Wednesday Lent Five
April 1, 2020 - Exodus 4:1-18
God had promised Moses that the people of Israel “will listen to your voice.” Yet, Moses isn’t so sure. He shifts his focus from faith in the Lord to fulfill His promises, and instead looks at the potential reaction from the people and his own shortcomings.
First Moses tells God, “They will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” He doesn’t only doubt what God has promised, but he refuses to believe what God has promised. Very bluntly he tells the Lord, “The people won’t believe me.” He has shifted his eyes from what God can do, and focused his eyes on what man can’t do. He’s pessimistic about the promise. “No Lord, it won’t happen. Not because of anything wrong with you, but because they won’t believe me.”
Moses does not yet trust the power of God’s Word, that when God makes a promise – when God speaks – what He promises and speaks happens. We just heard the raising of Lazarus. Jesus didn’t work any kind of magic trick, nor did He do anything super special to get the dead man to walk again. He said three words, “Lazarus, come out,” and the man had to listen. For Jesus is God and God is all-powerful. If God tells Moses, “they will listen,” then they will listen. Moses should be absolutely certain of that.
What was Moses sent to do? Preach gospel to the people, right? He is going to bring them good news. “God appeared to me. God has seen. God has heard. God knows the sufferings of His people. He has come down to deliver you out of slavery and into the land of promise.” And if you think about it – that’s just a little glimpse of the great salvation Jesus has worked – the Gospel. God has seen. God has heard. God knows the sufferings of His people from sin and death. He has come down to deliver you from this slavery in the person of Jesus Christ, and the Son has set you free. So you are free!” That’s wonderful news. That’s the Gospel.
Then Moses makes a second objection, “I’m not good enough. I’m not the right man. Send someone else.” He’s right. He’s not good enough. He’s not the right man. God could send somebody else. And so, the Lord sends Moses. Oh, how often God works through weakness to bring about His promises. Little infant Jesus is the King of Creation. Lowly fisherman Peter boldly preaches on Pentecost. Paul, who may not have been so eloquent himself, becomes the apostle to the Gentiles. The early church, made up of so many poor, spread the Gospel all over Europe – showing mercy in times of famine, showing love in time of plague. God didn’t send someone else. He used those faithful people – weaknesses and all – to show forth His mercy and grace. He now sends Moses – reluctant as he is – to do the same.
As we point a finger at Moses, there are three fingers point back at us. The same objections Moses listed have been used over and over again. Have you ever been afraid to share the Gospel – the greatest news in the history of the world – because “they will not believe you or listen to your voice?” Be honest! You’re not looking at what God can do. The Gospel is – Scripture says – the power of God for salvation. You have the power of God for salvation and you already know that when Jesus speaks – when the Word of God is proclaimed – stuff happens. Now, of course, the Word can be resisted by stubborn, prideful, rebellious humanity. But does that matter? Dare we stifle any sharing of the Word that may bear fruit because we’re afraid it *might* be rejected? We have God’s promises on our side – that His Word endures forever, and even when it is resisted, God says, “Well done, faithful servant!”
Have you ever been afraid to share the Gospel – the greatest news in the history of the world – because you’re not eloquent enough, smart enough, quick witted enough – that you’re not good enough? Be honest! And you’d be right. You’re not good enough. You’re not the right person. Neither am I. God could send somebody else. Yet, every single day God places you and me in certain positions. God may place a certain person in your path, desiring that you hit one out of the park – so to speak. Yet, because we focus on ourselves and our own lack of abilities, we may bypass the opportunity entirely. The Lord used people throughout Scripture – weaknesses and all. Likewise, the Lord is plenty capable of using you and me. Jesus says, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” And the Lord does use us – reluctant as we are – to share a simple, yet life-giving message, “Jesus died for your sins that you may have eternal life.”
FOR THE LORD ALWAYS FULFILLS HIS PROMISES – ALWAYS!
It’s a really simple reality. If God promises to do something, He’s going to do it. Otherwise, He’s not God. However, I don’t want to dwell on the philosophical aspect of that, but I want to focus on how God brings you comfort and peace knowing that He fulfills His promises.
We see this in God’s gracious mercy shown to Moses. The Lord would’ve been just to punish Moses in His anger when Moses refused to believe Him. Instead, the Lord showed much patience.
When Moses denied Israel would believe his message even though God directly said they would, God provided signs to accompany Moses’ message. As much as these signs were for the people, they were more so for Moses. God graciously showed that His Word does what it says. So God tells Moses to throw the staff on the ground, which became a snake. Then when God commanded him to pick it up again, the snake became a staff. When God told Moses to put his hand into his cloak, it became leprous. When God told Moses to put his hand back in his cloak, the hand was restored. There wasn’t anything magical about the staff or the cloak. But there is power in the Word that comes from the mouth of God. Moses learned through these miracles, that it will not be Moses or Aaron who speak to the people of Israel – or even to Pharaoh – but God Himself will speak through Moses and Aaron.
When Moses had denied his own ability to do that which God sent him to do, God’s reply is even simpler. “Aren’t I the one who gives the ability to speak, why are you even worried about that?” If God can make a donkey talk – as He did in the Old Testament. If God came make a mute person speak again – as Jesus did in the New Testament. Then God can certainly make sure Moses gets His Word to whoever needs to hear it. After Moses’ continued objections, God says, “I’m still sending you. You’re not getting out of it. However, Aaron will be your mouthpiece, just as you are my mouthpiece. What I tell you, Aaron will speak to the people and Pharaoh.” What the Lord says, goes. And when He sends somebody to speak, it will be done.
This is an important lesson for us. We don’t have the signs and wonders that Moses had, but we have something even bigger – the proclamation that Jesus has risen from the dead. How powerful is that message in a time like this when the fear of death itself has almost completely shut down society, when our churches are so afraid of death – that we have voluntarily stopped meeting together in the presence of Him who defeated death!?! There’s no more powerful sign, no more powerful message right now than Christ crucified and raised.
But wouldn’t it be easier with a sign? Not necessarily. Later on, Moses will deal with the grumbling people, who are tired of the bread that God rains down from heaven daily. In the New Testament, Jesus fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Their dense reaction: “What [miraculous] sign do you do that we may see and believe in you?” Then after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead – the ultimate miraculous sign – the leaders said, “Let’s kill Him.”
Seeing isn’t always believing. Scripture doesn’t teach that faith comes from seeing miraculous signs. Scripture does teach that “faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ.” Sometimes miraculous signs may confirm what is heard, but miraculous signs never give faith. The Word of God brings faith. So God has called us – weaknesses and all – to share His wonderful, glorious Gospel with those we interact with. Some may reject it. Some may hate you. But others just might be saved eternally through the Word you share. How awesome is that!?!
The other important lesson for us is that God doesn’t care about how eloquent you and I are. Our eloquence doesn’t create faith. Our being good enough to share the Gospel doesn’t create faith. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word – the Gospel – when it is heard, when it is written, when it is communicated. Jesus says, “What you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” For when the Gospel is shared, the Holy Spirit is at work.
The Gospel is God’s power for salvation. This brings peace and comfort to all of you, because the Gospel has come into your ears. The Holy Spirit is working through the Word of Gospel, creating, sustaining, nourishing, and en-livening faith in your hearts that clings to the promises of God.
God’s Word is a story of God always fulfilling His promises. He has fulfilled His promises to you – forgiveness, life, and salvation. He works through you – weaknesses and all – to share those same promises with other sinners. Amen.