That’s how long the disciples had been locked in this room.
That’s how long it’d been since they visited their favorite coffee shop.
That’s how long it’d been since they visited anything.
That’s how long they had been scared.
That’s how long they had been terrified.
That’s how long they had been waiting.
Because 10 days ago, in a final, epic, marvelous miracle Jesus had lifted off the ground into the air, without coming down, hidden by cloud, taken to heaven. But before he had left, Jesus had given them one final task.
Share the Gospel with all nations.
It seemed impossible.
They were such a small group.
There were so many people.
So many people that hated them.
That’s why they were waiting.
Jesus had told them that he would send them a gift.
To help them in their new task.
Suddenly they heard a noise.
Quiet at first.
But it grew in volume.
The sound of a hurricane-type wind.
They ran to the window.
The streets seemed calm.
The flags were motionless.
When they put their heads outside to listen, it actually got quieter.
It was coming from within the room.
Then, something appeared over their heads.
It was orange.
Blue in the middle.
One of the disciples grabbed a blanket and threw it over his friend’s head.
“You’re on fire.”
But it wasn’t hot.
And when he removed the blanket, the flame was still there.
Then, the disciples began to speak.
Was sprachst du?
They looked at each other confused.
They were each debuting their efficiency in a different language.
Without ever having practice a bit of that language.
This was it.
This was the gift Jesus promised.
This was the Holy Spirit.
I. The Gift of the Holy Spirit
This is Pentecost.
The gift of the Holy Spirit.
Backtrack with me to the moment that Jesus made that promise to his disciples.
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (v.16-17)
I wonder what Jesus’ disciples expected when he first mentioned that gift?
Something that would make ministry easier?
A brand new Webcam to broadcast their message?
A subscription to Amazon Prime to get ministry materials more quickly?
A new iPhone to help them quickly and efficiently text whoever was on their church membership roster?
When it comes to ministry, there is no more important gift than the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Here are some reasons why:
The Holy Spirit is JESUS-SENT.
Amazon packages are fun. It’s always exciting to open up and see what’s inside. But the excitement level for receiving those packages varies depends greatly on what company is listed on the sender label.
If the package says it is coming from The Flying Butcher – Steak of the Month Club, you’re excited. Open it immediately and turn on the grill.
But if it says that it’s from “The Asparagus of the Month club?” Meh. Throw it on the counter.
The same thing happens with emails.
If it’s the email from your professor about how well, you did on the test? Click! Open.
But if it’s the seventh email from Josh, the Google AdWords guy, emailing to let you know that he’s been checking your webpage out recently and he can adjust your S.E.O to get more site visitors for the low, low price of a lot of money…you’re less excited.
The sender of the Holy Spirit…is Jesus.
He loves you more than you could ever love you.
He is more powerful than you’ll ever be.
He is wiser than all our brains combined.
He gave us the gift of forgiveness.
He gave us the gift of peace.
He gave us the gift of joy.
He gave us the gift of adoption into God’s family, the promise of eternal life and salvation.
Jesus has an history of giving good gifts.
This gift of the Holy Spirit is no different.
The Holy Spirit is a PARACLETE.
The original Greek word there is “paraclete”. It’s actually a legal term. It is used to describe a person helps another on legal matters. The helper could be a lawyer helping the accused speak to the judge or a legal counselor helping you present your best case to the jury in court.
The Holy Spirit Paracletes in a few ways.
(1) …by speaking on the Father’s behalf to us
When you receive an official communication from the president of the United States, you should probably be looking for more than just a text message that says, “Hey! It’s Joe.”
Officially communication of the United States comes with an official seal attached to it.
It has an eagle on it.
This seal is one of a kind.
It identifies and authenticates the message as coming from the desk of the President.
God has a seal too.
Ephesians 1:13 says, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is God’s official seal.
He identifies and authenticates God’s message to you.
Only he doesn’t use a rubber stamp and fresh ink.
He uses a quill and ink that’s been dry for almost 2000 some years.
The Gospel is God’s officially sealed communication to you.
In it, God says that…
He loves you.
He died for you.
He rose for you.
He forgives you for all your sins.
And when the Holy Spirit gets this message to you,
He often seals that message within you.
He stamps your heart as…
But it doesn’t stop there…
(2) …by speaking on the Father’s behalf through us.
There’s a lady I know who had been feeling rather depressed. She had moved to this area and been feeling kind of alone.
She didn’t seem to be wanted by her husband.
She didn’t seem to be wanted by any new friends.
She didn’t seem to be wanted by any employers in the area.
More recently, she had heard me talking about God and the joy that he brings, but…
She didn’t think that was for her.
She used to be churchy, but not anymore.
She had been very unchurchy for decades.
According to her, God wouldn’t have anything to do with her.
What do you say?
Honestly, I didn’t know.
But the Holy Spirit did.
You are wanted.
You are wanted so badly God came to earth to live and die to bring you into his kingdom.
You are so wanted by God.
You are so loved by God.
You are so forgiven.
She said, “That was powerful.”
I said, “That was the Holy Spirit.”
Our gospel came to you not simply with words but…with the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
That message I just shared was not something I made up.
It’s the Gospel infused with the power of the Holy Spirit.
The same power that the disciples experienced at Pentecost!
Power to sound like a hurricane without a hurricane.
Power to appear as a flame without the burning.
Power to be bilingual without the schooling.
That same powerful Holy Spirit is in your Gospel words.
(3) The Holy Spirit is EVERLASTING
Because sometimes helpers don’t last.
Your tutor only is with you until the end of the Semester.
Your subscription to tech support runs out in a month.
Your friend gets tired of responding to your messages.
Not the Holy Spirit.
His power lasts much longer.
Jesus said, …The Father will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever. (Jn. 14:17)
He is with you when you come to faith.
For some of you that might have been a while ago!
Get this: he hasn’t run out on you!
He is still powerful.
He is still pursuing you.
During a breakup.
During a financial hardship.
When you’re sick and in the hospital.
When you’re far from home.
When you get the medical results.
He stays powerfully with you.
The Holy Spirit is IN YOU.
Of course, this promise was originally made to the apostles.
The original 11 men who would be inside that locked room on Pentecost.
They had fire on their heads.
Most definitely they had the Holy Spirit.
How do you know?
How do you know that the Holy Spirit is with you?
Flames on head?
Feel happy all the time?
Never sin again?
I want you to know that no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Do you get it?
Belief in Jesus is not something you come to on your own.
It is something that the Holy Spirit works in you.
If you believe in Jesus,
You have the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has you.
And is with you.
And is in you.
II. What Now?
What do we do with this incredible gift of the Holy Spirit?
(1) Don’t be Careless with this Gift
When I was young, I really wanted a dartboard.
I had seen my cool cousins playing darts and was convinced that all I needed to be cool was a dartboard.
(If only it were that easy.)
Still on the day of Christmas, I was so very excited to see a gift wrapped in the shape of a regulation sized dartboard circle.
I ripped off the paper.
I shouted “Cool!”
I wanted to set it up so that I could start playing immediately.
But there were more gifts.
One of those gifts was a piece of artwork from my Aunt. She wrote a nice note and described how she hoped her gift would go with me and guide me always. I opened the carefully wrapped and packaged gift. Inside was a beautiful frame with a Bible passage, Jeremiah 29:11, write on it. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm, you plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Oh…Can I go play darts?
Sometimes I think that’s how we treat the Holy Spirit.
Yep. Thanks for the faith, Holy Spirit!
And then we run to play with our shiny new dartboard.
Or something else that isn’t the faith producing Holy Spirit.
Faith is like a plant that needs water.
If you stop watering it…it dies.
Like a log on a fire.
If you stop adding logs to it….it dies.
If you stop fueling your faith with the Holy Spirit inspired word of God.
And maybe that’s been you over COVID.
You had a burning faith.
Now it’s just a flicker.
Thank God for the flicker.
Add some fuel to the fire.
(2) Fuel Your Faith
We just had a gas shortage.
Did you know at one point last Thursday, Raleigh was ranked as having the most number of gas stations without fuel?
People in lines…
Can’t wait to get in and refuel their car so that they can go and get a fancy “Nothing Bundt Cake!”
But on Sunday?
The line of cars isn’t like that.
If only we understood.
When we are in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit feeds our faith.
He adds a log of God’s love.
He fills us with the fuel of God’s forgiveness.
He pours out the petroleum of God’s power!
And our faith burns again.
In full Pentecostal glory!
Did you know that on Pentecost over 3000 people were baptized?
They became believers.
The Holy Spirit lit on fire on their hearts.
The flame still burns.
It burns in my heart.
It burns in yours.
May it burn so brightly that it lights another heart on fire.
Wherever it is that your light burns brightly.
May the Holy Spirit worked through your words.
That another light burns too.
Last we left Exodus, Moses and Aaron had travelled to Egypt and met with the elders of Israel. In this meeting, they described God’s plan to free them from slavery and showed them miraculous signs to prove it:
Moses’ staff turned into a snake and back into a staff.
Moses’ hand turned leprous and healthy again.
The elders were pumped:
You got this, Moses!
Mop the floor with Pharaoh, Aaron!
God’s got your back!
Our suffering is about to end!
I. Suffering Increases
With the elder’s approval, Moses and Aaron went to visit Pharaoh.
They said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says. Let my people go so that they may hold a festival for me in the wilderness.” (5:1)
You’ll notice that this is not a request for full freedom. It is much simpler. They ask for time off for a festival.
It’s as if Moses and Aaron were requesting off for vacations days at work. Only for all the employees….
…All at once.
Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should listen to his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I certainly will not let Israel go.” (v.2)
This is probably the first time that Pharaoh had heard the LORD’s name. In this Scripture, God’s name is written in all capital letters. This means the name that Moses and Aaron used to introduce God to Pharaoh was the same name that God had used to introduce himself to Moses: “I AM.” A name, by the way, that Moses himself first heard a few weeks earlier.
No wonder Pharaoh hadn’t heard of him.
In fact, when God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, Moses asked a very similar question:
Who are you?
Only Moses seemed to ask for clarification.
Pharaoh asked because he wanted to know what puny “god” was daring to mess with him.
They said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go on a 3-day journey into the wilderness, and let us sacrifice to the Lord, our God, so that he does not strike us with plague or sword.” (v.3)
I’ve seen his power.
He has done some amazing things!
I don’t want him to turn his power against us.
Nor should you want him to turn his power against you.
Pharaoh is not so concerned.
“…Why are you taking the people away from their work? Get back to your forced labor!” (v.4)
After Moses and Aaron leave, Pharaoh isn’t done with the conversation.
Can you believe those guys?
Who do they think they are?
Who do they think their “god” is?
Don’t they know there is no “god” in Egyptian except me.
I’m not some statue.
I’m not some sarcophagus.
I’m not some name etched in hieroglyph.
It’s time I taught this to the Hebrew people.
And to their puny Hebrew “god.”
In Egypt, I’m the only “god” that matters.
Pharaoh called a business meeting.
“Do not give the people straw for making bricks anymore. Let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as they made before. Do not reduce it. You see, they are lazy. That is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they do their work and do not pay attention to lying words.” (v.6-9)
I don’t think Pharaoh had his M.B.A.
Minus the resources?
Plus twice the amount of work?
Does not equal the same amount of production.
The people scattered all over the land of Egypt to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters kept insisting, “Fulfill your daily quota just as you did when straw was provided!” The overseers, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had placed over the Israelites, were beaten.” (v.11-14)
Then, I imagine the taskmasters would walk…
Limp to their people.
“Why have you not fulfilled your quota yesterday and today, as you did previously?” (v.14)
I know it’s impossible.
But please go faster.
I don’t want to suffer anymore.
The elders that had been cheering Moses and Aaron?
Were doing so no longer.
God had promised to end the suffering of the Israelites.
It got worse.
II. Identifying the Source
We’re pausing there in the story to think about the issue of suffering. Where does suffering come from?
To find the Biblical answer, we need to go to the only book before Exodus.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
Did you hear what God called the world that he made?
Understand – God isn’t like you and me.
When I say very good about my outfit, I tend to think, “Yep. I’m wearing clothes.”
It’s good enough for sinful me.
God is perfect.
When he says, “Very good” he means, “Eternally, divinely, perfectly good.”
Suffering was not ORIGNALLY in our world.
…Nobody got uncomfortably sweaty in the sun.
…Nobody was forced into slave labor.
…Nobody had to make bricks, because the elements weren’t harsh enough to warrant a brick shelter.
…Nobody had to wear masks.
…Nobody had to social distance.
…Nobody worried about whether they could get enough gas for their gas tank.
Suffering was not a part of God’s original plan for earth.
God placed a tree in this suffering free garden.
God asked them not to eat from the tree or suffering would enter the world.
But God gave them plenty of other food to eat so that they would never suffer from hunger or thirst or even a late night craving for a milkshake.
And these humans?
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Can you imagine the next morning?
The man woke up and, “Ugh, I have this strange pain in my back. Did I sleep the wrong way? I didn’t know there was a wrong way. Hey honey, wake up. My back doesn’t feel…good.”
His wife said, “Quiet down. I have a bit of ugh… Something going on with my head. It aches. My head aches. What do you call it when your head aches?”
As a result of that sin in the garden, suffering is a part of our world.
Although sin works this suffering in a few different ways:
Suffering is the result of SINFUL WORLD.
The other Tuesday I was raking my front yard.
The next day, I noticed something:
The top of my head hurt.
Sunburn on my thinning hairline.
Sunburn wasn’t a part of the God’s original earth.
The sun didn’t originally have harmful UV-Rays.
Skin didn’t react by getting burned.
But we don’t live in that perfect world anymore.
We live in a sinful world.
Viruses that lead to a worldwide pandemic.
Are all a result of living in the sinful world.
Suffering is the result of SIN in OTHERS
This is what happened to the Israelites.
Sinful Pharaoh didn’t want to suffer from low production, so he decrees suffering for his workers.
The sinful overseers didn’t want to suffer Pharaoh’s wrath, so they whip suffering into the taskmasters.
The sinful taskmasters don’t want to suffer whipping, so they enforce impossible demands on the people.
Suffering is STILL the result of sin in others.
Your boss makes you work late hours.
Your coworker leaves you high and dry.
Your kids scream for hours on end.
Suffering often comes from sin in others.
If I suffer from the sins of others…
And all people in the world are sinful…
That also means that…
Suffering is the result of SIN in Me.
The other day, Daniela got very angry.
She was upset that I didn’t let her throw her dirty diaper away.
(I know…bad dad).
So, what did she did?
She yelled so loudly and violently that.
She fell off the potty.
And bonked her head.
Sometimes suffering is the result of sin in OURSELVES.
This headache? Because I drank too much last night.
This sluggish start to the day? Because I ate too much last night.
This scary medical situation? Because I abused my body over the years.
This relationship suffering? Because I was a jerk to my wife.
The suffering of gossip from others? Because I was unfaithful to my husband.
The fear and terror I deal with on a daily basis? Because I haven’t been faithfully in God’s Word.
Suffering comes from sin.
And sometimes in all three forms!
Take the gas crisis!
The colonial pipeline breaks – sinful world.
People panic and buy way more than they should – sinful others.
I rant on Facebook about how awful people are – and suffer he loss of a few Facebook friends.
Our world is filled with suffering.
Because our world is filled with sin.
Eventually the Israelite leadership banded together and approached Pharaoh:
“Why are you doing this to your servants? No straw is given to your servants, yet they tell us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look, your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.” (v.15-16)
They have correctly identified sinful Pharaoh as the source of their suffering. But sinful Pharaoh misdirects them;
He said, “Lazy! You are lazy! That is why you are saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now go! Get to work! Straw will not be provided to you, but you will deliver the same quota of bricks!” (v.17-18)
Did you catch that?
Pharaoh refuses to accept blame for their suffering.
They Israelites leaders said to Moses and Aaron, “May the Lord look at you and judge you, because you have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword into their hand to kill us.” (v.20-22)
As if Moses and Aaron’ real meeting with Pharaoh had included a 57-slide PowerPoint on why the Pharaoh should increase the Israelite’s suffering.
Sinful Pharaoh wouldn’t accept responsibility.
So the sinful Israelites pass the blame onto Moses and Aaron.
What do you think sinful Moses and Aaron do with the blame?
“Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (v.22-23)
God, this is suffering is YOUR fault.
Sin BLAMES suffering it causes on GOD
This is what Adam did in the garden.
It’s what the people did to Moses.
It’s what Moses said to God.
Maybe…It’s what you’ve been doing too.
IV. God & Suffering
We shouldn’t let that be the end to the study of suffering.
The LORD should be allowed to respond.
He does so in the next chapter:
“You will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country…Tell them: I will free you from being slaves…, I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” (6:1-6)
Did you catch?
God wasn’t the one driving suffering on the people.
God was the one who would drive it out.
God DRIVES OUT suffering.
God said he would do it with his outstretched arm and Mighty Hand.
The same arm he stretched out to transform a wooden stick into a venomous serpent, He would stretch out to transform the venomous Pharaoh into a whimpering coward.
The mighty hand he used to drive out the leprosy from the hand of Moses, he would use to drive out his people from slavery.
But that’s not it. God would do it again.
He would stretch out his arms and wrap them around your sin.
He would take his mighty hand and grip your guilt.
He would stretch out his arms onto a plank of bloody wood.
He would take his mighty hand and nail it to the cross.
He would stretch out his arms to roll away his tomb stone.
He would move his mighty hand to feel the doorway to the tomb.
He would drive out sin.
He would drive out guilt.
He would drive out shame.
To drive out suffering.
Jesus is your Savior!
That truth drives out your deepest suffering.
…Suffering from guilt. You are forgiven.
…Suffering from shame. You are redeemed.
…Suffering from loneliness. God is with you.
…Suffering from fear. I am powerfully with you.
If God is more powerful than suffering, why allow it at all?
“I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. (v.7)
Did you follow?
God has allowed suffering amongst the Israelite people for a time.
A time when all eyes are directed on him.
If God had ended it in an unceremonious manner, what do you suppose the people would have said?
That Pharaoh is so nice.
Those overseers are so bad once you get to know them.
We really did a great job in getting our suffering to end.
All credit would have went to sinful people.
None of whom were responsible to ending the suffering.
None of whom could bring an end to all suffering.
God WORKS THROUGH suffering to put eyes HIM!
Over this pandemic, that’s happened.
People have searched for him.
People have been looking for hope.
People have been turning to their LORD.
When all hope is lost and we turn to our God, it becomes apparent that God is God.
We put our faith in him.
We have the promise that…
God will bring suffering to an END.
The last thing that God told Moses was this:
I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God…I will bring you to the land I swore to your forefathers…I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” (6:9-10)
Not to spoil it, but….
God frees the people of Israel from the hands of Pharaoh.
They never again have to make bricks without straw.
They are free from that suffering.
Not to spoil it, but…
He will put an end to all suffering.
He will put an end to your suffering.
He will one day bring you home to heaven.
A place where there is no suffering.
A place where they’ve never heard of suffering.
A place where there isn’t even a word for suffering.
Our suffering is about to end.
Last week, God called Moses to lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
If you’re wondering…
Moses left the mountain to begin to his new calling as leader of Israel.
But before he begins, God prepares him for his calling.
Friends, if you are a called into God’s kingdom…
And if you are a believer, you are called into his kingdom…
Then, you are also called to serve in his kingdom.
This sermon on how God prepares people to serve in his kingdom is for you.
I. The Importance of Family
Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me return to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” (v.18)
Put yourself in the place of Jethro.
This was his employee!
The shepherd of his flock.
A well-trained employee who had been on the job for 40 years.
If he leaves, how will your sheep react to a new shepherd?
Where will Jethro find such reliable shepherding?
Is there some kind of 15 century B.C. version of LinkedIn?
Perhaps more important, Moses was his son-in-law.
He’s been with Jethro for 40 years.
Jethro loves him.
Worse! If he leaves, he will be taking his wife.
And his grandkids.
How do you think Jethro will react?
Over my dead body?
Jethro said, “Go and I wish you well.”. (v.1)
That’s not the only family member that Moses needed to convince.
He still had to talk to his lovely wife Zipporah.
Hi honey! Great to see you.
What’s that? How was my day?
I led the sheep to pasture.
One of them got caught in a thicket.
I took a nap under an oak.
I talked to a burning bush.
Actually, it was the LORD.
He turned my stick into a snake.
And made my hand leprous.
You can’t see any of it now.
It looks pretty normal.
God wants me to go hundreds of miles to Egypt.
Leave our nice life here.
Switch our kids’ school.
Upend you from your family.
Notice Zipporah’s response:
Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. (v.20)
At least, no recorded fighting.
Just helping her husband to follow God’s call.
And what about his kids?
There’s no account of them throwing a fit.
There’s no account of one of them running away.
There’s no account of one of them starting a Snap Story entitled, “Why my dad Moses is the worst.”
They simply support their dad in his new calling.
God gives us “FAMILIES” for support.
Talk about a truth for Mother’s Day weekend.
God gave Moses a supportive father-in-law.
God gave Moses supportive children.
God gave Moses a supportive mother of those children.
For his trip into his new calling.
God did the same for me!
It’s Mother’s Day, so let me talk about my mom.
She taught me so much.
My impeccable fashion sense.
To have good table manners.
To eat some vegetable with your Doritos.
To keep a clean home.
To cherish time with family.
To work hard.
She taught me about my Savior.
She taught me that Jesus loved me.
She taught me the importance of surrounding yourself with people that would teach you that.
When I was in high school and I said to my mom, “I think I want to be a pastor. Go to school far away from you. And then, take a call to pastor somewhere…well…wherever God sends me.”
She encouraged me.
Part of the reason I am here is because of my mom and her support.
Thank you, mom.
Thank you, God.
And you’ll notice that in this truth, I put the word “family” into quotation marks.
Because the reality is that some people called to lead don’t have excellent family lives.
You might not know your mom.
Your dad might have been abusive.
You might be single.
You might be estranged.
God sends you “family”.
A caring aunt.
A God-fearing uncle.
If you have supportive family of any variety, praise God!
If you are that supportive church family, thank God!
You know the old saying:
Blood is thicker than water?
But Jesus’ blood is the eternally thickest.
So, support your family.
Call mom today and maybe tomorrow.
Give your kids a hug.
Call up a church friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
Text someone that has acted as your family to say thanks.
Support one another.
Because “family is a gift God gives to support each other.
II. A Powerful Weapon
Moses and his family take off.
They begin their journey.
Immediately, one of Moses’ kids asks, “Are we there yet?”
But then God has something to say to Moses.
The Lord said, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (v.21)
That’s a scary verse in Scripture.
We’ll spend an entire sermon on that in later in this series.
For now, it’s important to know that Pharoah’s heart was not originally hardened.
After hearing God’s Word, Pharoah would choose to harden it.
And only then, would God harden it.
But after his heart was God-hardened and it would look like Pharoah would never budge on releasing the Israelite slaves…
…say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’” (v.21-23)
I will eventually perform a final, terrifying miracle.
I will get Pharoah back for all his bloodshed.
And shed the blood of his firstborn son.
Then, he will listen.
Once my Word has hardened his heart,
The only thing that will unharden his heart hardened
…is my Word.
God arms us with his WORD.
There is no more powerful weapon than God’s Word.
God’s Word describes itself as:
“Sharper than any double-edged sword...”
“Penetrating even to soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” (Hebrews 4:12)
“The rain and snow coming down from heaven…watering the earth and not returning empty.” (Is. 55:10-11)
“…the full armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:11)
God’s Word is powerful.
Arm yourself with it.
If you’re an elder calling up church friend you haven’t seen in a while, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a teacher trying to set your kids on God’s path, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a mom about to tuck your kid into bed, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a dad with a teenager who’s struggling with their identity, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a girlfriend trying to lead your boyfriend to Jesus, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a husband trying to uplift your exhausted wife, arm yourself with God’s Word.
If you’re a grandson about to video call your dying grandpa, arm yourself with God’s Word.
And if you’re feeling nervous, consider this…
The way that God told Moses about how he would use his powerful Word against Pharoah.
Was by using his Word.
Arming Moses with confidence in the process.
Use God’s Word.
God is with you.
III. The Strange Part
The next part is the strange part.
But God’s Word is powerful.
Bear with me.
At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (v.24-26)
Here’s my best take.
Moses begins his journey for the LORD.
He stops to rest.
God almost kills him.
I don’t know if God appeared to Moses in some way.
Or if Moses just got super sick.
But it became apparent that God was going to kill him.
Why would God do that after he had just gone through the trouble of calling Moses to do this task?
It centers around circumcision. Circumcision wasn’t very common in the Ancient world. But in Genesis 17, God had appeared to the patriarch of Israelite society (a guy named Abraham) and commanded him to circumcise himself and all males in his family.
It was meant to be a sign of God’s covenant to be with the Israelites.
God was so serious about this that he threatened, “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Genesis 17:14)
This word of God was orally passed down.
Likely, Moses would have been circumcised by his Hebrew mother as a baby.
Likely, Moses knew this covenant.
But apparently Moses hadn’t done it for one of his sons.
So God threatened to cut him off.
If it wasn’t for his wife Zipporah, who completes the task, maybe even angrily (the word “touched” can also mean “threw”; as in she “threw the foreskin at his feet”), Moses would have died.
What’s the point of all this?
Moses would be the leader of the Israelites. Since the Israelites were in covenant with God, it was imperative that Moses keep that covenant himself.
Since Moses hadn’t, God rebuked him.
Now God does not demand New Testament Christians to follow this Old Testament covenant.
That’s not the WHAT NOW.
We have a new covenant in the Gospel of Jesus.
But a truth can still be gleaned from this strange Old Testament account.
God REBUKES Us.
That isn’t a negative.
Because those God rebukes, he loves.
Just like when a mother rebukes her kids and tells them…
Stop watching so much YouTube. It’ll rot your brain.
You have to eat more than Doritos. It’s not healthy.
Look both ways when you cross the street so you don’t get smushed!
Rebuking is a loving thing.
And God rebukes his people.
Out of love.
Maybe it’s through a family member.
A personal Bible reading.
God rebukes his people because he loves them.
Has God been rebuking you?
Maybe you did a sin for the 10th time and felt a tinge of guilt from what you remember the Bible saying about that sin.
Then, you watched a devotional on the sin.
Then, you read a Facebook post on that sin.
Then, a friend who brought up that sin up.
Finally, the sermon kinda, sorta touched on the sin.
How does the pastor know?
Be like Zipporah.
Turn from your sins.
Return to God’s covenant.
Because it is, literally, a matter of life or death.
And the amazing part?
Upon repentance…You live.
Because God forgives.
He lived perfectly.
He died innocently.
He rose triumphantly.
Jesus was cut off from his heavenly Father that you might not be cut off from him.
Jesus brings forgiveness for whatever that sin he is rebuking you for.
Accept the rebuke.
And thank God for it.
One more way God prepared Moses.
The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mount of God and kissed him. Then Moses told him everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform. (v.27-28)
If you remember, this is what God had promised Moses when he was nervous. God had said that his brother Aaron would meet with him and help him with his calling.
In this verse, Aaron arrives and, unlike Moses, Aaron does not complain about the job.
And upon seeing Aaron, Moses didn’t even complain either. “
What do they do instead?
Go to work.
Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed.” (v.29-30)
God sends us CO-LABORERS.
For Moses it was Aaron.
And God’s a good boss.
He doesn’t just hire 16 guys who are good at the deep frier.
He hires one guy to work register.
A lady to flip the burgers.
And someone who is an excellent manager.
So it is with God.
Aaron was the perfect complement to Moses.
He did the speaking.
Moses did the stoic miracle performing.
Friends, God has made us to complement each other.
Perfectly put together by our Savior.
I realized the other day that I am about to get to the 10th year of being here in Raleigh.
Some of you I have known all of those 10 years.
Others I have known for 10 months.
Others for 10 days.
Regardless, you are my co-laborer.
If there’s anything I’ve learned over this year.
It’s that there’s plenty of work left to do.
People are scared.
People are lonely.
People are depressed.
People feel sad.
People feel terrified.
People feel guilty.
We have the One who helps with all of those things.
Friends, God has been preparing us.
God is preparing us.
Friends, let’s go to work. Amen.
Last week’s sermon was like an edition of CSI: Egypt.
Moses encountered an Egyptian mistreating a Hebrew slave.
Moses killed the Egyptian.
Moses buried his body in the sand.
Pharaoh found out about it.
And Moses ran away to the hill country of Midian.
I. A Fiery Bush
40 years later…
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law…and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (v.1)
This was Moses’ life now.
He worked for his father-in-law as a shepherd.
From the decadent palace of royalty.
To the dirty life of a shepherd.
But it was ok.
He had escaped Pharaoh.
He had escaped punishment.
He had escaped his past.
One day, Moses saw …a bush was on fire. (v.2a)
No big deal.
That’s common in desert climates.
A lack of water dries out a bush and the hot sun sets it ablaze.
Moses need only take note of where it was in relation to the sheep.
But the bush was not burning up. (v.2b)
Not in 5 minutes…
Not in 10 minutes…
Still not in 15…
Usually by that time the dry branches had given way and the bush would have collapsed on itself.
This bush was still standing.
But not burning.
So he said, “I will go over and look at this amazing sight—to find out why the bush is not burning up.” (v.3)
He got closer.
The twigs hadn’t broken.
The branches weren’t charred.
The leaves were still…
But as strange as it was that the bush didn’t burn up …
It was nothing compared to what happened next.
God called to Moses from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses!” (v.4)
Moses took a piece of cloth he usually used to clean up the sheep.
Stuck it into his ear.
There must be something in his ear.
“Moses!” the voice repeated.
“I’m here.” Moses looked around to see where the voice was coming from.
Was it Jethro?
One of the other hired hands?
That guy from the local café who always likes to pull his leg?
“Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (v.5)
Moses looked down at his feet.
What he mean, “holy ground?”
This wasn’t a temple.
This wasn’t a sanctuary.
There wasn’t marble on the floor.
Or some kind of tile like design.
The voice continued, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (v.6)
Moses whipped off his sandals and fell to the ground.
This is it.
I’m done for.
All those years hiding.
God finally found me.
The jig is up.
I’m done for.
II. A Fiery Calling
But the Lord had something different in mind.
The Lord said, “I have certainly seen the misery of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry for help because of their slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…Come now, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (v.7-10)
Moses must have been in shock.
He touched his body.
It wasn’t burnt to a crisp.
But the bad news?
God wanted him to go back to Egypt.
Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11)
Maybe Moses thought…
I’m too old, God. 80 years old. Pushing 81. My knees don’t work the way a liberator’s knees should.
I’m too poor, God. I’m a shepherd now. Do you see my simple clothing and dirty hands? Why would royalty listen to me?
I’m too sinful, God. You remember…don’t you…if you don’t, I don’t need to tell you, but…what I did, right?
God, who am I to do such a calling?
God said, “I will certainly be with you.” (v.12)
But this led Moses to his next question:
“If 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?’ what should I say to them?” (v.13)
Because there are a lot of ‘gods’ in Egypt.
There’s the god of the sun, called Ra.
There’s the god that looks like an eagle.
The god that looks like a beetle.
These people even think cats are gods.
Cats think they are gods, too, but…
I’m not sure how seriously they will take me if I said, “I was sent here by a cat.”
God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. You will say this to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.” (v.14)
Because I always was.
And forever will be.
I am the reason for life.
I am the reason for breath.
I am the reason for you.
I am the God of Abraham who promised him descendants as many as the stars.
I amt he God of Isaac who delivered him from a sacrifice on a mountain.
I am the God of Jacob who appeared to him in a dream with angels upon angels ascending and descending a ladder.
I am the one the Israelites have been praying to.
I am the one who heard my people in Egypt.
I am the one who will bring them out of slavery.
I am the one who will take them to the Promised land.
I am the one the elders will listen to.
I am the one that Pharaoh will not listen to.
I am the one who will perform miracles to force Pharaoh’s hand.
I am the one who will set my people free.
I am the one who will work through you.
Woah, Moses thought. That name gave him chills. Still…
What if they don’t believe me and don’t listen me, but instead say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you’?” (4:1)
So the Lord said, “Throw your stick on the ground.” (v.2)
To Moses, this seemed like a strange request, But he obliged. When he did so, instead of it making the normal thud that sticks make when they hit the ground…
The stick had become a serpent.
The Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand and take it by the tail.” (v.4)
I imagine the next couple of moments involved Moses carefully and timidly dancing around the snake, avoiding its fangs while grabbing it by the tale.
It immediately became a staff again.
The Lord also said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” (v.6a)
Moses was a bit nervous.
Was there going to be a scorpion in it when he took it out?
He put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, as white as snow. (v.6b)
Moses’ face went almost as white.
Leprosy was contagious.
Leprosy was painful.
Leprosy was fatal.
The Lord said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand inside his cloak again, and when he took it out of his cloak, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. (v.7)
The Lord said, “If they do not believe you or do not respond to the first sign, they might believe because of the second sign. If they do not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you are to take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry land.” (v.8-9)
Moses believed God.
He was also thankful that God didn’t demonstrate the water into blood thing.
His needed a break from the excitement.
Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, either in the past or more recently or even since you started speaking to your servant, for my mouth and tongue are slow and clumsy.” (v.10)
I stutter a lot.
I uh…have…uh…these….uh…awkward pauses.
I have like, this bad like habit like or saying like “like” like all the time.
You don’t want me, God!
So the Lord said to him, “Who made a mouth for people? Or who makes someone mute or deaf, able to see or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (v.11)
And didn’t I make your mouth Moses?
And haven’t I still chosen you?
I know what I’m doing in selecting you.
And at this point, God made some good points.
Moses was out of excuses.
Finally, Moses said what was on his heart, “Please, Lord, send someone else.” (v.13)
Cause I don’t wanna…
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses. (v.14)
I will send someone else.
I will send your brother Aaron…
But he will go with you.
Because you’re still going…
In fact, I already anticipated this and he’s on his way.
He can do most of the talking.
You will still go.
And I will be with you both.
I will be with Aaron’s words.
I will be with your words.
I will be with you in this calling.
After this reply, Moses simply said…
III. The Doctrine of Calling
That’s Moses’ origin story.
God calls Moses.
But instead of being honored to accept the job,
Moses made excuses.
Moses had some great misunderstandings about this call from God.
Since all believers have been called by God.
And all believers are human.
It’s worth examining these misconceptions in the light of the truth about calling.
The CALLER Validates the CALL.
For example, if you have a phone and you’d like someone to call you.
It doesn’t matter how much you want that phone to ring…
That phone won’t call you unless someone else dials your number.
The caller validates the call.
Or if you get a phone call from a strange number.
And you say, “Who is this?”
And they say, “Aunt Zelda.”
And you say, “Prove it.”
And they say, “I remember your four-year-old birthday when you cried because you got frosting up your nose.”
The caller validates the call.
This is important, because for Moses it seems that he, the called, was the one validating the call.
It’s why his first question after he receives the call from God is about HIS VALUE, not about GOD’S VALUE.
I wonder what would have happen if Moses thought himself worthy of such a call.
Maybe he would have said YES.
Even if it wasn’t God inside that burning bush.
Friends, you have a call.
Because all believers have a call.
A call to believe.
A call to follow Jesus.
A call to be in God’s kingdom.
A call to serve in his kingdom.
That call is valid.
Because it came from God.
Even if it didn’t come through a fiery bush.
But your call to believe is valid even if it came in some other way.
Whether it came through a pastor.
Through a Bible reading.
Through a YouTube devotion.
Through your dad.
Through your mom.
Through your grandma.
Through your grandpa.
Through your child.
If God is the caller, he validates the call.
Not the way you were called.
God’s CALL Validates the CALLED.
Do you ever feel like Moses?
Do you ever feel unworthy?
Do you ever feel unable?
Do you ever feel worthless?
Do you ever feel like you shouldn’t be part of God’s kingdom because of your past?
Or you shouldn’t be part of God’s kingdom because of your shame?
Or you shouldn’t be serving in God’s kingdom because of your low level of intelligence?
If so, you’ve got it wrong.
You don’t have to validate yourself.
God’s call validates you.
Jesus lived perfectly for you.
Jesus died innocently for you.
Jesus rose triumphantly for you.
And then, God called you through this message of Jesus to have you serve in this calling as his child!
And if you aren’t sure if God has ever called you before, then here it is right now.
Jesus died for you.
Jesus rose for you.
Be part of his kingdom.
This call is not a mistake!
It wasn’t a pocket dial.
He didn’t mean to call someone else.
God has called and is calling…
God CALLS Each Believer to Unique CALLINGS.
This is why God called Moses.
He was uniquely Egyptian and Hebrew.
And even if he didn’t think he had the speaking skills,
God had his brother Aaron already on his way to take over that unique calling.
God knows which unique believer to use for which unique calling.
It’s like eating soup.
If you were going to have a bowl of soup, what would you use to eat?
A fork? You’d probably dribble a lot.
A whisk? Nope. Not very useful.
How about a meat tenderizer? Only if you want to make a mess.
If you want to eat soup, you know to use a spoon.
If God wanted to lead his people out of Exodus, he knew to use Moses.
And if God has a specific YOU task, he knows to use YOU.
For what unique purpose has God called you?
Part of the music ministry?
Teacher at Precious Lambs?
Part of the Durham start up?
Do you serve in technology?
Do you serve in social media?
Do you serve in old school phone calls?
Do you have a family? Serve them.
Do you have friends? Serve them.
Do you have a mom? Serve her.
Do you have a dad? Serve him.
These are all unique callings that God has given to you.
God has given you the faith and the skill to serve in them.
God is with the CALLED throughout the CALLING.
Do you remember Moses’ first excuse?
He said, “Who am I?”
God never really answered that question.
Because that wasn’t the important part Moses’ calling.
The important part was what God responded with:
God said, “I will certainly be with you.” (v.12)
And who is God?
He’s a God who transforms sticks into deadly vipers.
He’s a God who infects with and heals from fatal diseases with a snap of his fingers.
He’s a God who transforms water into blood.
He’s a God who transforms unworthy into worthy.
He’s a God who turns the uncalled into called.
A god who turns you into his.
That’s the God that went with Moses.
That’s the God that goes with you.