Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 8: Redemption…
Intro…Can God both give you an assignment to do and it be hard? Yes. Why? Why would God do this? Why would a parent, teacher, coach or employer do this? To see the mettle of his student? To expose their strengths and liabilities. If we come to the table already fit, what’s the point? What do we have to learn? How will we grow? Sometimes we are given a difficult, challenging assignment that we may or may not be able to accomplish, particularly in our own wisdom and strength, as Moses sought to do when he intervened on behalf of the Hebrew slave that was being beaten by the Egyptian steward. Moses in his own strength and wisdom ends up killing and burying the harsh steward. When he finds out that others know what he has done, he panics and flees Egypt, and then spends forty years in a self-imposed exile. Moses had talent, no doubt about it, but he needed what only God could do through him, if he was to pull off the impossible. This is true of all of us. Pretty good, on our own, perhaps, but not good enough…not God enough. God is our only hope and salvation. With God, always greater than.
How might you demonstrate or expose this truth to your students. Good, bad or indifferent without God; invincible, called and empowered with God.
Series Introduction: You make a mistake…perhaps even a huge mistake; you think your life has changed forever–that there is no going back. In exile, you take your flock of sheep, which you have been pasturing for these past forty years to an out-of-the-way desert valley that seems to symbolize your exiled existence. You see something strange in the distance—it’s a fire…an inextinguishable flame.
You bravely venture forth for a closer inspection of the undying flame. As you draw closer, something happens–you begin to experience something that will change your entire understanding of your human existence—you encounter God of the Universe.
Out of all the people on the planet, the Creator of the Universe has chosen YOU–a wandering, lonely, exiled, imperfect shepherd–to free and lead an exodus of what will become an emancipated people group of over two million strong from the oppressive grip of a much stronger nation that enslaves them—a nation that does intend to just allow you to walk in and then walk out with all its slaves. And even after you pull off this miraculous emancipation, you must now lead or shepherd this massive new nation across a vast desert with little food or water resources to a land that, while flowing with milk and honey, only somewhat briefly belonged to your forefathers over four centuries ago and is now currently occupied by many wicked or evil tribes that just don’t intend to hand you back your ancestors’ tribal lands.
Impossible, you say? Ridiculous? Utterly insane, if you ask me. Unless the God of Creation is the one doing the calling AND the work of liberation and deliverance. Do you have the guts or crazy faith to be obedient, to trust, to put one foot in front of the other no matter the costs?
I write all this to encourage all of you NOT to minimize what is about to take place in this, one of the great stories of human history. It is one of gargantuan proportions. And yet, our faith…your faith, born in heaven itself, is a faith of gargantuan implications. If God could do this with Moses, what might he still have planned for you?
Read the Passage three times…
18 Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive.” Jethro said, “Go, and I wish you well.”
Was it respectful to ask the father-in-law to leave or cultural? Jethro seemed very trusting of Moses. But after 40 years, this kind of trust makes sense. Now Moses knew that his brother was coming to him because of the previous passage, but did he think he was coming to tell him that his family was dead? Why did Moses not tell Jethro what God had told him? Was his father-in-law not a believer? Was this the reason? He was a Midianite priest? Who and what did the Midianites worship?
19 Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.”
A new wrinkle that we were not told of earlier in the LORD’s conversation with Moses, so we don’t know everything that might have been said. Does this mean that the nation has forgotten Moses? He is a non-issue?
20 So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.
Now it has become the staff of God; no longer is it the staff of Moses. How long a journey was it across the Sinai to Egypt? Was it a difficult journey? Would this journey be difficult on his family? Would it be safe? How old were his sons?
21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Was this a second conversation or from the previous conversation? If from the previous conversation, why did the writer, presumably Moses, choose to use this approach to tell us more of what was said? Why is God going through all this—the miracles and the hardening? What is the purpose to defeat your purpose? To cause a greater miracle? To severely discipline the Egyptians? Did he have a reason? Was it for enslaving Israel? Was it due to their polytheism?
22 Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son,
How is a nation his first-born son? I thought Jesus was? Was this because of Abraham? First-born, usually means eldest and by which the family land, name and authority were handed down? Is this a metaphor? Does this mean that Israel is special?
23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'”
Here is the discipline? Intervention to allow them to go? Why so severe? Makes God sound vindictive? Is this literal—Pharaoh’s son or the entire nation’s firstborn sons?
24 At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met [Moses] and was about to kill him.
Where did this come from? This sounds extreme? Why is Moses in brackets? How was he going to kill him? It would seem that the same God that is sending Moses to Pharaoh to tell him that he is about to lose his first born son—no small act…to take the life of a prince of Egypt—certainly means business and is NOT afraid to take the life of the servant he is sending…
25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched [Moses’] feet with it. “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said.
Why did Moses’ wife act so fast? How did she know what to do? Why now had the LORD chosen to do this? Is this something that Moses had been instructed to do, but had failed to follow through on? Why does this event come so out-of-the-blue? Why did she touch Moses’ feet? Why had Moses failed to circumcise his son? Why was it important now? Because they were getting closer to the nation once again? Would the LORD actually have killed Moses? What would he have done to find a leader to lead the nation out of Egypt? Did Israel’s redemption hang so narrowly in the balance? What does this say about God? That he will not be disrespected? That he does not play favorites? Did Zipporah resent having to circumcise her child? What was the custom of circumcision all about in the first place? Was this the symbol or sign of God’s covenant or contract with Abraham? All his male descendants would have the foreskin of their penis removed? Why this painful symbol? At one time we thought it was hygienic? Easier to clean? This does not seem to be the case today? Was it a symbol of the flesh that needs to be removed in our lives? A symbol that says that our biggest struggle with sin will be through the male’s reproductive organ? It allows us to have children, but at the same time because it is a source of great pleasure, mankind finds it difficult to stay within godly, healthy limits? (Okay enough. Just some wild thoughts.)
26 So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)
27 The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the desert to meet Moses.” So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him.
Is this Mount Sinai or Horeb where Moses was first called to the burning bush and later where he will receive God’s covenant with Israel or the Law, the code of ethics of how Israel was to live and worship God in the new land they were traveling to—their constitution so to speak?
What was running through Aaron’s mind? Did Aaron know what was going on? Did God speak to people often then since they did not have many or any Scriptures?
28 Then Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform.
29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites,
The story jumps immediately forward to their being in Egypt? Did people remember or know who Moses was? That he was raised in the house of the Pharaoh when other infant boys were put to death? That he traded all that for the role of an exiled shepherd via his coming to the defense of a fellow Israelite that was being beaten and the murder of an Egyptian who was beating him? How many elders?
30 and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people,
So Aaron becomes Moses’ mouthpiece. All the people or just the elders?
31 and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
Who’s? Moses, Jethro, his father-in-law, my own people, any of them, all the men who wanted to kill you, his wife and sons, Pharaoh, the people, Israel is my firstborn son, your firstborn son, Zipporah, her son’s foreskin, Aaron, elders of the Israelites, the people, LORD
Where’s? went back to Jethro, to my own people in Egypt, in Midian, to Egypt, in his hand, before Pharaoh, at a lodging place on the way, into the desert, at the mountain of God
When’s? then Moses went back, still, when you return, then say to, then Moses told, and when they heard
• Moses asks his father-in-law if he can go back to his people.
• Jethro has no problems with this and wishes him well.
• The LORD reassures Moses that all those seeking his life have passed on—kind of like King Herod with Jesus, just in reverse. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt.
• Moses loads up the family and heads back to Egypt with the staff of God in hand.
• The LORD reminds Moses that his task will not be easy. Despite the miracles, God will harden Pharaoh’s heart and refuse to let Israel go.
• At this point, God will severely discipline Egypt, taking their first-born sons, because Pharaoh refused to allow God’s first-born son, Israel, to leave Egypt and worship him.
• On his way to Egypt a strange episode occurs. The LORD almost takes Moses’ life when his wife intervenes and circumcises Moses’ son.
• The LORD instructs Moses’ brother Aaron to meet Moses in the desert.
• They meet at the previous mountain where God had called Moses.
• Moses tells Aaron God’s plan for the both of them to lead Israel out of Egypt.
• They meet with the elders of Israel, and after performing the miracles before the people, the people fall down in worship because God has seen their plight is about to deliver them.
• Moses must return to Egypt.
• God reminds Moses that Pharaoh’s heart will be hard, but that God will take care of this—he will take his firstborn son.
• Zipporah spares Moses’ life by circumcising his son.
• Aaron is directed to meet Moses in the desert where he learns of God’s plan to liberate the Israelites.
• The Israelite elders, back in Egypt, respond worshipfully to Moses and Aaron’s message of God’s intended redemption.
Despite a serious bump in the road, Moses, equipped with a seemingly impossible mandate from God—to lead Israel out of slavery, now makes it back to Egypt.
Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?
• Despite his great call, Moses is still respectful of his father-in-law.
• Eventually, our enemies…God’s enemies… will be destroyed.
• God can be and is multi-purposed. He allows Moses to perform the miracles, but at the same time, he hardens Pharaoh’s heart–two seemingly contradictory objectives. And yet in the long term this will all make sense. In the short run, Pharaoh’s lack of a positive response, despite the miracles, could seem discouraging. But don’t be discouraged that things don’t always go the way we would like them to, even if God has called us to the task. Both the task and the resistance are allowed by God. God has something bigger up his sleeve.
• Despite Moses’ call, God was still not going to bend the rules for his especially-chosen leader. Moses had failed to circumcise his son—something all the children of Abraham were supposed to have experienced (Gen. 17:9ff). Moses’ failure to recognize God’s covenant had almost cost him his life. God must make it clear to his servant—if you work for me as my holy instrument, you will be holy…no exceptions. I am not afraid to take the life of Pharaoh’s son, and I am certainly not afraid to take your life. Get holy. Do the basics. Do what you have failed to do. Circumcise your son.
• Zipporah’s shrewd and quick acting spared her husband’s life, though it cost her as mother to inflict pain upon her son. But she did it anyway because she knew it was the right thing to do, albeit painful and costly, as she admits. (Why Moses did not do this or why she took it upon herself to circumcise her son is not clear.)
• God can work in two different peoples lives at the same time. in very separate ways He did this with me and Rhonda in order to bring us together and he still does this in people’s lives today.
• The proper response to the news of God’s merciful intervention, such as his sending of his Son to Spiritually intervene on our behalf, is always worship.
So What’s? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share or confess it with the group.)
This week’s struggle: Just a lot to do, the chief of which is to prepare to present to the Body the elders’ ministry/financial goals for the upcoming year. There is also a renewed emphasis of work going on the church this week to finish up left over construction projects, as well as my message to prepare, etc. Just feeling a little nervous about getting it all done or managing it.
Principle/Application: Just because God may have called us to do something doesn’t mean that it will be easy, or there won’t be divine resistance involved. In fact, there probably will be. But this is what builds up our Spiritual muscles.
Just because he may have called us to build a church facility or to strengthen our ministry via an increase in staff, does not mean it will be easy. But you step up to the plate, honestly present your case and allow the Body to respond how they are going to respond. So far they have always come through very solidly, particularly, in these last seven years. My part is just be obedient. God is responsible for the results.
Thanksgiving…It was an amazing Sunday, especially my teaching, lunch and a picnic afterwards and a baptism and walk. I was actually better prepared than I had been in awhile. I had taken the previous week off, which no doubt helped, but I was still late in the process. And yet, even late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, the passage, illustrations and application all came together. It felt truly of the Lord–As we experience, trust and walk or live in the divine Light of the Son’s atonement for our sin and the Spirit’s words, truth and power, we are becoming children of Light to those who are lost in a ever-darkening world. We become light. We are light in a dark world. We give out hope and truth to those lost in the dark. It’s an amazing Spiritual process and journey—one not to be taken lightly or for granted. Amen! (John 12:33ff).
In addition, one of the Spiritual grandparents of one of the children I had the honor of baptizing into Christ, it turns out, attended my church over a quarter of a century ago…as a college student! In addition, they want to get together. They are from out of town and our meeting for reasons I can’t elaborate right now is absolutely crucial. I am telling you, you can’t make this stuff up…modern-day hints of God’s miraculous working in the life of Moses and the Children of Israel so long ago…
Struggle…A lot to get done seemingly. A lot of study, reading and writing…this revised lesson, this Sunday’s teaching and filling in some gaps in SLove. And yet there are still lots of sheep to shepherd, check on or look after, including wayward sheep, as well as, administrative, facility and grounds and personal tasks to get done. God give me the grace to pace myself. Grace, Lord. Grace. In your strength…your tasks…your time…your leading…your power…your truth…
Truths…God’s multi-tasking purposes within our lives; God’s call does not exempt the called from even the very basics of the Covenant’s demands. In other words, the messenger is NOT above the message he is to deliver; Zipporah quickly and shrewdly moves to save her husband’s…the messenger’s…life; the message of deliverance validated by God’s power ought to inspire worship of the Deliverer.
Application…Because I am seeing evidence of God’s eventual deliverance and power, I will worship Him. I must thank Him. I must look forward to the battle…the struggle…the war…understanding that he is constantly weaving individual destines and plot lines together to accomplish his greater will…even plot lines that seem resistant or contrarian to the task he has given us. So therefore, even if something is difficult, that really means very little. Expect it. As the writer of Hebrews, quoting the Proverbs, reminds us: “As a father disciplines his son for his own good, so God disciplines those he loves for our own good.” We can be called to a Spiritual task, and yet, there may be divinely allowed obstacles strewn within our path. It has certainly been true of my life. Both are critical for our growth…the call…and its acceptance, and the resistance that must be overcome in order to fulfill the call. For me, this week, it is balance, patience, insight, trust, perseverance.
What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?
Which principles seem to relate?
How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)
Special Note on the “LORD”: Notice that I AM WHO I AM as well as LORD are in all caps in the NIV. Why is this?
The reason for this is that both phrases or words are one in the same. LORD in all caps becomes a substitute for I AM (or Yahweh, pronounced Yah-way in Hebrew) for God’s personal name. That is why we call him LORD. When “Lord” is not in all caps, it is the Hebrew word for “master” (adonai).
Why LORD for I AM? Good question. Because God’s personal name, I AM or Yahweh, was consider sacred and not to be taken in vain (Ex 20, one of the ten commandments), scribes substituted the vowels for “Lord or master” (adonai) underneath the consonants for the Yahweh (I AM) within the biblical text since there were no vowels to begin with (Jews did not need them; we did). Rabbi’s knew they were to substitute “adonai,” Lord, for “Yahweh,” I AM, thus not profaning the LORD’s name. But what we, later readers did was to come up with an entirely new word, one that did not really exist, one that combines the consonants of Yahweh with the vowels of adonai–Jehovah.
In fact, for the most part, I will seldom use it. It does not really exist. We have made it up. Either use LORD (Yahweh, I AM ) or Lord (adonai, master or Lord).
So now you know why LORD is in all caps. Remember it stand for I AM or Yahweh, God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Joe or Joseph.
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.