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ALL IN - Moses

ALL IN  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:40
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Even though Moses tried several times to opt out from following God’s direction, we can learn from Moses’ story what matters most about the direction of our faith today.

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Here we are in this second week of the new year. We started off last week by considering what these steps forward into a new year look like for our faith. And we started that journey by looking at the example of Abram. And we noted that, even though the path of Abram’s faith had many ups and downs, God always remains consistently faithful to the covenant promises he has made. We also noted last week that the Bible leaves out some of the details when Abram receives the call of God. In the first three verses of Genesis 12 God tells Abram to go, and in verse 4 it says, “So Abram went.” We don’t know anything at all about Abram's thought process happening behind the scenes affecting his decision to obey and follow God.
Not the case today. Today we will look at the example of Moses. The Bible gives us plenty of detail on what Moses was thinking when God came to him at the burning bush beginning in Exodus 3. What we see is that Moses tried to get out of it; he tried coming up with every excuse he could think of to back out of God’s call. I want us to pick up that story near the end in Exodus 4. At this point in the passage, Moses has already given God three excuses to worm his way out of this assignment, but God is not having it. We pick it up in verse 10 where Moses gives a fourth excuse. And then I want to jump way ahead in Exodus to chapter 33 where we see this calling story play out in almost the complete reverse from the beginning of Exodus.
Exodus 4:10–13 NIV
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” 13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
Exodus 33:14–17 NIV
14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Moses has been prepared by God for his entire life for the calling which he receives
Moses has been prepared by God for his entire life for the calling which he receives. God saves Moses from being killed as an infant. God places Moses inside the household of Pharaoh for the first forty years of Moses’ life. The next forty years of Moses life are spent wandering through the Sinai wilderness tending sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro. Moses knows the protocol for Egyptian royalty. Moses knows how to lead a wondering flock through the Sinai wilderness. God has prepared Moses for the past eighty years for exactly this moment. And Moses will have none of it; he wants out.
I suppose part of the issue here is that Moses did not choose any of this as his path. Moses did not choose to work his way into Pharaoh’s household; he was taken there as an infant. Moses did not choose to leave Egypt and go tend sheep in Sinai; he was forced to flee Egypt. Moses did not ask for any of this, he was not searching for any of this, and it seems pretty obvious that he is completely unaware of the way these events were orchestrated by God in preparation for this calling. It should not be surprising, then, that Moses wants out of this assignment.
Moses simply says to God, “please send somebody else” — he just plain does not want to go
His first four excuses are rather shallow. His first excuse is that he is a nobody with no prominence. His second excuse is that he does not know who God is. His third excuse is that nobody in Egypt will believe him or listen to him. And his fourth excuse is that he lacks the communication skills to carry this out. Each time, God answer’s Moses’ excuses with a solution. Finally here in verse 13 we get to the real reason. Moses simply says to God, “please send somebody else.” Moses just plain does not want to go.
Moses is unable to envision what this journey of faith will mean for him
God shows Moses that his excuses are invalid; and the truth comes out. Moses just does not want to do this thing that God is calling him to do. But God does not back down; God does not Give Moses a choice here. You and I know how the story of Moses ends up going. We know that Moses takes a place of esteem in Israel’s history as one of the greatest leaders Israel had ever known. In the gospels when the disciples witness the transfiguration of Jesus in all his heavenly glory, it is Elijah and Moses who are standing with Jesus in that moment. Moses was the one who revealed God’s law to the people of the Old Testament. But at this point in the story, Moses cannot see that picture yet. He is unable to envision what this journey of faith will mean for him. But I think he figures it out by the time we get to the end.
Ex 33 — it is God who expresses that he no longer wants anything to do with the Israelite people
It seems ironic to me that the story I jumped us into in Exodus 33 is almost the complete reversal of Exodus 4. In Exodus 4 Moses wants nothing to do with these Israelite people and Moses wants nothing to do with God. Moses pleads with God for somebody else to go instead of him. Exodus 33 flips this around. This time it is God who expresses that he no longer wants anything to do with the Israelite people. And now the thing that Moses pleads to God is the complete opposite. In chapter 4 Moses pleads for God to let him go and find somebody else. And in chapter 33 Moses pleads for God to stay because there simply cannot by anybody else besides God.
Moses goes from ‘leave me out of this’ to ‘don’t you dare leave this’
the reluctance and refusal of Moses to commit to God’s calling in chapter 4 gives way to an unwavering commitment to God’s calling in chapter 33
The faith journey of Moses goes from attempting to duck out because he cannot imagine following God along this path to insisting that God remains because Moses cannot imagine any path forward without God. Moses goes from ‘leave me out of this’ to ‘don’t you dare leave this.’ Something happens to the faith of Moses between Exodus 4 and Exodus 33 which completely turns him around. The reluctance and refusal of Moses to commit to God’s calling in chapter 4 gives way to an unwavering commitment to God’s calling in chapter 33. We know a lot of events happen between these two passages. The plagues take place in Egypt; the Red Sea parts for the people to escape; water and manna are provided in the desert; the law of God is revealed at Mount Sinai. But something much more significant shows up as a difference between these two passages which is instructive for us today. We’ll get to that in a moment. First let’s consider what that moment of faith looks like today.
what about directions of faith in which our reaction might be more reluctance than acceptance?
So, when it comes right down to it, Moses tried saying no to God because Moses simply did not want to be a part of what God was calling him to do. I imagine none of us would struggle when following God in faith takes us in the directions we want to go doing the things we want to do. There are moments like that and seasons of life like that. But what about directions of faith in which our reaction might be more reluctance than acceptance? Like Moses, our answer tends to be exactly the same—please Lord, send somebody else. We cannot fight or deny that changes come at us in life that cannot be stopped. Some of us have been navigating loss of a spouse or separation from a spouse. Some of us have been navigating a career change. Some of us have been navigating retirement. Some of us are navigating from elementary school into middle school, or middle school into high school, or high school into college or job. Some of us have been navigating a new baby in the family—for some of these families it is their first baby as first-time parents. Some of us are navigating an empty-nest as children have finally grown and moved on into their own adult lives. Some of us are navigating care for loved ones experiencing declining health setbacks. Life keeps moving in directions that present us with new paths—some of which we do not always choose on our own.
Moses did not want this path that was placed in front of him; he had to learn how to navigate through these steps with faith — can we admit that we face that too?
Other times, these are changes which may not be individual, but shared together as a community. We are all continuing to navigate a pandemic which has absolutely changed our world. I have given mention before of the way the city of Grandville has changed and continues to change, which carries implications for what it means for us to be a church in this community. Moses faced moments when his life faced big and significant changes; we all face moments like that in our own lives too. Moses did not want this path that was placed in front of him; he had to learn how to navigate through these steps with faith. Can we admit that we face that too? But we also see in Exodus 33 that—over time—Moses came to not only embrace the path God had placed before him, but could not imagine his life going any other way apart from God. Can we learn how to walk in faith like that too? I think we can because the seed of faith that God planted in Moses is also a seed of faith which God plants in all who are called to follow him.
Last week we saw in the story of Abram how our faith can have ups and downs—moments of both highs and lows. Today in the story of Moses we see that those moments do not have to be entirely circumstantial. Moses learned over time how to embrace a life of walking in faith. We can learn that too. Let me point out today just one feature we see in Moses which demonstrates for us a step forward in faith.
Exodus 4 — Moses focuses on himself
Exodus 33 — Moses focuses on God
There is a key difference in the conversation between God and Moses in Exodus 4 and in Exodus 33. It has to do with the focus of Moses’ attention. When God first calls Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3-4, Moses completely focuses his response on himself. But God, who am I? But God, I don’t know you. But God, what if they don’t believe me? But God, I am not an eloquent speaker. I, I, I…me, me, me. The only thing Moses can think about is himself. Any amount of faith which Moses possesses at the beginning of Exodus is short-circuited and ineffectual because Moses has a faith which is pointed only back on him. Moses can only seem to think about the path before him in ways which only depend on him. When the call of God comes, when the moment of stepping forward in faith is there, the only thing Moses can do is think about himself. Do you see the way in Exodus 33 that this feature is completely reversed? Moses learned throughout his journey that faith does not focus and center on himself; rather, his faith focused and centered entirely upon God. This is the key takeaway we see in the story of Moses. A life of faith which is ‘all in’ is a life of faith which focuses and centers entirely upon God, not me.
Let me fast forward to a story in the gospels. The apostle Peter experienced the same ups and downs of faith that we are seeing throughout scripture. At his lowest point, Peter stood in a courtyard during the night after Jesus had been arrested and was being accused. As those nearby Peter begin to recognize him, Peter responds with a fierce denial that he even knows who Jesus is. Peter does this three times. It is a moment which signifies the ultimate renunciation of any faith Peter had ever expressed in Jesus. And it is a moment in which Peter is entirely focused on just himself.
John 21 — Jesus pulls Peter aside and reinstates the direction of Peter’s faith
Later, after Jesus is crucified and rises from the dead, he meets his disciples up in Galilee by the lake. Just as Peter had before denied Jesus three times, now Jesus pulls Peter aside and reinstates the direction of Peter’s faith three times.
John 21:15–22 NIV
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
God calls us to a faith which focuses less-and-less on ourselves, and more-and-more on following God
It was true for Moses. It was true for Peter. It most certainly is true for each of us too. God calls us to a faith which focuses less-and-less on ourselves, and more-and-more on following God. In your prayers and devotions this week, focus on the direction of Moses in Exodus 33. As you think about the path of faith that is in front of you—whatever that looks like—bring it before God in prayer the same way Moses does in Exodus 33:15. As you think about your path this week, pray just like Moses:
Exodus 33:15 NIV
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
may our steps of faith be taken with assurance that we are intent on following Jesus where he is leading; that we embrace a faith which centers itself on God’s direction; that we take comfort in knowing that our lives are not our own, but we belong in body and soul to our faithful savior Jesus.
May our steps of faith be taken with assurance that we are intent on following Jesus where he is leading; that we embrace a faith which centers itself on God’s direction; that we take comfort in knowing that our lives are not our own, but we belong in body and soul to our faithful savior Jesus.
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