Sixth Sunday After Trinity July 22, 2001
31, 496, 403, 400
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. Here ends our text.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, the eternal One, who was present at creation, present on the cross of Calvary, and who is present with us now, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
No excuses! You’re probably familiar with those words; especially so if you ever played sports in school. In the heat of competition, with a baseball tournament or a basketball title on the line, many a coach has said those words to his players. “No excuses! You’ve got the talent, you’ve got the desire—now it’s time to live up to your potential and get the job done! It’s a big assignment, but you can do it! No excuses!”
In our text for today, Moses is given an assignment by God. It’s a big one: God has chosen him to lead the Israelite people out of Egypt, and guide them to the promised land of Canaan. Of course, it’s a tremendous honor. At the same time, though, it’s a huge responsibility—and Moses isn’t sure at all that he wants it! So he brings up a number of excuses. And these excuses are interesting, because they’re some of the same reasons we’re tempted to give when we want to duck our responsibilities as Christians. But, as the Holy Spirit shows us in our text, those excuses just don’t hold water. Our theme is:
This whole account reminds me of what happened to the prophet Jonah. Do you remember? Somebody had to go preach repentance to the wicked people of Nineveh. God didn’t ask for volunteers—He sent Jonah. But Jonah opted to excuse himself from the assignment, so he got on the first ship that was heading in the opposite direction. Well, God often overrules our excuses in a very direct way, as Jonah found out. He had three days and three nights to reconsider his excuses—in the belly of the great fish!
After the people of Israel had served as slaves to the Egyptians for many years, the Lord decided to deliver them from slavery and bring them to the promised land. Well, somebody had to be the leader. If any of the Israelites themselves had asked Moses to do it, he’d undoubtedly have tried the excuse, “It’s not MY job!” But it wasn’t a human being who gave Moses this assignment—it was God Himself. The Lord said, Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. So really, Moses’ first excuse was vetoed even before he could raise it. It WAS his job! God gave him a direct command—This is your responsibility, this is what you will do.
When I was working as a motel clerk in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, there was a list on the wall of ten things we were never supposed to say to a customer. Number One was, “That’s not my job.” Every good businessman knows that rule—but it’s funny how few Christians know it! It’s amazing to me how many believers think that their only God-given duties are to come to church on Sunday, and live a relatively honest life the rest of the time. As a Christian, you’ve got other assignments as well. God has called you to be a missionary for the Gospel—you, personally, have the assignment of spreading the Good News about Jesus to people who haven’t heard it yet. “Not my job,” you say? Then who was Jesus talking to when He said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” Mt 28:20. You Christian parents—the responsibility of leading your children to Jesus lies primarily with you, not with the pastor or the Sunday School teachers. Paul said, “You, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Eph 6:4.
And there are other responsibilities—supporting the work of the Gospel with your money; supporting this congregation’s current project of building a house of worship; using the talents God has given you in His service; sharing your faith with the other believers in this congregation—and yes, rebuking and correcting your fellow believers when they fall into sin. Don’t say, “It’s not my job.” That’s no excuse! If you are a Christian, then God has made it your job. He’s given you an assignment that’s just as direct and specific as Moses’ assignment to lead the Israelites out of Egypt!
In our text, Moses tried another excuse. Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” “Lord, I’m all by myself.” I’m just little old Moses! How do you expect me to take on a job as big as this single-handed?
Well, we can understand the way Moses felt. The task ahead of him seemed enormous, but it was no more enormous than the Christian calling in our world of the 21st Century. How can I, as a Christian, hang on to the truths of the Bible and live according to them, when the whole rest of our society is pulling me in the opposite direction? And it’s not just society, either. Even churches are moving away from God’s Word. Practically every other denomination is pushing for compromise—giving up a doctrine here, a doctrine there, for the sake of outward unity. And here’s Ascension Lutheran Church in DuPont, Washington. Do you really think that our little church tucked back in here can stand firm in God’s truth?
Like Moses, we might start to think that we’re all by ourselves, and that we’re vastly outnumbered. And, like Moses, we’d be wrong! God told him, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. All by yourself? Certainly not, says God, I will be with you! No excuses!
In Geneva, Switzerland, there stands a monument to the Reformation. On that monument is a plaque inscribed with the simple sentence, “One person, with God, is a majority.” It’s a good way to remember the Reformation, isn’t it? Martin Luther was only one Christian, sinful like the rest of us. But he stood against the Pope and the whole of corrupt Roman Catholicism when he said that salvation comes to us alone by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. His courageous stand for the truth of the Gospel turned all of Europe inside out, and the world hasn’t been same since.
You are not by yourself. One person, with God, is a majority. As a confessing Christian, you may draw fire from the people around you. You may face obstacles as forbidding as the Red Sea was to Moses and the Israelites on their way out of Egypt. But God promises you the same blessing He promised Moses: “I will be with you.” In Isaiah, the Lord tells you, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isa 43:2.
But Moses had another excuse. He foresaw a certain problem that might come up when he went to take over the reins of his new office. Behold, he told the Lord, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? You’d understand the problem Moses was up against if you knew how many gods they had in Egypt. They worshipped Ra, the sun god; Osiris, the god of the dead; Amon, the supreme god of the universe; and all kinds of other major and minor deities to boot. There were so many gods, so many religions. It was all very confusing! What was Moses supposed to say when the Israelites asked which god had sent him to be their leader? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Moses’ excuse was based on a false assumption—that there are many different gods, of which Jehovah was only one. But that’s no excuse. For there are not many different gods, the Lord told him, there is only one God. I AM that God! I’m the only God that IS, that truly exists. All other so-called “gods” are manmade and imaginary. They are idols. Men can fall down and worship them all they want; they have no power to help, because they simply don’t exist.
You and I still worship that one true God today. And we still meet the opposition of people who think it’s too narrow-minded to say that ours is the only God, and that no other God exists. We still hear the excuse from people, “Well, just because we’re different religions doesn’t mean we can’t agree. After all, there are many different roads to the same God.” But that’s not true. Any god that isn’t the triune God of Scripture is no God at all. Any god that doesn’t include Jesus Christ is an idol, and idolatry leads not to heaven, but to hell. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me.” Jesus Christ is this same, eternal Jehovah—the I AM God who identified Himself to Moses there at the burning bush.
An interesting thing happened once, during Jesus’ ministry on earth. The Pharisees asked Jesus to tell them specifically who He was. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:56-58. Well, as soon as Jesus said that, the Jews immediately became enraged; they flew right off the handle. In fact, they tried to kill Him right then and there! Why? Because when He used that name, “I AM”, He was identifying Himself as God.
“So many different religions—” That excuse is still very common today—you hear it all the time. “How can you know YOUR religion is the right one?” But as the Bible reveals, that’s no excuse. There aren’t many religions. There are really only two. All the false religions of the world, which teach that you are saved (at least in part) by something you do; and the one true religion—our religion!—in which you are saved alone by faith in what Jesus did for you. Thank heaven for your faith in that one true religion! By faith you know that Jesus bore your sins on the cross of Calvary. By faith you are can be certain that in His precious blood, all your sins have been washed away. By faith, you understand that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead assures you that you, too, will live forever in glory.
This blessed message of the Gospel is what lies at the heart of every single book of the Bible, and it’s what you’ll hear from this pulpit every Sunday of the year. There is only one true religion. And that religion never changes. Those basic truths don’t have to be “modernized” to fit the times, because the God we worship never changes. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Heb 13:8.
People change, it’s true. We’re weak and wavering at times. We’re like Moses: when our Christian duty calls, our human flesh will always be able to find excuses. “It’s not my job… I’m all by myself… There are so many religions… “ But God overrules each of these excuses. In Christ, He forgives our reluctant hearts, and shows us the real truth of the matter. It IS our job—to serve God with everything we’ve got! We’re NOT all by ourselves—He promises to be with us! There AREN’T many different religions—there’s only one true religion! God grant that we may be faithful to Him who is the eternal Cornerstone of that religion, Jesus Christ our Lord. In His saving name, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.