Preparation and prayer

Posted on 09 Sep 2018, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: Psalm 130
Text: Exodus 2: 16-25

Praying in the wilderness

Exodus 2: 16-25

We are all prone to make mistakes if we are not careful. That is because of the existence of sin in our lives. A Greek word Harmatia translated as sin means to miss the mark, or be in error, or to make a mistake. Mistakes can be costly as Moses discovered when he decided to take matters into his own hands when (as Stephen puts it in Acts 7) “Moses supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him.” Moses motives were good but he was wrong because at that point the Lord had not yet called Moses to lead his people. His next mistake was to avenge one of his countrymen by striking down an Egyptian. His countrymen didn’t take that as a cue to get behind Moses and stage a revolt. Instead they said “who made you ruler and judge over us?” Pharaoh heard about it and signed Moses death warrant. So there was really only one thing Moses could do and that was flee. He fled Egypt to live in Midian in the east on the other side of what is known as the gulf of Suez today.

So what would the Lord do with Moses in the wilderness of Midian?  His 40 year period was preparation for the time that God would call Moses to be the leader of his people who by then were crying out for deliverance.

So the theme of this sermon then is that the Lord prepares Moses and his people for their deliverance. We consider it in two parts. A time of preparation, a praying people.

  1. A time of preparation. We read in verse 16 that when Moses fled to Midian he came across well and sat down beside it. A man described in the text as a priest of Midian (possibly a spiritual leader in the region) had seven daughters who came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flocks. Some local shepherds came along and drove the women and their flocks away and helped themselves to the water the girls had drawn out of the well.

Moses looked and wasn’t very happy to see these shepherds abusing women and stealing their water. No doubt that wasn’t the first time it happened because when they returned home their father Reuel asked “Why are home so early?” They answered “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hands of the shepherds!” Their father probably knew about that particular bunch of ne’er-do-wells. But he didn’t know about the gallant Egyptian who drove them away. How he did that it doesn’t say but it does say in Stephen’s speech that Moses was a man of power in words and deeds nevertheless he restrained himself from man-slaughter on this occasion.  Then to the women’s surprise He drew more water from the well and re- filled the troughs for them.

So there was Moses who once had people doing all the menial work for him stooped to serve and by serving Moses also learned to lead because all good leaders are good servants. Jesus disciples once had an argument about which one of them should be the greatest and Jesus answer was “The kings of the Gentiles Lord it over them …  but not so with you. Let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest and the leader as the servant.” (Luke 22: 26) Jesus was the perfect example. Though he is the Christ the Son of the living God he did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).

This is also the way of the Christian, the willingness to serve to clean the church property, to drive a fellow member in need of transport to the airport or to the hospital, to help a busy mother with a large family and too much to do. This is the work of the Spirit of Christ in the believer’s life. The promise in Acts 3:38 is whoever believes receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. The effect of that gift is seen in the verses which follow in Acts 2, especially verses 44 & 45. All those who believed were together and had all things in common and they began sharing their property and possessions …as anyone might have need.” That is the way of Christ and the way of the Christian.

So learning to serve and control his temper were two important lessons Moses learned as he was being prepared to lead God’s people. The other thing to take note of is the time it took for Moses preparation in Midian. According to the record in Acts 7: 30 it was  40 years! Moses life experience during those 40 years would also help prepare him as a leader. What were those experiences?

One of these was that Moses went from palace life in Egypt to living in the wilderness in Midian. In the Bible the wilderness is usually a quite lonely place where characters in the Bible met with God. Such as Jacob who spent the night in the desert between Beersheba and Haran, went to sleep on the ground and dreamt of a and the stairway to heaven and heard the voice of God  (Genesis 28) it was in the desert where God met Moses by the burning bush and appointed Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.  The burnt out prophet  Elijah spends 40 days and 40 nights on Mt Horeb and is told by God to anoint Hazael as king over Syria, Jehu as king over Israel and Elisha as his successor. (1 Kings 19) There was the wilderness where John the Baptist preached. The apostle Paul also went into the wilderness in Arabia according to Galatians 1:17 to study the scriptures. And the Lord Jesus endured a 40 day preparation by being tempted in the desert as preparation for his ministry.

As well as that in the wilderness Moses would have learned all about the lay of the land such as the location of mountains, ridges, valleys, rivers and grasslands. All of that information would be invaluable when the time came to lead the Israelites during their desert wanderings. Furthermore the experience of being a stranger in a foreign land helped Moses to identify with his own people who were weren’t just foreigners but slaves  to their land owning masters. Finally

The reality is that all of us are called to live by faith as aliens in whatever land or country we might be in. We’ve travelled here because of the church; because this is where God wants us to work and serve him not just because the housing is cheap and we can get two for the price of one or because of the microclimate but because this is where God had called us  to serve in preparation for our promised land. Like our spiritual forefather Abraham we are fellow heirs of the promise looking forward to the city which has foundations whose architect and builder is God. That is also the reality for us here.

There was another thing which Moses learned during his time of preparation in Midian and that was family life.  He was single when he left but not for long. Reuel had seven daughters and when he heard how this brave man saved them from a bunch of abusive shepherds he wasn’t about to let him get away. We see that in verse 20,  “Where is he then?  Why did you leave him there? Go back and invite him over for a meal!”  Perhaps the girls were so overawed by Moses gallantry they forgot their manners.  As it turned out Moses not only enjoyed Reuel’s hospitality and was also blessed to have one of Reuel’s daughters as his wife.

So Moses became a family man. He married and Zipporah “gave birth to a son and named him Gershom for he said I have been a sojourner in a foreign land. This is an important detail in the text detail because the family is the building block of both tribe and nation, church and society. And as a husband and father Moses learned to manage his household, an important qualification for one who must is to lead God’s people according to 1 Timothy 3.

Then there was Moses work as a shepherd. Exodus 3:1 tells us that he pastured Jethro’s flock and led them to the west towards Mt Horeb otherwise known as Mt Sinai. He was one of several leaders in the Bible who were shepherds including Abraham, David and Amos. Looking after sheep is good training for leadership because sheep need someone to lead them to food and water. They need protecting are prone to wander and need to be brought back into the fold. In other passages in the Bible such as Isaiah 53, John 10 God’s people are compared to sheep with similar needs and characteristics and God is the good shepherd who cares for and lays down his life for his sheep. They listen to his voice and follow him.  Every good leader of God’s people will develop those characteristics.

So all of these experiences; a) in the wilderness  b) as a family man and  c) working as a shepherd  prepared Moses for the special task God would have him do and that was to care for lead God’s people out of Egypt.

Again we see here that Moses was a type of Christ who also has a wilderness experience overcoming temptation and meeting with the Lord who said this is my son which whom I am well pleased, he experienced family life in his parents household till age 30, and he is described as the good shepherd why lay down his life for us. As such Jesus was qualified to lead us out of slavery to sin and condemnation under the law and into our ‘promised land’ the church now and eternal life for the future.

In similar ways God also prepares us through all the experiences of our lives normal and unusual, good and bad experiences, successes and failures. God will use all of them to advance his kingdom. He uses where we live, our family situation and our work situation for his glory and our good.  As the catechism puts it, “I am not my own but belong body and soul to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.   So we may say with the hymn writer, “use me Lord use even me, just as you will and when and where.”

  1. That brings me to the second thing the prayers of God’s people. We read in verse 23 that meanwhile in Egypt the king of Egypt had died. The new king, (who according to historians was Seti 1st or Rameses 2nd made the Hebrews conditions even more intolerable; so much that they cried out to the Lord because of their bondage  The verse describes their distress as sighing , crying out and cried for help. Their slavery had become severe. There was no relief and humanly speaking no hope, only God could help them now.

In the Bible God’s people are often in such a bad way that all they can do is cry out to the Lord. Think of the Israelites in exile, and the prayer “out of the depths I have cried to thee O Lord. Lord, hear my voice” (Psalm 130:1). There are times when we find ourselves in such desperate straits that all we can do is pray. Sometimes the prayer is little more than a groan. We may not know what to say but the Lord hears those prayers too because the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groans too deep for word (Romans 8:26)

But that reminds us again of the importance of prayer. Prayer is an opportunity to express our concerns and our needs to God and the Lord Jesus has promised that God will hear our prayers; verse 24, “God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant with Abraham Isaac and Jacob and God saw the sons of Israel and took notice of them.”

God hears our prayers they don’t fall on deaf ears he’d been hearing them all along and when the time was ripe for the salvation of his people  God acted.

He not only hears but he also sees; verse 25, God saw the sons of Israel and took notice of them. Think of Psalm 34 which we read from earlier “the eyes of the Lord are towards the righteous and his ears towards their cry.” In the first chapter of Ezekiel we are given a picture that helps us understand how the Lord sees. There (among other details) God is depicted as a circle with eyes all around its circumference. The circle is like a wheel and intersects with another identical wheel which can move in any direction. It represents God as all seeing and everywhere present. He is not the remote God of the deists who if he is looking is only watching from a distance. God sees our every move. He saw the sons of Israel and remembered his covenant with their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That means when he saw the people of Israel he didn’t remember their sin but he remembered the covenant of grace and his unbreakable promise of salvation.  Such as…..

The promise given to Abraham in Genesis 15:13&14 that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt but that God would deliver them and they would come out with many great possessions. Moses living in Midian for 40 years is also fulfilment of this promise because Midian was one of Abraham’s sons by his second wife Keturah whom Abraham married after Sarah died. So the Midianites were Moses relations. See how the Lord took care of Moses! He sent Moses to be with God’s covenant people.

So God’s hears, sees and remembers his people in order to fulfil his covenant promises to them.

This is true for us also. The same God remembered the promise given to Adam and Eve that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpents head. So at the right time God sent his son to keep all the conditions of the covenant on our behalf. He came to die on the cross for our sins and establish a new covenant in his blood.

He has also promised that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love in Jesus Christ.

So If we belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ then we are part of his covenant and we can be sure that he sees us, hears us and takes notice of us. We can be sure that won’t forget his covenant promises to us and will save us to the very end. Amen.