Meek Moses

Scripture: Exodus 9:8 to 11:10

Title: Meek Moses

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • God’s Grace
  • Moses’ Meekness
  • Conclusion

Introduction:

Please turn with me to Exodus chapter 9, page 67 in your pew Bibles

  • Today we continue our series on Moses
  • Last Sunday we covered the first five plagues that God brought on Egypt – blood, frogs, gnats, flies and death of animals
  • This morning we will cover the remaining five plagues – boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the death of the first born

Our message today is a sermon of two halves

  • The first half focuses on God’s grace in bringing the plagues
  • And the second half focuses Moses’ meekness

We don’t have time to read chapters 9 through to 11 in full, so I’ll just read the account of the sixth plague to put you in the picture and then pick the eyes out of the rest

  • From Exodus 9, verse 8 we read…

[Read Exodus 9:8-12]

May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading for us

God’s Grace:

Things aren’t always what they seem

  • On the wall here we have a picture of a rough looking homeless man and a sweet looking girl
  • We might be more inclined to trust the girl but when we take a second look behind their backs – we see the man is holding flowers and the girl is holding an axe

Things are not always as they seem

  • At first glance the plagues on Egypt make God appear mean and cruel
  • But when we take a closer look we find the plagues actually point to God’s grace

The sixth plague (of boils) is the most personal and painful the Egyptians have experienced so far

  • The first four plagues were a significant inconvenience
  • But the sixth plague directly affected the Egyptians’ health

Pharaoh’s magicians were unable to stand before Moses because they were covered in sores – they have been publicly humiliated, shown up as frauds

Verse 12 of Exodus 9 says, the Lord made the king stubborn

  • God had predicted, right at the beginning, that He would make Pharaoh stubborn
  • But God doesn’t actually do this until the sixth plague
  • Up till now (with the first five plagues) it has been Pharaoh who has hardened his own heart
  • It is only after the boils that God starts to harden Pharaoh’s heart
  • Why is this?

Well, the Lord is gracious and compassionate – slow to anger and rich in love

  • By the end of the fifth plague God has given Pharaoh at least seven opportunities to repent – to admit he is wrong & let Israel go
  • Two chances before the plagues and then five more with the plagues
  • But Pharaoh hardened his own heart and missed the opportunities for grace that God offered

Sometimes in life there is a point of no return – a point at which we might realise our mistake but are unable to avoid the consequences of our actions

  • Like going too fast around a corner and losing control of your car – there comes a point when you just know it’s too late for you to do anything to correct the problem and the car is going to leave the road
  • Or like swimming in the ocean and getting caught in a rip – there comes a point when you realise the current has got you and there is nothing you can do to fight it

Other times we might not realise we have gone past the point of no return and still try to fix the problem ourselves

  • When it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means that God prevented Pharaoh from realising he had gone past the point of no return

It’s like God had given Pharaoh (the driver of Egypt’s car) plenty or warnings that a corner was coming, so he should slow down

  • But Pharaoh ignored the signs and when he lost control on the bend he tried to fix the problem by going faster
  • Of course the faster you go the bigger the mess

Or to use the metaphor of getting caught in a rip…

  • God had given Pharaoh plenty of warnings of a strong current but Pharaoh ignored the signs and when he got caught in the rip he wore Egypt out trying to swim against it

From the sixth plague onwards, Pharaoh has gone past the point of no return and so God gives Pharaoh over to the consequences of Pharaoh’s own actions

  • By repeatedly refusing to let the Hebrews go Pharaoh sealed his own fate
  • Now God is committed to finishing the cycle of plagues

The seventh plague is hail – not just little pea sized hail, like we might be used to, but pieces big enough to kill livestock and break branches off trees

  • With this plague God makes it clear that Pharaoh deserves to die for his crimes – indeed God could have killed Pharaoh with the boils
  • But instead God is keeping Pharaoh alive and prolonging the plagues
  • Why is this?

Well, the Lord is gracious – He has compassion on all that He has made

Now you might think – how is it gracious & compassionate to prolong Egypt’s suffering?

  • If Pharaoh has gone past the point of no return wouldn’t it be kinder to simply end it and put him out of his misery?
  • No – that would not be the kindest thing in this situation

God’s purpose is not to destroy Pharaoh or to make him suffer

  • God’s purpose is to reveal Himself to the whole world

From verse 15 of Exodus 9, God says to Pharaoh (through Moses)…

  • “If I had raised my hand to strike you and your people with disease, you would have been completely destroyed
  • But to show you my power I have let you live so that my fame might spread over the whole earth”

God could have completely annihilated the Egyptians – He could have wiped them off the face of the earth so the nation of Egypt no longer existed

  • But He didn’t – God, in His grace, withheld the full force of His power
  • God wants all people everywhere (including the Egyptians) to know His name – to know His character – to know His love

This isn’t God blowing His own trumpet to make Himself look good

  • This is God making all people of the earth aware who the Lord of creation is so that we might be saved from the futility of idol worship
  • God isn’t doing the plagues for Himself – He is doing them for the well-being of the human race

As a token of His grace God instructs Moses to tell the Egyptians to stay indoors so they are not harmed by the coming hail

  • It is clear that God doesn’t want to see people or animals suffer
  • Some people heed the warning and are saved
  • Others ignore Moses and pay the price

The other point to note with the hail is that the Israelites in Goshen were not affected – once again God makes a distinction

The eighth plague is locusts – probably the most well-known of the plagues

  • What the hail didn’t destroy the locusts did
  • Now Egypt’s economy was ruined and the people faced a famine

What isn’t so well known from our distance in history is that the Egyptians worshipped Senehem, a god who supposedly protected Egypt’s crops from insects [1]

  • The plague of locusts were a clear sign that Senehem (the god of insecticide) was a false god
  • Whenever the Egyptian gods are put to the test they prove unreliable
  • It isn’t just Pharaoh’s injustice which is being judged and found wanting
  • Egypt’s whole religious system is rotten too

We could say the locusts are a sign against out of control consumerism

  • Just as the locusts stripped the plant life bare so too Egypt was stripping bare the environment and the Hebrew people
  • And just as the locusts were eventually driven into the Red Sea, so too the Egyptian army would be driven into the sea
  • The locusts are a warning to all societies to keep consumerism in check

With the locusts Pharaoh’s own advisors tell him to let the Hebrews go but still Pharaoh won’t listen

  • It seems everyone understands the situation except the king
  • Pharaoh thinks he is right when he is actually wrong
  • Hardness of heart is blindness

The ninth plague is a darkness over the land that was so heavy it could be felt

  • The darkness lasted for 3 days everywhere in Egypt, except where the Israelites were
  • This plague is a blow against Amon-Re, the sun god – Egypt’s chief god [2]

It is also a sign that God is on the cusp of a new creation

  • With the darkness God takes Egypt back to primordial chaos [3] – before the first day of creation when God had said ‘Let there be light’
  • Just as God separated light from darkness in the beginning – so now he is about separate Israel from Egypt
  • God’s grace is seen in the way He brings order to the chaos – the way He restores the moral order
  • It’s like God is pressing the reset button to make things new again

By this ninth plague (of darkness) Pharaoh was livid – in anger he threatened to kill Moses if he ever came back

  • Moses wasn’t worried though – he did come back – at least one more time to warn Pharaoh about the death of the first born
  • In verse 6 of Exodus 11 Moses predicts…
  • “There will be loud crying all over Egypt…”
  • Just as Israel had cried out under the yoke of slavery, so too all Egypt would cry out in grief with the death of their first born

You might say, ‘Where’s the grace in that – in killing children?’

  • Well, grace is when we are treated better than we deserve
  • As terrible as the death of the first born was, Egypt was still escaping full punishment
  • At least two Pharaoh’s had a policy of genocide against the Jewish race
  • By that measure, if Pharaoh and the Egyptians were to get what they truly deserved, they would have all been killed and Egypt wouldn’t exist today
  • God’s grace is seen in that He withheld the full force of His judgement and allowed the nation to survive
  • So even with the death of the first born Egypt was being treated better  than it deserved

Pharaoh could have had more of God’s grace if he wanted but he was too proud and rejected it

  • Like Pharaoh, we all have a choice
  • We can choose God’s grace or His judgement
  • We can humbly receive God’s mercy or we can proudly insist on justice
  • We can put our trust in Jesus or we can rely on our own deeds

As for the children who died – I am inclined to believe they were better off in heaven with God than they would have been with their parents on earth

Verse 8 of Exodus 11 tells us that Moses left the king in great anger

  • It gave Moses no pleasure to see the Egyptians suffer – he was angry that Pharaoh was bringing so much bloodshed and grief on his own people

So that’s the first half of the sermon

  • Things are not always as they seem
  • A closer look at the plagues reveals God’s grace
  • Now let’s turn our attention to Moses himself

Moses’ Meekness:

What we notice with the last five plagues is that Aaron fades out of the picture

  • We hear about Aaron less and we see Moses in action more

Numbers 12, verse 3 says that Moses was a meek man – the meekest on earth

  • So what does that word meek mean anyway?
  • Well to help us understand this I need two volunteers
  • This is not difficult or embarrassing – in fact if you like eating brownie you might find it quite enjoyable

[Select two volunteers and give them a piece of brownie each – ask them to taste the brownie and try to guess the ingredients]

 

Ingredients:

  • Cocoa
  • Chocolate bar (white / raspberry & dark / hazelnut chocolate)
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Butter
  • Vanilla essence
  • Eggs

Now obviously there are a number of ingredients which go into making a brownie – a brownie isn’t just one ingredient

  • So it is with meekness
  • We can’t describe or define meekness with just one word
  • Meekness combines a number of qualities in just the right proportion

The main qualities or ingredients which go into the mix of a meek character include…

  • A good measure of humility
  • A healthy self-awareness coupled with self-restraint
  • Patience
  • Inner strength or back bone
  • A capacity for long suffering
  • And respect for others

Putting these ingredients together we might say, a meek person will put aside their own ambitions and desires for the sake of someone else

Or said another way, meekness is the readiness to restrain one’s own power in order to make room for others

By this definition a meek person has power and the ability to exercise it – they simply choose to restrain their power for the well-being of others

We see God’s meekness in dealing with Egypt

  • Although Egypt deserved to be wiped out altogether, God (in His grace)  dialled back His power and allowed the country to survive

In this sense meekness is close to mercy, but not exactly the same

  • With mercy someone uses their power to help someone else
  • But with meekness it’s the opposite – they hold back their power to help someone else

So for example, a meek person won’t rush in to take the last piece of cake

  • They will wait to see if someone else wants it first

Or, if there is a lolly scramble a meek child won’t grab as many lollies as they can without regard to others

  • A meek child will hold back a little to let the younger kids get some lollies

A meek person makes room for others in a conversation by listening

Turning the other cheek when someone strikes you and not seeking revenge is another example of the self-restraint of the meek

  • Likewise, when we forgive someone we make room for that person to change and we also make room for God to sort them out

Recently, in the lead up to our AGM, we invited members of the congregation to put themselves forward for the role of deacon or to nominate someone else for the Deacons Board

  • We were one person short of the minimum number of deacons required
  • So either there are lots of meek people in this church (all wanting to make room for others) or hardly anyone wants to be a deacon

It is interesting that God called Moses to be Israel’s leader

  • God chose a man who is the very definition of meekness to lead His people – someone who was powerful and yet ready to restrain his power in order to make room for others

Moses had all of the ingredients of meekness and we see them on display through his interaction with Pharaoh, who is the opposite of meek

  • The light of Moses’ meekness shines brightly against the darkness of Pharaoh’s greed

[Stop displaying slide 3]

 

Moses demonstrates patience and long suffering with Pharaoh

  • And Moses makes room for Pharaoh to turn to God by repeatedly forgiving Pharaoh whenever he asks for help
  • Four times in the cycle of ten plagues Pharaoh asks Moses to pray for him and each time Moses prays, the Lord removes the plague
  • But Pharaoh’s repentance is shallow – it has no roots – for as soon as the plague is lifted the king goes back on his word

Many people today equate meekness with being quiet and submissive or easily imposed on by other people

  • They see meekness as the sign of a weak or limp personality – sort of the opposite of assertiveness
  • But meekness is not weakness.
  • Meekness requires an uncommon degree of inner strength
  • Meekness does not mean giving in to everyone all the time
  • As well as being meek Moses is also discerning – he knows when to give way and when to stand his ground

When Pharaoh tries to negotiate with Moses, Moses does not compromise

  • For example, with the plague of flies Pharaoh says, ‘your people can sacrifice here in Egypt – but they can’t leave the country’
  • And Moses says, ‘No, we must travel 3 days into the wilderness’
  • Then with the locusts Pharaoh says, ‘the men can go but the women and children must stay’
  • But Moses doesn’t budge – they all leave or none of them go
  • And then with the darkness Pharaoh agrees to let the women and children go, but says the Hebrews must leave their livestock
  • Once again Moses is uncompromising saying, ‘No, we will take our animals with us’

I imagine it would have been very tempting for Moses to give in to Pharaoh – to make concessions for him

  • Moses would have been under incredible pressure
  • All these people suffering and he could potentially end their suffering by negotiating with Pharaoh
  • But compromising with the king would mean disobeying God
  • God has said all the people must travel 3 days into the wilderness to worship Him and Moses won’t change what God has said
  • By standing his ground and insisting on what God has asked for Moses makes room for God

Meekness is not weakness – meekness is humility

  • Moses doesn’t presume to know better than God
  • Moses walks in humble obedience to God’s word

Conclusion:

Jesus is our model in meekness

  • We see this most clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus wrestles with God’s request that he go to the cross
  • Jesus says, ‘Not my will Father, but Your will be done.’
  • Jesus had the power to walk away but he didn’t
  • Instead Jesus restrained his own will to make room for God and for us

In doing this Jesus was practising what he preached when he said…

Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.

In other words…

  • Blessed are those who restrain their own power to make room for others
  • Blessed are those who walk in humble obedience to God
  • Blessed are those who are patient and suffer long without taking revenge
  • Because when we make room for God and for others, God makes room for us – it is the meek (not the greedy & grasping) who inherit the earth

The Lord is gracious & compassionate – His is the power of meekness

Let us pray…

[1] Alec Motyer, Exodus, page 124

[2] Alec Motyer, Exodus, page 125

[3] Terence Fretheim, Exodus, page 129

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