Category: sinai

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 8

Sermon, Pentecost 17A
Sunday October 9, 2011.
Ocean Forest

Freed to Follow

We are in two places at once this morning. We are witness to the extended meeting of the Lord with Moses on the top of the mountain and also down in the valley with Aaron and the people.

In the one place there is intimacy between a human being and the Lord as the Lord speaks, Moses speaks and the foundation for a new nation of holy people called to be priests. In the other place there is an absence of the Lord’s presence and word which leads to a lot of trouble.

If one thing is on show here it is the very nature of our human condition and how we can at our very best moments also be at our worst. God has every right to judge this duplicity of allegiance and weak commitment to him – especially after all that he has done and still does for us. In this text he actually decides to do just that – judge his people and destroy them!

Moses, the great mediator intervenes. He intercedes for the people and amazingly God “repents” of his will to destroy the people.

Sin is serious and it is always related to the golden calf – the things of stone, wood and metal we replace God with in our hearts because when we turn away from trusting that he is present, caring or capable.

Today we ponder our idolatrous heart, God’s judgement on this rejection of him, Jesus, the One who intercedes for us and how we get to live in God’s continued grace and love as his priesthood of all believers now!

We begin in the valley with God’s people under the leadership of their 2IC, Aaron. Moses is up on the mountain wit the Lord again. He has been going up and down this mountain for a while now. It has not just been him either.

There was a great moment of the Lord’s faithfulness and his affirmation of his commitment to his people happens before our text. Moses, Aaron and his two sons (Nadab and Abihu) and the 70 Elders of the community ascended with Moses to the summit. These people “saw God” (24:10). The Lord’s feet were resting on something like a pavement of pure sapphire stone……They ate and drank together with the Lord. What a moment!

As well as this, Moses and his entourage are instructed to read the “Book of the Covenant” (The treaty the Lord made earlier) to the people. Animals are slaughtered in a great show of thanksgiving and affirmation to the Lord’s covenant. The people say en mass, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” (Ex 24:7). Everything looks sweet!

But, we know what is coming. Isn’t it always the way that with our best moments come with our worst! Israel’s worst moment in this desert journey with the Lord is about to happen. It will always be a reminder that sin will always be a problem to be watched carefully. It will always be a reminder that the human heart has its dark side and is capable of idolatry – trusting anything and anyone other then the Lord who has created and saved us and who loves us for our well being and our future.

The seed of idolatry seems to be a lack of tangible presence of God in people’s lives. The beginning of trouble is tied up with Moses being absent a long time. Moses is up on the mountain in an extended meeting of great closeness with the Lord. He is the mediator, priest, shepherd and representative of the Lord among this people and when there is no tangible presence of the Lord (through Moses), the human heart wanders away.

I wonder whether this is why the Lord graced us with those magnificent tangible signs of is presence – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper; even the whole ancient liturgy or pattern of worship of the Church? Did he know that unless we could see him, taste him, feel him, hear him in these very physical, concrete signs of his very presence, we would wonder off from him completely?

Aaron does not fare well in the dark episode. In verse 1 he may as well be on a rugby pitch! He is the last man on the Try line facing a hostile group of people pushing him backwards. He is surrounded by a scrum of very demanding people. The Hebrew language is strong. This is a full-on demand, and it is many against one. Aaron the leader is under great pressure.

“Make gods for us, Aaron”, they demand. They, like us, need visible signs that the Lord is still with us as we journey on from day to day in this life. The gods they want Aaron to make are that – a symbol or sign of the gods being on our side – Lady Luck, or “The Universe” or “Mother Nature”, or “Yin and Yang”, the gods of reincarnation, the planets are lining up for us……

Aaron makes the error (although understandable) of caving in to the demand for a sign of divine presence and blessing. He tells them to bring their things of gold to him (things the Lord gave them as they fled Egypt!) and he himself fashions either a wooden calf overlayed with gold or a pure gold calf. The calf is a universal sign of fertility and prosperity of the gods in these ancient people’s culture.

The people show their idolatrous heart when they make the bold declaration, in verse 4, “These are the gods, O Israel, who bought you out of Egypt!” What a total rejection of all that has happened so far on the journey of faith!

This is like one of us simply wiping out all memory of God’s speaking, doing and blessing for us in our life so far and just going head long into what ever turns us on and helps us believe that we will be fine without any spiritual connection to the Creator of all things.

Aaron can see that this is getting out of hand. He does try to salvage the situation somewhat by adding to the calf, an altar – not to the calf but to the Lord. He also calls a feast day the next day – not to the calf, but to the Lord (v5-6).

It does not work. In the Hebrew, it literally says, “The people rose early next morning and “came out to play”! They did not come out to play ring-a-ring-a-rosy, or duck-duck-goose! They came out to engage in full-on booze, substance abuse, sex and probably worse. Idolatry and immorality always go together. One leads to and feeds the other.

Back up on the quiet mountain Someone is very aware of what is happening below. God breaks off the business of giving Moses the gifts of the Covenant relationship he has been imparting to Moses.

God sums up the situation when he says that the people are perverse; God recounts word for word (with 32:1-6) the nature of their sin. It is as if every word of the people has sunk into the divine heart and stabbed it. And so, God tells Moses that “they have cast for themselves an image of a calf” and that they have “worshiped it and sacrificed to it” (v. 8). It is as if God has been sitting on the sidelines in amazement watching the performance of the heedless people.

This turning away by the people has broken the divine heart. The Lord reaches a conclusion about the people. They are a “stiff-necked” people, a stubborn people, people who really are not worthy of the love God has showered up on them.

The Lord decides to destroy them. Verse 10 is interesting because it tells us that God wants Moses to go down to the people for two reasons–to see for himself exactly what has happened but also to leave God alone. God wants to be alone when the terrible judgment is executed. Like some military General sitting in some technical nerve centre controlling satellites and a “targeted hit” on some town or compound of suspected terrorists, God does not want to see the destruction. He wants to leave the room and be alone in his grief and sorrow.

But even here, even in the resolve to destroy is a sense that mercy can triumph. In this case God makes a promise to Moses that He will not destroy him with the people. Moses will continue to be special, and Moses will be the foundational person for God’s next “great work.” But notice what has happened.

In giving these last words God has left the divine open for negotiation and intercession. It is not as if God is giving Moses an invitation to talk back, but there are ideas now floating “out there” that are more than just anger, stubbornness and destruction. God will “save” Moses. Moses will take this verse as an opening to respond to God.

Moses does what Aaron didn’t. Moses prays in faith. He trusts that the Lord could handle this situation and will listen to him. He trusts that in the anger and judgement there is still a greater heart of mercy and love for these rogues!

Moses says three things about God’s decision to judge this people as he “stands in the gap” between the righteous wrath of the Lord and an idolatrous people.  

  1. Lord, you created and saved this people.
  2. Lord, your reputation as a compassionate God of steadfast love who is faithful to your promises will laughed at by your enemies if you destroy these sinful people
  3. Lord, you promised things to these people way back in Abraham’s time.

The Hebrew words say that the Lord “repented” of the judgement he was about to carry out on his people. The Lord, at Moses’ bold praying, changed his mind and remained faithful and trustworthy when completely rejected by a loveless people.

Friends, we have this idolatrous heart.

  

And yet we have tangible signs of God’s continued presence and love to keep us true to him. We need to stick to where God has shown us he is there for us – physically and in every other way. Depend on your baptism. Reflect on it and own it because in it God owned you and loves you. Come to the altar regularly and get the hope and assurance you need for life’s journey, whatever the temptations and fears.

  

We have a role too. We are called to be Moses for people.  

  • Jesus, the One greater than Moses who stood in our place and intercedes for us still, pleads our case and bridges the gap between our holy and perfectly loving Lord and our idol factory within.
  • With him we can confess our idols, burn them and depend on his word to see us through to wellbeing now and in God’s eternal future – already guaranteed by the blood of the Lamb and Saviour of our souls.
  • And then we mediate his grace and love for others, helping them name their idols, repent of them, receive God’s gifts and walk with Jesus into their future with him.

With this simple trust in the Lord’s presence, promise and goodness, and the Calling we have each received, we can be right with Paul who says these great words of faith and conviction we share here at Ocean Forest…

  

Philippians 4:1-9, Closing Appeal for Steadfastness and Unity 

1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! …..

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.



Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 8

BETWEEN THE TEXTS



Week 8


• We left the people of God at the camp at the base of Mt Sinai after the Lord had bound himself to them in a legal agreement or covenant out of sheer love and will to live with his people. God would treat the people as his treasured possession among all peoples a and make them into his holy nation of priests who mediate God’s life and blessing to all nations.


• The people agreed to this, and God then called Moses up the mountain to receive the “laws” or “commandments outlining the people’s end of the covenant relationship – the “10 Commandments”.


• Moses is still up in the thick smoke and the glory cloud at the summit of the mountain. Chapter 21-23 contain more detailed directions on the right treatment of servants, dealing with violence and injury between people, protection of people’s property, social responsibility regarding marriage, sexuality, money, then the practice of justice in this new community. Then there is some more direction on the keeping of the Sabbath and finally, an outline of the keeping of the three great annual festivals (Passover, Beginning of Cropping (Feast of Harvest) and then Harvest time – the ingathering festival.


• At the end of Chapter 23 we have a renewal of the promise of the land in Canaan with more detail about borders and how the Lord will give this land to the people (slowly as they grow in population – 23:29ff).


• The there is another telling moment when the treaty or covenant has been understood and now confirmed. Moses, Aaron and his two sons (Nadab and Abihu) and the 70 Elders of the community ascend with Moses to the summit. As well as this the covenant is outlined to the people and animals are slaughtered in a great show of affirmation to the Lord’s covenant. The people say en mass, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey” (Ex 24:7).


• For the once and only time, Moses (or any other leaders after him) then used the blood of the many animals slaughtered as offerings to the Lord to sprinkle the people with blood. This is the


signing of the Covenant. “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you….” Moses says (hear the words Jesus says at the Last Supper). (Ex 24:8). Also, this sprinkling of blood was annually carried out by the High Priest in the Jerusalem temple on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)


• We get a short Book of Revelation like description of what God “looked like” by Aaron, his sons and the Elders in Ex 24:10-11.


• Moses then stays for another long stint with the Lord on the mountain (a month or more). This time he is not receiving laws about how the people are to live together with justice and mercy, but how and where they are to rest with the Lord in worship. In Chapters 25-31 Moses receives the detailed instructions on the building of the Tabernacle, the formation and attire of the priesthood (Tribe of Levi), various sacred furnishings and procedures for using them.


• God promises to meet with his people where he will listen to them and speak to them. He will do this always because he wishes to “dwell” or “tabernacle” or “tent it” with his loved and chosen community of holy people (see Ex 29:42-46 for a beautiful little summary on this by the Lord!)

• This whole moral code and system of sacrificial worship and the place where it happens (the travelling place of God’s gracious presence – Tabernacle) are now established and the people have their vocation, the promise of the Lord’s everlasting faithfulness and care and the future of the land to live in still on the way. Things are looking good!

WEEK 8 Exodus 32:1-14 (TNIV)


The golden calf ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)

1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”1 2


2 Aaron 3 answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. 4 Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”5


5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry 6.7


7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.8 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’


9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.9 10 Now leave me alone11 so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. 11Then I will make you into a great nation.”10


11 But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. “LORD,” 12 he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger;13 relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the LORD relented14 and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.15



THOUGHTS
How often it is that our greatest moments are also our worst moments!? From the dizzy heights to being consecrated and meeting with the Lord and receiving his direct word on how to be community and one with him to the darkest moment in Israel’s history – up there withy the first Fall of the first people in Genesis 3.


1. Moses has been gone for at least a month. “While the farmer is away the ice will play”, as they say. The request from the people to Aaron is not a easy going thing, it is a demand in no uncertain terms. The sense of the Hebrew words is that the people “gather upon or against” Aaron.


2. Their demand is a direct rejection of Moses and also God’s leadership because it was Moses but the Lord who bought them up out of Egypt.


3. Aaron does not fare well in this dark moment. His leadership is indecisive, too compromising and it displays something of a weak character as he gives in too quickly to the people, then tries to salvage the situation, only to make it worse and then later, when under scrutiny from Moses, (v22-24), lies and denies responsibility – blaming the people for this.


4. Aaron takes control and asks the people to bring their gold and silver to him so he can make what they demand – an idol figure – a calf being an idol often used for depicting fertility of land, animals and people. Aaron fashions this calf from either wood, overlayed with the gold, or melts down a lot of gold and fashions it from pure gold.


5. Aaron does not speak these demanding words. “They”, that is, the people, speak these words of complete rejection of the Lord’s heart and actions to make them who they are.


6. Aaron then tries to turn the “worship” back to the Lord, rather then the golden calf. Of course this does not work. You cannot worship the Lord in any other way than the ways in which he says. Even worshipping the “right God” the wrong way is still disobedience and a sign of a divided heart. The Lord calls the people to worship him in the ways he gives, not in the ways they just make up.


7. The text puts things in understated terms, probably for the sake of modesty. This is all out sexually over-the-top pagan orgy – sacred sex, acute and brazen, shameless partying all in the name of spirituality and connection with the divine. The people are returning from when they came – a pagan people in a culture of immorality and satisfaction of desire at all levels. Their evil heart is on show and the evil is visible, corporate and personal.


8. The scene switches to the mountain again where the Lord sees all and tells Moses to get down to the chaos quickly – to stop it. The Lord names the sin – “the people have become corrupt”, he says. “The “corruption” is disowning the Lord. They broken that first commandment in not loving the Lord and worshipping/serving/obeying him only with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.


9. “Stiff necked” people is an expression many a prophet, king or leader of Israel has names Israel! Jesus uses this term to speak against the Pharisees often. it comes probably from working animals like oxen or cows – when the animals will just not do what it is told to do no matter what you do or say! It is an accurate depiction of the human problem of sin.


10. The Lord’s wrath is stirred. Offence is taken and he acts to judge the people for their obvious sin against his love, mercy, power and promise to be their God and treasure these people among all others.


11. However, this severest of punishment the Lord contemplates in Moses’ hearing is conditional upon Moses’ agreement. “Leave me alone to do this, “says the Lord. The Lord leaves the door open on mercy, even when greatly offended and rejected by the people he loves.


12. Moses, now all alone, between the Lord and the people, brings HIS own request for mercy to the Lord. Moses is now the great intercessor for God’s people who gives three reasons why the Lord should not condemn his people for their overt sin against him.


i. They are the people he himself has already redeemed
ii. The destruction of the people would make the Lord a laughing stock to the Egyptians who he defeated
iii. The promises the Lord has given to make this people a numerous nation living in the land he also promised.


13. Amazingly, Moses calls the Lord to “repent” (“turn” and “relent”)! Such is Moses’ relationship with the Lord that he can ask the Lord of all things to “repent” or turn around or turn away from his anger and judgement.


14. Even more amazingly, the Lord listens to his servant. Moses, and “repents” or “relents” of his judgement out of respect and love for Moses (and the people).


15. It is important to note that Moses at no stage diminished the problem or excuses the sin. He simply asks for mercy and a remembering of the Lord’s past promises and actions. This is true intercession. To pray for people is not to cover up things or make excuses for their behaviour before the Lord, but to name the problem, the sin and ask simply ask for God to act in grace, not judgement.


REFLECTIONS
1. This is a dark day where the human heart is fully exposes and all of our base human desire and sensual pleasures rise to the top in a show of brazen rejection of God’s mercy and plan for how we are to live with him and each other. It shows the ability we have to do our worst even in the midst of God’s best!


2. While the Lord is giving everything he has to his people, his people are doing whatever they want with his gifts; quite literally – the gold and silver given to them by the Lord’s hand when they came out of Egypt are now used to totally reject all that he has done and all that he is for them.


3. Leadership Note: Something cannot be compromised – even under great pressure to cave in to people’s demands. Knowing what to allow to happen and what to never let happen is so difficult for anyone in any kind of leadership, and doubly so for matters to do with idolatry and sexual morality (the two often go together). Aaron made a wrong call. He allowed something to happen that was always a direct rejection of all that the people were meant to be on about as they lived in this new covenant relationship with a holy God of love.


4. Once the thing has been allowed by the leader, it is very difficult to turn it back around for good. The damage is done and the evil grows and gets worse. I guess the message for leaders here is to be clear on one’s “baselines” when dealing with subordinates and never compromise on these baseline expectations, even if it means putting your own role on the line – lest you let sin and evil run their destructive course in the community you are called to lead……


5. Amazing how Moses can call God to “repent” or change his mind on things. How is your relationship with the Lord? Is there this kind of honesty and openness in your prayer life with him?


6. Moses is the great mediator and intercessor for his people. Once he is assured by the Lord that the future of the people is assured and God is still God for him and the people, he acts with firm clarity on what is happening and quickly stops it with a show of decisive leadership. He knows his baselines and he acts like a gatekeeper in not letting this moment have lasting affects of further destruction among the people. (see v19-20, 26-29). The punishment is done but is quite small in extent. About 3000 men are put to the sword out of a possible 600,000.


7. Then Moses seeks to make atonement in some way for the people’s great sin against the Lord. (see v30). He even offers his own life in place of the people! (v31) Now that is a Jesus’ like thing to do! The Lord does not take up Moses’ offer but withholds his judgement of this sin for a future time. That is the cost of this sin. There is judgement to be done at some stage in the people’s future.


8. Here we see God’s justice and grace at work. He is not fickle, but slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and yet he is holy and just and sin is sin. Sin cannot be left to its own devices and must be names and dealt with I some way so that it is limited and so “removed” in a community.


9. The New Testament makes it clear that this account of the people’s sin, God’s judgement on their sin and his grace to continue in his covenant relationship with the people is relevant to us. St Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian church, as he speaks to their assembled Jewish leaders in Jerusalem after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 7) makes the point that just as Israel cast Moses’ aside, rejecting the word of God he spoke, and turned to idols, so also Israel now will cast aside God’s promised Messiah (Jesus Christ) and those who proclaim him.


10. St Paul in 1Corinthains 10, arguing that Israel was the people of God, experiencing in a spiritual sense, baptism in the Red Sea and Eucharist and even the Messiah in the bread from heaven, and yet, they sinned (1Cor 10:1-5). Their rebellion against the Lord (and the Christ – Jesus), is to be an example to all followers of the Christ “not to desire evil as they did” (10:6). Paul warns anyone who thinks they are above or beyond these things of immorality, idolatry and grumbling against the Lord, to be very careful, lest they too fall into these things (10:12). The rebellious spirit of the human heart can “break out” even among those who have the Christ and the sure signs of his presence and mercy in baptism and Lord’s Supper.


11. God’s mercy and judgement sit side by side in this event and indeed, throughout the life of God’s people. He is just. He has to judge ad limit human sin. And yet, he made some promises and bound himself to this sinful people out of love for them. God will call sin, sin and offer forgiveness fro sin and restore people. The new covenant of Jesus is now based on the forgiveness of sins, not the keeping of the law, and yet, the 10 Commandments still stand as his will and way for human being to live together with the Lord and each other.


12. God’s mercy edges out his judgment here and in may other places in the bible. Surely our calling is to be the same and follow Moses, and the greater mediator, Jesus, who appeared once and for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Hebrews 9:26).

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 7

BETWEEN THE TEXTS

Week 7
• 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 be the community through which he would bless the human family.
• We leave the once thirsty and threatening people of Israel drinking up rivers of waters from that miracle Rock in the desert as we head on into the unknown journey. The destination has always been Mt Horeb or My Sinai (same place). Right from when Moses went up Mt Horeb way back in Exodus 3:12 to see that burning bush and get more than he bargained for, the aim of this whole “coming out” and freeing of God’s people was for the purpose of worship on God’s holy mountain.
• After their “Massah” and “Meribah” moment, and then a brief scuffle with the troublesome Amelakites (that would continue in perpetuity; Exodus 17:8-16), and a lesson in leadership technique given to Moses by his Father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 18) the people of Israel, under God’s pillar of fire by night and cloud by day travel further across and down the Sinai Peninsular and finally reach their destination three months after they left Egypt (Exodus 18:1).
• We now switch to the second part of the Book of Exodus. The first part was the actual build up to and moment of Exodus to reach Sinai. Now from chapter 19 – 40 and through Leviticus and into Numbers chapter 10 we are at the Mt Sinai.
• A significant moment is upon us. You can tell this by the extended dialogue that now happens between, the Lord, and Moses, then Moses and the Elders of Israel (Chapter 19:3 onwards…)
• Something big is initiated by the Lord. The Lord says, “You have seen what I have done for you…… If you obey me and keep my covenant (legally binding agreement between God and the people), then you will be my treasured possession among all the nations – you will be whole nation priests and a holy/set apart nation….”
• So, for the first time we have the mention of that word “covenant” and it is very significant. God promises to be their God and make them into a specially chosen nation with the special role of being priests for the world. Priests both represent other people before God and so intercede for others as well as represent God to other people and speak God’s word to people. They are intermediaries between a holy God and his creation. Priests also mediate forgiveness between a holy God and an unholy people. Israel is to be the nation through which God’s blessing and forgiveness are given to all nations.
God is initiating a legally binding agreement with his people that will define their relationship and responsibilities in their vocation to be a blessing of God to the world for all time. He will be their God and be present to hear them and bless them as they keep the covenant – that is – the Law – both the moral law (10 commandments: Chapter 20:3-17) and the sacrificial law _ worship system; chapter 20:22-26)) and other communal decrees for the well being of the community (chapter 21-23)
Theophany. We are now to experience another theophany, like that of Moses and the burning bush (in the same place). God is present as he makes this agreement with the people in fire and smoke on the mountain. Moses is the go-between. He is up and down the mountain a lot!! God seals his covenant with the people in a solemn ceremony where the people have to prepare themselves, lest they incur God’s holy judgement. Special limits have to placed around the mountain (a fence) to ensure that no unprepared person is killed!
• This is a covenant not to make them into a nation. They already are God’s chosen nation through the promise to Abraham. This is their commissioning as blessing bearers to the world and this is done through a treaty or covenant.
• As is ancient practice, a covenant or treaty is not done by the signing of documents (as it is for us these days), it is done by the shedding of blood. The covenant made with the people by God is sealed by blood. (see 20 verses 24on…)
• The treaty or agreement or covenant is like any ancient treaty in form and structure. It sets out what has happened (the Abraham promise and exodus), the two parties, The Lord and the people and their parts of the agreement (as outlined above) see 19:3-7 for God’s part. See the 10 commandments for the people’s part!

WEEK 7 Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 (TNIV)
The 10 commandments ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)
1 And God spoke all these words1:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery2.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below3, 4.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name5.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labour and do all your work5,
12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you 6.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour7.”
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning8.”

THOUGHTS
1. It important to understand that this is all God’s initiative and choice. He is present by his voice and he is making all of this happen. This is not two equal parties making a treaty like we would understand. This is two unequal parties making an agreement where one party (the Lord) is all powerful and holy and righteous) and the other party (the people) unholy, nothing and of no power or authority). So, it is all the Lord and his grace making this covenant by which he promises to be present to hear his people and bless them. It is grace, grace, grace!

2. God names himself and recounts his past action – salvation and freedom. He has freed this rabble and he has made them into a nation by a promise (when they were nothing) and now makes them into a nation of priests to mediate his blessing and salvation for all nations (by his power and authority and grace – not theirs!)

3. The first command: the most crucial stipulation of this treaty: The Lord demands exclusive loyalty and love for this to work. He wants to love, bless, listen, lead and be with his people. he is calling them to do the same, otherwise this treaty/relationship will not work and Israel will not be his holy priests of blessing for the world.

4. Icons or Idols?: Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and others keep these two parts of the first commandment together (we believe they are the two sides to the same coin). Other Christian traditions have separated them to make 11 commandments and emphasised the whole aspect of “making graven images”. This is why many Christians struggle with Orthodox icons, crosses (especially with a body on it) or even Christian art and symbols in general being in the worship space. They believe it is a breaking of the first commandment. This group have risen up from time to time and often have been called “iconoclasts” – destroying church buildings, statues, images and etc in church buildings.

We see that these parts make up one commandment and it has a practical application there and then. Israel will be surrounded by other nations who practice idol worship to many “gods”. They will constantly have to steer clear of worship practices of other nations’ “things of stone and wood” because these “gods” are really no God at all but just lifeless “things of stone and wood” that do not hear or see and are not alive. There is only one Living God – the Lord, “I AM”. Art, poetry, music, imagery that helps us imagine and focus on this one Living Lord is to be valued!!

5. These first three stipulations of God’s covenant agreement with the people are all about how the people and the Lord relate together (The “First Table” of the Law). They love the Lord and honour and worship him only to the exclusion of all others for life (like Marriage?) by respecting and carefully handling/using his great name (I AM – Yahweh) and resting with him regularly as they gather in communal worship where God hears them, feasts with them and blesses them.

6. The rest of the stipulations are about how this holy nation of priests is to live together in peace in their vocation (“The Second Table” of the Law). Respect and honour of family (parents, elders, husbands, wives, children) is critical for this nation to be at peace and strong and functioning as priests for the world.

7. All the vices of the human heart are named and warned against here. Is it any wonder that this moral code has served as the universal backbone of human community across ages and continents!?

8. God’s intention is that the people live and not die; that they live in his presence and with his blessing, not incur his righteous judgement of unholy sin and be out of his loving presence. The law both demands faithfulness from his people and protects his people from the consequences of treating each other wrongly.

REFLECTIONS

1. This 10 commandments became the centre piece of life in Israel. The Rabbis over the centuries reflected on how Israel is to keep the Covenant by keeping these commandments. As God told the people to put a fence up around the bottom of the mountain to protect the people from intentionally or inadvertently sinning against the Lord while he was present on the mountain giving these holy stipulations to Moses, so the Rabbis went further and put a fence around God’s presence in a long process of defining and re-defining these ten commands into 613 rules!

2. The idea was to fully understand and practice these commandments in every detail so as to live in God’s continued promises and blessing. For example, the Sabbath command was a favourite – what is “rest” and what is “work” and how do we rest with the Lord and so “keep the Sabbath day holy” or “set apart”? Well we walk more slowly and only certain distances “A Sabbath days walk from,…”. We do not work with our flocks or livestock or at our trade. We do not cook. All cooking has to be done before sundown Friday. In modern Jewish house, we put self-timers on lights so that we don not so “work” by switching on a light…….

3. This practice of interpreting the 10 Commandments (not to mention all the following worship law and general community law) was taken on in full force by the Rabbis over hundreds of years. There are tomes and tomes of “mishna” texts discussing the practicalities and theology of the law. In the end you end up with what is called “casuistry” that is bad for two reasons. Somewhere in the endless attempt to “protect people from sinning” again God, God’s grace and love get lost and God is taught as some cosmic law keeper who is not interested in anything else but the law and keeping the rules! Also, those who are “experts” in the law, can keep the people fearful and loaded up with endless demands that keep them from questioning or thinking about anything else! This is exactly what God often charged Israel’s leaders with and Jesus charged the Pharisees with (see Luke 11:37-54).

4. In Jesus time, the Pharisees and Sadducees were really lawyers whose main concern was the keeping of the Law – all 613 rules. And yet there was some genuine faith and belief there too. Their belief was that if Israel could keep the “Torah” (Law) for just one day, this would usher in the coming of the Messiah who would restore Israel to its original Abraham promise of land, status and nationhood. So, they thought they were serving the Lord faithfully by keeping the law themselves and teaching the people to do the same.

5. When the New Testament speaks of “the Law” it is speaking of this part of the Sinai treaty/covenant. This 10 commandments given to Moses and the people on Sinai is often called the “Decalogue” (the 10 words) and forms the basis for the Old “Covenant” or “Testament” relationship between God and his people until the new Covenant or Testament” in Jesus the Messiah’s blood is at the cross.

6. God’s pass mark for staying in his blessing and presence is 100%! He says, “Be holy because I am holy”. We eventually discover in life that we can not keep the Law. We know we fall short of God’s demands. It is them that we look for someone or something to help us find peace with each other, ourselves and God. We then hear Jesus speaking of himself being the sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered for the world so that the world might live and not be condemned by God’s righteous judgement on our sin against the Lord.

7. In the Luther’s struggle to find peace with God it is the good news for his tortured conscience that he found in Romans 3:21 onwards….

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

9. Now the 10 Commandments become three things for us who believe in Jesus;

10. A Control: These commandments (the last 7) are the basis for our civil law system and through their keeping in a society, evil and its damage are limited by the Lord. This is his “left hand” work or kingdom working.

11. A driver: We hear them and we apply them to our own life and we know we fall short and so we are driven back to Jesus to find forgiveness and life. (This is God’s right hand or kingdom working)

12. A mirror: With Jesus ongoing forgiveness and life, we hear these commandments and we see who we are and what we need to do to fulfil our vocation and his “priesthood of all believers” in our workplace, family and society.

8. By the blood of Jesus Christ the Law has been fulfilled perfectly for us and God has made a new covenant with us, not based on keeping these 10 commandments but by putting faith in Jesus of Nazareth as our Lord and Saviour – the Lamb of God who really has taken away the sin (and its consequence – death) of the world – out of sheer underserved, unmerited love (grace)!

Freed to Follow: an Exodus Journey Week 6

Sermon

Pentecost 15A

Freed to Follow series

Exodus 17:1-7I have had moments where I have aggressively questioned God’s presence and plan for my life. I have had times where I have I have fought against God’s direction and asked him to prove himself to me and us. These are called “Merribah” and “Massah” times.
Water From the Rock

1 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?”
3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”
4 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”
5 The LORD answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the place Massah[a] and Meribah[b] because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

a.Exodus 17:7 Massah means testing.
b.Exodus 17:7 Meribah means quarreling.



We hear today about what happened out in the desert between God and his people. What happened got a name – or two names. ‘Merribah’: to aggressively question, and Massah: to put God to the proof – to demand that he prove himself to you. I reckon you may have been there too?



Life’s journey just brings these testing, fighting, doubting, and aggressive questioning of God times into our experience.



Whether it is a Year 7 Christian Studies class, a funeral for a man who dies in his early 40’s, a conversation with a spouse going through divorce or a person trying to get their head around one of those big transition times that just happen in life, “Is the Lord with us, or not?” is the Merribah and Massah question.



I led a strange kind of “funeral” yesterday. It is definitely a Massah and Merribah time for a lot of people around this community with the tragic loss of Fulvio Canetti; aged 41, husband and father of two boys – both of whom were up until recently students of our college. It was a strange “funeral” because it was not really a funeral and not really a gathering of the church in any way. It was outdoors at the Lakes with no coffin (because of the long time it takes for coroner’s reports and etc…), and yet we were able to speak of God’s presence and grace and the resurrection of Jesus as hope in these Merribah times.



Pray: Spirit of God, speak into our testing times as we hear your Word and reflect upon it. Amy our meditation on your Word be acceptable in your sight and fruitful for faith, hope and love in our lives. Amen.



Again in this journey of Exodus we are facing a “water problem” as we did just prior to the Lord “raining down” manna from heaven in 15:22ff. But this time the “testing” is of a more serious nature.


People are now not merely lodging a complaint to Moses and therefore, the Lord. No, the people are now fighting against Moses and asking God to prove himself, thereby calling the Lord’s leadership, management and character into real question. I guess this can happen when there is no water and real desperation sets in among a group of people. In these times of real crisis – be it communal of personal, people can say and do strange things in their desperation.
 They are “quarrelling” or “finding fault” with Moses (poor Moses!) and his leadership. The “fault” they find is Moses’ intentions. They accuse Moses of being a shadowy, underbelly kind of man who has their murder on his mind. They think he is masterminding a mass murder in the desert, like some megalomaniac cult leader or something.


Moses points out that as they accuse him of such underhanded and evil intent, so they actually accuse the Lord of the same things because Moses is only a mere servant of the Lord. The Lord is plotting the course of their lives, not Moses! The people don’t seem to pull back from their fighting accusations. They don’t seem to realise that when they pull down a servant of God they are directly offending and rejecting the Hand that feeds them.
 Leadership note here: grumbling, accusation, fighting and questioning of one’s integrity come with the territory of leadership! Moses will constantly have to deal with this fault finding of him by the people and on occasions it turns very nasty as he even will be on the edge of being stoned to death by these people! (Numbers 14:10). Moses has now joined an elite club of servants of the Lord who have been on the receiving end or a threat of or actual stoning by God’s people – David (1 Samuel 30:6, Jesus John 10:31, Stephen Acts 7:58, Paul Acts 14:19).


Moses’ response to this now different kind of testing is also different than previously. Notice how Moses now gives vent to his own fears as he speaks not of “God’s people”, or “my people”, or even “your people”, but “these people”. It is as if Moses is teaming up with the Lord and accusing these agro people of wrong doing. He is siding with the Lord and getting a small taste of what it is like for the Lord to have to knock these troublesome people into shape for their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world!


The Lord responds to the tricky situation of angry people ready to exact their desperate anger on Moses by doing something very visible once again. Moses is directed to go “in front” of the people with witnesses in tow (the Elders). They are all going to get good seats in the house to see again that the Lord is with them and responding to them and keeping his promise to get them to their promised destination.


Moses is instructed to use the same rod with which he “struck” the waters of the Nile to now turn this rocky land into a stream of gushing water. There is no doubt as to the Lord’s message here. He has provided them with water from dry land, as he also provided them with dry ground through the water at the Sea of Reeds. He is the Lord. He is still with them. Moses is indeed his servant. God takes responsibility for the plight of his people and handles their anger and doubt and deep questioning of his integrity with a show of power and gracious care.


In all of this, the question any person or any community asks when hard testing befalls them is uttered by God’s people at their Merribah and Massah time. “Is the Lord with us, or not?”


In this very human question they are raising serious doubts as to the Lord’s honesty, integrity and will regarding his stated promises to deliver on his promise to get them to the new land, give them a great name among the nations and keep them alive and growing as a nation, as he once promised to their father, Abraham (Genesis 12). They find fault with God’s leadership, management and plan for this to happen and they ask him to show himself and his will again – not in friendly terms but doubting, harsh and distrustful terms.


Testing times bring out the best and the worst in people. When we ask that question in real angst, “Are you with me, Lord, or not?” in our Merribah and Massah, whatever they be – broken marriage, terminal illness, violent threat, economic hardship, tragic loss, personal weakness, and whatever other place we stumble across on our desert way of Jesus’ cross, Moses shows the way faithful people respond to their Lord.


1) First, he gives voice to his own fears.
2) Secondly, he seeks the Lord on the issue. Moses seeks the Lord’s word on  
    the situation (“What should I do, Lord?),
3) He confesses faith in the Lord (Why do you find fault and fight with the
    Lord? He asks).


What have you done when under the pump in life? These three things or other things?


Moses trusts that the Lord can receive his fear, pain, complaint and anxiety. He tells God what is what.
 Moses truly reaches out to the Lord and prays that prayer in the heart, “Lord, teach me your way here”. He actually seeks God’s word on in his Merribah and Massah time.


Moses is on the Lord’s side. He does not give in to the people’s fault finding or aggressive questioning of him and the Lord. He lives through the testing by confessing faith in the Lord when there is no easy reason to do so.


Moses does these things for himself, but also for the greater good of the people. Moses “nails his colours to the mast” and declares his loyalty and trust in the Lord as he asks the Lord what he should do with “these people”.



So, where are you thins week?! Aggressively doubting the Lord for what he did not do for you or placing your life in his hands anyway?


Wherever you are and however Merribah and Massah are God seems so very able to absorb all the grumbling, complaining, fault finding and aggressive questioning his people throw at him. Most often he responds to their need with grace. Now and again he responds with judgement. This will happen later in the journey after Mt Sinai when the covenant between God and the people has been made at Sinai.

Here he gives them what they need – not just the water but a sign that he was still there with them and for them, wanting them to live and continue the journey with him.
Jesus stands up at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem (which traditionally remembered this Merribah and Massah moment in the desert) and proclaims those famous words recorded in John 7:37, “If anyone thirst, let that person come to me and drink”. He is saying that he is the living water from the rock. He is the water that quenches a person’s thirst for life for ever in all the Merribah and Massah moments of our doubting desperation and questioning of God’s integrity.


Paul says that Jesus is this rock of living water that sustains God’s people. Christ was in that desert place, in that questioning of God’s character, in that desperate fear and worry – Jesus is the life-giving stream from the most unlikely place – a dry, dead rocky source. (1 Corinthians10:4).


When the testing time is upon us, or a testing time has happened to us and we are still dealing with it, we have the choices of questioning the Lord and his leadership, his management, his church, his leaders (which may be necessary at times because the church is only full of imperfect human beings!) or doing those things Moses did – telling God how things are (an act of trust), seeking the Lord’s Word and confessing faith in his goodness given in Jesus, the Man of Sorrows and the wounded healer of our souls. Faithfulness to the God of life and promise is in these things somewhere………


In the end, this event gets this response from the priests, poets and song writers of God’s people…
In the end, we have a calling – to not harden our hearts and block our ears as Pharaoh did but to come and worship the Lord at Merribah and Massah…..


Psalm 95


Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,[a]
as you did that day at Massah[b] in the wilderness,

9 where your ancestors tested me;

they tried me, though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;

I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they have not known my ways.’


1 (But) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving

and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God,

the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,

and the mountain peaks belong to him.



5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,

let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7 for he is our God

and we are the people of his pasture,

the flock under his care.



Through Moses the Lord really turns this question back around on us. We ask, “Are you with us or not, Lord?” The Lord and his servant Moses really respond with a question back at us, “Are you with the Lord, or not?”Footnotes:

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.