Category: midian

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 2

Sermon

Exodus Series

Pentecost 11A, Sunday August 28th, 2011.
Ocean Forest
Freed to Follow
Exodus 3: 1-15
There is a lot in a name. Once a person knows your name they know a lot about you. Maybe this is why we are reluctant to give our name to another person sometimes, especially in this world of special media and the like. You never know how your name is going to be used or abused. That’s the thing about our names, they are personal and our name is our reputation.

Our name is precious. It is important for our name to be thought of well by most people at least. It is a painful thing to have your name dragged through the mud, whether you deserve it or not.

Well, God is going to take a big risk in this very big moment in all of the Old Testament. This moment on the mountain with Moses is right up there with the creation of human beings in Genesis 1 and 2, and the giving of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12.

God is going to act on his great compassion and concern for his people by giving them the greatest gift he could ever give to his fledgling chosen people – he is going to give his personal name, and thereby really give himself to his people in the most intimate of terms.


Things don’t go so well for our young leader Moses in his early 20’s. This man who was “drawn from the water” of the Nile, raised by his own mother, and yet raised undercover in the royal palace of the Pharaoh, somehow learns over time that he is not Egyptian, but one of the slave caste – a Hebrew.

He obviously identifies with these people of his and dives in at two levels. First he takes the life of an Egyptian to protect a fellow Hebrew who is being beaten to death probably. Then, when he sees two of his own Hebrew kin fighting, he tries to be their judge in the dispute. On both counts, Moses fails. The murder causes the Pharaoh to come after him and his people to disrespect him. The fighting fellow Hebrews dismiss his claim to be judge and arbiter over them. Moses, the chosen man has no authority to either judge his people of kill Egyptians.

The chosen one becomes the hunted one and has to head east across the vast deserts. In 11 words he shifts destiny, locality and status, and finally ends up sitting by a well way over on the Sinai Peninsular in Midian. Still acting without authority, he clears off some no-good shepherds trying to steal water from a Bedouin family of seven daughters at this well.

The father of the family takes in this “Egyptian” stranger and as payment, gives him one of his daughters in marriage, Zipporah – one who “tweets”. Maybe she had a twitter account!


The stranger in a strange land settled down to a life of shepherding, marriage and fatherhood of his son, Gershom, who, by his chosen name, “alien there”, is a constant reminder that his days as an Egyptian are over. He was always an alien in that place.


And now we get to that famous day when Moses the shepherd of sheep will receive the great gift of God and have his life radically altered as he “turns aside to see” this strange flaming bush that does not burn up, way up high on Mt Horeb.

God knows Moses and addresses him by name. “Moses, Moses”, God calls. It is all set up. God has got Moses where God wants Moses to be.

“Take those sandals off, Moses” says the Lord. This is a holy, special place. “Don’t come any closer either”. Surely an unholy person can not “see” God and live. Moses hides his face. God protects Moses. God’s intentions are good, not evil.


God identifies himself to Moses in the way that Moses would understand. “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the God of your ancestors and your people in Egypt”.

This is the familiar way of knowing God, for a Hebrew man like Moses. From here on in the rest is unfamiliar and world changing….


Pharaoh’s daughter’s words come back at us from when she saw, heard and felt sorry for Moses in the ark in the Nile all those years before. God now sees and hears and feels the same for his people locked into slavery and forced service to Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.


“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering….”, and,


“Now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them”.

Well, that’s nice, I guess. It is nice that God cares about our suffering and bondage to various gods, but so what? What will he do about it? What can he do about our suffering, sin and slavery to idols?


Moses is the first to hear that God has a will to rescue and a plan to back it up.


8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites….. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”


Were you ever asked by your Mum or Dad or some other person to do a completely impossible task…like, travel back across hundred of kilometres of desert to the most powerful country in the world at this time; a country in which you are a known criminal, personally pursued by the top level people there and not respected by the people you do know….


….to simply tell the President of the country, who has absolute power and lives in a tradition of using that power for evil – like murdering thousands and thousands of babies by direct command, and relies on a huge ethnic minority to uphold his power and the nation’s prosperity, “Hey, Chief, let my people go”!?

• Like asking a man to talk about “feelings” for a whole hour!

• Like asking you or me to get on a plane tomorrow to Tibet to join a climbing team up Mt Everest

• Like asking a small group of Christians to evangelise a whole population of people among whom they live



• Like asking a parent to raise a perfect child who will never make mistakes or get things wrong.


This Call to Moses is completely impossible for Moses. He knows it and he responds with four reasons why God is asking way too much of him.


1. Who am I? asks Moses of God. Moses is saying he is nobody and incapable of such an impossible task. So really he says, “I am nobody”. “I can’t do this”. This is not surprising, given that he has already tried to help his people and he did not succeed in protecting one of them or bringing peace to two of them, before he was ejected from the country all those years ago.


2. The he asks the other obvious question of this crazy God: “Well, who are you? In other words, “How do I know you can do this impossible thing, anyway?”, or “What have you got that would show me that you have any authority and power to do this silly thing you’re asking of me?”


3. And for all of us who don’t like fighting with others or being made to look silly, Moses voices this question, What if I believe you but they don’t? To this objection God gives Moses a sign of his authority that will be at work through his words and deeds. Moses doesn’t need his own authority and power; he has God’s authority and power to get the job done.


4. Later on Moses also acknowledges his own shortcomings and uses that as a reason why he cannot do this. “I lack word skills”, he says. Maybe he stutters or just does not know the words he reckons he needs to know to match an Egyptian royal court.


5. Moses also does the old “transference of the problem onto someone else” trick by just saying, “Send someone else!”

We have to pause here. Can you hear your own voice saying these things to God?

“I am a nobody”
I can’t do it”
I can’t trust you, God.
I don’t know if you can do this
I know my weaknesses and they are too many and great to do this
Please send someone else to do this

For anyone who is now or ever has had these kind of conversations with God, hear him speak into our doubt and lack of faith as he did for Moses….

“Who am I?” “I am nobody” “I have no authority”


God says “I will be with you”

“Well, who are you?”

I just AM

What if they don’t believe me?


Not your concern, Moses. You don’t have to convince them, I will by my own ways – my authority and power.

“I lack skills and understanding”


I speak. I will give you the words and understanding you need on a daily basis as you go – not in advance.


I will also help you with those – I will give you colleagues and friends (Aaron, your brother, for instance……)

“Send someone else”


No, you are my person for this calling. I will get you the help you need in the community and I will give you my power and ability to fulfil this calling. You’re my chosen one for this.

You have to feel for Moses. God has him all set up. The burning bush; all the reasons why not covered. All his doubts taken care of. Moses really can only go one way – God’s way. He has been “shoulder tapped” by God and given quite amazing promises by God.

God is giving Moses his own authority and power to fulfil his humanly impossible task of setting people free from hard labour to idolatry and slavery. God is assuring Moses that his own intentions are very good – to rescue people from the fear of the world and the fear of “the gods” in which they now live.


But the greatest gift that Moses is receiving is not just for him. It is for all who follow in the faith of Moses.


14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites:



‘I AM has sent me to you.’”


15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.


Yes, there is a lot in a name and a whole new world in this name!

“I AM”, or “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”.

This is the holy name of God to be remembered for all time – and used by all who live by faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the God of the Bible.



This is God’s personal name, never uttered before this day on the mountain to a shoeless shepherd of sheep who will become the great shepherd of Israel – all by God’s authority and power, not his.

This name would become a name treated with the utmost respect and only used by certain people in certain ways on certain occasions under strict conditions in the worship of God’s people.


It is the name that reveals God’s character but also veils him too. God is. God is willing to be known and can be known, and yet God is God – God just is – beyond, and yet up close and personal.


This is name by which God’s people will have personal access to him in Moses day and beyond. They can pray to the God whom they know and are known by – personally. When they gather in worship, God promises to be personally present by his name. He will bless them with what would become the blessing he gives to Aaron (which we still use today) and he will hear their cries, their prayers, the requests and act – all by this name.


So, you think you can’t do what you know God is asking you to do?



So, you think you don’t have enough understanding of the bible or the church or spirituality or the words people use or the skills set to live in your vocation or do the ministry God is calling you to do?


Listen to “I AM”



I AM the Good Shepherd.


I AM the gate for the sheep to come in to God’s presence


I AM the bread of life – I will sustain you with my own body – the bread of life


I AM the way of life, the truth of life and the life within you.


I AM the resurrection and the life.

Friends, we don’t need what we think we need to be his people and fulfil our mission. Our only authority and power for living out our calling as God’s holy people in an unholy world is his name.

We are baptised into his name – which is revealed to us through Jesus as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are sealed with his name and powered by his name – the name of Jesus, “I AM”.
We are promised by his name – “I will be with you”. “I am with you”

You think your nobody – I am with you

You think your useless – I am with you
You getting a bit slack – I am with you

You trying to palm of your calling on to others – I am with you

You think you don’t know enough – I am with you

You think you can’t do what I want – I am with you.

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 2

BETWEEN THE TEXTS

• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world.


• As we go through Exodus, we are following the Common Lectionary (or selection of Bible readings) that most mainline Christian denominations also follow. Hearing the Word as set down in the three year lectionary used globally, is one of the way we express Oneness (or the “catholic” – “universal” nature of God’s church. Our schedule of bible passages in Exodus has lots of bible texts in between each one! So it is an important to get what happens prior to our text each week.


• A very important thing happens before our text for this week begins. Read Ch 2:11-25.


• verse 11: Moses obviously grows up to be a young man. He grows up in the royal palace with all its privilege, and yet it seems that he has learnt or sensed that he is actually one of the ethnic minority population called “the Hebrews”. He is not an Egyptian.


• He does two things that show a certain passion and concern for the plight of his people. He first “watches” their “hard labour”. Moses is seeing what Pharaoh’s daughter saw and heard when she saw Moses in the ark and heard his crying and “was moved”.


• Both things Moses does are done in secret – at least he thinks they are. “He looks this way and that” checking to see if anyone is seeing him.


• The issue is really about authority. It is clear that when he kills the Egyptian slave master who is beating a Hebrew and then when he tries to settle a dispute between two of his countrymen, he has no authority. One of the two Hebrews who are beating each other up pop that authority question (verse “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” asks the Hebrew slave. And then in direct challenge to his actions, “Are you thinking of killing me like you did that Egyptian the other day?” Moses is found out and very scared.


• Pharaoh quickly turns on this adopted son of his daughter. But, as will become more and more apparent, Pharaoh’s attempts to deal with these Hebrews and their God will become less and less effective!


• Everything speeds up and is compressed together. Moses flees across the huge desert, somehow survived on the land way over in Midian and sits down by a well” (verse 15).


• Verse 19: This “one who was drawn from the water” now “draws water for some women at the well.


• He helps some women at the well (wells are always places of meeting in the desert communities). he meets a man who seems to have two names. here he is called “Reuel” and in other places he is called Jethro. He agrees to arranged marriage with one of Jethro’s seven daughters, Zipporah.


• “Zipporah” in Hebrew means “one who tweets”. Maybe she was a frequent Tweeter user!


• They have a son, Gershom, which means “alien there”. Maybe Moses is no getting as far away as he can from his Egyptian upbringing. After all, the king did try to kill him!


• Verse: 23-25: Again we hear of this crying out and now God seeing and hearing and “being concerned” about them. he is about to show his concern and do something about it…….


WEEK 2 Exodus 3:1-15 (TNIV)


The Calling of Moses (1 numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)
1 Now Moses was tending the flock 1of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness 2and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire3 from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see 4this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”



4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”


And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.


7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt 6. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 7


12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship8 God on this mountain.”


13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ 9Then what shall I tell them?”


14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. 10 This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”



15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation. 11
THOUGHTS
1. It is important to note that Moses is a shepherd. This is his vocation at the time of his calling. He will continue to be a shepherd – not of sheep, but of God’s people. The word “Pastor” come from the Latin word meaning “shepherd. Pastors are essentially shepherds of congregations.

2. The location of this burning bush (Mount Horeb or Sinai) moment is not known for sure, but is seems that it might have been on the western side of the Sinai Peninsular.


3. Flames: This is a very common way that the biblical writers try and give a visual picture of God’s presence. It happens again in Exod 19:18 when the glory/presence of God descends upon the same mountain and gives the 10 commandments. Later on in the desert journey, a pillar of fire will guide the community at night time. We New Testament people make a link with Pentecost Sunday and the “tongues of fire”.


4. Moses has “seen” God’s people in pain and now he wants to “see” this great sight. He will see the fire and see some other things as well! Note that God then “sees” Moses coming up the mountain. Interesting that the man who wants to discover something has now become the discovered one by God! This self-appointed shepherd who lacked authority to fulfil his calling will now receive God’s authority and power for the humanly impossible calling he will no be given!


5. Now we have the famous moment of God’s call and giving of the most precious gift he ever gave his people. Moses is given his commission to shepherd Israel in three ways;


o God is present: Moses is made aware of this (take off the sandals on holy ground)


o He is informed that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – God is a known God with a history of promises to and blessing of and saving people.


o God announced his intentions. Moses hears what God is wanting to do through him – save his people.


6. Again we hear for the third time since Exodus began that God has seen and understands the plight of his suffering people (they are “crying out” – like Moses in the ark). He is now going to “come down” with one intention – RESCUE. Pharaoh’s daughter was indeed a sign of God’s rescue when she found Moses.


7. Moses does not receive his calling well. He objects – three times in all. He knows he needs God’s authority and power to do this humanly impossible thing called shepherding God’s people! First he asks “Who am I” for this task. Answer: A nobody! God responds with a promise of assurance. “I will be with you”.


8. This calling and this giving of God’s name is all about Worship. Who will God’s people serve/worship? They are doing “hard service/labour” to pharaoh and the gods of Egypt and it is killing them. God is going to act to gather them into his presence in a new way so that they can serve/worship him. The service of God will be rest, not slavery. God does the giving and the blessing and the healing in worship p- not the people. They attend to worship not to appease the Lord, but to receive from him the good things he promises. in this way they “rest in his presence” as he rested from his labour on the seventh day.


9. Moses does not seem convinced! He asks the obvious question of God. Moses has asked, “Who am I”. Now he asks, “Who are you”!


10. Now comes the giving of the greatest gift that God ever gave to human beings besides their very existence. “I AM WHO I AM”, or “I AM WHO I WILL BE” is God’s personal name (YHWH: in English)


o It has never been uttered before and by giving Moses his personal name, God ushers in a whole new era of relationship intimacy with humanity.


o God has many names in Old Testament: El Elyon – God Most High, El Roi – God who sees me, El Shaddai – God Almighty, El Olam – God Everlasting,


o By this personal name (YHWH – Yahweh), Moses and human being will have unprecedented access to his presence and being.


o This name is really as mystery. It reveals God in a new personal way, but it also conceals God. God is still God but closer. It is untranslatable and in Hebrew it is unpronounceable. It has four letters and has been called the “Tetragrammaton” (four letters). It would become the holiest and most guarded name and the name to only be used under very strict ritual/worship conditions for Jewish people.


o This is a huge risk for God. Once his gives his personal name he is open to more personal abuse. It is like us giving our name to a stranger. Once it is done, we are more known – and open to our name being abused. Same with God.


o By this name Moses will have authority to save and shepherd God’s chosen and blessed people.


o In most English translation bible, this name, in English “Yahweh”, is usually printed “LORD”.


o Moses still objects a little after our text. Moses says he cannot speak well enough. God fixes this my telling him have his brother, Aaron, as a spokesman for him in his calling (Exod 4:1ff). God also gives him the first part of the program of “sign and wonders” that Gods will employ to begin the battle Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.


11. God will never withdraw this special name, no matter how much it is abused. he will never deny personal access to his presence for his faithful people. In New Testament terms, the name YHWH is translated “Kyrios” (my Lord). This is name by which people address Jesus. “Lord, have mercy on me”, (“Kyrie, eleison”). In John’s gospel, jesus says the seven great “IAM” statements – I AM the God Shepherd, I AM the gate for the sheep, I AM the Brad of Life, I AM the way the truth and the life…..

REFLECTIONS
• We are drawn out of the water in baptism. Baptism is our commissioning as God’s shepherds for others – all with different vocations, families and communities in which to be God’s name bearers for others.



• We are all priests in the sense that we have access to God’s very presence by his grace and mercy. We pray for people to God on their behalf. This is why on Sunday we pray ”The Prayer of the Church”. Here we actually perform a public service in praying for the world in God’s gracious presence.


• Worship of any god other than YHWH – or Jesus Christ the LORD, kills people, enslaves people and destroys relationship with God and each other.


• Worship is primarily an act of the Lord to which we respond in prayer, thanks and praise – not the other way around. “Liturgy” is a word the New Testament writers chose from their culture to express what they believed was going on when we gathered in God’s presence around the Word and the Holy Meal. “Liturgy” means “public work”, or “work of the people”. We respond to God’s good gifts of forgiveness, life, teaching, guidance, and healing by doing our public work – never only for ourselves but for the whole world and for others present.


• With this biblical view of worship, worship can then become what it was established to be by God – REST!


• It is no merely human thing to be called and commissioned by the Lord for service in his church or his world. Moses objects three times. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, and Jesus himself asked for their calling to be taken from them. Someone once said that anyone who willingly wants to lead God’s people is either full of themselves or just plain unaware of what God is asking them to do!


• But God promises to be with the ones he calls. He gives them his own personal name, which means access to his blessing, power, wisdom and hope to fulfil their calling.


Are you resisting God’s call to serve at the moment? What are your fears? What are your excuses?


Are you resting in God’s personal presence in worship or are you labouring in some kind of slavery in worship? Why?

When you come to worship, is it more about how well you do stuff for God, or more about letting God give you what he wants to give you?

How are you representing the needs of your family and friends before the Lord and seeking his blessing and healing for them in prayer – in worship and through the day? You are a priest like Moses by faith in Jesus and by virtue of your baptism – your commissioning day. What might it mean to be a member of the “priesthood of all believers – practically?