Exodus 6:10-7:7 - A Job That Can('t) Be Done
March 23, 2014 Speaker: Series: Exodus
Topic: Sunday Worship Passage: Exodus 6:10–7:7
[Text: Exodus 6:10-7:7] "A Job That Can('t) Be Done"
Things were worse than before for Israel. Moses showed up telling them about redemption and then they had to make bricks without straw. Now, Moses had heard what YHWH planned to do. And Moses knew his role in all of it. His job was to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. But have you ever asked a toddler to carry the groceries inside? Just because the job is given doesn't mean he's able to do it.
[Pray – Living God, help us so to hear your Holy Word that we may truly understand; that, understanding, we may believe, and, believing, we may follow in all faithfulness and obedience, seeking your honor and glory in all that we do; through Christ our Lord. Amen.]
[Read Exodus 6:10-30 – we're skimming over the genealogy, but notice the focus shift from Reuben and Simeon (the elder sons of Jacob) to Levi's family, eventually leading to Moses and the priestly family of Aaron. One purpose of the genealogy is to simply direct focus on the two of them.]
This passage marks the transition from Moses' time of preparation to the Exodus event itself – the promised redemption is about to explode into reality. YHWH's about to back up all his promises with powerful action in plague and miracle. But as we've said before, YHWH is going to do it all through Moses. YHWH is sending Moses as the rescuer, God's representative accomplishing God's purposes.
That's a big job. And YHWH sums it up for Moses in 6:13: "But YHWH spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge about the people of Israel and about Pharaoh king of Egypt: to bring the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt."
Talk about a job description. Clear. Simple. To the point. And no wiggle room. Moses knows what he's supposed to do – tell Pharaoh to let Israel go, then bring Israel out of Egypt.
So much of life is unclear. We wonder about who to marry and what job to take. There are endless decisions to be made with no clear right or wrong. But when it comes to our job given by God there is clarity. God doesn't mince words or beat around the bush. My job description from him isn't mysterious or a hidden truth to be discovered. God speaks clearly when he speaks.
So, if you're wondering, "What does He want me to do," you should know straight forward answers exist. Yes, some things need to be sorted out and we have so much freedom in Christ, but in God's word, He tells us what he would have of us.
So, what job has the Lord given to us? And hearing what job he gives us in his word, what does it look like to do it?
Well, in Micah 6:8 YHWH speaks, telling us our job. If you want to know what you're supposed to do, this (in summary form) is it:
"He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
He speaks of justice typifying all we do. He speaks of kindness toward others – not out of obligation but flowing out of love. He speaks of walking with him, clearly inviting us into a relationship where he is our God and we are his (humble) people. As a job description – not just a job, but a calling – he couldn't be clearer. And throughout the rest of the Scriptures, he clearly defines what justice and kindness and walking with him looks like.
Doing justice is more than just the job of a judge. Of course, it includes serving as a faithful juror when called. Of course it means that a judge shouldn't take bribes and lawyers should execute their work honestly. But the Scriptures say "doing justice" is a job that includes making things right for widows and orphans (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27). Doing justice means taking care of the poor and the foreigners who aren't able to take care of themselves (Deuteronomy 10:19, 15:7). To do justice is to share a sandwich with a homeless man; to give time to a woman whose own kids don't visit; to spend as much effort on pursuing our neighbors as we do on watching 4 straight seasons of Sherlock. The job of doing justice is doing what you can to right the wrongs of this fallen world, even at great cost to yourself.
You can see how connected doing justice is and how important it is that justice be paired with the call to "love kindness." How does it help make a widow's life right if I'm sitting there with a hard heart that doesn't enter (in some way) into her grief? The homeless man may need a sandwich, but he is famished for relationships even if he doesn't realize it. When "doing justice" is paired with kindness, then we're able to enter into our job with the warmth necessary to minister to others. The poor will find an advocate in us when justice is met with kindness, when the work of mercy is paired with a heart of mercy.
If we stop here, however, we're doing violence to the story the Scriptures tell. Because doing justice and loving kindness are thought noble by many. But divorced from walking humbly with our God, those things are like the tombs of the Pharaohs – beautiful and impressive to see but full of dry bones and crumbling flesh.
The job, the call of "walking humbly with (our) God" is the simple, clear call to remember who we are and who He is. He is the Creator, we are his creatures. And so, our job is to walk with him in every sphere of life. In our worship, in our work, in our sexuality, in our eating, in our drinking, in our parenting, in our dating, in our marriages, in our life together; in our childhood, in our old age, in our living and in our dying - in all these spheres of life – our job, our calling, is to walk humbly with Him. It's the work of submitting our lives to him and living how he says life works best.
To Moses, the job was clear – to bring God's people out from Egypt. To us, the job is clear – to do justice and love kindness and walk humbly with our God. As job descriptions go, they are simple and to the point with no wiggle room.
So, why can't we do it?
Moses' confession of his utter inadequacy to do the job YHWH gave him bookends this section in vv.12 and 30; the bookending highlights his weakness. Think about what just happened - when he delivered YHWH's message of hope just a few verses earlier, Israel didn't listen (6:9). And when he first spoke to Pharaoh, things got worse instead of better. Moses does a quick job evaluation on himself and gives his performance less than stellar marks with little hope of improvement.
So, Moses goes back, it seems to his original excuse. Back at the burning bush (when God first gave him this job) Moses tried to lose this job by telling YHWH, "…but I am slow of speech and of tongue" (4:10). Here, now, he complains that he is "of uncircumcised lips" (6:12, 30). He might mean something similar to his original excuse – he's not great at public speaking – but I think we can hear more there.
The imagery of circumcision brings into view something deeper than stage-fright. It calls to mind the incident along the way to Egypt when Moses hadn't obeyed the covenant – he hadn't circumcised his son. The covenant rescuer had broken the covenant with YHWH! And so, this plea of "uncircumcised lips," it seems, is Moses' confession of sin. Not only is he unable to do the work as one with a speech impediment, but he is unfit for the job. He fails in ability and he fails in character. He lacks the experience the job demands and the power it requires. Moses has a job that he simply can't do.
And so do I. Do justice? Love Kindness? Walk humbly with my God? I want to do that well. But I find that I can't. I feel like my son, Calvin, trying to carry the milk in one hand and the OJ in the other. Maybe if I was bigger and stronger; maybe if the steps weren't so high or the standard less perfect. Maybe then I could do what I'm supposed to do.
But as it is I can't. How are you doing? What would your performance review say, remembering that there is no scale from 1-10? In the eyes of God's justice there are no 6.5s or 7s. There is either obedience or disobedience. The job is either done perfectly or it is not. We either pair justice with kindness or live in cold comfort. We either walk humbly with our God or rebel and stop our ears when he speaks. For Moses – he would either lead Israel out or they would remain enslaved.
So, what does YHWH do in the face of our inadequacy, our inability, our unfitness to do what he requires?
He gives grace to those who look to him.
The last thing we hear at the end of chapter 6 is Moses' confession. But in chapter seven we hear the grace of YHWH as he provides for Moses. He enables Moses to do the job he's been given.
[Read Exodus 7:1-7]
YHWH does three things here. Because Moses may be inadequate for the job but YHWH is not. He removes the difficulty by 1) empowering Moses to do his job and 2) equipping Moses for his job.
First, YHWH empowers Moses to do his job. In 7:1 he says, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh." Pharaoh may have refused Moses in the past, but in the end Moses will prevail against him just as certainly as YHWH himself will prevail over the king and gods of Egypt. Moses is empowered with YHWH's own authority.
Second, YHWH equips Moses for his job. In 7:1-2, YHWH again gives two things to Moses. First, he gives Aaron. If Moses stands in the place of God, then Aaron is the prophet, the spokesman delivering the word. Aaron is truly a gift and support to speech-impaired Moses, equipping him to fulfill his job of bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Along with Aaron (and more importantly), YHWH equips Moses with the words he needed – God's words, not the words of a man. Moses doesn't have the words, so YHWH gifts them to Moses. Moses will have to be faithful to that call – he must speak "all" (v.2) that YHWH commands him. He doesn't get to be an editor or pick out his favorite part of the message. But in providing his word, YHWH equips Moses for his job.
But these two things – YHWH's empowerment and equipping of Moses – are really means toward a greater end. Ultimately, YHWH is going to display his own power through Moses. Through Weak Moses, Inadequate Moses, Unfit Moses YHWH will show his strength and make himself known to the Egyptians as the one true God. The Egyptians, through Moses' work, were about to be introduced to YHWH as he tore Israel from their grasp "by great acts of judgment" (7:4). In the spoken word and signs; in the plagues and miracles worked in their land through Moses Egypt would see the power and strength of YHWH. And so would Israel. But where Egypt would only know YHWH in his judgment and wrath, Israel would know the strength of his love and the power of his redemption.
You know what happens to weak, inadequate, unfit Moses after this? He stays weak, inadequate, unfit Moses – who brings the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt. From this point on, Moses is different – not perfect, but different. He goes about his work with confidence – not confidence in himself but confidence in YHWH. With one major exception (Numbers 20), Moses relies on YHWH to do his work. He doesn't "let go and let God." He leans into his work, trusting the powerful God of grace.
That's what we see in 7:6 – YHWH gave Moses (and Aaron) their job. He empowered and equipped them to display YHWH's power. And in that grace it says, "Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh."
You and I have heard what YHWH requires of us – to do justice and love kindness and to walk humbly with our God. And if we confess our inadequacy, our unfitness – our sin and rebellion – what grace can we hope for from this same God of grace? Does he still empower? Does his still equip? Does he still display his power in weak and unfit people? Does he help his children carry the groceries?
Yes, but he did more than that. First, he gave us Jesus.
In the Gospel of Jesus we hear that in Christ God did what we would not and could not do. He took our job as his own and did justice – beginning to make right all the wrongs of this broken world. He loved kindness, stepping into our hurts and griefs by putting on flesh like our flesh. He experienced hunger and sorrow and pain, identifying with us in love and kindness so that he might serve more faithfully as our high priest. And he walked humbly with his God and Father, submitting himself to the plan and purposes of God. And when he had completed all, hanging there on the cross – about to bring us out of slavery to sin and death – he cried out "It is finished!" (John 19:30) Jesus, the God-man, did the work we could not do and lived the life we could not live and died the death we could not die. And in his death and his resurrection we have hope. Because God says that all who confess their inadequacy and unfitness while looking to Christ – resting in his finished work and receiving him in faith – we weak and inadequate and unfit servants are brought out of death and into life with him.
This is the Gospel that speaks to us of forgiveness for our failure and rebellion. It tells us that God has counted Jesus' perfect life and faithful work as our own! That alone is a glorious hope that fills us with gratitude, motivating us to press on in the good work we've been given to do. But the grace of God doesn't stop with forgiveness and motivation. The Gospel frees us to confess our own inadequacy to accomplish God's calling on our lives, then empowers and equips for our work – grace that once again displays the power of God through us.
In the Scripture reading from John 20 (vv.19-22), the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples and spoke peace to them. But then he speaks of work to be done – this is the Great Commission in John's gospel. Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you."
For them and for us, there is work to be done: Good News to be declared to the poor and before kings. There are great deeds to be done in the name of King Jesus as the kingdom of God breaks into the world. The work of the kingdom has been entrusted to the followers of Jesus – to the apostles and the church fathers and to you and to me. And knowing our inadequacy, Jesus breathes on us and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
In the power of the Spirit, the scared and hiding disciples were transformed into bold witnesses of Christ. And in you, believer in Christ, the same Holy Spirit lives and burns and empowers. It is the Spirit of God and of Christ who gives us strength to do justice when it is hard, to love kindness because we have been shown kindness. So, we can, like Moses, lean into the work God has given to us, putting no confidence in ourselves but all confidence in the Spirit working in us.
And, like Moses, we can lean into our work equipped by Christ. The Scriptures say,
"When (Christ) ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
"…And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all [using language of maturing in Christ]…grow up into him…." (Ephesians 4:8-15, passim)
Jesus equips us for the work he gives us, giving us elders and teachers to shepherd and instruct us in God's word. But the emphasis is on the Word itself equipping us. As it is written, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Word builds up the Body of Christ in love and comfort, helping us to see what justice and kindness and walking with God looks like.
But he gives more grace. Christ also equips you with gifts of speaking and encouraging and wealth and caring and sharing and showing mercy and says that every believer needs the gifts of every believer if we are to be growing in health. What gift has he given you, equipping you to do justice and love kindness? Use it and walk humbly with your God in the strength that he supplies.
In Jesus, God through His Spirit has called you to himself and empowered you and equipped you to live as his people, doing the work he's prepared for you to do. So, look to the poor; sit with a widow; share a sandwich with a homeless man because Jesus has brought you into the household of God. Speak of your hope in Christ and tell others what he has done for your body and soul. But trust that it is God at work in you and through you to accomplish his purposes. In and through us, he is displaying his power through our weakness, so that all the praise and the full weight of glory belong to him alone.
Two days ago, Steve and Kelly told their 11 year old, Bethany, that her treatments weren't working anymore. The cancer was advancing and there wasn't any more they could do. Her fighting was finished. This little girl, a follower of Christ, has one grand job to do in this world. It's the simplest and hardest job of all – to die in Christ.
When they told her on Friday's sunny morning, they cried and they held each other and they sang. And they listened to God's word and promises about death and life for his children in Christ. They listened to Isaiah say in the midst of darkness, "YHWH is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." (Isaiah 12:2) And through that word she was equipped to do what God had for her to do. Steve said she is relieved and at peace. At peace – Bethany is at peace! What power is working in her, making her faithful to Christ in the face of death? What power can that be but the Spirit of God helping his child accomplish her calling? Soon Bethany will walk humbly with her God – not here but face to face. And do you think she will praise any strength but his?
You blood-bought children of God, you recipients of grace counted as faithful in Christ, lean into the work your God has given to you. Whether it be living or dying, feeding the poor or feeding your children, tending God's flock or tending the wounded of this broken world; whether it be making music or making bread or making beds - whatever work you have to do, do it with eyes fixed on Jesus, resting in his faithfulness. He is empowering you and equipping you for your work. Confess your weakness and inadequacy. Confess your failure. Then lean into the work again, trusting that "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Ephesians 2:13)
[Pray – Father, we praise you as the God of grace and strength and mercy, who is always calling the weak and the sinful and clothing them, by faith, in the perfection of Christ. In that Gospel we hope, O God. And in that Gospel we would walk with you, humbled and expectant, empowered by your Spirit and equipped for the work at hand by your Word and by your grace. Now use us as you will, Father. And in the big and small things of this life, use us for the expansion of your kingdom and the expansion of the glory of Christ our Savior. In him we pray and work.]
[Benediction, from Numbers 6]
"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace."