Allen Jackson - Standing In The Gap - Part 2
It's good to be with you again. Our topic today is "Standing In The Gap". You know, we're familiar with the line of the thin blue line, the law enforcement that stand between us and anarchy. Well, there's an even more important line in our world, and that's the people of God who stand for the truth in the face of the darkness. In every generation, God calls people to stand in the gap, to have the courage and the boldness, to be willing to tell the truth, to own a biblical worldview, to say that Jesus is the Son of God, and to acknowledge that in the midst of the place where God has planted you. It's an important time, church, we can't huddle in our buildings and sing our songs and read our favorite passages. We've gotta be willing to stand in the public square on behalf of the truth of a living God. God has called us. Let's not back up.
Now, I took Moses's life and I think you'll know most of this story. And I just wanted to walk through it with you for a moment because I think our tendency is to want to imagine that to be a person who stands in the gap, you have to be a unique sort of a person. And I think we'll find reasons to give ourselves latitude, pain, you know, things that have happened to us. And we'll say, "Well, you know, not me," but I want, there's just a list of bullets, and these are all straight outta Moses's life. You'll know them if you've watched, most of them you'll know if you have watched "Cecil B. DeMille" or you've watched the "Prince of Egypt".
Either way, you'll know Moses is a cartoon character or you'll know him as Charlton Heston. How disappointing would be to get to heaven and Moses is about four, two with a squeaky voice? He was rejected as an infant. I know you can tell the story and say that his parents spared him, they hid him for a season but they got to the point where hiding their child was no longer convenient for them, it put them at two greater risk. So they put him in a basket and set him adrift in the Nile River.
Now, you can put dramatic spins on that, folks. That's rejection. Can we agree? That's a tough way to begin your life. And then he grows up as a foreigner in the palace because apparent, it seems to be, from the context of scripture, it's known that he was drawn from the river and, even though he grew up as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, he understood and those around him understood he was a descendant of the Hebrew slaves. So he grows up never quite fitting in, and it has an impact on him because when we see him as a young man, he's filled with rage and anger.
When he sees an Egyptian task master abusing a slave, he doesn't show him his palace credentials and suggests that he redirect his activities; he kills him. It's a pretty logical outcome of the rejection, the displacement in the palace. He's an angry young man, and now he's a fugitive. He can no longer stay in Egypt and all of the privilege that has defined his life, all the knowledge that he's gained from growing up in Pharaoh's palace, all of the special opportunities, all of the things that had uniquely giving him the life opportunity, seemed to have just evaporated in a moment and he's a fugitive. And for decades, he lives as a Bedouin and sheep herder, quite literally on the backside of the desert, until one day he has this remarkable encounter at a burning bush.
And it always seems to me that the scripture says, if you look at Exodus 3, it says, "When Moses turned aside to see the bush that was burning, God called to him from the bush". The implication, it seems to me is that Moses had passed some other opportunities and had never turned aside to look, but on this particular day, if he'd have kept moving, God would've stayed silent. This wasn't an encounter Moses sought, it isn't something he's volunteering for. God is recruiting him, but it requires Moses's participation. And he's a very reluctant recruit.
Do you remember the story? And he says, "Well, who will I say sent me"? And God says, "You tell 'em I Am sent me". And he says, "Well, what if they don't listen"? And he says, "Well, what's that in your hand"? "It's a staff". "And throw it down". It became a snake, Moses ran. Smart man. God said, "Go back and pick it up". And it became a staff again and he said, "Yeah, but still". "And put your hand in your cloak". And when he took it out, it was leprous, incurable disease. "Put it back". It's better again. "Yeah, but I don't talk plain".
Now God's getting angry with him. I mean, Moses is not anxious for this assignment. He's tried Egypt, it didn't work well, it was a painful place for him from his childhood, from his young adulthood. He failed in that place, it's not a place he's anxious to revisit. And he certainly doesn't wanna go back with an assignment to tell Pharaoh that the slaves have to be set free. See, I'm not sure that this notion that to being a person who stands in the gap is something that you embrace with like joy and high fives. We'll see yet I'm not finished with everything I wanna bring you but in many instances, it seems to me that there's enough awareness that when you make the choice, you understand you're embarking on a journey that is not necessarily about convenience or comfort.
And are you willing to do it? And may I tell you the truth, most people's answer will be no. We have to be pretty persistent just to fill volunteer slots for children's ministry. Standing in the gap is a different kind of an invitation altogether. Say, "Oh, I don't have to do this, I'm a Christian, I've said this". I'm not calling your eternity into question, but I want to call into question, your imagination that serving the Lord doesn't require something of you. Who told you that? And where did you find it in the Book? So, Moses accepts the assignment and he heads back to Egypt, he's a reluctant recruit, and he meets with Pharaoh. Seems like to me there's a lot of emotion around that. They'd grown up together. All the components of sibling rivalry wouldn't be in place and Moses is fled and Moses is back and he knows the behind the scene story, and he meets with Pharaoh, and he said, "You're gonna have to let these people go".
There's not a chance. It's not happening. And so, the confrontation begins to break into the open, and now the hardship for the Hebrews intensifies. And guess who they're angry with. Moses. It's a pattern that's gonna hold all the way through to the Promised Land. "What have you done to us now? What are you doing to us"? "Well, if you'll shut up and listen, I'm trying to get you out of the brick pits". Don't you know, he wanted to say that? And then the plagues, you know the drama, the plagues come, the Passover death comes Egypt. You know, we read that as this, it's a triumphant night, but it's a very sobering night. The victory at what price? Imagine the fear in that land. I understand it's a time of rejoicing, but I'm telling you it's a bittersweet moment.
So they're free now, 400 years of slavery, it's over and we're free of Egypt. We've plundered Egypt, we've got the gold and the silvers and they're flocks that are left and our herds. We're free for the first time in our history for the first time in any of the stories we can tell around the fire. We are free. And for Moses, it's a whole new set of challenges. "Yesterday, the Egyptians fed us and yesterday we drank water from the Nile and yesterday we didn't need any direction, we had to make bricks, and today we're free. Which way do we go? And what are we gonna eat? And where's the water? And who are you"?
A whole new set of challenges, nation building. Moses, I don't think he had an MBA in this, and God takes him to school. We just read it, Leviticus and Numbers, all that stuff. You don't even like to read it. Can you imagine living it? "Moses, come over here. I need to talk to you. We gotta teach these people to worship". "Huh? I was minding my own business, you got me at the bush". "Nevertheless, we gotta teach these people to worship, tell 'em to make clothes that look like this, tell 'em they need to bring their gold in their silver".
Don't you know, they weren't happy to hear all of that? "We're gonna have to teach 'em how to worship, we're gonna have to teach 'em how to live in community. We're gonna have to teach 'em how to be well, what to eat. We're gonna have to talk to them about hygiene. Oh, I mean, I just did an Israel tour meeting. We had to talk about how to check in and out of the hotel. I don't even like to do that". Look at what Moses had to talk to them about. I mean, he got down in the business of their life. Folks, do you think that was more fun for him than it would be for you? No. No.
And then finally, they get to the brink of the Promised Land, and Moses sends in the spies. God tells him how to do it and he sends 'em in and they come back and 10 of the 12 spies say, "Uh-uh". And they're good enough, they're good enough communicators and they're good enough leaders that they convince this entire group of people to stand against Moses. How do you think it felt that night? "Are you kidding me? I left my life in the desert for this. I took those meetings with Pharaoh. I went up on the mountain and fasted and prayed and came back down". We just read it. "I laid in the dust for four... I fasted and prayed for you after your idolatry, and you're telling me no because these ten people say no". You know the outcome when God says to Moses, "Fine, turn them around, they'll die in the wilderness".
Now, at that point, if I'm in Moses seat, I'm thinking it would've been okay if he would've let me go on in, but Moses gets an assignment to wander with this group of rebels for the rest of their lives. Standing in the gap. Is it possible we've had a little bit too shallow of an interpretation of what our faith is about? Forty years in the wilderness with the rebels? Do you know what the payoff is? Moses becomes the spiritual father to a whole new generation, the people who are gonna take the conquest, Joshua, and all of those that go with him. Guess who mentored them? Moses. Moses. Can we call him somebody who stood in the gap? Were the lives of people better because Moses chose to be a difference maker?
You know what's a bit unique about Moses, we're gonna meet some people who stood in the gap and they were like David, they started when they were young. Moses started this journey when he was a mature person. Moses was a little long in the tooth at that burning bush. He already had life going and family going and career going and direction going, he'd worked through his childhood issues, he was in a place he could have taken a pass. God brought a whole, a purpose to Moses life that he'd lived two-thirds of his life without any awareness of. What did we say earlier in the weekend? Never too young, never too old to decide to have a relationship with the Lord in a new way.
People who stand in the gap, people who decide to be difference makers, people who choose to cooperate with the Lord in such a way that you enable the people around you to cooperate with the Lord in a way they would not if you hadn't. Standard bearers, placeholders, steadfast people. This isn't about ability or gifts or unfair treatment. Moses had every reason in the world to be discredited, disqualified. The rejection alone would've been enough to have sidelined most of us. I'll wrap it up with New Testament. Moses made the New Testament as well. Hebrews 3, "Therefore, holy brothers".
The author of Hebrews is making a point that Moses was faithful, but that Jesus was even more faithful, and for a Hebrew audience, that was not easy. "Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest we confess. He was faithful to the one appointed him just as Moses was faithful in all God's house, Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself".
See, if we're not careful, we'll be guilty of giving honor to persons or institutions or denominations or translations or something more than we give honor to Jesus. Every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. What a remarkable line to be made about a human being. He was faithful in all God's house. So I feel like there's a set of prayers to be prayed, and I didn't come tonight prepared to pray them with you, but I want to hand it to you. I think there's a set of prayers to be prayed. "Lord, forgive me. My relationship with you has been pretty me-centric, bless me, help me, deliver me, prosper me, give to me the things I want".
And I don't think God's opposed to that. I believe in the blessings of God, but the narrowest circle in which you can live is a circle that's defined by me and self. Moses was faithful in all of God's house. That whole story we just read, that really didn't bring a great deal to Moses, brought a great deal of responsibility, brought a great deal of questions, brought a great deal of criticism. Now, I understand in the end. Yeah, it turned out really well, but if you're living that out. Let's finish, there's one more passage there. Oh, I can do this. "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God".
It's a clear reference to the hearts of the Hebrews that said no to the Promised Land. How do you avoid that? "Encourage one another daily so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We've come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end, the confidence that we had at first. Just as been said. 'Today, if you hear his voice, don't harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.' Who were they who heard and rebelled? Weren't all of those Moses led out of Egypt"? The ones who rebelled were the ones who walked through the Red Sea and ate the manna and drank the water from the rock. "With whom was he angry for 40 years? Wasn't those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? Whom God swore that they would never enter his rest? They were not able to enter because of their unbelief"?
I wanna close with this, I want to be certain we understand that unbelief is not a neutral position. So you either choose to believe or you stand in unbelief. There's no third option here. There's not a neutral spot, and I think we have been a little guilty of imagining. Well, you know, we said, "I'm not sure I believe that". As if we were saying something safe. Unbelief is malignant, don't tolerate it in your heart. You can say, "I don't understand but I believe". How did God stop the sun when Joshua was on the battlefield? I don't know but I believe he did it. "Well, how do you explain it"? "I can't". "Well, how can you believe something you can't explain"? "I have an iPhone". I'm gonna drive my Nissan home tonight, I could not reproduce that. Oh, it has an internal combustion engine.
"Well, there you go Obi-Wan. Can you build one"? My life is filled with things I can't explain. I choose to believe in God. It's not checking my brain at the door, it's not, you need your mind to seek the Lord. You're gonna need every bit of your capacity that you have. Now, I'm not asking you to forfeit it, I'm asking you to turn it towards the Lord, put his Word in your mind, apply your mind to his Word. You've applied it to the things that you were interested in and that you were striving for and that you were longing for. How about if we apply ourselves to the things of God and we say to him, we will stand in the gap. We wanna see this generation turn to you in a magnitude and in a way that represents some of the most remarkable generations in history. Here we are.
Are we willing to let God redirect, realign, redistribute? Again, I'm not asking you to make a commitment yet, but I'm asking you to begin to think with me and pray with me. Oh, we're happy for somebody to get elected that's gonna change things, or we're looking for a preacher to come along with a greater anointing or a more exciting message or the right style of worship to push us over the top, and I'm happy for all of those things. I pray that we see them with their eyes, but I think that the fabric from which they will emerge is the lives of individuals who say, "I'll be a difference maker".
Who will accept the anointing when it shows up? It'll take the heat that comes with it, it will accept the assignment that says, "I need you to go back and put yourself as an intercessor on behalf of these people". Moses was clever. He said, "They won't want me". I believe God is still looking in this generation for some men and women. You're ready? Pretty exciting time. I wanna pray for you, why don't you stand with me? Hallelujah.
Lord, thank you. I thank you for those who have stood in the gap on our behalf, Lord, those men and women who were difference makers and because of their faith tonight we stand here before you. Lord, often at the time we didn't even recognize or understand, we didn't even appreciate, but I thank you for their lives. And Holy Spirit, I ask you to begin to help us, help us to understand more fully what you've created us for, what you've called us to be, the assignments you have for us. May we not waste our days, may we not be distracted or deceived or be idolaters, but may we give our very best to you. Forgive us when we've been disinterested. Open our hearts and our minds to you in new ways. I thank you for what you're doing. I thank you for what you're preparing us for. I thank you that we will see the power of God demonstrated in our generation in ways we've never seen it before, but we will see countless lives changed, cities changed, regions of our nations changed. We praise you for it, Lord, we offer ourselves tonight as living sacrifices. Let it begin with us, protect us, keep us strong, body, soul, and spirit. Watch over us, Lord, we entrust ourselves to your care. I thank you that you're the author and the perfecter of our stories. In Jesus's name, amen.