Lessons of Courage from the Old Testament 1
The Burning Bush
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 3, 2005

 

Main Passage: Exodus 3:1-10 (NLT)

 

They were a captive audience. At least that’s one way you might describe them. You might argue that the term “audience” may not apply, but there’s no denying that captive is just what they were. They had moved to Egypt 300 years earlier during a famine in order to survive, but now they couldn’t leave. They found themselves trapped in a foreign land, treated as slaves. The king, or Pharaoh, of Egypt had a mission… to expand his empire and build new cities. And the Israelites were to be the work force to accomplish that mission. Their large population within his borders always made him nervous, anyway, and he figured this would be a good way to maintain control over them.

But no matter how hard he worked the Israelites and no matter how abusive the Egyptians were to them, the Israelite population continued to explode. So Pharaoh decided he must become more direct.

So he issued the order: “Every Israelite boy that is born must be thrown into the Nile.” But the very water that drowns can also be used to float a water-tight basket. And by placing her baby inside such a basket one mother saved her infant’s life by her resourceful action.

But then something unexpected happened. That basket carrying the baby Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. And she decided she would claim the baby as her own and have him raised as an Egyptian prince. And then, by the providence of God, the birth mother of Moses was hired to care for him. So Moses grew up knowing of his Israelite heritage.

Jump ahead 40 years. Moses, now a full grown man, saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, one of his own people. So after glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he killed the Egyptian and hid his body. He thought no one saw him, but he was wrong. His secret was not a secret at all, and when Pharaoh found out he tried to kill Moses. So Moses took flight and left Egypt to the land of Midian to become known as the Egyptian formerly known as Prince.

Here’s his journey: He started out around here in Egypt and traveled west to Midian, someplace in this vicinity. Little did he know at this point of time that years later he would be leading an entire nation though this land.

While in this region he met a man named Jethro, married Jethro’s daughter Zipporah, and began tending Jethro’s sheep as his new occupation. Many years passed uneventfully until one day when he was tending his father-in-law’s sheep way down on the other side of the wilderness [PowerPoint] near Mount Sinai (some translations say Mount Horeb, but most scholars believe that just to be another name for Mount Sinai)… located here.

[PowerPoint – Horeb/Sinai]

What happened next is what we read about earlier in the service and what you’re about to see now.

[Show video of burning bush from “Moses” starring Ben Kingsley.]

That’s the account of the “burning bush,” where God spoke to Moses and called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery. Before this time, Moses was just a coward on the run. Even during this encounter at the Burning Bush, Moses was frightened to obey God. Time and time again he objected to God's call for him to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out. But there were some lessons learned at this Burning Bush that transformed Moses from a man of cowardice to a man of courage. What lessons were they? What we're going to do this morning is take a look at three specific lessons that Moses learned, and that we can learn, that can enable us to trust God and be filled with a courage and confidence that can only truly come from Him.

 

Lessons from the Burning Bush:

1. God’s Resources Do Not Run Out.

Exodus 3:2 (NLT)
Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up.

God’s resources do not run out. Of course, my resources do. I was a little nervous this week because Shera’s pay was going into our bank account the same day that our mortgage came out. And it was important that it happen in that order. Why? Our resources were running low.

About ten years ago, I was pastoring a small church in Avon, South Dakota. This was a small town of about 600 people. The actual population depended on which way you drove in. If you entered town from the west, there was a sign that said “Avon: Population 576.” If you entered from the east, the sign said “Population 624.” So it averaged out to 600.

Well, they had some pretty nasty winters there. I know we get pretty bad winters here, too, and I used to pride myself on being from the Maritimes and being able to brave the cold cruel Canadian winters. But their temperatures would rival ours regularly. I remember shoveling drifts of snow up to my neck from my driveway. In 1995 it snowed there three or four times before it snowed once here (my parents got a kick out of that). To boot, Avon was located on the plains. That meant there was nothing to stop the wind. So just like here, the winds could howl through town with gusts up to 80 miles and hour. And with the wind chill, temperatures could plummet.

Now, through the winter I got in the habit of turning the thermostat in the church up every Saturday night so it’d be ready for Sunday. One week I did this only to come in on Sunday morning and find that nothing had changed. It was freezing inside the church. What we were later to discover is that our furnace had run out of fuel. Except that the gauge that’s suppose to tell us about this was frozen at 1/3 full. Because of the weather, we had a small turnout that day, so what we actually did was met in the kitchen. We figured it was a smaller room so our body heat would accomplish more, and we had a rather brief service before we all returned to the warmth of our homes.

You know what? God doesn’t run out of fuel. His gas tank doesn’t go dry, His batteries don’t die. He never runs out of money. His resources never fail.

Here’s what the Bible has to say about God’s resources:

In Psalm 50, God says…

Psalm 50:10, 12 (NLT)
“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills… all the world is mine and everything in it.”

Psalm 24:1 (NLT)
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.

I guess Leonardo DiCaprio can’t claim, “I’m the king of the world” after all.

And this was important for Moses to understand. God was about to call him to take on Pharaoh himself, along with his armies and sorcerers, and Moses need to know that God’s resources do not run out. That’s the first lesson. The second lesson is…

 

2. God’s Power Does Not Weaken.

I can jog a little ways… like three or four steps… and then get tired. Chris can jog a lot farther, but eventually he’ll still get tired. None of us has an endless supply of energy.

This past week I bought a battery-powered weed-whacker. And I was a good boy… I followed the instructions and plugged it in to charge for 24 solid hours before it was used. And then, after it was fully charged, it was put to use. But you know what? That stupid thing… you can only use it for so long before you have to plug it in to charge again. Who would have thought? And apparently you have to keep doing that every once in a while. Whoever heard of such a thing?

Here, let me give you a phrase and you tell me what comes to mind… “More Power.”

Sure, what comes to mind is “Tool Time” on Home Improvement. Anyone want to do the Tim Taylor grunt? On Home Improvement, Tim Taylor had to add “more power” to every he touched. He had to soup up engines and make adjustments on all kinds of tools and appliances just to give them more power. Of course, they usually exploded or melted or caught on fire or something disastrous, and his quest for more power never really worked.

But there’s one place where Tim Taylor could always count on there being more power and that’s with God. His powers never weaken. Here’s what the Bible says:

Isaiah 6:4 (NLT)
Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.

Psalm 89:8 (CEV)
You are LORD God All-Powerful! No one is as loving and faithful as you are.

In Matthew 19:26, Jesus said…

Matthew 19:26 (CEV)
“There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”

Genesis 18:14 (CEV)
“I am the Lord! There is nothing too difficult for me.”

God’s resources do not run out, God’s powers do not weaken, and third…

 

3. God’s Love Knows No Limits.

The bush was on fire. It wasn’t being consumed. A voice came from the bush. All of these are ways that God captured Moses’ attention. But I don’t think that’s how God kept Moses’ attention over the next 40 years. They were spectacular supernatural things, sure, but we have a very short attention span. Particularly in our society, we have a very short attention span. A lot of things get our attention, but nothing keeps our attention very long.

We live in a world of shifting loyalties. Nothing and no one seems to keep our attention for more than a little while.

So how did God keep Moses’ attention for forty years? I don’t think it was the burning bush, or the fact that it wasn’t being burnt up, or the fact that a voice came from that bush. What I believe did it were the words that God spoke. It wasn’t just that God was speaking... it was what He was speaking. It was the first words that God spoke. What were they?

Exodus 3:4 (NLT)
…God called to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And more profound words… more life-changing words… would never be spoken to this man. God had called him by name. Over in the book of Isaiah, God said…

Isaiah 43:1 (NLT)
“I have called you by name; you are mine.”

Why is this significant? Well, I’ve talked to a number of people who don’t believe that God could actually care for them. They figure He’s got enough on His plate. There’s no way He could take an interest in little ol’ them, is there? But God does care for them. He takes a personal interest in them. He knows them by name. He knows everything there is to know about them. And He knows everything there is to know about you, too. He cares for you. You matter to Him. He cares so much for you that He even knows the number of hairs on your head…

Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)
“Not even a sparrow, worth only half a penny, can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows.”

So He cares enough for you and loves you so much that He even keeps track of how many hairs you have on your head. (Come to think of it, maybe He does care for some more than others of us.)

But knowing about you is not where His love stops. His love moves Him to action. In the passage we read it talked about how God had seen how the Israelites were being treated and He had heard their cries for help and He had come to rescue them. His love and compassion for them moved Him to action.

Let’s check out some other verses referring to God’s love. Read these with me…

1 John 4:16 (CEV)
God is love.

Ephesians 3:19 (CEV)
I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured.

Psalm 89:8 (CEV)
No one is as loving and faithful as You are.

Now, I’d just imagine that if God said to you, “Moses, Moses” they would not be the most profound words you’ve ever heard. Am I right? They would not be words that would change your life. And that’s understandable. After all, that’s not your name. But when it’s your name that God calls, it’s a whole different bowl of Fruit Loops, isn’t it? That’s when the message becomes urgent, irresistible, and undeniably significant to you. When God called Samuel’s name in 1 Samuel 3 -- “Samuel, Samuel” -- it would change that young boy’s life forever. When Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene outside the empty tomb after His resurrection, it was only after Jesus called her by name -- “Mary” -- that she recognized Him not as the gardener as she originally thought He was but as her personal risen Lord. When Jesus confronted Saul on the road to Damascus, the first word spoken was “Saul.” And Saul’s life was completely turned around, to the point in fact that his name changed from Saul to Paul.

We respond more willingly and more openly when we’re called by name. Advertisers know it; salespeople know it. And God knows it, too. He calls us by name, but not as a gimmick to get our attention… but because that’s the kind of personal God He is.

But does God call you by name today? You are aware, aren’t you, of what one psychiatrist has said…

“If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.”
~ Thomas Szasz, U.S. psychiatrist

Does God still call people by name? Well, let me say this: God speaks to each one of us differently. Sometimes He speaks to people in an audible voice… me, I can’t make that claim. But what I can claim is that God has undeniably spoken to me in other ways. Through gentle prodding He provides direction for my life that He doesn’t give to anyone else. He gives me an assurance that I can trust Him to care for my personal needs… an assurance that couldn’t come from anyplace else. He convicts me of wrongs that I commit. I can tell you that God is as real and personal to me as my wife is… and even more so.

He knows everything there is to know about me… and He loves me anyway. And He takes a personal interest in my life, just like He does for you.

So let me ask you: Doesn’t it do something for you to know that the Creator of the Universe, the CEO of the Cosmos, the Owner of all that exists… loves you and cares for you? Doesn’t it confound you that the Almighty God invites you to have a personal audience with Him?

How will you respond? Will you respond like Moses did by allowing Him to change your life? Remember, Moses was afraid, he knew it would cost him in some ways, but he still realized that his true calling was to have a relationship with the true and personal God and to follow the direction laid out by Him.

What has God called you to do? And are you doing it? If not, what’s holding you back? Are you afraid that God will somehow fail you? Are you afraid that He can’t sustain you? Are you afraid that He’ll forget about you and let you down? That’s simply not going to happen.

You need to know that you can trust Him. He will never abandon you, He will never fail you, and He will never call you to do something without providing the means for you to do it.

 

 

 

Copyright © 2005 SunriseOnline.ca