10. You want excuses? We got ’em!
Moses was the champion in many areas for the Lord’s people who would eventually follow him. In his call, we find him coming up with some doozies of excuses why this isn’t going to work, sending him into Pharaoh’s court is a terrible idea, and he is the wrong person for this job.
“Who am I, Lord?” (3:11)
“Who are you, Lord?” (3:13)
“What if they don’t believe me, Lord?” (4:1)
“I can’t really do this, Lord.” (4:10)
“Here am I, Lord; send Aaron.” (4:13)
Sift through the entire conversation and you quickly decide that God’s answer to all of Moses’ excuses is the same: “I’ll be with you.” (3:12 and 4:12, 15)
When our Lord walked the earth, He kept running into one ridiculous excuse after another. Finally, He addressed the matter in a teaching found in Luke 14:16-24. The excuses given in this passage are so absurd (“I’ve bought some land and need to go see it,” “I’ve bought some oxen and need to test them,” and “I’ve gotten married and can’t come”), the Lord hoped people would see how flimsy were their alibis for not responding to God’s message.
The wonderful Vance Havner used to say, “An excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Several times in early Romans, Paul says, “They are without excuse.” So are we all.
9. God is a God of infinite patience. (And aren’t we glad!)
Check out the 10 plagues He sent upon the Egyptians, all to convince hard-hearted Pharaoh to loosen his grip on the Lord’s family. Furthermore, look at His dealings with Moses, surely not the easiest student God ever had to mentor. But mostly, consider the Lord’s patience and longsuffering with the Israelites. Most of us would have given up on these people far earlier.
“Consider that the longsuffering of the Lord is our salvation,” so said the Apostle Peter in II Peter 3:15.
Want to see this patience/longsuffering in the Lord Jesus? “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). This prayer from the cross demonstrates better than anything the incredible patient nature of our Lord.
You and I are so impatient, we wonder that God isn’t more like us. We see someone do something foolish — cut us off in traffic in the morning rush hour, leave a baby in a car-seat in order to gamble in the casino, embezzle money from a charitable fund knowing they will eventually be caught — and are ready to call down the judgment of Heaven on them (sound familiar? See Luke 9:54). Thank God, He’s not like us. In His mercy and patience, those foolish drivers and mothers and employees sometimes see the error of their ways and repent, then spend the rest of their days blessing people and serving the Lord.
8. Pastors have a role model par excellence in Moses.
On our better days, we pastors feel as Solomon did when he assumed the throne of his father David, overwhelmed by the privilege and honored by the opportunity. Young Solomon prayed, “Lord, give me a discerning heart, for who is able to (lead) this great people of yours?” (I Kings 2:9)
But then, there are plenty of times when we see this honor as more of a burden and the Lord’s people as a bunch of immature, ignorant, self-centered unbelievers. At those times, it helps to remember what Moses had to put up with.
In fact, if you want to have fun (“he said in a perverse way”), walk through Exodus and highlight every time you read that God’s people murmured against Moses. In fact, they’re hardly out of town when they start complaining. (14:11)
I like to remind pastors that the next time they feel impatient with the shenanigans of certain members of their congregation, it helps to read what Moses had to put up with. His patience and steadfastness is a thing to behold.
7. The daughters of Miriam abound.
Am I the only person who has ever wondered about the abundance of Marys in the New Testament? It appears that every other woman carried that name. Even today, it’s easily the most popular female name across the world.
Get your Greek New Testament down and you’ll see why. The name in the Greek is not “Mary,” but “Mariam,” particularly in Luke’s Gospel. It turns out they were all named for Moses’ sister Miriam.
Now, Miriam was a good role model for young girls of that or any age, especially if we focus on her early life when she took care of little brother Moses down in the bulrushes (Exodus 2:4,7) and we overlook the time she grew too self-centered and paid dearly for it (Numbers 12). But what I wonder is why we see no Esthers and Abigails and Eves in the New Testament. Anyone know the answer?
I love to see parents naming their children after a biblical character whom they admire. I have learned the hard way to stay out of this. A young expectant couple told me one day they planned to name their son “Jacob.” I said, “Do you know the meaning of the name? ‘Heel-holder.’ ‘One who takes advantage of other people, who ride on the other fellow’s dime.'” They had not known that and promptly decided to change the name of their yet-to-be-born child. Later, I found they had named him “Caleb.” I didn’t have the heart to tell them that means “dog.” (But Caleb himself is a terrific namesake for any child. See Numbers 14:6 and other places.)
6. The favorite pastime of many church members: complaining.
Almost every young adult who goes into the ministry is blind-sided by the complaining and murmuring of God’s people. They expected opposition to come from the world, whereas most of their headaches arise from within the congregation.
My friend Glenda tells new employees in the church office to get ready. “You are about to see the worst side of the best people.”
In a perfect world, that would not be. But we live in a fallen world and might as well get used to it.
“Your complaint is not against us, but against the Lord,” Moses warned the people in Exodus 16:8. Thus, they were to exercise caution about complaining against the Lord’s servant.
That, incidentally, is a lesson God’s people are forever forgetting. “We called him as pastor, he works for us, and I’ll criticize him all I please” is a mantra of many a church member and leader. Such a person would do well to go back and read Acts 20:28 where Paul informs us the Holy Spirit makes the pastors the overseers of the congregation.
At one point when Israel was complaining yet again, but this time about both Moses and his brother Aaron, the prophet said, “Who is Aaron that you complain about him?” That’s rather funny to us, but I’m not sure how much Aaron thought of it. (Numbers 16:11) Moses understood that the price of leadership was one becomes a target for nay-sayers and a magnet for discontent.
In the days of Samuel the prophet, Israel grew tired of being represented at international summits by an unkempt old prophet when other nations brought out their glorious kings and impressive royalties. They demanded that they be given a king, also. When Samuel protested to the Lord, God said, “It’s not you they have rejected; it’s me.” (I Samuel 8:7)
“It’s not about you, preacher. It’s about God.” That’s a great reminder. Too many spiritual leaders have internalized opposition and reacted in the flesh toward those making their lives miserable and their ministries difficult.
My neighbor was standing in his front yard cursing me for everything he could think of, all because the two trees in front of my house were shedding in his yard. I tried reasoning with him, reminding him the trees were there when we moved in five years earlier, and were there ten years before when he moved in. Nothing worked. Finally, I called the man who owned our house before us. “Did John ever complain to you about the trees shedding in his yard?” “Nope. Not once,” he said. And that’s when I had a little revelation. From previous conversations, I knew John to be angry at God. It occurred to me that his tirade was primarily because I represent God; the shedding trees were only his excuse. When I realized this, my anger eased off and I was able to relate to him in kindness. (Later, when a deacon from my church suggested the trees were the wrong kind and oversized for my yard, we cut them down and ground out the stumps. Poor John — he had to find other reasons to complain.)
5. The names of God deliver excellent insights.
In Exodus 3, God answers Moses’ question of “Who are you?” with something that has blessed and befuddled believers ever since. He said, “Tell them I AM hath sent you.” What, we find ourselves wondering, does that mean? Something like “eternal existence”? “Eternally existing one”? “The source of all life”? Our minds begin to fog up as we try to get our brains around some kind of philosophical concept. We need help. So….
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus comes to our rescue….
“I am the Bread of life,” He says in John 6:35.
“I am the Light of the world,” John 8:12.
“I am the Door.” John 10:9.
“I am the Good Shepherd.” John 10:11.
“I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” John 14:6
“I am the true vine.” John 15:1
And then, lest anyone fail to catch the Lord Jesus’ fully identifying Himself as the incarnation of the Great I AM, He goes us one better. Twenty-three times in John’s Gospel, Jesus comments to hearers that He is “I AM,” using the Greek “ego eimi.” Want to know where they are? John 4:26; 6:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12, 18, 24, 28, 58; 10:7,9,11,14; 11:25; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1,5; and 18:5,6,8. A couple of the more significant places are these:
1) In John 8, Jesus says, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.” (vs. 28) Again, He uses the same expression in vs. 58, “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
2) In John 18, when the soldiers came for Jesus, He asked whom they were seeking. When they said, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He answered, “I AM.” (vs. 5) When they heard that, they dropped to the ground. (vs. 6) So, He repeated the question, they repeated the answer, and He repeated His statement.
Modern translations add “He” to most of these “I AM statements to give it sense to the modern ear. But they ruin the effect, as far as I’m concerned. Jesus was not saying, “I’m the One you are looking for,” but “I AM” period. Those who were Jews among His hearers caught the incredible implications of that.
Exodus contains at least one more name of God worth consideration. (I may have overlooked others too; if so, I’ll add them in later.) In 17:15, His name is listed as “Jehovah-Nissi” or “Yahweh-Nissi,” meaning “The Lord is my banner.” Think of an army going into battle with sections having their own banners or flags under which they fought. In the Civil War (and maybe others too; I don’t know), various brigades had their own flags which were home-made and prized. Someone hoists the banner and those of that group rally to it. In saying “The Lord is my banner,” the people were confessing that He is their Leader, their rallying point, and the Captain of their crusade.
4. The Ten Commandments are evidence of the Lord’s love, gifts of His grace.
I hear people say, “The New Testament is a book of grace, but the Old Testament is all about law.” I beg to differ. Grace is all through the Old Testament. In fact, the very law itself is a gift of God’s grace. Because He loved the people, He wanted them to know how to live and how to avoid the pitfalls of life.
Children need fences to keep them from dangerous and forbidden territory, and he who builds a fence around the playground is a friend, not an enemy. With these “Ten Words,” as Scripture calls them, God erects barriers to a) guard His children’s worship, b) safeguard their home, and c) protect their relationship with others.
These ten commands remind us that God in Heaven who knows us better than we could ever know ourselves realized man needs three things: a Lord, a Law, and a Limit. The commands give us all three.
3. Man needs an altar, too.
I run into people who say, “My religion is the Ten Commandments.” Sometimes, I’ll respond, “Can you name them?” Most people can’t, even those who claim to live by them.
And then, if the situation is right and they seem open to discussion, I’ll go one step further and ask them why, if the 10 commandments are to be the sum total of our religion, God gave us provisions for an altar in the same chapter.
This may be the best insight in the entire book of Exodus. Think of it: the same chapter that gives us the Ten Commandments — Exodus 20 — also makes provisions for an altar. “An altar of earth you shall make for me.” The very fact of God allowing for an altar in the chapter giving us the 10 commandments is astounding. It’s as though the Lord were saying, “The commandments are my standard. However, you will not be able to keep them. You will be needing some way back into my presence after failing to live up to my requirements. Here is the way: the altar.”
Of course, every Old Testament altar pointed to the cross of Jesus.
God went on to say, “If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.” This was a reminder that the altar was a place of death, not the lovely site we see in many sanctuaries where golden candlesticks and glistening linens adorn the altars. The altar in that day was a bloody, smelly, ugly mess, a place of death.
“Don’t be trying to pretty it up,” the Lord was saying.
It takes little imagination to see how these things could get out of hand. Everyone on the block has his altar, some of dirt and several of rough stones. Then one day, when Bob had a little time on his hands, he tore his altar down and rearranged it, selecting prettier stones and shaping them to fit better. His neighbor Tom saw that and liked it. Since his brother-in-law worked at a rock quarry, Tom arranged for a pickup load of marble scraps to be delivered to his back yard. Before long, the neighbors are all trying to outdo one another in the appearance of their altars, and the race was on. Soon, they forgot what the thing was all about in the first place.
So, God put a stop to this little competition before it ever had a chance to blossom. As Barney said, “He nipped it in the bud.”
2. The Lord Jesus is all through Exodus.
Moses, the Passover Lamb, the manna, the smitten rock, the tabernacle, and the priesthood — all these are what’s called “types of Christ” (see I Corinthians 10:6 where the Greek word is “typoi”). That is, they present parallel connections with the Lord Jesus Himself, teaching us something about Him hundreds of years before He was born.
Moses’ birth was miraculous, he became a savior to his people, he was the representative of God, and he demonstrated the power of God throughout his life and ministry.
The Passover Lamb of Exodus 12 prefigured the Lord Jesus who would die for the people. In I Corinthians 5:7, Jesus is called “Christ our Passover.”
The Manna was God’s divine provision for the hunger of His people (Exodus 16). John 6:35 makes the New Testament connection.
An entire library of books has been written to explain the many ways the Tabernacle (Exodus 25ff) presented truths about the Lord Jesus. In particular, the ark of the covenant spoke of His holy presence, the table of showbread His divine provision, and the lampstand His eternal light. (We don’t hear of Bible teachers specializing on the Tabernacle these days the way we did a generation or two ago. Some had elaborate miniature displays and could go on for hours and hours on insights into how each detail brought out some hidden truth about the Savior and even Heaven itself. I’m not disparaging them in the least, and often sat spellbound under some of these incredible teachers.)
The priesthood (Exodus 29), with its holy men standing between God and men, teaches about the ministry and person of the Lord Jesus. See Hebrews 4.
1. Exodus 34:6-7 may be the best thing in the entire book.
In answer to his request to see God’s glory, the Lord is revealing His goodness to Moses. He hides the prophet in the cleft of a rock and passes by. Moses does not actually see the Lord but hears His words: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sins; by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation.”
I’m tempted to say there’s nothing like this self-revelation anywhere else in the Bible. But there is: in all the places through the Old Testament where it is quoted. This may be the most-quoted Scripture in the Old Testament. (Think of the oddity of that — a passage in the OT is quoted all through the OT.) Here are some of the places where God’s people quote this text….
–Moses prays it back to God in Numbers 14:17-19 after Israel refused to go into Canaan and God spoke of abandoning them to their own desires. Moses reminds God that He forgives iniquity, transgressions, and sins. After all, Lord, “You said so Yourself!” He also quotes part of this in Deuteronomy 4:31.
–Nehemiah 9:17 quotes it to explain why God forgave the chronic rebelliousness of Israel in past years.
–The Psalms quote Exodus 34:6-7 in many places, most notably in Ps. 103:8. (Others include 86:15, 111:4, 112:4, and 145:8 .)
–Jeremiah 32:18 quotes the passage.
–Joel 2:13 quotes it to encourage the people to “rend your hearts, not your garments.”
–Jonah quotes it in 4:2 to explain why he never wanted to come to Nineveh in the first place. “I knew you were a forgiving God and I didn’t want them forgiven!”
Interestingly, no Old Testament writer or preacher quoted the entire two verses from Exodus 34 and no two quote it exactly alike. This could be explained by remembering that the prophets were probably working from memory (they couldn’t pick up the book and flip to Exodus 34:6-7 the way we do in a moment’s time). But it also tells me the Lord is not overly picky about His children having to get every jot and tittle right when we quote His Word. I appreciate that. Sometimes in the middle of a sermon, we preachers grab a verse out of the air and may leave out parts of it or not quote it exactly right. It helps to remember the Lord is not sitting on His throne with a pen and pad trying to catch us slipping up.
Now, having said that, let’s remember why Exodus 34:6-7 was beloved by so many of the Lord’s preachers through the centuries: God is a loving God who forgives sins.
And ain’t that good news!!