Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"Moses, Part 3" Sermon: Hebrews 11:27


“Moses, Part 3”

[Hebrews 11:27]

November 10, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            As we continue to look at Moses and the examples of faith in his life, we remember that faith receives the Word of God, being assured of the things that God has promised – all those things we hope for according to the Word of God, and being convicted that the history and the beings recorded in the Word of God are true and real, despite our not having seen them.

            In this morning’s text, we are given two more examples of faith – these when Moses left Egypt – the first being that Moses was not “afraid of the anger of the king” – the Pharaoh, the second being that Moses endured because he saw God Who is invisible.  Here we see that Moses received the Word of God and believed what God has promised, thus he was not afraid of the anger of the Pharaoh, and Moses believed in God Who is invisible and because he “saw” the invisible God, he could endure all that he would go through.

            From these two examples, we draw two doctrines:

            First, faith in God and His Word enable us not to fear evil.

            Second, faith in God and His Word enable us to endure trial.

“By faith he left Egypt,”

The first question we need to ask ourselves is which leaving of Egypt is Moses writing about?  We have two prominent “leavings” of Egypt by Moses recorded in the book of Exodus.

Perhaps because it is next in the history, the first leaving of Egypt is the one that catches our immediate attention.  Moses is forty years old:

“One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, ‘Why do you strike your companion?’ He answered, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid, and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known.’ When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian. And he sat down by a well” (Exodus 2:11-15, ESV).

As we saw last week, Moses had turned his back on his adoption by the daughter of Pharaoh and recognized himself to be a Hebrew, one of the people of God.  Over forty years of watching the slavery of his people, it was finally too much for him, and when he saw a Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

The next day, He saw two of his fellow Hebrews fighting, and he was embarrassed that they were fighting with each other rather than standing together as God’s people, so he told them to stop.  And one of them men asked Moses if he was there to kill him as he had the Egyptian.

And Moses was terrified:  surely word would get back to Pharaoh of what he did, and Pharaoh would have him tortured and put to death as an example.  So, Moses ran to the land of Midian, where he got a job as a shepherd.

Is this the first example of faith?

No, it can’t be, because Moses leaves Egypt this time because he is afraid of being punished for his sin.  Moses had no right to kill the Egyptian, and doing so was not an example of faith for us.

That only leaves one possibility:  it is Moses’ second leaving of Egypt that the author of Hebrews is referring to.  Here, Moses is eighty years old.  He has come in the authority of God to command Pharaoh to let the people of God go free, and by the Hand of God, Moses has brought plagues upon the people of Egypt to put down the gods that they worshipped:

First, the Nile was turned to blood, putting down Hapi, god of the Nile.  Second frogs infested the land, putting down Hekket, goddess of fertility, water, and renewal. Third, gnats infested the land, putting down Geb, god of the earth.  Fourth, flies infested the land, putting down  Khepri, god of the movement of the sun, creation, and rebirth.  Fifth their livestock die, putting down Hathor, goddesss of love and protection.  Sixth, boils cover the people and animals, putting down Isis, goddess of medicine and peace.  Seventh, hail pounds the land, putting down Nut, god of the night sky.  Eighth, locusts infest the land, putting down Seth, god of storms and disorder.  Ninth, darkness covers the land, putting down Ra, god of the sun.  And tenth, the firstborn of all those not market with blood on their door’s lintel were put to death, putting down Pharaoh, the greatest power in Egypt.  (cf. http://hubpages.com/hub/Ten-Plagues-For-Ten-Gods)

Here, the cause is God’s, and Moses’ response is that of faith.  Moses receives the Word of God and believes God’s promise that the people of God would be set free from slavery, so Moses goes before Pharaoh, not once, not twice, not three time, not four time, not five times, not six times, not seven times, not eight times, not nine times, but ten times, demanding, in the Name of God, the release of God’s people.

The tenth time that Moses came before Pharaoh – before the tenth plague, Moses called on Pharaoh to release the people of God, and Pharaoh said no and threatened Moses, but Moses was not afraid of his threats, but affirmed what Pharaoh had said:

“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.’ Moses said, ‘As you say! I will not see your face again’” (Exodus 10:27-29, ESV).

The next morning, Moses led six million Hebrews out of slavery by the Hand and under the guidance of God.  This time, when Moses left Egypt, Moses was not afraid of Pharaoh.  Instead, he had not sinned, but was following God’s Will – God’s Cause – and everything came to pass as God had assured him back in Midian.

As we have discussed before, if we do something wrong – if we sin against someone else – especially against the government – then we have right to run and hide and be afraid of what will happen to us, as Moses was afraid after sinfully killing the Egyptian and then running and hiding in Midian.

But, if we are doing what is right, if we are acting on behalf of God – and do make absolutely sure you are acting for God’s cause! – then we have no reason to fear.  If we are doing what God wants, then there is nothing and no one to fear, because we are obeying God.

Again, as we’ve said before, following God’s Will does not mean that we won’t suffer – we may suffer for God’s Will, but if we are obeying God, there is no reason to be afraid.

Consider Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, during His praying, we remember the famous lines: 

“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39, ESV).

What was Jesus saying?  As R. C. Sproul points out in the video series we are watching Wednesday evenings, the consideration of being tortured all night and the next day and then being crucified was not appealing – Jesus asked if there was any other way for His Father to achieve the salvation of God’s people.  But, and here we see that Jesus did not fear accomplishing His Work – He did not fear submitting Himself to the evil and sinful treatment of the Jews and the Romans – Jesus said, “not as I will, but as you will.”  And Dr. Sproul points out, Jesus is not saying, “If there’s no other way, I guess I’ll have to go through with this.”  He’s not saying, “I’ll do it if I have to.”  He’s saying, “If there’s no other way, I will do it because I love Your Will and obedience to You is life.”

There as a psalm that we usually read at funerals (though I wish we would read it other times as well), in which we read, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4, ESV).

We remember that David was a shepherd, and he is using imagery that he would have been well familiar – there were areas – valleys – caves and crags – that the shepherd might need to bring the sheep through to bring them from one place to another – and the sheep needed the shepherd to guide them out and protect them from falling and hurting themselves, and from wild animals catching them in these places, which would have been difficult to escape from.  And, if the shepherd was with the sheep, even in these potentially fatal places, they would not fear, because the shepherd would protect and guide them.

Similarly, God – and we know Jesus called Himself, “the Good Shepherd” – when we are obeying God, when we are following His Will, if we are acting based on God’s Word, even when we find ourselves in frightful places, like confronting Pharaoh of Egypt, or telling your neighbor to come to worship to hear the Gospel, we do not need to fear, because our Good Shepherd is with us, and He has His rod to beat back the evil that seeks to assault us, and He has His staff to lead and guide us as we keep straying off the path.

What are you afraid to do that God has said to do?  What do you think is just too much?  What do you think other people will look down on you for?  If you are doing what God has said to do – what God wants – don’t be afraid, and remember that God will be with you with His rod and staff.

Faith in God’s Word enables us not to fear evil.

The second example of Moses’ faith is found in the second phrase, “for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.”

What are we talking about here?  What does it mean that he “endured”?  And what does it mean when we are told that he was “seeing” God who is invisible?

The word that is used for “endure” in our text is only used this one time in the Scripture and it means he “had strength against evil and patience in danger.”  He had strength against evil and patience in danger because he was “seeing” God who is invisible.  The word that is used for “seeing” is the common meaning – that he saw with his eyes – he perceived with his eyes.  And so we ask ourselves, when did Moses see God with his eyes?

Again, our first thought may be of shortly after he became a shepherd, when we read:

            “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’ When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.  Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, …’” (Exodus 3:1-8a, ESV).

            In the history of the burning bush, God appears to Moses and, as the text continues. God commands Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let His people go.  And Moses responded, “Well, I need a name to give them – it’s been forty years since I was there, and they won’t listen to me,” so God told him His Name.  And then Moses said, “Ok, maybe the Hebrews will believe me, by what will make Pharaoh believe me,” so God enable Moses to do several miracles.  And then Moses said, “Well, I really not such a great speaker, have you met my brother, Aaron, now there’s a great speaker,” and God told Moses that Aaron could go with him, but Moses was going.

            Now, is this what the author of Hebrews is referring to?  Is this incident, where Moses gives every excuse he could think of, the second example of his faith?  Is this when he saw God with his eyes?

            And here we have a problem, don’t we:  Moses saw a burning bush, and he heard the voice of God, but he didn’t see God with his eyes.

            And so we think, wait a minute; didn’t Moses see God with his eyes on Mount Sinai?  Moses asked to see God’s Face with his eyes, but God only allowed him to see a reflection of the backside of His Glory.  Why was that – and what is the major problem we have in finding this example, “’But,’ [God] said, ‘you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live’” (Exodus 33:20, ESV).

            No one can see the Face of God because He is invisible, and our eyes are not equipped to see the invisible, and if God allowed us to see the fullness of His Glory, we would be instantly dead before Him, because His Holy Glory must destroy evil, and everything in us which is not yet holy would be dead.

            So, how do we resolve this problem?  The author of Hebrews says that Moses saw God with his eyes, and that is why he was able to endure the trials that would occur over the next forty years of his life, until they reached the Promised Land.

            The answer is found in answering another question:  what was Moses doing for the forty years between running away from Egypt in fear and seeing the burning bush?

            “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God” (Exodus 3:1, ESV).

            Moses was being a shepherd, wandering through the wilderness, viewing the creation, caring for the sheep, for those forty years.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, ESV).

Paul explains that the existence of God, His Eternal Power, and His Divine Nature are absolutely obvious to everyone – the Creation clearly portrays God.  Paul says that through the Creation God is clearly perceived – God is clearly seen – through a knowledge of His Attributes and through trusting in Him Who is revealed.

Moses learned about the Hebrew God from the slaves in Egypt, but he saw God and learned to endure – to be strong against evil and to be patient in danger – through his forty years as a shepherd – guiding and protecting the sheep and viewing the Creation and seeing God as He has revealed Himself for all to see in the Creation.

We can see God even more clearly, because we have the written Word of God.  We do not merely have what God has revealed about Himself through the Creation – which is enough, indeed, to know that God exists and to know something of His Attributes and His Divinity.  But we have before us in the written Word of God all that we need to know for life and salvation.  We have the promise, the prophecies, and the revelation of Jesus Christ, the One God and Only Savior – something we could not know, merely through the Creation.  So, we have even more reason to be able to hold fast to what we know about God, as we receive His Word by faith, that we would be able to stand strong against evil and be patient in danger.

We have the great gift of having the Word of God bound that we can read every day that we might see God every day and know Him better every day, that having seen Him, we will be able to endure whatever comes our way.

Let me give one example:

Dietrich Bonheoffer was a German pastor and theologian in the 1930’s.  His most famous work of theology was The Cost of Discipleship.  When the political tide turned and it looked as though a furor would ascend to power, Bonheoffer went on the radio to denounce the political system.   Soon after Adolf Hitler rose to power, Bonheoffer joined the Christian resistance and even took part in an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life.  For this attempt, Bonheoffer was arrested in 1943 and sentenced to death.  While he awaited his execution, he endured as he wrote, taught, and counseled others in the concentration camp on the teachings of Christ.  The day before the camp was liberated by the Allies, Bonheoffer was hanged to death for crimes against the state.  As he approached the gallows, Bonheoffer spoke his final words, “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life!”

Faith in God and His Word enable us not to fear evil.

Faith in God and His Word enable us to endure trial.

Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we thank You for the example of the faith of Moses.  We thank You for giving us Your Word through faith, and we ask the You would draw us to You Word – that we would seek it out and desire to read it and know You better.  Help us, as we know You better, to follow after Your Will, and to not fear evil, but to endure all things for Your Sake.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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