Thursday, November 19, 2015

You want me to do what?! 

Exodus 3:1-11
Moses and the Burning Bush
3 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, 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.”

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

This amazing living text we call the Bible has such continuity, such consistency in theme, in purpose and meaning. How is it that this possible with 40 authors, written in three continents, among many different cultures, over a span of 2000 years? It’s because the Bible truly has but one author speaking through many broken yet still chosen vessels. True to form God doesn’t choose the most qualified, or at least what we would see as qualified. It is hard not to read about these servants in the Old Testament and not see the many similarities in character they have in comparison to the Apostles hand picked by God incarnate while he was here on the planet with us.

Here we have the great servant Moses through which God uses to free the Israelite's from the harsh oppression of ancient Egypt. He would guide and govern the multitude of his people for all the remaining years of his earthly life; he would take them through the Red Sea and across miles of desert. This great servant Moses who, through God, gave us the Ten Commandments, books have been written on him, movies have been made about him, and yet as we start to read Exodus we find that Moses kills a man, hides his body in the sand and shortly after abandons his people. Again and again the text gives us unflattering details like this that only give more weight to its authenticity. If someone wanted to create a great myth of a triumphant figure that courageously marched his people out of slavery we would certainly not begin by destroying the character of the hero by having him commit murder and then cowardly flee from his people to save his own skin. Moses was a guy that screwed up, I can relate with that. More than that he is a man that had it all, he was, by all appearances, the Grandson of the ruling Pharaoh over the Egyptian empire. How he came to the knowledge of his Hebrew heritage the text doesn’t say, possibly the Pharaoh’s daughter told him or a family member working for the Egyptians. I find it very revealing and interesting that the Bible details Moses looking around first before killing the Egyptian. He didn’t fly into a rage and suddenly cut the man down, he didn’t accidentally hit him too hard while protecting the Hebrew slave but he stopped to take time to see who might be watching knowing what his intentions were. In our court system today we’d call that premeditation.
Then when the Lord comes to Moses, despite what he has done, telling him he has chosen him for the incredible task of freeing his people Moses seems to want no part in it.
The Lord is about the business of glorifying himself through us and what better example to hold up for us, his children, than a truly human servant, with all his faults and failures highlighted for us to see. This shows me it’s not about me, it’s about him, and what he can do with us despite our faults, if we will only believe and do. I have unfortunately felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to say something, or to do something at a particular time and setting and have let some of those opportunities pass without my obedience only to feel convicted later. Why do we do that? Why don’t we seize the moment and obey? Why do we fear what human minds may think or human mouths might say when we have the Creator of everything at our back? I think often we feel inadequate as Moses did here, I believe we wait for someone more qualified to speak up, to take charge of what we know the spirit is telling us to do. We also have our own figurative dead bodies buried in the sand, some poor decisions we’ve made or maybe an anger issue or something more. Moses undoubtedly feels like a man unworthy of the Lord’s favor. He has murdered a man and left his family, his home, and all he knew to escape the consequences of his actions. On top of this he has a speech impediment, of what sort we don’t know, but he uses this as an excuse for his lack of willingness in Exodus 4:10 “I am slow of speech and tongue” and Lord replies in this great way that only the Lord can 4:11 “Who gave human beings their mouths?”
Our shortcomings are of no concern to Lord; he wants the same from us that he is asking of Moses, obedience through faith, once we’ve committed to giving him that he will come in clean us up and get us qualified for the task he has given. He is telling Moses, it doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in yourself, I believe in you now you should believe in me!
Moses has just seen a great sign, the Angel of the lord in the burning bush, he has heard the very voice of God and is still not totally convinced he says in 4:13 “Pardon your servant, Lord, please send someone else.” Notice he isn’t arguing whether his people should be freed or not, he just thinks someone else would be better for the job. Whether the feeling of the burning anger of God did it or the inclusion of his brother Aaron to do the speaking Moses makes the right decision to obey. Again we can relate because Moses had to grow his faith in the Lord and in himself by doing what was commanded and seeing the results. As we read through Exodus we can see Moses coming back to the Lord unsure of his will and the path ahead but he continues to obey. He also surely had to overcome the limitations he had set for himself and redefine what kind of man he was and none of that is possible without forging a closer relationship with our Creator.
We can set limitations on ourselves and think we know our capabilities better than the one that made us. We can look at something that the Holy Spirit may be leading us toward and think “Oh no, not me, I could never do that!” Maybe it’s trying to talk to a coworker that’s having some family issues about coming to Church or giving their life to Christ, leading or participating in a Church project, or as bold as going on a mission trip. Maybe the thing that is holding us back is the dead body we’ve got buried in the sand, meaning the sin that we have committed or continue to commit. We think ourselves unworthy or incapable but that very act of faith in accepting the Lord’s will could be what finally forces us into growing into a closer relationship with him. Sometimes accepting a task can force us into badly needed growth. How can we have the arrogance to think we may know our potential better than the Supreme Being that can have a personal relationship with us and yet also guide the paths of the planets in there orbits?
We see these greatly faulted and fallen servants throughout the Bible that were able to rise far past what would have ever been possible for them left to their own resources but they were willing to do one thing, step out in faith, step out in obedience, step out and trust that God was not only for them but that he knew them and their path far better than they themselves ever could! What we see in Exodus is Moses being redeemed, we see him start out making a lot of mistakes and running from those mistakes, running from God even, but then after a divine intervention he is slowly being made into a new creation much different than before and by the time his life comes to a close he is far and removed from being just a common criminal on the run in a foreign land tending a flock that’s not even his own. Moses was able to put himself aside and allow Yahweh to be great in him.
Christ can do this for us today but he won’t do it with our restrictions being placed on him, we can’t say to him “This is the area I feel I can give you, help me here Jesus!” We need to be willing to ask him for direction and pray for acceptance of the answer when it comes. We also need to be willing to leave the body in the sand, stop returning to it! We should ask the Lord for forgiveness and rest in the fact that we’ve received it and know we no longer need to feel guilty or unworthy over it anymore. If the Lord only chose the worthy the Kingdom would not get anything done! It’s through him that we are made worthy; it’s through him that we gain the strength to do the things we thought ourselves incapable of before, it’s in him that we find our true selves.

The only true greatness we can ever attain in this life is through our ability to serve and glorify him who made our very existence possible in the first place!