SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 26 February 2023
Sermon Text: Exodus 4:1-17
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#6)
I. Patient with man’s arrogance
II. Patient with man’s weakness
III. Patient with man’s inanity
IV. Potent with His own
In our reading of the first half of ch. 4, Moses has just ended telling us about his encounter with God. He has allocated a full and a half chapters for this story. Compared to the contents of the previous chapters, Moses carefully narrates this account as if all that precede it were only to tell this story. It means that his meeting with God has left a significant impact on Moses.
What of this story made such an impression on him, Moses? Why does Moses tell us about his encounter with God in so much emphasis? I believe the answer to questions like these is the key to understanding today’s message for us.
The answer is this that God who appeared to Moses is a patient God – not patient ordinarily like the case of a person in a long queue at a retail shop patiently waiting for his turn to see a cashier, but incredibly and unbelievably patient, enough to make man shiver because of its intensity. Moreover, God is amazingly patient with Moses and with us to reveal His saving power, to demonstrate His grace to all in the world.
In other words, in His patience, God is beyond our imagination – limitless in His perseverance and bottomless in His concern for man; and this patient God draws His elect to Himself through His being patient with His own people like you and me. This is the key; this is the core of the message we must hear today from Moses’ story of facing God and conversing with Him.
So, I want you to join me and stand alongside Moses in this story and observe what’s going on between God and Moses who is a representative of us and all believers, and hear the message of God’s patience with us.
I. PATIENT WITH MAN’S ARROGANCE
The immediate message we hear from Moses is about God’s patience, especially with arrogant man.
Where do I get this idea? From Moses’ words and attitude. You might wonder how anyone could find arrogance with a man like Moses. In ch. 4, he’s been shepherding his father-in-law’s flock for over 40 years by now; he’s been away from his former life as prince of Egypt for four decades; he’s been treading the dusty and rocky soil in the wilderness over those long years by now. And do you find him arrogant? You mighty say, ‘No way!’ But he is arrogant – more than simply arrogant but insolent, brazenly impudent.
Hear what Moses says to God in v. 1, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.” This proves Moses’ sheer impertinence, insolence.
To see this, you must go a few verses backward into ch. 3 of Exodus, and especially v. 18. There, God spoke to Moses, “[the people of Israel] will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go.” There, God clearly told Moses that all of Israel would listen to him. Now, Moses answers, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice.” God says, ‘They will,’ but Moses says, ‘No, they won’t.’
Seeing this, you might still think, ‘Um, that sounds like he didn’t really oppose God but supposed a contingency plan.’ But, my fellow Christians, consider to whom Moses says these words; he is facing the omniscient, omnipotent God. Saying ‘No, I don’t think so’ to such a God is THE evidence, proof of his arrogant heart.
Who is God? As we heard last Lord’s Day, God is beyond all else; He is above all else and does not live in the realm of the finite beings. He is holy and all-knowing and all-powerful. From Him, all things came into being – I mean, all things and beings that are both visible and invisible. This all-knowing God speaks that they will listen to Moses, but he answers, ‘OK, but what if they don’t?’
This is, in fact, a paraphrase of the ancient serpent who spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden. That devil said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” In other words, ‘OK, I see what God said, but what if He meant something else?’ God’s word was clear but the serpent raised its eyebrow and said, ‘But what if?’ That is what Moses means in Ex. 4:1.
Truth is that Moses was a type of all human beings. He was a representative of us all. What we heard from Moses is what we always say and mean. ‘But what if?’ is the prefix to all we think and say. God says, ‘Repent and believe in the Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ who is the Son of God, and by believing in Him, you’ll receive His eternal life.’ Hearing it, people respond and say, ‘But what if that’s not the case and Jesus doesn’t save? What if there’s no eternal life?’ God says, ‘Listen to My Son and obey His commands; rejoice always in Him,’ but Christians reply, ‘OK, but what if my situation in the world wouldn’t allow me to remain obedient to Jesus? What if this and what if that?’
So, seeing God here in Ex. 4 not raising His voice in anger against Moses should amaze you, if not make your soul shiver and tremble. All-knowing holy God has just been despised, yet, the Almighty One remains calm and asks this arrogant creature, Moses, saying, “What is that in your hand?” Then, He shows that wooden staff turning into a snake, most probably a cobra; then, back to its original form. God further displays His power as the holy and all-powerful Creator God by instantly turning his hand infected with a deadly disease of the time, leprosy, and back again. What a patient God He is!
Listen to the psalmist who has understood this; shivering, he says in Ps. 130:3-4, “If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared”!
So, I urge you, my fellow worshipers, to know that our God is patient toward us. We ought not to question God, nor doubt His words. Be always thankful and submissive to Him and say, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe!’
II. PATIENT WITH MAN’S WEAKNESS
God is patient not only with man’s arrogance, but also with our weakness. In v. 10, Moses disputes with God over his dullness in speech. Moses’ point is that God’s plan to send him to Egypt as a messenger is of no point because he can’t speak – speech is his weakest point. What is the point of choosing one whose tongue is dull and appointing him as a spokesperson?
Moses’ words resonate what we ourselves often, if not always, say, don’t they? ‘God, are You serious? I’m not a person of public speech.’ ‘I’m introvert, You know that, don’t You, God?’ ‘I’m too young for this, too old for doing that.’ ‘I’ve got works to do, God, and can’t really make any time for that.’ ‘What do You expect from me, God, as You know I lack this and I’m not equipped with sufficient knowledge, experience, finance,’ and so on and on. Likewise, Moses simply points out and says, ‘I can’t be Your messenger, God; I simply can’t make public speech, let alone facing others in front as their leader!’
To his point, what does God say? Listen carefully, my friends, and it’s v. 11, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” God means, ‘It is I who creates all men and women, and I give each one according to My good and perfect purpose.’ So, God chooses, knowing perfectly to whom He extends His invitation, and assigns him/her a task according to His perfect and good purpose. Hear what God says in v. 12, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
When God calls His beloved, assigning a task, He knows exactly what He is doing. So, everyone called ought to respond and say, ‘Yes, God, I’ll do it as You say.’ This is simple child-like faith Jesus talks about in Mt. 18, saying, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
III. PATIENT WITH MAN’S INANITY
Ultimately, God is patient with man’s inanity or foolishness or senselessness. Despite God’s kind and gracious words, Moses is still inane, absurd, and requests, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” How foolish is this man! God has been patient with his impertinent arrogance and with his weakness, but he isn’t interested in seeing God’s patience; his mind is empty, lacking senses, and that empty heart is inundated with foolishness – so he’s saying, ‘I still don’t like Your plan, God, and pick someone else.’
Interestingly, Moses in v. 13 reminds us of some figures of the Bible, like King Saul and the prophet Jonah. As you remember Jonah, for example, he had proclaimed God’s message of judgment to those of Nineveh. Then, he went outside of the city and sit up on a hillside to watch over the city, waiting for God’s judgment to fall upon the heads of the Ninevites. Earlier to that point, Jonah had learnt from God a good and thorough lesson and the lesson was that God was serious with His message to the Ninevites, intending to save them. Jonah knew it. But he waited for God to punish Israel’s enemies. In a sense, he was protesting God to change His divine will and pour fire from heaven upon Nineveh. He means something like this, ‘I still don’t like Your plan, God, and I want You to do what I want You to do.’
Whereas we don’t read God’s further reaction to Jonah’s inane attitude, Moses’ inanity kindles God’s anger. God no longer remains calm but angry against him. But God is still patient with Moses and Moses is still before the patient God!
Likewise, God has spared us all in His patience with our senselessness. How many times have you and I said to God the same words as of Moses, ‘Send someone else,’ meaning, ‘I don’t like Your plan, God, and do as I wish.’ If God marked our iniquities, as the psalmist earlier said in Ps. 130, none could’ve stood! “But,” says the psalmist, “with You [God] there is forgiveness, that You may be feared”!
Fear Him who is patient, instead of provoking His anger!
IV. POTENT WITH HIS OWN
Then, why was God patient with Moses? Why is He patient with us? In order to reveal God’s saving power to the eyes of God’s elect, firstly, and of the world also. God was patient with Moses to send him to Egypt and deliver the people of Israel from their bondage to slavery. That is to let all of Israel know the God of their fathers, and to let Egypt know that Yahweh alone is God!
Likewise, God is patient with you and with me in order to let all people around us know that God saves as He alone is the Saviour and Lord of all! The Apostle Paul is so clear about this in 1 Tim. 1 which we read earlier today. He says that he used to be a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But in God’s patience, he was transformed and even became a messenger of Jesus’ gospel so as to be a living ‘proof’ or evidence of Jesus’ saving grace to everyone’s eyes, including you and me. If God was patient with a man like Saul and saved him to be Paul, He would surely be patient with anyone and bring him/her to faith in Jesus, thus, save from sin and death!
In a word, God manifests His power in His patience with us, His beloved. He displays His zeal for saving souls in His patience with you and with me. If this is so, then, you should know that God has entrusted you with His power. As God patiently guides you in sanctification, He makes His appeal to many souls around you, beginning from your family members and friends to people you meet on the streets and market places. This is, in fact, what God means when He says to Moses to take his staff and go to Egypt and do the signs. His power is entrusted to you and me, as the staff was given to Moses. And the power of God is the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of Jesus’ salvation that is wrought in you and in me! ***