The second message from Moses: Be Prepared.
Revision: Bare foot in the back of the desert. (Read Exodus 4)
Last time we left Moses at the foot of the Mountain of God in the back of the desert, barefoot with His face covered before the heat of the fire of the Lord coming from the burning bush which was not consumed. There in the back of his mind considering the plan for him that God had revealed, that he should go down to Egypt and bring God’s people out of bondage; he made excuses and reasoned that he was not good enough to do this extraordinary task.
Excuses; Who am I?
Moses brought up excuses when he learned what God wanted him to do, he was too old, he could not speak well, “who am I”, he said to the Lord.
When a young King David had realized what God wanted him to do, he went in and sat before the Lord; and he asked the very same question of God: “Who am I, O Lord God? … that You have brought me this far? 1Chron 17:16 Again in psa 8:4 he wrote his innermost thoughts, “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?”
How God sees us.
You know I never understood just what the psalmist meant until I became a grandfather. Let me explain; imagine God the great grandfather of us all when He considers each one of us he doesn’t see what we see. When the psalmist wrote who am I that He should be mindful of me, I used to think it meant, I am but a worm, and no man, what could I possibly do for God? Psa 22:6 Or I would think, my righteousness is but filthy rags in God’s sight Isa 64:6. But when I became a grandfather all that thinking changed because I finally understood how God sees us. When I looked at my tiny grandchildren only a few hours old, I finally knew the answer to the question; who am I that God should be mindful of me? Even though we are unrighteous a great grandfather doesn’t see it that way; he always wants to help us reach our true potential. When the grandchildren hurt He hurts, when they do something wrong He guides them back to the right path. So when Moses said, “Who am I that I should go down to Pharaoh”, he meant that he was a nobody roaming about in the desert looking after sheep for someone else, (he didn’t even own his own sheep, he was a failure) but God did not see it that way. God had a plan and from the time that Moses was born God had been with him; with him in the ark of bulrushes; with him when he killed the Egyptian; with him in the desert of his life. Now it was time after 80 years training for Moses to fulfill the plan that God had for him; it was time for Moses to find out for himself just who he really was. You need to find out just who you are too if you are to reach your full potential, only God knows.
Moses sets off on a journey.
So our story begins on the road down to Egypt with the intrepid Moses wondering if God really knew what He was doing. (Ex 4:18-31) Having gained his father in law’s permission to go back to his own people he loaded up the donkey with his wife and sons and set off on the great adventure God had planned. All went well until they stopped at the encampment on the way; something unexpected happened that night at the roadhouse in the desert. Moses preparation was not complete; God had equipped Moses with the ability to do miracles to prove he was who he said he was. He had also told Moses His Name I AM The Lord. He had even prepared Aaron, Moses brother to be spokesman for him so what was missing; why was Moses still unprepared?
Moses faces his first test.
It was all to do with the message God had given Moses for Pharaoh; (Ex. 4:22) Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’”
A strong message indeed for Pharaoh but Moses also had a firstborn son, a precious son traveling with him. A son he wanted to keep for himself as fathers do, a special son. He was also a son who was not consecrated to The Lord by circumcision as Moses had been.
God had said in Gen 17:10 “This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised”; Moses may not have been aware of this covenant between God and Abraham but he had broken it by not circumcising Gershom on the eighth day. For this reason at the encampment the angel of the Lord rose up against him and sought to kill him; this was Moses first test.
We should be prepared.
This reminds me of an occasion in the New Testament where some men wanted to do God’s work but they were unprepared and suffered embarrassment because of it. The story is found in Acts 19:11-20 They were seven Jewish brothers who observed the apostle Paul casting out demons by the power of Jesus Name; so they being itinerant exorcists themselves thought they would try using Jesus name and see what would happen. Well when they tried it, the evil spirit said through the man he possessed, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man who had the demon leaps on them and overpowered the seven of them and sent them scurrying from the house naked, embarrassed and wounded. They were unprepared, like Moses was, unprepared to do Gods work. They knew Jesus by name only as Moses knew the great I AM by name only and there at the encampment on the way to Egypt Moses started to get to know God’s nature.
Know God by name and nature.
When God makes a deal “between you and me” as He said to Abraham, He keeps His end of the deal and he expects you to keep your end of the deal as well. Zippora Moses wife was quick to catch on so she took a sharp flint and looked in her sons eyes, whose very name Gershom described his father’s life in exile and she sacrificed the foreskin of her son right there in the heat of Moses battle with God and threw it at his feet. Right before she turned to go back to her father she looked Moses in the eye and said, “Surely you are a husband of blood to me!” 26 Because of this He (The angel of God) let him (Moses) go. Then she said, “You are a husband of blood!”— because of the circumcision. God let him go after the blood was shed, after the sacrifice was made, after Moses and Zippora kept their end of the bargain and dedicated their son to God. They gave all that they had even their firstborn son, just as God did not withhold His firstborn son Jesus from us.
A God of covenants. (promises)
In doing so Moses signed his signature on the agreement of Abraham in the blood of his dearest firstborn son and now he was ready to go on. Before we can do anything in the Name of Jesus we must keep our end of the covenant that God wrote in Jesus blood. Before embarking on a journey with God and before we receive that fire within that does not consume us, just as the fire did not consume the burning bush of Moses; we must keep the covenant. How do we do that you may well ask? Well to explain that I refer back to what happened before the incident in Acts 19 we talked about before where the seven brothers decided to do Gods work without knowing who Jesus was. It all happened when Paul came to a place called Ephesus where he found 12 disciples. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?”
So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them…
Our covenant with God.
Here were 12 men who thought they were doing God’s work but they didn’t even know Jesus Name and they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit. They had been baptized but only for repentance not into the Name of Jesus. Paul told them about Jesus and baptized them again so they could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, the fire in the heart that does not consume but gives you the power to do God’s work. It was an unusual occurrence but it was necessary to show us that we need to be prepared before we can do God’s work. We must keep our side of the agreement with God, we must wash away our sin in the waters of baptism before the flame of the holy Spirit can come in. The Holy Spirit cannot live in an unholy heart so we must wash our heart clean in baptism before He can come in to stay. When He does come in all the fear of evil, all the guilt of sin, all the pain of your broken heart, will be washed away and the Holy Spirit of creation (Gen 1:2) will make all things new (1Cor 5:17). Only then when we are fully prepared are we fit to do God’s work; this is what Moses found out that night in the encampment on the way to Egypt.
Do not give up.
Even though Moses battled with God and his wife went home, He continued on his journey, he did not give up. God sent Moses brother Aaron out to the mountain of God to meet him and after 40 years not knowing what had become of Moses, he kissed him. Finally he knew that God had not forgotten them and the beautiful child from the basket in the bulrushes had returned to finish the task for which he was born; to free God’s people from slavery to Pharaoh. Imagine the reunion as Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him; and showed him the signs which proved he had met with the Lord.
Three days journey from the mountain of God to Egypt passed quickly as time does when you are in good company but soon they gathered the elders of Israel together to persuade them as well. Again twelve men from the twelve tribes had to be prepared to meet Pharaoh head on and not give up, so Moses showed them the signs; and the people believed.
God answers prayer.
When they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped in anticipation of what God was about to do and in awe that they had not been forgotten by the God of their fathers. Just when all seemed lost, when all hope of salvation was gone then along came Moses with a message from God. Imagine how the people must have felt, God really does exist they must have thought; He has not forgotten us; all those evening prayers that never seemed to reach the ceiling had in fact reached the throne room of Heaven and God had Himself come down to save them. WOW! You know if you think God has forgotten you just turn around and you will find He is not far from each one of us, turn around and come face to face with Jesus (Acts 17:27).
Be prepared, work together and don’t give up.
Let us see how hard the road ahead would be for the children of Israel; I can’t imagine that Pharaoh would just let them go because Moses asked him to. Things that are worthwhile take a lot of resolve and sometimes even hardship to achieve as we shall see. For God’s firstborn nation it would be a fight to be freed from the bondage of the evil Pharaoh and for us it is a fight to be freed from the bondage of sin but the result is worth all the pain of the struggle.
The fight for freedom. (Read Exodus 5)
Now that Moses was fully prepared and the people were agreed and prepared it was the right time to make their first approach to Pharaoh. It led to some dramatic hardships as Pharaoh throws the first punch in the fight for freedom. Exodus 5 Imagine Moses and his brother Aaron fronting up to the mighty Pharaoh Saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, let My people go.”(1) Pharaoh’s answer as expected was not favorable (2) “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice… I do not know The Lord nor will I let Israel go.”
Who is The Lord that I should obey Him?
This is rather like the first response of the sinner who hears about Jesus for the first time. He says, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” “I do not know The Lord Jesus why should I do what He says?” Maybe you think that about The Lord Jesus, who is He that I should obey Him? We shall see what happened to the mighty Pharaoh when he opposed God and then assess whether we want to oppose him in the same way.
The first punch in the fight for freedom.
To be fair, Moses and Aaron then said Please…(5:3) they asked nicely to be allowed to obey their God and go back to the mountain where Moses had seen the burning bush to worship. But the king had other ideas and as I said before Pharaoh threw the first punch in the fight for freedom when he says, “Why do you keep the people from their work? Get back to work!” (4)
The people were brick makers and I have indeed made some mud bricks myself a few times; it requires water and clay and lots of straw. The process is to stamp the clay and water into slurry, then add the straw as fibre reinforcement. The consistency of the mud should be fairly stiff but able to be worked. The brick moulds are set out on the ground and filled to the top with the mixture then like a stretcher the mould is lifted off and the clay slumps just a little if it is the right consistency and is left there to dry bake in the sun for a few weeks.
One missing ingredient.
The three ingredients for mud bricks are clay, water and straw and as with any recipe if one of the ingredients is missing then the whole thing doesn’t work. Pharaoh knows this so to make it hard for the people of God he instructs his taskmasters not to provide the straw as they did before but tell them to get their own straw. This is a major ingredient so they have to go out to the fields and gather straw as well as their normal job of making the bricks. Pharaoh is quick to ensure that the quota of bricks will not change even though they were not given straw. (5:13) So the people went looking for their missing ingredient and as it happened after three days they did not meet their normal quota so the taskmasters beat them demanding to know why.
An appeal to Pharaoh fell on deaf ears and his response was, “You are idle, you are idle.” (17) The officers of the Israelites knew they were in trouble (19) when Pharaoh refused to relent but sent them out to more hardship. As they came out they met Moses and Aaron on the way (20) and told them they had made it worse for them not better and I am sure they were about to give up. Remember what we must do to do God’s work; we must be prepared; we must work together and we must never give up, but the oppressed beaten children of God were at breaking point and they definitely felt like giving up. Pharaoh had delivered a body blow in the fight for freedom let us see if it is a knockout punch or would The Lord have the final say.
What to do?
Distressed by what had happened, Moses wondered what to do; he had been called dramatically by God to come down to free the people from oppression but it seems at this early stage that he had only made it worse for them. Moses was an ordinary man called to do an extraordinary task; he had heard of the need and he had felt the need deep in his soul; he had spoken with God face to face at the burning bush; and He had been sent to fulfill the need but now all that seemed like a dream. Moses needed go back to God in prayer to see what he should do next. (22,23) 22 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? 23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.”
When all seems lost God delivers.
You know when all seems lost and we are still reeling from the body blow of the enemy that is the time when we should pray. Whenever you are in trouble the first one we should turn to is God in prayer. If the trouble is of your own making or someone else’s doing still turn to The Lord in prayer; He will listen and help you in your time of need. This is what Moses did, he laid it on the line, he did not hold back; he was desperate in prayer. What does the prophet Joel (2:32) say will happen when we pray, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Whoever, does that leave anyone out, no. Even you if you call upon the name of The Lord, He promises you will be saved. That is just what Moses did, he called upon the Name of the Lord and we shall see if God keeps his promises.
Reading. Exodus 6
6 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh. For with a strong hand he will let them go, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
2 And 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 Lord I was not known to them. 4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. 5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’”
9 So Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of anguish of spirit and cruel bondage.
If I was under that sort of pressure I don’t think I would be much better but God had remembered His promise and confirms His name here I AM THE LORD. Remember, “Whoever calls upon the name of The Lord will be saved”; I will rescue you He says to the people in anguish of spirit from the burden of sin. This promise is for us today as well Romans 10:8-13 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Indeed you can be assured that if you find yourself in despair like the children of Israel then The Lord Jesus is rich to all who call upon His name even today. The Lord is closer than you think; if you are searching for Him groping in the darkness of this world for meaning and life and purpose then when you turn around in repentance you will find He has been there all along. The word is near you today; in your mouth and in your heart even the word which I preach today. Will you heed the word and believe in your heart, confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus today while he is near or will you miss another opportunity to turn around in repentance and come face to face with the Lord Jesus? The Choice is yours what are you waiting for arise and wash away your sins for whoever calls upon the Name of The Lord shall be saved.