David Jeremiah - Moses: Overcoming Tremendous Obstacles
If you started Genesis with Adam and go all the way to Revelation with John the Revelator, you can pretty much encompass the whole Scripture just by studying the people in the Bible. And when we open the Scripture and we learn the stories and we review these stories of these people, our hearts jump with encouragement. And I don't know about you, but I find myself saying, "Lord, why not me? If you did it for them, why can't you do it for me? I am your child too, and I need the strength to overcome as they did". We all have problems. We all face challenges. And the more I study the Bible and watch what's goin' on in the world, the more I realize that nothing much has really changed over all these years. The intrigue in government has been here from the beginning, and yet we have a decided advantage as people of God. Almighty God has given you and me the playbook. He's given us the story of how this all starts and how it ends, and he helps us understand how we fit in to this story as we follow his instruction.
I want to review with you the story of a man by the name of Moses and show you four incredible principles that impact us, and we learn it as we learn the story of his life. The first principle I want you to take home in your heart and put to use in your life is this one: your past was designed by God. Your past was designed by God. Have you ever heard people talk about how they would do so much better if they hadn't had such a hard past? And they'll tell you about all the dysfunctionality in their family, maybe their broken marriages, the stuff that went on when they were in high school and all of that. And they literally allow their past to define who they are as a person. The first thing we learn about Moses is that, by God's grace, his background really was an asset. Moses was the object of the desire of the most powerful dictator in the world, who wanted to kill him. But God had other plans.
And as you know, by sheer faith, Moses's mother placed him in this little waterproof basket. She sat him among the reeds of the Nile River near where Pharaoh's daughter took a bath every day. And you know the story, how the daughter of Pharaoh found the baby, adopted him, raised him as her own, and then hired his mother to be his nurse. Is God at work or what? Only God could have arranged that. Acts 7:22 say: "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of Egypt," and yet Moses knew he was not Egyptian. He grew up in the palace. He grew up under the leadership of this woman. And as we can imagine, he probably had a lot of conflict in his heart, personal emotion about his situation. And he longed to find a way to help his people because he knew he didn't belong to Egypt. He belonged to Israel.
And then, one day, "It came to pass, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and he looked that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, 'Why are you striking your companion?' And that man said to him, 'Who made you a prince and judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?' And Moses feared and said, 'Surely this thing is known!' And Pharaoh heard of this matter, and he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian". Let's pause for just a moment. There among the Midianites, Moses settled down. He got married. He worked as a shepherd for his father-in-law until he was 80 years old. Had he died at the age of 80, we would not know anything about him.
Everything meaningful in Moses's life happened after he turned 80, and I wanna just pause and say, "Yes". He started out as a Hebrew slave. He was rescued in childhood, raised an Egyptian, became a murderer and a fugitive. He fled to a distant wasteland and became the shepherd of a flock of sheep on a barren mountainside. But here's the lesson. Nothing Moses encountered, endured, or experienced was lost on God. None of it happened by accident. God was somehow using every moment of those 80 years to prepare Moses for the final 40 years of his life, to be the great liberator and lawgiver of Israel. Maybe you came here tonight and you've been through unspeakable abuse or terrible pain in your past. Perhaps you've done some things you regret. Perhaps affliction has dogged your steps. But when Jesus Christ died on the cross, his blood washed not only away your guilt, it also washed away your sin, and its redemptive power can, by the grace of God, turn your life experiences all around and take every negative and make it into a positive.
So if you've been hurt by others, if you've been hurt by others, you know better how to help people. The Bible says, "We comfort others with the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted". God gives us experiences, so through those experiences, we can help others who walk down that same road. If you've made mistakes, you're better able to help others not make the same mistake. God does not want you to live in the past of your life. You are not defined by what you did. You are defined by who you are in Jesus Christ. So, the first thing is, your past was designed by God, lesson number one from Moses the overcomer. Here's the second lesson: your purpose was defined by God. Moses teaches us that when we become overcomers, we realize that our lives are really a calling from God.
Let's go back to Moses at age 80, herding those sheep on the backside of the desert for his father-in-law. Exodus chapter 3: "Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So Moses looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, 'I will now turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.' So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and he said, 'Moses, Moses!' And he said, 'Here am I.'" And you know the story. The Lord said to Moses, "I want you to go back to Egypt after all these years, and I want you to march into the presence of Pharaoh and tell him to let my people go".
Now, there's no context for that. He's just mindin' his own business, taking care of his sheep, and out of nowhere, God calls him to this unbelievable assignment. He says to him, "Come now, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt". Those are God's words. And of course, if you know the story, Moses hesitated. He didn't think he was able. He made all kinds of excuses. He tried to reason his way out of it. I would have too. But finally, he accepted God's command as his mission in life, and he realized his life was a calling. Ladies and gentlemen, you and I will never be able to overcome the obstacles of life until we have a sense of our mission, until we understand that God has a plan and a purpose for us, a purpose that belongs uniquely to each of us. We need this purpose in our life. And what I notice today is that there are so many people in our culture, in our generation, who have no sense of their purpose from God.
I read this article in "The Wall Street Journal" recently that talks about how teenagers do better in school if they have a purpose. And then it gave these statistics: 25% of teenagers in school are disengaged, 25% want to find a purpose but they haven't found it yet, 30% are dabblers, they get involved in a few things but don't follow through with anything, and 20% are beginning to develop a sense of mission and purpose in life. If you're here tonight and you're a high school student, and I met some of you before the meeting, you're not too early in life to figure out what your purpose is. You should start asking God right now, "Lord God, what do you want me to do? What is my calling in the kingdom? What are you asking me to do for you with my life"? He has the right to call you, and he can make midcourse corrections along the way. You know, it's not just teenagers who don't know what God wants them to do.
I read this week that more than 10.000 people are reaching the age of 60 every day in America. You know what they call that? "The silver tsunami," these Baby Boomers hitting their sixth decade. And most of them aren't ready to retire. They just don't know what to do with themselves. They're lost because they don't have a purpose. There's nothing as exhilarating as saying, "Lord, here I am. What do you want me to do"? And I promise you, if you ask God that question honestly from the bottom of your heart, it's impossible that he will not show you what that is. Here's the third thing. Your past was designed by God. Your purpose was defined by God. Number three: your problems were determined by God. "You mean God gives me problems"? Oh, yes; oh, yes. That's when Moses's problems really began, after he said, "Yes," to God. After meeting God at the burning bush.
Moses returned to Egypt, and chapter 5 begins like this: "Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord God of Israel: "Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness".' And Pharaoh said, 'Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I won't let Israel go.'" That wasn't a very good start for his career. That began one of the most gripping confrontations in recorded history. It involved God sending ten devastating plagues against Pharaoh, against Egypt, against Egypt's gods. And Moses faced anger and confrontation, and sometimes even his own people complained against him. You know the story. Finally, the dramatic night came when the death angel moved across the land, striking the firstborn of every living creature in Egypt. And the only exception, the blessed exception was represented by the homes of the Israelites, where the Passover Lamb had been slain. And the Lord told the Israelites, "Put the blood on the lintels on the door, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you".
And that night, every firstborn in Egypt was killed, but the firstborn of the Israelites were preserved because of the blood. And you probably know some Jewish people who celebrate the Passover. The Passover is the celebration of that night when God passed over their house and the judgment angel didn't visit them. It's the greatest Old Testament symbol of the sacrificial atonement of Christ you will ever read. Pharaoh releases his grip on the Israelites. "And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and he said, 'Get out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. Go, serve the Lord as you have said. Take your flocks, your herds, as you have said, and be gone.'" I love that, "'Be gone; and bless me also.' And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, 'If you don't leave here, we're all gonna be dead.'"
And the Israelites marched out in exhilaration, only to encounter another problem, one that nearly led to their annihilation. They were trapped at the Red Sea. The Lord was teaching the children of Israel a great lesson. Our problems are really our opportunities. The Israelites viewed their situation as terrible, as hopeless. They were trapped between the devil and the deep Red Sea, and they couldn't go backward or forward. And Exodus 14 says: "Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left". When you read through the story of Exodus, you see one overwhelming problem after another rising up with deadly force to defeat Moses and the Israelites. But every time the problem came, it was an opportunity for them to trust God.
I've been learning through my life that oftentimes, our problems are our opportunities. We must look at our problems differently. We shouldn't wring our hands all the time. You know, I've been through a couple of rounds of cancer. When I first got cancer, I kept asking God, "Why"? But then I realized I was askin' the wrong question. I should have been asking, "What? What do you wanna teach me"? I learned a lot through those days. I remember praying during those days, "Lord, teach me everything you want me to know 'cause I don't want a refresher course," and I believe he did. And even this day, as I look back on those days, now 20 years ago, and the stem cell transplant and all that happened, I realize that God taught me more during that time than perhaps any other time in my life. If you start saying, "Lord God, I don't know what's goin' on in my life, but I don't wanna miss the lesson you have for me. Show me how this problem is meant to help me become the person you call me to be". And then you begin to do that. You'll begin to see, here and there, how God uses your problems to promote you to greater ministry.
So your past was designed by God. Moses teaches us that. Your purpose was defined by God. You're called to a purpose. And your problems are determined by God. He uses your problems to help you become more effective. And the last one is this: your path is directed by God. The Bible seems to love the picture I'm about to show you because it describes it so vividly. For Moses to persevere and overcome, it required an intense pattern of ongoing communication with God. Moses had to meet with God regularly. And in Exodus chapter 33, we discover principle number four, your God is really your friend. "So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend".
Moses had a personal relationship with God. We often don't think about that when we look at people from the Old Testament. We think that's something that's New Testament. But Moses walked with God. He was a friend of God. He had a relationship with God that was unique. His personal relationship with God was one of the most amazing things about his life. And one of the amazing things I can ever say is that you have access to that same experience. Almighty God wants to have a relationship with you. He knows you better than you know yourself. He has loved you before the foundation of the world. He wants to know you. He wants to be walking with you. He wants you to walk with him. And the only thing that keeps you from God is your own unwillingness to accept his plan, which is salvation through his Son Jesus Christ. And if the Lord himself wants us to be his friend, all we have to do is draw near to him. And in that friendship, he will enable us to overcome the stuff we have to face every single day.
That's why we all love this passage of Scripture, and many of us write it in our Bibles, and many pastors, this is their key verse: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding; in all of your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths". Ladies and gentlemen, to be overcomers, we have to realize, our background is an asset. Our life is really a calling. Our problems are God's opportunities in our path, and our Creator is really our friend who stands ready to guide and direct our paths. "Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim not his natural vigor diminished. But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, and by all that mighty power and all that great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel".
Stop for just a moment and take a look back at his life. Until he was 80 years old, he was watchin' sheep in the desert. Even in the Old Testament, here is Christ at work. And I wanna tell you something, that Christ is at work in your life tonight. Maybe some of you have come here tonight to get your life back on track. Maybe you're Christian people and you've been kinda lettin' life dictate itself to you. You've let your life be defined by all the circumstances you're facing. Tonight is the night when you walk away from that. Tonight is the night when you say, "I am overcomer. I begin to live like an overcomer beginning now".
Some of you here tonight have never met this God I have been talking about. You don't know this one who wants to be your Friend. I invite you tonight to make peace with God, to give your heart to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. And no man comes to the Father but through me". If you want to go to heaven someday, if you want to know God today, you must come through Christ. You must accept him as your personal Savior. You can do that here tonight. This is a night for you to make that decision.