Charles Stanley - Hearing God's Voice
Sometimes people will say, "Well you know, I've read the Bible, but I just don't seem to understand it. I would read it more often if I understood it". Well, what I'd like to do is, in this passage of Scripture, give you an idea how to get more out of whatever you're reading in the Word of God. Because oftentimes we read it a little quickly and we think, "Well, God ought to tell me exactly what I need to know right now".
And I want you to turn if you will to the third chapter of Exodus and, I'll give you a little idea of what's happened before the passage we're going to read. You'll recall that Moses killed an Egyptian and as a result he spent forty years on the other side of the desert from Egypt and became a herdsman. And so, he had a great downfall in his life. So now, this passage of Scripture begins with, "Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God, on Mount Sinai".
And then, you know the part about the burning bush, and how God worked in his life, and how suddenly he saw and heard and felt something that absolutely changed his life. So, I want us to look at what happened to him and I want us to look at it in light of how you and I read the Scripture, and not just a matter of what it says. But how do we read the Scripture? And because the question you and I always want to answer is, "God, what are You saying to me"?
You know, I could read any part of this Bible if I'm just reading it externally and have no heart in it, most of it wouldn't make sense at times. But I want you to understand how to read the Bible, read a narrative that you could say, "Well, I've read that before and I know what happens". But the big question is, "What happened to you? When you read it, what did God say to you? What happened to you"? And most people don't read the Bible with that in mind. They're looking for something, for God to say something to them, but the question is, "What is God saying to you in that passage"?
So, remember Moses is on the backside of the desert. Forty years ago, he killed an Egyptian. He'd been banished and he's herding sheep. Now, I think most any of us would learn something within forty years. And so here he is doing what he never would have dreamed he would have been doing. And so, the first word I want you to write down is the word, personal. If you read the Word of God only as a narrative and you sort of exclude yourself from the environment and you're just talking about something that happened years ago, you'll miss God's personal message in your life.
So, we read it asking the question, "God, what are You saying to me"? And in this particular passage, after God having dealt with him at the burning bush, I want you to think about this. He says in the tenth verse, and I'll read a few verses, "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt". But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt". And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain".
So, he's in this setting now, and God has spoken to him, so the next word I want you to jot down is specific. God doesn't speak in generalities. Everything about that is specific. God says, "Therefore, I will send you and you are to bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt". And so, naturally, he has a question. Think about this. When you read the Word of God, do you read it with, with God's message to you in mind? It's very specific, he said, "I have a mission for you". Forty years on the backside of the desert. Now God is speaking to him.
The next word is, encouragement, because anytime God gives us a word of something, He wants us to do or how to do it, oftentimes He gives us a word of encouragement because He knows we need it. So, when I think about that, I look at this tenth verse, "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt". It was a word of awesome encouragement. Think about this. That was His idea forty years ago when he killed one Egyptian. He had the wrong means, wrong time, everything about it was wrong. And now, forty years later, God says, "Alright, you're ready". And so He says, "I'm going to send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt". But Moses said to God, "Who am I. Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt".
And so, the word's encouragement, because oftentimes God will say something to us in His Word, and usually He prefaces it sometimes with encouragement, sometimes afterwards. But God always wants us not only to listen, but to believe that when He's speaking to us. You say, "Well, I don't know of anybody God's spoken to". How would I believe? We believe God speaks to us because He is God, and because He's a God of love. And how does He encourage us? He doesn't just encourage us by giving us things. That's what most people think. Well look how wonderful God is. Look what He gave me. Well, what about the time you were sick. What about the time you were going through difficulty and hardship and pain, sorrow, loss? Well, did God love you then? Yes, He did.
So, what I want you to see is in these narratives, there's truth. There are things that God wants to say to us that oftentimes we overlook. The next word is, serious. This is serious business. The burning bush was God's way of miraculously getting Moses' attention. Attention from anything and everything else that he'd ever thought of and reminding him that He's a God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that God is still there, that He has not left him in forty years though he is suffering from the result of doing things his way.
And so, what does He say? He says, "Therefore, come and I will send you to Pharaoh". Moses said to Him, "Who am I"? "Certainly I will be with you," God says. What an encouragement word that is. Listen to that. He didn't just say I'm going to be with you. He said, "Certainly". That is, rest in this. Make sure you know this, "I will be with you and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who brought you, the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain".
God always wants us to understand when He's speaking to us. Well, can God speak to us anywhere anytime? Yes, He could. But I think God wants to speak to us oftentimes when we're not listening, but our minds are on other things, our attention is on other things. God loves you. Jesus died for you and God intends for you to listen to Him because He has something to say to you. Nobody's beyond the voice of God. Because He's always calling, always to get our attention. And so little by little, He speaks to Moses. So, what did God do? To get his attention He started a fire in this bush that was not consumed. He knew exactly how to get Moses' attention. He was a herdsman. He'd seen lots of bushes. He'd been in lots of situations, but he'd never seen a bush burn that was not consumed in the burning.
Now listen carefully. Sometimes God may say something to you, show you something, send you somebody, do something in your life that you know that it has to be God. How many times have I heard people say, "Well, you know, I wondered about that, it had to be God. Had to be God". Why? It was something unusual. God spoke through a person that maybe you don't even like. Or He did something in your life that you didn't particularly like. He took something away from you or gave you something, but He got your attention. God always wants our attention. He wants our attention because He is speaking to us. He wants the best for us. He'll guide us if we'll listen to Him. But if I'm not listening and paying no attention, I'm not going to follow the will of God. So, the next word is, command.
Now it's wonderful to listen to God and it's wonderful to think how wonderful God is and how gracious and good He is. But when He gives a command, what does He expect? One word. What is it? You got it, obedience. And so, listen to what He said in the tenth verse, He said , "Therefore, come now, and I will send you". Now, that's the part I think all of a sudden really got his attention. It's one thing to see the burning bush, maybe God's speaking to somebody, but He said, "I'm sending you to Pharaoh. Yes, Pharaoh in Egypt. The Pharaoh that cast you out is dead, but there's another Pharaoh. I'm sending you to Pharaoh so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt".
Totally unbelievable. How send me there to take two million people out of Egypt, when Egypt is armed like an armory. God, I must have misread that. God, say that again. "Come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt". Moses said to God, just what you and I would say. What would we say? "Who am I? Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt". That is, "God, You've knocked on the wrong door. You have the wrong person. You rang somebody's doorbell, but not me. I'm a fugitive. I'm an enemy as far as Egypt is concerned". You listen to God. You don't put God in a box. When God says, I want to send you somewhere, or I want you to do something, He means what He says.
Now, inescapable. Write that word down. Inescapable. When God chooses to do something in your life, when He chooses to use you in a certain way to speak to someone to win them to Christ, or to do something whatever it might be, it's inescapable. That is, in the eyes of God, He doesn't change His mind because you don't like it, because you think you can't afford it, because you don't know what somebody will say, or you don't question their particular viewpoint, that's not the issue. God says, "I'm going to send you. I'm sending you to Pharaoh. And when God says, "This is what I'm going to do". You don't change God's mind. So, the next word is, frightening.
You say, "Well, why do you use the word frightening? Well, verse eleven, "But Moses said to God, "Who am I"? And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you, it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain". And so, was he frightened? Yes, you and I ever have a right to be frightened when God tells us to do something? I've heard many people say over the years, "When God called me to preach, I said, 'Absolutely not. I can't, I'm scared to death. I couldn't stand up in front of anybody. I couldn't remember anything. I know I'd forget.'" People are frightened.
And so, what was God's answer to this? This is an awesome answer. What was God's answer? So, look at verse thirteen, "Then Moses said to God, 'Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you. Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?'" This was the answer, "Just tell them I AM sent you". What? I AM, just tell them that. "I AM WHO I AM", and, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent Me to you. I AM has sent me to you.'" What would you have said to that? "Who is I AM"? "The Great I AM". That's who He is. He's the sovereign God of the universe. And He introduced Himself to Moses by saying, "You tell them that I AM. The maker of all things, the One true God has sent you to free My people out of Egypt".
Now, how else could God have said so much? He could have said, "Well, I have armies," or, I, this, that, and the other. But when He said, "Tell them that I AM sent you. I AM, I AM, I AM the sovereign God of the universe in control of all things, therefore, I sent you". What should that say to them? Well, first of all, they wouldn't understand that, but He said that's what you're to say to them. But, He also made him a promise. He said, "I'm going to send you and I'm going to be, I'll be with you, and this'll be, this shall be a sign to you".
So, remember this. Whenever God tells us to do anything, we have the promise of His assistance, His presence, His power, His whatever we need, He's there. God would never send you empty-handed to do a task. When you trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, what happened to you? One thing that happened to you is this. He came into your heart to dwell, and the Holy Spirit who now inhabits you, speaks through you, has all the answers you and I need to be obedient to God. He says, I'm going to be with you. You and I can write this down. You can write this by this verse. That is that God will always be with you no matter where you go, where He sends you, what goes on in your life. He says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you".
Have you ever felt forsaken by God? I have, once, forsaken by God. Was I a believer then? Yes, I was. But the circumstances, I felt forsaken. I knew He hadn't forsaken me, but I felt it. But I finally I also realize, I don't live by my feelings, I live by the truth, the truth of the Word of God. And so therefore, I can claim His presence. So, He made a promise, I'll be with you. And then, here was His word of assurance to them. He said in verse nineteen, "But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand, strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it, and after that, he will let you go". Think about that.
You say, "Well, I don't think God would be that clear to me". Yes, He would. I'll tell you how clear God will be. He'll be clear enough that you understand what He's requiring of you. God would never tell you to do something without helping you understand how and remind you that He will aid you in the process, a word of assurance. Then, requirement is another word. Remember what He said to him at the burning bush? What was His requirement? He said, "I want you to take off your shoes. I want you to recognize you're standing on holy ground. Not on shoe leather, not on sandals, on holy ground". It's you, Me, God says, the fire and holy ground. There is a reason. And so, He said, "Take your shoes off, now".
Once in a while, when God's working in our life, He'll require something of us that we think's foolish. Say, "Lord, I don't need to do that". If God tells you to do something that, He won't do, He won't tell you to do something wrong. But He may require of you something that appears to be foolish to you. Let's say, if God spoke to my heart about something and He said to me, "I want you to give him that sport coat". "Well, Lord, he's got a lot more money than I have. And, besides, it may not fit him". "Give him the sport coat". I could argue all day. I may have twenty sport coats or it may be my last one. But the important thing is, we obey God and do what He says do, as simple as it may be.
And He said to him, what did He say? "Take off your shoes. Do what I tell you to do". And many people miss the will of God because, before God brings them to the thing that will make a difference in their life, He takes them, He takes us step by step. Then, He says, "What's the goal"? The goal is real clear. The goal is to set My people free. God will never tell you to do something for which He does not have a reason, a purpose or a goal. And listen carefully. The sooner you and I are willing and ready and able to obey Him in simple things, little things, then what will He do? He will test of larger things and greater tests and greater tests. But with each one comes a blessing.
Many people live their whole Christian life, miss out on God's best, because their faith only got three feet long, when God had intention a mile long. "Trust Me for big things, trust Me, trust Me for all that I can do for you". And yet, we limit Him because we can't see our way clear. He doesn't tell Moses, "Now, here's what you do. As long as you can see your way clear," no. Then His reassuring word. Listen. He says, "I'm going to stretch out My hand, in this twentieth verse, "I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it, and after that, they will let you go".
God's awesome promise. And what's the promise? If you'll notice in all these passages, the promise is His presence, His wisdom, His power. God's working. If somebody asks you, "Does God change"? What would you say? Well, most of you don't have any idea. Let's just think about this for a moment. Does God change in His character? What about His power? Does God change in anything? God is omniscient. He knows all things. He doesn't know some things today and something tomorrow. That's the way we operate. He knows all things. He has all power.
And when He says, I will be with you. And He says, "Here's what I'm going to do. I know they're not going to let you go. I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it, and after that he will let you go. Pharaoh will let you go. I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed". He says, "Look, not only am I going to free you, but here's what's you'll happen. When you leave, you're going to have their gold and silver and pots and pans and everything that Egyptians treasure. You're taking it with you".
That took a lot of faith from man in sandals and now in bare feet to believe that God will use him on all those Egyptians, with all their might and power and chariots and soldiers, and a bunch of Hebrews heading toward a sea, cross the sea, free from Egyptian bondage forever. It took faith. It took obedience to God.
Now you say, "Why do you, why do you list all these words up here"? Because I want you to think about it. When you read a passage of Scripture, ask yourself some questions. Ask yourself some questions. God, what does this say to me? You can ask Him anything. He will share with you what you need to know to be obedient to Him. In other words, God is so willing to fill us up with Himself, and to meet every single need of our life if we'll trust Him.
And this passage is a wonderful passage about a man who forty years on the other side of the desert, he had nothing. What does that say about forgiveness? But what does it say about chastisement? What does it say about being disobedient to God and paying the consequences. There are some sins that are very, very, very costly. We have to put ourselves in that passage, think. What would I think? Why was there a burning bush?
I'll tell you why. Because Moses would never have believed out of the blue, we would say, that God would speak to him forty years later as a mere shepherd and tell him to go back and meet Pharaoh, challenge him, and then, personally lead all of the Hebrews out of Egyptian bondage without firing a shot. Nobody would believe that. But that's exactly what God did. Well, you may know in your heart, God's been speaking to you and you've been putting it off.
Maybe you're not even really sure what God is saying. But would you be willing to say to Him today, "Lord, I don't know what You're saying, but I humble myself before You, and I'll make it my priority to listen to You, quietly listen to You until I hear what You want me to do". If you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, I can answer that question. He wants you to ask Him to forgive you of your sins, place your trust in Him, rely upon Him and watch Him begin to work in your life things you would never dream of. You know what? God will do far more in your life than you expect, if you'll ask Him, watch carefully, ask Him and obey Him step by step. It all ends up in obeying God. Trusting Him no matter what He says and watch Him work. Amen?
Father, we thank You for being who You are. Being patient with us, helping us through those difficult times. We know that we will never see a burning bush as Moses saw it. We don't need to. We don't need a bush, we just need the cross. And what we see at the cross is your love, goodness, mercy, kindness, generosity, help, it's all there. We say, "Thank You for loving us. Thank You for forgiving us. Teach us the truth. Teach us how to walk in it and teach us how to be obedient". And we pray that you'll use each of us to bring Yourself glory and honor. And Lord, not that we would bring people out of bondage by the thousands, but one at a time, with a personal testimony of Your grace in our life. In Jesus's name. Amen? Amen.