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Here's your sign

MOVING FORWARD   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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You know a story is told about the father of a vacationing family who came across a large sign that read, “Road Closed. Do Not Enter.” The man proceeded around the sign because he was confident it would save them time. His wife was resistant to the adventure, but there was no turning back for this persistent road warrior. After a few miles of successful navigation, he began to boast about his gift of discernment. A little while down the road however his proud smile was quickly replaced with humble sweat when the road led to a washed-out bridge. He turned the car around and retraced his tracks to the main road. When they arrived at the original warning sign, he was greeted by the large letters on the back of the sign that read… “Welcome back, stupid!”
You see Guys this morning, so many of us can relate with traveling down the wrong roads in life… and ignoring the signs, or direction that God is giving us.
You see, last week, if you were here… you’ll recall the story of Joseph… and you’ll recall the difficulties which he faced in life, which we’re ultimately detours… You see much the turns in life which Joseph faced weren’t perhaps what he had in mind… but ones which God, in his providence allowed to take place because it would lead to the saving of many lives.
This morning, we’re going to continue in a similar fashion. But our focus is less on detours or unexpected interruptions… and more on how to move forward as we follow the signs God gives us in life.
You see, I didn’t ask this last week… but we know we’ve entered a new year… so just by a show of hands does anyone have any new Years resolutions? Or goals this year?
You see whether you have goals or not… what we can all relate on is this, we all want good things for our lives. Right? We all want good things for our family, and for our kids and for our future. And do you want to know a little secret this morning, guys, God wants the same thing for us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
And so, with in mind… as we venture into the new year with intentionality… The question becomes, how do we live in such a way as to make sure God’s will, and the good things he has in store for us take place? In other words, how can we make sure that our own actions aren’t shooting our own self in the foot.
And the key is this… we must follow God! God’s all knowing, he created this world. So, the key become following God’s voice in our life… but then the key becomes well how does God speak to me? In life, when we make decisions… how is he communicating to me?
Over the next few weeks, that’s going to be our theme…. You see, each of us would love to hear God better, and understand him more. And my prayer is that each of us in our own lives would be hearing him better each and every day.
And so, with this in mind, over the few weeks we’re going to move from Genesis onto Exodus… are sermon series is going to be on Forward Motion.
You see, as we enter into a new year, we can’t go back to where we came from… we can’t retrace our steps and get back to 2021… and so the only way forward is what? Moving forward.
And so, with this in mind… Turn with me to the book of Exodus chapter 3. And our theme for this first message of the series is this: here’s your sign. – before the journey begins as we study today, there are 3 points we’ll dive into. 1. The form of signs (in other words, how does God communicate to us.) 2. The timing of signs (or know when to act) 3. (The challenge so often) is the willingness to follow.
The form of signs (and how God communicates to us.)
As you’re turning to Exodus 3, I want to unpack the scene that we discover this morning. If you’ll remember from when we last left off last week with Joseph. Who through a series of detours, God would move to Egypt and ultimately cause him to become 2nd in command. And he would go on to find favor with the Pharoah.
But between the close of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, we have 300 years that’s passed by. In the course of time, a new king comes to power. One to which the Israelites means nothing. In fact, he feels threatened by their great size and wants to start killing off all of the new baby boys. In addition, God’s people are living as slaves and the bible tells us the Egyptians treated them horribly. Exodus 1:14 states: “They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.”
And so, what we find is this… Although God made a promise and a covenant to Abraham all those years before… Now, his chosen people are living in a land not their own.There lives are difficult, and they’re facing pain, and more so, all the Hebrew boys are being killed off…
And yet friends… God is done with this story. You see, we’re told in Exodus 2:23-25: “23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
Guys, God heard their cry, and his heart was moved. It’s at this point that we’re introduced to Moses…
Moses you’ll recall should have been killed and thrown in the Nile, but instead, his parents put him in a basket and placed him in river. Where he’s discovered by the pharaoh’s daughter. In the course of time Moses would be raised pharaohs daughter, in the household of Egyptian royalty. Later in life Moses would kill one of the Egyptians who was beating one of his own people. And still later, Moses flees and escapes to Midian where he gets married and spends a total of 40 years working as a shepherd.
You see friends, God didn’t forget about the Israelites. God didn’t forget his covenant to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… but rather… God is mindful of his people. God is getting ready to move his people… but here’s the key, before the move started, there was signs or indicators. God didn’t just call out to Moses the day before they crossed the Red Sea and say oh by the way… tomorrow you’re going to lead a multitude of Israelites through the red sea. No God was making preparations, God was speaking to Moses’ months before he would call him to act.
Turn with me to Exodus 3:1-14 as we see that God is getting Moses ready for what’s to come. 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. (or Mt. Sinai) 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,[a] 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 Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[b] will worship God on this mountain.”
So, if we stop for a second, I want us to catch this point… The promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all those years before… The promise of increasing their descendants, and giving them a new land and blessing them… It’s not a new promise… but rather an existing promise to God…
But at the same time, we see Moses enter the scene who is 80 years of age… and there is this intersection in life, in which the promise of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob… meets the journey of Life which Moses is on… and at the merging of these 2 moments God is about to include Moses into accomplishing his will and removing the people from Egypt and ultimately onto the land of Canaan.
But here’s the key… I want us to notice, that God was preparing Moses for the Journey ahead, before the Journey begins. And how does he do this? Well, if we look back over the text, 1. Through the burning bush. 2. Then we see God’s voice calling out to Moses. And later in verse 12 we also see that God says: I will be with you. And finally, we see God promise a sign in the form of a mountain.
And so here… the bush being on fire, the voice of God speaking to Moses, the presence of God with Moses, and the sign of the Mountain…. They’re all means in which God is communicating to Moses. But here’s the key he’s getting the attention of Moses, before the journey begins.
For the sake of time, we won’t cover all the ways in which God speaks to us… but I do want us to see that they can come through a variety of different ways. On the slide behind me, we see common ways that God speaks to us: The bible, prayer, through His Spirit, through other people, in dreams or visions, through a sense of peace, by open and closed doors, throughs angels and even through music.
In fact, if you think about it and recall back to the book of numbers God even used a donkey to communicate. And for today’s message, our focus is less on the specific ways in which he communicates… and more on the idea, that before the journey begins… that he begins to work within us.
But here’s the question, are we looking for the signs?
You see, I think back to a dodge ram pickup truck that I used to own about 10 years ago… Now when I first bought this truck, I was excited (which looking back now, I don’t know why because Afterall it was ram…) but at the time, I was excited because this truck was going to be used to help me get a landscaping business going. In fact, this truck had a snowplow on the front of it and a sander on the back, and I used it for several years… that was until the little yellow check engine light came on…
You see guys, being a dodge ram, it wasn’t long before that little warning sign on the dash soon turned in to mechanical problems.
In fact, I remember driving down the road one day in my truck. And to my surprise, I was putting my foot on the gas pedal… and although the rpms where increasing, the speed of the truck wasn’t… in fact, within a mile of this happening, smoke started coming out the back, a strong smell started to take place… and long story short, by pretty dodge ram needed a new transmission.
Here’s the point, before the truck started having issues… a warning light came on… a sign lit up, to catch my attention.
Guys in the same way this morning. God is still communicating to us. He’s still speaking to us… but are we looking to the signs? You see so often, in our lives… God is trying to communicate to us… and yet here’s the key… we have to take the time to listen to what he’s telling us.
You see, God is speaking. Every day, God is speaking to us. He’s giving us direction; he’s putting things in our heart. He’s giving us a sense of peace or pit in our stomach… but are we looking for the indicators in life, or are we too busy racing down life’s road that we miss what he’s wanting to communicate to us.
Friends, as we enter into a new year… God wants to speak into your own life, but we have to take the time to listen to him. James 4:8 clearly tells us: 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Friends, God desires for us to draw close to him this morning… The question is where are you positioned this morning? Where is your heart? Are you seeking God? Jeremiah 29:12-13 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Would we be seeking God this morning? And listening to what he has to say? That takes us to point 2.
The timing of God’s voice
You know, so often in our life (especially as Americans)… we want things when we want them… you know just from a curiosity standpoint, I looked online to see how many searches are done on google each day… and I was blown away that there are 5.6 billion searches on google alone each day.
Friends, we live in a world of immediate gratification. We live in a fast-paced society, and like you… I have a difficult time with waiting. But here’s a key concept I want us to catch, not only is God concerned with communicating his will. God also has perfect timing for everything.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so, you will plunder the Egyptians.”
Just for a second, I think sometimes, when we’re reading scripture… we can overlook some of the smaller details. But when we consider these verses, I want us to consider how timing had a role in all of this.
1. if we look at verse 18, we see that God’s timing is right because he is going to prepare the hearts of the elders to listen to Egypt
2. we see that God knows that the king of Egypt will not allow the Hebrews to go and worship the Lord… God knows that this particular king would have a stubborn heart… but yet, years before, when Joseph was alive what would that king have said? You see, the previous rulers in Egypt liked Joseph and their was a better relationship… but in the course of time, the circumstances changed.
3. We also see that During this time, God would make the Egyptians favorably disposed towards his people. So that the Hebrews could plunder the Egyptians before the exile took place.
So, here’s the point… the timing is right. God was setting the scene so that His will could be accomplished in these moments, at just the right time in history.
You see, I think of cookies for a brief moment… warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies that are fresh out of the oven… Guys, there’s a certain amount of time that cookies have to stay in the oven before they’re ready… If we take them out too early what happens? They’re not ready… at the same time, if we wait too long, we know that they’re burned.
You see guys to everything there is a time Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 explains To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…” and for the next several verses, the scripture continues and explains the element of time and how it plays out in our lives.
You see friends, there is the perfect time for everything in life… even Romans 5:6 explains: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. You see as we celebrated a few weeks back at Christmas… Christ himself came at the perfect time in history…
Here’s the point, you can be doing the right thing… but at the wrong time…
You see I think back to being in Myrtle Beach, and during a pray and fasting service, The Lord spoke to me and told me it was time to move to New Hampshire. Now 4 passed and I ended up feeling lead to apply to Journey Church in Conway NH. What’s interesting though is actually, when I applied to this youth pastor job, I didn’t get hired there the first time around because I wasn’t done with seminary. You see the mission was right… but the timing was wrong…Fast-forward one year, after completing my seminary training and things not working out with their first hire… I reapplied for the position and guess what the timing was perfect.
Here’s the point this morning guys, God knows best… our Job is simply to submit to his will and to his timing…
The question is, and that takes us to our final point is do we have a - Willingness to Follow?
We won’t spend a lot of time on this last point but guys, I do want to point out one important truth to us as we close out. You see, what’s interesting, is when God calls Moses does Moses listen right away? NoMoses seems to find every excuse not to listen. First were told:
Exodus 4 4 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. 3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake, and he ran from it.” And from there we see God gives Moses 3 signs which he can use to show the people that God is behind all of this…
Then we see a few verses later 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.”
Now we know God would allow Aaron (Moses’ brother) to go and be Moses’ mouthpiece…. But here’s the point… when God first calls Moses, he struggles to accept the Journey ahead, he struggles to say yes. He doesn’t say yes right away… instead he seems to find every excuse.
Friends, can I challenge us with something this morning? You see, God can give us the mission ahead… And speak to us, it can even be the right time… but listen… there must be willingness on our part to do what he’s asking us to do. There must be a part of us that says: “God, I don’t understand all the details, I don’t know how this will work out…” but God I surrender to you.
At this point I’m going to call Lisa forward and here’s where I would like us to camp for the next few moments.
1. As we enter a new year… my first question is are you spending enough time with God? Are you drawing close to God each day? God wants to speak to you… he wants to prepare your heart. But you have a responsibility to listen to what he’s saying.
2. Are we sensitive to God’s timing? And are we saying God, you know best, ill trust your perfect timing?
3. Are we willing to obedient to God in whatever he asks us to do?
Prayer
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