Saturday, July 8, 2017

That's Not Fair

Print Passage: Exodus 3:1-12
Devotional Reading: 2 Chronicles 19:4-7

God is love, merciful, and just. He allows injustice, but there shall be a high penalty to pay. Jesus explained in a parable in Matthew 25:31-46 there would be those on His right hand who fed the stranger when he was hungry, gave him water when he was thirsty and took him in, etc. He stated they were righteous and had treated the strangers as if they were doing it unto Him – Christ like. Those on His left hand he told to depart from Him because they had not fed the strangers, given them water, took them in, clothed them or visited them in prison. Their consequences was everlasting punishment compared to the eternal life the righteous would receive. God is listening and watching how we treat those who cry “that’s not fair”. There must be justice for how we treat our fellow man.

We are in Unit II “Calling of Prophets” of the three units of the quarter. This is the first lesson of a five-lesson study. This unit follows a unit dealing with the era of judges. The first prophet we shall study is Moses. To understand his calling by God, you have to understand the definition of a prophet. Many people think of Moses more as the lawgiver rather than a prophet of God. Such is not true. (See Deut 18:15). As a prophet Moses had a relationship with God. He was both a foreteller (able to accurately predict the future) and a forth-teller (able to declare God’s truth). Such relationship allowed God to use Moses as a willing vessel in the deliverance of the Israelites’ from bondage, in His judgment against the Egyptian nation, and the Israelites’ return to the Promised Land. It is recorded, “…since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,” (Deut 34:10 NKJV).

To set the table regarding the need for the call of Moses, I would like to give some of his ancestors’ history. In a discussion with Abram (Abraham) regarding his descendants, God informed him that his “descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” (Gen 15:13b-14 NKJV) God went on to make a covenant with Abram to return the descendants to the Promised Land. (Gen 15:18-21).

Many events happened to the patriarchs which led them to the land of affliction. Among those events you will find that Abraham had a son by Sarah named Isaac. Abraham proved to be the Father of faith. He would have sacrificed his son Isaac when requested by God, but for the ram in the bush. Isaac had two sons, one of whom was Jacob, known as the liar and wrestled with God. Jacob also married two women (sisters Leah and Rachel), had twelve sons and was renamed Israel. One of Israel’s sons, Joseph, was his favored son. Because Joseph was the favored son, unknown to Israel, his ten older sons (mothered by Leah) plotted and sold him to a band of Midianites. But no one realized this was God’s plan to change an injustice to justice.

God was with Joseph who, after some trials, became second in command under Pharaoh (the king). There was a famine in all the lands and “all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain”. (Gen 41:57a NKJV) Israel sent his brothers to Egypt to request assistance. After they discovered Joseph was still alive, the Israelites moved from Canaan to Egypt. Obviously they did not remember or realize God’s promise to Abraham included the fact that his descendants would move to a foreign land where they would serve the inhabitants for 400 years. We know they went to Egypt out of necessity and it did not begin as a servitude relationship. Chapter 1 of Exodus begins by stating “…each man and his household came with Jacob…All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already). And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.” (Ex. 1:1b, 5-7 NKJV)

So when did the injustice arrive which caused the Israelites to serve the Egyptians 400 years? Pharaoh (the king) who knew Joseph and provided him and his family favor died. “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, ‘Look, the people of the children of Israel are mightier than we, come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.’ Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens.” (Ex 1:8-11a NKJV) The new Pharaoh was evil and caused the Egyptians’ to commit great evils against the Israelites. (See Exodus 1)

One of the recorded evils the Pharaoh weighed against the Israelites was to physically kill all male newborns by throwing them in the river. (Ex 1:22) This was an attempt to stop the Israelite multiplication in population. But God had other plans and Moses was that ram in the bush. Just at the time when Pharaoh’s plan of cruelty was implemented the deliverer was born, although he would not appear on the scene for many years later. Moses was a Levite through both his father and his mother. God saved Moses in order that he might be the deliverer of His people. When we catch up with Moses in today’s lesson, he had experienced living in the Egyptian palace for 40 years, recognized his Hebrew heritage, attempted to violently stop the oppression against his people, and ran away from both his adopted Egyptian family in the palace and the Israelites in Egypt. It was not time to deliver Israel as yet. Egypt’s iniquity was not full, the Israelites were not humbled but were serving the Egyptian idols, and Moses was not quite ready for service. They would not hear from him for another 40 years when the evil Pharaoh died and they began crying to God for justice (Ex 2:23-25).

God had guided Moses to Midian because the Midianites were of the seed of Abraham and Keturah, whom he married following Sarah’s death (Gen 25:1-2). He knew the Midianites had retained His true worship, and Moses would be safe and comfortable among them. It was from Midian that he received his call as a prophet to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage and lead them to the Promised Land.

Moses was not expecting a call from the LORD. He was simply working as usual. Ex 3:1-2 speaks volumes as to how his normal day changed, “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.” (NKJV) Moses was not found idle by God. He had been educated and lived in the king’s palace, but he is humbled and satisfied to be able to be a shepherd and lead his father-in-law’s flock in the desert and on the mountain. Moses would see more of God in the desert, in the wilderness, and on the mountains than he had seen Him during his 40 years in the palace. An Angel of the LORD appeared to him from a burning bush and his deep relationship with God began. It was a manifestation of the divine presence and glory of the LORD. Moses witnessed a flame of fire which did not consume the bush.

The bush was not burning from heaven above or the earth below. However, God is a consuming fire and will consume our enemies when delivering us from injustice. God did not choose a tall, stately tree to cause a flame of fire to burn for Moses to notice. He chose a small bush to indicate it was burned, but not consumed or destroyed. “Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." (Ex 3:3 NKJV) Moses notices the extremely unusual sight. He has to believe that something supernatural is occurring for a bush to burn continuously and not destroyed. He was curious and decided it was necessary to take a closer look at this specimen.

All of a sudden there was a voice coming from the flame within the fire. “So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” (Ex 3:4-5 NKJJV). The LORD was present within the bush. The LORD caught Moses’ attention by his sight of the flame of fire from within a burning bush. Now Moses is captivated as he hears the voice of the LORD from within the burning bush. He had to be surprised. He heard a voice from a burning bush speak his name…not just once, but twice. This had to be a divine meeting. So he did not leave, but answered, “Here I am.” It was a holy occasion. God wanted Moses to come close enough to satisfy his conscience but not his curiosity. He wanted Moses to show Him respect by taking off his sandals on this holy ground and occasion. This is similar to taking off the hat. It is a form of respect and submission. Can you imagine talking to a burning bush on a mountain? This was Mt. Horeb (or Mt. Sinai) and sometimes called the mountain of God. (See verse 1 above) It was a short distance from where Moses would eventually lead his people across on dry land (See Ex 14).

Now that God had Moses attention, it is time for Him to advise Moses of His identity. Ex 3:6 records God’s expression of identity and Moses’ reaction to His divinity. “Moreover 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 upon God.” (NKJV) God first identifies Himself with Moses’ father, Amram, of the tribe of Levi (Ex 2:1; 6:20). Of greater significance was when He identified Himself as the God of the Israelites’ three major patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses did not think he was worthy to look upon the face or be in the presence of God. He was humbled in reverence and fear, and he hid his face.

Now that God has Moses’ attention who has taken off his shoes and even hid his face in reverent humility, the LORD can get down to business. Nothing gets past the knowledge and understanding of God. He is omniscient. God sees and hears the secret cries of His children, and He has a plan against the injustice. First He has to alert Moses of the problem He had seen and heard. Ex 3:7 records God describing the bondage of the Israelites that had been witnessed by Moses 40 years earlier. It reads, “And the LORD said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.” (NKJV) The people have been in bondage for over 400 years. Remember that God had shared with the patriarch Abraham that his descendants would not be delivered from servitude until this timeframe had passed. It is not for us to ask why didn’t or why won’t God act when we want Him to do so. Just keep praising Him for Who He is. God will express concern over injustice when He desires, and there will be action in His time.

After letting Moses know that He has seen and heard the oppression against the Israelites, God now informs Moses of the plan of deliverance which includes his assistance to implement the plan. Ex 3:8-10 reads, “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (NKJV)

Never think you can go to battle against God. As the saying goes, “Our arms are too short to box with God”. The LORD has advised Moses that He is determined to deliver the Israelites. God has moved from alerting Moses of his knowledge to informing him of a plan of action. He is committed not only to deliver them from bondage but to have them delivered to a land flowing with milk and honey. When they are delivered from bondage, it is not God’s desire that they remain in the wilderness desert. They are delivered from bondage to go to something better. To go to the land flowing with milk and honey describes a land of productivity and abundance in the Promised Land. However, a requirement is that they must conquer and completely destroy the inhabitants who are the enemies of God in the new land. Verse 8b is only a partial list of the inhabitants. See Gen 15:19-21 and Deut 7:1-2. Further, the Israelites are not to make a covenant with any of the enemies of God.

Moses is in the presence of God, most likely grateful that it is God’s intent to save his people. That was a desire he had 40 years ago as the son of Pharaoh, but he was not doing it under the authority of God and his method was not proper at that time. Why would God want to call him as the vessel of deliverance now? God had been speaking and now He allows Moses to respond. He is no longer saying “Here I am”, but he saying “Who am I”. Moses doubted as indicated by Ex 3:11, “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” (NKJV) Moses was hesitant now at 80 years old. Who would listen to an old, has-been shepherd with a record of murdering a taskmaster? Surely God needed someone with skills who could handle the multitude of undisciplined, unarmed Israelites. How could he stand up against the mighty Egyptian Pharaoh to deliver the Israelites from bondage and lead them to the Promised Land? If he didn’t believe this was truly God speaking from a burning bush, he would think the LORD had the wrong man for the job.

Had Moses lost his faith and courage while tending sheep in the desert and on the mountain of God? He just had to step back and know that he only had to be a willing vessel of God. The LORD will handle the rest and a sense of unworthiness matters not. Doubt is not on God’s team when He is in charge. “So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’” (Ex 3:12 NKJV) God answers Moses’ objection, “I certainly will be with you.” That reassurance should have been enough for Moses who was plagued with doubt and his insufficiency to be considered part of God’s plan of deliverance. So God provided a sign. He assured him of success, and upon their deliverance, the children of Israel would return to this holy Mt. Horeb (Mt. Sinai) to worship God. (Ex 19)

There are many injustices today. But as God instructed Moses in Ex. 3:14 “I AM WHO I AM” (NKJV), He is able to do the impossible, whatever it takes to cause a deliverance from an injustice. Where do you rank yourself in speaking out against any injustice you may see? As long as God is with you, you have the power to move mountains even if you may see yourself as small and insufficient. “No weapon formed against you shall prosper…” (See Isa 54:17).

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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