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09-20-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Miracles, Manna and Mayhem—the story of Moses.

One of our key values as a church is the conviction that Better Things Are Coming! Over the past couple weeks, we’ve been looking at stories from the “Faith Chapter,” Hebrews 11, to see how faith and better things are connected.

Last week Pastor Fred talked about Abraham—how he left his father’s house by faith to go…somewhere (he didn’t know where). He was going by faith to a place he had not yet seen.

Today we’re looking at the story of Moses in Hebrews 11:24-28. 

NLT: 24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. 27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. 28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.

Three times in this short passage we read the words: “By faith…”

Moses was a man whose lived by faith. He did things by faith that didn’t make sense in the natural. Why? Because he trusted God about things that could not be seen with the natural eyes—things that could not be understood with the natural mind.

When we read these verses, several questions come to mind:

  1. How can suffering be better than pleasure? That doesn’t make sense!
  2. How is it better to be humbled than well-off? One version (EXB) says: He thought it was better to suffer for [the disgrace/stigma/ humilation of]  Christ…than to have all the treasures of Egypt…
  3. How can it be better to leave a place you can see to look for something you can’t see?

We try to answer such questions using our intellect—our minds. We try to find reasonable explanations based on human logic. But we have a problem with that—because ultimately the natural mind cannot grasp supernatural things. Some things are understood only by faith! So…

  • It was by faith that Moses refused to be called (identified as) a child of Egypt and chose instead to be a child of God and join God’s people.
  • It was by faith that Moses was able to see suffering hardship for God’s kingdom as being better than enjoying the short-term pleasures of sin.
  • It was by faith that Moses left the treasures of Egypt, which he could see, to seek after a God who was invisible.

When we live by faith, we open the door to better things that God wants to do in us and through us. So we can learn some lessons from Moses…

  1. Moses was born for a purpose. From the start it was clear God had a special role for this little baby: his parents dared to hide him; he was rescued by Pharoah’s daughter; raised in the palace with rank and privilege.

He should have been dead; Pharoah had pronounced a death sentence on all the Hebrew baby boys. But God preserved Moses. Even before he was old enough to choose his path, God had already chosen him. Moses was born for a purpose.

So are you! Even before you were old enough to make any choices, God chose you. God had his eye on you from the beginning. You maybe didn’t realize it, but God was involved in shaping your life long before you realized he was even there.

Some can’t imagine that God cared for them—let alone had a plan for their lives. They have low expectations because they see the visible things instead of the invisible things that faith alone reveals.

They see the disadvantages they were born in. They see the dysfunctional family they inherited. They see the lack of opportunities and resources. They feel the pain and embarrassment of not having the looks or the smarts or the abilities that others have.

If you start out with two strikes against you… If you begin with the deck stacked against you, then it can be hard to see that God has a purpose for you. It can be hard to have the faith to believe for something better.

Our adult Wednesday group has been going through a video series by Jim Cymbala called When God’s Spirit Moves. Each week a person shares his story, how he was touched by the Holy Spirit. Last week was Terry—who was born in war-torn Cambodia, who witnessed the “killing fields”—terrible atrocities of war—with her own eyes as a child, whose father abandoned her, who was mistreated by her step-father, who determined at a young age that there could be no God in a world like she lived. She became a refugee and ended up in the U.S. but hated herself, was filled with rage and disgust, and lived a sinful, reckless life, hoping she would die. It wasn’t until the Spirit of God drew her to himself that her attitude changed.

So many people feel like that, unable to see that they were born for a purpose—God’s purpose.

  1. God called Moses. You remember the story of the burning bush. God confronted Moses and called him to fulfill his destiny.

God also calls you! It’s one thing to be born for a purpose; it’s another thing to answer God’s call. You have a choice, just like Moses had a choice.

Of course Moses needed preparation and training, but God was working on Moses all along, getting him ready to answer his call. Moses failed in Egypt trying to fix slavery on his own—and God used that failure. Then he used Moses’ 40-year exile as a shepherd in the desert to teach him patience and humility. Then God met Moses at the burning bush and revealed his holy presence to him.

Whether you know it or not, God has been working in your life. God is preparing and equipping you for your unique call.

  1. Moses needed faith to see God’s plan.

A. God’s plan for Moses was not immediately obvious. You would not be blamed if you were to think that God’s plan might have included great wealth and political advantage for Moses: he was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter; he was accustomed to wealth and privilege; he was trained as Egyptian royalty (to lead, to take authority).

You would not be blamed for thinking that Moses could have become Pharaoh and used his royal advantage and influence to bring relief to the Hebrews. Moses might have given them personal rights; he might have freed them from slavery; he might have shifted Egyptian culture to accept the Hebrews.

It had happened before! Joseph was elevated to prestige, power, and influence. It was his political appointment that saved his family and provided land for their flocks during a time of great famine.

But God had a different plan for Moses.

B. Moses needed faith to see something bigger. Because God was interested in much more than simply freeing the people from slavery. Political power was inadequate to do what God wanted to do. (It always is!) Our natural sight is limited; faith lets us see God’s bigger idea. (e.g. Eph 3:20)

From God’s perspective, the problem wasn’t really that they were slaves—that they served the Egyptians. The real issue was that they needed to serve the Lord.

It’s no good to “fix” the problems of society if we never fix the problems within our hearts!

The heart is usually the bigger issue. God got the people out of Egypt. But it took years to get “Egypt” out of the people! In fact, you could say God is still trying to get “Egypt”—the world—out of people.

God got them out of Egypt, but before long they became discouraged. And when they faced difficulty and hardship in the desert—hot sands, parched land, no water, same old manna—they forgot about what Egypt was really like.

They didn’t have the faith to see God’s bigger plan! Their “selective” memory distorted the story. Fear and discouragement twisted their thinking. They remembered a life of ease and bumper crops. They recalled delicious, savory food—onions, leeks, garlic, cucumbers, meat.

They had inaccurate memories of Egypt as being good—and bad memories of all that God had done to rescue them. Do we ever misinterpret events? Marriage counseling—always two versions of the events.

Despite the miracles the Israelites had seen (the plagues) or the miracles they had experience (crossing the Red Sea, manna, water in the desert), they didn’t have the faith to remember the past correctly.

So they kept saying things like: 

“…Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exo 14:10-12) “…in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exo 16:2-3) “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic… We were better off in Egypt!” (Num 11:1-6,18-20) “…Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Num 14:2-4) 

The Israelites had an Egyptian world view; their hearts kept looking backwards, longing for Egypt. God got them out of Egypt, but they couldn’t seem to get Egypt out of their hearts!

How are we going to get “Egypt” out of our hearts? Because Egypt is really a heart-problem!

C. We need faith to fix the problem of the human heart. God called Moses to deal with this heart problem by faith. God wanted Egypt out of the people—to give them a hope and a future.

Without faith, you can’t anticipate a better future. Without faith, you can’t see the reality of things that are still invisible. (Heb 11:1) Without faith, you can’t imagine what God is going to do. But also, without faith you can’t see your past accurately—your Egypt. Without faith you cannot grasp all that God has done.

It takes faith to see things as they are—to see invisible things as real things. You need faith to see both the future and the past through God’s eyes, to see things as they really are or as they really were. You can’t see what God really did—you can’t understand the past—without having faith!

Like the man slipping off a roof… clawing for a grip, he prayed desperately, “Oh Jesus! Help me now.” Just then, his pants snagged on a nail protruding up through the shingles, stopping his downward slide. He looked up and said, “Never mind, God. I’m okay—this nail here saved me.”

How often do we miss seeing God at work? How often do look at events with our natural eyes instead of with the eyes of faith? How often do we misinterpret the past because we lack the faith to see what really happened?

In our American society, we want to find explanations for everything. Our culture has a world view that pretty much excludes God. So we see medical mysteries—but we can’t see miracles; we see amazing coincidences, but we don’t see God’s intervention.

We analyze what happened and say, “Wow! Wasn’t it lucky that it happened just at that precise moment… or that the right person was in the right place to help… or that there was a nail to snag his pants.”

And because our western world view demands logical explanations, we often miss the “illogical” possibility that God was involved!

Dealing with such an “Egyptian” mindset, it’s no wonder Moses himself became discouraged. But in the end, faith brought Moses through all his suffering and setbacks. Despite his troubles, Moses was a man of faith. (Perhaps it was because of the troubles that he became a man of faith!)

Bottom line? Moses had two options: (1) Go with what seemed to make sense; go with what he could see with his natural eyes OR (2) Choose hardship and suffering—things that didn’t make sense unless faith was at work. Moses chose to trust God to lead him through to something better.

He chose God’s way over “Egypt”—the worldly way. What choice have you made? Will you choose God? Or will you choose your own way, the way of the world?

Miracles, Manna, and Mayhem