Sermon, Sunday May 1, 2016
Psalm 105, Acts 6:8, 7:1, 30-34, 39, 51-53, Luke 4:16-21
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire 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 this 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 “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,[a] 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. 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.”
A high-powered Chicago attorney went to Texas to dove hunt. He shot a dove and it fell over behind a fence. The attorney climbed the fence and saw his dove. He also saw a rough Texas farmer on his tractor. The farmer asked, “What are you doing here?” The attorney said, “I’m dove hunting and I shot this dove. I’ve come to get it.” The farmer said, “You can’t do that. This is private property.” The attorney puffed out his chest and said, “If you don’t give me my dove, I’ll sue you.” The wise old Texan said, “Well, that’s not how we do it down here.” “How do you do it down here,” the attorney asked. “We have the Texas three-kick rule.” Puzzled, the attorney asked, “What’s the three kick rule.” The farmer explained, “I kick you three times. Then you kick me three times. We keep doing it until one of us gives up.”
The smart attorney thought about it and said, OK, let’s do the three-kick rule.” The rough Texan got off his tractor wearing big, heavy cowboy boots. “I’ll start,” he said. He kicked the attorney in the leg and the attorney felt sharp, searing pain, but he stayed up. The farmer kicked him again and the attorney doubled over and fell to the dirt in agony. Then, the farmer kicked him a third time in the head and the attorney saws stars. The attorney staggered to his feet and squeaked out, Now, it’s my turn.” The Texas farmer said, “Nah, I give up. You can have your dove.”
Sometimes a good swift kick with a cowboy boot moves things along. But some problems can’t be solved with a swift kick. The number one barrier between us and God is the sin nature. Cowboy boots won’t help. The Story continues with how God removes the sin barrier. Today the Story opens with God’s new nation’s need for deliverance.
God’s new nation is in danger of annihilation in Egypt. Exodus 1
The new nation was in Egypt as slaves for 400 years and a new Pharoah who did not know Joseph came to power. The new Pharoah was intimidated by the new nation and feared a take-over. He ordered the death of all new-born Hebrew boys.
Did these 400 years of slavery take God by surprise? No. God had revealed to Abraham that this would happen. Genesis 15:12-14
Since God predicted the slavery, did God cause the slavery? No. It resulted from the fear and the sin nature of the Egyptian people.
Quite incredibly, God even uses the oppressive sinfulness of the Egyptians as an opportunity to reveal himself and his unwavering intention to fulfill his promises for his people.
God reveals himself in three ways in the deliverance of his people. God reveals his name, his power, and his plan.
God reveals his name: “I am that I am” to Moses in Exodus 3-4. It is a riddle and yet a personal name. This is God revealing his first name, his personal name, the name by which his people can from this time onward address him. I am who I am, I will be who I will be. YAHWEH, translated in English bibles. “The LORD”. Like your name gives another person access to you as a person, so this name gives access to God to his people.
God chooses Moses to lead the deliverance. Like most of us often, Moses felt disqualified and God equipped him for the task ahead. It was going to be a tough task. This task of confronting Pharoah with God’s demand, “Let my people go!” would be hard. But God promises to give Moses the words and the wisdom and power to do his work. Same for us.
God reveals his power in the 10 plagues against the gods of Egypt (Exodus 7-13). It is important to know that in Moses’ time there were no atheists. People believed in god or gods. The key question was “Who is the most powerful god?” God used the plagues to harden Pharoah’s heart and to reveal his own mighty power.
It is the 10th plague not only reveals God’s power, but points to his plan. God reveals his plan in the 10th plague which required the shedding of lamb’s blood. This should be ringing all the bells for us who know the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the whole world! This places us right in the centre of The Story.
After all of the mighty show of God’s commitment and strength over all gods and all evil and all human weakness, we hear that this new nation of promise leaves slavery in Egypt by an undeniable demonstration of the power of God as seen in the plagues and the crossing through the Red Sea.
This could be a cowboy boot moment for you! We all are in slavery to sin, which is this inbuilt disease of wanting to be gods of our own life. The destroyer—death—is coming. We need the blood of a lamb just as the Israelites did. Where will we get it? The Apostle John speaks of it in John 1:29, “Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
One of the biggest clues in the Story is in the deliverance: the blood of a lamb.
Ask in faith for the blood of Jesus to be put on the door frame of your soul. Let his body and blood be the living sign that he lives in you and you in him and that he has already called you by your own name in baptism and regularly confirms this call at the altar and among his people.
The deliverance from sin is free, but you must ask for it.
Chapter 4, Deliverance
Timeless Truth: God is the ultimate Deliverer.
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
The Hebrew people knew the stories of Joseph and Jacob and how they’d settled in Egypt four centuries ago on Pharaoh’s dime. But that was then and this is now – and now, they were slaves. Some might have thought it was 430 years too late, yet God’s plan for deliverance was right on schedule. His servant Moses was born during the rule of a tyrannical Pharaoh whose infanticide program was aimed at annihilating the nation of Israel. Ironically, baby Moses was delivered from danger when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him from the Nile, hired his mother to nurse him, and raised him as a royal son.
Moses grew up in the palace but knew he’d been born a slave. Feeling sympathetic to the plight of his people, he killed an Egyptian task master and was forced to flee. Moses became a refugee in the far off land of Midian where he married and began tending his father-in-law’s flocks. Moses spent the next 40 years hiding from Pharaoh and like the Hebrew people, assumed this would be the way he’d spend the rest of his days.
Then he met up with a burning bush. God spoke from the bush and commissioned Moses as Israel’s deliverer. Not a bad promotion for an 80 year old man with only “ex-prince” and “shepherd” listed on his resume. God revealed Himself to Moses as I AM, the covenant-keeping Redeemer of His people. Moses doubted his own qualifications and abilities, but God responded with the guarantee of His presence.
Moses returned to Egypt with the promise of God and the support of his brother Aaron. As expected, Moses’ demands of freeing the Hebrews were met with Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal. So God sent a series of plagues and a cycle of challenge began: the plague strikes, Pharaoh relents; the plague stops, Pharaoh recants.
Then God presented a shadow of what would be the “ultimate deliverance” with the final plague. All the firstborn in the land would die in a single night and there was only one means of rescue. Every household in Israel was to select a perfect Passover lamb, slaughter it, and cover the doorposts of their homes with its blood. That night the angel of death would come and “pass over” the blood stained houses, preserving the lives of all who were inside.
The Hebrews left Egypt that same night, and later, an enraged Pharaoh took off in pursuit. Trapped between his powerful army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, Egypt’s victory appeared certain. But God split the sea in two and the people walked to safety on dry land. They celebrated when Pharaoh’s army drowned in the same sea…but only for a moment. Their jubilation quickly turned to complaint when Israel forgot what God had done. They grumbled over the lack of water and food, but God again proved Himself faithful by providing water, manna, and quail to sustain them, this time from their fears and inability to provide for themselves.
The story of God’s people had just begun. The details of the Lower Story already form an outline of the big picture found in the Upper Story. God delivered His people from bondage in Egypt as an early clue of the deliverance that Christ would bring. It would be centuries before Jesus would come as God’s perfect Passover Lamb and secure deliverance for His people. Yet the blood of Passover is a long shadow of what was to come when the Lamb of God set foot on the stage of history. These miracles were merely a hint of things to come; the I AM is still our Deliverer.
Icebreaker Question: Share a time when God delivered you from a close call, such as death or danger.
- How did Moses’ life experiences prepare him for God’s call? What life experience could God use to minister to others through you?
- In the same way that God used Moses to set the Israelites free from slavery, He uses us to help people find freedom in Christ. Discuss your experiences with sharing your faith; what inhibitions keep you from doing so?
- When Moses asked for God’s “official” name, God replied: I AM WHO I AM. Why do you think God identified Himself that way? What is the significance of that name? What does this name for God tell us about Him?
- When Moses tells Pharaoh to set the Israelites free, he responds by increasing their workload. Recall a time when you were obedient to God, but the situation worsened instead of improved. What life lessons can be drawn from these examples?
- Look at God’s description of Himself on page 48 (note the “I will” phrases). What is Moses focused on? What is God focused on?
- Pharaoh was “plagued” many times over, yet still refused to humble himself before God. Is there someone you know who has hardened his or her heart toward God? Can you see how God might use their decision?
- While this story has many obvious displays of God’s wrath, we also learn a lot about God’s goodness. List the ways this story shows God’s goodness.
- The Feast of Passover (p. 51-52) was to be perpetual reminder of how God delivered Israel. What are the parallels between Communion today and the Passover?
- Even after being delivered, the people of Israel continue to grumble. Do you know any grumblers? Are you one? How does perpetual dissatisfaction affect those in its orbit?
- God provides food and water for the Israelites while they are wandering in the desert. Describe a time God met your need (emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, etc.) in an unexpected way. Share how this impacted you and others.
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.