Sermon: How God Helps Us To Obey

 

1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. 2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. 3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. 4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: 5 That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. 6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. 7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. 8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. 9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land. 10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. 15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. 16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. 17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs. (Exodus 4:1–17)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

We have been looking at the account of Moses meeting the Lord at the Burning Bush. The Lord God had called him to go back to Egypt, where his people were slaves, and to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go.

 

Not exactly the kind of thing that would make a person jump for joy—downright dangerous and even, from a human viewpoint, a sure-fire way to commit suicide. 

 

Immediately, Moses began raising objections. His first seemed humble, but it wasn’t:

 

11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)

 

God understood that Moses spoke out of fear, and so he responded, not with a list of good reasons why Moses was the right guy for the job, but with a more comforting, “Certainly, I will be with thee.”

 

Moses’ second objection concerned the authority by which he would speak to the Israelites. When they asked about God, “What is his name?” (Exodus 3:13), what was he going to tell them? 

 

Again, this was Moses’ own fear controlling him. He was afraid of going into the situation and discovering that the God who sent him was not powerful enough to back him up. 

 

So God comforted his fears by giving his name—the most powerful name in the universe: Jehovah or Yahweh. 

 

Further, he defined his name for Moses: Jehovah means, “I AM THAT I AM,” which means, among other things, that God has had no beginning and will have no end. He is simply, “I AM.”

 

Systematically, the Lord was helping Moses to obey him by removing his fears. 

 

What fears keep you from obeying God? The fear of embarrassment? The fear of losing your security? Whatever fear it is, be assured that God can take it away. 

 

Look and see how God helped Moses overcome his fear of obeying him.


I. GOD CAN REMOVE OUR FEARS

 

Moses was still afraid, this time that he might become a laughingstock:

 

Exodus 4:1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. 

 

In one sense, it is not a bad complaint. The Israelites had been in Egypt for 430 years. Presumably, God had not spoken to them in all that time. Why would they think that a man who had been gone for forty years would bring word from a long-lost God?

 

The Lord was gracious and responded to Moses’ objection. He gave him a sign to perform.

 

A. First Sign To Build A Fear-Overcoming Faith

 

Exodus 4:2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. 

Exodus 4:3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. 

Exodus 4:4 And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: 

Exodus 4:5 That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. 

 

Growing up in Eastern Montana, you learn one rule about snakes: don’t touch them unless it’s with the business end of a shovel or a shotgun!

 

Moses understood the dangers of snakes—when that staff turned into a snake, he “fled from before it.”

 

But then the Lord told him to “Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail.” Now that would require a bit of faith and trust in the Lord! The only way I would take a snake by the tail is with a shovel—to bury it!

 

The Lord knew that the reason that Moses was having problems with his assignment was that his faith was weak. The antidote to fear is faith. So the Lord provided a faith-building activity for Moses: pick up a snake by the tail.

 

Moses couldn’t yet obey the command to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh, but he did obey the Lord’s command to pick up a snake. And so, his faith and trust in the Lord was increased.

 

The Lord knows how to grow a person’s faith. Moses needed to know that he could trust the Lord in a small thing before he could trust him in a big thing. Picking up the snake gave Moses that opportunity to trust and obey the Lord and overcome his fear of the snake.

 

B. Second Sign To Build A Fear-Overcoming Faith

 

Exodus 4:6 And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. 

Exodus 4:7 And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. 

 

Leprosy in Bible times was not the same thing as we would call leprosy today. It was a skin disease, perhaps something like psoriasis. You can tell it was more like psoriasis by the words, “his hand was leprous as snow.”

 

Nevertheless, leprosy was a much feared disease in Bible times. Often people with leprosy were forced to live in colonies away from their families and friends.

 

So what do you suppose Moses thought when he pulled his hand out? Again, fear would have surged through him at the sight of the leprosy.

 

But then when he put his hand back in his bosom (his cloak) and pulled it out clean of leprosy, he would have been filled with awe at God’s power and trust that the Lord could handle any situation that Moses found himself in.

 

So again, The Lord built up his faith.

 

C. Third Sign To Build A Fear-Overcoming Faith

 

So far, we’ve been considering how these signs would help Moses to have faith that would have helped Moses. But we must also consider how the signs would have helped the Israelites believe that the Lord had sent Moses. 

 

The first sign, turning a staff into a snake, seemed more like a parlor trick, and in fact, the Lord would say that they would believe the last sign more than the first.

 

Exodus 4:8 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. 

 

But to be honest, pulling your hand out of your cloak all covered with white seems like a parlor trick also. You can almost hear the whispers, “He must have a bag of flour in his cloak!”

 

I think the first two signs were more for Moses than the Israelites. They were meant to build his faith enough to overcome his fears. He knew that he didn’t have a bag of flour and his cloak!

 

We see that the Lord must have thought something similar, because he gives Moses a third sign—a sign that isn’t demonstrated for Moses like the first two. Moses will have to wait to get to Egypt to try it.

 

Exodus 4:9 And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land. 

 

The Nile river was regarded, with good reason, as the source of life in Egypt. Without the Nile, the nation of Egypt would not exist. So turning the water from the Nile to blood would indicate that God had power over life in Egypt and Moses was God’s man. 

 

Seeing that the God who sent Moses was a master over the life-blood of Egypt would convince the Israelites. Knowing that truth would be a key in helping them overcome their fear. 

 

Granted, they would struggle a lot with their faith in the chapters to come, but this would give them enough faith to help them start to overcome their fears.

 

Later in chapter four, we read:

 

30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped. (Exodus 4:30–31)

 

D. Faith Overcomes Fear

 

Faith overcomes fear. Whether it’s the fear of doing what God commands, or fear of going through a trial or the fear of the unknown or the fear of danger. 

 

Jesus and his disciples were in a boat on rough seas. The disciples, some of them experienced fishermen, were afraid and worried because of the seas, but where was Jesus? He was asleep!

 

25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. (Matthew 8:25–26)

 

Overcoming our fears starts with placing our faith in Jesus Christ. Have you trusted in Jesus for your salvation? Do you trustingly walk with him day by day?

 

II. GOD CAN REJECT OUR DISOBEDIENCE

 

A. The Lord Can Use A Disobedient Mouth

 

You would think that after the Lord gave Moses the three signs to perform that he would be convinced. But he wasn’t.

 

At this point in the account, it seems that Moses isn’t refusing out of fear any longer, but he is refusing because he is simply being disobedient.

 

Exodus 4:10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 

 

Scholars have suggested all sorts of ideas of what Moses meant here:

 

He was too shy to speak in public. 

He had a speech impediment. 

He wasn’t up to snuff on his Egyptian after being gone forty years. 

 

Those may have elements of truth in them, we don’t know. What we do know is that, in the book of Acts, we find that Stephen says that he was a powerful speaker.

 

22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. (Acts 7:22)

 

Looking at Stephen’s description of the speaking ability of Moses, some have suggested that Moses was being humble here. I doubt it.

 

From the Lord’s response that we’ll see in a moment, I’d say that he had has a stubborn streak that just wouldn’t quit. 

 

Moses isn’t afraid, he’s just plain disobedient. That’s the real issue here. It’s not that he was unable to speak, or that they wouldn’t believe him—it was that he was disobedient.

 

When we’re disobedient, does God give up on us? Is he like an exasperated parent who finally says, “Fine, don’t eat your broccoli!” 

 

Sometimes in our discussions about man’s free will and God’s sovereignty we talk as though if we decide not to do something, God will just meekly say, “Okay, have it your way.” and walk away. 

 

Certainly, there are times that God does give us over to our sins (Romans 1). But if that were always the case, God would have walked away from Moses several verses ago. 

 

Who wins this war of the wills? Moses complains that “He can’t talk that good” and the Lord responds:

 

Exodus 4:11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 

 

The Lord is getting angry with Moses. In verse 14, the text specifically states that he is angry with Moses. The Bible says that the Lord God is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6), but that does not mean that he does not get angry!

 

Basically, the Lord was saying that he was the sovereign Creator—he makes people capable of being great speakers or being completely unable to speak. Those who are blind and those who are able to see ultimately owe their condition to the Lord himself.

 

Is it a harsh thing to say that the Lord makes the blind person blind? Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer, didn’t think so:

 

It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fanny_Crosby)

 

Fanny did not spend her life disobediently telling God that she couldn’t do his work because she was blind. Fanny came to trust that the Lord knew best for her life, and lived a fruitful, obedient life for the Lord. 

 

Moses would eventually would also, but first the Lord had to reject his disobedience and tell him that he was going to obey:

 

Exodus 4:12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. 

 

You know what? Even if Moses couldn’t speak that well, it didn’t matter. The Lord was going to teach him exactly what to say. All Moses had to do was report it!

 

In the same way, we don’t need to worry so much about how we tell someone the gospel. Just know what the gospel is and report it!

 

Often, it’s the weakest speaker that is the most effective, because they allow God to work through them instead of trying to do it on their own.

 

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (1 Corinthians 1:27)

 

The next you are refusing to speak for the Lord, ask yourself: Am I afraid or disobedient or both? Remember, you are simply the Lord’s mouthpiece, and can use you even if you are weak, fearful, or disobedient.

 

B. The Lord Can Use A Disobedient Man

 

Even after The Lord told him that he would help Moses to speak, Moses was still resistant.

 

Exodus 4:13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. 

 

The literal Hebrew which the KJV translates is a little hard to understand, but it basically says, “Please, Lord, send someone else!” Now the Lord’s patience had run out. 

 

Exodus 4:14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. 

Exodus 4:15 And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. 

Exodus 4:16 And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. 

Exodus 4:17 And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.

 

The Lord was done with trying to convince Moses. Just do it! At this point, the Lord knew that Moses wasn’t just objecting out of fear, but disobedience.

 

He would give Aaron as a spokesman for Moses. Moses would lead and tell Aaron what to do and say. 

 

Did Aaron play this part? Yes, he did. Later we read of Moses and Aaron working together to speak to the people and to Pharaoh. It’s funny that many of the movies about Moses miss this fact—that Moses and Aaron where a team.

 

30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped. (Exodus 4:30–31)

 

10 And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. (Exodus 7:10)

 

20 And Moses and Aaron did so, as the Lord commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. (Exodus 7:20)

 

5 And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. 6 And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:5–6)

 

Was this a compromise on the part of the Lord? Perhaps. But, for Moses, it wasn’t as great as he may have initially thought. 

 

Involving Aaron meant now Moses would have to share the honor that would come with being the ones used by God to lead Israel out of Egypt.

 

It also meant Moses being responsible when Aaron messed up by making a golden calf (Exodus 32:1-4). You wonder if Moses ever regretted involving Aaron after that incident.

 

We can choose to disobey God, but God can choose to reject our disobedience and use us anyway.

 

Moses isn’t the only example of this in scripture, in fact, there is one person who is the most famous example of God rejecting his disobedience and using him anyway—against his will, at least at first. Who is it? Jonah!

 

CONCLUSION

 

Long ago, a Norwegian Lutheran named Hans Egede received a call from God to go to Greenland as a missionary. Everyone he knew discouraged him from going on what they called “a hazardous enterprise.” He could not get support from the church or the local officials or the king.

 

Even his dear wife was resistant to the idea. One has to wonder if she was a lot like Moses, stubborn to a fault. 

 

What did Hans do? He wrote later:

 

“We both [referring to his wife and himself] laid the matter before God in prayer, and the answer was the bending of her will so that she confidently promised to follow me wherever I went—like a true Sarah—thus strengthening my will to persevere.”

 

Indeed it was from that time onward that his wife was the leading spirit in the “hazardous enterprise.”  He said, “By her faith and constancy, I cannot say how much she encouraged me.  She, a frail woman, showed greater faith and manliness than I.”

 

In a second letter to the king, he wrote boldly pointing out that “all Christians have a duty toward missions so long as any heathen exists. Christians will be called severely to account if they content themselves merely in carrying on in trading with the heathen.” 

(http://www.gfamissions.org/missionary-biographies/egede-hans-1686-1758.html)

 

Hans, and his family, did go to Greenland, thirteen years after Hans first sensed God’s call to go.

 

His wife served faithfully with him in Greenland from 1722 to 1734, when she died. Both he and his wife were held in high regard by the natives of Greenland.

 

The best thing for us is to answer God’s call when we receive it, but the most important thing is to answer it in the end.


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