Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sermon on Exodus 2:11-25

1. Moses preserved
Moses was a special child, a “fine child”, one through whom all the indications are that the Lord will act to save his people and, so, to bring blessing to the world.

But who is Moses for such a task? And look where he is – adopted as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. There’s very little chance now that he will ever be what he could have been. He’s been under the influence of Pharaoh’s lot, learning their ways, being “educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” and, under their tutelage, he had grown to be “powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22).

So that’ll be the end of him then. With that kind of life he’ll be Egyptian through and through. He won’t remember his early days as a Hebrew, let alone want to be known as one. That’s what happens when people get abandoned to a godless system.

Or is it? In v.11 we’re told that when he was older (and Acts 7:23 tells us he was 40 at this point), he decides to go out to where his own people are and sees them at their hard labour. Twice in this verse the Hebrews are described as “his people” and his action in defending the Hebrew being beaten shows that this is how he sees things – they are his people.

However it has happened, the Lord has preserved Moses through those long years, has preserved within him a sense of identity with the Lord’s people. That’s quite remarkable.

Jesus has purposely left us in the world. He knows how dangerous a place it is; he knows how strong and subtle our spiritual foe is. Yet he is confident that we can and will be kept by the power of God. That isn’t making light of the dangers but it is recognising that what really counts is the Lord’s ability to keep us.

We may not be able to change the situation – for ourselves or our children – but we can have confidence that the Lord will keep us. It will no doubt mean, on our part, hard work to take every thought captive and to learn the ways of the Lord but he is able to help us.

2. Moses prepared
But although he has been preserved during those long years in the palace, many long years of preparation for his work as the leader of his people still lie in front of him. Moses already has a clear sense of justice; he is already marked-out as someone who acts to rescue others, but those traits need honing.

That preparation takes many forms but, before we look at the details, notice that this is often how it is with us in our walk with the Lord and our service for him. He takes and uses what we go through to refine us, to mature us and to equip us to be more useful in his service.

Precisely how that might be worked-out for us won’t necessarily be immediately obvious; we need to trust the Lord, since he knows what he’s doing. In his wisdom, he will cause all things to work together for our good, for the blessing of his people and his work in the world.

i) Conflict with Egypt – Moses has been kept by God down the long years of childhood, adolescence and into full adulthood. He knows whose he is, who his people are and takes his stand for them.

But the very act of taking that stand puts him on a collision course with the royal family of Egypt with whom he has had such close acquaintance over the years. Moses kills an Egyptian who was ill-treating a Hebrew and, in return, the Pharaoh seeks to take his life, presumably because Moses’ act has shown whose side he is on.

This is an early indication of the struggle that Moses will go through with the Egyptians. The same pattern emerges in the life of Jesus, the true Saviour to whom Moses points. From his birth, our Lord was opposed and his life under threat. But he came “to destroy the devil’s work” (1 Jn 3:8). It was not a battle that he was going to shun; rather, he was ready for our sakes to take his stand.

We may not be called to significant positions of leadership but taking your stand for the Lord will impact your life by bringing you into the struggle between good and evil, between the Lord and Satan. It is never wrong to take that stand but it must be taken with our eyes open. And it is worth remembering that early battles often set the tone for what is to come, helping to prepare us for it.

ii) Rejection by his people – The next aspect of Moses’ preparation probably came as a real shock to him. Having saved a Hebrew, he intervenes in a fight between two Hebrews but his leadership is not welcomed. The short exchange in v.14 prepares both Moses and us for the rejection he was often to suffer at the hands of his own people. His leadership of them, although ordained by God, was not going to be without its difficulties.

How much we see that in the life and ministry of Jesus. John tells us that he came to his own but his own did not receive him. The Saviour of the world was despised and rejected by the very people who ought to be waiting for him.

This alerts us to a fact that we may know very well: life within the family of God is not necessarily going to run smoothly. But even the bumps in our relationships can work good things in us – Num. 12:3 tells us that “Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”. How did he come to possess such humility? No doubt in part through such experiences as this in Ex. 2:13f.

In God’s hands, hard times within the family of God can lead to real spiritual fruit, but only if we submit ourselves to the Lord.

iii) Suffering & Sympathy – Notice also how Moses seems to embody in his own experience what Israel is going through and will also later experience. He is in conflict with Egypt, as we’ve seen; he flees to Midian and is like an alien in a strange land, much as Israel is in Egypt; he will encounter God in the desert and is there for 40 years.

Moses is being prepared by the Lord to be a faithful and sympathetic leader. Such suitability is not achieved overnight. There is great wisdom in the Lord’s preparation of Moses.

And even more is that seen in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus. The writer of Hebrews tells us that he learned obedience through suffering and in that way was equipped to be merciful and faithful high priest. In God’s hands, the same became true for Paul (2 Cor 1) and can also be true of us.

3. God remembers
Moses has been preserved and is being prepared to be the Lord’s servant in the rescue of Israel. Things are not hopeless for the people but the grounds for that hope are not mere inferences from the text; in vv.23-25 we are directly told why there is hope for Israel – “God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant”.

These are tremendously important words, not just for Israel but for the whole world in every age. The God who called Abraham and promised to make him a blessing to the nations, who has promised to be the God of his people and to be in intimate relationship with them, has not forgotten them. Judged by sight alone, it might be thought that he has forgotten them but that is far from the case.

His promises and purposes stand and stand for all time, however dark the situation. He is the God of compassion, of genuine, loving concern. His people’s distress matters deeply to him and he will act to deal with it; his desire to rescue the world is so deep and profound that he will let nothing stand in its way.

Just as Moses has been prepared for his future service, so these verses prepare us for the Lord to take centre stage and act. Thus far, he has been working things out from behind the scene; in ch.3 his presence will be made known to Moses in the most dramatic way.

But as well as preparing us for that, these verses give us much to mull over in terms of our own experience as his people. His promises stand and so we can take our stand upon them. Our suffering is not hidden from him; he is not too busy to care, nor too distant to see.

And he remembers not only the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and with Jacob but he ever has before him the new covenant made in and through his own Son and sealed by his blood on the cross. Can the Lord fail to help us? Can he forget his church? Can he refuse to hear our cries? Only if he can ignore the shed blood of his Son – which he cannot and will not ever do. Whether our tears flow easily in public or whether our distress is profoundly personal and private, the Lord sees and cares. We can, therefore, commit all our way to him, with great hope and in eager expectation.

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