Refugee: Why Moses Was the Father of a Nation

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June 18, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker

Sermon Notes

We are studying the life of Moses. We’re studying about leadership and we’re using Moses as an example of leadership. We are going to jump around in the Bible for the next couple of weeks on purpose. If you were reading straight through from Exodus to Deuteronomy, this story today is a little bit out of order chronologically. We’re doing that because of Father’s Day and Independence Day. Let me tell you why as a church we’re studying leadership. Did you know that everyone in this room can lead and, in fact, most of you in this room are supposed to be leading right now? I’m talking to you, dads. When you taught your son how to throw a baseball you were influencing him and by the influencing somebody your leading them. Moms, when you taught your daughter how to make up her bed or how to tie her shoes you started leading her. This is true of anyone who calls themselves a Christian. You and I are supposed to be influencing other people spiritually. We’re supposed to be influencing other people towards the faith. By influencing somebody that makes you a leader.

I’m going to ask a question about leadership. We have a poll that we’re going to do by text. If you’re new here, this is something that Calvary does from time to time. It gives you a chance to tell us your thoughts. We want to know what kind of leader you are. Your options are: I’m just too busy right now to lead, I’m trying to lead but I’m not really sure how to, I’m unaware that I’m supposed to be leading, or I am right now leading one or two other people towards faith in Jesus. If you’re busy, it’s okay to admit you’re super busy right now and don’t have the time to do it. If you’re not even sure how to lead, you can tell us that too. We did this at the 8:30 service and what we’re seeing here is about the same thing that we saw at the early service.

Let me pose the question that we’re going to wrestle with from the Bible today. Let’s say you’re trying to lead somebody that you love deeply. You’re making an investment trying to influence them and then they mess up. They flush their life down the drain. They make this monumental mistake. The kind of stuff that’s going to carry with them to their grave. How do you respond when somebody blows it that bad, especially somebody that you’re trying to lead? Human nature says, “I didn’t do it. It’s not my fault so I shouldn’t have to bear the consequences for a mistake that somebody else made.” That statement is true except when you start to get really deeply invested in another person’s life. Now no matter how you slice it when they mess up some of that gets on you. That’s what we find in the Bible today from the story of Moses.

I. Beg God on another’s behalf

When you’re ready to invest deeply in somebody, the very first thing that you need to be willing to do is to beg God on their behalf. Let me set the stage for us before we even get to Exodus 32 today. This is the point in the story where the nation of Israel has messed up. God has rescued Moses from his sin. Moses spent 40 years as a refugee on the run in the desert. God has rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. Now the whole nation of Israel is a bunch of refugees making their way to Israel. God has showed up and God has given the people his law. Then Israel commits what the Bible calls today a terrible sin. This is the only time this phrase ‘a terrible sin’ is ever found in the Bible. We’re going to learn what happened after this terrible sin. Let’s see Moses’s heart today. I want you to learn why Moses really should be called the ‘Father of the Nation’ when he begs God on their behalf.

Exodus 32:30
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a terrible sin, but I will go back up to the Lord on the mountain. Perhaps I will be able to obtain forgiveness for your sin.”

Let me explain to you what just happened the day before this. God had already appeared to Israel and given Israel his miracles that led them out of Egypt. God had given Israel his presence leading them visibly by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night. God had given Israel a new structure for their law by giving them his Ten Commandments. God had explained to Israel, “This is how I want you to worship me.” In the book of Exodus, they’ve established the tabernacle as the proper way to worship God. Then Moses was on the mountain speaking with God when this whole thing goes down the day prior. The nation of Israel rebelled against God in what the Bible refers to as a terrible sin. Aaron and the people want an idol. So, they all gather their gold together and fashion their gold into the famous golden calf incident. The fact that it has the word ‘incident’ attached to it means it is pretty notorious. While Moses was on the mountain meeting with God, God knows what’s going on down in the valley. God is furious with Israel and says, “Moses, you get off of this mountain. You go down to those people because I am going to annihilate every one of them.” The day before this verse, Moses goes down off the mountain and destroys the golden calf. The people realized what they did was wrong.

We picked the story up today where Moses says this was a terrible sin. You’ve heard me before say there really aren’t degrees of sin with God. Every sin is equally terrible in God’s sight. There is no little white lie. All sins, according to the Scriptures, are an offense against God and deserve eternal punishment. So, why does God refer to this one today as a terrible sin? The answer to that is the timing. You see what Israel did is right on the heels of God giving his presence to these people like he’s never given it to anyone before in human history. God has done these great miracles in Egypt. God has given them his visible presence in the desert. God has spelled out exactly how to live. They violated one of his top 10 when they built this golden calf, fell down, and worshiped it. It’s almost a blatant offense against God like “We don’t care what God says. We’re going to do this anyway.” Moses says, “If somebody doesn’t intercede, God’s going to punish this entire nation. God will literally wipe the nation off the map.” The tribe of Levi, which Moses comes from, gets up and kills 3000 of their brothers for this great sin. God is so proud of the tribe of Levi that he says, “You’re going to be my special tribe. You’re going to be the tribe that becomes priests and works in the Temple for me because you loved me when everybody else was going deep in sin.”

I want you to notice the pronouns. Moses was not there when this happens but because Moses is the leader he throws his lot in with them. Moses goes back up the mountain to see if he can convince God to forgive them for this huge mistake that they made. Moses has a heart like a dad who’s going to do whatever he can for his son or for their children.

I came across this tragic story from Charlie Custer in The Atlantic magazine this month. The story is about a guy by the name of Wang Bangyin, a poor farmer from rural China whose sons were taken from him. They’ve pieced the story back together so now we can see how these events unfolded. Wang left his two sons at home for a moment to go to the field while his wife was out at a village. When Wang’s wife left the house somebody came in and took the children. When Wang’s wife came home the children were missing. Wang did everything that he could to try to find these missing children. No matter how hard he searched he couldn’t find them. He gave them up as being gone forever thinking there were probably taken by somebody and killed.

At the same time a godly couple from America that couldn’t conceive started to negotiate with a Chinese adoption agency to adopt a child. After having done months of research and tens of thousands of dollars, they presented this Chinese baby boy. The couple took the child back to the United States. A few months later the couple received an anonymous phone call saying that the child was never really an orphan and had been taken against his will from his own home. The Christian couple was horrified at what they just heard. They spent their own money and time to take the child back to China. The organization that arranges for the adoption and does all the paperwork literally is making millions of dollars. About 3000 children a year are taken from their homes and sold to families around the world as Chinese orphans. Very rarely does that child ever make their way back home. Wang was united with his baby boy after this Christian couple brought him back. How do you say, “I’m sorry”? How do you say, “I didn’t know that this child was really not an orphan”? Wang, this poor Chinese farmer, had nothing. He didn’t have money, power, or influence but somebody stepped in and united a dad with his son at great cost and a lot of work. Now you see the heart of the father who loves his son and would do anything to get his son back if he could.

Here’s what I want you to understand from the Bible today. This is what we’re going to see throughout Exodus 32. In fact, I want you to hear something carefully. When the second the Bible measures people as saints of God it doesn’t use how much time you spend praying. The Bible honors that but it doesn’t describe what makes somebody a great saint of God. The Bible doesn’t talk about how much money you gave that makes you out to be a great man of God. The Bible does mention people that gave a lot of money but it never calls them a great saint of God for it. It’s not even going to church a lot that the Bible makes you out to be a great saint of God. Do you know what makes a saint of God? The moment that you were bought with the blood of Jesus Christ you became a saint of God. What makes you great in God’s eyes is what’s going on deep inside your heart. When your heart starts to be like God’s heart and starts to beat to the same degree for the same things that God’s heart beats for, now the Bible calls you a great saint of God.

If I were to summarize this entire sermon for you in one sentence, this is the one thing that I hope you will never forget. Here’s what the Bible is teaching us today. It’s not a shiny halo that makes you a saint. What really makes you a saint is a heart for sinners. How deep does your heart go for the people around you that don’t know Jesus? How much does it burden you? How much does it pain you to live in a city where 78% of the people by every measure have no relationship with Jesus Christ? It’s the heart for a sinner that is the best description of a saint of a God. It’s not a shiny halo.

II. Love the people you lead

Here’s what we see from Moses today. Moses has a heart for his nation and Moses is willing to risk it all for them because Moses loves the people that he leads. I believe God is calling us to love the people that we lead. You can love and not lead but you cannot lead like Jesus unless you love like Jesus. You can try to push, pull, and prod the people that you lead but that’s not going to move people. What really moves people is how much they mean to you and how much you love them. When you love like Jesus then you’re leading like Jesus. I want you to hear the words that Moses speaks next. I want them to hit you like a freight train because they hit me and I got convicted and embarrassed before God when I was working on this sermon.

Exodus 32:31-32
So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a terrible sin these people have committed. They have made gods of gold for themselves. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, erase my name from the record you have written!”

Moses doesn’t try to explain this away. He doesn’t try to minimize it. He doesn’t make it out like it’s no big deal. He’s very honest with God. In fact, he even names the sin, “God, they made a false idol. They turned a golden calf into an object of worship. In doing so they traded you for money, for power or for sex. God, they started worshiping something other than you. It’s terrible what they just did.”

Moses is betting his soul. Moses is ultimately willing to give up eternity for the people that he leads. Your translation of the Bible may say, “Erase my name from your book God.” Six times in the Old Testament the word ‘book’ shows up. Also in two different places in the New Testament, Philippians and Revelation. Revelation mentions it four times. The most obvious and clear description of this book that Moses is talking about is found for us in Revelation 20:15. At the end of human history when everybody who’s ever lived will one day stand again before God the Father and be judged, what the Bible refers to as the great white throne judgment of God. It is one book that decides the eternity of everyone who’s ever lived. Revelation 20:15 says, “Anyone who’s name that was not found written in the Lamb’s book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” In parentheses the Bible says this is the second death. This is eternal separation from God. If your name isn’t in that book, you spend eternity in Hell. Look at what Moses is saying, “God, if you won’t forgive them and do this for me, send me to hell in their place. God, I can’t stand the idea that my family and my friends won’t be in Heaven with me. So, if you’ll agree with it God, here’s what I’ll do. I will take Hell in their place. Give me eternal damnation and let them have your forgiveness. God, whatever it takes and whatever it costs me give me this city. Give me these people, even if it means my own destruction and cutting me off from you forever.”

Moses says the exact same kind of words that the great apostle Paul says in Romans chapter 9. Paul says, “If I could, I would be a curse. I would be damned to Hell by God for my brothers and sisters in Israel. If God would let me, I would do that for them, if it would mean they end up in Heaven.” Moses says, “God, whatever it takes and whatever the cost, even if it means my eternal damnation, I will give it up for my people. Would you please forgive them?” There is no greater demonstration of love that ever came out of a mortal man’s lips then this. The only demonstration of love even greater and surpassing this is what Jesus did for his people on the cross. Moses says, “I don’t care what it takes God. I’ll give it, if it will lead to you forgiving my friends, my next-door neighbors, the people that I love so dearly.”

We really have broken standard of measuring somebody else’s worth. You can see it today in Columbus, Georgia. I’m talking about the Miss Georgia pageant. They’re going to measure people by how beautiful they are. They’re going to be important to us by how talented they are and how smart they are. We use all of the wrong standards to measure people by what really makes somebody valuable. That’s not how God measures somebody’s worth. In fact, the only appropriate measure of another person’s worth is what God was willing to do to rescue them when he sent his Son Jesus to the cross. Our society has this general attitude that if you’re not smart, famous, intelligent, or talented than you really don’t have that much worth as a person. This permeates American society. There is a vivid example of this in a famous baseball player who was damaged goods and he felt worthless as a person just because he couldn’t throw the baseball anymore. Listen to Jamie Garcia’s story

Let me just ask you what kind of a sick society is it that tells somebody you have no value if you’re not pretty or you have no value if you can’t throw a baseball? What kind of the society is it that says your worth as a person is in what you do or how you look? God brought Jamie to the lowest point in his life when he was damaged goods and couldn’t play baseball anymore. Then Jamie’s grandmother became a great saint of God. She helped her grandson realize that’s not what makes you valuable as a person. When she introduced her grandson to Jesus Christ and Christ radically changed him while he was looking at never getting a chance to play baseball in his life again. What would make somebody do what Moses is willing to do? What would make somebody willing to risk what Moses is willing to risk? It’s his love for other people. I really want you to wrestle with this right now. I want you to ask the question would you do what Moses just did? Would you be willing to make the offer to God that Moses just made? Does people’s eternal damnation or their eternity with God in Heaven mean that much to you? If you love people deeply, then you are leading people deeply.

Here’s the truth. You and I can’t change somebody’s heart but God can. Often he uses us when we’re willing to go so deep with somebody that you’re willing to invest whatever it takes to see them come to faith in Jesus. Sometimes that’s the very thing that God will use to change somebody’s eternity. I don’t remember their names but a Christian couple loved me enough to make a deep investment with me. They came next door to my apartment and explained to me who Jesus was. I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for a couple who loved me enough to share King Jesus was and what he did for me many years ago.

III. Leave the rest up to Jesus

Let’s look at how the story goes from Exodus 32 and God’s reply to Moses after Moses begs him, “Whatever it cost God I’ll give it up on their behalf, if you let me.”

Exodus 32:33-35
But the Lord replied to Moses, “No, I will erase the name of everyone who has sinned against me. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I told you about. Look! My angel will lead the way before you. And when I come to call the people to account, I will certainly hold them responsible for their sins.” 35 Then the Lord sent a great plague upon the people because they had worshiped the calf Aaron had made.

God never punishes you for somebody else’s sin. Moses says, “God, whatever it takes I’m willing to give it, if you’ll let me.” God says, “That’s not how it works Moses. I’m not going to make that deal with you. Everyone will pay for their sin.” There’s no way around it. Romans chapter three says the wages of sin. There’s no acceptable payment before God except somebody’s going to have to die on behalf of your sin. The truth is you don’t have to make the payment for sin it’s already been made for you by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. God says, “Moses, I’m not taking your offer but I’ll tell you what I will do. Some of the people who have committed this sin you just bought them 40 more years.” In fact, what we’ll see in a few weeks is this day of account. Many Bible scholars believe this is the first time in the Bible a theme throughout the rest of Scripture shows up. There is a day of reckoning or accounting where all of us will stand before God and what God says is if they sinned they will bear the consequences for that sin.

God says, “Moses, your job is to lead them. You can’t change them. You can’t make them believe that’s not how it works. They can’t do that for you and you can’t do that for them but you go out and lead them. Remember that one of these days everybody who committed this sin will one day pay the consequences for that sin. In just a few weeks we’re going to see how severe those consequences were. Moses goes out to lead the people. For the rest of Moses his life he is leading a bunch of unsaved people through the desert. You have no idea the leadership challenges that Moses endured. It’s obvious many if not most of the people that he was leading didn’t really have a relationship with God to begin with and never spent eternity with God.

One of the questions that I wrestle with is whether Aaron’s name is found in that book. Is Aaron going to be in Heaven when we get there or will he be one of those names that we won’t find written in the Book of Life because of this great sin? I don’t really know the answer to that one. I’m still trying to wrestle with it a little bit myself. We live in a city where the overwhelming majority the Chattahoochee Valley doesn’t know Jesus Christ and doesn’t care. I’m telling you it’s not how shiny the halo is that makes you a great saint it’s the heart for people that are lost in sin and don’t know how to be free from the slavery of sin. God uses us. Sometimes you’re the very one that will make an impact on them like Jamie Garcia’s grandmother did with him.

I have a challenge for those of you in this room who call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ. Would you start right now to ask the Holy Spirit to put one name on your mind of a person who doesn’t know Christ personally, doesn’t have a relationship with him, and, if they died today, would not be with you in Heaven? Would you ask God, “Whatever it takes God let me go deep enough with them that they come to faith in Jesus Christ. I’m willing to risk it all to see them come to know you as Savior.”? If every one of us in this room would do that with one person, it would change this community. It would change the world, if all Christians would do that.

I also want to challenge you to take some Next Steps today. Maybe you heard for the first time in your life that there’s no way to be good enough to get into Heaven and that It takes the death of Jesus Christ and a life totally surrendered to him. In just a moment I’m going to offer you the chance in the form of a simple prayer to surrender your soul to Jesus Christ. I promise you, if this prayer is sincere, he will radically and totally change you. Maybe some of you have started to examine your heart and you realize you don’t have that kind of heart that Moses had. Today you realize God needs to do some work in your heart. I really hope that many of you will say, “God, this week show me who it is and I will risk it all and I will go deep with them for as long as it takes until one person comes to faith in Jesus Christ.”

Next Steps

• I want my name in the Book of Life. Today, I turn from my sins and commit my life to Jesus for the first time.
– I haven’t had a heart for people that are suffering around me this week.
+ I will “risk it all” for one person struggling in sin.

Discussion Questions

  1. What was the greatest act of love that anyone every showed you? What set this act above the rest for you?
  2. Did you have a father that represented Jesus well in your home? What effect did your father have on the spiritual condition of your family?
  3. Reread v. 32. For whom or what would you be willing to “sell your soul”?
  4. What do you call a leader that doesn’t care if people suffer around them? Have you ever worked for a leader like that?
  5. One of the dangers of wading into someone else’s sin is that you might drown in their sin with them. How do you protect yourself against this?
  6. Have you ever watched someone you love terribly mess up their life? Did it frustrate you to know you can’t stop them from making this mistake? Describe how you think God feels when we break his commands.
  7. Ask God to put one person who needs Jesus on your heart. Pray for them to see the love of Jesus in you and find faith in Jesus because of you.

Further reading

Acts 8:1-4

May 5, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. The Gospel has always been under attack Acts 8:1Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a...

Acts 7

April 14, 2019Pastor Jeff Struecker Sermon Notes I. God calls a people Acts 7:1-8 “Are these things true?” the high priest asked. 2...