Life and Ministry of Moses [Series]

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The Life and Ministry of Moses

1. Prosperity to Persecution

Reading: Exodus 1:6 - 22

Introduction: This all too brief look at Exodus was sparked by my recent study leave trip to Egypt and my journeys - modern, swift and reasonably comfortable - through the Sinai wilderness. One could not help but be in awe of such an  ancient civilization and the marks it has left behind - to say nothing of the labour it must have been to bring a great multitude of people including the very old and the very young acros that horrendous terrain to Canaan! When Abram and Sarai came to Egypt [Gen. 12:10ff], the pyramid of Cheops was already a marvel on the landscape for over 100 years..


The last major section of Genesis tells the story of Joseph - of hs being sold as a slave into Egypt, house of Potiphar, jail, the dreams leading to his promotion and career under Pharoah; the account of the famine in the ancient Near East, the miration of his extended family to Egypt and their prosperity. As Exodus begins Joseph, his brothers and that generation has died. Their descendants continue to prosper - apparently secure in a bountiful land. Suddenly all that changes with a new king coming to the throne! Prosperity gives way to ever increasingly severe persecution. They become slave labour and are dealt with harshly and ruthlessly.

            There are difficulties in Exodus - notably  the times and dates,as well as the identitiies of the key players. Two major dates are suggested mid 15th century BC and mid 13th century BC. There are some clues within the Bible itself. See Genesis 15:13 [400 years in Egypt]; Kings 6:1 [480 years from Exodus to building of Solomon's temple in 967 BC]; and Judges 11:26 [300 years since entry into Canaan, c.1100BC] These factors give a date for the Exodus of 1446BC.

            What about the key Egyptian characters. Exodus refers to pharoah or the king of Egypt - but which one for at least three are mentioned. Remember the long periods of time.- especally the 400 years in Egypt.  There are the Hyksos kings = the time of Joseph? This has long been trhe traditional view - but challenged. [Cf "River God" by Wilbur Smith]. Thutmose 1= the decree; Thutmose 2 [and Hatshepsut?] = Moses life in Egypt. Thutmose 3 = Passover and Exodus? Amenhotep 2 thestrong pharoah afterwards?


Exodus is not just a tale of bondage and deliverance, or of a journey mixed with vision and fear, faith and doubt, courage and complaining. "Exodus contains some of the richest foundational theology of all the books of the OT" - W C Kaiser   Notice for instance -

            # disclosures of the nature of God:  ch 4 the burning bush; ch 6 God's promise;

                        ch 33 God's glory and ch 34 the second stone tablets.

            # Lord of history  -  Ex 15  triumph song

            # God of faithfulness - He remembers his promises - cf 3:15-7; 6:2-8; 19:3-6

            # God of salvation and Deliverance. He comes to redeem his people 6:6; 15:13 - see                            especially the Passover narrative in ch. 12 and the sealing of the covenant in ch 24.

            # God of holy living - the basis of biblical ethics and morality - 10 Commandments and

                        application cf 20:2

            # God who calls forth our worship - the Tabernacle was costly in time, effort and monetary                    value. In its significance ande function it pointed to "the chief end of man" - to                                   glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever The Tabernacle was the dwelling place of                          God.


"The new king who did not know about Joseph" = a repudiation of the past in terms of Joseph's significance and the relationship between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. "History is bunk!" - Henry Ford. However we need to learn from history or else the mistakes of the past are repeated. Even our spiritual enthusiasms can be superficial and short-lived - merely the in thing!

            * cf the Reformation and the place of the Scriptures

            * cf the Evangelical Awakening and the ministry of the Holy Spirit

                        life as well as orthodoxy

                        mission and evangelism

                        social justice

            * cf the Charismatic Renewal

Out of chaos, trouble and darkness God is working for their good

** Conclusion: From unlikely beginnings in Egypt and unliklier sequel in the wilderness of Midian a leader emerges for the time and the task

            The Moses of the Bible is no larger than life figure, the stuff of legend or myth. He is a ery human figure. We see his success and failure his struggles and weaknesses, his faith and doubt..

            Thus we can readily identify the same mix as ourselves. HE could not do it on his own. He needed the strength which comes from the God who calls to service.



The Life and Ministry of Moses

2. Providence and Preparation

Reading : Exodus 2: 1 - 25

Introduction: Exodus 1 sets the background of peril and persecution for the Hebrews in Egypt. Remember this state of affairs of being treated with ruthlessness went on for some considerable period of time. Exodus 2 gives the picture of God's providence, - and His preparation of the deliverance of His people, as well as of His chosen vessel and servant. Notice, for example, in the story of Joseph, how the man, the adult hero is set in place prior to and against the coming of the time of trial and famine in the ancient Near East. Here, the disaster, affliction and oppression come first, and with ever increasing intensity - then comes God's decisive counter-measure. In this chapter see too how ordinary means and human responses are bound up with divine sovereignty!

* 1. In Early Childhood:

See how his parents take steps to safe the baby's life. They do things, they take actgion - don't sit back and wait for something to turn up! Clearly Aaron and Miriam [unnamed at this point in the narrative] are both older than Moses. Big sister stands watch to see what will happen once the ark of bullrushes and its precious burden are set loose upon the Nile - as well as to report back what transpires.

            Enter Pharaoh's daughter. Is she Hatshepsut? She promptly hands the baby over to his natural mother and family for rearing in the meantime.

            Thus from his natural family, the child Moses doubtless received something of his Hebrew culture and spiritual identity. Patriarchal worship must have been fairly simple - including such features as the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the notion of the Covenant, and the rites of sacrifice and circumcision. Remember all the ritual we associate with Israelite faith and worship stem from the Passover, the Exodus and the giving of the Law and the instructions for worship in the tabernacle.

            Later "when he was weaned" which was an indeterminate time then, the child was returned to Pharaoh's daughter. She names him - and doubtless the "Mose" would have been prefixed by the name of an Egyptian god - but even so there is a double pun on the name, both in Egyptian and Hebrew!

* 2. In the Egyptian Court:

Remember Stephen's speech in Acts 7:20-44 - especially verse 22 where he refers to Moses being trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Brought up as a prince connected with the ruling house he would have the finest education for future leadership, including political and military training, experience and responsibility.

            Notice his anger and his killing the Egyptian overseer whom he found beating a Hebrew to death. Yet see how he looked this way and that, then buried the body in the sand!

            Next day, we see him attempting the role of mediator and peacemaker between two Hebrews. It backfires on him. He is greeted with the snarling reply: "who died and made you boss?". Notice Moses' fear of Pharaoh's anger. But why? Life was cheap - certainly for a prince of the royal house. Discuss??

            Remember Hebrews 11 and the catalogue of the heroes of faith. Moses is included [11:23-29] "By faith Moses . . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter . . ., he chose" He fled Egypt and went to Midian and the wilderness.

* 3. In the land of Midian:

Notice how the same impetuosity which entangled him in the quarrel with taskmaster and the two Hebrews, again draws him into the conflict with the bullying shepherds to rescue the girls. Thus he is introduced to Reuel/Jethro "the priest/prince of Midian". The Midianites were also descendants of Abraham through Midian - the fourth son of Abraham by his second wife Keturah [Genesis 25:1].

            From Reuel ["friend/shepherd of God"] did he also receive some spiritual imput - cf Exodus 18:10-12.?  Thus there may well have been a spiritual dimension to his years in Midian.

            Further, in coming years he would become very familiar with the wilderness, its seasons, its foibles, its routes, its oases, and its rules for survival.

            There was certainly the comfort and companionship of wife, family and tribe- but loneliness too - see the name he gave to Gershom = lonely stranger/foreigner. Thuis what a contrast; from prince in Egypt to sheepherder in the wilderness, from palace to tent, from power and prestige to insignificance, from being somebody to being nobody.

* 4. In God's Time and Plan:

"During that long period the king of Egypt died . . ." Thus a significant change in the power equation takes place.

            "the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out" to God.

            "God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob"

            "So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them . . ." We should never forget God's love, purpose, and practical concern for us.

            Think back over your own life. Where can you see God's providential over-ruling in your life, his careful preparation for his purpose? Share it with one another!


The Life and Ministry of Moses

3. Call to Service

Reading : Exodus 3: 1-17

Introduction: How quickly the providential care of Moses and his years of preparation in Egypt and in Midian have been introduced and passed over. The merest summary, so to speak. The king of Egypt has died. Moses has survived in Midian. The Israelites still cry out to God for deliverance from their bondage. God hears and sees; - and remembers his covenant with the patriarchs. The drama of redemption is about to unfold. Here again we see how the ordinary and the extraordinary intermingle.

* 1. Realisation:

It is not insignificant that God called Moses while he was involved in the ordinary routine and tasks of his daily life as a sheepherder- so 3:1. He was herding the sheep in the wilderness.

See how God got his attention - by means of the burning bush. It burned but did not burn out. Apparently spontaneous combustion of this kind was not uncommon because of the intense heat. What was extraordinary was the fact the bush kept on burning, it was not burned out.

The Eternal dwelt in the bush. He could have set the whole Sinai ablaze with light, fire and glory but chose to restrict himself to one small bush. God sanctified it; dwelt in it, and did not destroy it - cf. Israel and ourselves  [cf I Cor 6:19]. How is God getting your attention?? Discuss!!

The call comes, "Moses, Moses". See the response, "Here I am!" - a conscious readiness without knowing everything which was to follow?? "Do not come any closer - Take of your shoes - you are standing on holy ground". We are told "Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. Cf Isaiah in the temple [Isaiah 6] and the overwhelming sense of the presence of God - His awesome otherness, transcendence and holiness. Cf Exodus 33:12-23.

* 2. Revelation:

We have the revelation of the Name of God - "I am the God of your fathers, the Gos of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob". Later the disclosure comes; "I am who I am". For us now, of course, God is supremely "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". Therein is his character made plain.

            the faithfulness of God - He talks of "my people" He has seen and heard their situation. He is concerned. He has not forgotten them or abandoned them.

            the purpose of God - is to redeem and deliver them from Egypt and the house of bondage and then to bring them into a land of plenty and opportunity.

            the promises of God - be sure the Canaanites, the Perizites, the Hittites, the Hivites and the Amorites all dwell there at present - but it will be theirs!

            "So now, go, I am sending you" - All now focuses on God's plans for Moses - and something of the scope of it all bursts in upon his consciousness!

* 3. Resistance:

We now see something of the true humanity of Moses. Here is no stuff of myth or legend or super-hero, but a real person. We can readily identify with the ensuing dialogue as Moses struggles to grapple with the divine call upon his life. Notice his series of excuses - and God's answers!

            "Who am I?"  - I'm a nobody

            "What shall I tell them?

            "What if they won't believe me?

            "I am slow of speech" - ie no speaker/preacher

            "O Lord, please send someone else!"

To each excuse God answers - always to be met by further argument! What are OUR excuses to God - not to be about His business???

* 4. Response:

See how God graciously meets every objection - and God supplies resources for the situation! eg

            God promises - "I will be with you . . ."

            Moses' staff - the shepherd's rod: "What is that in your hand?" - the token of power to do          `           miracles before Pharaoh.

            God gave him people resources - for fellowship, companionship and assistance in the task -                   "Aaron your brother".

            * * Conclusion:

Consider some of the basic principles of a "call" -

            * Often comes in the midst of the ordinary. Can you think of examples??

            * It is based upon faithfulness where we are. Responsibility moves from smaller to greater!

            * Always the time of preparation comes to an end - and we continue to learn and grow on                                 the job!!


The Life and Ministry of Moses

4. The Exodus and the Red Sea

Reading : Exodus 14: 1 - 22

Introduction: After his call at the burning bush [Exodus 3 and 4] Moses returned to Egypt. Then followed the series of confrontations with Pharaoh and the resultant plagues, culminating in the death of Egypt's firstborn males.  In Exodus 12 we have the institution of the Passover and the significance of the lamb and the blood sprinkled on the doorposts and lintel - and its protection and the sign of salvation and deliverance. In the KJV notice the sequence of references: 12:3 "a lamb" ; 12:4 "the lamb"; 12:5 "your lamb".

            The people were  prepared for departure - hence the significance of the cloak tucked in the belt, sandals on the feet, staff in hand and the haste [12:11]. Israel plundered the Egyptians [12:36]. They marched out boldly [14:8] under the protection of God's "high hand" [cf Numbers 33:3]. Now comes the aftermath!

* 1. Pursuit by the Egyptians:

Notice God's instructions to Moses. These were to be the tactics. This was the deliberate ploy. "Pharaoh will think Israel is wandering around the land in confusion...." [14:3]. However Pharaoh and the Egyptians rather than Moses and the Israelites were to be confused!

            As in the earlier contests there is the element of "hardening". "I will harden Pharaoh's heart - he will pursue them - I will gain glory for myself" [14:4]. Here is the aspect of divine sovereignty. "Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them" [14:5]. This is the human aspect of the same circumstance. - This was due to their sense of loss of a precious commodity, their source of slave labour. The chariots and the army set off in pursuit - to overwhelm them, and to bring them back to captivity.

* 2. Panic among the Israelites:

We can well imagine the scene and the atmosphere among the Israelites withy the realisation of the significance of the approaching dust cloud from the rear. Any sense of euphoria after the Passover and marching out of Egypt would vanish with the realisation that the Egyptians were pursuing them and their intentions were all too clear. See the responses:

            # "GO BACK!" said the people. Why did we let you talk us into this situation? We told you so! cf 14:12. How do we respond when our faith is put to the test? How do we react when the going gets tough - after a really good beginning?

            # "STAND STILL!" said Moses.

                        "Do not be afraid!"

                        "Stand firm!"

                        "The Lord will fight for you, only be still!"

            Does this mean we don't need to do anything? Or has it to do with not surrendering to fear, and the ability to stand rather than run in the face of the foe?

            # "GO FORWARD!" said God.

                        "Tell the Israelites  to move on"  -  in faith and obedience

                        "Raise your staff and stretch out your hand"  - It was given

                                    for works of power. It has already been demonstrated!

                        "I will .  ." See how God repeats the earlier statement of 14:4

                                    Pharaoh's hardening is a developing process

                                    "I will gain glory . . ."

                                    "Egyptians will know I am the Lord"

* 3. Praise for Deliverance:

Israel saw the demonstration of God's power in the opening of the Sea and the destroying of the chariots and the army!

            They were filled with "awe" - "and put their trust in him, and in Moses his servant".

            Notice the Song of Deliverance - Ex 15

            "I will sing unto the Lord, for He has highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled            into the sea. The Lord is y strength and my song; He has become my salvation". [1-2]

            "Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you - majestic in holiness,

             awesome in glory, working wonders?" [11]

            Notice  the singing and dancing of the women led by Miriam [20]

Conclusion: The Passover, the Exodus and the deliverance at the Reed Sea all point to the foundational facts of the Gospel and our experience of Christian faith and life. The Lord Jesus Christ is  "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" God saves and sustains His people in the face of every difficulty


The Life and Ministry of Moses

5. Life among the People of God

Reading : Exodus 16: 1-37

            Introduction: In John Newton's testimony time after time as he tells of the ways in which God sought to bring him to repentance, faith and salvation, he says: "but this I soon forgot". Now for the Hebrews their journey properly begins. After the long contest with Pharaoh, the Passover and the Exodus, and the deliverance at the Reed Sea with its aftermath of celebration and praise, and with their journey scarcely begun - all this is apparently forgotten. Like a refrain we hear about them complaining - cf poor Judy Bailey and her recent well-publicised aside about the whinging Poms! Here now is a catalogue of complaining, whinging, grumbling and murmuring.

            1. Marah - the place of Bitter Waters [15:22-7]:

            Three days' journey into the wilderness without finding water and they come to the oasis of Marah, - only to discover the water is brackish and bitter. We can readily understand their disappointment and ensuing anxiety. We need to reflect on the fact that we too can come to places, situations and experiences on our pilgrimage where there can be disappointment, anxiety, and even personal hurt, that can easily spill over into bitterness of spirit that sours life for a long time to come!

                        "So the people grumbled against Moses: [15:24] - cf KJV "murmured". As someone has put it; In good times we say "praise the Lord", but in bad times we complain to or about the leadership!?! Difficult situations are also times of divine testing - see 15:25b "there He tested them". This was not to destroy them but to strengthen them and to help them grow. It was at Marah the bitter water became sweet and palatable.

                        Notice God's decree: "If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in his eyes ; if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees......for I am the Lord who heals you". They came to Elim - a place of healing, refreshment and restoration. So too for our pilgrim journey.

            2. Provision in the Desert:

            "In the desert the whole community grumbled/murmured against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them: 'If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt" [16:2]. Notice the real lack pof thankfulness - they said they preferred death to deliverance. Notice too, the "rose-tinted spectacles" syndrome in 15:3b about sitting around "pots of meat - all the food we wanted". They fail to mention or remember the taskmasters, the hard bondage, ther cruelty and the ruthlessness.

                        See again the notion of God's testing his people - "In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions" [16:4].

                        The provision of the manna and the quail is a significant demonstration of the Lord's care of his own. We should look at the gospel passage where Jesus refers to Moses and the manna - see John 6:47-51, especially the verse where Jesus says: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . ."

                        See how in the supplying of the manna there is the principle of daily provision - cf the Lord's Prayer and the petetion, "Give us today our our daily bread". Regarding the manna, there was always enough, always sufficient. See the plain disobedience and willfulness in the face of plain, simple, straightforward instructions! More than toddlers have trouble with the little words "Do" and "Don't!". "Some paid no attention to Moses" [20]. They kept some manna till the following day - it was full of maggots and began to smell! Others went out on the Sabbath to gather up their supplies and found there was none [27].

                        There was the instruction about remembrance of the Lord's provision - the manna being laid up in a jar before the Lord [34]. It was a testimony and a witness before the Lord - but also a symbol to the Hebrews.


            3. Rephidim - Water from the Rock:

            Here we go again! "So they quarrelled with Moses" [17:2] - even after the earlier experiences of God meeting their needs. This time it appears to be somewhat more serious for they are accused of testing the Lord - "why do you put the Lord to the test?" [17:2b] - that is invoking the Lord's power, not in faith or humility or thankfulness, but with challenge, irreverence and arrogance! "Give us water to drink!". The spirit and attitude of "You owe us, God!!" cf Psalm 78:56; 106:7, 14, 25, 29.

                        Now we see Moses' exasperation in leadership - "what am I to do with these people?" [17:4]. He seems to be dinstancing himself somewhat from them. Have you ever felt despairing in a leadership task?

                        Notice God's response:

                        # "Walk on ahead" - the pillar of cloud and fire at the front?

                                    Does it mean "keep on leading, stick to the task"?

                        # "Take in your hand the staff . .  ." The symbol of authority

                                    It had already proven its power

                                    "How could the man who carried that staff be rejected

                                    and brought to despair"

                        # "Behold [KJV] I will stand there before you at the rock Horeb"

                                    God's promise of his very presence and enabling.

                        # "Strike the rock and water will come out of it for the people

                                    to drink"  Do what I say!

            Conclusion: What are the lessons for us in these familiar stories of the wilderness journey of the people of Israel?            

                        * How SOON we forget God's faithfulness

                        * How SWIFT we are to grumble and complain at the first hints of adversity

                        * How SLOW we are to comprehend God's grace, goodness and presence

                                    In less than six months they had witnessed the 10 plagues in Egypt,

                                    the pillar of cloud and fire, the opening and closing of the Reed Sea,

                                    the miraculous sweetening of the waters at Marah, the sending of

                                    the manna and the quails - food for the journey - -

                        * YET their real question came down to this -

                        "IS THE LORD AMONG US OR NOT?" [17:7]


The Life and Ministry of Moses

6. Spiritual Warfare

Reading : Exodus 17: 8 - 16

            Introduction: The Sinai wilderness is a bleak place. The account of Israel's journey through it is the record of "one thing after another" Only sometimes, it wasn't just one thing. Our own Christian pilgrimage can be a bit like that. Exodus gives us some helpful insights into pilgrimage, into our human hearts, and into God's dealings with us. It is not just the narrative of long forgotten events or of an old race in an old place. It can seem right up to the minute!

            * 1. The Trials of God's People:

            We might think that all would now be well with the Israelites. They have escaped from Egypt and the hard bondage there. They have witnessed the Lord's delivering power at the Sea of Reeds in the destruction of the pursuing army. They have experienced the Lord's provision in the supply of daily manna as well as water from the rock. Not so - there is always something else that seeks to hinder, to prevent, to distract or to destroy!

            First, in line with the hardening of Pharaoh's heart and attitude, the Egyptians pursued them to bring them back into slavery. Here it is the Amalekites - a sub-clan descended from Esau. Jacob's brother. Their intention is not merely to hinder Israel, but to destroy Israel. See Psalm 83:4,7: "Come, they say, let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more". Amalek is listed [7] among them. Note: That has been the evident intention so often down through the centuries - right up to the Holocaust.

            Here the Amalekite strategy was [a] to cut them off from and deny them access to the springs in the valley, leaving them vulnerable and exposed; and [b] to attack their more slow-moving rear encumbered by the sick and infirm, an easy target - see Deut. 25:17-19.

            So often we are naive about the world around us. The notion of spiritual warfare [cf Ephesians 6:10ff] brings us face to face with the mystery of the world's hatred. The world is not benign or even neutral. See Jesus' teaching in John 15:18-19. "If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you".  For example, whatever we think of the Christian Coalition during the campaign derision very quickly gave way to diatribes against their Christian convictions and basis, as well as to vilification of their proposals.

            Don't be surprised. There will ALWAYS be something else to be faced and overcome on our pilgrimage. There will NEVER be the time when we can presume an easy passage from this point on to journey's end!

* 2. The Tactics of God's People:

Notice that in the Christian battle, in spiritual warfare, the struggle is always on TWO fronts; - on earth in our human situation, and "in the heavenlies" as Paul describes it. The battle with the Amalekites has long been regarded as a kind of "model" of this conflict:

            JOSHUA - and this is the first reference we have to him - is to choose soldiers and go out and do battle with the Amalekites in the valley. What happens on the "upper level" does not preclude the necessary factors of the planning, the strategy or even the actual struggle of the battle on the ground.

            MOSES - with Aaron and Hur - goes to the hilltop "with the staff of God" in his hands, again the symbol of God's power and enabling already demonstrated at the Reed Sea and at the rock. The stretched out of uplifted arms and the staff represent an invoking of Jahweh's help and power. Compare the Lord's earlier command: "Stretch out your hand . . ." [14:16]. By extension this has come to represent intercessory prayer . So long as Moses' hands were stretched out [in prayer], Israel prevailed, but when he lowered them in weariness, Amalek gained the upper hand. Hence Aaron and Hur supported his arms! How far, do you think, we can we take this word-picture of intercession?

            Look up Ephesians 6:10ff. We need to remind ourselves that the soldier's equipment was not just ornamental. It had military and practical purpose. It was put on in readiness for combat! Paul says: "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power . ." and twice he urges "Put on the full armour of God . . ." [6:11, 13]. He goes on to explain: "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" [6:12].

            Remember, intercession and prayer, like Moses' staff, are no mere magic wands! The external and visible symbols mean nothing unless commanded by God and accompanied by the internal and invisible responses of the heart and spirit.  Moses' "steady hands" [12]  depicted his steadfastness and faithfulness of spirit as well as his practical perseverance under severe trial.

* 3. The Testimony of God's People:

See how there were TWO things which were commanded in the aftermath of the victory over the Amalekites. Both in their way were a testimony and a witness:

            * the scroll for Joshua [14]. It was something to be written down; to be rehearsed and remembered. Think of all those WW1 war memorials dotted over Britain - and New Zealand, I expect - with the inscription "LEST WE FORGET". The Book of Deuteronomy is full of warnings to Israel about entering into Canaan, the land of plenty and thereafter forgetting "the Lord your God". They were urged to remember! Why do you think the scroll was for Joshua in particular?

            * the altar to the Lord [15f] - Jehovah Nissi - the Lord is my Banner, ie His majesty, power, glory and victory! "For hands were lifted up to /and touched the throne of the Lord". The altar at once expresses thankfulness and praise to God for all HE has done, and is a reminder to the people of His goodness and faithfulness.

** Conclusion: It is good for us to be reminded that we are not called to a picnic but to a battle, and that conflict is real.

            There are struggles in all the dirt and dust and heat of the battle

            There is hurt - casualties, wounds and pain

            There is victory - leading to triumph, praise and celebration


The Life and Ministry of Moses

7. Encounter with Jethro

Reading : Exodus 18: 1 - 27

Introduction: We were first introduced to Jethro when Moses fled from Egypt to the land of Midian. Jethro from the beginning has consistently been described as "the priest of Midian" see Exodus 2:16; 3:1. Remember the Midianites were descended from Abraham through his second wife Keturah. It was Jethro's daughters Moses rescued from the bullying shepherds. It was his daughter Zipporah Moses married. They had two sons; Gershom and Eliezer. Moses refused to take his wife and children with him when he returned to Egypt, and sent them back to Jethro, presumably for reasons of safety. Whether there is "family stuff" going on here in the early part of this meeting in chapter 18, is not too clear. It is something else the narrative does not dwell on.  Apparently neither Zipporah nor Gershom is never mentioned again. Later, after the death of Aaron, Eliezer will become the high priest. Anyway, here is this family reunion in the wilderness - in the very shadow of Sinai/Horeb, the mountain of God.

* 1. Jethro's Testimony:

Verse 1 describes what Jethro has heard generally - on the "Sinai grapevine", so to speak - of what Jahweh had done for the Hebrews in bringing them out of Egypt. Compare later how the nations on the fringes of Canaan "heard" much the same thing. During the family meeting he has Moses' witness about the specifics, the details - see verse 8. We too can have opportunities even in family conversations of recounting what God has been doing or how been active in our lives and situations. We see Jethro's unaffected pleasure at what he is told : "Jethro was delighted to hear about the good things the Lord had done . . ." [9]. Presumably these were the first hand details, the eye witness accounts of the contests with Pharaoh, the Passover, the Exodus, the victory at the Reed Sea, as well as the experiences in the wilderness thus far.

            Notice Jethro's response to what he has heard: -

             There is instinctive praise - "Praise be to the Lord" [10]. He knew the extreme personal danger Moses had been in when he returned to Egypt, even though it was another Pharaoh on the throne. He appreciated the scope of the task of bringing the people out from Egypt.

            There is sincere affirmation - "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods . ." [11] His own faith in Jahweh is strengthened. Jahweh is no tinpot local, tribal deity. He is Lord of all!

*2. Jethro's Ministry:

Verse 12 is the cause of much discussion and debate. Did Jethro merely "bring" an offering - as interested and sympathetic outsider, a "ger", a Gentile?? Did Jethro "bring and offer" a sacrifice. Her has been consistently described as "the priest of Midian" - why? If a priest, then the priest of what, or of whom?? For example in the Elijah stories with Ahab and Jezebel, the prophets and priests of Baal are so specifically described! I believe that unless described to the contrary we can assume the Jethro is a priest of the Covenant God of the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - albeit in very simple terms.

            I suggest Jethro is not merely an esteemed, senior family guest, but is actually leading the group of elders - including Moses and the High Priest-to-be, Aaron - in this act of worship and fellowship. This "fellowship meal" took place "in the presence of God" [12], rather than just before the pillar of fire and cloud. It reflects something of the sense of joy, praise and celebration at the mighty acts of God. It is worth bearing in mind that while worship can have "solemn" moments and occasions with its elements of repentance and contrition; it can also have times of joy and gladness, celebration and rejoicing in the presence of God!!

* 3. Jethro's Advice:

As with any long term visitor, Moses ordinary day to day tasks still have to be done, so he carries on with his job. Like any visitor Jethro can see what is going on around him. He gives Moses some very interesting advice on practical leadership and management! See how it is based on :

            # Personal Observation: It is not just a theory. He has seen for himself in a kind of

                        ancient, informal "time and motion" study! "what is this you are doing?" [14]

                        "what you are doing is not good" [17]  Notice it is wearying both for Moses

                        and for the people [18], who are doubtless frustrated by the delays

                        [cf hospital waiting lists today!!]. It will lead to stress for Moses and anger

                        for the people!

            # Practical Administration: "It is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone" [18].

                        An important principle emerges - ministry/leadership is not intended to

                        be a "one man band". We hear a lot today about "team ministry". Actually

                        of all people in the Church Presbyterians had it first. It is called the minister and                          session! Interestingly, while Baptists and Anglicans are converting to the idea,

                        Presbyterians are decrying it. cf Pastoral Care team

            # Responsible Delegation: The task can be broken down into "bite-sized" pieces

                        with which people can be comfortable - leaders of thousands, hundreds,

                        fifties and tens is Jethro's advice. cf Nehemiah and the wall builders!!

                        The outcome is that the load is lightened - Moses less "stressed out" [22].

                        The concerns are dealt with - "all these people will go home satisfied" [23]

However we need to appreciate that TRUST is needed to delegate on the one side - to LET GO;

and RESPONSIBILITY is needed to TAKE UP the burden on the other side!


            We can learn from Jethro's practical wisdom -

                        NEEDS ARE MET

                        LEADERSHIP IS SUPPORTED


                        GOD IS GLORIFIED


The Life and Ministry of Moses

8. At the Mountain of God


Reading: Exodus 19:1-6; 20:1-21

Introduction: Some weeks ago, a friend of ours attended a service at her local Presbyterian Church of Australia, and the service began with the congregation reciting the Ten Commandments! Hold that thought - and perhaps later we might discuss whether you think that is appropriate? As Moses and Israel come to Sinai/Horeb, something dramatic, extraordinary and distinctive is about to happen. Revelation is about to be given - comparable to the call of Abraham or Moses. Now a whole people is to be given insight into the nature of God.

*1 The Character of God [19]:

Here is the preparation for the drama on the mountain and the giving of God's words. Everything here points to God's holiness and grace. "You yourselves have seen . . ." [4] God points to the judgement on Egypt and the deliverance/salvation of the Israelites. Notice the wonderfully loving graphic picture - "how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself"

            "The whole earth is mine . . ." [5] - again there is the emphasis on the fact that Jahweh is no local, petty tribal deity, but the Eternal, the cosmic Lord. Israel is intended to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" [6]. Does that sound familiar? - see 1 Peter 2:9f. The chapter goes on to deal with setting bounds and barriers on the mountain, with prohibitions and penalties. Letter there is the description of the thunder, lightning, thick cloud, fire and smoke [16] - all vivid, visual representations of God's transcendence and holiness. Now - look up Hebrews 12:18-24 which compares two mountains and two covenants. What is the importance of the contrast: "You have NOT come to . . . .but you HAVE come to . . . " The emphasis is on JESUS and the change the NEW Covenant makes! What about the PCA service mentioned earlier??

* 2 The Charter of God [20]:

It is based on grace, favour and love - proved by what they have already experienced of God's saving power Notice it is NOT a case of, "Keep my commandments and I will be your God". It is in fact the opposite!. See how it is all bound up with -

            # Redemption/Release - see 20:2 "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" Notice it is the same picture as Colossians 1:12f. The 10 Commandments are not just "natural" Law - stemming from Creation, or the Maker's instructions as it were. They are not even "universal law" morality recognised beyond the Judaeo-Christian traditions. They represent the "Magna Carta" of the OT, the Charter of the people of God - bestowing freedom, standing, liberty, rights, prerogatives and responsibilities. They have been, in fact, set free to worship God - as was proclaimed to Pharaoh from the beginning.

            # Righteousness - because God is holy, His people are to be holy too [remember this always includes the concept of justice]. This is how they are to fulfil it. The Commandments speak to our sinful condition - to remind us. Where something evil is forbidden/prohibited, its opposite good should be understood as being commanded and encouraged.

            Right relations with God are demonstrated in the first THREE commandments; right relations in the worship of God is demonstrated in the Sabbath commandment; and right relations with society in the others - possibly even stemming from the FIFTH Commandment about honouring one's parents. God is first in our allegiance - no other gods, no idols, no treating His Name lightly. The Sabbath is a special day - what about the early Church's change to the Lord's Day??

            What about the "second tablet" and our right dealings in society? No stealing, no murder,. no wrong sexual relations, no false witness, no coveting [hidden desire]. There to protect family and wider society. Life is not just individual, personal and private. It has community and public dimensions too.

            # Relations - Compare this with the Sermon on the Mount, the Charter of the Kingdom. How often did Jesus say, "it has been said by those in old time . . . but I say to you . . ." See Matthew 5:21f; 27f; 33f; 38f; 43f. Jesus gave new dimensions. See John 15:9-17 - Jesus is not afraid to link love and commandment; and love and obedience. To what end? - "that my joy might be in you and that your joy may be full/complete"

* 3. The Covenant of God [24]:

Chapter 24 describes the solemn ratification of the Covenant God makes with them. It is God's initiative. "Everything the Lord has said, we will do" [3] cf 19:8 and 24:7 It is on this basis the ceremony proceeds.

            There is the service of sacrifice and the gathering of the blood into two lots. The first is sprinkled on the altar. It is a witness to God [6]. The second is sprinkled on the people [7], after again professing their willingness to obey the Lord, thus sealing the Covenant. Compare this to the offering up of Christ, the Lamb of God. It is a witness to God on our behalf, and it is for us.

            Moses, Aaron and the elders went up the mountain to the presence of the Lord. They had the vision of his eternity and holiness - cf the sapphire pavement - "they saw God". More than that there is the element of fellowship - "they saw God and they ate and drank" [11]. Think of what is ours in the New Covenant [Romans 8:4]. We live according to the indwelling Spirit and we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. cf Rom 13:8-10

            * Conclusion: Look up Romans 13:11-14. It's time to "wake up" and to get real to what it is all about in serving the Lord.


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