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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The God Who Sees and Hears (Exodus 3.1-12, Acts 7.30-34)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
January 30, 2011
Some Music Used 
Cong. Song: "I Lift My Eyes Up" (Doerksen)
Choir: "Hold us, Jesus" (deSilva)
 Special Music: "I Have a Shelter" (Cook, Kauflin)
Choir: "Let God Arise" (Tomlin, Cash, Reeves)

The God Who Sees and Hears
Texts: Exodus 3:1-12; Acts 7:30-34

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Today we are continuing the story of Deliverance in Exodus. We have seen several overarching themes, chief among them that God is not thwarted or sidelined by evil or by human sin or disobedience, but is accomplishing (as He ever has) His holy purpose in the world, for His glory.

We have also seen that whether we face immense struggles, obstacles, or evil, or whether we feel protected and blessed, we can make faithful choices or we can make unfaithful choices. Moses did this in the text we read last week, turning His face away from God and seemingly putting the whole Exodus deliverance at risk.

But we also saw that God does not write us off or forsake us when we sin or turn away. Rather God pursues us and can redeem the worst of situations. So last week we left off with Moses having a second chance to act faithfully, in which he defended some women who were being harassed at a well. He was taken into the family of those women, married, and had children. Clearly, God did not abandon him.

The question remained, “What of God’s plans? What of deliverance?”

We pick that question up this week, and continue to see what this story has claimed all along: 1) God’s purpose to deliver His people and lead them to the land He promised Abraham is intact; and 2) God chooses to further redeem and call the exiled Moses into service.

Redeemed in Exile

At the beginning of Exodus 3, Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law. This is basically where we ended last week, and I don’t want you to miss the significance of this. Moses had committed a crime – he murdered an Egyptian man. Though Moses felt justified, his actions were rejected by his fellow Hebrews, a capital offense for Pharaoh King of Egypt, and an act of sin and disobedience against God. Moses fled Egypt for his life to live in exile in Midian.

We talked last week about how we tend to think of sin and disobedience in one of two ways. Either we minimize and rationalize it, and miss the seriousness of it. Or it is too great to do that and we figure God is done with us. The glorious good news last week was that nothing and no one in this life can legitimately claim “God is done with you.” And God was not done with Moses. He had a second chance to act faithfully and God redeemed him in exile and blessed him with a family, a home, and a life. And so, we find Moses tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. We also will read in chapter 7 that Moses spent 40 years in Midian, so that he was almost 80 years old at this point!

This was really the message of last week – but I don’t want you to miss it. Though you may understand that you have failed God in some way, know that God has not forgotten you and is able to redeem your life. He did for Moses, granting him much that he would have thought he lost in fleeing into exile.

God’s Continuing Purpose

But this is not the end of Moses’ story; there is much more. Interestingly, the heart of the Exodus story as well as the heart of today’s text, is not about Moses at all. Rather, it is about God. God’s purpose has remained all along, not overturned or undone by Moses’ personal failures. And so the middle section of today’s text reminds us that the Lord’s purpose continued. Starting in verse 7, we read that the Lord still sees and hears, and has come down to deliver His people from slavery and into the land of promise.

This also is a significant declaration of good news. You may not have identified with Moses, but rather with the people suffering in Egypt. You may be suffering, or feel enslaved and trapped, or be laboring under a heavy weight. God is not indifferent, nor is He sidelined by evil and sin. Rather, God sees and hears – and this is the great declaration of Scripture: God has acted! God has come down to deliver us from sin and into His promises and purpose.

So whether you may feel like your own decisions have shut you off from God or whether you may feel like life itself – the evil of the world around us – has silenced God, know this: God sees you; God hears you; and God has come down!

Redeemed from Exile

Now here is the really amazing and (to me) unnecessary part. I could see redeeming Moses in exile, helping him to understand the mercy and grace of God. I could understand acting to answer the cries of my people. But I would not have gone back to Moses for a deliverer.

But that’s how God’s glory shines the most – in human weakness! For God’s own reasons, He chooses to call Moses out of Exile to be the human deliverer and go to Pharaoh. This is the ex-con, exiled, ex-Prince, ex-Hebrew, and OLD MAN Moses… and God is going to use him nonetheless. Talk about redemption.

No wonder Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (v. 11) You’re not kidding, Moses…

But there is a truth that is even more glorious than the one last week. Though each of you has failed and fallen and turned our faces away from God, and more than once, God loves you still. That is amazing. But it’s more than that: God loves you and WANTS you to be part of what He is doing in the world.

Implications for Church-People

Last week, in so many words, I said that many places that go by the name “church” are places that know neither sin nor grace.

And yet Moses’ story illustrates what we are to be. Not only did God follow Moses into exile and redeem his life there. God invites Moses back into His holy presence in this scene with the burning bush. He calls Moses’ name, He invites Moses to shed his shoes and come into the holy place, and He invokes the covenant name and promises. And then… and then… God calls Moses into service!

This process was not quick – it took 40 years.

It was not automatic – Moses had to listen to God’s voice and he responded with, “Here I am.”

It was neither cheap nor shallow – Moses didn’t just get a note by carrier pigeon, but had to come before the holy presence of God. You’ll read that he “was afraid to look at God.” Whether that was God’s holiness or Moses’ shame or likely both, Moses was not taking God casually or lightly.

And Moses had to respond and obey. In verse 10 God said, “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” God had a mission and Moses’ participation was another opportunity to make a faithful or an unfaithful choice.

God is still at work in the world. And He has invited – more than that, He CALLS ON you – to be a part.

We miss that purpose and calling if:

1. We overestimate ourselves and don’t hear God very well; or

2. We underestimate God’s love and live as permanent exiles

But we won’t miss it if:

3. We face our disobedience, believe God’s faithfulness, and respond to His call.

God’s intent for US – the church – is that together we face our disobedience, hear and believe His faithfulness, and together respond to what He is doing in the world around us. Anything less is not a healthy or true church.

God’s intent for YOU is to use you in all your unique made-in-His-image ways, that you might join in His purpose and bring Him honor and glory in your life.

What is God doing and will you be a part?

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