Faithlife Sermons

Identity: Moses is Challenged

Identity  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  30:16
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After his conversation with God, Moses sets of with a new found sense of calling and direction. But what happens when opposition comes his way?

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Intro:
We are continuing our series on Identity: Who am I really? We’ve been looking at the early part of Moses’ journey to becoming the most prominent prophet of the Old Testament. What was the journey God took him on to prepare him? And what can we learn from Moses along the way.
We started by talking about how Moses went from everything to having nothing. He was lost, and God met him in the space to show him the plan God had for him.
In the first encounter, we learn that Moses’ and our journey to discovering who God has called us to be actually starts with learning who God is. As we learn more about God, we begin to take on the things God cares about and valuing what he values. As we take on these things, our identity gets founded on the only truly unchanging thing in this: God himself.
Last week we saw that Moses still had some insecurities and God had an answer for every insecurity. By the end, it was revealed that Moses had a false humility; not only did he think he couldn’t be used, but he just flat our refused to do what God had called him to do. It is when we humble ourselves before God, and become willing to be used by him that we discover a huge part of our identity. I am called for something more, I am an instrument in the hands of God Almighty, and whoever God says I am, and I will be whatever God needs me to be. Not only is our identity founded in who God is, but also what He says about me. That is good news because despite what others might say or even our own subconscious belief, God never gets it wrong.
So we pick up the story where we left off last week. Aaron, Moses’ brother, meets him and they head off to meet with the leaders of the Israel. Along the way, God meets with Moses and says this to him.
Exodus 4:21–23 CSB
The Lord instructed Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, make sure you do before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put within your power. But I will harden his heart so that he won’t let the people go. And you will say to Pharaoh: This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son. I told you: Let my son go so that he may worship me, but you refused to let him go. Look, I am about to kill your firstborn son!”
I want you to store this in your mind because it is going to be important very shortly.
They use the signs that God has given them and the people believe that not only Moses and Aaron had been sent by God, but that God saw them and was going to save them.

Question 1: Describe a time when your purpose and direction were undeniably clear. What was it like?

Discuss amongst yourselves. I know this is a big question and requires way more time then I’m going to give you. But has there been a time in your life when everything just seemed clear? You knew what your purpose was without a doubt. You maybe even heard from God more clearly and undeniably then ever before. What was it like? Could you even describe it.
The reason I ask this question is because this is how Moses is feeling in this moment. He has heard from God, he has pushed back at God and God never gave up on him. Now the people have heard from him and believe what he is saying. Everything is starting to turn up Moses’ way, for the first time in a while I might add.
And then something happens...
Exodus 5:1–5 CSB
Later, Moses and Aaron went in and said to Pharaoh, “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.” But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him by letting Israel go? I don’t know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.” They answered, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go on a three-day trip into the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, or else he may strike us with plague or sword.” The king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you causing the people to neglect their work? Get to your labor!” Pharaoh also said, “Look, the people of the land are so numerous, and you would stop them from their labor.”
I don’t think this is how Moses had imagined this first encounter with Pharaoh going down. Remember he just had a fairly positive response from the leaders of the people of Israel, a people that Moses assumed would be difficult to convince to follow him. He didn’t seem to think Pharaoh was going to be a problem.
The reason I say Moses was caught off guard is he didn’t say to Pharaoh the thing he was supposed to say to him. What did God tell Moses to tell Pharaoh back in chapter 4? Release Israel, my first born, or I will kill your firstborn.
Instead, Moses and Aaron say they’re going on a three day journey to make sacrifices and if they don’t, God will punish Israel. It is almost like they lost their nerve.
Now there is a very important thing that we need to understand about Pharaoh in terms of his role within Egypt. We often think of him as just a king, but Pharaoh actually had a much bigger role to play. Pharaoh was representative of the gods, and was in charge of maintaining justice, balance, and even cosmic order. Some scholars even held that Pharaoh was the incarnation of a god and a son of the sun god Ra, the strongest of Egypt’s gods. So the idea of opposing Pharaoh would have been very intimidating. Aaron was raised as a Hebrew slave, and Moses was trained in the significance and influence that Pharaoh held.
But this was just the beginning of what was to come. Pharaoh would go on to make the work of the Israelite people even harder. He would take away their straw, but not lighten the quota of bricks that needed to made.
As a result, the people of the Israel turn on Moses and Aaron. They say,
Exodus 5:21 CSB
“May the Lord take note of you and judge,” they said to them, “because you have made us reek to Pharaoh and his officials—putting a sword in their hand to kill us!”
Interesting note. Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh that if they didn’t go out and make sacrifices to God, he would strike them plague or what? Sword. What did the leaders of Israel just say? You have put a sword in the hand of the officials to kill us.

Question 2: Have you ever had something you believe in face strong opposition? What was it like?

Moses just went from a high to a low again. He submits to God, and agrees to be used by him to accomplish this plan God has. He steps into the plan, and the people of Israel, his people that he is going to lead, even affirm the call that God has placed on his life. And then it all goes sideways. It starts with Pharaoh questioning him, and morphs into the very people who just affirmed him, now questioning him.
This is often where so many great plans and dreams get derailed. Everything is going the way we think, and suddenly there is opposition and we start to ask questions. Did I really hear from God? Did I miss something? Maybe I’m really not the person I thought I was. If I am on the right track, why am I getting hammered like this? Why am I being questioned like this?
The thing that probably made it harder is that the hardest opposition is coming from the people that Moses and Aaron love the most. These are their people. It’s not the Egyptians mocking them, its their own people. To make matters worse, they are calling for God to judge the two of them.
Without getting into too many details, I know exactly what this is like, and I’m sure many of you do too. We have something placed on our with a burning passion, and we run to the people who we want to share it with most, only to face unexpected opposition. The person or people we think are going to share our excitement are suddenly the people who hit the breaks on us. It hurts, and it can send us into a spin if we’re not careful.
So what does Moses do in the face of such strong opposition?
Exodus 5:22–6:1 CSB
So Moses went back to the Lord and asked, “Lord, why have you caused trouble for this people? And why did you ever send me? Ever since I went in to Pharaoh to speak in your name he has caused trouble for this people, and you haven’t rescued your people at all.” But the Lord replied to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: because of a strong hand he will let them go, and because of a strong hand he will drive them from his land.”
Moses runs to God. What is the deal God? You made things worse for everyone. Why did I even bother going? I told you I wasn’t the right guy. All the doubts, the confusion, it all comes back and Moses is unloading it to God. He even brings up the speaking thing, pointing out that if the Israelite people had a tough time believing him, Pharaoh is going to have an even tougher time believing him.
What does God do? He doesn’t point out to Moses that he said the wrong thing. He doesn’t even bother rehashing everything that they just finished talking about back in Chapter 3 and 4.
God says, Get ready, because now you are going to see what I can do. You are going to see the strong hand of God.
There are a few things we need to understand about opposition and the trials that we go through.

A. Trials bring us back to God

When things start going our way and our confidence is high, it is way too easy to start believing we’ve got it. God, thanks for the vision, thanks for the tools, I’ve got it from here. Suddenly, a subtle form of pride begins to sneak in. I’ve got the vision from God, I’ve got the gifts from God, what else could I possibly need? You still need God. You need to maintain that connection, that dependence, because God sees things we miss, God is our strength when we are weak. Even when things are going our way, we need to remember the reason they are going our way is because God allows it, and we can’t forget where our confidence comes from.

B. Trials build character

James 1:2–4 CSB
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Romans 5:3–5 CSB
And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Moses may have felt the weight of the trials in this moment, but the trials of this moment were going to prepare him for even greater trials to come.
Trials will either produce growth, or they will halt growth from happening. To use a worn out analogy, its like working out. If you only ever do what you know you can do, you won’t see the results. It is when you add a little extra weight to bar, an extra mile to the run; when things get tough and the muscles begin to hurt, is when the change starts to happen. The same is true in life. If we’re never challenged, and if we never face trials, we’ll never go beyond where we are right now. It through the trials, the temptations, the opposition; when we overcome, we come out stronger on the other side.

Question 3: What challenges are holding you back from the next big thing in your life?

Moses faces stiff opposition and he ran to God to find the answers. Pharaoh didn’t go away, and he didn’t just roll over and let the people go. This was the first of many challenges, many battles with Pharaoh, and eventually the very people Moses was sent to save. But each challenge, Moses ran to God, re-centered, and allowed the challenge to teach him and strengthen him to face the next one.
God wants to do the same for you.
Romans 8:28 CSB
We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
What are your trials trying to teach you about who you are and who God wants you to become? What waits for you on the other side of the opposition? Let’s pray
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