Elon, North Carolina
Last week we looked at the beginning of Moses’ ministry. It was a ministry that was ordained of the Lord. He received a clear call to this ministry. It was a supernatural call. It was a ministry that he did not even begin until he was eighty.
It was a ministry that he did not do alone. He did it with his brother. It was a ministry that involves miracles. Moses and Aaron were the first miracle workers in the Bible.
Last week, we saw what happened when their ministry began in Exodus 5. They fell right on their face. What happened to Moses in Exodus 5 many of us can relate to. We have all been there.
Everything seemed to go wrong for Moses. Pharaoh rejected their request. He said that he did not know their God and would not let the Jews go. He also called them lazy and punished them for even asking. Their work load got harder.
They were forced to make bricks without straw. They were given an impossible job. People scattered all over Egypt looking for stubble to use for straw (5:13). When they did not get the job done, the Egyptians beat the supervisors (5:14). The supervisors tried to reason with Pharaoh but got nowhere. He just called them lazy (5:17).
Then, the supervisors came after Moses and Aaron. “The Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (5:21 ESV). They said, “Not only are we getting beat because of you. We may lose our life because of you. The Lord judge you for what you have done.” They thought God was actually on their side.
They did what God told them to do and now they are criticized for doing it by God’s people. It was one of the darkest days in Moses’ life. Moses and Aaron were devastated. They were discouraged. They were broken. Moses became a man without hope.
Moses was a believer. Believers get discouraged. Have you ever been discouraged? Have you ever felt so discouraged, you just want to give up? Have you ever wanted to quit a ministry? Moses felt that way. Why was Moses so discouraged? He was discouraged for three basic reasons.
One, Obedience made things worse.
Moses submitted to God’s will. He accepted and obeyed God’s call for his life. He did exactly what God told him to do, even though he did not want to and gave God ten reasons why it would be a bad idea. He went to Egypt. He obeyed the Lord. He went to Pharaoh said “Let my people go.” He even said “please” (5:3) but things got worse, not better.
Obedience made things worse, not better. Moses did things God’s way, not his way and things got worse. The lives of the Jews did not get easier but harder. They now had to make bricks without straw and it was all because of Moses. Moses made the situation worse. That was not his intention. He came to help his people, not hurt them but he make their lives worse.
They were already in a bad situation to begin with and then they got worse because of Moses. Have you ever had a day that started out bad and only got worse? That is what happened here. In Moses’ mind, he is thinking, “I tried serving God but it didn’t work. It only hurt people.”
Two, God seemed to fail Moses.
God did not come through for him. God had not kept his promise. He had not delivered the Jews. In Moses’ mind, there was a discrepancy between what God promised and what has actually happened.
There seems to be a discrepancy between God’s PROMISE and His PROVIDENCE. Moses could not reconcile the two. Abraham had a similar problem. God promised him many descendants. That was what the promise said but the reality was his wife was infertile. The promise seemed to contradict providence.
Three, Moses was a complete failure.
He did not convince Pharaoh. He could not even convince his own people. If you are a successful leader, you have accomplished some things and you have to have some followers. Moses had neither. He got nothing accomplished through Pharaoh and no one was following him.
In fact, the sheep came after Aaron and Moses. One pastor preached a sermon from Exodus 5 preached entitled “Sometimes Sheep Bite.” That is one of the reasons many pastors leave the ministry.
That was what happened here. Moses and Aaron were criticized, not just by the common people but by the Jewish leaders, the overseers. The criticism was harsh. This was not constructive criticism. It was destructive criticism. Part of it was even true. Moses did make the Jews stink in the eyes of Pharaoh.
Criticism is hard to take. There are a lot of different ways Moses could have responded to this criticism. He did NOT ignore the criticism. He took it seriously. He did NOT blame others for his actions. He did NOT try to defend himself. That is a common reaction.
That is what we usually do. He also did NOT try to escape the problem. He could have. He could have quit and gone back to Midian to be with his wife and kids. Forty years earlier, he ran when there was a problem. This time he ran but he did not run from his problems. He ran to God.
Notice how Moses responded to this criticism. Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (5:22-23 ESV).
The Jews did not cry out to God. They negotiated with Pharaoh and criticized Moses. Moses went to God and that is what he should have done. It is what we should do when we have problems.
Moses did what Hannah did. I Samuel 1 begins with the story of Elkanah and his two wives. Elkanah was the father of Samuel, the prophet and last judge of Israel. He had two wives. One could have children and one could not.
The one who had children taunted Hannah and made fun of her because the LORD had kept her from having children” (I Samuel 1:6 NLT) and the text says that she did this for years (I Samuel 1:7). The Bible says that she was deeply distressed. She wept bitterly and prayed to the Lord (I Samuel 1:10) and wept bitterly and God answered that prayer.
When Moses was criticized, he went to God and asked God two questions. “O Lord, why have YOU done EVIL to this people? WHY did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have NOT delivered your people AT ALL” (5:22-23 ESV).
Was Moses right to say this? Moses accuses God of evil. That raises a very interesting question. Was this blasphemous? The Jews blamed Moses and Moses turned around and blamed God. He says that God did not keep his word.
Is it Wrong to Question God?
Some would say that it is wrong to do. Others would say it is not wrong to do. What is the truth? People in the Bible did this all of the time. Habakkuk 1:2 says “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (ESV). “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13:1-2 NIV).
There is, however, a difference between sincerely asking God questions and accusing God of wrongdoing. Questioning is NOT the same as challenging. There is a big difference. It is one thing to ask an honest question, because you seek an answer. You want to find out the truth. If you are challenging, you already have an answer and are not seeking to learn but to accuse.
What Moses did was not wrong. Moses was NOT complaining ABOUT God. He is complaining TO God (5:22-23). He prays about his problem. Moses was disappointed with God. God wants us to be honest before him. He wants us to be completely transparent and open up our hearts to him. He wants us to cast all of our cares and worries before him. He wants us to lay all of our frustrations before him. He wants us to come boldly before the throne of grace.
What was God’s response to Moses? This is interesting. He did not criticize Moses for what he said. He didn’t say, “How dare you question Me, the great I AM.” God was patient with Moses. Psalm 103:14 says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” God did not rebuke him for questioning Him.
He also did not answer any of his questions. God ignored everything he said but comforts him in the next chapter. How does God comfort Moses? He says “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” (6:1 NIV). God says, “Now you will see WHAT I WILL DO” (not “what you or Aaron will do”).
God says, “Don’t worry Moses. You are asking to leave for three days. You are going to get to leave permanently. Not only will Pharaoh let the Jews leave Egypt, he will drive them out. When I am through with him, he will force them out. He will not want them to stay.” God comforts Moses by reaffirming his covenant with him.
“God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. (6:2-4 ESV). Exodus 6:3 is one of the hardest passages in the whole book.
Does the Bible Contradict Itself?
As Christians, we believe that the Bible does not contradict itself. Jesus said “Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). Paul said that “all Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable” (II Timothy 3:16). He also said that God CANNOT lie (Titus 1:2) but Exodus 6:3 is a bit of a problem. Exodus 6:3 says, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name the LORD (Yahweh) I did NOT make myself known to them.”
That passage says very clearly that people did not know the name Yahweh before the time of Moses. Moses got a new revelation of God. The Patriarchs did not know this name but when we turn to Genesis we find that Abraham knew this name. Abraham called on the name of Yahweh (Genesis 13:4).
In Genesis 15:7, God says to Abraham, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess” (Genesis 15:7). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each used the name Yahweh (Genesis 12:8; 26:22; 32:10).
In fact, not only was the name Yahweh known before the time of Moses. It was known before the Flood. Eve said “With the help of Yahweh, I have brought forth a man” (Genesis 4:1). Genesis 4:26 says, “at that time, people began to call upon the name of Yahweh”.
It looks on the surface to be a direct contradiction. One book of the Bible says that the name Yahweh was NOT used before the time of Moses and one book of the Bible says very clearly that it was used. How do we answer that objection? Does the Bible contradict itself?
No. The verb יָדַע (yada’) means more than just to know something, it means to experience something. That is clear from the context. Exodus 6:7 says, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall KNOW that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (NIV).
Did the Jews know that God was Yahweh before the Exodus? Yes. Moses told them that the Lord appeared to him. After the Exodus, they knew Him by experience as the covenant keeping God. That name took on new meaning.
Exodus 6:3 in the NIV says “by my name the Lord I did not make myself FULLY KNOWN to them.” They knew the name but did not understand the full meaning of it. Moses received a greater revelation of what that name means.
Abraham experienced the power of God first hand. He saw him answer his prayers. He witnessed the incredible power of God at work. Yahweh is the covenant name for God. It is the name of the God who keeps his covenant. He never saw God deliver His people in fulfillment of the covenant He made with them.
The Gospel of Exodus
Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” (6:5-8)
God gives Moses a message to tell to the Jews. Some have called this message “The Gospel of Exodus” or “The Gospel According to Moses”. When we think of the word gospel today we think of the salvation message but the Greek word for gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) simply means “good news.” There is only one way of salvation in the Bible.
In Exodus 6, Israel is given a gospel. It is not a message of spiritual salvation, although there is a spiritual element to it. God is going to be their God and they are going to be His people. It is a message of political salvation. The Jews are going to be delivered from slavery. They are going to be freed from the yoke of the Egyptians, taken out of Egypt and given their own land. It was a message of good news.
Moses delivered it to his people. This gospel was directed to the nation. It was not a message for everybody. God did not make a covenant with every nation but only with one of them. Conservatives like to talk about something called “American exceptionalism.” There are ways in which America is different from other countries in the world.
However, it might be far more correct to speak of JEWISH EXCEPTIONALISM than American exceptionalism. Israel is the chosen people, not America. God never entered into a covenant with the US but He did enter into one with Israel. Moses delivered a message of good news to them.
What was the Gospel of Exodus? It was a slightly different message than the gospel we preach but there are some striking similarities. There are four characteristics of this gospel.
Characteristics of This Gospel
1) It was a message to people in bondage.
It is a message for people who are enslaved. Jews were in a physical bondage or slavery. It was a cruel bondage. It was harsh. It was unfair and unjust. We were all in a spiritual slavery, a slavery to Satan and sin and that bondage is far worse than a physical bondage. It involves different type of chains on people.
2) The message promised deliverance.
This gospel preached a message of deliverance to the oppressed. They were slaves and told that they could now be set free. The Jews were in physical bondage and they had absolutely no way out of this bondage. They had been in Egypt for four hundred years and could not deliver themselves out of slavery. God had to do it.
This deliverance was completely supernatural. The Jews in Egypt had no way out of slavery. Exodus 6:7 says, “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment’” (ESV).
The redeemer of the Jews was not Moses or Aaron. It was God. Isaiah 43:3 says, “For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you” (ESV).
God was the OT Redeemer. He was the OT Savior. The NT Redeemer is Jesus. We are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. He is also our Savior. It is proof that Jesus is God.
3) The deliverance involved a purchase.
The biblical term for this purchase is “redemption.” Redemption is a commercial term. It means purchase or ransom, to deliver by payment of a price. The Gospel of Exodus involves a blood purchase. In Exodus, blood sprinkled on the doorposts in Egypt.
We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb. In the NT, we have redemption through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). OT redemption is a picture of NT redemption. NT redemption is far greater and delivering a few million slaves out of Egypt.
4) The deliverance was based on grace.
The Jews did not earn their reddmptkon. This was completely unconditional. It was all God. God did not say “I will do this if you do something for me.” There were no conditions. God did not say, “I will redeem you IF you do something.” Salvation is completely by grace. There is nothing we can do to earn our redemption.
Exodus 6:5-8 has two “I HAVE” statements. God says “I have heard the groaning of My people and have remembered My covenant” (6:5). It has two “I AM” statements. God says “I am the Lord” twice (6:6, 8). It has seven “I WILL” statements (6:6-8) and it has one “YOU SHALL” statement. God says “You shall know the Lord” (6:7) but there is no command for the people.
This good news is not a statement about what they need to do for God but what God is going to do for them. The reason God is going to do it is going to do it is to keep a promise He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He says, “I will bring you into the land that I SWORE to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (6:8). God is doing this all because of a covenant that He made (6:5). Next week, we will look at the response of the people to this message.