under the Lord’s wings.” Then in Ruth 3, when Ruth comes to Boaz in the middle of the night, he’s waking up. “What should I do for you?” And she says, “Spread your wings over me.”
If you look in your Bible you probably have a little footnote, because the same Hebrew word for “wings” can be translated as “corner of a garment” . So, “Spread the corner of your garment, your blanket over me. Spread your wings over me.” In other words, “Boaz, you prayed to God that he would help me find refuge under his wings, and I’m telling you, Boaz, you can be the answer to your own prayer. You want me to find refuge? How about with you?” Careful what you pray for! God may want you to answer your own prayer!
God doesn’t have to use people, but he almost always does. Why? Because it means privilege for us and glory for him. It’s our privilege to be a part of God’s plan. “Really? I’m gonna be a part of that? I’ve got to hand out the water bottles? I could just be a little bench warmer? I can just hand out the cups of Gatorade? I can do that in your kingdom, God?! I can play a part?! And I’m gonna get a championship ring when this is all done? And I’m gonna get my name in the paper and get a picture with everybody else?” That’s a privilege. And it means glory to God. You think he’s in heaven sometimes with the angels, saying, “See the Exodus? You see it? I did that with Moses! With Moses! Do you see what I’m doing in East Lansing with University Reformed Church? Those people! That’s what I’m doing with them!” He gets glory because we’re earthen vessels. We are cracked pots. We are jars of clay.
I saw this video, a few weeks ago, of two cyclists. One was a world class championship cyclist, and the other was just an amateur weekend warrior. They gave the world class guy a two hundred dollar cheap bike, and he was racing against this amateur guy who had the super tricked out, souped up, fifteen thousand dollar Tour de France bike. And they’re racing around the oval, and I was hoping, “Please tell me it’s just the bike!” Well, it made a difference, but this world class guy still beat the amateur guy, even though they had their bikes swapped.
You, then, look and say, “Man! That guy’s really good!” God gets glory when you see what he’s doing with a lot of flat tires! If you watch the Tour de France, and you saw the first guy come in, and the winner had a basket on the front of his bike, and a little bell, and he’s got a baseball card in the spokes, and he won on that!? You’d say, “Wow. That guy is amazing!” God uses us because he gets glory to use people like us!
God’s Power is Surprising
You ask, “How can he use us?” Well, he can use us because he doesn’t depend upon us. In verse 12, he gives a remarkable sign. Maybe you’ve missed it before in reading through this familiar story. Verse 1 said Moses came to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Horeb is another name for Sinai.
What does the Lord promise to Moses in verse 12? Moses says, “I want a sign now, that you’re with me and that I can trust you.” And God says, “I’ll give you a sign. I’ll give it to you after I’ve already done all of this. But you’re gonna have to trust me at the front end. Yes, I know that’s when you want the signs. I’ll give it to you at the back end so that you can remember, ‘Aha. God promised this!’” And God promises, “You will come back with the people to this mountain,” because Moses is at the foot of Mount Sinai.
There’s a play on words, probably. The word, in Hebrew, for “bush” is “seneh” . The word, “Sinai” , is “Sinai” . “Seneh” ; “Sinai” . Here’s the bush at Mount Sinai, and, when you come back it will be a resting place for God’s people, but for Moses it will be a place of fulfillment. And, perhaps, when he will climb back up that mountain in fifteen or sixteen chapters, he will remember, “Sure enough, God, all those years ago, when I saw you and heard you, and here we are. You’ve been faithful to your promises.” God uses us, but he doesn’t depend upon us.
You notice that the Lord doesn’t really answer the question about Moses. Moses wants to talk about Moses. God wants to talk about God. Moses says, “Who am I?” It’s almost as if God says, “Not important! I’m not answering your question. I’m telling you that I will be with you!”
It matters not who Moses is, or what may be his strength, so long as God be his leader. God is never regarded by us with due honor unless, when, contented with his assistance alone, we seek for no ground of confidence apart from him; and, although our own weakness may alarm us, we think it enough that he is on our side. John Calvin
Do you think it enough that God is on your side? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). And you say, “Um, a lot of people could be against us. My friends can be against us. My parents can be against us. My boss can be against us. My son can be against me. The government can be against me. Other nations can be against me. Bad guys with guns can be against me. Lots of people can be against us!” Well, God knows that.
The point of this question is: “No one can succeed against you apart from my will. No one can ultimately succeed against you ever, because I am on your side.” Do you feel weak? I’m sure, if you’re honest, you feel weak. I feel weak about dozens of things. I’m not making this up! If I get called into some crisis situation in the church, I don’t feel like, “Oh! I’ve been to seminary! Woo! I read my Bible! I love this!” I think, “[groan] Pastor Jason!”
There are counseling situations. There is hard suffering conflict. I don’t go into those thinking, “Here I am! Somebody put up the pastor bat signal! I’m ready!” I feel weak. God has blessed me with six daily reminders of my weakness: my children! But if you had to go into some battle, would you feel some comfort to know that you had a military escort? If you had to go into some difficult situation, would you feel better if an expert was with you? Would you feel better if your best friend could be with you? Would you feel better if a billionaire with an open checkbook could be with you?
We have it a lot better than that! You may have all sorts of reasons to doubt yourself, but you have no reason to doubt God. And he promises to Moses, “But I will be with you.” Moses is freaking out. “Who am I?! Ah!” “I will be with you.” And doesn’t Jesus say something very similar when he gives us our marching orders in The Great Commission? “And, surely, I will be with you until the very end of the age.” God can transform this desolate pasture land into holy ground. And, if he can do that, what can he do with a desolate man like Moses?
There’s a word in Hebrew for “ground/earth/land” . It’s the word, “adamah” . “I will take you out of the adamah, and I will make you adam,” which is the word for, “man” . What God can do with the adamah to make it holy, might he not also do with the adam? Here is God saying, “I showed up in Midian. That place, right now, because I am here, is holy.” What can he do with you to show up and say, “Right now, no matter how far gone you are or who you are, you can be holy, because I am with you.” ? “Who am I” is not nearly so important as “Who is he” .
Let’s pray. Father in heaven, give us courage. Give us comfort. Let us know your compassion. Help us to go, even when we want to say, “No.” Help us to trust, not in ourselves, but that you are with us. Keep our eyes open to see all of your surprising ways. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Transcribed and edited by 10:17 Transcription