No Ordinary Family: Moses

July 30, 2011

Every story has a beginning and this story began on the side of the Nile River.
But before we can tell you about the beginning we need to tell you the beginning of the beginning.  I’ve told you the story several times about Joseph being sold into slavery and ending up as governor of Egypt, how he brought his family to him and how they enjoyed the benefits of being kinfolk of the boss. But in the four hundred years that had elapsed the Egyptians had become fearful of this ever enlarging group and then we are told in  Exodus 1:8-11 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are. We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.” So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.
And so began the first of many persecutions for the Jews. And in an attempt to destroy the people of God, the pharaoh issued orders to kill all the male children belonging to the Jews.
Hebrews 11:23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.
1) Moses’ Life Began With a Decision  Moses wasn’t the only male child born during that time, and other parents probably were heart broken when their sons were killed.  Moses survived because of a decision his parents made.  Other parents looked at their options and gave up, they saw no way to fight back against the force of the Pharaoh and yet Moses’ parents looked for a solution and they found it.    
Of course you all know how when Moses was three months old his mother placed him in a water tight basket and placed him in the bulrushes.   And we all know how the Pharaoh’s daughter found him, and how his mother became his nurse maid, I mean I don’t have to tell you any of that do I?   
So I won’t but  that is the beginning of the story.  I will tell you that this young Jewish boy was raised as the grandson of the pharaoh and as such enjoyed all of the privileges, and perks of being one of the most powerful men in Egypt.
He had all of the wealth, resources and benefits that the palace of pharaoh could offer.  And hey, any way you slice it, being royalty sure beats working for a living.
But as the man said, all good things must come to an end. And so we read in Exodus 2:11 Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. Moses came to a place where he had to make a choice.
2) Moses’ Life Changed With a Decision Moses had to ask himself “Am I for em or agin em?”  He had to decide, “am I an Egyptian?” or “am I a Jew?”  And it was a decision that no one could make for Moses except Moses.  Moses had the ability, the opportunity and chance to decide who he would serve, and what nationality he would claim.  I don’t know what prompted Moses to leave the palace and seek his past, maybe there was that nagging desire to find the truth about who he really was and who his family was, we don’t know but whatever it was he could have chosen to ignore it and to continue to live the life he had always known.  Instead he chose another path.  Moses could have said with Robert Frost “Two roads diverge in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
And so Moses has come to a fork in the road of life, a time when it is no longer enough to be the grandson of pharaoh.  A place where he can no longer compromise on his stand, but must decide which path he must follow.  A decision must be made or a decision will be.  By not pursuing his Hebrew lineage then Moses will have made the decision to be an Egyptian. Often we simply refuse to move, but we have to move.  Life doesn’t just stand still, and we can’t allow our indecision to become our decision.  After all it was Yogi Berra who said “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
Every person here at one time or another will have to make a decision over which direction they will take.  Will it be the high road or will it be the low road, will it be the left path or the right path.  
And so Moses made a decision, and in his decision were two very distinct elements. And every decision we make in life has two parts.  What the Chinese would call the yang and the yin.  The yang being the positive, and the yin the negative.
Hebrews 11:24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.
3) Moses’ Decision Had a Negative Side He Refused There was something to which Moses said no to.  He came to a fork in the road and to one fork he said a vigorous no.  He decided not to follow that course.  By saying yes to his Jewishness he was saying no to his royalty.  In saying yes to his natural people he was saying No to his adopted people.
People say, “I don’t want to be negative,” but it’s a fact of life.  Do you remember Newton’s third law?  Sure you do, it states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  And so in life when we say yes to one thing, we are in effect saying no to something else. In life there are nos to be said and there is no way to get around it.
When we choose to follow Christ we are choosing to say no to some things.  There are behaviours and actions that are not consistent with being a Christ Follower, things we have to say “No” to.
I hear people say “I was brought up in the church and it just stresses the things people shouldn’t do, that’s not what I’m looking for.”  Sure it is, you want someone to say “this is right and that is wrong.”   You want a faith that will stand up for the underdog and say it is wrong to take advantage of people.  You want someone to say it is wrong to abuse children, it’s wrong for your spouse to be unfaithful to you, it’s wrong that there are people in this world who are starving to death and are still being sold as chattel.  You just don’t want that someone to point at your behaviour and say “that is wrong.” 
But there will come a time that you will realize that just as Moses said no to his old life of being a grandson of Pharaoh there will come a time that you will have to say no to your old lifestyle if you are going to move on.   We can’t have it both ways; you can’t profess to live a new life and continue to live the old life.  That is why we are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
But Moses didn’t just say no to his life in the palace.  The story continues:  Hebrews 11:25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.
4) Moses’ Decisions Had a Positive Side. He Chose just as Moses said “no” to one direction for his life, he said “yes” to another direction.
Now some people come to a fork in the road and say no to one direction, but won’t commit themselves to the other direction. But we have to realize that even if you are on the right track you’ll get run over if you just stand there.  Decisions have to be made in life, every day.  And once you make that decision then you have to be ready to carry through with it.
To simply decide without taking appropriate action is wasting your time and your resources.  There has to be movement with that thought.  In choosing to become a Christian there is also a negative response in saying no, and a positive response in saying yes.  And our Christian walk is entirely dependent on both decisions.
In Acts 3:19 Peter tells the people Acts 3:19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.   Repent, or turn from your sins, that’s the negative, the thing or things you stop doing.  And turn to God, that is the positive the new direction that your life is going to take. 
But that isn’t always preached.  60 years ago Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote  “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
But that’s not how it’s supposed to be, both aspects of the conversion experience must happen for us to become a child of God.  All too often either the negative or the positive aspect of Christianity is emphasized to the neglect of the other.
Yet before you can turn to God you have to turn away from sin.   Isaiah warned the people of Israel Isaiah 59:2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. And that warning is as relevant today as it was then. 
And so because sin separates us from God, we need to turn away from it, but remember in that response once you have turned away from sin your life remains a void until you fill it with God.  So you turn from one to the other.  Following God is as much a decision as it was for Moses to align himself with the Hebrews.
Just as Moses didn’t have to make a conscious decision to follow Pharaoh, he was already doing that, in the same way it doesn’t take a deliberate act to follow Satan.  We are  born with that bent toward sin.  We are born walking a road to hell. Our very nature is a nature of rebellion toward God, and toward life.  Evidenced as I have said before in children.  You don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching a child rebellion. You have to teach you kids to say please and thank you, but which one of you taught your kids to say no and won’t and to lay on the floor and throw a tantrum?
We have to refuse to walk the devil’s way any further, and we have to decide to walk the path that God would have us walk.  And when we make that decision there will be things in our life that we have to say no to.  And that is the negative aspect of Christianity, the saying no to sin. 
But it has to happen because Christianity is a new life, a different life, and there are old habits and old life styles that we have to put our foot down over and say “no more.” And it is as we mature in our Christian walk that more of these areas are pointed out.
But let’s not get caught up in the negatives, lest we become like the Pharisees in the gospels, they were the religious leaders of the day who were so caught up in the rules of God that they missed the love and grace of God. 
There are people out there that when you inquire about the nature of their Christian walk, man they whip out a long list and start, “Why I don’t dance, or go to movies, or smoke or chew, or cuss or drink or play cards.”  And the list goes on and on.  And that’s it; in their minds if you don’t do the 400 things on their list then you’re a Christian.  The big problem is that most of the list concerns externals.  Not that they aren’t important, but let us not put too big of a premium on our outward behaviour while neglecting our inward behaviour, you know stuff like anger, envy, lust, hatred, gossip and stuff like.
But there is also a positive element of Christianity, you can’t just dump all the old things and not replace them.  Peter didn’t just tell us to repent, he also told us to turn to God.  And we need to walk with him daily.  Colossians 3:12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
There will always be the negatives in the Christian walk, and that is part of the disciplined life.  But there are piles of positive things to do.  And if you concentrate on the dos then often the don’ts will take care of themselves.
You don’t have to make a conscience effort to stop hating once you start loving.  You don’t have to concentrate on your temper when you are concentrating on your patience.  Your bad habits will start taking care of themselves when you start taking care of self-control.  When you start down God’s road you have made a conscience decision to leave Satan’s road.
Nobody will be attracted to Christ because of the things you don’t do.  Nobody is going to look at you and say “I want to be just like them, they don’t smoke or drink or cuss.”  Instead it will be when people see the joy or peace or forgiveness in your life that they will say “I want me some of that.”
Hebrews 11:26 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.
5) Moses’ Decision Had a Cost  there was much to be given up.
Moses gave up earthly wealth to gain a heavenly kingdom.  Folks don’t be deceived; the decision to follow Christ is never a cheap one.  Not if we are going to be whole hearted about it.  We will have to give up things, and we’ll have to lose things, and they won’t always be material things.
Moses gave up his place in society, and went from the highest position in the land to a common criminal on the run.  There are stands that we will have to take as a Christian that won’t always make us popular. You may have to take a stand at work about what you will do and won’t do, will say and won’t say that might affect your career. 
There may be things that you enjoy doing that you will have to stop doing, at least for now. 
Moses’ decision must have broken the heart of the ones who loved him, including the woman who chose to raise him as a son.
There are people who won’t be able to cope with your conversion; I lost some close friends when I became a Christ Follower because they just couldn’t accept the change in me.  I had become a new person and they really preferred the old person.   You say, “Well brother they couldn’t have really been friends.”  Oh yes they were.
But eternal life must be worth some sacrifices.  If God has given us so much, there must be something we can give back to God.  But today people don’t want to hear about sacrifice, they don’t want to be challenged about sacrifice and they certainly don’t want to sacrifice.  We want what religion we can buy with the five bucks we throw in the box on a Sunday.
I read this poem a number of years ago:
Three Dollars Worth of God
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
— Wilbur Rees
6) Moses’ Decision Had a Reward.
Hebrews 11:26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him.
It’s true that when you compare the life that Moses left with the life he chose, first tending sheep in the wilderness and then tending Israelites in the wilderness it would appear that he got the short end of the stick, so to speak.  He no longer had the perks that the palace had to offer, he didn’t have all the privileges of being grandson of the Pharaoh instead he became a fugitive leading a group of ungrateful people across a barren desert. 
And I’m sure that there were times that Moses wished that he was back in Pharaoh’s court, just enjoying all the perks of being the King’s grandson instead of wandering around in a hot dessert, listening to the complaints and whining of a ungrateful people.
But ultimately what Moses received was far greater.  You probably can’t name the Pharaoh that tried to kill Moses, you probably can’t name his other grandchildren, but you know who Moses is.  He is one of the heroes of both the Jewish and Christian faith, and he has eternal life.
There will be times that you will make decisions because of your faith that will cost you money, friends or position and you will look around and see people who have no faith and no ethics and no scruples and they have everything.  They have rejected God and his will and his ways and yet . . . you ever feel like the Prophet Jeremiah when he said Jeremiah 12:1 Lord, you always give me justice when I bring a case before you. Now let me bring you this complaint: Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy?
Let me remind you of a couple of things, first of all the game’s not over yet and secondly not all of God’s accounts are settled this side of eternity.  So don’t give up.  Listen to God’s word Galatians 6:9 So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  Let’s read that again, together.  Galatians 6:9 So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  Now let’s personalize it and read it together  Galatians 6:9 So if I don’t get tired of doing what is good. If I don’t get discouraged and give up, I will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up. 
And finally Colossians 3:24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.
So where are you at today?  Any major decisions that you need to make?  How about the decision to serve God?