God Forms His Nation Through Confrontation With Pharaoh - A reminder that in our weakness it is God who acts

Covenant of Promise  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  20:35
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Scene 1/ The discouragement of the people of Israel, is a reminder that we can be discouraged in our trust of God. Exodus 5
I would like you to come on a journey, a journey of appreciation of the feelings and culture of a different people.
These are an ancient people, a people in a vastly different time and place to us.
They lived a fairly simple life, in mud brick houses on the fertile plains that formed the delta of one of the great rivers of the world.
They were shepherds and more recently that also grew crops of grain.
Family was very important to them and being able to recount the family’s linage from one generation to the next back for hundreds of years was one of the things that gave them a sense of identity as a people.
Life was good, fertile lands with a reliable water supply.
They were a free people, growing rapidly in a land that was not theirs.
But as time progressed the new ruling dynasty of the land where they lived saw their growth as a threat.
The rulers feared that they might join with their enemies.
They feared that they may leave and take their flocks and their farming skills with them.
So they enslaved them.
They set them to work, making bricks, tending the fields and building their store cities.
They were now the slaves of Pharaoh, existing one day at a time.
Discouraged, beaten into submission and without hope for the future.
The people of Israel lost hope.
Sadly I come across people who are so discouraged that they struggle to see a future.
They can see no way out of their situation so they don’t try to change things.
They are stuck in a rut, bound by circumstances and existing just one day at a time.
Now it is easy to think that this doesn’t happen amongst those we know - It isn’t a first world problem.
It is something distant, something in a foreign land where slavery and servitude still exists.
And that is partly true; there are many places in the world where such evil still exists and there are things we can do to make a difference.
However the reality is that discouragement and a sense of hopelessness can affect people anywhere, for different reasons.
In fact it can affect us.
And when a person is in the midst of discouragement it is hard to trust God.
Their world may have fallen apart around them due to death, divorce, financial disaster or disgrace.
They might be affected by disease and depression.
Or disadvantage and abuse may have scared their outlook on life.
Scene 2/ Whatever the reason the power of God as a cure for our discouragement is sometimes hard to see Exodus 6:1, 9, 12
So when we read in Exodus chapters 5 through to 9 that the people struggled to trust God in the midst of their discouragement.
Let’s not be too hard on them as I doubt that we would have done much better in the circumstances.
However we can learn from their experiences.
In Exodus 5 we read how Moses’ demand of Pharaoh to let the people go actually made things worse.
They were told to meet the same quota of bricks but the materials to make the bricks were no longer supplied.
They had to get the straw themselves.
The slavedrivers were harsh in their treatment of the Hebrew foremen.
And their pleas for mercy fell on the deaf and very angry ears of Pharaoh.
And we read in Exodus 5:19-23
Exodus 5:19–23 NLT
19 The Israelite foremen could see that they were in serious trouble when they were told, “You must not reduce the number of bricks you make each day.” 20 As they left Pharaoh’s court, they confronted Moses and Aaron, who were waiting outside for them. 21 The foremen said to them, “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” 22 Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!”
So when the Lord speaks to Moses in Exodus 6:1 and said, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. When he feels the force of my strong hand, he will let the people go. In fact, he will force them to leave his land!””
It is understandable that Moses isn’t so sure.
And it is even more understandable that when Moses passes this message on to the people of Israel in Exodus 6:9 that the people reject it
Exodus 6:9 gives a very telling explination, “They had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.”
It is possible for people to become so discouraged by their circumstances that they literally give up and accpet it as their lot in life and no longer make an effort to improve their situation.
Which is why Moses objects to the Lord’s command, “They won’t listen to me” he says in verse 12.
“If they won’t listen why should Pharaoh!”
Can you think of times in your life when the command of God is pretty clear?
In fact it is written right in front of you.
But it is hard to believe and as a result it is hard to act on it, because the circumstances are such that it just doesn’t seem possible.
Our hands are full of worry and despair.
The great theologian of the early church Augustine declared
“God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.”[1]
Scene 3/ It is at these times that God’s commands for us remain unchanged, just as they did for Moses, Aaron and the people of Israel. Exodus 6:10, 13
Just because it is too hard doesn’t mean that God’s plan has changed.
In fact, because it is too hard, is exactly why God’s command remains the same.
Consider the situation of Moses.
He thought it was too hard, he had been telling God that all along.
The people of Israel thought it was too hard.
They told Moses that his turning up had made an impossible situation worse.
But God just kept repeating the same message.
“Tell Pharaoh to let my people go.”
“Moses you will lead my people out of Egypt.”
What Moses needed to realise, what we need grasp is that
“When you have nothing left but God, then for the first time you become aware that God is enough”. —Maude Royden[2]
Our world prizes strength—the physical strength of athletes, the financial strength of companies, the political strength of office-holders, and the military strength of armies.
But the Apostle Paul put a new twist on the notion of strength: In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 he wrote that weakness can make a person strong.
2 Corinthians 12:7–10 NLT
7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Most of us would have no problem with God using our natural areas of strength, such as speaking, organizing, managing, or selling.
But suppose He chose instead to use us in areas where we are weak?
Moses claimed to be a poor speaker (Ex. 4:10), yet God used him as His spokesman on Israel’s behalf.
Peter tended to be impulsive and even hot-headed, yet God used him as one of the chief architects of the early church.
Weakness has a way of making us rely on God far more than our strengths do.[3]
Because it is in those times when we can’t do it that God’s true nature is revealed.
It is in those times when we are discouraged, when we have no answer, no more strength that God’s plan become clear.
God has a purpose in everything he asks of us.
Scene 4/ God always has a purpose, for Israel it was to be the means of revealing his name & nature, in order to bring his plan of redemption to the world.
Exodus 6:2-8 provides us with a neat summary of God’s purpose for Israel.
Exodus 6:2–8 NLT
2 And God said to Moses, “I am Yahweh—‘the Lord.’ 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty’—but I did not reveal my name, Yahweh, to them. 4 And I reaffirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. 5 You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. 6 “Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. 8 I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!’ ”
This section is so important that some biblical theologians believe this passage to be the heart of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.
Here the living God explains His purpose for His people Israel.[4]
Through them his power will be displayed as Pharaoh is forced to submit before the mighty hand of God as he frees them from bondage.
Through them he will fulfil his covenant promises with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and make them his own people.
Through them he will bring about his plan to bring redemption to the world.
The three-fold repetition of the phrase ‘I am the Lord’ in vs 2, 6 and 8 emphasizes that it is the Lordwho will achieve this. [5]
The Lord mainly appeared to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob as “El Shaddai” God Almighty, the One who provides or sustains
He had not displayed Himself to the patriarchs primarily by the name Yahweh the promise keeper, the one who is personally related to his people.
For the Patriarchs had wandered about in the land of Canaan without ever owning more than grazing rights, well treaties, and a burial ground for Sarah (Gen. 23; Heb. 11:8–10).
They were resident aliens without citizenship in their own country [6]
So now Yahweh is revealing Himself to Moses not only as Sustainer and Provider, but also as the Promise-Keeper, the One who is personally related to His people and would redeem them.[7] [8]
Scene 5/ God always has a purpose for us, it is to be the means of revealing Christ the redemption of those who will believe
With God there is always a purpose, always a plan.
It may not be visible; we may be discouraged and unable to see how things can ever work out.
But just as God had a plan for the people Israel so too he has one for us.
1 Corinthians 1:18–21 NLT
18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe.
In the midst of whatever circumstance of life you face.
Be part of God’s plan.
[1]Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 145). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. [2]Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 521). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc. [3]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (2 Co 12:6). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers. [4]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Ex 6:2–9). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers. [5]Carson, D. A., France, R. T., Motyer, J. A., & Wenham, G. J. (Eds.). (1994). New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 99). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press. [6]Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (Ex 6:3–4). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers. [7]Hannah, J. D. (1985). Exodus. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 116–117). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books. [8]Patzia, A. G., & Petrotta, A. J. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of biblical studies (p. 125). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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