June 26, 2022

God’s Mission for Us June 26th, 2022

Preacher:
Series:
Passage: Acts 7:17-34

God of wisdom,

By your Spirit, open our minds to your truth, our hearts to your gospel, and our hands so that we can do your will, in the name of Jesus, your Living Word. Amen.

At first glance today’s reading from the book of Acts seems to be a history of that well-known figure of the Old Testament, Moses, starting from his birth in Egypt up to that point in his life when he returned there as 80 year old man to rescue his people, the Israelites, from bondage. But in actual fact the real message is how God used Moses to further his plan of salvation for all of mankind. And that’s the same message for our lives today, God wants to use us for that very same purpose, telling people about the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ.

What we have in our reading from Acts this morning is the second part of the disciple Stephen’s speech to the council of religious leaders of the temple in Jerusalem. He had been brought before them on trumped up charges of blasphemy against God and was forced to defend himself against those lies.

In his opening remarks, which we heard about last week, Stephen began by talking about the time when God first chose the Israelites to become his people and made a covenant with Abraham, who became the founding father of their nation. Stephen then continued the story of the history of the Israelites up to the point where the great-grandson of Abraham, a man called Joseph, became second-in-command to the Pharaoh of Egypt and he and the Israelites are living there in relative prosperity.

But all that is about to change, for as Stephen continues his speech he says, “But as the time drew near for the fulfilment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die.” So, as part of God’s plan for his chosen people, the Pharaoh who had favoured Joseph and the Israelites died and was then replaced by one who opposed them. This Pharaoh saw that the population of Israelites was growing quickly, and he felt threatened by this and so stepped in to do something about it. He decreed that all the male babies who were born to the Israelites had to be killed. In this manner he hoped to stop the population growth.

It was into this time which the future leader of the Israelites, Moses, was born. And things weren’t looking promising at the beginning, Stephen tells us “At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and then he was abandoned.” His parents wished to keep Moses but as he grew so did their fear of being caught with a male baby, so they abandoned him along the edge of the Nile River. Many of you will remember this bible story of Moses.

God had bigger plans for Moses and so he was found in the bullrushes along the river’s edge by the daughter of the Pharaoh who then brought him up as her own child. The daughter of the man who wished to rid himself of the Israelites had become the one who would raise the person who would rescue those same Israelites from the oppression of her father! Many times in the Bible we see that God achieves his purposes through unexpected means.

And as Moses grew into manhood in the Pharaoh's family, Stephen says, “So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.” But living in the luxury of the Pharaoh's court wasn’t part of God’s plan for him, for we’re told, “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites.” And so, at the age of forty God put in the heart of Moses a desire to help his people. God called him, as it were, to be their liberator. Despite being raised by the Pharaoh's daughter from the age of three months, Moses, in his heart, was still an Israelite and so he wished to be with them.

But when he was there God put an obstacle in his way, this is what took place, “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. The next day he came to some of them as they were quarrelling and tried to reconcile them, saying, “Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?” But the man who was wronging his neighbour pushed Moses aside, saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian.” Moses thought that his kinfolk would support him when he stopped one of the Egyptians from bullying one of them, but the opposite was true, they used it against him. Moses then became afraid that they would report him to the Pharaoh, so he fled to a foreign country in fear of his life. Just like that he went from a life of luxury in the court of the Pharaoh to become a stranger living in a strange land. How quickly life can change!

But that wasn’t to be the end of Moses, God was still going to use him to free his chosen people from their captivity. Here’s what Stephen tells us, “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” … I have surely seen the mistreatment of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to rescue them. Come now, I will send you to Egypt.’”

After Moses had escaped from Egypt and fled to the country of Midian, he met a woman there whose father was a landowner. Moses became a shepherd for the man, married the woman, and they had a family. He spent forty years there until that fateful day when an angel of the Lord appeared to him, and the voice of God spoke to him through a burning bush, and he was told to return to Egypt to rescue his kinfolk from their bondage.

But it's at this point in the speech of Stephen to the council of elders where we’ll stop for today. There’s still the climax of the life of Moses to come, being the last forty years of his life, but we’ll save that until next week. For now, let’s see what message for us lies in the part we went through today.

What struck me the most is how God uses the most unexpected people for his means. If you look closely at Moses, you’d see that he was a pretty well a failure for the first eighty years of his life. Certainly, he started off well, growing up in the court of the Egyptian Pharaoh, and as Stephen tells us, “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds.” But at the age of forty, what did he do with this wisdom and words? He goes out and kills a man because he was mistreating one of his kinfolk. He thought he was going to rescue his people from their misery, but instead of becoming to them a missionary, as he thought God had appointed him, he became a murderer and had to flee. Instead of being a deliverer he became a refugee.

Moses then spent the next forty years tending the sheep of a stranger in a foreign land. Certainly, he did well, having a wife and children, but at the same time this was not the best use of his talents. And we’d have to believe that he would have grown old and died in that foreign land except for the will of God. Through the burning bush, the Lord met with Moses in a dramatic and miraculous way. And God gave this command to him, “‘I have certainly seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’"  As we can see through these words; the Lord was always with Moses but in different ways at different times in his life. Who would have ever thought after all that time, God would finally use Moses to help the Israelites and that would lead all the way to our lives today?

And that’s what we’re to always remember, God is always with us, even when we are not aware of his presence. He had a mission for Moses, and he has a mission for us! He may not want us to lead a nation like Moses, but he wants us to make a difference in our world! And he wants us to help other people.  Yes, God wants us to continually invest our time, energy, and resources in helping others. We are to help others joyfully by God’s grace, with God’s help, and for God’s glory. And God will be with us as we keep helping one another, God grants us the opportunities, we just need to be ready when he presents them. Just like Moses, we, as Christians, have an assignment from God.  And every assignment given to us from God is important.

Let us Pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for the words from Stephen to help us learn more about the early church and how it instructs us in your work today. We pray that you would use us as you did Moses. Help us strive to understand your will for our lives.  Help us to lead the lives you want us to lead and continue to guide us through our daily challenges and struggles as we faithfully try to help others. Be with us and with those who are struggling in their faith or have no faith at all. In Jesus name we pray.

Amen

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