In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Miserable, old Moses. He'd been called by God to do something great, to free God's people from slavery, in fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:13-18; 17:4-8, etc.) But all Moses could do was fixate on himself. All he could do was remember his past failures. (Exo. 2:11-15) "They won't listen to me. They'll say, 'So if God sent you what is His name?'" So God tells him His name: I AM. (Exo. 3:13-14) "But, Lord, they won't believe that you appeared to me." So the Lord gives him three miraculous signs. (Exo. 4:1-9) "But Lord, I'm no good at talking. My mouth don't work good." The Lord responds, "I made everything. I'll make your mouth work. I will give it words to say. For it is not your word, but My Word you shall speak." (Exo. 4:10-12) "Please send someone else, Lord!" "Fine. I'll get your brother to do the talking. I'll even send him your brother here to this very spot on this mountain to meet you before you get back to Egypt." (Exo. 4:13-17)
Moses had run out of excuses. Even his father-in-law says go. (Exo. 4:18) So he goes. But the Lord seeks to kill him on the way! What? You say. The Lord who sent him wants to kill him? Yes. For you are no good to the Lord as you are. The Lord loves you as you are. But He loves you enough to want to free you of your slavery to yourself, to the sin living within, to the sins of your past, your guilt, your shame, whatever Satan is using to hold you in bondage. He wants to kill the old sinful you. Set you free. Raise up in you Himself. To live and laugh and love and speak His powerful Word from your mouth. For His Word is a two-edged sword. (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16) That's what it does: it kills and makes alive. (Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6-7)
Yes, the Lord seeks to kill Moses. But don't worry. The Lord afflicts in order to heal. (Hos. 6:1) He kills in order to make alive. He slays sinners and raises up saints. So He provides salvation for Moses in the form of his wife. Like the age old story, a good--or maybe just a mediocre man--saved by an excellent wife. A wife who knows God's Word. Moses belongs to the family of Abraham. God covenanted that He would save the world through a male seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 22:18; Gal. 3:16) And the sign of this covenanted promise of God is in the very flesh of these boys. The boys of this family get circumcised on the 8th day of their lives. (Gen. 17:9-14) Moses is of this family. So what does his zippy, Johnny-on-the-spot wife, Zipporah, do to save him? She circumcises their boys. (Exo. 4:25) And I don't know if your mind's eye pictured it this way, but mine did: she marched up to him with that little bit of skin in her hand, blood on her fingers, and threw it at his feet, touching it to his feet. For the foot of one of the boys of this family would crush the Serpent (Gen. 3:15)--Moses is afraid of serpents. (Exo. 4:3) It's as though she is saying, "The Lord's promise will do it you fool. Not you. His Word. He who is the Word (John 1:14) will free them. You just speak the Word. The Word will do it." And in taking the Lord at His Word, her faith saved her by getting this non-Israelite woman into the family covenant through her boys, and saved Moses from the Lord! You can be sure this put the fear of the Lord in him. It readied him for his task of preaching the Lord's Word of deliverance.
Then they go to Pharaoh. (Exo. 5:1) It's gonna be great. The Lord is gonna work on hard hearted Pharaoh. It'll all be over soon. They'll be on their way back to the mountain of God with the whole nation of Israel. God is awesome!
But something goes wrong. Pharaoh doesn't believe the Lord's Word. He won't let the Lord`s people go. It isn't coming off without a hitch. There is a big hitch! Pharaoh gets mad. He says, "You want me to let my slaves go? Forget it! Not only will I not let them go, you guys are idiots for asking. You're lazy. That's what you are. I'll teach you what being lazy gets you. More work! That's what. Now you've got to gather the straw that binds the bricks together. I won't provide it for you anymore. You lazy good for nothing slaves. Good help is so hard to find these days." (Exo. 5:2-9)
Why does he respond this way? Because God's Word does exactly what God sends His Word out to do. (Isa. 55:10-11) It doesn't always produce faith. Sometimes it confirms people in their unbelief. (John 20:23; Matt. 16:19) It reveals their unbelief by stirring up their anger at the Lord. It always accomplishes exactly what the Lord sends it out to do. But the Lord knows what He's doing. (Matt. 28:18) When He does convert an unbeliever who has gotten angry at those who speak His Word it is all the more glorious when that Word humbles, converts and gives salvation to them that hate Him.
But in the case of the Israelites, in the case of many Egyptians, many came to faith. Though the time for their coming to faith was not at that moment. Not right then. In the distress of the extra labour Pharaoh heaped on them their spirits broke. (Exo. 6:9) For when it depends on you, you'll always break. I mean, if I had a dime for every time I've tried to live my faith on my own, and gotten all caught up in looking at myself, I guess I'd be a rich man wouldn't I? Like me, the Israelites are sinners. They are weak in their flesh. Crushed by their bitter labour. Crying out to the Lord in their distress. And what does His Word bring them, at least at first? Even worse working conditions. Their lives get harder. They are broken. But when I am weak, then He is strong. (2 Cor. 12:10) When I come to the end of me, then He takes over. When I die to my own reason and strength then the Lord lives in me. He grants faith to me. He calls me by the Gospel, enlightens me with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps me in the true faith. I don't do it. He does it to me and in me, and through me, by His Word. When your best efforts seem to have made everything worse, when His Word seems to be culprit that made it all worse, cling to Christ for He alone saves.
So what does the Lord do for miserable, old Moses, for the Israelites broken spirit due to their harsh slavery? He gospels them. He calls, gathers, and enlightens them. He does it by repeating His call to Moses. "I appeared to your fathers. But when I appeared to you, I did something I didn't do for them, I told you My name. You are my chosen deliverer. I will deliver my people by you from their slavery, I will redeem them with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgement. They will be my people and I will be their God." (Exo. 6:2-8)
But Moses is crushed. He's done. "No Lord, I can't say this to your people. My lips are impure. For I don't even believe it myself." So the Lord gospels him again. He repeats all His promises, and gives them a charge to speak this Word which frees hearts, minds, souls, and in this case slaves from slavery. (Exo. 6:12-13) For that's how Lord does everything. He speaks it into existence: a world where there wasn't one; life where there are dry, dead bones; faith where there is nothing but unbelief. His Word, Jesus Christ, is powerful. The Word made flesh has died for your doubt, just as He did for Moses. Today we started with joy. But this Holy Week will turn dark and gloomy and desperate before we get to joy of next Sunday morning. But the Lord who is the Word made flesh saves. In his own time He saves you.
In +Jesus' name, Amen.
---Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON