Exodus: Journey to Freedom (8:20-9:12)

Exodus 8:20-9:12

Well, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Exodus 8. We looked at the first 3 of the 10 plagues of Egypt last week. This week, we’re going to be looking at the second 3, or the second cycle, and that begins with plague number 4.

20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 21 Or else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. 22 But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. 23 Thus I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.”’” 24 And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the swarms of flies.

25 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He tells us.” 28 So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.” 29 Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you and I will plead with the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow. Only let not Pharaoh cheat again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 30 So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. 31 And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained. 32 But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go.

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the LORD will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. 4 But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’” 5 And the LORD set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” 6 And the next day the LORD did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died. 7 And Pharaoh sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

8 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.” 10 So they took soot from the kiln and stood before Pharaoh. And Moses threw it in the air, and it became boils breaking out in sores on man and beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils came upon the magicians and upon all the Egyptians. 12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

“Our Father in heaven, once again we ask for the assistance of the Holy Spirit: that what we know not, He’d teach us; what we have not, He’d give us; what we are not, He’d make us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”

So, last week, when I introduced us to the plagues, I offered a couple of general thoughts and observations. For example, they can be grouped in various cycles. One of those cycles sees plagues 1, 4 and 7 all begin with an outdoor morning confrontation with Pharaoh. One of the other things we noted is that the plagues grow in their intensity, and I also mentioned that all of them – to some degree or another – were intended to humiliate the various gods of the Egyptians. Changing the water of the Nile into blood was mocking the Egyptian god Osiris. It was thought that the Nile was his lifeblood. So, to mess with the Nile was to poke fun at Osiris – a god that was incapable of responding.

Causing the Nile to produce a plague of frogs was an affront to the Egyptian god, Heket. Actually, this was one of the Egyptian goddesses of fertility. To the Egyptians, the frog was an ancient symbol of fertility. And guess what, the fertility of the frog was related to the annual flooding of the Nile. So, again, you have our mighty God humiliating the gods of Egypt.

The plague of gnats was directed at Geb. He was the Egyptian god of the earth. Remember what God told Aaron to do in order to bring this plague about? “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:16). God was saying, “I’ll show this false earth god a thing or two. I’ll hit him directly between the eyes and cause his domain to become gnats.” And now we pick up with the…

Fourth Plague – Flies

Whether it was the common housefly that we think about, or whether it was the scarab beetle, we don’t know. Certainly, the scarab beetle is a very well-known image in ancient Egypt, so that’s definitely a possibility. Either way, it seems that this plague was directed at the Egyptian god, Wadjet, who was believed to help the dead enter the afterlife.

Now that’s important because other people in the area knew this god as Beelzebub, and in 2 Kings 1:2 we’re introduced to Beelzebub for the first time. And if you look at the Hebrew origins of that name, guess what it means (Lord of the flies, or god of the flies). Later on, the name Beelzebub was changed to Beelzebul, meaning “Lord of dung” or “god of filth” because that’s where these insects tended to lay their eggs. And it shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us that the name Beelzebul is what the Pharisees called Jesus when He healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of His household” (Matthew 10:25). Listen, folks, our God knows a thing or two. Don’t you think? This entire plague flies directly in the face of Wadjet, the Egyptian “Lord of the flies” (no pun intended), and, in some sense, it flies in the face of Satan – the true god of filth.

But there are couple of addition things that are different about this plague. For example, notice verse 22. This is the first time that God begins to make an explicit distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.

In the first three plagues there’s some question about whether or not the Israelites also suffered. The text isn’t particularly clear. It seems that the plagues were, indeed, limited to the Egyptians. For example, in the first plague (of the water turning into blood), verse 24 says, “all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink.” It doesn’t mention anything explicit about the Israelites. Now, I say explicit because you have to imagine that the stench from all the dead fish was at least a little noticeable for the Israelites. So, maybe they didn’t avoid everything, but certainly most of the impacts from the plagues were avoided.

When we get to the fourth plague, and specifically verse 22, we realize that God is beginning to show definite signs of His providential and protective care for the Jews. Listen, “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus, I will put a division between My people and your people.”

These are God’s people. These are His children. Like any good Father, He’s going to provide for them and protect them. But make no mistake about it – God knows how to make a distinction. God knows how to rightly divide people. Jesus said, in Matthew 25, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left” (Matthew 25:31-33).

Regardless of your interpretation of the Book of Revelation, there’s coming a day in the future when plagues and judgments will be poured out upon the earth that will make the plagues of Egypt look silly. And I know that there are as many views of the rapture as there are people in this room, so I’m not taking a theological side on the pre/mid/post-tribulation issue, but there’s something you need to know about your God. Our God knows how to make a distinction when it comes to judgment. If you’re a child of God, through the blood of Jesus Christ, then you can be assured that you’ll be protected from His ultimate wrath.

There’s one more thing that’s different in this plague – it’s in verse 25. Pharaoh says, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” This is the very first time that Pharaoh gives permission for them to go and sacrifice. But notice the qualifier “within the land.” What’s that called? (Compromise, right). We’re familiar with compromise, aren’t we. Satan is great at negotiating a compromise. He’ll say, “Well, go ahead and go to church but just don’t become one of those Christians. You can visit a church, that’s okay. Just don’t be a fanatic.” Or if you happen to already be a believer, then he’ll say things like, “Go ahead and be a Christian but keep some of those old habits because that’s who you are.” He wants us to compromise.

It’s rare that I recommend books as “must reads” (except for the Bible), but one that I highly recommend is The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. It’s about a senior demon named Screwtape teaching his nephew Wormwood how to be a good demon and ruin people’s lives. It was written from that perspective. And Screwtape, when he writes to Wormwood, always calls the newly converted Christian your patient. And one of Screwtape’s lines in the book goes like this, “…the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

That’s what Satan does. It’s all about compromise. As Casting Crowns put it, “It’s a slow fade / When you give yourself away / It’s a slow fade / When black and white have turned to grey / And thoughts invade, choices made / A price will be paid / When you give yourself away / People never crumble in a day / It’s a slow fade.”

Satan says, don’t let him go far away with this thing. Negotiate with him. Compromise with him. Tell him to compromise. Go and sacrifice but do it in the land. Stay in the land. And think what a temptation it might have been for Moses to stay in the land. “After all, we could do it in the land. This is where we’ve been living for a long time. We’re familiar with it. At least we get food here. We get provisions here. Maybe we’re oppressed, but it’s better than nothing out in the wilderness.”

Thankfully, Moses has learned that doing it God’s way is the best. So, he says, in verse 26, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?” So, first Pharaoh says, “Go ahead, but do it in the back yard.” Moses, “We can’t do it in the back yard. We’re going to kill animals. You’re not into that stuff. We’re going to get beat up.” Pharaoh says, “Okay, well, go ahead and go. But don’t go very far.” (Sounds like your mom when you were growing up, right.)

So, Pharaoh is lengthening the chain but there’s still a chain. He’s not anxious to let two million people on his workforce take a leave of absence. Again, one of the world’s favorite lines is something like this, “Hey, I hear that you’re in to religion now? Do me a favor, just don’t go too far into it. I mean, I know people that really got in to this Christian ‘born again’ stuff, and they read their Bible all the time. They go to church all the time and they went crazy. I mean, they put their hands up in the air and say ‘Amen’ and stuff. Don’t go that far.”

What happens? Pharaoh hardened his heart again. What’s the condition of your heart? Is it soft before the LORD? Are you still letting God speak to you? You still letting Him in? Or is the world penetrating your heart. Does the Good News stop at a certain place and you kind of think about it, but then harden your heart?

Fifth Plague – Death of Livestock

Remember last week when we looked at the plague of gnats. Do you remember what the magicians said – “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). Well, if that was the finger of God, then this is what the full hand of God gets you – the death of horses, donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks. Basically, anything that was left standing that wasn’t a human was killed. Do you see how the plagues are growing more intense? The first couple of plagues were annoying. They were inconvenient. They were bothersome. But now, God is touching their wealth.

Now watch this; in the Nile delta, there were four separate provinces, or areas that had one of these animals as their primary god. Notice that there are three specific kinds of animals mentioned: horses, donkeys, and camels. Then there’s two groups that are generic names: herds and flocks. One of the Egyptian gods that’s being targeted here is Apis. Apis was considered to be the sacred animal of the god Ptah. And in Memphis, Egypt archaeologists have discovered several sarcophagi containing mummified livestock.

One of the other Egyptian gods that’s being targeted here is Hathor. Hathor was another goddess of love and fertility, beauty and joy. She appears in Egyptian art as having the body of a woman and the head of a cow. Some of the depictions show the Pharaoh being suckled by this cow god. In fact, in 1906, they found a sandstone monument showing Hathor, the goddess, and Amenhotep II, (who some believe was the Pharaoh of the Exodus), nestling himself under Hathor’s chin. Talk about humiliating the gods of Egypt; now you’re striking right at Pharaoh’s supposed family tree.

Then there was another goddess or a god that was represented by a cow or a bull and that was Mnevis. So, when God touches the livestock, once again, it’s a direct assault on the ideology, the belief system of these pagan Egyptians. Now, here’s what’s interesting. When we get to chapter 32, (which will be in the year 2032, at this rate) we’re going to be reminded that Moses goes up on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. And he’s gone so long that the people think he’s dead. And they get Aaron and they say, “Hey, Moses ain’t coming back and we need a god to worship.” And what do they make? (A golden calf.)

That’s because, in their minds, they’re not used to an unseen god. In Egypt, everything had a god-like representation, visible representations all around them. And so, that golden calf represented, to the Israelites, the strength and beauty and nourishment and tangibility of the false gods they used to worship back in Egypt. Besides the fact that it was false worship, which was bad enough, this is another reason that Moses got so mad. It’s as if Moses was thinking, “Are you kidding me? You just saw what our mighty God did to all the livestock in Egypt with the fifth plague, and yet you’re still worshipping cows!”

And folks, let’s be honest. We’re not too different. Really. In many ways we’re just like the Israelites. Think about the average 15 minutes of commercials: pharmaceuticals, healthcare, class action lawsuits, weight loss, automobiles, alcohol. Now, you tell me; who does it seem like we’re worshipping? (Ourselves, right.) Now, I’m not saying that any of those things are bad. Trust me; when I have nausea, heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, then I want Pepto-Bismol. I get it. But until the recent He Gets Us campaign, there have been ZERO commercials even trying to communicate a Christian message. Rather, everything seemed to suggest that we worshipped longer life, better looks, more money, newer toys.

Again, I recognize that this calls for perspective and balance, but last week we had the announcement of three US banks going under: Silicon Valley, Signature, and Silvergate. Now, I’m not in favor of people losing their investments. I’m not in favor of major economic chaos. These are real issues that involve real people. But when God strikes the horses, the donkeys, and the camels – when the bank accounts and investments and portfolios are shaken you sometimes wonder if we aren’t putting a little too much emphasis on Benjamin, Grant and Jackson. While it may sound silly to you and me that Egypt had a god for everything, when we look around us, we’re not too different.

Finally, notice that God protected the Israelites in this plague, just as He did in the previous one. The livestock of the Israelites wasn’t touched. Pharaoh even sent people to check it out, and once again he hardened his heart. There’s a Proverb you may want to write down in the margin of your Bible. Proverbs 28:14 says, “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” By this time, I’m sure that the everyday Egyptian was thinking, “What’s next? What kind of a plague could happen after this? Come on, Pharaoh, you gotta see that there might be something to this God of the Hebrews.”

Sixth Plague – Boils

Something to notice about this plague. In the previous plagues there was a warning, “Okay, you’ve got 24-hours to think about this. Tomorrow this is going to happen.” But not this time; no 24-hour grace period. “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt” (Exodus 9:8-9).

Anybody watch TLC on cable? Recognize the name Sandra Lee (a.k.a. Dr. Pimple Popper)? I know, bad image, right. But that’s what we’re dealing with. Listen, sometimes you have to get a little creative when reading the Bible – not creative in the sense of changing the meaning. I haven’t changed the meaning. I haven’t changed anything about what God did or didn’t do. All I’ve done is give you a modern image to help you feel the weight of what’s actually written on the page.

One of the doctors that researches diseases in the Middle East noted that in the summertime, there’s a phenomenon called “Nile Blisters.” The intense heat in Egypt along with the dust of the land, you mix that together and you get these Nile blisters, and the skin turns almost purple. And all these pimples start forming on the skin and soon they cluster into thick ulcerations around the entire body. The Egyptians called it “Hamm el Nil,” that’s their Egyptian term, which means the inundation of heat.

This plague is meant to humiliate the goddess, Neit, sometimes spelled Nuit, or Nut. I like N-U-T the best. She was a nut. She was the sky goddess – the domain that brought all the blessings of the atmosphere upon the earth. There was this incantational prayer, and the priest of Egypt would take the soot and throw it into the air, and it would be a blessing from the sky goddess, Nut. But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Hebrews, the Great I Am has taken that which was once a blessing and has now made it a curse.

One final comment and we’ll be done. In all the plagues thus far, Pharaoh has been hardening his own heart, hardening his heart. Time and time again, and finally we read (in verse 12), “But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.” Remember, we talked about this. When people ignore the repeated promptings of the LORD time after time after time, He will confirm the decision made in their hearts.

The New Testament refers to this as a reprobate mind. Listen to Romans 1 (and we’ll be done), “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things… And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:18-23, 28).

If God is calling you today. If you sense the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sin and your need to receive the free gift of God’s grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ, then please do not leave this building until you speak with me or someone that knows Jesus. For the rest of us, may we once again be reminded of the absolute sovereignty and power and majesty of our almighty God. Yes, we’ve been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Yes, we’re His chosen and beloved children. Yes, “if we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But He’s still God, and He still calls us – like the Israelites – to leave our Egypt that we can serve Him and worship Him.

Exodus: Journey to Freedom (7:14-8:19)

Exodus 7:14-8:19

Once again, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Exodus. As most of you know, last month Parker and I took a trip to Lake Tahoe to do some skiing. It was Parker’s first-time skiing and flying, both of which he really enjoyed. And during the first flight I had an opportunity to talk to him a little bit about flying. Now mind you, I’m not a pilot or an aeronautical engineer, but we were sitting over one of the wings. So, we could see the slats on the leading edge, and the flaps, spoilers, and ailerons on the trailing edge: all responding to the pilot’s input.

One of the other things that we talked about were all of the gauges and switches and displays in the cockpit – one of which is a gyroscopic instrument called an “attitude indicator.” [show picture]. Basically, it shows the position of the plane in relationship to the horizon. Now, you might think that’s not needed, but if you’re flying in dense clouds during the day or night and you can’t see the horizon, or the ground and lights below or the stars, sun and moon above then you can get disoriented real quick. So, when the plane is climbing you have what’s called a “nose-high attitude.” The blue dips below the horizontal line, showing that you’re climbing. And when the plane is descending you have what’s called a “nose-down attitude.” The brown creeps above the horizontal line.

Obviously, there’s a lot of monitoring the plane’s attitude, and sometimes it’s necessary to change the attitude in order to change the performance of the plane. Well, today, we reach the point, in Exodus, where Pharaoh is about to crash. His “nose-down” attitude makes his heart hard, and God uses that to demonstrate His power and sovereignty. Follow along with me, beginning with Exodus 7:14.

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.’” 19 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”

20 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So, Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.

25 Seven full days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve Me. 2 But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. 3 The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4 The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.’” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” 6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

8 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” 10 And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” 12 So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 14 And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” 17 And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So, there were gnats on man and beast. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

“Father, in heaven, once again we ask that You might open our eyes and ears to the truth of Your Word. Lord, even in the pages of this Old Testament book, we ask that we might get a glimpse of Your great and mighty power and sovereign rule over all of life – including our own. May we hear from You today, and would the Holy Spirit make the needed adjustments in our hearts and lives, in order that we might be more obedient and faithful followers of Your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.”

Outside of the Red Sea crossing and the actual, literal exodus event, the ten (10) plagues of Egypt are pretty much known by most people. Even if you didn’t grow up in the church, you probably have at least some familiarities with the plagues. Maybe you don’t know all of them or the order in which they come, but you know that God did something miraculous in order to show Himself, to Pharaoh, as the One true God. Well, that’s where we are.

The way this is going to work over the next several weeks is like this. We’re going to look at the first three plagues today. Next week we’re going to look at the middle three. The last Sunday of the month we’ll look at the last three (that’s 9). Then, on the night of Palm Sunday (April 2) at 6PM, we’ll be hosting Arielle Randle from our ministry partner, Jews for Jesus. He’ll be walking us through Christ in the Passover, which is the final decisive sign of God’s power and reign.

The final plague: the death of the firstborn. The only way to avoid having your firstborn child killed was to kill a spotless lamb and put the blood of that lamb on the doorposts and on the lintel (we’d call it the header). That blood would act as the protective covering for the entire house, so that when the Spirit of God brought His judgment against Egypt the Israelites would be sparred.

That seminal event would become the backbone of the religious life for the Jewish people, and it’s precisely this event that Jesus would use, in the New Testament, as an equally dramatic sign showing His divine power over sin, death and the grave. Likewise, the only way for you and me to avoid our own ultimate destruction is to be covered in the blood of Christ – our spotless Passover Lamb. So, let me invite you to make plans to be here on Palm Sunday night (6PM).

Well, today, is a rare occasion. I only have one major point. But even though I only have one point, we’re actually going to see it played out in three different ways in these first three plagues. If you have obsessive tendencies, or you just really need to have three points for it to be considered a “good” sermon, well then, you’re still good. Here’s the single point:

Our God Is the Lord Almighty

There are certainly other ways of saying this. In fact, God actually says it this way in Exodus 7:16 “Thus says the LORD, ‘By this you shall know that I am the LORD.’” The “this” that God is referencing there are these plagues – “By these plagues you’ll know that I am the LORD.” And speaking of plagues, let me offer a word or two about the list. There are 11 signs, but only 10 plagues. The first sign was the staff-to-serpent thing that we read last week (vss. 8-13). It’s not a plague; it’s just a sign.

As for the plagues, there are 10 of them and there are all sorts of ways that theologians, Bible teachers, and preachers have tried to group them in order to highlight different things. For example, if you just take them in the order that they’re given (leaving the 10th by itself), then you have 3 cycles of 3, and the duration of the first 3 looks like this: long, long, short. The duration of the second 3 is long, short, short. And the duration of the final 3 is back to long, long, short.

Now, there’s nothing inherently spiritual in that. This isn’t one of those things where you’re looking under every rock, reading the Bible backwards and upside down trying to find some hidden meaning. Some of you remember the 60’s-70’s. There was this myth that you could play records backwards and get hidden messages. It was common to hear preachers talk about this when heavy metal bands were all the rage, “There’s a satanic message in all that stuff.” For sure, there was, in some of it, but not all of it.

That’s not what we’re talking about here. But it is interesting to consider that the cycle runs long, long, short – followed by long, short, short – and then back to long, long, short. It’s likely that this kind of pattern helped Moses and the Israelites remembered the sequence of the plagues, in order to share it with future generations.

Here’s another example of grouping. The first cycle are plagues 1, 4 & 7. Those are the first plagues in each cycle (1, 4 & 7). The interesting thing about 1, 4 & 7 is that Moses was instructed to meet Pharaoh outside early in the morning. The second cycle would be plagues 2, 5 & 8, and the neat thing there is that Moses was instructed to meet Pharaoh inside, presumable in Pharaoh’s court. The third cycle would be the last plagues 3, 6 & 9, all of which seemed to be outside in the presence of whoever happened to be around.

Those are just a few of the ways that scholars have tried to examine the plagues. Again, I don’t want us to get overly caught up in or enamored by something that isn’t clearly outlined for us in the normal reading of the passage. But it’s interesting to consider. Now there is one thing that we can say for sure and that’s the fact that as we move along, we’ll notice that they get more intense, and they’re all directed at humiliating the pantheon of Egyptian deities.

The first plague is turning the Nile into blood, which demonstrates God’s power over nature. We’ll see other demonstrations of power over nature when we get to plagues 7 & 9. But this one is unique because the Nile was such a large part of Egyptian life. It was their superhighway. It was the way they made a living and watered their livestock and grew their crops. Additionally, it was believed that the Nile was the actual lifeblood of the Egyptian god Osiris. So, for God to turn the Nile into blood was more than just a physical inconvenience. It carried a spiritual significance too.

When the fish died and caused the water to stink it’s as if God was saying, “Your religion stinks!” When the water became temporarily polluted so that they couldn’t drink from it, it’s as if God was saying, “Your gods can’t quinch your thirst.” Now think about that in light of what Jesus said in John 7, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (7:37). Or what He said in John 4, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (4:13-14).

The skeptic says, “Oh yeah, well Pharaoh’s magicians were able to replicate the miracle so what do you say about that?” Well, only two things. First, that’s what magicians do. They deceive. They trick. They manipulate. In all likelihood they simply added something to the water to give it the appearance of blood. And second, while I might not be able to fully explain exactly what the magicians did (or didn’t do) to replicate this plague, the one thing I know for sure is – they were powerless to reverse it.

This first plague was a sign of what’s still yet to come. Listen to what Paul writes to Timothy, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those . . . always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men” (2 Timothy 3:1-9). Or how about this short passage from the hand of John, “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea” (Revelation 16:3).

Folks, listen to me; just as God judged the false gods of Egypt, He’s coming again to judge the living and the dead. Do you know Jesus? If not, then let me tell you that the gods of this world – money, fame, power, prestige, knowledge – all of them will be humiliated by the Lord God Almighty on that day. Only the blood of Jesus can save you.

The second plague is the multiplication of frogs. Again, we really need to slow down when reading texts like this, because we have a temptation to simply read black words on a white page. We need to employ our imaginations a little bit.

Some of you were without internet on Thursday, or perhaps you remember what it’s like to be without power. Or think about the folks in the Seirra-Nevada mountains: enough snow already. It doesn’t take very long – perhaps an hour, certainly 3-4 hours – and the novelty of no internet and no power has worn off. It’s been a week of bloody, stinky water, and digging new shallow wells to locate uncontaminated water, and all of a sudden you have a new inconvenience to deal with – frogs.

The frogs were so bad that they literally got into everything: houses, bedrooms, beds (remember that they likely slept on mats at floor level not on raised platforms like us), cookware, ovens. They were even promised that the frogs would get on people. In other words, don’t think that you can just sweep them out of the way and find yourself a closet where you can be protected. Literally, they were everywhere.

And imagine the noise. You know what it’s like to go camping and try to sleep, right? Many of you have water features at your homes. In the summertime it can get downright impossible to hear yourself talk with all the croaking and bleating. And imagine the mess. When you have this many of anything, surely some are going to get stepped on, or rolled over on when trying to sleep, or cooked in the oven. (Listen, I know that some of us southern folks enjoy some fried frog legs, but this is ridiculous.)

In fact, this plague, unlike the previous one, was so bad that Pharaoh begged that Moses bring it to an end. The previous plague wasn’t too bad for Pharaoh. After all, he could have servants bring him fresh water from a new well. But notice verse 4 of chapter 8, “The frogs shall come up on you [Pharaoh] and on your people and on all your servants.” Pharaoh wasn’t protected this time. And we’ve already mentioned the sound they must’ve made. Also, like the first plague, although the magicians were able – in some form – to replicate the plague, they were powerless to remove them.

Pharaoh begged Moses to end this plague, and notice Moses’ response (v. 9) – “Well, big guy, why don’t you just tell me when you want them gone.” This is brilliant, because it gives God another opportunity to show Pharaoh that He’s the One true God. See, if the frogs naturally went away or were killed off little by little, then there could be all kinds of explanations. But giving Pharaoh the opportunity to set the time takes those explanations away. In other words, this plague was the point by which Pharaoh should’ve been able to admit that there was a true, powerful God behind all of this. Yet he refuses, which is a warning for anyone, who, though confronted with the reasonableness of biblical truth, nevertheless refuse to believe.

Pharaoh’s answer (“Tomorrow”) might surprise us. We’d think that he might ask for immediate relief. Then again, perhaps it was near the end of the day, and Pharaoh anticipated that it might take some time for Moses to intercede on his behalf. And don’t let the fact that Pharaoh seeks Moses’ intercession pass you by either. He’s beginning to see that his magicians can’t help.

I see this all the time in hospitals; when calamity strikes, our non-Christian, non-believing neighbors will seek us to intervene in prayer. But don’t be surprised when they refuse to believe, even though prayer might have brought the very answer they were seeking. Nevertheless, like Moses, we pray for our enemies and those that persecute us and those that mistreat us (Matthew 5:44, Like 6:28). And if you’ve been putting off your confession of Jesus until “tomorrow” don’t – repent and believe today, while there’s still time.

Finally, our last plague (for today) is gnats. If you’re reading the KJV, NKJV or ASV, then you get the word “lice,” but every other translation has “gnat” and I believe it’s the best. Again, think about camping and summertime and the swarms of little gnats and “no-see-ems.” I have literally suffered this plague.

Summer and late-spring parades at The Citadel in full-dress uniform were absolutely awful – especially as knobs, because your body was so new, so fresh. Upperclassmen had endured years of this plague, and thus their necks and ears and arms had been turned to leather by the harsh Charleston sun. I can still see it – drenched in sweat, the sun baking you from the inside out, the smell of the salty marsh, Charleston sewage, and gun powder from the cannons. A smorgasbord of human statues that weren’t allowed to swat or twitch or blink or blow. It was “gnat nirvana.” (I originally wrote “gnat heaven,” but changed it because gnats won’t be in heaven. PRAISE GOD! Plus, “gnat nirvana” has a nice alliteration to it.)

There’s one difference between this plague and the previous two, and that’s the fact that the magicians couldn’t replicate it. And that was enough to convince them this was, indeed, a supernatural occurrence that only God could produce. Their confession in verse 19 isn’t a confession of faith, but a recognition that true and genuine miracles will always overwhelm and defeat false and deceptive works of man.

Folks, our God is the Lord Almighty and His deeds, His actions, His salvation, His truth and miracles, His grace and goodness, His righteousness and holiness WILL win out in the end and be victorious over every earthly god to the praise and glory of Christ Jesus!  That’s what we’re getting a glimpse of in these plagues.  It’s not just about setting the Israelites free, although that’s certainly in focus here.  This is a story that proves that our God Is the Lord Almighty – and we praise HIm for it.

Exodus: Journey to Freedom (5:1-7:13)

Exodus 5:1-7:13

Well, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Exodus 5. As you’re finding your spot, let me just say that we have A LOT of ground to cover today. In fact, some of you might even wonder why I’m going to read all of this. And to be fair, that’s a legitimate question to which I have three (3) answers.

First, the Apostle Paul instructs us to in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Second, it was practiced in both the Old and New Testaments. Ezra, the priest, read from the Book of Law from “early morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:3), and Jesus stood up in the temple and read from the scroll of Isaiah (Luke 4). Finally, and I hate to say it, but it’s true – there are some of us that won’t hear the Word of God for another seven days. We won’t read it. We won’t listen to it. We won’t sing it; even though all of us have access to it. So, I’m going to be sure that we hear it this morning.

By the way, this is another reason why I hope you bring your own copy of the Bible to church. If you’re following along in your Bible, then you’re more prone to engage in the story, than if you’re just listening. So, let’s read, beginning in Exodus 5:

1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens.” 5 And Pharaoh said, “Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!” 6 The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, 7 “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore, they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.”

10 So the taskmasters and the foremen of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get your straw yourselves wherever you can find it, but your work will not be reduced in the least.’” 12 So the people were scattered throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, your daily task each day, as when there was straw.” 14 And the foremen of the people of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not done all your task of making bricks today and yesterday, as in the past?”

15 Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” 17 But he said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ 18 Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks.” 19 The foremen of the people of Israel saw that they were in trouble when they said, “You shall by no means reduce your number of bricks, your daily task each day.” 20 They met Moses and Aaron, who were waiting for them, as they came out from Pharaoh; 21 and they said to them, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

22 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.”

1 But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”

2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 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. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. 6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.’” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

10 So the LORD said to Moses, 11 “Go in, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the people of Israel go out of his land.” 12 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, the people of Israel have not listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” 13 But the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

“Our Father and our God, You are full of wonders that no mere human can comprehend. Lord, we seek to understand You and Your ways, in order that we might live accordingly. We pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to see and understand Your truths as outlined in these verses. Open our eyes and our ears – that we may see You and hear You in these pages of Exodus. For we offer this prayer in Jesus’ name, amen.”

These verses set out, for us, the initial attempt of Moses and Aaron to liberate the Israelites from Egypt, and I’m reminded of the shipping company that advertised a job opening for a radio operator. Tons of people flocked to the office and were waiting their turn to be called. In fact, the conversations of the people were so loud that you couldn’t hear the loudspeaker.

Another applicant entered the crowded waiting room, filled out his application, and sat quietly for a few moments. All of a sudden, he got up and walked into the office marked PRIVATE. A few minutes later, he came out of the room with a huge smile on his face – he was hired.

People in the waiting room began to protest: “Hey, we’ve been waiting here a lot longer than you. What made you think you could go in there before us?”

He replied, “Any one of you could’ve landed this job, but none of you were listening to the Morse Code signals coming over the loudspeaker. The message said, ‘We desire to fill this position with someone who is constantly alert. If you’re getting this message, come into the private office immediately.’”

Well, Pharaoh was in that same position. He was a poor listener. Moses and Aaron came with the simple message, “God says to let my people go!” But Pharaoh wasn’t interested in that, and when you fail to listen to God (or His Word), then you’re inviting trouble.

I just want to highlight a few things this morning. The first is…

Obedience To God Doesn’t Mean Easy Sailing

In fact, it might mean hardship, suffering, and persecution. There might even be times where you say, “Why, God?” After the initial request, which is all of chapter 5, that’s exactly what Moses said to God. “O Lord, why have You caused trouble for this people? And why did You ever send me?” (Exodus 5:22, HCSB). When Moses followed God, things actually seemed to get worse.

Have you ever suffered hardship even though you were seeking to be obedient to God? Maybe you remember being a young Christian in school trying to follow Jesus. It seemed that our friends tempted us all the more. We were called “holy rollers” or “Jesus freaks” or “Goody Two-Shoes.” That’s a tough place to be.

Maybe you remember being single and desiring to be married, or perhaps you’re single now, and you had certain standards for a spouse. Friends and well-meaning folks sometimes tried to get you to lower your standards for someone, even though they may not have been committed to following Jesus. Obeying Jesus in singleness is difficult.

All of us know what it’s like to be an employee or an employer. There are all kinds of situations that challenge our obedience to Christ in the workplace. Knowing about someone breaking a company policy or even the law. Did we report it? If so, what were the ramifications. Maybe you felt like the Israelites. “Hey, we’re just doing what’s right and the boss doesn’t like us, so he turns up the heat and expects the same production.”

As the employer, as the boss, as the owner of the company, sometimes the decision was easy – it was illegal, it was egregious, it was a pattern – you had to terminate someone. Other times you felt compelled to offer grace. Sometimes, maybe even many times, it didn’t matter what decision you took (as the boss) you were going to be criticized either way.

This principle is even true for pastors and missionaries and ministers and people with Christian “callings.” I’m sure that Allen didn’t share this with you two weeks ago, but he and Ruth originally felt called to be missionaries. They went through all the necessary training to learn South American culture and language and so forth. They went to Ecuador and Ruth became highly ill. I’m not sure exactly what the issues were, but they had to come home. When Ruth got well, they went back. She got sick again, and they had to come home again. Allen and Ruth will both tell you that those years were tough – even as they sought to be obedient to God.

Obeying God isn’t a pain-free life. It doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to be popular. It doesn’t mean you’ll be immune from problems like cancer. It doesn’t even mean that you won’t encounter serious spiritual warfare and times of despair. Moses was finally in the center of God’s will, yet he met serious opposition. So, the question isn’t, “Will we ever have moments of discouragement?” The question is: “How will we deal with deep discouragement? Where will we go for help, strength, and sanity?”

The Israelites went to Pharaoh with their complaints. Not a completely unrealistic thing. After all, he was the one they were subjected to. But everyone has to answer to God – whether they believe in Him or not – so why not go to Him, especially if you’re considered part of His chosen nation, His chosen people. The same is true for us. When life is hard. When things don’t make sense. When we’re struggling to get from day to day, financially, emotionally, spiritually… Cry out to God. It’s okay. Shoot, even Jesus cried from the cross out with a question, “Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

Our questions, our desires for understanding and truth, aren’t sinful so long as they’re made humbly, honestly, and faithfully. So, as we wait on God to provide the answer or some insights, how do we deal with our discouragement? By trusting gospel promises.

Obedience to God Is Trusting Gospel Promises

Let’s walk through these quickly:

First (and we’ve seen this before), God is in control. It’s so easy to forget this. Why? Because we live by sight so much more frequently than we do by faith. Look, God answers Moses’ cry in chapter 6:1, and His answer is simply a reminder that there’s only One person in control and it’s not the man with the snake on his head – it’s the One who has the snake under His heel. The Apostle Paul put it like this, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).

He’s always using circumstances to shape us into His Son’s image. We don’t always know what He’s doing, but He has a way of doing things in His own time. The Prophet Isaiah, speaking on behalf of God, once wrote, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8, ESV). God is in control. He sustains us. Fight discouragement with this truth.

Second, God keeps His covenant. Time and time again, we read that God remembered His covenant. Exodus 2:24, “God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” Twice, in chapter 3, in the burning bush scene, God tells Moses that He’s “seen their affliction and heard their cry” and that He “will deliver them.” At the end of chapter 4 (we saw it last week), when Moses and Aaron originally met with the elders and the people, they believed that God had “seen their affliction” and they bowed down in worship. And in chapter 6, verse 5, God says, “I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered My covenant.”

The psalmist said, “[God] remembers His covenant forever” (Psalm 105:8). For us, this is the idea of preaching the gospel to ourselves. What do I mean by “preaching the gospel to ourselves?” Well, ultimately, God kept His covenant promise through the blood of Jesus. Through our faith in Christ, you and I are part of an eternal covenant, established by Jesus’ own blood. And because of this, we can find peace and rest during life’s discouraging times. We have a Savior who died, who rose, who ascended to the Father, and is even now interceding for us. He’s forever faithful to His people.

Third, (and finally) God saves! He frees us. He delivers us. He redeems us. He adopts us as His children. He gives us an inheritance. And He demonstrates His justice and His mercy. Really quickly, I want you to notice the many “I will” statements that God makes here.

Look at Exodus 6:6-8 (one more time): “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (that’s freedom), and I will deliver you from slavery to them (that’s deliverance), and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment (that’s redemption). I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God (that’s adoption), and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession (that’s inheritance). I am the LORD.’”

Now, flip over to Exodus 7:3-4 (once again): “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring My hosts, My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment (that’s demonstrating God’s justice and mercy – justice against the enemies of God and mercy to those of us that are His children).”

Dr. Tony Merida is Dean of Grimké Seminary in Richmond, VA, and in his commentary on Exodus he writes the following:

My friend Dennis Omondi and his bride, Allison, live in Kenya. Their adoption story was recently on MSNBC. They told the story of Benjamin. Benjamin was thrown into an 18-foot hole in a Nairobi slum. This hole was the public toilet. A passing stranger heard his cry and spent two hours digging down into the muck to rescue him from death. Benjamin was taken in by New Life Home Trust and eventually placed into the loving family of Dennis and Allison. (Merida, 44)

What a picture of what God did for Israel! What a picture of what He has done for us! We were in a pit, yet now, we’re in the arms of the Father, who “redeems [our] life from the Pit; He crowns [us] with faithful love and compassion” (Psalm 103:4). “He brought [us] up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set [our] feet on a rock, making [our] steps secure. He put a new song in [our] mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:2-3).

This is what preaching the gospel to yourself looks like. Do you know Christ Jesus? Do you have a personal relationship with the One who died to deliver you, to redeem you, to adopt you, to give you an inheritance and cause you to be an object of His mercy? Trust Him as Savior today! Acknowledge and confess your sins. Cast yourself – heart, soul and mind at the foot of the cross and receive God’s grace, by faith, in Jesus.

For the rest of us, trust God’s promises. He’s in control. He remembers His covenant. He saves us from sin, death and the grave by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Preach that to yourself. Sing the gospel. Pray the gospel. Meditate on the gospel. Hear the gospel. Fill your mind with it. Work it down deep and bless His holy name!

Exodus: Journey to Freedom (4:18-31)

Exodus 4:18-31

It’s so good to be back with you. If you have your copy of God’s Word (and I hope you do), then let me invite you to turn with me to Exodus 4. The bulletin says that we’re going to cover the rest of chapter 4, all of chapter 5, and the first verse of chapter 6. Well, I lied. (Not really.) I had hoped to bridge that gap, but with my vacation, a short week, and a Board Meeting at Tamassee yesterday, I just couldn’t get there.

Some of you are secretly smiling and thinking, “Oh boy, we’re going to get out early today.” In the words of the great theologian Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend. Not so fast.” We’ll see. We’re only going to cover the rest of chapter 4, today. Let’s read Exodus 4:18-31:

18 Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” 19 And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” 20 So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is My firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

24 At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. 25 Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26 So He let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So, he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. 28 And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which He had sent him to speak, and all the signs that He had commanded him to do. 29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.

What you’ve just heard is the authentic and true Word of God for us, His people. Thanks be to God. Let’s pray:

“Again, we thank You, Lord, for the glorious message contained in the pages of the book of Exodus. It so richly declares the absolute supremacy of You – the great “I AM” – and Jesus, the one who Himself said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). And we thank You that in Christ Jesus we, like the Israelites of old, received our great salvation from the bondage of our slavery to sin. Would You, even now, open our eyes and our hearts to understand and embrace this gospel fully. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.”

This morning, I just want to try and quickly walk us through the movements of these verses. In fact, my points this morning aren’t, as much, principles of biblical truth – as I frequently try to craft them – as much as they are simple waypoints or mile markers in the biblical narrative. I’m going to do more teaching today, than preaching. The first mile marker is what I’m simply calling…

Moses’ Return to Egypt

He goes to his father-in-law and politely asks to be released from his job. Remember, Moses has been tending his father-in-law’s sheep for some 40 years. So, he’s not only desiring to leave his employment on good terms, but he’s also looking for a blessing. Not a blessing that all might go well, though that would be nice too, but a blessing because he would be taking Zipporah with him. He’s looking for a family blessing. And that’s exactly what he got – “Go in peace.”

Now, before we jump into some thorny issues, I just want to help us see another connection here between Moses and Jesus. We know that Moses was a “type” of Christ, a foreshadowing of Jesus, a “picture” if you will. Hebrews 3 makes this abundantly clear, “…consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed Him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses. [N]ow Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son” (Hebrews 3:1b-3a, 5-6a). So, the author of Hebrews draws this line from Moses to Jesus – not to make them equal but to show the Jesus is greater than Moses. Right? So, Moses is a “type” or a “picture” of Jesus.

Now, look at Exodus 4:19-20, “And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.’ So, Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt.” Now, listen to Matthew 2:19-20, “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, ‘Rise, take the Child and His mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.’ And he rose and took the Child and His mother and went to the land of Israel.”

“Okay, pastor, that’s great, but what does that mean for me?” Well, if you’ve ever wondered whether or not what we have in this book is the Word of God, then this connection ought to serve as one of many assurances. I find it incredibly comforting to know that there are these connections between the Old and New Testaments, not to mention that it’s just plain cool.

Think about it. What’s Moses going to Egypt to do? (Confront Pharaoh and serve as the “rescuer” of the people of Israel, right.) In Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, what’s Jesus going to do for Israel? (Rescue them from sin, right. But not only them, all of mankind, too.) Do you see how the book of Exodus and the Bible, as a whole, continually tell the gospel story? This is another one of those places in the Old Testament where there’s a sliver of light shining forth the truth of Jesus.

Hardening Pharaoh’s Heart

What’s that all about. Well, there’s so much that can be said here. In fact, we’re actually going to address it in more detail in future weeks but, for now, just notice that God, in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, is able to fully showcase His power over His enemies and over the enemies of His people.

God’s sovereignty over Pharaoh isn’t meant to cause us to say, “Oh, poor Pharaoh, if God would’ve just left you alone then you would’ve worshipped him.” No, he wouldn’t. Every Pharaoh that we’ve encountered since Joseph died at the beginning of the book has not known God, nor have they shown any signs of wanting to know God or worship God. The way that the Pharaoh’s have treated the Israelites is enough evidence to confirm the state of their hearts.

Look, if this Pharaoh, or any Pharaoh wanted to give us an indication that they believed in God, then simply treating the Israelites with dignity and respect would be step one. So, don’t allow yourself to read God hardening Pharaoh’s heart as an opportunity to begin wagging your finger at God saying, “See, God, You’re a mean, vengeful, brute. It’s all You’re fault God.” Don’t do that. This is about God demonstrating that He’s in control – not Satan, not Pharaoh, not Moses, not Biden, not Putin, not Zelensky, not anybody – only God. God is on the throne and He’s in control. That’s what this hardening stuff is all about.

Listen, in both my personal/pastoral life I try not to use absolute terms like “always” and “never.” But I’m going to here. Never… ever… blame God for sin. Remember, if God is who He says He is and who the Bible says He is, then we never have the right to point the finger at God and tell Him that sin is His fault.

Do you remember Job? That’s what he came very close to doing and do you remember how God responded? “Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and [you’re gonna] answer them” (Job 38:2-3, NLT). And then God unleashes four (4) solid chapters of questions: “Where were you when I formed the earth? Can you tell the waves to come this far and no farther? Have you ever made the sun come up in the morning or the moon at night? Do you know where I keep the storehouses of snow?” Then, Job tries to interrupt for an apology and God says, “Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me [just so] that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His? ‘[Go on, then] Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. [Right now; do it!]” (Job 40:8-10, paraphrased).

And do you remember how Job finally responds? “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You. [God,] You asked, ‘Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?’ It’s me – and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. [LORD] You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about You before, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job 42:2-6, NLT).

Folks, God is perfect. May we never forget that. Yes, we might not have all of the answers and there might be questions that puzzle us all the way up to our deaths, may we always view God as holy and righteous in everything.

God Wants to Kill Somebody

Notice that I was careful not to say that God wanted to kill Moses. It’s so easy to read Exodus 4:24 and think that the word “him” is a reference to Moses. In fact, several Bible translations make it almost impossible not to think it was Moses. The NIV, the NASB, the CEV and others actually translate it as Moses, but the Hebrew word is “him,” and there’s nothing in the text that says it has to refer to Moses. Remember, according to verse 20, Moses took his wife and his two sons with him. So, the “him” could be a reference to Moses’ oldest son, Gershom, or his youngest son, Eliezer. I happen to believe that it’s Gershom (the oldest) that God was intent on killing him; not Moses.

So, if I’m right (and let’s just agree that I am), then at least we can wipe our heads and say, “Thank goodness, God wasn’t going to kill the very person He called to deliver the Israelites. That’s just weird. Save Moses from death at birth and then again at middle-age, call him to be Your ambassador to Egypt (so to speak) and then kill him. That’s strange.” But that still leaves us with the question: why did God want to kill Gershom? And the answer is because Moses had failed to circumcise him. As Dr. Douglas Stuart put it, “God wasn’t going to allow someone (Gershom) to get into Egypt alive without a decisive change in his circumcision status.” But why? Because it was the preeminent sign of the covenant people of God, and God was in the process of answering His own covenant.

For either Gershom or Eliezer (or both) to be a part of the rescue and delivery team that was inaugurating the covenant, and for one (or both) of them not to carry the sign of the covenant would impugn God’s own righteousness and character. Remember . . . the covenant that we’re talking about is a covenant that God Himself established with Abraham (back in Genesis 15). And do you remember who ratified the covenant? Who was it that signed, sealed and delivered the covenant to Abraham as a sure thing? (It was God.) So, not only did God create the covenant, but He also guaranteed it by His own Word. So, to go against the covenant by not having the sign of the covenant would make God a liar.

This little story reminds us that we’re only right with God through blood and His covenant promises. Apart from the shedding of blood, Gershom and/or Eliezer were no different from the Egyptians – that is, they were dead men. The same is true for you and me. Apart from the shedding of blood and God’s covenant promise we’re as good as dead. That’s where Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary comes in. Without the shedding of Jesus’ blood and the work of the Holy Spirit circumcising our hearts, we have no hope.

Listen to what the Bible says, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, [in order] that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). The Prophet Jeremiah puts it like this, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or [God’s] wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done” (Jeremiah 4:4). God said, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church in Rome says, “circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter [of the Law]” (Romans 2:29).

When these passages refer to a “circumcision of the heart” it’s referring to our salvation by faith. Like Gershom, we don’t get to be a part of the group heading to the Promised Land unless our hearts have been transformed, unless there’s been a supernatural surgery. And so, we see Zipporah spring into action. We aren’t told how she knew that death was coming for her son, but however it happened, she quickly took the flint and performed the surgery.

Now, verse 25 is almost as confusing as verse 24. Again, the NIV, the ESV, the NKJV, and many others have Zipporah touching Moses’ feet with the foreskin. What’s that all about? Well, again, Moses’ name isn’t mentioned in the original Hebrew. So, if you have a Bible that includes Moses’ name, then just know that the translators were trying to help but might have made it a little more confusing.

So, she was either touching Moses’ feet or she was touching Gershom’s feet. But that’s still a little weird. What do feet have to do with anything? Well, they don’t. That’s a Hebrew euphemism. It’s a manner of speaking. In English we might say something like “she’s under the weather.” What does that mean? (She’s sick.) Here’s another one, “John passed away, yesterday.” What are we saying? (He died.) Or sometimes we say, “I’m between jobs vs. I’m unemployed.” In Hebrew, to “touch [a man’s] feet” was a nice/polite way of saying that you were touching his stones, his jewels.

Remember, it was not the wife’s responsibility to perform the circumcision, so she’s just doing the best she could, based on the little that she knew from her father’s priestly duty. She takes the foreskin and touches Gershon’s crotch and repeats the words she understood to be godly and proper in hopes that it might create the covenant he needed. Basically, it was as if Zipporah was saying, “since we’re related, I can do this on your behalf.”

And this little episode (as strange as it might be) actually fits nicely because God had just informed Moses (in vss. 22-23) that when he saw Pharaoh, he was supposed to tell him that if he didn’t let the Israelites go… (what would happen?) God would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son. And this little story about Gershom is like Moses saying, “Hey, I know that God meant what He said about killing Pharaoh’s firstborn son due to his disobedience. How do I know, because He was going to kill my first-born son over my disobedience too.”

Hopefully, that helps. If not, I have a stack of commentaries and you’re welcome to do your own research. That brings us to the final movement…

A Family Worships Together

Two weeks ago, when we were considering Moses’ five (5) excuses, one of them was that he couldn’t speak well (4:14) and God said, “Hey, don’t you have a brother named Aaron? Of course, you do. I know he can speak well – after all, I made Aaron just like I made you, with all your moaning and complaining. Aaron is already on his way out here to meet up with you, and he’ll be glad to see you.”

Moses tells Aaron everything that God has told him. Moses shows Aaron the signs that he’s supposed to do in front of Pharaoh, and the two brothers gather the elders of Israel. Aaron speaks and Moses shows the signs and the people believed (v. 31). When the Israelites heard from Moses (via Aaron) that God had visited him and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

Throughout the book of Exodus and throughout the Bible and throughout redemptive history, God is a God who pays attention to His people; He looks after His people; He gets involved in the situation and rescues them. Our ability to see and understand God in this way should lead us to give Him glory and honor and praise and exaltation.

He’s come to us in our slavery and freed us, through Christ Jesus. And now, as His people, we’re called to pay attention to those in affliction – those with spiritual, physical, mental and emotional needs. Do you know our God – the One that has come to us in the person of Jesus, the One who said, “I am the bread of life. I am the door. I am the vine. I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the light of the world. I am the resurrection and the life” (John 6, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15). Do you know Jesus?

Exodus: Journey to Freedom (3:11-4:17)

Exodus 3:11-4:17

Well, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Exodus 3. We’re going to cover a lot of territory today – the rest of chapter 3 and half of chapter 4 – so buckle your seatbelts, because we’re going to have to move pretty quickly. Which reminds me of a UPI news story I saw not too long ago. The Metropolitan Insurance Company received some unusual explanations (read “excuses”) for the auto accidents of its policyholders and shared them. Here are few:

• An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car, and vanished. (Gotta hate those invisible cars.)
• The other car collided with mine without warning me of its intention.
• I had been driving my car for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had the accident. (That one is for Moses.)
• As I reached the intersection, a hedge sprang up, obscuring my vision.
• The telephone pole was approaching fast. I attempted to swerve out of its path, but it hit me anyway.
• The indirect cause of this accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.
• The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him. (Think 1980’s Atari – Pole Position.)
• The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran over him. (Picture a squirrel.)
• I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.

Someone once said (and rightly so), “Excuses are like armpits. We all have them, and they stink.” Today, we’re going to continue the narrative that started last week when Moses encountered God in the burning bush. You’ll recall that Israel finally cried out to God and their prayer went up to heaven and God determined to honor His covenant and come to their rescue. And God’s plan to Moses is in verse 10, which is where we left off, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Let’s pick up with verse 11 and read through chapter 4:17; I want you to be on the lookout for the five (5) excuses that Moses offers God.

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 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.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ 18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So, you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” 2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So, he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail” – so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand – 5 “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So, he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

10 But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and He said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”

“Gracious God, as we turn now to the Bible, we pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, in preaching and listening – that we might understand, believe, obey, and live in the light of its truth. Accomplish your purposes in us, Lord, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

These verses are all about God’s sufficiency. It’s a deeply encouraging bit of scripture. If you ever feel as though God is sending you to do something beyond yourself, then this ought to remind you that God is sovereign and powerful. Not only does God have the “right” to rule, but He also has the power to see to it that His plans are worked out according to His will. Moses makes five excuses for not obeying God’s mission; and to each of those excuses God responds with some type of statement about His sovereignty and power. The first excuse is…

Moses’ Lack of Credentials (3:11-12)

Notice Exodus 3:11, “Who am I . . . ?” Have you ever said that to God? “God, have you considered my resume lately?” I can hear Moses now, “Um, yeah, you do know that I’m a fugitive, right? You do know that I killed an Egyptian. And for the last 40 years I’ve been in the wilderness shepherding sheep. God, I just don’t have what it takes to do this.” Think about it. Imagine a guy in coveralls carrying a wrench going up to the president and saying, “Hey buddy, let everybody go.”

Not only did Moses not think he had the ability, but he really didn’t have the reputation either. I mean, the last time he was in the presence of some of the Hebrews he kind of got into an argument with one of them and that guy didn’t like it too much. Remember? “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14).

Nevertheless, God promised to “be with Moses.” That’s what we hear all throughout the Bible. All the leaders that God has used, all the people He’s ever called have needed His reassuring presence. Think about Joseph, Joshua, Gideon, David, Mary, even the disciples. Does this sound familiar, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold (what’s the next line?), I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

God said He would be with Moses – and He’s with us too. And what’s more, God even gave Moses a sign, a guarantee, “all of you will worship Me back here on this mountain.” God was so sure of His plan and His ability – and why not; He’s God – that He told Moses exactly what they’d be doing the next time they were in this place. Who am I? A lack of credentials. The second excuse is…

Moses’ Lack of Content (3:13-22)

In verse 13 of chapter 3, Moses says, “What shall I say? What’s Your name? Suppose I do what You’re asking; Who am I supposed to say sent me? I ain’t just busting up into the palace on my own authority.” And for the first time in recorded history, at least as it’s recorded by Moses, God reveals His personal and covenantal name – Yahweh.

Now, most of you know this or have at least heard a little about it, but some of you haven’t. So, let me just unpack this name a little bit. The first thing to remember (or know) is that the original Hebrew of the Old Testament did not have vowels. It was a consonant-only language. Therefore, it’s really anybody’s best guess how God’s name is actually supposed to be pronounced.

Having said that, the Hebrew letters for God’s name are YHWH or YHVH, and it’s connected with the verb “to be”, which is why all of our Bibles translate God’s name as “I AM WHO I AM” or “I AM THAT I AM.” It’s a form of “to be.” And you’ll also notice that the English translators spell it with all capitals. In fact, when you encounter the word LORD (in all caps), then what you’re actually reading is this name “I AM.” If you’re reading the word Lord (in lower case), then you’re reading the Hebrew word Adonai or Elohim – those are titles.

But this name (Yahweh) points to God’s eternal nature, God’s eternal being. He has no beginning and no end. The Bible calls God the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 22:13). He’s self-existent and self-sufficient. He doesn’t need air or water. He doesn’t need sleep or food. He doesn’t even need you and me. I know that might shock some of us, but He doesn’t need anything or anyone in order to be God. Before the world was ever created, God was in perfect unity among Himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul would put it this way, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36).

And because He’s eternal and self-existent, we’ll never have Him totally figured out. God isn’t a book we read and then put on the shelf. He’s not a class we take – although we formally study Him in the science of theology. God is eternal and unchangeable (Malachi 3:6). He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He’s not getting better or worse, bigger or smaller. He’s infinitely perfect.

So, not only does God give Moses His name and tell Him to say that “I AM” sent me to you, but also, He tells Moses to give the elders a message, a word. What’s the message? There are three parts to the message. The first is found in the latter part of verse 16, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.” The second part is found in verse 17, “I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, the Jebusites, (the mosquito bites, the parasites, and the websites) [to] a land flowing with milk and honey.” And the third part is found in verse 18. It’s the message they’re supposed to give Pharaoh, “let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.”

The entire content of Moses’ message – everything from God’s personal name, to His delivering the people from slavery, to His giving them a land, and their ultimate journey into the wilderness – everything is ultimately about worship. And that’s the same message that we’re called to deliver. We’re called to tell people who God is (His name and all of His characteristics – His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, imminence, holiness, etc.) – and we’re called to tell them what He’s said (primarily what He’s done in the past, what He’s doing in the present, and what He’ll do in the future). All of that content is found in the Bible – His eternal Word.

So those are the excuses of no credentials (Who am I?) and no content (What do I say?). The next excuse is…

Moses’ Lack of Confidence (4:1-9)

Despite the fact that God just told Moses (in verse 18) that the elders and people of Israel would listen to him, he still lacked confidence. Notice verse 1 of chapter 4, “They won’t believe me. They won’t listen to me. Ain’t nobody going to believe that You appeared to me” (paraphrased). So, God gave Moses three signs of His power: power over things, power over people, and power over nature.

Real quick; the first sign was turning Moses’ staff into a snake and back into a staff. Cool miracle, right? But don’t overlook the fact that the staff became a snake. Have you ever noticed that the snake is largely associated with Egypt? And don’t forget the first time we’re introduced to a snake in the Bible. I think the real message of this sign was God’s authority over evil and, in particular, the Evil One. Moses was learning something about God’s divine authority here. Confidence booster? I would hope so.

The second sign was the sign of his hand and leprosy. The idea here is that his hand looked like death. It probably had the appearance of decomposition and death. You remember when Lazarus died and Jesus asked the people to remove the stone from the tomb? What did Martha say? “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days” (John 11:39). That’s the picture we ought to have in our minds – not that Moses hand went from a well-bronzed desert suntan to a lily-white skin – but rather that it went from visibly living flesh to visibly dead flesh. It was a sign of God’s power over people, over disease and death. Confidence booster? You would think so.

The final sign was to draw some water from the Nile and pour it on the ground and it would become blood (note: the Bible doesn’t say that it will be like blood, but that it will become blood). There’s an obvious connection of this sign and the first plague but notice that this instance was done for the benefit of Israel, that they might be convinced of God’s hand upon Moses. In contrast, when God does this against Egypt, it’s a sign of His judgment. Are you confident, yet, Moses?

Before we scoff at Moses’ lack of confidence, think about your own lack of confidence. What’s our great sign of God’s divine authority and power today? (The empty tomb!) The empty tomb is the sign that Christianity is true. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:39-40, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” When we lack confidence – and we all do from time to time – remember the resurrection. Our God is not dead; He’s alive! And He lives and reigns forevermore. Hallelujah!

Excuse of no credentials, no content, and no confidence. The fourth excuse is…

Moses’ Lack of Communication Skills (4:10-12)

For those of us that are familiar with Moses calling, this excuse is the one that we often remember – “I’m not eloquent. I’m slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10). We don’t know exactly what Moses’ problem was, or if he even had a problem. It’s pure speculation. Some have suggested it was the normal fear of public speaking. Others suggest perhaps it was educational. He didn’t think he could persuade Pharaoh. Others say he felt too old. Maybe there was a vocal cord problem – a speech impediment of some type. Some say it was a verbal issue – being in the wilderness for 40 years and only talking to sheep, he forgot the language of Egypt.

I tend to think it was a false sense of humility. Kind of like me suggesting that Ray direct the Greenville Symphony at the Peace Center. While Ray is more than capable of doing that (and he is), he might say, “Man, you know me, I’m just a church worship leader. I can wave my arms around here, but I could never do that in front of all those people and in front of a TV audience.” I think Moses was hoping that he could just fake his way out of things. Whatever it was, it’s clear that Moses didn’t think he had the communication skills needed for the job.

It reminds me of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Moses had to depend on God and so do we.

Think about the lame excuses you’ve offered to God over the years. Many have said I can’t preach; I can’t teach, I can’t witness. The only thing we’re called to do is report the facts. Here’s what you say, “This is what I find so comforting about having a relationship with Jesus (then fill in the blank).” Or may you say, “This is what I’ve come to understand from reading the Bible (then fill in the blank).” Just report the facts. God (via the Holy Spirit) does the saving. God does the convincing. God is the One that changes the heart.

Finally, notice that God responds to Moses by saying your excuses are irreverent and irrelevant. God said, “Hey Moses, who do you suppose made your mouth? (Exodus 4:11). Don’t you think I know about your weaknesses? In fact, that’s precisely why I want to use you – so that I get the glory.” Then, to address the irrelevance, God said, “Would you hush. I’m going to be the One to give you the words to say anyway.”

So, we’ve seen the excuse of credentials, the excuse of content, the excuse of confidence, the excuse of communication skills, and finally…

Moses’ Lack of Commitment (4:13-17)

This last excuse (verse 13) isn’t really an excuse; it’s just a last-ditch effort to get out of the assignment. “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Notice that the word “Lord” isn’t capitalized, which means that Moses isn’t using God’s personal name. He’s using a title. It’s like us addressing a boss, “With all due respect, sir, you must know someone else who’s available to go.” Basically, I just don’t want to do it. And sometimes the boss says, “Ok, well, if you don’t want to do it, then don’t be surprised when I pass you over for the next promotion.” And he grants our request and lets us leave the office. Then, there are those times when the boss says, “Lee, you listen to me and you listen carefully. I’m not asking… I’m telling you; you’re going.” In those cases, not only do we not get our request, but we also realize that we’ve just stirred up the boss’s anger.

The dramatic difference between human anger and God’s anger is that God is righteous. And even in the midst of His anger, many times He offers us grace. James 1:20 says, “For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” Yet, even in the midst of pushing the limits, God was gracious. God used Aaron as a co-speaker, a companion, an encouragement.

What are the excuses that we come up with when we’re talking to God? Lack of credentials – Who am I? Lack of content – What do I say? Lack of confidence – Ain’t nobody gonna listen? Lack of communication skills – I’m no preacher…I’m no evangelist…I’m not good with words. Lack of commitment – Lord, just use somebody else. May we not arouse the Lord’s anger. Rather, may we trust that He knows what He’s doing. He knows everything about us – our strengths our weaknesses. It might just be our weakness that He wants to use. He’s already given us His Word; let’s just report the facts and leave the rest to Him.

“Our Father and our God, we all have excuses when it comes to being obedient to Your will and Your calling for our lives. Help us to see, in this encounter with Moses, that You’re always with us – You’ll give us the words to share – You’ll take care of changing hearts and minds if we’ll just trust and obey. For we ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Exodus: Journey to Freedom (2:23-3:10)

Exodus 2:23-3:10

Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Exodus 2. This is our 5th Sunday in the book of Exodus and we’re finally turning the page to chapter 3. So, if you’re wondering, we should be finished by the time Jesus returns.

As you’re finding your spot, let me just give you a little timeline or framework. Chapters 1-2 cover almost 400 years (technically, it’s about 354 years), from the time that Jacob’s family comes to Egypt during the famine until Moses is born. Then, chapter 2 is broken into two parts. We saw that the last two weeks. The first 40 years of Moses’ life are verses 1-15, and the second 40 years are verses 16-22. So, when we pick things up in chapter 3 Moses is about 80 years old. Then, look at this, when you get to chapter 3 – all the way through chapter 38 – it’s just one year. So, we’re coming off this sprint through two chapters – at least chronologically – and now we’re going to be slowing things down almost step-by-step and day-by-day.

Hopefully, you’ve found your spot. Follow along with me, now, as I read Exodus 2:23-3:10.

23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.

1 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. 2 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. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 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.” 5 Then He said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 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.

7 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, 8 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. 9 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. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

“Speak, O Lord, as we come to You to receive the food of Your Holy Word; take Your truth, plant it deep in us, shape and fashion us in Your likeness. For we ask it in Jesus’ name, amen.”

Now, if you’ll remember, this entire story is set up in Exodus 1:8 with the words, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Things prior to that were relatively good for both Egyptians and Israelites. Folks knew Joseph. They knew his faith in the one true God, and they were benefactors as a result of God’s favor upon Joseph. But then, we have a new king that grows up and doesn’t know Joseph or Joseph’s God, and that’s when things begin to go downhill.

Well, now, in verse 23, that king – the one who didn’t know Joseph – he dies. And this gives way for a new pharaoh to come onto the scene, and that’s the pharaoh that we commonly associate with the book of Exodus. That’s what’s taking place right there in verse 23 – out with the old, bad pharaoh, the one that didn’t know Joseph, and in with a new pharaoh.

But notice that the change in government didn’t result in a change of conditions for the Israelites, because the verse continues “and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.”

Now, I’ve looked back over chapters 1-2 in both the English and Hebrew text and I can find no explicit indication that the Israelites ever called out to God in prayer. Yes, in chapter 1, we have the Hebrew midwives who didn’t carry out the command of the pharaoh because they “feared God,” (1:17) but that’s not an explicit statement of prayer. Yes, we have those parallel passages in Acts 7 and Hebrews 11 that speak of the faith of Moses’ family, and even Moses himself. But still, there’s no explicit language that suggests the people of Israel were lifting their cries to the Lord.

You say, “Come on, pastor. Surely, the people were praying. They’ve been under extreme labor and oppression for hundreds of years. The Bible doesn’t actually have to say that they prayed for us to make that assumption.” That’s true. All that I’m saying is that there’s nothing explicit in the text (prior to chapter 2:23) that says they did. So, it could be equally valid that during all of this time the vast majority of the Israelites had fallen into pagan idolatry and were worshipping Egyptian gods.

And if you’re honest with yourself and you think about your own life, we’re guilty of the same pattern. Maybe not guilty for hundreds of years, but often times we’re hesitant to turn to the Lord, to cry out to God, to look to Him. We try to handle everything for ourself. We try to tough it out. We try to have a stiff upper lip. We try to push through all of these things in our day-to-day lives, and only when it becomes incredibly unbearable do we ever think of crying out to God.

But, even though the word “prayer” isn’t explicitly used here, notice that their cry “came up to God.” Listen, the exodus didn’t come about simply because people were in trouble; if that were the case, God certainly could have moved on their behalf prior to this point. No, the exodus was the result of a prayer of lament for rescue to the only One who could actually do something about it. And that leads us to the first point today…

God Recalls His Covenant (vss. 23-25)

In verses 24-25 notice that there are four (4) verbs associated with God: He hears, He remembers, He sees, and He knows. Now, we don’t have too much trouble understanding 75% of that. We get that He sees us and hears us. We’ve got that. We know Psalm 34:15 and 1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer.” We get that. And we understand that God knows everything. We know Psalm 139:1-4, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” We get that God is all-knowing – He’s omniscient. Those are the parts that we understand; no, it’s the “God remembering” part that we need a little help with.

Well, suffice it to say that the Hebrew word zakar (translated as “remember”) never implies that God forgot anything or had anything pushed to the back of His mind. Rather, the word zakar is a way of talking about God applying His earlier covenant, rather than recollecting it. In other words, to say “God remembered His covenant” is to say that “God decided to honor the terms of His covenant at this time.” So, it’s really more about timing and application, than it is about a loss of memory.

And, what were the terms of the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Number one: the general promise of greatness (already largely achieved). Number two: the general promise of blessing – including protection (now needing to be addressed). And number three: the specific promise to punish any nation that oppressed Israel (something that’s forthcoming). So, God hears, God sees, God knows, and God remembers His covenant. But what does that have to do with us?

Jeremiah’s prophecy to the nation of Israel, hundreds of years after the exodus, went like this: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

That “old covenant” – the one that was established with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the one that was put into action here in Exodus – has been superseded by the “new covenant.” And if you belong to God through Jesus Christ, then you belong to His eternal covenant, “His never-stopping, never-giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.” In your time of greatest need – whatever it may be – then, like the Israelites, you can be assured that God will hear you, God will see you, God will know you, and God will honor the terms of His covenant at the right time.

And in just a moment we’re going to slow down and remind ourselves of that, as we come to the Lord’s Table to remember His work of salvation. And now, I want us to see the second thing and that is…

God Reveals His Identity (vss. 1-6)

Outside of the Red Sea crossing, this might be the other major event of the Exodus story that we all remember – the burning bush. I don’t want to re-read these verses. We’re all familiar with the narrative. Moses is out tending the flock of his father-in-law and he comes to a mountain called Horeb. Now, this is quite likely the same mountain as Mount Sinai that we’ll encounter later. I hope that doesn’t confuse you. It shouldn’t.

We know that people in the Bible often had two names, and the same is true for particular places. In fact, if you ever had the opportunity to talk with Janie Plumley or Inez or any of the other “original family” from our own mountain, then you know that brooks and streams and branches and hills and mountain sometimes went by one name to one family and another name by another family. It’s really rather common.

What’s important is that Moses calls it the “mountain of God” (3:1). In other words, it’s the mountain where God shows up. And that makes sense if you believe (as I do) that Horeb and Sinai are one and the same mountain, because when God shows up on that mountain things happen. Here, God reveals His identity to Moses for the very first time. And later, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments and all that Israel needs to be His faithful and obedient people.

So, we’re on the “mountain of God” where God shows up, and He shows up in a theophany. Now that’s a fancy word that basically means God appeared in some recognizable way to humans. You know, sometimes we might be talking to our friends about church or about some ministry or work that we’re engaged in and we’ll say something like, “God really showed up last night. God’s presence was real in that moment.”

When we say that we don’t literally mean that God left His heavenly dwelling and literally appeared to those of us gathered. At least, that’s not normally what we mean. We simply mean that God was working via the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of those that were present. But there are these occasional instances in the Bible where God shows up in a very real and literal way and people are able to literally see Him and communicate with Him, and He’s often associated with fire. And such was the case here.

Moses sees a bush and it’s on fire but it’s not being consumed. There’s a real, literal bush. This isn’t some figment of Moses’ imagination or some hallucination. There’s a real bush and there’s a real flame giving off real light. All of this catches Moses’ attention, and then in verse 3 we’re told that Moses turns aside to investigate this closer. When Moses turns toward the bush, God then begins to reveal Himself and He calls out from within the flaming bush, “Moses! Moses!”

I hate to even admit this, but I’m a big fan of the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory. There are so many reasons why I shouldn’t like the show, but I really enjoyed the comedy. And if you’re at all familiar with the show then you know that Dr. Sheldon Cooper would always knock and announce the person’s name three times. When my uncle was our Worship Leader, he would often knock on my door and do the same thing. Now, the reason that I tell you that is because in Semitic cultures, addressing someone by saying his/her name twice was a way of expressing endearment or affection or friendship.

In fact, this kind of encounter happens to Samuel in 1 Samuel 3. It happened to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4). In Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus is on the cross, “He cried out in a loud voice ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 27:46). So, Moses would’ve understood that he was being called by someone who loved him and was concerned about him. Those of us that have received Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior know what it’s like to have Him call our names. Let me ask you: Have you met Jesus? Have you heard Him call out your name?

And God begins (in verse 5) to teach Moses about the holy nature of His presence. “Stop! Take your shoes off! The place where you’re standing is holy ground!” Now this is important – 15/20/30 minutes before this encounter, there was nothing particularly holy about this spot. It was just any old rocky and dirty spot in the Midian desert. In fact, this particular spot (wherever it happened to be) ceased to be holy after this event too. The thing that makes this spot holy isn’t the spot itself. What is it that makes it holy? (The presence of God.)

We certainly want to treat this church respectfully and we want to be good stewards of the building, but folks this place is just a structure. May we be on guard against worshipping this place, or any place, even places that are associated with the Old/New Testament.

God introduces Himself to Moses as the God of his fathers, “‘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.” God was alluding to His covenant relationship that we spoke of earlier, but God was also giving Moses a bit of personal history. The God of the burning bush was not an unknown God; He was the God who acted on behalf of these earlier generations. Notice that He does not say “I was the God” but “I am the God.” God’s people never really die; rather, we’re part of an eternal relationship through Christ Jesus. In fact, when Jesus was proving the resurrection to the Sadducees, He quoted this verse. He said, “Haven’t you read . . . in the passage about the burning bush? . . . He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:26-27).

So, they exchanged names. That’s the first step in forming a relationship with God. And that brings us to the final point…

God Relays His Plan (vss. 7-10)

Our God is a sending God. Notice three parts to this commission and we’ll be done.

First, God’s motive. It’s especially seen in verses 7 and 9. “I have observed . . . I have heard . . . I know about their sufferings. . . . The Israelites’ cry . . . has come to Me. . . . I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.” Earlier, we noticed how God was moved by an intimate knowledge of the slavery of His people. Here it is again. God hears the groans of people who genuinely cry out to Him.

In Luke 18:13, the tax collector beat his breast and cried out, “Turn Your wrath from me – a sinner!” Jesus said that the man “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). A prayer that God hears is when a person genuinely cries out to God for mercy and forgiveness in repentance and faith. If you’ll cry out to Him, He’ll hear you and save you. It’s not about a magical formula. It’s about crying out over the misery of your sin and begging Jesus for mercy.

Second, notice God’s purpose. His purpose is to transfer His people. He will take them out of Egypt and put them in a place with milk and honey. It’s a land occupied by other nations, and we’ll cover that later. But God is going to save them from something (slavery) for something (worship and witness). That’s exactly what has happened to us in the gospel.

Third, and finally, see God’s plan. After revealing His great purpose of redemption, God told Moses the plan: “You’re it.” God says, “I am sending you” (v. 10). Our God is a sending God. Throughout the Bible, God sends people on different assignments covering a variety of issues. Joseph was sent to save lives in a famine (Genesis 45:5-8). Here, Moses was sent to deliver people from oppression and exploitation. Elijah was sent to influence the course of international politics (1 Kings 19:15-18). Jeremiah was sent to proclaim God’s word (Jeremiah 1:7). Jesus said that He was sent “to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). The disciples were sent to preach and demonstrate the power of the kingdom (Matthew 10:5-8). Paul and Barnabas were sent for famine relief (Acts 11:27-30), then they were sent for evangelism and church planting (Acts 13:1-3). Titus was sent to put a messed-up church in order (Titus 1:5).

Our God is a sending God. What’s He calling you to do? And more importantly, how are you going to respond?

“Father in heaven, we’re eternally grateful that You are a God who keeps His covenant. You keep Your Word. You’re trustworthy and true. So that in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, whether good or bad, we can be assured that You will never leave us or forsake us. And because of Your Son and His willingness to die for us upon the cross of Calvary, we are in a covenant relationship with You. And just like the Israelites of old, one day You will return and gather us all home. Oh, what a glorious day that will be. Until then, we take this time to reflect upon and remember Your goodness, Your faithfulness, Your grace, love, and mercy through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Exodus: Journey to Freedom (2:11-22)

Exodus 2:11-22

As always, I hope you brought your copy of God’s Word with you. Let me invite you to turn with me to Exodus 2. If you don’t have a Bible, then there should be one in the pew rack in front of you, or you can follow along on the big screens. The reason that I encourage you to bring a Bible is because I will often reference or even read/quote from other scriptures, other verses, and you might want to see if what I’m telling you is indeed correct. You might, also, want to make little notes or marks in your Bible to jog your memory when you reread these verses weeks, months, and years later.

So, we’ve been introduced to the people, their prosperity, and the problem. We’ve been introduced to an evil king, a pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph, and his diabolical plan to rid Egypt of all the Jews. We’ve been introduced to two Hebrew midwives whose names are recorded for posterity’s sake. Last week, we saw the birth of Moses and the faithful activity of three women – Moses’ mom, his sister, and pharaoh’s daughter. Today, we’re going to see some of the choices that Moses makes.

Every one of us, every day, almost moment-by-moment makes choices. Some good. Some bad. It starts the moment we wake up and it doesn’t end until we go to sleep at night. Am I going to get up? Or not? If I get up, then what am I going to wear? What am I going to eat/drink? Do I turn right/left? The light is yellow; should I stop/go? Thankfully, most of those choices don’t result in a crisis. However, every crisis will result in choices. Let me repeat that. Most of the choices we make don’t result in a crisis, but every crisis will result in choices.

And this morning, we’re introduced to Moses and the choices that he makes that leads to a crisis in his life. Hopefully, you’ve found your spot. Follow along as I read Exodus 2:11-22:

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well.

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came home to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come home so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.”

“Father, we come now to these precious moments when, in the mystery of your purposes, we hear Your voice, although it’s only the voice of a mere man that speaks. You promised that when Your Word is truly preached, then Your voice will be truly heard. This turns our focus away from the preacher, and it turns our attention directly to the Bible. And so, we pray that we may lose sight of everyone and everything besides the Lord Jesus, Himself, as He is made known to us in the printed page. For we ask it in Christ’s name. Amen.”

Quite a bit of time has passed from the end of verse 10 to the beginning of verse 11. In fact, if you look back at Acts 7 – one of those parallel passages that I’ve referenced – then you know that Moses is now about 40 years old. So, most of Moses childhood is lost to us, which reminds me that this is one of those areas where Moses is similar to Jesus. Of course, the Lord was greater than Moses could ever be, which is what Hebrews 3 tells us, “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses – as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.”

Nevertheless, there are several similarities of Moses’ life and Jesus. For example:

  • Like Moses, Jesus was born to be the Savior and was rescued from an evil ruler at birth (Matthew 2:16).
  • Like Moses, Jesus journeyed to Egypt: “Out of Egypt I called My Son” (Matthew 2:15).
  • Like Moses, there were “silent years” that preceded His public ministry.
  • Like Moses and the Israelites who wandered for 40 years in the wilderness, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11),
  • Like Moses, who received the Law on Mount Sinai, Jesus went to a high mountain and, in His Sermon on the Mount, gave the law newer and greater meaning.

Of course, as I’ve already said, Jesus transcends Moses in every way. Jesus is without sin, and Jesus is fully God. Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us when we see Moses fail. Every mediator, rescuer, deliver, prophet, everyone in the Old Testament (and the New Testament for that matter) failed at some level. The Apostle Paul says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus never did. Only He is perfect.

And that leads us to the first thing I want us to see this morning…

Moses’ Failure

One of the things you’ll discover about the Bible, if you haven’t already, is that it’s honest. Think about it. If you were going to write a story about your life, your family, this church, or even this wonderful community would you include the sordid details of your moral failures and your character weaknesses? Oh sure, we might say something like, “I made a few mistakes, or I wasn’t always the best, or I made a lot of wrong choices, or if you only knew how bad I was then…” Most ancient Near East literature casts its heroes in unrealistically good light. But not the Bible. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the three primary patriarchs of Moses’ day – all lied and were extremely deceitful. Adam, Eve, Noah, Aaron, King David, Peter, the Apostle Paul, even our friend Moses, all of them made choices that were sinful.

One of the things that we see change in Moses’ life is his identity, his relationship with the Israelites. Notice verse 11 says, “One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.” Three times, the text emphasizes Moses’ view of the Israelites as being “his people.”

I’ve already referenced Acts 7, as being one of those parallel passages to the Exodus story. And, just a moment ago, I read from Hebrews 3 that says Jesus is greater than Moses. Last week, I also mentioned another one of those parallel passages from the New Testament – Hebrews 11. It provides us with this detail about Moses’ life at this time. It says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

You say, “Pastor, I thought this was about Moses’ failure, but you’re talking about him identifying with the Hebrews. I don’t follow?” Moses was faced with a decision about how to handle the situation, and the choice that he made was informed by his identity with the Hebrews. This is indeed a rash act of violence – a murder, even. But even if it’s motivated by good intentions, nevertheless, we have no way of excusing it. Just because the Israelites are being oppressed doesn’t make Moses’ decision to murder right or godly.

Verse 12 continues, “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” Moses makes his first bad choice right here. He looks left and he looks right. Shoot, he even looks down to bury the guy in the sand, but he never looks (where?) up. And we do the same thing. We look this way and that way – “It’s all clear” – and rarely, if ever, do we give any thought to looking vertical in prayer. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Whenever we act, even as Christians, in the impulses of our flesh, there always has to be a cover up. We have to cover something up. When we’re not walking in the Spirit we’re walking in the flesh – fulfilling the desires of the flesh, going out and sinning. Then, we have a feeling that we have to cover that up.

All of us have failed. We’ve all committed a felony. No, it’s not necessarily something that will land us in a Federal or State prison, but sin definitely puts us outside the fellowship of God. Thankfully, we have the assurance of 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Moses’ Flight

That brings us to verses 13-15 and Moses’ flight. The next day he sees two Hebrews struggling and one of them calls him out, “Hey, you gonna knock me off like you did that Egyptian the other day?” Moses now finds himself between a rock and a hard spot. What he tried to do it in the flesh has backfired. He certainly thought what he had done was the right thing, but this Israelite saw it differently. Verse 14, “Who made you a prince and judge over us?” This guy, and maybe many other Israelites, didn’t like the idea of this johnny-come-lately trying to pass himself off as their defender.

It’s not difficult to imagine why Moses was disliked by his own people. Let’s leave aside the fact that he’s been living it up in the lap of luxury the past 36 years or so. An Egyptian slave master is missing. That means an investigation. If not already underway, certainly it would be soon. And there’s no doubt in the minds of many Hebrews (certainly this guy) that the Israelites will be blamed, and their punishment will be made worse. So, Moses isn’t received well by the Hebrews.

But he’s not really free to return to the palace either, as verse 15 says “When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.” Moses tried to do it his way – the Egyptian way. He’s part of the royal family. He’s the Egyptian in control. He can take life. But that doesn’t sit well with Pharaoh. Why? Because he couldn’t have a turncoat Hebrew-raised-as-an-Egyptian now killing Egyptian supervisors. So, this whole ordeal has really put Moses in a bind. He was thinking he was doing the right thing and now everything’s a mess. You’ve been there, right?

But here’s where God begins to work in Moses’ life in a way that Moses wouldn’t have recognized at the time – just as we can virtually never understand how our own miseries and misfortunes, at the time we’re experiencing them, might end up leading to a blessing. I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:8, where God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). And even when we make very poor decisions in our own strength and our own will, when we yield ourselves to the Lord, somehow, in some way, He brings some good out of them.

What does Romans 8:28 say, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (NKJV). So, God uses these bad decisions to clearly separate Moses from his Egyptian ties and begin to build Moses up for His ultimate purpose – to deliver the Israelites from bondage.

Perhaps you’re here this morning, and you can identify with Moses’ failure. Maybe not murder, but there have been more than enough bad decisions and sinful actions in your life. In fact, you still feel the weight of sin and shame and regret – even now – bearing down on your heart. And as you survey your past there’s just no way that God can, as the psalmist says, “turn [your] mourning into dancing” (Psalm 30:11), or as the songwriter puts it “give beauty for ashes and turn shame into glory” (Graves Into Gardens, Elevation Worship). But I want you to know, there’s nothing impossible for our God.

The Apostle Paul murdered Christians for a living, and yet he was redeemed and forgiven. When Jesus needed him most, Peter outright denied knowing the Lord and yet he was restored to fellowship. King David committed adultery and murder and was still called a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). What’s true of them can be true of you, but only by the forgiveness and grace offered in a relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Moses’ Family

That brings us to our final point: Moses’ Family. Moses flees Egypt and he ends up in Midian. According to Genesis 25, the Midianites were descendants of Abraham. Midian was Abraham’s fourth son through his second wife Keturah. They occupied a territory that we would associate with northwestern Saudi Arabia today. And our text has Moses sitting down at a well.

If you know anything about Bible stories, then you know that all sorts of dramas begin at wells. Abaraham and Isaac both dug wells. Jacob met Rachel at a well. And, of course, who can forget the New Testament account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at a well. So, in one sense it’s not strange to find Moses at a well. But on the other hand, because so much biblical drama is associated with wells, we have to figure that something’s about to happen. And sure enough, once again, Moses finds himself trying to be the peacemaker (or troublemaker, depending on your view).

We’re introduced to seven girls – all daughters of a Midian priest named Reuel a.k.a. Jethro – and they’ve come to the well to water their father’s flocks. And there’s a group of redneck shepherds who haven’t been taught southern hospitality. (They might also be considered idiots seeing as they just chased off seven girls in a dessert, what? Don’t do that.)

Moses finally begins to put things together. He’s a real gentleman: raised, pampered, the best life of Egypt but he’s a gentleman. “Looks like these guys are harassing the chicks, I’m going to push them away.” So, Moses acts to combat this injustice. Only, this time, he didn’t kill anyone. Instead, he simply drives them away. What we’re witnessing in these verses is Moses beginning to act as a righteous deliverer. He not only rescued them but also “watered their flock” (v. 17). Moses displayed servant leadership.

The girls come home early and tell their father about this hunky, dark-skinned, well-mannered Egyptian that came to their rescue. And listen to Jethro (he’s a smart guy), “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him that he may eat bread. You don’t leave a man like that; you catch a man like that. Go get him, are you nuts? Your home is here in Podunk Midian. It’s not every day that you have men stopping by the well, especially an Egyptian. Go get him, bring him back that he may eat bread.”

(Ok, so not all of that is recorded in the Bible, but that’s the gist.) And come to find out, Moses enjoyed being there in Midian and so he stayed there, and Jethro gave his daughter, Zipporah, to Moses in marriage. Obviously, much time is passing by in these last few verses. What I want you to see is how Moses is a “type” of Christ.

Now, when I say a “type,” please don’t take that to the 10th degree and try to find that every single thing in his life has to be like Jesus. After all, Moses murdered somebody, and you won’t find that in the life of Jesus. What I mean is that there’s a general typology that’s unmistakable. Let me point out a few of them and we’ll conclude:

  1. Moses was chosen to be the deliverer from bondage for the children of Israel.
  2. He’s rejected by Israel at his first coming.
  3. He turns to the Gentiles, (he’s now in Midian) to another country related to the Semites but not completely, not fully.
  4. He takes a Gentile bride. Zipporah would, by all genealogical records, be considered a Gentile.

Now, I bring up those four (4) points because that’s exactly the argument that Stephen makes in Acts 7, when he’s witnessing to the Jewish leaders: “Look let me tell you about Jesus Christ. He’s not unlike the one that you revere so highly – Moses the law giver.”

And we conclude with verse 22, “And [Zipporah] bore him a son, and called his name Gershom, for he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land.’” You probably have a footnote in your Bible that says Gershom sounds like the Hebrew word for “foreigner” or “sojourner.” But it can also mean “banishment” and maybe this is how Moses is viewing his life. Maybe it’s how you’re seeing your own life. It’s over. I’ve blown it. I’ve been banished. I’m sentenced to live in my version of Midian the rest of my life, when, in reality God is preparing you for service in His family.

James Montgomery Boice was an American Reformed Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author and pastor once said, “Moses was 40 years in Egypt learning to be something; 40 years in the desert learning to be nothing; and 40 years in the wilderness proving God to be everything” (Ordinary Men, 59). Think about that. God is emptying some of us of ourselves, today. God is bringing us to a place where the only thing left is Him. The only place left to look is up. We’ve looked left and right and down, but now’s the time to look up. These middle verses of Exodus 2 is the summary of every sinner’s journey to salvation: failure, fleeing and finally family.

Maybe you’re 50 or 60 or 70 years old; shoot, some of you are staring at 80, and you’ve never dealt with your past. Like Moses, there are secrets from days gone by that are buried in the sands of time. You’ve tried to cover them up. You’ve tried to make amends. You’ve tried getting things in order with God in your own strength, but you’ve never received the gift of true forgiveness and the grace that only Jesus offers.

Maybe you’re listening to this sermon and you’re thinking “My time has come and gone. I’m spent. I’m all done. There’s nothing left for me to do.” Folks, Moses didn’t hit his stride until he was 80. “Yeah, pastor, but that was Old Testament stuff. God doesn’t work that way anymore.” Not so. There are countless Christian ministries and non-profits that need the corporate knowledge and professional experience, coupled with a desire to serve the Lord, that you have. And whether or not time or physical ability allows this kind of service, you always have your family and friends to influence for the kingdom.

“Our Father in heaven, as we’ve considered the formal life of Moses – from birth to banishment, from inception, to rejection, to isolation – we considered the kinds of choices that were made along the way. Jochebed and Amram (Moses’ parents) made really good choices. We considered the choices that Moses made: a really good choice to identify with Your people, but just going about it the wrong way, and another choice to defend justice. Finally, You get a hold of his life and he becomes what You always wanted him to become, a humble servant of the living God. Moses realized it’s not about him, it’s not about his authority, it’s not about his strength, it’s about You and Your authority and Your strength. Lord, would we all discover this truth.

I pray, Father, that everyone here in choosing the steps they’re going to take today, tomorrow, this week, this year, that You, O Lord, would be at the very upper most of our thinking, that we would think about eternal things, spiritual things, heavenly things, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”