Moses, A Long Way From Nothing

March 16, 2014

He was a hero.  And not just in the Bible but also on the big
screen.  But that wasn’t the way his life
began.  He was born as the son of slaves,
his immediate future looked bleak and short. 
Nobody would have assumed that his name
would ever be known outside of his immediate family but ultimately he would
assume an honoured spot in the traditions of the majority of the world’s
religions. 
His life would be featured in an
Academy award winning film as well as a Disney animated feature that also won
an Oscar.  And well before he was winning
awards on the big screen he was a star on the flannelgraph.  His name of course is Moses. 
This is week five of our Old School
Sunday School series.  Each week we’ve
been re-telling some of the great bible stories from the Old Testament, and so
we’ve discovered new insights from the story of Jonah and the Whale, David and
Goliath, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and last week we looked at Daniel in
the Lion’s Den.
A generation ago most children grew up
hearing these stories in Sunday School and while Cornerstone doesn’t offer a
traditional Sunday School program our Children’s ministries on Sunday morning
still teach our children these stories, albeit without the flannelgraph. 
For years flannelgraphs were an
integral part of the Sunday School experience. 
How many of you had never seen or heard tell of a flannelgraph before we
started this series?
This history of the flannelgraph grows
back over 70 years.  In 1942 a lady by
the name of Ruth Overhotzer along with students from Dallas Baptist University launched
a magazine called “Child Evangelism Magazine”. 
And each issue included a bible lesson with paper cut-outs to be used on
a flannelgraph.  And as they say, the
rest is history.  It wasn’t long before
churches started ordering the magazine so they could use the flannelgraphs to
supplement their Sunday School Curriculum.
Someone commented that flannelgraph was
the first PowerPoint but that would actually be stained glass windows. 
In most Sunday schools, before the
students went to class, there would be the Sunday School Opening and that was
when all the children gathered together and sang songs and played games. 
And not just any games but games like
“Sword Drill”.  How many people know what
a sword drill is?  The kids would hold
their bibles and the Sunday School Superintendent would call out scripture
references and the kids would race to find the reference in their bibles and
then they would jump up and read the verse. 
That was how a whole generation learned to find things in the Bible.  This was also the time that children would be
recognized for memorizing their memory verses for the week.  And that was how a whole generation learned
to memorize bible verses.
Of course both of those were dependent
on the children bringing their bibles to Sunday School, which was of course
dependent on the children having a bible. 
Brilliant concept!
We aren’t going to do a sword drill
this morning but we are singing a Sunday School Chorus and Pastor Bayley is
coming to lead us in “I am a C-H-R-S-T-I-A-N”
So without further ado let’s look at
the story of Moses.  While most people
think Moses’ story begins in the book of Exodus it actually begins much earlier
than that.  Because there wouldn’t be a
Moses’ story without the story of Joseph which is told in Genesis. 
You remember Joseph?  He was the boy with the coat of many colours
who was sold into slavery by his brothers; he ended up in Egypt where through a
series of events he became right hand man to the Pharaoh.  In that position he was able to take steps to
prepare Egypt for a seven year famine that came over the area and ultimately he
was able to send for his family to save them from the famine as well.  
Joseph and his family were highly
regarded in Egypt.  But that was
then.  The book of Exodus picks up the
story 400 years later and tells us that Joseph and the seventy members of his
family had prospered and multiplied, and then there is a note that says, “Eventually,
a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had
done.”
And the new King, or Pharaoh started thinking about
what would happen if the Israelites rebelled, or if they decided to side with
the enemies of Egypt.  And there doesn’t
seem to be any indications that either of those things were reality, but then
again our realities are often determined by how we define them. 
So, the king ordered that all of the Israelites
should become the slaves of the Pharaoh to build cities for him, and as the
saying goes, they worked them like rented mules. 
But that wasn’t enough so the Pharaoh gave orders
that all the baby boys born to the Israelites should be drowned at birth.
But one couple decided that their child wouldn’t be
killed and so they hid him for the first three months of his life and then they
put him in a basket and set him in the reeds at the edge of the Nile
River.  Do you remember when Big Macs
came in the Styrofoam boxes?  Angela did
a Sunday School lesson at our church in Australia where they made baby Moses
out of clothes pegs, wrapped them up and put them in the Big Mac Boxes.  She called them McMoses, but that’s a whole
other story.
Well even if you didn’t go to Sunday School you
know the story because you’ve seen one of the movies.  The baby is discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter,
she takes him home, names him Moses and he is raised in the palace.
And then we don’t hear from Moses for 40 years,
until one day the story picks up with Moses seeing an Egyptian beating a Jewish
slave and he kills the Egyptian and buries his body in the desert. 
Afraid to face the consequences of his actions he
leaves Egypt and settles in Midian where he got married and became a
shepherd.  Years later, while tending his
sheep God interrupts Moses’ new life by speaking to him from a burning bush,
commanding him to go back to Egypt and lead the Jewish people to freedom. 
And while Moses doesn’t jump at the chance
eventually he relents, goes back to Egypt and tells the new Pharaoh “set my
people free” and again, because of the movies you know the rest of the story.
It was however Golda
Meir, former Israeli Prime Minister, who said
“Let me tell you something that we Israelis have
against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to
the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!”
So what is it that we learn from the story of
Moses.
Moses Was
Given a Gift
The first thing we discover is the incredible gift
that Moses was given.  All across Egypt
little Jewish boys were being killed. 
And Moses had his life spared. 
And it wasn’t because of anything he had done.  Maybe he was a cute baby, but there would
have been other cute babies. 
But he didn’t just have his life spared; he was
adopted into the royal family and as raised as the Son of Pharaoh’s daughter.  
Moses’ survival and his eventual
position in Pharaoh’s court was the perfect definition of grace.  Which is getting what you don’t deserve.  Moses did nothing to gain that position; it
was his mother and sister who took the risk. 
It was Pharaoh’s daughter who took a risk; even Pharaoh took a risk when
he welcomed this child into his home.
All that Moses had was a gift; he had
done nothing to deserve it.
And most of us are very much like that
in all that we are. It was American politician John
Raese who said “I made my money the
old-fashioned way; I inherited it.” 
For most of us we have inherited what we have, not
necessarily wealth but the fact that we were born in a developed country was
something we inherited.  We did nothing
to deserve it but here we are. 
You may be musical or athletic or
artistic, or pretty and if you are then those are gifts that were given to
you.  You may have improved them with
hard work and practice but you had nothing to do with the gift that was given
to you.
You may feel that it was your hard work
that allowed you to succeed in life, but it was a gift that allowed you to be
born in a country like Canada instead of Haiti or Sierra Leone.
Sometimes as Christ followers we forget
that our salvation is a gift, Paul spells it out in Ephesians
2:8-9
God saved you by his grace when you believed.
And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a
reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Moses
Squandered His Gift 
Think of
the potential that Moses had to be an advocate for his people.  He lived in the Palace, he was raised as the
son of Pharaoh’s Daughter and apparently enjoyed all the benefits that went
along with that and yet he seems that he still knew what his roots were.  But there is no indication that he ever spoke
up for the people of Israel, no record that he ever spoke out against their
slavery or the brutality they had to endure. Instead he simply took what he had
as a matter of course.
There is a word for that and that word is “Entitlement.”  When we think we are entitled to everything
we have.  If you google the word
entitlement you will find that the boomers often speak of “the Entitlement
Generation” or “Generation Me”.  And the
Entitlement Generation is defined in Dictionary.com as; The group born between 1979 and 1994 who believe they are owed certain
rights and benefits without further justification. 
And I love the joke about the young college graduate who was
interviewing for his first job and  he told
the interviewer that he expected to start at $65,000.00 a year, with a company
car and four weeks annual vacation.  The
interviewer listened to the young man and replied, “How about we start you at
$100,000.00 a year, give you six weeks’ vacation and make sure your company car
is a BMW?”  the young man replied “You’re
joking?”  “Well sure” said the
interviewer, “But you started it.”
John Maxwell said “They were born on third and think they hit a triple”
But if there is an entitlement generation it was created by their
parents that would be us.   We were the ones who told them they should
have it all, we were the ones who insisted that everyone should get an award
for just participating, that you weren’t rewarded for effort just for showing
up and we were the ones who scolded the teachers when our kids messed up in
school.  You understand that by
definition not every student can be above average. 
But I don’t think it is limited to a generation, I’ve met plenty
of boomers who feel entitled, and plenty of seniors who feel entitled simply
because they have lived a long time. 
Entitlement isn’t defined by our age but by our attitude.
When we were on our cruise last month we commented to our
waiter one morning about the amount of food that was left on plates and his face
clouded over and he said “They act as if they are entitled to simply waste
their food and they never realize how lucky they are.”
And it’s not a new problem it was over a hundred years ago
that Mark Twain said
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a
living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
In the same way that Moses had the opportunity to make a
difference in the lives of others we have the opportunity to make a difference
in the lives of others. 
We need to use the gifts we were given to help others,
whether it be our wealth, and understand that compared to the rest of the world
we are incredibly wealthy, or our influence on the world stage or just taking
steps to protect the environment around us.  If you want to experience entitlement mention
to a boomer that they should drive a smaller car to lessen their impact on the
environment. 
It so easy to fall into the
trap of Cain when he asked of God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and if you are
asking that question the answer is “Yes”. 
That’s why we told in Galatians 6:2-3 Share
each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you
are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not
that important.
You will be the one who chooses what you will do with the
gift you were given. 
But here’s a hint; Gratitude and
entitlement cannot occupy the same space. 
As long as you think you are entitled to what you have you won’t be
grateful for it.  But once you recognize
that it is a gift and start to express your gratitude for what you have you
will lose your sense of entitlement.
Let’s pick up the story again, we are told that one
day Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave and in a fit of anger he
killed the Egyptian and buried his body. 
Realizing what he had done Moses was forced to flee Egypt Moses Lost It All.  All that Moses had taken for
granted he no longer had, he lost it all. 
In some ways we might applaud Moses for standing up for the slave but
the reality is that he took authority that wasn’t his. 
Every once in a while you read about some who shoots an
abortion provider, or a vigilante taking justice into their own hands and it’s
the same deal they are taking authority that is not theirs to take.
Moses might have used his influence to save many slaves
instead he loses his temper and just saves one slave.  You might say that Moses was a dollar short
and a day late in the sudden development of his social conscience.
And so Moses went from being the son of Pharaoh’s daughter
to a shepherd in the middle of nowhere. 
Actually it was in a place called Midian, but I think the English
translation for Midian is “The middle of nowhere.”  And it was there that he met and married the
woman who would be his wife, it was there his children were born.  And he settled into his new life as a keeper
of sheep.
From the palace to the desert from a future without limits
to a future watching sheep.  Wow, but it
was Alexander MacLaren who said “God tests His weapons before He uses them, and great men
are generally prepared for great deeds by great sorrows.”   And apparently that was the case with
Moses.   Because in spite of it all, Moses was Used by God
And it was when Moses was in the solitude of the desert, just
him, his sheep and God that God spoke to him. 
The story was read for us earlier, how a bush began to burn without
actually being consumed and then God spoke to Moses from the middle of the
burning bush to reveal his plan for delivering his people from slavery. 
And Moses wasn’t convinced, he couldn’t see past Moses the
Shepherd, he couldn’t understand how God could use him and his speech
impediment.  But Moses the shephered forgot
Moses, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter who had been brought up to lead people.  And Moses would need the attributes of both
to fulfil the task that was being set before him. 
 He would need all the leadership
abilities that had been instilled in him while he lived in Egypt, after all he
was being called to stand up to the leader of a nation and he was being called
to be the physical and spiritual leader of millions of people who were rescued from
captivity. 
And maybe you are wondering; where did the millions
of people come from? I thought back in Genesis Joseph only had 70 relatives?   True
enough, but when a man a woman love each other. . .
Actually if those seventy people represented 25
couples and each couple had four children by the time they were 25 then the population
would double every 25 year.  And over the
span of 400 years there would be 16 generations, each one doubling the previous
number.  And so the 70 had the potential
to become close to two million.
And so the first part of Moses’ life he was trained
to lead people, and the next part of his life he was trained to lead people in
the wilderness.  Seriously, what would
the son of Pharaoh’s daughter know about wilderness survival?  Probably no more than a shepherd would know
about leading a nation.
It’s sometimes easy to look at a story in parts
without seeing it as a whole.  The young
Moses was way too full of himself to be much good, but on the other hand the
older Moses doubted himself so much that he wouldn’t have been much good.  But if you were able to combine them, what a
combination you would have.
And sometimes we wonder how God can use us, but the
reality is that God can use anyone, and all that we are goes into the package
that God is going to use.  But like Moses
we need to come to the place that we are willing to be used. 
What is it that God is calling
you to do? How will he ask you to change your world?
We haven’t all been called to be
Moses, or the Apostle Paul, or Martin Luther, Mother Theresa or Billy Graham
but we can all make a difference, and we are all supposed to make a
difference. 

It may be as simple as paying $41.00 a month to lift a child out of poverty in
a developing country, and you will be able to hear more about that in two weeks
when George Canyon is here. 

Jesus’ brother James reminded
those who would call themselves Christ Followers James
1:27
Pure and genuine religion in the sight
of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and
refusing to let the world corrupt you.  And
I would think that hasn’t changed in the past two thousand years. 
But it’s more than simply feeding
the hungry.  It may be using your vote to
make a difference and it may be using your influence to make a difference.  You understand when you help out with CIA at
Feed Nova Scotia or a soup kitchen, you are making a difference in the
world.  When a tired family comes home
from a long day sitting next to a sick child at the IWK and there is a hot meal
waiting for them at Ronald McDonald House, you are making a difference.
When you mission dollars support
Kerry and Carol Allison working with homeless teens in Odessa in Ukraine, you
are making a difference.  When you help
with any of the children and youth ministries at Cornerstone, you are shaping
the lives of the leaders of tomorrow.
And on Sunday morning when you
reach out to people and make them feel welcome at Cornerstone, you are making a
difference in their world.