Series on Exodus, I The Calling of God's People, D The Comfort of Moses, Text: 3:16-4:31, Title: The Making of a Leader.

Introduction

After eighty years of providential preparation to be the leader of God's people, Moses has now been commissioned by God at the burning bush. Not all the tasks to which God's servants are called are successful in the eyes of men. We need only look at God's warning to Isaiah in Isaiah chapter 6:9 and 10, He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” We see the same thing in Jeremiah's complaint in Jeremiah 20:7-18. But at this juncture in history it is clear that the triumph of Moses and the people of God is the order of the day. God therefore comforts his servant with the promise of the success of his mission. In this assurance of success we see four things: the prophecy, the power, the provision and the preparation.

I The Prophecy

The prophecy is found in 3:18-22, God tells  Moses to assemble the elders and says, “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 desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’  But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 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. And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 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.” The Lord gives to Moses a carefully worded agenda for all that will happen, and this is augmented in 4:19, Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” This is not unique. remember that Jesus told his disciples on a number of occasions what would occur with respect to his death and resurrection, not that it did much good because they still didn't believe. Also in I Timothy 1:18 it is clear that prophecies had been made about the mission of Timothy in the early church, Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight.  However, if we are to derive any consolation ourselves from this we need to put it into perspective. These isolated instances of God assuring success to certain people do us little good because we don't have such predictions. We do not have specific assurances of success. Maybe we don’t want them because Isaiah is told at the outset that his ministry will be a failure, and so is Jeremiah. They did not stumble at this because they were faithful in ministry. their faithfulness was grounded in the persuasion that God couldn’t lose. Living as we do with the whole of God's revelation in the Bible we are able to see the same thing. We see the ultimate success. We see the end as well as the beginning. We also see that our role in this gospel enterprise is to be faithful whether we are perceived as a success or a failure. Putting this in our present context we see an endless procession of pulpit demagogues making all kinds of promises to sick people that they will be well and to poor people that they will be rich if they just give and give and give. False prophets! Jeremiah says false prophets are adulterous. Zephaniah says they are treacherous. Micah says they are lying and opportunistic. Does that sound familiar?? We see the NT assessment of this in II Cor. 2:14-17, But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God. God’s promises are dependable.

II The Power

The Lord gives signs to Moses in  4:1-9, . These are miracles which will confirm the revelation God is making through Moses. We should understand that miracles are not casually distributed throughout the Bible. They are clustered in five periods: In Moses’ day around the revelation of the Pentateuch, in Elijah's day to certify the witness of the prophets before the exile, in Daniel's day to certify the prophets after the exile, in Jesus’ day in innumerable profusion, and in the early church to accompany the witness of the Apostles. Miracles are always a suspension of God's usual providential government of the world which we call the laws of nature, and they are given to draw people's attention to the revelation being made. It is not Biblical at all to expect miracles in this narrow definition every time we have a problem or a difficulty. When the entire revelation of God was complete at the end of the New Testament, so was the age of miracles. So we must again ask, how can this be useful to us?  Two things are taught here. First that God is a God of awesome power who truly rules over all. Secondly, that God does intervene in the affairs of men, still works supernaturally to answer the prayers of his people, and he does change the apparent course of events to perform his will on behalf of his people. In this sense we may refer to someone being healed as a miracle, or to the provision for a missionary as being a miracle, or to someone being converted as a miracle. These are not miracles in the narrow Biblical and technical definition, but God’s power is always at work. The most important manifestation of that power is not in outward signs, but in you. He is with you as he was with Moses. Max Lucado reminds us that, “One New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. EXXON! With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.” Often, Christians neglect the real power that they have as Paul states it in Ephesians 1:17-21, I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,  which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,  far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

III The Provision

Moses is still not content even after he has been given the assurance of success, and the power to perform miraculous signs. He still doesn't want to speak. Moses said to the LORD, “O 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.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” The reasoning of the Lord is that Moses should trust him to supply since he created the capability of speech and he is willing to help. But Moses doesn't trust the Lord and the Lord is angry. This is the first instance of God being angry with Moses. Parenthetically, do you think God is never angry with those he loves, or with those he calls? In this case the Lord patiently provides someone else to help, Aaron, Moses’ brother. Now what this means is that to be a leader for God in any situation you not only need assurance of success which we have, and a pledge of power which we also have, but you need the patience of God. There is a traditional Hebrew story about, Abraham sitting outside his tent.  He saw a weary old man coming toward him. He greeted him, invited him into his tent and washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink. When the old man began eating without saying any prayer or blessing, Abraham asked "Don't you worship God?" He replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god." Abraham became incensed, grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out of his tent. After the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I threw him out because he did not worship you." God answered, "I have put up with him for eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?" God is patient and we are assured of this in Romans 15 where Paul says, Accept him whose faith is weak…to his own master he stands or falls, and he will stand for the Lord is able to make him  stand. Paul exhorts believers throughout his letters to be patient, and no wonder because he writes that love is patient in I Corinthians 13, and God is love. In other words, God gives even leaders space to grow, and Moses did, because later he is doing the talking, not Aaron. We run the race with patience because God deliberately places obstacles in our way to help us learn. God is not in a hurry.

IV The Preparation

Moses is now on his way back to Egypt, but there is one more problem. His son is uncircumcised, perhaps because Moses was a stranger in a strange land. But Moses is about to lead the children of Abraham out of Egypt. These are the people whose circumcision shows that they belonged to God and believe in Yahweh. To ignore this ordinance was tantamount to saying we are not sinners who need to be cleansed, and we do not need God's mercy. The Lord who had been patient with Moses’ unwillingness to speak now acts with an awful zeal for holiness as we read in 4:24-26, At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met Moses and was about to kill him.  But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.  So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.) Perhaps our generation has little understanding of God's zeal for observing his ordinances. After all we live in a time when marriage is unimportant and living together is OK. Its only a piece of paper we're told. Or being a member of an organized church is not important, just believe in the Lord as your Savior. Or we can become like Quakers and insist that outward ordinances are beneath us. If we have the truth, why do we need these physical signs? We're more spiritual than that, we claim. Friends, if God has ordained it, we need it. To ignore the signs of our faith in the world really demonstrates a casual spirituality which is unbecoming to any believer, let alone a leader. Let me tell you, Moses didn't fear god enough to outwardly conform to God's order, so God taught him. This too is necessary for the success of a leader. Even men realize that little things matter. It was a famous architect that first told his students that “God is in the details” because he wanted them to realize that the most minute factor in their plans was vital. How much more this is true of God’s word and God’s commands. How often God commands Moses and the prophets to convey everything he has spoken to the people and to command the people to obey absolutely everything he has commanded and not turn to the right or the left.

Conclusion

God's leader must be inwardly assured of ultimate success and of God's presence and power through the Scriptures; and he must be outwardly willing to demonstrate his commitment to the Lord alone by submitting to all his ordinances.