- Exodus 4:29-6:8
- Lyndol Loyd November 4, 2018
Dean Karnazes is known as the “Ultramarathon Man.” He is famous for running all kinds of marathons, even marathons on back to back days. In doing so, he stands as an incredible example of what it means to persevere.
I’m not a runner, but I do know some folks who are runners. They tell me that at the start of the race everyone is having a lot of fun. The truly serious runners are up at the front of the pack. Others are trying to get themselves psyched up for the race ahead. People are high fiving, jumping around to stay loose and trying to get their blood flowing. Everyone is excited to be there.
Then the gun sounds and the race begins. The beginning of the race is the easy part; this is what is known as the pleasure stage. At this point the runners’ body is loose, the heart is pumping, the blood is flowing, the head is clear the lungs are breathing deeply.
How long this feeling lasts depends on the runner’s condition. For some, it is ten to twenty feet down the road, and for others, it continues for miles. But for everyone, somewhere along the way, the high runs out, and the good feelings disappear.
At this point running becomes drudgery, and after that it becomes effortful, then it becomes laborious. If you keep running long enough you reach a point where the temptation to quit becomes overwhelming. Your legs feel searing pain, and your lungs feel like they are full of burning coals. Runners call this “hitting the wall.”
To run at this stage in the race is the real test of every runner; this is where races are won or lost. At the wall, races are abandoned or endured. At this stage of the race, the novelty of seeing some guy dressed as Mickey Mouse run next to you has worn off.
At the finish line, people come dribbling in one at a time. But those who make it, those who finish the race, know that they have done something substantial. Starting the race is easy. Finishing the race is hard work.
The question for us this morning is, “Will you run the race to the end? Will you finish well? Will you be steadfast and immovable?”
First of all, each of us must decide to run the race. Then, we must decide on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis, to persevere. Sometimes we hit the wall, and we quit. At other times, we press on. I’m sure it wouldn’t be very difficult for us to think of examples of this from our own lives.
As we continue in our series entitled, “Compass,” we are looking at what it means to set our compass on God. We pick back up with our study of the book of Exodus this morning. It is important for us to note that when God called Moses, he was not ready to go. Moses resisted God vehemently. He was afraid that the people of Israel would not listen to him. But finally, in response to God’s persistent call, Moses began to run the race. We pick up at Exodus 4:29:
29 Then Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt and called all the elders of Israel together. 30Aaron told them everything the LORD had told Moses, and Moses performed the miraculous signs as they watched. 31 Then the people of Israel were convinced that the LORD had sent Moses and Aaron. When they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
5 After this presentation to Israel’s leaders, Moses and Aaron went and spoke to Pharaoh. They told him, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go so they may hold a festival in my honor in the wilderness.”
2 “Is that so?” retorted Pharaoh. “And who is the LORD? Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I don’t know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.”
3 But Aaron and Moses persisted. “The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.”
4 Pharaoh replied, “Moses and Aaron, why are you distracting the people from their tasks? Get back to work! 5 Look, there are many of your people in the land, and you are stopping them from their work.”
As the story continues, Pharaoh has had quite enough, and he instructs the Egyptian slave drivers to no longer supply straw for the making of the bricks, to tell the Israelites to get it for themselves and to be sure that the brick supply doesn’t drop off at all. “This will teach them to mess with me.”
No surprise, the Israelites were not able to keep up with their quota. The foreman goes and pleads with Pharaoh for mercy, but it does no good. As the foremen leave Pharaoh’s court, they stop to see Moses and Aaron who were waiting outside for them. “The foremen said to them, ‘May the LORD judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!’”
Moses musters up the courage to follow God, go to the leaders of Israel, and tell them that God has spoken to him. It goes great. They believe him; they are excited. They worship together. You can imagine that Moses must have breathed a huge sigh of relief. He had done it, he had faced his worst fear, and the people had believed him.
Now the worst is over right? The people of Israel were off to the race. Next stop, the Promised Land! It’s all downhill from here. Right? Guess again.
Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh. They are very bold. They don’t waste much time flattering Pharaoh, which everyone did when they came before the great King. They don’t even ask permission. They merely say, “Let us go!”
Then an odd thing happens, Pharaoh does not play ball with them. He is downright in their faces. Put yourself in Pharaoh’s place. They have threatened to take his entire slave labor force away, and he is not interested in this proposition.
Moses and Aaron come across with a second much milder attitude. They offer a toned down plea for Pharaoh to let them go. But this doesn’t go any better.
Instead, Pharaoh refuses to let them go and adds to their workload. Now they must produce the same amount of bricks, but they must also gather their own straw. If they don’t produce the required quota of bricks, they will be beaten.
Moses ends up not only contending with Pharaoh’s anger but the anger of his people. He would soon discover that the Israelites were not impressed with his leadership up to this point in the game.
The people of Israel are not encouraging, affirming or cooperative. They are angry. They are not excited about the new challenge of gathering straw for bricks; they are frustrated. They tell Moses that he has “made us a stench” to Pharaoh. No matter how you put it, Moses is embattled, discouraged and feeling all alone.
22 Then Moses went back to the LORD and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”
Then the LORD told Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!”
2 And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the LORD.’3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. 4 And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. 5 You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them.
6 “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8 I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’”
This passage is the hinge of the whole story. Moses turns again to the Lord. He lifts up a prayer of lament and complaint. When Moses was at his toughest moments, he turned to God in prayer – and so should we.
We need to commit to pray, and pray, and pray, and then pray some more. We need to draw a line and say, “I will keep praying and seeking God on this until I know I have his direction and counsel.”
If this means praying every day from now until the day I die. I will never give up. I will never give in. I will run the race. I will finish the course. I will keep the faith.
When we persevere in prayer, we meet the God who never gives up.
I would ask you to consider this morning, what is one area of your life where you have been persevering but are growing weary?
Maybe it is
- A tough relationship.
- A person you have been praying for who is far from God.
- A pattern of sin in your life that you have been fighting against.
- A new good habit you have been trying to cultivate.
- A family problem that has been persisting for years.
Let’s think back to the image of the marathon for just a moment. One of the things that happen at most marathons is that crowds of people station themselves along the path of the race to cheer on those who are running. They line the path to offer encouragement as people begin to hit the wall as they run. They yell out, “Keep going, keep going. Don’t stop. You can make it.”
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews paints a picture very similar to this. It is a picture of a gallery of Christ followers who are watching us run the race of faith and cheering us on to the end of the race.
Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
Just think of all of the biblical greats that have finished the race and are now in Heaven cheering you on. Moses knows what it is like to feel pressed to his limits and he is there cheering you on. David who knew what it was to have a huge heart for God and yet he struggled with sin. He is there cheering you on. Mary and Martha, who were friends with Jesus, but knew what it was like to get frustrated with their sister. They are there cheering you on.
Just as Moses and the Israelites were called to persevere so are we. People of faith have always been called to persevere, to keep running the race.