St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
Zoom Recording and SermonSERVICE FOR THE LORD’S DAY
NINETEETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
October 11, 2020
10:00 AM Val Gordon, Worship Leader
To View the Zoom Recording Click Here
| Sermon given by Val Gordon, Worship Leader|
October 11 , 2020
Arguing with God
“We do not know what has become of him.” Last words spoken by the Israelites before they really mess up and Moses argues with God about the fate of the Israelites because of their actions.
Let’s pretend we are lawyers preparing for trial.
Here’s the people’s case:It had been 40 days and 40 nights since they’d seen Moses, Moses the one who God talked to, Moses the one who relayed what God said to them. There has been no Moses and no words from God through Moses in almost 6 weeks.Who is to say Moses hadn’t abandoned them? Who is to say God has changed his mind about them being his people?Wilderness was scary. It was just them against everyone else.Wilderness was different. Food was different, day to day life was different. They left jobs and work –everything that was once familiar is no longer there. Worshipping Idols was familiar. Egyptians worshipped idols. They were returning to a practice that was familiar to them in the midst of everything being so differentthey weren’t in the promised land, couldn’t see the promise land…isn’t it normal to lose hope when you are in a strange country and your leader is MIA for 6 weeks? They didn’t get it. They didn’t understand what it meant that God wanted to be their God, their King. The last King was not so kind—they were slaves, grueling work with little pay or reward. How could they trust this one God?
Here’s God’s case:God had rescued them from slavery in EgyptNot just any kind of rescue but a dramatic one—The red sea, waters partingGod was taking them to the Promise land…sounds pretty good right?When they got thirsty, he gave them waterwhen they hungry he gave them foodWhen the Amalekites came to destroy them he helped them winGod said I want you to be my people and I want to be your God and the people said “yes we want that too”God said look it means something. There will be sacrifices. Yes we are good with thatThe people went back on their word. They created an idol to worship. The same God who rescued and provided for their every need who they said they wanted to God to THEIR God, they stone called rejected and chose a golden calf instead.
We would as lawyers need to understand these two outstanding questions from this incident—whose people are the Israelites and who led the people out of Egypt.
There is a phrase repeated 5x in these 14 verses in Exodus. “…Who brought us up out of Egypt” What’s interesting is that in this passage there is not consensus on WHO is the WHO in Who brought us up out of Egypt.
In verse 1 the who is Moses, “as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of Egypt”
Vs 4 and it’s the gods, the gods who the Is build an idol to the gods brought them out.
Vs 7 God says it’s MOSES who brought the people 0ut of Egypt
Vs 11 Moses says no it’s You God who brought the people out of Egypt
So who actually brought the people of Egypt?
87 times that lines in repeated in scripture in some form. Who brought us up out of Egypt . About 15 times just in Exodus. Most all of them “the who” is the Lord God. Only Two times the who refers to Moses—once at the burning bush when God is calling Moses to represent him and lead the Israelites out of Egypt and once in this passage. Make no mistake, the who is God. And everyone knows it — God saw the plight and slavery of Is, God called Moses to go to Pharaoh, God caused the plagues to get Pharaoh’s attention, God parted the Red Sea.
So why would God say it was Moses who did all that?
The story of the OT is that God partners with people to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. In this case its’ Moses. God was intent on using Moses to save the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians. I’m going to rescue you… so Moses you go and tell Pharaoh. I’m going to save you so–Moses you stretch out your arms so I can part the Red Sea. Moses speaks and acts for God. God told Moses the terms of the relationship and Moses told the people . Moses stands in as a representative of God to Pharaoh and the Israelites. And through Exodus we read the intricacies of what God told Moses and then how Moses speaks for God to the Israelites.
It’s what we say we believe—that God partners with us humans to fulfill his purposes on earth…and with Moses we have a real picture of that .
God knows he’s the WHO who brought them out of Egypt through the physical being of Moses who operate as his hands, feet and mouthpiece. It is the arrangement we see in the OT—God speaks through humans to carry out his plans. He sets up the relationship he wants with his people through humans. And he’s angry, sad about this recent breakdown
Remember God had set the terms of the relationship with the Is. It was like wedding vows. You will be faithful to me, and I will be faithful to you. You will worship me. And the people choose an idol to worship.
I thought you were my people. I thought you chose me. It’s like committing adultery on the honeymoon. How can you be my people and create this idol?
This case never goes to trial. More like mediation. Moses comes is as the mediator—a role he is very familiar with .
Let’s remember who Moses is. Moses was a Hebrew but raised by Egyptian royalty. When Moses was born all first born Hebrews boys were killed, so his mom strategically arranged for Pharaoh’s daughter to find her son, hoping she would have compassion and raise him in Pharaoh’s house. Which is what happened. But what might it have been like to watch your own Hebrew people be slaves while you lived in the palace? What might it had been like to be treated like royalty but know that you are not? Moses was a misfit kid. He didn’t fit in with the Hebrews or Egyptians. What do you do when you don’t belong? You stand in the middle, you see both sides. How often was a Moses put in the role as a mediator? Just weeks before this golden calf incident Moses father in law Jethro coached Moses through helping him be selective in his mediation because people were coming to him to mediate all sorts of things that didn’t need someone with his expertise to mediate. But this time, they need Moses the master mediator.
Moses as the mediator gives two reasons for why God should not bring disaster on the Israelites.
This will be a PR nightmare. You went through all that trouble to get them out of Egypt and then they all die? What will the Egyptians think?You a made a promise. You said you would build a nation with these people.
And with these two reasons Moses pleads– change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.
And the Lord changed his mind. It other versions is says, the Lord relented. In others The Lord repented. Most would say that Change of heart is the most accurate interpretation looking at the Hebrew word used.
In both reasons Moses is essentially saying “this is not who you are.” If you do this, it will be out of character. You are not evil and don’t have evil intent, ever. And you made a promise to Abraham. It’s not consistent with who you are to consume them from the face of the earth. Moses appeals to God’s character. Change your mind so that you can be consistent in your character.
Christopher Wright does some of the best thinking on this.
From one perspective, it would be just and fair for God to break the relationship and walk away. But from another perspective, that would be unjust. It would be unjust in terms of God’s own character. Which is why Moses appeals to God’s integrity and promise.
And God welcomes this kind of input. Wright says God makes his divine will vulnerable to Moses’ challenge. He’s inviting Moses, a human, to interact with him about what decision He’s going to make and influence His decision making.
God is not only allowing human intercession, He invites it and builds it into the decision-making process. “Moses is not depicted as arguing against God, but rather as participating in an argument within God.”
This is a picture of what is known as intercessory prayer. Moses reminds God of his character and promises and begs him to be consistent with that in his actions.
I find Moses a helpful model today.
Moses acted out of his own sense of deficit. I think Moses lived with a lot of pain about being misfit and other—first growing up Hebrew and Egyptian but not quite either. He is an Israelite, but because of the role God has him play he is also separate from the Israelites. He goes up the Mountain and God talks to him. He sees God face to face when others would be killed. And yet he is NOT God. Not God and not like the rest of the Israelites.
Often times the thing you most long for yourself and never feel like you get is what you advocate for other people to have. I watch this as a parent—I long for my kids to have stuff I didn’t have, to learn stuff I didn’t know, to have a life that I only wished I had… Some of our greatest unfulfilled yearnings become the exact places where we can advocate for others.
Moses knows the pain of not belonging to anyone or any community. So when he sees the Is who are alone in the desert and only have Yahweh, only have God as their connection to literally survive with water and food and are completely dependent on Him for any kind of future…Moses advocates and pleads for the people to not lose their place, not lose their connection to God as HIS people. Moses wanted a tribe but never quite found it but wants it for them.
In the places where you feel “other”, places where you feel unfulfilled longings, God often uses that for a greater purpose.
With Moses we see the value of not identifying with any tribe. He understands both sides and is able to mediate. Seems fitting for our current times.
Tribalism is more a thing today with politics than it’s ever been. I am looking for my own tribe, my people who think like me, data, articles research to convince me my tribe is right and good and better.
A few months ago I felt prompted to consider what it would meant to be a bridge in this season. Motivated for that. Help translate between the two sided. And then George Floyd was killed…I watched the polarization on the role of police and just in how people were interpreting the moment and I looked for my tribe again because it was easier than trying to figure out how to bridge the gap.
The nearer we get to the election, the more I struggle. I don’t know what it means to mediate, to function as a translator. I have opinions does it mean I neglect them or downplay them for the role of a mediator. I see the impact Moses has as a person and leader because he functions in this role. He doesn’t downplay what he thinks but he also can separate himself . I’m trying to pay attention and to be open to participating in this mediator role when it comes to our current world. And sometimes I am able to practice the skills—listening, asking questions, summarizing both sides of the argument, assume the best intentions , clarifying the intended impact, being open to unintended impact that my words might have. Sometimes I do this. What if I did this more in the next month? What if we all did?
With Moses we see an interaction with God that might be a glimpse of how God is inviting us to interact with him…. To argue or intercede for new outcomes by appealing to God’s character and promises . Although we don’t know the future or God’s plans, we do see in this passage an invitation to engage with God about the future and to plead with God to act according to his character and promises.
What we know is that there is injustice happening all around our globe. In this nation there is overt and covert prejudice and racism, systems that work for some people but not for all, a virus that is affecting the lives of some but not all.
What we know is that God loves all people, wants justice for the whole earth, will right every wrong and make all things new. His character and promises have not changed. What if we allowed ourselves the opportunity of relating to God the way Moses does—arguing, pleading, imploring God to be true to who He is. God will always act consistent with his character and promises…
God is trying to build a new kind of tribe. That was his goal with Moses and Is and is still his goal now. A tribe a committed to wanting God to be their God. A tribe wanting to be identified as God’s people. A tribe oriented around advocating for lost broken people instead of fighting with them. A tribe that loves enemies and turns the other cheek.
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