Sermon delivered May 8, 1999

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Mighty Moses

We're continuing the series of sermons on the life of Moses. This one is about Mighty Moses.

Let me ask you a question. What do Moses, Charles Darwin, Porky Pig, and Demosthenes have in common? You may say, 'They don't have anything in common.' They were presumed to be famous stutterers. Everyone of them. Demosthenes taught speech. To learn to overcome his stuttering, he would fill his mouth with pebbles, and if he could speak that way he was certain he could speak without the pebbles. And so in his speech school he gave each of his students a mouth full of marbles. Each day the instructor reduced the number by one marble. When the student lost all of his marbles he graduated. Then he was qualified to be a public speaker. (Washington Post) Well, I'm not sure that's the way to do that.

Moses and Aaron were jittery as they approached Pharaoh's magnificent palace. You can read this story in Exodus 5. We're going to begin with verse one. Moses could almost feel a stuttering spasm coming on. You can read their famous speech in Exodus 5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.'" That's the purpose.

Now you got to be aware that the Israelites were not allowed to worship God in Egypt. They cold be stoned for that. Verses six and eight tells us that. There was a death decree. If you worshipped you could be killed. And so there was no worship. They were working seven days a week. The only way they could worship was to leave Egypt. And so a lot of this has to do with worship. Many Israelites had almost forgotten totally about God's law. The Sabbath had been generally disregarded. They had to leave Egypt to keep the Sabbath. It was illegal to worship any other god in Egypt. You could be stoned for keeping the Sabbath - Exodus 8:26. They were all under a death decree. All clear-thinking straw- stomping, brick-making Hebrews would rejoice that God was about to send the deliverer.

They had to leave Egypt in order to Worship God. Psalm 105:43 He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy;... and verse 45 that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws. They could not do it in Egypt. That's why they were brought out.

Moses and Aaron were Sabbath reformers. How could God bless His people when they desecrated His law? As a result many began to keep the Sabbath illegally. Pharaoh noticed the work outage. He noticed the decrease of brick production and so he suspected a revolt was coming.

Now, Pharaoh was the god of Egypt and his words were law. Just a snap of the finger or a little nod of his head, and you could be dead on the palace floor. Moses and Aaron came into this. He was nobody to fool around with. He lived in lavishness. When the two brothers entered his great palace, they probably looked like unshaven red-neck shepherds that had been out with a heavy dose of sunstroke. And Pharaoh saw these people coming and probably thought, 'My, what is going to happen?' And of course in Egypt shepherds were as loathsome as squash is to a child. They were basically disrespected and even hated. Why listen to some crazy shepherds obviously suffering with a bad case of sunstroke? So the answer they got was a flat "NO! You people can't go! They need to get back to work."

Moses mustered up his courage and with a voice that may have sounded much like the desert wind whistling through a splinter on an old fence post he watered down his request slightly and said in Exodus 5:3 Here comes phase two of the request. Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God."

Is that really what Moses Wanted? Did he want a three-day vacation? That's not it, is it. Is Moses telling the whole truth here? No. Now, before you judge him too hard, you need to know that now he is quoting exactly what God told him to say... (Look back in Exodus 3:18) Moses said it word for word about the three- day journey is all they wanted. So, let's not blame Moses for telling a part truth here. He gets it straight from God. he quotes Him word for word.

And Pharaoh said, "NO! No Way! In your dreams Moses, this will never happen! You're not going to get these people out of here." Pharaoh's upper lip became thin and white. His word was law. Exodus 5:4 You had better get back to work before I sacrifice you. That's basically what he was saying. Such audacity! Pharaoh was flabbergasted. It was the last straw. "Your Request is Denied!"

Verse 6 reveals a shameful thing. Do you know who these mean slave drivers and foremen were? Hebrews. Most were Judas-like double- crossing Hebrews themselves, whipping their own people.

Moses had asked for freedom and what he got was even more punishment for his people. Not only was the quota of bricks not reduced, but now they had to find their own straw.

Each Hebrew slave was required to make 2000 to 2400 bricks every day, seven days a week. That's lot of bricks. You try to lift that many bricks in a day's time, you're going to be tired just lifting the things. And they made them with straw. Why did they use straw for sun dried bricks? Do we do that today? No. So, why did they do that?

    Well, there were at least two purposes:
  1. Straw was a binding agent to increase the strength of the sun dried brick. They were not using kilns. The straw helped hold them together.
  2. Secondly the decomposition of the straw released a compound that not only boosted the tensile strength of the brick but it increased its resistance to cracking.
  3. Bricks made with straw were three times stronger than bricks made without straw.
So, that's why they used straw. Now they had to get their own.

Instead of being a hero, Moses' plan had backfired and he was now looked upon as responsible for even more work and so they were hated. Moses became discouraged. Because Moses came, the rules had changed and things were impossible. Now even the foremen were beaten by Egyptian taskmasters to extract the daily quantity of bricks.

What did Moses do? A very interesting thing. Exodus 5:22 Moses returned to the Lord. That's a good thing to do when you face unimaginable predicaments. When you have a problem you need to go to the Lord. And that's why Moses is such a famous person. He goes to the Lord. When you're in a problem you need to consult God. In fact, Peter said in John 6:68 Lord, to whom shall we go? There is no other place to go.

Now, Moses may have said, "Lord, I told you this would happen. Way back at the bush I knew it would not work. I would go in and it would be even worse. Now I am ruined. I quoted you word for word and the whole thing blew up in my face. Now things are worse than ever before. And God, it is your fault."

Do we blame God for our problems? Maybe what we need is a good lesson in patience. Maybe there is a reason why things go from bad to worse. Maybe it is for the best. Maybe all things work for the good to them who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

Exodus 5:22,23 Moses returned to the LORD and said, "O Lord, WHY have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all." He's really pointing the finger at God, isn't he. He said, 'God, you've dropped the ball and left us high and dry.' Moses felt Discouraged. Ready to quit.

We get in situations like that from time to time. Maybe your spouse did you dirty. You think, 'That does it. I Quit! I am out of here. I don't have to put up with this.'

Maybe your classmates treat you like trash. You think, 'OK, I will just show them what trash can be like. I will snort some powder and I'll get on drugs. I'll show them. I will live up to their image of me.'

Maybe your employer demands far more than you can give. You need a happy hour on the way home to unwind. You try to drown your problems with alcohol. You are discouraged. It doesn't work.

Moses felt as low as a beetle's bellybutton. So often it is not until we land on the bottom of the barrel that God can begin to work in our behalf. God couldn't do anything for Moses until Moses took his hands off the steering wheel. Then God could take charge. Not until we give up can He take the controls. The next verse says: NOW you will see my mighty salvation. "Now that you've taken your hands off the steering wheel, now I can operate in your behalf. Now I can do something for you."

Don't miss a KEY message here in chapter 6. I missed these when I just read it as a chapter. First of all, something that really jumped out at me as I studied this. Do you realise that in chapter six, FIVE times in this chapter God says "I AM !" He was trying to redirect Moses and redirect his eyes from Pharaoh to Himself. That's a good thing to do. The I AM is telling Moses, "Don't look at Pharaoh... look at me! Fix your eyes on me. In Hebrews 12:2 it says, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. In Hebrews 3:1 it says, ...fix your thoughts on Jesus. That's what God was trying to do: redirect Moses' thoughts, his eyes on the answer and not the problem. That's a good lesson.

Another lesson here in chapter six. SEVEN times in this chapter God says, "I WILL !" The words, "I will." The I WILL is telling him, "Don't look at the problems, look at the Promises. Focus on my capabilities." I think we need to focus more on the "I will", the promise of God than the problems of life.

So often we focus on the bills. We can't see anything but problems. The kids are not getting good grades; the boss is impossible; things just are not going well. Instead of zooming in on the problems, why not concentrate on God's power? That's what Christians ought to do.

Let's go to Exodus 7. There's a genealogy in here which gives Moses a lot of credence. He's the right person for the right job at the right time. Aaron and Moses go back to Pharaoh to demand that he let the people go. Pharaoh is mule headed. This man in order to get his attention you have to hit him over the head with a two-by-four. A tough nut to crack. The plagues were the weapon of choice.

I though about Kosovo and Milosovich. I thought about that. Milosovich is one determined man bound and determined to exterminate the Moslems from his land. Now you have an Orthodox Christian who is doing his best to exterminate Moslems in his land. Bombs are being dropped by NATO from the heavens to get his attention and to try to save the people who are left. Here in this chapter God had to drop ten plagues from heaven upon Pharaoh to get him to let the people go, so he would give in.

Let's read Exodus 7:7-9 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh. The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' then say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,' and it will become a snake."

God used ordinary old men and an ordinary old stick to do something extraordinary. How old were they? Moses was eighty and Aaron was eighty-three years old. Have you ever been eighty-three years old? It's an old age. And here God was using these old men with their old stick and with them He performed a miracle. I would get from that that God has endowed me, God has endowed you with all the equipment necessary however old you are, whatever circumstances you come from to do His will, to fulfill His plan. You've got what it takes. You don't have to have much of anything. God can take a youngster's vitality, an old person's wisdom, a committed person's prayers, a poor person's kindness and liberate a nation or a suffering people from their foe.

The rods and snakes were the credentials of Moses and Aaron. The Hebrew word for snake here refers to a reptile of frightful dimensions, similar to a sea monster. (Hebrew word is Tannin). That snake was huge and dangerous. It was a big snake, but I don't know what kind.

Exodus 7:11,12 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts. Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs. I liked that part. Aaron's staff was a little bit hungrier.

How many Egyptian magicians were there representing Egypt that day? There were two. It doesn't say this in the Old Testament. Do you know where we get their names? We get it from II Timothy 3:8. It names these two Egyptian magicians: Jannes and Jambres.

I would have loved to have been a undercover observer to that exciting event. The message is crystal clear. Pharaoh is the monster. What did the rod represent? When you as a parent hold that rod in your hand and you spank your child, what does that rod represent? It clearly represent authority. What God is saying here, 'Pharaoh, you're the monster. You're going to be destroyed. The Rod of God will get you. You will be laid low and in the final battle you are going to be defeated." That's the symbolism that's going on here. The king's rule is consumed by Aaron's single rod. The symbolism was clear. Yahweh's power is far greater and when the final battle comes He will win. God is the real God, not Pharaoh.

Question: Were the fake snakes real snakes? NO! Does Satan have the power to create life? NO! They appeared to be real to the human eye.

Exodus 7:13 Yet Pharaoh's heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said. In the King James Version it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

Who made his heart hard? God did! I thought God was in the business of making hearts soft! Why would God harden Pharaoh's heart? Why would God harden anybody's heart? Did God harden Pharaoh's heart? Well, apparently He did. There are several verses here that say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, but several also say that God participated in that. I think that God just didn't spend time softening it. Certainly Pharaoh didn't. I think He just let it remain hard and unless God spends time softening our hearts they won't get soft, they'll be as hard as a brick. Pharaoh';s heart was as hard as cast iron. It was case- hardened.

    We may never know all the reasons but several seem obvious.
  1. . Pharaoh needed to know God. The months it took for all ten plagues to fall would allow him time to consider that there could be a true God.
  2. . The Israelites needed time to really want to exit in the Exodus.

There are three places in the Bible that say that he hardened his own heart! (8:15, 32, 9:34). But God did not spend time softening Pharaoh's cast iron heart. Without God we all would be as hard hearted as a brick. Case hardened by pride and sin.

Let me just mention the first plague. This is in Exodus 7. The first PLAGUE was BLOOD. The whole Nile River turned to blood. What did the Nile represent to the Egyptians? It was their life. They got their food from the Nile. It was the source of their life, their drinking, their crops, their bathing, their cooking, their fishing, their cleaning, their irrigation for their crops. No wonder they worshipped the Nile River. The Nile was their chief god. From a mysterious far away source came life-giving water. They depended on the Nile for life, for drinking, crops, bathing, cooking, cleaning, fish to eat... you name it. No wonder it was worshiped.

Exodus 7:20,21 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. Was it really blood? Exodus 7:17- not "like" blood but actual blood. I would believe that it was real blood.

This plague seems to be universal. I could just picture Zipporah, Moses wife. Remember the time when she circumcised his youngest son and threw the foreskin at his feet and said, "You bloody husband. I could just picture Zipporah hearing this news and saying, "It is so typical of Moses. The first plague is blood. That guy loves blood!"

Notice that the plagues fall on a very selective target. They don't fall on the kangaroos of Australia. They don't fall on the Mississippi River. They fall on Egypt. They fall on Pharaoh. I think when we're bombing people we need to hit the right target. The NATO bombers haven't' always hit the right targets. Each is meaningful to the audience it is targeted for. And I'm so thrilled that when God sends a plague it reaches its target where it was intended. How often God uses things to wake us up that would be pertinent to us. He send things into our lives that are designed to wake us up personally.

Before we go to the second plague, have you ever wondered why God would even use plagues? Why would God use plagues? What was the objective? To get His people out of Egypt. Why not just send an angel and turn all Egyptians into a pillar of salt, and in a moment in the twinkling of an eye transport two million former slaves through a cloudy conduit directly into the heart of the promised land? Plop, there they land in a fully built Jerusalem in all its glory with a grand temple ready for worship? Why couldn't God do that? Why not? Could He? Yes, He could.

Judgment falls on Egyptian territory only.

Of course the Egyptian Magicians counterfeited the true miracle by also making water into a blood like substance. They dug along the bank of the Nile and got some water and turned it into blood. Satan loves the counterfeiting business. But it is very crucial to observe that Pharaoh did not ask the Egyptian magicians to turn the blood back into fresh water. They couldn't do that. That was impossible for them to perform.

The Second PLAGUE was a plague of FROGS (Exodus 8). The people about croaked over this vexation. It was wall to wall croakers! Amphibians galore!

Exodus 8:2,3 (New Living Translation) If you refuse, then listen carefully to this: I will send vast hordes of frogs across your entire land from one border to the other. The Nile River will swarm with them. They will come up out of the river and into your houses, even into your bedrooms and onto your beds! Every home in Egypt will be filled with them. They will fill even your ovens and your kneading bowls.

Imagine opening your oven only to find it filled with Frogs. Wouldn't that be exciting? Visualize going down the hallway at night to get a drink and you slip on these squishy things, sliding on them, falling among them. And they're croaking all night long around you. And you're not allowed to purposely kill one of the frogs because they are your gods. Frogs are sacred to the Egyptians. They were a sacred "cow". Can't kill it. Can't kill any of these varmints, these gods. Have to love them. Why, what a plague!

God did so much to come to the rescue of His people. I believe that the God that rescued those people is still alive and well today, and He will rescue you from your crisis, whatever it is. He still hears the cry of His children. He still answers prayers. He will still come to their aid.... in His own time and in His own way.

Opening Hymn: # 340 Jesus Saves
Scripture: Isaiah 61:1-3
Closing Hymn: # 343 I Will Sing of My Redeemer

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