- Yes, God
- Exodus 3:1-4:17
- Lyndol Loyd October 28, 2018
Being a follower of Christ is not about following a list of dos and don’ts. It is about being on a journey toward God. It is about a relationship. In the book of Exodus, we have a vivid, clear picture of what that journey can look like.
This morning we are going forward in our new series, “Compass: The Story of Exodus.” I believe that if we are willing to learn from the Old Testament story of Moses as told in Exodus that we can learn a great deal about our own journey with God at the same time. Hopefully, as we take this journey together, it will help us to know God in a more personal way, to trust God completely and it will develop a greater sense of community amongst us.
Popeye, the Sailor Man, knew who he was: a simple seafaring, pipe smoking, Olive Oil loving sailor man, and he never pretended to be anything else. When he felt called to something of which he thought he wasn’t capable, he always said the same thing, “I yam what I yam.” If he were really convinced of his inadequacy, he would say, “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.”
Popeye wasn’t a sophisticated guy. He was however straightforward so when he stated, “I yam what I yam,” he was expressing the mindset of someone who doesn’t want to expect too much and then end up disappointed.
If you think about it, it is a mindset that many of us express from time to time in our own words, in our own ways. “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam” is almost a lament of the human beings everywhere.
I think about my own life, and that could be my own lament…
- I’m called to use my words to speak truth and life, but there are moments when I use my words in less than noble ways.
- I’m called to be a wonderful father, yet there are moments when I neglect my kids or hurry past them.
- I’m called to be a part of justice in our world, but it can be easy to turn a blind eye to the very needs in front of me.
- I’m called to serve God, but it can be easy to plead my inadequacies.
In the end, the great temptation is to simply live by “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.”
We can be like that. We can be like Popeye, but God disagrees. God has called us, and He has a purpose for our lives. This means we need to learn to have another response to God’s calling.
Our excuses don’t wash with God. We can put others off with our rationalizations, but not God. We need to listen to His leading and then follow. When we feel weak and inadequate for the task, we need to trust in Him to strengthen, teach and prepare us.
We see this as we pick up with the story of Exodus this morning in Exodus 3:1-10:
1 One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3“This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
5 “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the LORD told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
Look at this passage and you are struck with a bold reality about Moses. The one who was raised as a prince in Egypt is now a fugitive and murderer. The one who lived in the luxury of the palaces of Egypt is now living in the desert.
It is now about forty years after he met up with Jethro’s daughters and saved them from unkind shepherds. He has now been tending sheep in the desert for four decades – an entire generation.
Moses thought he was in the desert for life. He had his opportunity forty years ago, and he blew it. But God isn’t done with Moses. God is going to call him to a whole new place in his life and ministry.
Even when your past might be questionable and your present circumstances unimpressive, God still calls us to follow Him and make our lives available to be used for His purposes.
As the New Testament teaches us, God calls every follower of His to discover their unique giftedness and develop these gifts for God’s glory. But, like Moses, followers have a way of resisting God’s call.
In His call, God shows his heart to Moses. People matter to God, and He wanted Moses to know it. God wanted to rescue His people from slavery and oppression. The calling of Moses grew out of the heart of God’s love.
Faith was required of Moses. When God calls a person to join him in a God-sized task, faith is always required. Obedience indicates faith in God. Disobedience often indicates a lack of faith. Without faith, a person cannot please God.
We face the same crisis that Moses and others in the Bible faced. When God speaks, what He asks of us requires faith. Our major problem, however, is our self-centeredness. We think we have to accomplish the assignment on our own power and with our current resources. We think, “I can’t do that. That is not possible.”
We forget that when God speaks, He always reveals what He is going to do – not what He wants us to do for Him. We join Him so He can do His work through us. We don’t have to be able to accomplish the task within our limited ability and resources. With faith, we can proceed confidently to obey Him; because we know that He is going to bring to pass what He purposes.
Moses knows precisely what it is that God is calling him to do. God has been extremely clear about what He is asking. It would be a great ending to the story if I could tell you that Moses heard God and said, “Yes, I hear you. I’ll do it.” But that isn’t what happens. What follows in the rest of Exodus 3 and the first part of 4 is that Moses makes all kinds of excuses.
But before we get too hard on Moses for making excuses and declaring that he was not ready to be God’s leader to deliver the people of Israel from Egypt, let’s take an honest look at his particular calling.
God was calling Moses to stand before the most powerful man on earth, who was the commander of the greatest army on earth. Into this situation Moses was to come before Pharaoh and say, “I’ll be taking your labor force, and we’ll be leaving now.”
Moses had reason to question his fitness for leading Israel, but God was ready to walk with Moses through his personal objections and insecurities. Thankfully, he is ready to walk with us also.
Objection #1 – Who am I? (3:11) It is easy to imagine Moses’ thinking, “I might have been able to lead the people forty years ago, but not now. Back then I was young, strong, powerful, and influential. Now I am just a broken-down, nobody shepherd in the desert. Who am I to stand before Pharaoh? I’m a fugitive, a murderer, a common shepherd. – “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.”
God’s Reply #1 – I know who you are. (3:12)
God says, “Moses, I know you better than you know yourself. I know you through and through, and I know exactly what I am doing when I call you to lead my people.”
Because here is the key to it all, God says, “I will be with you.” God wanted Moses to know that his sin, guilt, limitations, and shortcoming were no longer the ultimate truth about who Moses was.
God says, “From this day forward, I will be with you. You are mine.” This is the same message He wants to communicate to His people today. It is as if God is saying, “You are what you are, but you are not yet what you are going to be.”
Objection #2 – Who are you? (3:13)
Moses starts by saying, “Who am I?” but then he asks, “Who are you?” When Moses asks for God’s name, he is not looking for a label or a piece of information for identification purposes. A name in the Old Testament had a much deeper meaning, Moses is asking about God’s character and intentions.
Moses is asking, “Will I have access to you? Will you be responsive? Will you give power? Will you answer prayer? Will you listen to your people?”
In our day, we might put it this way, “Will you give me your direct line? Will you give me your personal cell phone number so we can talk anytime I want?” Moses wanted to know what he could tell the people of Israel about his God’s heart, availability, and character.
God’s Reply #2 – Grow to know me more fully (3:14-15)
God’s response is wonderful, He says, “I am who I am. I am the same One who cares for my people. I have seen their pain, and I am here for them.” God says to Moses, and all of His people through history, “I want to be known by name. I want you to grow in the knowledge of who I am.”
Objection #3 – What if they don’t believe me? (4:1) Moses makes an appeal about authority. I have no clout, no sway, no authority before Pharaoh. Why would anyone, especially the most powerful political leader in the world, listen to me?
God’s Reply #3 – Trust me to use your resources. (4:2-9)
God asks Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses answers the simple and obvious question, “A staff.” God tells Moses to throw it on the ground, and it becomes a serpent.
It is important to remember that serpents were worshiped in Egypt and that many of the serpents, like snakes, were deadly. In light of this, God tells Moses to reach out and pick it up by the tail. Most people who handle snakes will pick them up behind the head so they can’t be bitten. To pick up a poisonous snake by the tail was an invitation to be bitten.
This is a story of trust. Moses has to reach out and grab the snake, but when he does, it becomes a staff again. God says to Moses, take what you have, the ordinary and common, your staff, your hand, and some water, and watch what I can do with it.
When common things are placed in the hands of the mighty God, anything can happen. God says, “Don’t worry about what you can’t control, but give me unhindered access to what you do have.”
Objection #4 – I’m not good at talking. (4:10)
Moses told God, “I am slow of speech and tongue. “ Moses was telling God that he was not a great spokesman. This was not his thing.
God’s Reply #4 – I made your mouth. (4:11-12)
God asks Moses some tough questions, “Who made your mouth?” Well, the answer is obvious. God did. The God who made Moses’ mouth promised to be with Moses as he spoke.
God said that He would teach Moses to speak and give Moses ability far beyond his own natural limitations. God wanted Moses to know that He made his mouth and was perfectly able to guide it.
This is a foreshadowing of spiritual gifts. We all need to discover, develop, and use our spiritual gifts. The joy of spiritual gifts is that God gives us abilities that surprise us. When His Spirit infuses us, we can do it. No matter what our gifts might be – mercy, shepherding, leading, teaching, hospitality or any other gift from God – we need to learn how to use those for God’s glory.
Objection #5 – Send someone else (4:13)
Now Moses is out of “good” excuses, so he just says, “I don’t want to do it. Send someone else.” At this point, Moses has become stubborn. God has answered Moses’ excuses, but now Moses simply tells God that he does not want to do it. He would prefer that God send someone else.
God’s Reply #5 – I’ll give you a partner in ministry. But you will go.
Now God gets a little angry with Moses. Excuse after excuse has been answered by God, yet Moses still resists the call. He still does not want to say yes to God.
In His anger, God still shows mercy by bringing Aaron alongside Moses. God, in His severe mercy, tells Moses he does not have to carry out this task alone. God will send Aaron, Moses’ brother, to walk beside him. Moses can do this ministry in the community. Later, God would add Miriam to the ministry team.
One of the greatest acts of love we could ever show is coming face to face with God, hearing His call, and following His leading. This is the most powerful way we can show our love for God.
The question is, how well are we doing at turning aside, slowing down and responding to God’s presence? Chances are that God hasn’t sent you a burning bush, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t reaching out to you and asking you to join Him in his purposes.