Encountering God Going Gods Way Religion Essay
Thanks for joining us today. This is Word Alive. My name is Jane Moxon and I'll be making a few comments from time to time. But I'm really here to introduce Dr. Derek Stringer our Bible Teacher for this programme.
The current series is taken from the Book of Exodus and we have reached chapter 4. You can get the whole series on CD, and there are free transcripts to an email address. Our contact details will be coming up at the end of the programme.
This is more than ancient history as we travel through highlights in the life of Moses. We can learn about how we can encounter God today.
Here's Derek to introduce today's topic.
Have you ever been doing something and thought, "You know, there's got to be an easier way to do this." You do some cooking after watching how to do it from a TV show. And you say a lot, "You know, there's got to be an easier way to do this."
I heard about a school teacher dealing with 5-year-olds who I'm sure felt that way. I love this story.
The class assistant was helping one little boy put his boots on. He had asked for help and she could see why. With her pulling and him pushing, the boots still didn't want to go on. By the time the second boot was on, she had worked up quite a sweat when the little boy said, "They're on the wrong feet." She looked and, sure enough, they were.
It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. But she managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on -- this time on the right feet. He then announced, "These aren't my boots."
The teacher bit her tongue rather than scream, "Why didn't you say so?" So once again, she struggled to help him pull off the boots that didn't fit his feet. When she got them off, he said, "They're not my boots. They're my brother's boots. My Mum made me wear them today."
At this point, the teacher didn't know if she should laugh or cry. She mustered up the grace to wrestle the boots on his feet for the third time. Then she said, "Now, where are your mittens?" the little boy said, "I stuffed them in the toes of my boots..." There's got to be an easier way!
It's human nature for us to want to find the easy way to do anything. The problem is that God's assignments are rarely easy, and when God calls us to do something, it is often a challenge.
I dare say that every person that God has ever used has had to wrestle with this question: Will it be my way or God's way? Even Jesus wrestled with that question in the garden of Gethsemane. Will I choose the easy way, or will I choose to do God's way?
Today we want to see how Moses chose God's way.
We're going to start in Exodus 4: verse 18. You'll remember that the experience at the burning bush has just ended. The fire has gone out. And there's Moses out in the middle of a barren desert wondering what has just happened and how's it going to change his life.
Suppose God suddenly appeared to you out of the steam rising from your coffee and said, "What is in your hand?" What would you say? A laptop? A brief case? A stack of dirty clothes? A steering wheel? A tool box?
Do you sense God's nudging to go beyond a mere career into the true calling He has for you to serve him in your Egypt?
Exodus 4:18, "So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, "Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive." And Jethro said to Moses, "Go in peace." And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, "Go, return to Egypt; for all the men are dead who sought your life." Then Moses took his wife and his sons and set them on a donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God in his hand."
Incidentally, I like that. It's called the rod of God, and it will be for the rest of the story of Moses. It used to be the rod of Moses, but when you accept an assignment from God, everything you own becomes God's property, and from now on it's the rod of God.
"And the LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn." '
"And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it at Moses' feet, and said, "Surely you are a husband of blood to me!" So He let him go. Then she said, "You are a husband of blood!"--because of the circumcision.
"And the LORD said to Aaron, "Go into the wilderness to meet Moses." So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him. So Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel.
"And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped."
An etiquette expert was asked: What is the correct procedure when one is invited to Buckingham Palace but has a previous engagement? The response was this: "An invitation to dine at Buckingham Palace is a command, and it automatically cancels any other engagements." While that may be true, it is even truer on a spiritual level.
When God issues an invitation for you to follow him, it's really a command, and it cancels any other plans you might have had for your life.
So now, at the age of 80, God has issued an invitation to Moses to work with him in his plan to deliver the children of Israel. And Moses has got to decide, "Am I going to embark on this new course which God has in mind for me?" And his answer was yes.
Someone has said, "The reason mountain climbers are tied together is to keep the sane ones from going home." I think Moses might have questioned his sanity in all that was happening to him.
Moses wanted to go God's way. And so he went to Jethro, his father-in-law, and he told him his intention to return to Egypt. And they set out for Egypt - Moses, his wife and his two little boys. Let me show you five lessons Moses learned about going God's way.
First: Going God's way may not always seem to be the safe way, but it's the right way.
In verse 19, God said to Moses, "Go, return to Egypt; for all the men are dead who sought your life." Now that was certainly true. But there were, no doubt, others who remembered. There were relatives. And before long, there would be a whole bunch of folks who wanted Moses dead.
And it certainly seems to me that it would have been a lot safer to stay in Midian than to go back to Egypt. It's a lot safer to stay out here in the barren desert with the sheep and with my family than to go back to where there's a death warrant on my head -- where I'm a fugitive.
Let me tell you this - every time God calls you to something, there is a Midian you can stay in that seems safer. God might call you, for example, to go to the hospital and talk to a dying person. That's scary. There's always a place you can stay that seems safer. God might call you to share your faith with a co-worker at the office, or at school. That can be intimidating. There's always a Midian you can turn to instead. God might call you to make a tremendous financial sacrifice of your resources. There's always a way you can stay in Midian. There's always a Midian to stay in that seems safer than answering the call of God. And in those times, you've got to decide what Moses decided, what Jesus told us to decide - that it's more important to fear God than anything else.
Take the example of Daniel. The king passes a new law. The law says you can't pray to anyone else but the king. But Daniel has a habit of going to his window three times a day to pray to Yahweh. What should he do? I'm sure some thoughts ran through his mind. Does he really have to go to the window? Wouldn't it be safer to go to the closet instead? And would it really hurt if he skipped a few days of prayer? The law was only in effect for a month. You're not going to forget how to pray in 30 days.
But the Bible tells us that Daniel did just as he had always done before, praying at that window three times a day to God.
You know why? Because Daniel said, "It's safer for me to keep my walk with God strong than it is to be thrown into a den of lions." It's safer to walk with God than to go anywhere else without him.
That's one thing Moses learned. That's one thing you learn when you're going God's way: It's safer to lose your life for God than to save it doing anything else. If you'll lose your life for God, then you'll end up saving it. But if you spend the rest of your life trying to be safe in Midian, then guess what, you'll end up losing your life.
Second: Going God's way will involve dealing with detours.
Notice what God told Moses in verse 21:
"When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go."
Now I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect at that point that Moses said, "Say what?" All that time at the bush. "All you're asking me to, and you're telling me when I get back and finally work up the courage to say to the most powerful man in the world, "Let the slaves go," you're going to harden his heart?" God's way would not bring about the immediate deliverance that Moses desired. And maybe you're wondering why not? Well, for one thing, suppose Moses had walked in and said, "Let the people go" and Pharaoh said, "Sure." To this day, the Hebrews would still be talking about the deliverance of Moses, not the deliverance of God.
When you answer a call from God, you must acknowledge God's right to chart the course that will bring him the most glory, even if that course is difficult for you. Because sometimes the straight down-hill road is the easy way, but it's not the way where God receives the most glory. And so you can count on it. Going God's way means there are going to be delays, there are going to be obstacles, there are going to be hills, there are going to be detours. And God's way is more of a marathon than it is a sprint.
Author Gordon MacDonald tells the story about a great lesson he learned as a teenager. He was a track athlete, and he was invited with several of his other team-mates in high school to participate in the Pennsylvania relays, one of the most prestigious high school track events. They made the finals of the mile relay. There were four of them, each running one time around the track. Gordon MacDonald ran the first leg. Right next to him was the man who had won the 100-metre race and set a school record. He was also rather arrogant. Gordon said the guy stuck out his hand and said, "May the best man win. I'll wait for you at the finish line."
The gun sounded and they took off. 180 metres into the race, the arrogant runner pulled a hamstring. He started shouting and limping, as everyone else ran past him like he was standing still.
Gordon MacDonald said, "The gentleman that I was, I waited for him at the finish line."
A lot of us get all pumped up - we go to Christian events. And we sprint well for a day or a week or a month - we do well on the short run. But going God's way means there's hills to climb, detours to take, hurdles to jump. It's a long road, and it doesn't always go the way we think it ought to go. But it's the path of ultimate deliverance.
Third: Going God's way will invade every area of your life.
There's a very strange thing that happens in verse 24 and it's difficult for scholars to explain.
"And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the LORD met him and sought to kill him."
Wait a minute. Why would God want to kill the very person whom he had gone to such great lengths to recruit? You know why? Because Moses was about to take uncircumcised children into the camp of Israel.
You say, "Well, why is that such a big deal?" It's a big deal because circumcision was the symbol of faith in God's promises to Abraham. When God said to Abraham, "I'm going to give you many descendants. I'm going to give you this land. They'll be slaves for 400 years, but I'm going to bring them back to this land." The sign of Abraham's faith in that covenant was circumcision.
Now, how can God use Moses to keep his covenant promises if Moses didn't take seriously the symbol of the covenant? And so it says that God sought to kill Moses. And you have to believe that he would have done so had it not been for the intervention of Zipporah, his wife.
Now, Zipporah was not a Hebrew. And I'm sure that circumcision seemed to her to be a vulgar and barbaric act. In fact, she may have initially been the reason that their son wasn't circumcised.
Since only one son is mentioned here, it has been speculated that perhaps the first son was circumcised, but it was so grotesque to Zipporah that she protested and said, "Not that second one!" But whatever the reason, Moses had not circumcised his son and God struck him.
Now I want you to consider this - if Moses' son had not been circumcised, nobody in the Israelite camp would ever have known. Nobody in the camp of the Hebrews would have known whether that boy was circumcised or not. But God cares about unfinished business whether anybody else knows or not. There are no small unimportant sins if you're planning to go the way of God. One of the things that Satan has done - because he is the father of lies - is to deceive us into thinking if we're mostly holy, as long as we're almost completely committed to him, we can go wherever we want with God.
I heard about a preacher in Haiti who said there was a fellow who wanted to sell his house for 2000 dollars. There was another man who wanted to buy it but he only had a thousand dollars. So they worked out an agreement. The owner said "I'll sell you my house for a thousand dollars with the stipulation that I get to keep one nail on the front door. The guy said, "Sure, you can have a nail. I'll buy the house for a thousand dollars." Three years later, the guy came back and said, "I want to buy my house back." The second owner said, "I don't want to sell." So the first owner went out and found the carcass of an old dog and hung it on his nail. It shouldn't be too surprising to learn that before long, the second owner was ready to sell.
Here's the point that preacher made: Satan is happy for you to follow God as long as you just leave him one little place in the house for him to hang his garbage on. Just one little place. And pretty soon the whole house will stink so bad that God won't want to live there. There are no unimportant sins with God. Maybe there's something you've been stubbornly holding onto, refusing to let go of. Maybe God's got his finger on a part of your life that might be just as personal and as intimate as circumcision was to Zipporah. And God is saying to you, "We can't go any further until you do deal this."
This is an amazing text. God says, "I will sacrifice a Moses before I will compromise my holiness." Going God's way means there are no locked closets. You can't say to Yahweh, "You can come into every part of the house except this one closet I've got locked up. There's some stuff in there you can't touch." No, God demands it all.
Fourth: Going God's way will include encouraging encounters with fellow pilgrims.
In verse 27, "The LORD said to Aaron, 'Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.' So he went and met him on the mountain of God, and kissed him. So Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD who had sent him."
I think that must have been a thrilling time for Moses because it's really the first time he's been able to share completely all that God had revealed to him. Sometimes God comes into your life in a powerful way, have you ever noticed it's hard to explain that to someone who doesn't share your love for God?
You remember what Mary did when she found out she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit? What did she do? She ran down to Elizabeth. Now she had relatives in Nazareth, why did she run to Elizabeth? Because Elizabeth was a woman of God, too. And she knew Elizabeth would understand when she tried to explain. That's what's going on here.
Moses has heard from God, and Aaron has heard from God, and God brings them together. Very often, when God gives you an assignment, he will bring people into your life to affirm that calling. It's God's way of saying, "Hang in there. Stay on the path."
And God's good at working on both ends.
In Acts 8, God has the eunuch riding down this road, and Philip walking down this road, they don't know they're about to meet. In Acts 9, God tells Saul to go do this, he's telling Ananias to go do this, and he brings them together In Acts 10, God tells Cornelius, you go do this, he tells Peter you go do this. God's good at working at both ends to get the people he wants together, even when they don't know it's about to happen. The result is that many of our chance encounters aren't. They're not chance. It's God working behind the scenes.
Fifth: Going God's way will inspire others to follow along.
Verse 29, "Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel. And Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses. Then he did the signs in the sight of the people. So the people believedâ€¦ then they bowed their heads and worshiped."
Moses tells the Israelites about the path God had called him to take, and it caused the them to take courage. And they worshiped even before the deliverance. Moses' journey had convinced them that they would be making a journey, too. Never, ever under-estimate how contagious the faith of one totally sold-out man can be.
God wants to ask you, "Are you going my way?"
Sometime in the next few days, I suspect you're going to be faced with a decision to do the easy thing or the right thing. God has a way. He'll make a way for you to do the right thing.
Paul wrote: "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it."
There's always a way to answer God's call.
For some of you listening to me, you know what God's way is but you've been hesitant to take it because you knows what's involved, you know it's not easy. Some of you perhaps are like Moses in that you have something in your life that's keeping you from travelling with God, and you know that God wants you to get rid of it. And some of you are travelling God's way, but you're just a little discouraged and need God to send someone to walk with you, to give you the courage to keep walking.
Whatever your need is right now, I hope that you'll get serious and make a pledge to go God's way.
Thank you Derek. And Derek Stringer will be back in just a moment to round off today's Word Alive with a final thought.
Good News Broadcasting Association produces Word Alive and our Producer is Phil Critchley.
We appreciate our contact with you and we can be reached through the web site gnba.net Or, you can use a free phone number in the UK - 08,000 92 78 92.
Back to Derek Stringer.
May I ask a personal question? How would you like to die? It's going to happen, so given that, how would you like it to happen.
I'm reminded of a man in his eighties who'd got out of a rowing boat on a sunny day at his favourite lake on a family outing and, while walking to the car, with one hand clutching the fish that he'd caught, and the other hand resting on the shoulder of his 8-year-old grandson, he sat down, slumped over, and died with his entire family around to comfort each other. That was a shock for them all but for him - not a bad way to go.
I think of a woman in here nineties, lying in her own bed, surrounded by three generations of adoring family, when she slipped away so gently.
But of all the ways to leave planet earth, what about the way Moses went! For starters he was 120 years old! Imagine, you give a rousing speech to a weeping nation after which you solo climb a mountain nearly a mile high. There your gaze scans the heart-stopping panorama of the land your children and grandchildren will inherit. You have a talk with God, then lie down and fall asleep in the Everlasting Arms, after which God personally buries your body in a grave deliberately unmarked for fear your grief-stricken followers will turn it into a shrine rivalling their worship of God himself. That's not a bad way to go.
Now that you've planned your exit; let's get to your epitaph. Here's a hammer, a chisel, and stone. How do you want to be remembered?
A comedian said he wanted his tombstone to read: "I told you I was sick."
With tongue in cheek there's the man who said he wanted his to read: "Shot by a jealous husband at 103." Then there's always the words of the song by Paul Anka made famous by Frank Sinatra: "I did it my way."
While none of us can replicate Moses' exit, there's not one of us who doesn't have the opportunity to have the epitaph of Moses. Towards the end of his story it simply reads: "Moses the servant of the Lord."
Did you know that not one place in the whole bible is Moses ever called a leader? Not one. Always he's referred to as "Moses servant of the Lord." In fact after he dies, the next reference to Moses is in the book of Joshua, where God says, "Moses my servant is dead."
Every day you're alive you are chiselling away at what will be your ultimate epitaph. What would it mean for us to have the epitaph of Moses: "Your name - servant of the Lord?"
It can be so if like him we're prepared to get round to saying and meaning it when we says it - "Your way not my way Lord. Your place. Your Word. Your strength. All of you and nothing of me."
So where did we ever get the hare-brained notion that we've got to have it all together before
God can use us? I'll tell you where the idea came from: straight from hell. Satan whispers, "Look at you. You're a mess, with all those past failings and secret hang-ups and self-doubts. You can't do anything right." Then Satan says, "First get your act together, set your house in order, and then give your life to God." But, if you get your act together without God, you don't need God, do you?
The message of Moses says come as you are. Present your life to God, as someone
has said, like a puppy deposits a slobbery ball at the feet of its master. He'll take the might-have-beens that never were, the times you hit when you should have spoken, the Promised
Lands not entered, and all the pain of each and every regret.
The next time you feel like God can't use you, just remember:
Noah was a drunk;
Abraham was too old;
Isaac was a daydreamer;
Jacob was a liar;
Leah was homely;
Joseph was abused;
Moses had a stuttering problem;
Gideon was afraid;
Sampson was a womanizer;
Rahab was a prostitute;
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young;
Elijah was suicidal;
Isaiah preached naked;
Jonah ran from God;
Naomi was a widow;
Job went bankrupt;
John the Baptist ate bugs;
Peter denied Christ;
The Disciples fell asleep while praying;
Martha worried about everything;
The Samaritan woman was divorced more
Zaccheus was too small;
Paul was too religious;
Timothy had an ulcer;
AND Lazarus was dead!
If you have a problem worse than those, it's worth noting!
That means God can use all the rest of us. He's got a tailor-made plan for us to serve him
here in the world today, so take a hammer and chisel and carve the greatest of all epitaphs, just four words: Servant of the Lord. Because we're wanting to do things God's way.
Derek Stringer has been bringing a final thought here on Word Alive today. I'm Jane Moxon and Phil Critchley is our Producer.
I hope that you will plan to join us again next time as we explore further how, like Moses, we can encounter God.
Well - that's all for now. Thanks for joining us today. Good-bye to you and may God bless you.
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