Thursday, September 19, 2019
   
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Part One: Who Am I?—Exodus 3-4

Most of us have something that could be called a deficit, a defect, an insufficiency, a shortcoming, a blemish, an impediment, or an imperfection. It could be a physical attribute that mars our appearance, or something we believe might cause inadequacy or failure in our lives. It's the lack of a usual or needed amount of some quality, attribute, possession, or circumstance.

I had one, and still do to a certain extent. My deficit was an acute and spasmodic red pigmentation level of the facial cortex. I'm other words, I was extremely shy, and that shyness manifested itself with a very red face. This insufficiency (flaw, blemish, imperfection) was no problem as long as I stayed out of any public speaking arena, and public speaking was the last thing I wanted to do anyway.

So (keep in mind my shyness), my dream at 19 was to own a great restaurant: one that would have great atmosphere, great food, and some specialty entree. It would probably be called "Stoney's" (my nickname back then).

 

With that ambition in mind, I began my college career at Wenatchee Valley College with a business major. It was apparent, however, after one year that I wasn't doing well in this major and I was going into the wrong field. After three quarters of accounting, with one C- and two Ds, my guidance counselor met with me to determine if I should go another direction. She asked me to look at my transcript and see if it gave me any indication as to what I should focus on.

The only class in which I had an A was Speech 101. That "A" had been a miracle, but she convinced me that I should expect a string of miracles, focus on speech as my major, and become a speech teacher in the public school some day. So despite the acute and spasmodic red pigmentation levels of the facial cortex, I followed her advice, at least on paper.

I wasn't, however, fully convinced she was right. I had a lot of excuses and reasons it wouldn't be a good direction, so I formulated a number of backup plans. I simply dreaded the thought of having to face students in a classroom setting and teach them to speak publicly! How ironic!

How about you? Have you ever dreaded doing something so much that all you could do was make excuse after excuse? How about God's will for your life? Do you think you have a deficit that might keep you from doing what God asks of you?

Have you ever responded to God with one of the following statements when He asked you to do something?

  • "I can't do that, Lord"
  • "No one will listen to me"
  • "Come on, Lord, I can't speak very well"
  • "Lord, I think You had better send someone better equipped"
  • "Who am I anyway?"

Have you ever used any of these in conversations with the Lord or others? I know I have, but consistently I've been wrong about my self-perception.

I want us to look at the original source of all the previous stock excuses. (This man used every one of these excuses first.) His name was Moses. As we listen to his excuse making, we will also see that God had some pretty straight and convicting answers for him—answers that make sense for us, too.

Moses was born to Jewish parents, and soon his life was in jeopardy. Through God's intervention and protection, the Pharaoh's daughter adopted Moses into his household—in a miraculous twist, the one seeking to kill him, adopted him. So Moses grew up as a grandson of the Pharaoh, with all the rights and privileges of royalty: power, influence, wealth, and the best education available.

As an adult, however, he attempted to protect a Jew from an Egyptian and, tragically, killed the Egyptian. As a consequence, his life was in jeopardy a second time from Pharaoh, who sought to kill him for the murder (Ex. 2:15). Moses escaped with his life by fleeing across the Sinai Peninsula to Midian, where he settled down with a wife and a new vocation—sheepherding. He lived here under these harsh desert-like conditions for over 40 years.

At the end of those 40 years, something happened: one of the most remarkable experiences and exchanges man has ever had with God. In Exodus 3, the Lord appeared to Moses in an extraordinary way.

I'm sure these 40 years were at times humiliating for this former member of Pharaoh's household, yet they were necessary to prepare Moses and his people for deliverance from Egypt. They needed time to be humbled and prepared. Obviously God had His timing for the wait.

 

  • First, Moses may have been ready before the 40 years had passed, but the Pharaoh who wanted to kill him was still alive.

     

  • Second, the generation of people Moses left behind did not recognize his leadership.

     

  • And third, he was a murderer, who early in his life was no example of how to gain deliverance.

Times of waiting and preparation may have a similar purpose for us. Sometimes we need a change in vocation, place, status, or resources, and/or the lessening of our potential to humble us and prepare us for what is ahead. In other words, we may need a desert experience to lead us out of our sin and arrogance and prepare us for the future.

Think about where Moses lived for 40 years—the same place/territory to which he would lead the children of Israel. He was prepared by 40 years of herding sheep, for his next 40 years of shepherding. The "desert of humbling" was also the "desert of preparation," making possible the next step. His deliverance made Israel's deliverance possible! We need to be patient with God's timing; the wait has a purpose. We might be ready, but our potential area of service, work, or opportunity may need time to develop as well!

In Exodus 3 (which takes place 40 years later) Moses is 80 years old, accustomed to the heat and the stark/simple lifestyle. Then this extraordinary experience interrupts his life, when the Lord appears to Moses and teaches him. We know it as:

Moses and the Burning Bush

—Exodus 3:1-5

 

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 desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 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."

The obvious question is: Why did God speak to Moses in such a graphic way? Why a burning bush? What do you think God was communicating to Moses? There are at least two possibilities. First, God might be saying: "If you follow me, there will be times when you will be burned—even burned out—but it need not consume your life and ministry!"

A second possibility was expressed by Ian Thomas. He said, "God was trying to show him any old bush will do, as long as God is in it." Remember, Moses' pre-desert credentials did not qualify him for the task. In fact, God was not impressed with Moses' ability, with his brilliance as a statesman, or as a problem solver. God wanted Moses to know that the secret of power was God working through him. In other words, God was "The Flame."

God has to teach us this principle over and over. We must learn that the source of our power lies not in our dedication, nor our activity, training, experience, or ability. God is not wowed by our credentials/qualifications/gifts; He made us! The source of our power and enablement is Jesus Christ working through us—our personhood, gifts, personality, etc. It is His power and presence that gets the job done and keeps us from being consumed! He wants us to be burning bushes.

Then the Lord reveals something of His own character.

God Reveals His Plan and Concern

—Exodus 3:7-10

 

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."

Think how significant this moment is. It has been 430 years since the Lord has spoken to any Israelite, but now God reminds Moses in verse 7, "I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt." It was Moses who saw the suffering (Exodus 2) and tried to do something about it in his natural strength, by fighting and killing. But now we read what the Lord has witnessed:

 

  • "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt"—v. 7a.
  • "I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers..."—v. 7b.
  • "I am concerned about their suffering"—v. 7c.

This is no impersonal God. The Scripture says He is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, seeing our misery, our crying, and our suffering. God's way of handling these conditions, however, is much different from Moses'. These few verses show us what only the true God can/will do: "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"—v. 8. Likewise, God desires to rescue us out of our addictions and slavery to sin, and to give us the kingdom flowing with His provision.

He also knows who has been hurting us and causing others to suffer, and He will repay. "And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them"—v. 9.

How will God help the Israelites and begin the process of repaying? He decides to send Moses. A paraphrase might be: "Moses, these are my people. I am not unaware of what is going on; I am not unaware of the suffering and the oppression. I will rescue them and bring them to their own land, but I will do it at the proper time, by My methods, with My strength and through you."

So God had a plan, and His plan involved Moses. Moses had a plan, and it was killing the Egyptians one at a time! Moses had resolve and human strength, but no wisdom concerning God's methods and plan.

 


How about each of us? How have our plans been doing lately? We have all made some tragic blunders by moving ahead of the Lord, but after we learn our lessons, God is able to pick us up where we left off and put us back in the original place He had planned for us—or to use the failure for a whole new beginning!

If you are on the back side of the desert, learn your lessons quickly, and simply wait on the Lord in restful availability.

 

He will rescue you!

 


Moses' Problems with God's Plan

—Exodus 3:10-14

In Exodus 3, Moses is approached by God but is not very open to a rescue. You would think he would be able to say, "I now believe Your ways are best. After seeing this burning bush, I now believe... Your power is sufficient!" But Moses has a number of problems with God's plans, even after his 40 years in the desert.

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'"? Observe: we can see a miracle and still have a problem with God's plan for our lives!

Moses' first problem is one of identity—v. 11. He asks, "Who am I?" Now we can easily see the toll the desert has had on Moses. He doesn't know who he is. Forty years earlier Moses knew who he was; he probably would have said: "I am a statesman, a military specialist. Just name the assignment and I'll do it. Step aside, I'm ready." But after 40 years of herding sheep, Moses has no confidence in himself. That's good!

This problem isn't difficult for God, however. v. 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 will worship God on this mountain.'"

Did you catch the main solution to an identity problem? His identity problem is solved when he understands God's presence and God's promises (Deut. 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5-9; Is. 41:8-10; Jer. 15:20; Matt. 28:20). You see, this is so simple some of us are still tripping over it.

God's presence—not our uniqueness or our resources—qualifies us. Certainly Moses wasn't a nobody; God doesn't say that. Moses was known by his name, special and unique in God's eyes. Likewise, our lack of knowledge as to our identity is no problem to God. We are very valuable to Him. But it's not who we are, but who God is that makes the difference. Infusing His presence, there is nothing we can't do for Him.

Moses' second problem is lack of information. v. 13—Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" Moses' response to the first answer is essentially: "That's great, but who are you...?"

Notice how Moses finds that the solution to his lack of information is revelation. v. 14—God said to Moses, 'I Am Who I Am. [ Or I will be what I will be ] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I Am has sent me to you." 15] God also said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites, "The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you." God tells Moses His name: "I Am Who I Am."

yahwehDo you see that being uninformed is no problem? God will reveal His character and name to us if we are teachable. This is what God begins to do with Moses. God knows Moses' name; now God reveals His name to Moses. The name Jehovah, or Yahweh, is based on the first-person, singular form of the Hebrew verb "to be"—I AM, or "I am the becoming one." The Hebrew Bible didn't record the vowels, only the consonants YHVH, because people were not to say God's name in their minds. So a Jew would not seek to pronounce the name, he would reverently bow his head and say, "the name."

 

So God is "I Am." I Am what? This is better understood by answering another question: "What do you need?"
Are you afraid? God says, "I am your courage."
Are you weak? God says, "I am your strength."
Are you perplexed? God says, "I am your wisdom."
Are you lonely? God says, "I am your friend."
Are you feeling guilty? God says, "I am your source of continued forgiveness."
Do you have problems with where you are going? God says: "I will guide you."
Do you need help in your business? God says: "I am the ultimate business consultant. Or if you want, I'll take over the business."
Are you having relationship problems? God says, "I am the ultimate counselor."

By the way, Yahweh is also prophetically Christ's name. Jesus, in the Greek is "Ya' shoo a," which is the contraction of Yahweh-shoo-a, meaning "Yahweh, or Jesus, is our salvation."

This name shows us not only what He will do for our personal needs, but what we can do when we understand who God is. (The Scripture says, "those who know their God will do great exploits for Him.") We need to know our God. v. 15b—"...This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation." (That includes us, doesn't it?) We will accomplish nothing until we have a proper concept of God.

I was once asked to give an evaluation and encouragement to a brother I really love. My response was very simple: "Get to know your God, and then you'll do great exploits." That's exactly what follows with Moses; God tells him what he will accomplish because he now knows God's name. In essence, God says, "Understand, I am with you, Moses. Because you know Me by My name, you will see the hand of God in your life."

Do we understand the implications of what God is saying to Moses? Moses does; he knows God is saying to him: (paraphrase) "I am aware of all eventualities, and I have already worked out a solution. If you are obedient, the victory is yours"—vv. 18-20. God is also saying: "As a matter of fact, Moses, you are not only to be delivered from the Egyptians, you are going to plunder the Egyptians. You will be made wealthy"—vv. 21-22. "I am in charge; victory is certain."

 

Rom. 8:37—"In all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."
Eph. 3:20—"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us—to him be glory.
So what demand, pressure, difficulty are you facing in life, ministry, business, family, school, or relationships? God wants you to know that He is adequate, and He has already secured the victory! Lack of information or understanding is no problem, because God does reveal Himself, and once you know who God is, you'll do great exploits.

Moses' third problem is insufficient faith/unbelief; i.e., He does not believe God—Ex. 3:18;4:1. 4:1.Moses answers, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you?'"

What has God already specifically said to Moses? "The elders will listen to you..."—3:18. Moses turns around and says: "What if they do not believe me or listen to me"?—4:1.

So Moses is calling God a liar, or saying, "I can't believe you, God." Have you ever said that to God? I have, many times. "God, I know what your Word says, but I just can't believe it will work for me." When I do that, I call God a liar.

Initial unbelief is not a problem to the Lord, but we need to stay open. We must take our unbelief to the Lord and ask for help! In Mark 9:24, "The man came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief." (i.e., "I am willing to believe if you help me with my unbelief.") If we want to believe, God will encourage our faith.On the other hand, if we don't want to believe, God won't encourage our faith (e.g., the scribes and Pharisees).

Look back to Exodus 3. It seems like God knows Moses wants to believe, so He encourages him by giving three signs which will eventually encourage Israel, but first are displayed privately to Moses. Notice what God does here, building faith by giving Moses something to believe that he can believe. He takes a very common item to show His ability to bring victory.

First, a staff becomes a snake. 4:2—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. 4] Then the LORD said to him, "Reach out your hand and take it by the tail." So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.

God takes something common and tells him to throw it down; that's fairly easy. But notice what happens—it becomes a snake. Now Moses has to reach out in faith, again! It's a stretching experience, a faith-developing exercise!

 

This sounds very familiar to me! God told me to do something like that in my ministry one time. I did, and it seemed like a disaster; I got hurt! Then God told me to pick up the ministry again a different way. I did, and it worked out in a totally different fashion. God taught me a major lesson through it all.

Notice God asks Moses to pick the snake up by the tail. I grew up in snake country; you don't do that! God wants Moses to pick the snake up a different way than he ordinarily would. God has another way, and takes a very ordinary item to teach Moses how He works.

The tests of our faith in the privacy of our own lives will certainly have implication to many others—v. 5. God is essentially saying, "This happened to you and through you, so they will see it and believe." He may have you do something different from your training/experience, but that will build your faith and show He is your strength and power. He may even ask you to "throw down" a job, some resources, or anything else you rely on. But it's clear that God often uses a common, ordinary thing to perform a miracle.

Because of Moses' experience at the burning bush, he could walk into Pharaoh's presence and throw the staff down without any sense of misgiving. Likewise, God will be faithful to us in our private life to teach faith and build our "faith muscles," through small personal miracles.

Second, a normal hand becomes leprous. vv. 6-7—Then the LORD said, "Put your hand inside your cloak." So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow. 7] "Now put it back into your cloak," he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

What happened? He was healed! In all of Israel, no one had ever been healed of leprosy, but Moses' hand was cured. This incident took faith; it was risky to put his leprous hand back into his cloak. But Moses had just seen what God had done with his staff. His faith and confidence in God were strengthened, and he had the experience of being healed.

As we walk forward to help people, we have behind us the experience of trusting God for our own healing. We will never forget that experience, and it will give us faith for what is ahead as we minister/serve others.

bloodThe next sign was rather simple to carry out.
Third, Moses takes a cup of water from the Nile. vv. 8-9—"Then the LORD said, 'If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. 9] But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground."

 

Principle #1: God uses common things, like a hand and a cup, to teach us about faith.
Principle #2: Tests given in the privacy of our faith will have implications to others.

Notice God uses three items involving Moses' hand: one staff, a hand, a cup of water. These are universally accessible, and He performs miracles with them, causing Moses to grow in his faith. God will do this for you, too. Look for common lessons or examples that can occur all at once, or over time. If you are weak, He will strengthen you!

We still haven't looked at all of Moses' obstacles.

Moses' fourth problem is an impediment in his speech. v. 10—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 Hebrew seems to indicate that Moses had a speech impediment, possibly a stutter. Think of it: the future leader of two million-plus people had a stutter. Most would say, "Moses? No way. He can't be a leader. He's smart, intelligent, has had a good education and has a Jewish and Egyptian heritage, but because of his speech, most will not follow him."

But the Lord's response proves that this is really no problem for Him. vv. 11-12—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? 12] Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." This is remarkable. God is saying here, "I made you this way. I knew you would be this way all along, and I never thought of disqualifying you on that basis." So the solution is: "I will help you speak..."—v. 12a. Another solution is: "...and will teach you what to say"—v. 12b.


"Hey Moses, who is going to be your speech therapist? Who is going to be the Source of your sermons"?

"Oh, just God."

I can promise you this: He's a fantastic, gentle teacher. I understand this more than you might think I do!

 


What are your impediments—things that impedes, hinder, obstruct you? Moses' encounter with God teaches us that God has designed us, including our impediments. 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?"

That's a heavy thought. I don't think that extends to every deficit anyone in the world might have. (Some deficits are purely genetic, or the result of disease or sin.) But at least on some occasions, weaknesses/ impediments are given especially to the person God uses so that he will rely on God and not himself (e.g., Paul in 2 Corinthians). God has made our impediments to be part of our personal uniqueness.

Can we trust Him to teach us, to help us? Have you thought of your inadequacies as an opportunity for personal tutorship from God? Weakness and deficits are no problem to God, so we can never say our inadequacies disqualify us. Read Hebrews 11:32-34.

I wouldn't be here if I wasn't shy when I was a boy. I wouldn't study the way I do if I wasn't shy. I wouldn't prepare messages like I do—with as much detail. I wouldn't have been able to make it through school or in the ministry without deficits/impediments. I believe many of us are what we are because of our weaknesses, not because of our strengths.

Some of you are looking in the wrong place to determine your future. Yes, God uses our strengths, but more often profound ministry and provision come through tutored and empowered/disciplined weakness. Therefore, we should plan on being personally tutored by Him in a time of weakness, or through our limitations. What an education! What a teacher! I don't know of one person ever used of God who didn't have to work through (be tutored through) one or many deficits, flaws and/or weaknesses! Therefore, our weakness can help us experience God's power and His wonderful tutorship.

Another application has to do with pride: If you read between the lines of Moses' statement, you can see disguised pride; self-centeredness is showing up. Many times when we say we can't do something, we may in reality be showing pride and self-centeredness too. Some of us would never risk involvement in a ministry/a calling if it might make us look bad or foolish; we are too proud for that!

We have seen Moses' first four problems: identity, lack of information, insufficient faith, and impediment in his speech. These God had patience and understanding for.

But now Moses says something that really is a problem for God. Suddenly, God is angered.

Moses' fifth problem is, he is indisposed/disinclined (reluctant, unwilling). vv. 13-14—But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." 14] Then the LORD'S anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you." Moses has now hit upon the one thing that frustrates and angers God. (Remember Jacob: God will not force us to do anything—Gen. 32:25-31.) Moses uses the one excuse that disqualifies him: "Lord, I am not available."

 

Isaiah said, "Here am I, send me."
Moses said, "Here am I, send someone else."

God can handle everything except, "I am not available." From that point on, it's second best. Of course, it's also not healthy to make God mad. (By the way, God's anger is pure and not sinful.)

What is Moses' bigger problem? Notice he says, "O Lord," then tells God he won't do what He asks. Jesus said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do the things I command you (Luke 6:46)?" In essence, Moses really is a hypocrite. He says that God is Lord, but he doesn't want to do the things He asks.

When we say we are unavailable, everything grinds to a halt, and God has to choose another instrument. In this case, God chooses Aaron (his brother) to help Moses, showing His mercy and allowing His second best. By the way, God along the way still teaches Moses what to say and how to speak. On several occasions, however, Aaron causes a lot of problems for Moses when he speaks in his absence! Do you remember why Moses had to throw down the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain the first time? It was because of Aaron's weak leadership and poor speaking for Moses.

 

Conclusion/Summary:

Moses learns a secret from this encounter with the Lord: "any old bush will do if God is in it." The basis for our spiritual power is availability... willingness to obey, starting with the small, common things in our lives. The only thing that can disqualify us is not being available; that angers God! But if we have other problems, the God who made us can handle them!

 

Application:

What is God calling you to do? What is before you in school, or in the home, or at the office, or in business, or in the neighborhood, or in this Body of believers?

What if God asks you to pick up one or more of these areas in a different way than ever before?

Who will be delivered, helped, lifted, because you say, "I'm available?"

 


If we look at our lives through eyes of faith, based on what we have learned from Moses, here's how we might pray:

 

  • "Lord, be with me; who am I without You?"
  • "Lord, help me to get to know You, for You are the great I AM."
  • "Lord, help my faith to grow; help my unbelief and use everyday circumstances to teach me."
  • "Teach me what to say; help me to speak up for You, even when I feel inadequate."
  • "I declare You are Lord, and I will obey and be available to You!"