Last week, we talked about the beginning of God’s redemptive plan to restore relationship – communion and communication – with Himself. We saw the beginning of the practice of building an altar as a way to connect with God. And, we saw the beginning of intercession and the prayers of deliverance. I think most importantly, in Abraham, we found a man who believed God, not just believed in Him, and there is a profound difference. Brandt and Bickel, in introducing us to the prayer life of Moses, make this observation: “God is ever seeking to restore fellowship (communion and communication) with mankind, even though He may at various times use different means to provide forgiveness for sin and to commune intimately with those who obey His word and desire to know Him.” Moses is mentioned 200 times in the OT and NT. What we see in the life of Moses is a man who had a heart for his people, a distant knowledge of the God of the Hebrews, and a man for whom God had a plan for his life. And, we see the transformative power of God in the life of this man Moses. We also see God’s continuing effort to set apart for himself a people who would represent Him to the nations; a call that began with Abraham in Genesis 12:1-6. With Moses we find the beginning of the Mosaic Law that would govern how the Israelites would worship God and how they should be His ambassadors in our Fallen world. With the introduction of the tabernacle of Moses, we see a God who greatly desires to live amongst, to tabernacle with His people. So let’s journey through Exodus and look into the life of Moses.
We are going to look tonight at the transformation of man. When we first find Moses he is a prince of Egypt, a rising political star in government of his day. But he discovers a truth that changes his life and then God takes him on the most incredible journey recorded in the Bible. Tonight we’re going to look at the following with respect to the life of Moses. (review slide) But to preface our study of Moses, consider these thoughts from E.M. Bounds on the prayer life of Moses (from Prayer and Praying Men): “Moses accepts at its full face value the foundation principle of praying that prayer has to do with God. With Abraham we saw this dearly and strongly enunciated. With Moses it is dearer and stronger still if possible. It declared that prayer affected God, that God was influenced in His conduct by prayer, and that God hears and answer prayer even when the hearing and answering might change His conduct and reverse His action. Moses lived near God, and had the freest and most unhindered and boldest access to God, but this, instead of abating the necessity of prayer, made it more necessary, obvious and powerful…Those who know God the best are the richest and most powerful in prayer. Little acquaintance with God, and strangeness and coldness to Him, make prayer a rare and feeble thing. Moses’ mission was a divine one. It was ordered, directed and planned by God. The more there is of God in a movement, the more there is of prayer, conspicuous and controlling. Moses’ prayer rule of the church illustrates the necessity of courage and persistence in prayer.!” Another truth about prayer that we need to understand, and as reflected in our Biblical Prayer definition, is that prayer has everything to do with the purposes of God, much more so than anything we may obtain from prayer.
Brandt and Bickel state that “the first record of Moses praying is found in Exodus 3. God however, took the initiative here, for it was God who spoke first.” God has always spoken first, the question is are we listening. Our good friend the unknown author has this to say: &quot;God has many things to say to us. He has many thoughts to put into our minds. We are apt to be so busy doing His work that we do not stop to listen to His Word. Prayer gives God the opportunity of speaking to us and revealing His will to us.” But sometimes He first needs to get our attention, just like God did with Moses. Let’s open our Bibles to Exodus 3 and look at the Lord getting Moses’ attention. (Read Exodus 3: 1-22) Now, let’s unpack this passage. (review slide) Another truth of prayer is that God establishes communion and communication on His basis; God establishes the ground rules of approaching Him. It is God alone who: initiates, establishes, knows and understands, affirms, and declares who He is. We see in this passage a two way exchange, which is the very nature of prayer – God says to Moses and Moses says to God. But notice who is doing most of the talking – God. That should tell us something about prayer. Ecclaisetes 5:1-2 says “ Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Why do you think it is that we don’t spend more time listening to God? (responsive)
Let’s move on to Chapter 4 to see how Moses responds to God’s call. (Read Exodus 4:1-17). Here we have Moses response to God’s commission – fear and doubt. Moses says… Verse 1: “suppose they don’t believe me.” The Lord wasn’t asking Moses to speak on his own, the Lord had told Moses already “I will be with you.” [click] Verse 10: “oh Lord, I am not…” Obviously Moses didn’t quite understand that the Lord already knew who he was, how he thought about himself, and how Moses allowed his prior experiences to define who he was. [click] Verse 13: “Send someone else…” Moses didn’t have a very good perception of who he was or what the Lord has able to do through him. [click] But now let’s look at how God responded to Moses (Review slide). Today, many Christians do the same thing when the Lord asks us to do something. What has Jesus asked every followers of His to do? Go and make discipleship! But it’s a very sad statistic that only 5 in 100 Christians will ever share their faith with someone in need of the Lord. Why do you think most people never share their faith? Certainly a large part of that answer is the same fear and doubt that Moses responded with – “what if they don’t believe me” or “I am not”. Worse, is to say “send someone else.” (personal testimony) The Lord said to Moses, I will be with you. Jesus says to us “Lo, I am with you always – even to the end of the age.” Do we believe it?
What is Providence? (responsive). One commentator put it this way: Sovereignty is to say that God is in complete control, that not a sparrow falls from the sky without his willing it; whereas Providence has to do with nothing being able to thwart the culmination of God's plan of redemption. God always works all things together for His purposes. We see the providence of God in the Exodus account, over the next 3 chapters, how God had promised to deliver His people out of Egypt. And, not the inadequacies of Moses, the Israelites discouragement, or Pharaohs hardness of heart could thwart His plan. (Review slide) (personal testimony – Pastors COP example). But let’s understand one thing from this account, God’s timing is not ours. The Lord certainly could have saved Moses the time and trouble of having to go repeatedly to Pharaoh only to be told: “Not going to do it, it wouldn’t be prudent.” We know that the Lord in Chapter 3 forewarns Moses about the difficulty, but why doesn’t the Lord allow Moses immediate success with the assignment he has given to him? (Responsive). The same reason the Lord doesn’t always answer our prayers immediately. The Lord is developing the character of Moses, to test him and make him ready for the greater journey ahead. That Moses doesn’t give up is a testimony to his character. The Lord certainly knew that Moses wouldn’t give up, but did Moses? But, like Moses, we often want immediate results, don’t we. We can be sure that the Lord allows our trials for His purposes. We don’t gain anything from our trials if we allow them to conquer us. But the testing of our faith develops perseverance which as James 1:2-4 says when it finishes it will produce in us completeness, we will be lacking nothing that the Lord desires for us. And, as we know God delivers Israel out of Egypt just as He had promised. (Personal testimony - expanded prayer leadership role)
God visits the plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh reluctantly relents and let Israelites go. Next, we have one of the great dramas of the Bible. Let’s move forward to the scene in Exodus 14. (Read Exodus 14:10-31) Let’s unpack these verse (review slide) In Moses, we see a developing faith, he tells the Israelites that God will deliver them, all they need to do was stand still and trust the Lord. On the surface, there is nothing really wrong with Moses command, OR is there? God is our deliverer, He says to take our stand, even to be still and know that He is God. We’re told to pray without ceasing, to trust fully in the Lord and not our own understanding. And, wasn’t Moses doing just that? Moses had prayed for the deliverance of his people, they had been set free after witnessing God’s awesome power. God would certainly see them through to success, to the full deliverance that He had promises, right? Certainly the Israelites could have stood their ground as the Lord destroyed the Egyptian army in any manner or ways He chose, but the Lord in His sovereignty decided to give them all a dunk in the Red Sea. But only again after demonstrating His awesome power. Now the point of the exercise the Lord was putting Moses through, the transforming of the man who we first meet in Exodus 3 cowering before the Lord, was to develop in Moses the leadership qualities he would soon need. The Lord knew that Moses believed in Him, but would Moses believe enough to do what was required of him. Moses faith saved the Israelites; the faith of one man had an impact on many!
Now the Israelites grumble again! The Lord had delivered them out of Egypt, had parted the Red Sea for them to cross on dry land, and had destroyed the Egyptian army. The Israelites had just seen the Lord’s provision with manna and then quail (Chapter 16), but now they have no water. (review slide). Moses says in verse 2 “Why do you put the LORD to the test?&quot; But who was really putting whom to the test. Moses was understanding that the Lord could provide the water as He had provided the manna and the quail. But with each new trial, each new test, the Lord was developing in Moses a dependence, teaching him not to be self-reliant, and teaching the people to rely on the Lord as well, through Moses leadership. It was a lesson that Moses needed to learn the hard way, which is usually how we learn our lessons as well, at least I know I do. In Numbers 20:1-13 we see another similar learning experience for Moses. The Israelites were without water again, and the Lord instructs Moses on what to do – “speak to the rock.” (Numbers 20:8). Last time the instruction was “strike the rock.” But in this account, Moses decides to brazenly take things into his own hands and strikes the rock twice (v 11). The water flows but Moses disobedience costs him dearly; he was not permitted to enter the promised land. The Lord had already said what He would do, but Moses decided he knew better. How many Christians do the same thing today? Here is another truth concerning prayer, The Lord desires our dependence, which is why we pray, but more so God requires our obedience. To obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22) and produces a God promised blessing when we do obey (Deut 11:26).
Let’s set the stage for Exodus 32, after the scene at the “Masah” and “Meribah” in Exodus 17, the Lord gives the Israelites victory over the Amalekites. Moses then gets a lesson in delegated leadership from his Father-in-law, Jethro in chapter 18, the Israelites arrive at Mount Sinai in chapter 19, and God gives a covenant to Moses and the Israelites (Read 19:5-6). Moses, a now transformed man, says to the people in chapter 20 verse 20: “Do not fear, for God has come to test you…so that you may not sin”; evidently Moses was seeing things through a new 20/20 lens. And, God’s presence is seen by the people “thundering and lighting” and the “thick darkness where God was.” And, Moses is on the Mountain for Forty Day with God where he is given the 10 Commandments (chapter 20) and the Law (chapters 21-23). Then we read in Chapter 25:8 “Let them make me a tabernacle, that I may dwell among them.” God declares his intention to restore, at least in a visible if not permanent way, communion and communication with His people. In the next chapters God lays out the plans for the Tabernacle. But then in Chapter 32 verse 1, we read “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain…” Lacking understanding and not knowing what had happened to Moses, the people turn back to the false gods that they knew in Egypt. What strikes you about this account? (Responsive) What strikes me is Moses reaction. Let’s pick it up in verse 9 (Read Exodus 32:9-10). The Lord is royally P.O.ed! But Moses intercedes. Let’s unpack the account. (review slide). Moses exemplifies the bold, self-sacrificing, relentless, and passionate intercessor, the kind that God is “wondering” about. Are we willing to intercede like that? In Exodus 33:17, God says “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.&quot; There is an important lesson here for our intercession even today; see 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Last week we looked as at the Altar as a meeting place between God and His people. As I said, the Altar was man-initiated by Noah as a response to God. As we see throughout Genesis and now Exodus, God is at work restoring fellowship with Himself. Now God responds with a more advanced idea of the Altar, an increasing unveiling of His plan to restore communion and communication. We now find in the Tabernacle, not one but two “Altars” – the Brazen Altar and the Altar of Incense. The Brazen Altar was an altar of sacrifice; this sacrifice was required before going any further into the Tabernacle. The Altar of Incense was an Altar of Intercession. (Review handout) I also said last week that there will never be an end to our “Altar” prayer and worship. Let me unpack that a bit further. Hebrews 13:10 says “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.” All the symbols of the tabernacle are designed to point us to or are “types” of Christ. The altar is Christ himself, in that it is part of Him - who He is - our Tabernacle. We are in Christ! Even with the tabernacle, the Israelites had limited access to God, only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place once a year, Hebrews 10:19 says: “Therefore, brothers, since we have a confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way.” The veil has been torn! Whereas the OT men needed the visible altar to connect with God, the Spirit helps us pray!
I want to introduce in our prayer time this evening the 4 R’s. (Review Slide) This concept of praying the four R’s comes from the ministry I served with in New York City. For nearly 20 years now churches in NYC have been praying for these four R’s in what is called “The Lord’s Watch”. Churches take turns around a monthly calendar praying through these needs. The 4 R’s are a kind of road map to get us where we want to be; seeing God’s glory cover the earth like the waters cover the seas.
“ The Spirit Helps Us To Pray” A Biblical Theology of Prayer