Monday, 1 August 2011

Moses – Freedom to Serve (Part 2)

Freedom means a different kind of life v5
We once had a landlord who told us, “I don’t think God would ever do no one no ‘arm”. There are different views of God. That's a view of a passive God who wishes all well. It's not quite accurate. In the Narnia book 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe', one of the children asks:

“Is Aslan quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver. “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just plain silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Before God could use Moses, Moses had to realise something about God – God is Holy. He is other, separate. There is no one like him. As we come to worship the LORD we stand on holy ground. Worship isn’t just going through the motions, a bit of singing, some prayers we all say ‘Amen’ to. It is coming into the presence of the LORD. And as we do that we may sense fear, a holy fear:

It’s good to be afraid. 1:17, 21 midwives feared God more than Pharoah. God rewarded them with families of their own.

Words spoken to the Israelites as thick darkness covered Mnt Sinai (cf v12): Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exo 20:20 NIV (!). Something of a paradox. We need not be afraid, because our fear of the LORD will keep us from sinning. Then we will have no fear of punishment. Jim Graham: ‘Where there are good morals, there we find good morale.’

The freedom the world offers is in fact slavery and results in an ever-decreasing sphere of spiritual involvement and influence. The freedom Christ offers us is true freedom. We find freedom in listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and living in obedience to that voice, if it is confirmed by the teaching we find in the Bible.

Many religious groups are based on fear. We have a relationship based on love, and freedom to serve. This means a change in our attitudes and lifestyle.

And there have to be rules. Society needs rules. Exodus had rules about, for instance, whether you can kill a burglar who breaks into your house (not if it’s daylight!) or what to do if someone is in debt to you (let him work for you until the debt is paid off then give him his freedom). Without rules we end up with chaos – as we found out in Pizza Hut last week!

Are you living a life of freedom? v8-10
Having said that, the Christian life is not a life of drudgery, of keeping to rules, of ‘being good’. Story: when I became a Christian (doing more washing-up). Who is the author of salvation? (God). Not us. God is the agent, the author, the initiator, the beginning and the end of our salvation. Where can we find out about that salvation? (In the Bible). God is the one who saves and redeems. He brought his people out of slavery to freedom. Moses tried on his own, and failed. With the help of the Great I AM, he succeeded. Are you doing this faith thing on your own? Or have you plugged into the endless reservoirs supplied by Yahweh, I AM? I mentioned Stalin earlier. His predecessor, Lenin, once said, ‘It is true that liberty is precious – so precious that it must be rationed.’ Freedom in Christ is not rationed! ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free... ’ Gal 5:1. See Col 2:9-17.

This leads to freedom from sin, and freedom to serve. Freedom to be holy. To be part of God’s chosen people. Do you know yourself to be part of God’s people? Do you know you are set free? Are you able to serve?

Jesus has a manifesto. It’s written in the Bible. It’s not like polititians’ manifestos (promise now, don’t pay later). Jesus’ keeps to his words, always. Do you know where his manifesto is? It’s in Luke chapter 4.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.” [quote of Isa 61:1]

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus also proclaims freedom for the oppressed, today. We may not be under some kind of economic yoke of oppression, but many in the world are. What are we doing to help release them from their slavery? Let’s begin to have a world-perspective today!
What about the spirtually-oppressed? Those enslaved to fears to do with folk practices – charms, amulets, the evil-eye? When will they hear the Good News about Jesus Christ, who can free them from all of that?

Ultimately we find freedom in being part of God’s people, with our eyes fixed on heaven. He brings us into a land (Kingdom of God) of liberty:

My country, ‘tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing:
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountain-side
Let freedom ring. (America, 1831)

Do you feel:
• at peace?
• free?
• are you resting in Christ?
• able to serve?
• If you’re already serving have you run out of steam, because you’re doing it in your own strength?

Moses – Freedom to Serve (Part 1)

What comes into your head when I say the word ‘Moses’? Leader? Law-giver? Redeemer? Burning-bush? Bricks without straw? ‘Pharoah’? ‘Miracles’? ‘Passover lamb’? For me it’s this: ‘Go down, Moses, way down Egypt land, tell old, Pharoes, let my people go!’ A ‘spiritual’ - song sung by African-American slaves.

God wants people to be free 2:24
We have seen and heard the appalling news from horn of Africa. And of course from Norway. Poverty and oppression.
Poverty and oppression -- the two are often linked. But God sees, and God cares 2:24-25, 3:7 . He was in special relationship with the Israelites through their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs. (Though God is a God who delights to bring liberty to all peoples: ‘"Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?" declares the LORD. "Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?’ Amos 9:7). But here we see God about to make another covenant with His people: `You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites." In Exodus 19:4-6 we see that freedom and obedience are linked.

God Calls us to a place where we are free to serve v4
Once before Moses tried to lead the Israelites. It all went badly wrong. He wasn’t at all in a place where he could serve God by leading the Israelite people.
The dark side of leadership: most leaders have a dark (driven) side to them. One thinks of Stalin – ‘Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union’(!), or Hitler – ‘One realm, one people, one leader’ . Moses was no exception. He liked to take charge, to take matters into his own hands. When things didn’t work out he ran. It took him 40 years of life spent in the Midian desert before he was ready to hear God’s call to be a servant-leader of the Israelite people. Have you got anything you need to be released from before you can serve?

And he felt very unworthy of this call:
‘Who am I?’ v11 It’s not a bad sign to feel insecure. It keeps us from pride (though a very low self-esteem can also be a sign of pride, or lack of faith).
‘I am with you’ v12 Reassurance from the LORD. The I AM (Yahweh – used to be Jehovah.) of the Bible – personal God. God who relates. God who remains the same – a loving, faithful God. Have you met him? Do you know him? Are you resting in God who you know loves you?

‘I am with you’. The I AM of the Bible is with us. It is our enemy who needs to fear. His fear should be of biblical proportions!