As I was with Moses so I will be with you - Pete Hillman
Many of you will have seen the movie about the life of Moses “The Prince of Egypt”. There is in it, of course, the scene where Moses is met by God in a burning bush in the desert and called lead his people out of slavery in the land of Egypt to a new land, the land of promise. I want to use that scene from the Old Testament to have a look at two main things. But first we’ll read the biblical account of the same scene;
"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up."
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"
And Moses said, "Here I am."
"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."
But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "
Finding God in unexpected places – “Here I am”
Where do you expect to find God? Because no matter how creative a thinker you are, no matter how out there you think you are in terms of being a cool Christian I guarantee that there are places you will not expect to find God and where you will suddenly be shocked to find him. For example. How about in the pub? Some people would be surprised to bump into God in the pub. Not me. I have had so many conversations with friends in the pub about God I have started to think that he prefers pubs to churches! And let’s face it, who could blame him?
So it should come as no surprise to you that God will meet with you in all sorts of places and situations. In the place where you work. Do you expect to experience the presence of God when you are there? And if you don’t experience the presence of God there is it really because he isn’t there or is it possibly that you are not looking for him? What about at home? Some of you live in households where God’s name is never spoken aloud except possibly as a swear word. Do you expect to meet him there? Not in your bedroom when you are praying or reading your bible but in the conversations with your parents or brothers and sisters?
You see Moses never expected to meet God in a cave in the middle of no-where whilst he was looking after his Father-in-Law’s sheep. There he was wandering around in the wilderness when suddenly he comes across this curious site that makes him stop and wonder what is going on. It’s at this point he hears the voice and his world flips on its axis and sends him reeling out of control. Because the massive problem that Moses has is that he knows a thing or two about gods! He had been a prince of Egypt and he knew where gods were supposed to live. They lived in massive temples and had hundreds of strange looking priests serving them. Heck, even his adoptive dad had been proclaimed a god for goodness sake and he had lived in a palace surrounded by slaves catering to his every whim. So for Moses this just didn’t make sense. Gods just didn’t live in caves taking on the form of burning bushes.
So what about us? God puts in his appearance in the most unexpected of places. Now I don’t know about you but I love the fact that God does that. I actually am so thrilled that God is not a respecter of places our expectations. What this tells me is that God is not made in my image at all and that He does whatever he chooses whenever he chooses. So the first lesson for today is this. Look for God in unexpected places, expect the unexpected and you will not be disappointed.
But of course the downside to that is that this may well you cause some embarrassment. I mean, it’s like having your mum or dad around when you are trying to have a little kiss and cuddle time with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Or even having me around! Can you really think of anything worse?? Of course that’s not to suggest that God hangs around just to spoil our fun. After all there’s nothing wrong with kiss and cuddle time (so long as you stick to the rules) but I just want to suggest that perhaps we should remember that God is found in unexpected and unwanted places too. Sometimes he makes his presence known to remind us what’s important and that he wants the best for us. But the main thing we need to take on board is that God is with us wherever we find ourselves. As Moses said “Here I am”.
The God of your fathers – “Who am I?”
Back to the story. Moses stumbles across God in the middle of nowhere and is greeted by God in a strange way. He tells him, I am the God of your forefathers of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why does God do this? Why refer to his ancestors? The reason is this. Moses has been brought up as a Prince in the Court of Pharaoh and doesn’t really have any connection with his own people. As a result he is neither Hebrew nor Egyptian. Not one thing or another. But here God sets him straight. By running through Moses’ family tree, by listing the Patriarchs of the faith he reminds Moses of his place as one of the people of Israel. He is the God of Abraham, the first one to be called, his son Isaac and Isacc’s son Jacob. And it was Jacob’s sons who settled in Egypt where Moses found himself being born and brought up. But still, when he is sent to represent God, Moses asks the question “Who am I?” So we start with “Here I am” and move on to “Who am I?”
And that’s a question we all end up asking ourselves some time or another. Who am I? Sometimes we find ourselves lost in a crowd wondering why we don’t feel connected to any of them. Perhaps you are the sort of person who spends time alone wondering about the world and why it feels like you are a stranger. We’ve probably all had times of self-doubt when we wondered whether God really has chosen us. Whether we can ever rise to the challenge of living all out for him. This is where God’s promise to Moses becomes his promise to us. “I am with you”. Now we need to understand that this is not the first time that this promise had been made. In Gen 31:3 we read “Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." In Gen 26:1-3 “The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you” So for Moses God’s promise to be with him is an echo of all those other promises which have gone before. In this Moses can take courage because he knows that God was with his fathers in faith. So what about us? Well the list doesn’t stop here.
In Joshua 1:5 we read “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you”. In Judges 6:15-16 we read again “"But Lord, " Gideon asked, "how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The LORD answered, "I will be with you” And finally we zip all the way through to the New Testament and the last words that Jesus said to his disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you.”
And you know what? Just as Moses knew God’s promise was true for him because it had held true for his ancestors, his fathers in the faith, we too can know that his promise holds true for us. His word to you today is;
As I was with Abraham, so I will be with you.
As I was with Isaac, so I will be with you.
As I was with Jacob, so I will be with you.
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
As I was with Joshua, so I will be with you.
As I was with Gideon, so I will be with you.
As I was with David, so I will be with you.
As I was with Peter, and James and John and Luke and Matthew and Paul and Timothy and all those others, all those who have gone before you…SO I WILL BE WITH YOU.
Proof after the event – “I am sent”
Now we are on the home straight. Because after evoking all these images of the heroes of the faith and leaving them swimming around in Moses head God slips in one of the best bits of proof of his reality which sums up for me what faith is really all about. You will know it’s me that sent you Moses when, after you have confronted Pharaoh, risked almost certain death, persuaded the people who probably hate you as a prince of Egypt anyway and in various other ways overcome all that’s stacked against you. After all that, you’ll know it is God speaking to you because you’ll bring the people here to worship on my holy mountain.
What kind of proof or evidence is that???!!! I can know it’s all going to be ok because later we’ll look back on this together and laugh? God has a very odd sense of humour! You know that? If you don’t believe me just re-read that statement. It makes no sense whatsoever as proof in advance of Moses actions, but only as reassurance after the event. And I think that is just like us. We are asked to trust God in so many ways without having the “proof” we need because, it seems, faith just doesn’t work any other way. We can take comfort from those around us who have experienced God’s provision like the guy we heard about in the New Wine Conference clip but faith only works by asking us to trust. Only then can God act in power. It’s like God says, “You’re gonna have to trust me on this one kids ‘cos otherwise it just won’t work.” That’s why the last thing we need to understand is that “I am sent”. And that phrase works in two ways. First of all I (me) am sent. It’s me that has been told to go. But because of God’s name “I AM” it also reads that “I AM” has sent me. So, I AM sent. You see?
And that double sending makes all the difference. To begin with remember, “Here I am” and God is with me wherever I happen to be. Where he is I am, or more precisely where I am, I AM is. You see? (Say together “Here I am”) Secondly, I know who I AM because I am tells me who I am. In him I find my identity and the foundation of my being. (Say together “Who am I”) And thirdly, I have come to realise that I am sent because I AM sent. You see? (Say together “I am sent”)
Now I know that’s a bit complicated but what it means in essence is this. Wherever I find myself, God goes before me and meets me there, even in the most unexpected of places so we need to look for his presence wherever we may be. Who I am is completely defined by God, not by those around me, nor even by myself and because of that there is no limit to what I can do in his name and his strength or to put it another way, there is no limit to what he can do through me.
And finally I am sent into the world to carry the good news of the salvation of Jesus and God goes with me in his strength and power. So what will you do tomorrow when you are at school, college or work when that alarm sounds? Will you look for God’s presence, listen for his voice of command and act in his power? Or will you bottle it. That’s the challenge for today. Know God is with you, always, know who you are in Him and know that He has sent you to be the good news.
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