We stand at the end of almost four months in Exodus - we’ve seen how:
- God kept his promise to Abraham and Israel multiplied
- Pharaoh made the Israelites suffer
- God heard his people’s cries, and he saw their suffering, knew their pain and remembered his promise
- Called Moses, commissioned him, assured him, reassured him, re-reassured him.
- Revealed who He was, and is, and AM. Reminded us that it’s about
- We saw the genealogy of a savior, which reminded us just how committed God is to saving His people.
Today we come to the best part - God tells his servant why He’s been doing what He’s done - and this has huge implications for Moses and Aaron and God’s people, as it does for us today.
(A) Reordering His Servant: Not his uncircumcised lips or words, but God’s identity and commands (Exo 6:28-7:2)
Exo 6 ends with another exchange between God and Moses. God once again reiterates who He is ("I am the LORD") (Exo 6:29). This idea of God's identity is repeated throughout the first 6 chapters! God keeps establishing His identity and gives His name to the people etc. God also tells Moses what to reveal to Pharaoh -- "tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you" (Exo 6:29). This is all God says to Moses. There is a simple and clear principle at work here. Knowing who God is is closely related to our response. We obey be cause of who God is. This is why God kept repeating His identity. Maybe God knew that Moses would forget or even have that overshadowed by His encounter with Pharaoh. Whatever the case, this repeated revelation of God's identity was meant to be an encouragement and to get him to obey.
Realise also that this is not a request. Also pay attention to the specific content of God's message to Moses. It was never "Moses, go and deliver my people". It has always been "Moses, I will deliver my people. Now go and tell them." God issues a firm, one- way command. He can do so because He is the Lord. Moses’ main job is to tell and not to worry about the results. This is a specific command with an easily visible obedience.
What does this mean for the laboring Christian? God never burdens us with something we need to accomplish and do for Him. In fact, it is the other way round. God has accomplished something for us, and so we go. Do you disciple people who are non-Christians, struggling or walking away from church? It is not your responsibility to make them see. That is God’s responsibility. Our responsibility is to labor faithfully as we have been called. To the struggling believer, this passage means that we are not called to save ourselves. Our God is not calling us to try harder, work smarter and maybe He will serve. He calls us to Him no matter where we are. We just need to turn and obey.
We read also of Moses' response. Moses says, "Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips” and also worries about how Pharaoh will react to him (Exo 6:30). Here, his focus is on who he is and how unworthy he is of doing what God calls him to. Moses is painfully practical. By all human logic, Moses was probably thinking that it would not work, and therefore, he should not bother even to try. He also thought of himself as unworthy even though God has commissioned and deemed him worthy! God’s message has always been that He will deliver. Moses’ only job is to bring the message (c.f. Exo 3:16-17). God was not asking Moses to save the people. He has already done so. Moses was only called to obey. It has never been about Moses but has always been about God.
What can we learn from Moses? For many of us, we may be used to thinking that Moses is the hero of this story, but this doesn't really seem to be the case. In fact, we see Moses' flaws -- his ego, his fear -- plainly. We realise that God, in calling us to serve Him is not primarily concerned with us achieving something for Him. He knows that we simply cannot accomplish that. He merely seeks our participation through our obedience and faithfulness - nothing more.
Moses' pragmatism may also resonate with us. How often have we responded to God’s call to discipleship, evangelism, church membership with excuses that we are not good enough or that there is no good that will come out of it? Let us remember that God has called us to spiritual maturity and discipleship, so let us obey Him! God has also called us to church membership -- are you a part of one? For the non-believer - God has called you to him. How are you responding?
Despite Moses' rebuttal, God offers him a response. God was trying to make Moses see and learn to trust Him (Exo 7:1)! God gives Moses a new identity (“made you like God”) and even gave him a prophet. Prophets don’t really have prophets, so basically God gave Moses a promotion. Now, Aaron will tell Pharaoh.
Why does God make Moses like God, and make Aaron His prophet? Pharaoh saw himself as divine, and therefore would recognise Moses “equal” standing. God is also addressing Pharaoh’s foolish, flippant words in Exo 5:2. God is preparing Pharaoh to see who He really is. God is incredibly practical - He enables us to serve him by enabling us the most practically - just as how he addressed Pharaoh's supposed divinity by making Moses like God and giving him a prophet, so too will he enable us in specific situations. These passages are so comforting because we see how God's call is always accompanied with God's gift - He will not leave you hanging. He will not call you and leave you out to dry. He will not leave you hanging. If you’re here and struggling with God’s call, know this: if God has called you, you can be sure that He will enable you. And thank God he is patient and loving to shake us and say “see” without killing us!
Do you also see how God uses His people to accomplish his divine work. We are a part of His salvation plan, and we are used by him. We cannot say that God will just do his God thing and write in the sky. All throughout the Bible it is clear that He uses his people to fulfill his work. You and me, like Moses, have a new identity, and that new identity carries with it a responsibility to carry out God’s mission.
(B) Establishing His Lordship: that God’s name is known by all, both Israel and Egypt (Exo 7:3-7)
This part of the narrative may make us uncomfortable, because it speaks of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh (Exo 7:3-4a). God seems impractical. Why would He tells us to do something, and tell us that it will fail? Also, God seems unfair and cruel to Pharaoh. With these questions, we might wonder, how can God be good?
When we read these passages, we might instinctively take issue with HIs sovereignty and Lordship. We are not comfortable with how He acts and the decisions He makes. But Rom 9:14-18 reminds us that if God is a sovereign Creator, He can do as He wills. We struggle with this because we think we are entitled to salvation. We think we can judge and evaluate His actions. But this passage in Romans destroys any such idea and this is also the repeated idea in Exodus. Are we so proud that we think we can judge God? In fact, the opposite is true. It is perfectly gracious for Him not to judge us. It is only grace that meant Him softening our hearts, not hardening it. What the prophet failed to understand was that Pharaoh’s stubborn resistance was part of God’s sovereign plan. God used Pharaoh’s rebellion to prove that God alone had the power to rescue his people. This is also an encouraging word for those among us that lead small groups. Our concern as leaders is our obedience to God, to just God. Everything else is His problem. A good preacher is simply a faithful preacher.
In Exp 7:4b-5, we also see how God is working to show everyone that He is the LORD. To different groups of people, His sovereignty means different things.
- Pharaoh claimed that he doesn’t know God and therefore, doesn’t need to obey this deity that challenges his personal authority (Exo 5:2). Through this, Pharaoh and the Egyptians will know God through His judgment.
For Moses, he has been struggling with who God is. God seems to be a God that doesn’t really keep His promises, and doesn’t really help the situation. In fact, maybe God made things worse (Ex 5:22-23). Through this, he will know God through His sovereignty. Moses will learn that God knows what is going on! God is sovereign and He has planned it. God will use Pharaoh’s rebellion. Egypt will know God through His judgment. Israel will know Him through His grace. This is God’s word to His suffering discouraged servant. Isn't this amazing?
For the Israelites, who are wondering where God is even though they cry out to Him desperately (Exo 2:23-25), God is meeting them through His deliverance. He will save, redeem them because He remembers them.
We cycle through these 3 views of God. Sometimes we just give up and do our own things. At other times, we come to God, wondering why He hasn’t fulfilled His promises. Sometimes we also just cry out. What is our view of God? Will we see Him in judgment? Will we see Him in His sovereignty and be encouraged? Will we see His grace in His salvation?
There is a distinct change in Moses’ and Aaron’s response (Exo 7:6-7). They've experienced God's grace through His explanation and revelation of who He is and this changes their attitude. They recognise that God’s plans are higher, and His purpose is for the peoples to know Him. This allows them to obey wholeheartedly, all the way to the exodus.
When we read passages like these, we might feel as if we want it too, but struggle to be like the characters in the narratives. To understand how God being glorified, God being known, is a good thing, we first need to be reordered like Moses was. If we thought the biggest most important person in the room was ourselves, then we would hate the thought of this egoistic God wanting people to know him, not recognizing our own ego. But if we see and acknowledge that God is the sovereign creator, the fairest judge, the greatest good, then obviously the best thing that could possibly happen to us is for us to know Him. This is the heart of Christianity!
Do we recognise that God’s purposes are for Him to be known by everyone. Does this fuel and spur your ministry? Does this fuel your walk with God? We do what we do because we want to know who God is. This should be our motivation for discipleship, to be the church etc. This is so that the world can know who God is through the church. The church is the means for which God wants the world to see His glory. Are you a part of a local church? Are you serving in your local church? Find a church and commit to it! Serve in your church! God intends to use His churches to make Himself known to the peoples!
(C) Displaying His Glory: God’s sovereignty, power and grace shown ultimately though a saviour (Exo 7:8-13)
We finally get to some action in Exo 7:8-13. This is almost a repeat of Exo 4:1-5. In Exo 7, Moses is to Aaron as God was to Moses - commanding the staff to be thrown down to become a serpent. Through this miracle, we are meant to see that God is lord over creation as well. This is a fulfilment of God’s promises - God made Moses like God to Pharaoh, and God enabled the miracle just as he promised. These are little breadcrumbs that God leaves for Moses that say remind him of His presence and protection. How has God reminded you that he’s got your back? Look out for these breadcrumbs, because there’s a feast coming up (i.e. the plagues).
The battle here sets the stage for the plagues (Exo 7:11-13). Notice the pattern here, because this will be repeated in the next 10 plagues. It always begins with Moses and Aaron’s obedience in going to Pharaoh, followed by a show of counterfeit miracles. God always overcomes the lesser miracles, and there is a perpetual hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. We'll examine the plagues individually in the next series, so watch out for that!
In this "prologue", we see that serpents are a symbol of Pharaoh’s power and God is taking aim directly at Pharaoh’s power and wages war on it. The 10 plagues are therefore an attack on all the gods of Egypt (12:12, Num 33:4). Through it all, God is showing that he is lord not only of His people, but also of the gods of Egypt. He isn’t just a small time, small god of a small people. His sovereignty extends over the nations, even over something as great as Egypt. God wants to be glorified. He wants to be made known, either in judgment or salvation.
The exodus account is one glorious account of God showcasing his sovereignty, power and grace - but it pales in comparison to how he was glorified through Christ. We can look at Moses as a type of Christ. He foreshadowed Christ in bringing the people out of slavery. But Jesus was so much better! Christ never went back to God and said “send someone else”. Instead, He knew that He came as one willing to do the will of the Father. He wasn't merely "like God", but is God! He did not need an Aaron but is Himself the Great High Priest. He did the greatest miracle by His death and resurrection, and the true exodus from bondage to slavery to sin was fulfilled by death on the cross. Jesus is the Serpent-crusher who broke the curse and fulfilled the promises laid for us in Gen 3:15.
This is the God we come to in this study, who sees us and knows us. He calls us to Him today and rescues us from our sin and from Satan if we believe in and obey him. Just like Moses, He calls us to obey. Nothing more, nothing less. He does not expect us to be perfect and righteous. In fact, He sees that we cannot, and so He sends His Son to do what we could not achieve. Have you placed your faith and trust in Him? For those of us that have heard this over and over again, does this knowledge change how we respond to Him? Does this change how your strive for holiness, how you long for him, how you respond in repentance and faith?