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Ben Fleming: Our Father, Exodus 2:23-25

June 10, 2024

Audio Recording

Just as He did with ancient Israel, God uses all aspects of our lives, including suffering, to fulfill His purposes.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Ben Fleming: Our Father, Exodus 2:23-25
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come soon, and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need and forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.

Amen.

The first sermon in this book of Exodus is called our Father, or our God who hears us. Let's pray. Father God, we thank you for all of these stories and metaphors, teachings, everything that you provided us in your word. Lord, we want to take advantage of today. We want to be inspired by them. But more than that, we want to be moved by your Holy Spirit as we gather in unity in this place. We're thankful for your voice. Pray that we would have ears to hear today. In Jesus name, amen.

Happy graduation weekend, by the way. To all of those of you who celebrate or suffer or cook or whatever it might be, there's a lot of emotions on graduation weekend, right? We went over to our neighbor's house, who have a graduate from Mountain View High school this year. And, you know, I'm going and I'm getting the potato salad, I'm getting the brisket, I'm getting the chicken. And then I walk over to their piano, where there's a bunch of pictures of their kid right, from all the different ages. And I was assaulted by a picture of a nine year old, Matthew, playing baseball. And I have a nine year old, and I did that thing as a parent or a human being, where you go, okay, so my son's graduating next year from high school, and I'm already mourning that and suffering. I'm standing there in front of the piano just going, I'm just gonna cry into my potato salad right now. I cry so much now. I don't know if this is just a thing about the product of my stage of life or my age. Steve Mickle, who was the senior pastor here for a while before me, said, I thought jokingly, when he was leaving, I passed the mantle of weeping publicly to you, and darn that guy. A little magic was in that phrase. I cry so much now, it may or may not happen today as we jump into this section of scripture, our father God, who hears us. I wanna start this off by saying, when I saw the overview of this series of talks, the idea that I had been in this, I'm gonna teach this sermon. Our father, the God who listens.

I just have this thing. I want you to know that because I'm a pastor even, certainly I have a mixed feeling relationship about prayer. A lot of times. I love prayer. I believe in prayer. I pray daily.

I pray ancient prayers. I pray my own prayers. I participate in this regularly as a part of my practice and meditation and prayer. My relationship with God, I find great value in it. And I don't understand all of it. Sometimes when it comes to hearing the voice of God, I actually feel like I'm sitting in an airport, right? And I don't know if anybody else has this, but I get this feeling that when the person comes over the PA at your gate and they say, excuse me, passengers of Alaska flight a 100 billion thousand, we have some really important information. Do you know if you don't do.

And I see everyone stand up and do something, they react. They've heard what was said. And I'm like, they didn't say anything.

They threatened us.

But then I didn't get any more information. That's all I know.

You know? And sometimes, especially in church, right, I don't know that I'm always a very good church person in church. I feel like, you know, people will be around me, be like God is saying. And I'm going, really?

I haven't heard anything in a long time. Like, how is everybody hearing this stuff and I'm not? And then sometimes on the other end, when I feel like I'm speaking to God and I'm trying to understand. Exactly. All right, how does God hear me? When does God hear me? Right. It's tempting to come up with some kind of a formula. Okay. God will hear me when I. Or I do it in this kind of state, or I do it in this kind of emotion, or I say these words in the right order, God will hear me. And then sometimes it feels like I'm kind of talking to my kids when they've got noise canceling headphones on and they're watching an iPad. First of all, don't judge me, okay? I'm doing my best. There's time limits on this stuff, but sometimes I just want to lay down and be left alone. Okay, don't judge me. Okay? But they're sitting there and they got these nice headphones on, and one of them will just go, hey, dad, I want some pizza. And I'll be like, okay, you want pepperoni? You want cheese? And then they're just sitting there, headphones on, staring at bluey which, by the way, who wouldn't stare at? That's a fantastic show.

And then I try to, and I discover I have to go grab the headphone and pull it up and go, excuse me, son.

Listen, you know, how do we, how does God always hear us? And I gotta be honest with you, I don't have a perfect answer, but I do have a beautiful illustration of God hearing his people. And we're gonna show that in a couple different ways in a few different sections of scripture. We're gonna start in Exodus chapter one. And if you're not familiar with the story, if you read to the end of the book of Genesis, you would encounter a person named Joseph. Now, Joseph, through really an incredible story, arrives in this place of Egypt and saves the people that live there from a certain famine that would have probably annihilated the entire population. But instead, his wisdom that comes from God saves that population by storing up and saving food for this coming famine.

And so in that process, a lot of Israelites, a lot of Hebrews, migrate into Egypt where it's safe and there is an abundance of food. And then the story picks up in Exodus chapter one. It says, in time, Joseph, the one we just talked about, all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation. But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land. Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done. And he said to his people, look, the people of Israel now outnumber us, and they are stronger than we are.

We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. And if we don't, and if war breaks out, they'll join our enemies and fight against us, and then they will escape from the country.

So what plays out in this ancient text is actually something that's happened several times over the course of history. This immigrant group that has come in is now posing a threat to the leadership of the host country, and they take extreme action in order to, at the very least, slow down the population growth of the Israelites, if not eradicate them.

It's brutal. They work the Israelites. They turn them into slaves, and they work them without mercy. So how do these people survive? These people that were sure and confident in the telling of this story that God loves? Well, they survive with a few different people. Now, number one, if you know anything about Exodus, you know that Moses is a major primary character, and we're going to get to him. But there are several people that are in the line of saving this group of people from slavery in the meantime. Okay, starts with these two. It says, then, pharaoh. In verse 15 of Exodus one, the king of Egypt gave his order to the hebrew midwives, Shipra and Puah. He says, when you help the hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby's a boy, kill him. If it's a girl, let her live. But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king's orders, and they allowed the boys to live too.

So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. Why have you done this? He demanded. Why have you allowed the boys to live? And the hebrew women are not like the egyptian women. The midwives replied. Check this out. I love this response. They're way more vigorous than they have their babies. So quickly, we cannot get there in time.

These midwives just go, sorry.

They are really good at giving birth. Have you seen these ladies? They're amazing.

So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful. And so then Pharaoh makes an extreme adjustment, and he says in verse 22, and Pharaoh gave this order to all of his people, throw every newborn hebrew boy into the Nile river.

But you may let the girls live.

Now, infanticide, historically, inside this story specifically, and over the rest of the world, other histories that we understand that infanticide was not uncommon actually, at the time. It wasn't until the greco roman world adopted Christianity that this practice really slowed down and was reduced.

But usually infanticide was performed on female children. The idea was that they could strengthen a tribe by reducing the number of female mouths to feed while increasing the number of males that could fight and protect and farm and all this, that this was the idea.

But pharaoh does something different here. He feels like the women can be assimilated into their culture, to be taken as wives and slaves and concubines, and they can be brought into their own culture, and then slowly, they can turn them all into Egyptians, is the idea.

But of course, again, something happens, and it's not Moses. It's not a traditionally huge hero. From all the stories that you've heard. It's someone else again. It says about this time, a man and woman from the tribe of Levi got married, and the woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. And she saw that he was a special baby, kept him hidden for three months. But when she could no longer hide him, she got a basket made of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar and pitch. She put the baby in the basket laid it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile river. The baby's sister then stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him. And soon Pharaoh's daughter came down to bathe in the river. Her attendants walked along the riverbank, and when the princess saw the basket among the reeds, she sent her maid to carry it for her. And when the princess opened it, she saw the baby. The little boy was crying, and she felt sorry for him. This must be one of the hebrew children, she said. And so what we see here is a series of women, from the midwives to Moses mother to this princess of Egypt, all participating in what we know as civil disobedience.

They're all taking incredible risks in order to, as best they can, obey the heart of God.

Now, this is what the people of God are often called to. And it's a difficult thing to understand exactly when and why. It takes prayer and it takes patience. I would say among christians and the church, we don't fly against every rule, right? Paul talks about in Romans, he said that actually God is in leadership in government. And he's talking at a certain time in the roman government, where the roman government is crazy. And he is saying, look, we have to understand and obey these laws as best we can until they go completely against the heart of God, in which we find an opportunity to be civilly disobedient. Sometimes that means we go against culture. And historically, by the way, in totalitarian governments, Christians were thought of as extreme liberals and progressives because they believed that the government was not God himself.

And this was crazy. In totalitarian existence and in other cultures, christians are seen often as conservatives because christians don't view themselves as the center of the universe, that we're actually not trying to worship and love just the human heart and soul, while we incredibly, we value those things. We believe that God is the center of our universe and not just ourselves. And so we've seen on a different side of what is a political or a cultural spectrum. The truth is that Christianity is not trying to land on some kind of political spectrum. Instead, it's simply supposed to obey the heart of God and that they take thoughtfulness and prayer and consideration. But when the church is doing what the church is meant to do, sometimes that results in a beautiful civil disobedience that ultimately ends and the ending of an enslavement of an oppressed people.

This is the beauty of the story of Exodus. It's not about a perfect hero in Moses or anybody that comes after him that arrives on the scene and saves everyone. And said it starts with a few women that make risky decisions to do what God is calling them to do.

Then Moses grows up and he's actually educated in the house of Pharaoh, which is a huge, incredible privilege that he experiences. But then something crazy happens. Bible historians would tell you that Moses actually got to return back to his home and his people between the ages of five and eight. So before he's eight years old, he is a prince of Egypt. For those of you who are watching cartoon videos in the late nineties, early two thousands, be very familiar, very nostalgic. Prince of Egypt. Anybody? Oh, man, what a time for sweet little christian boys to go to the movies.

That was weird. I'm still thinking about it. Okay, so he discovers that he's the prince of Egypt, but he also understands that he's a Hebrew at the age of eight. Then he returns back to the house of PhARAoh. He continues his education, understanding and leadership.

But I would imagine he begins to feel the pull of having his feet in two different places and people all at once.

He visits the Hebrews and he discovers how PoorLy theY're treated as he gets older. And he even kills an egyptian slave master that was beating a Hebrew, which would indicate that maybe MoSes has made his choice at this point of the people that he will stand with. It's the Oppressed HeBrews, the people that he comes from.

And so he kills this egyptian slave master. And the next day he confronts two HeBrews, having a disagreement themselves to HeBrews. And then he intervenes with them, only to be met with this response from one of them. It says in Exodus chapter two, who appointed you to be our prince and judge, are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?

And this pulls the gravity completely out of the planet for Moses.

Now, have you ever been in this situation? I had a situation at a previous job that I had when I worked in Klamath Falls, where somebody came on our staff and they didn't always agree with everybody that was in the organization. And I actually found myself because of who they were. I believed in them heavily. And this isn't, like, to toot my own horn or anything like that, but I believed in them, and I thought that they were an incredibly valuable piece of the organization. I still love them deeply to this day.

And so I would go to bat for them with leadership, and I would go to bat for them with other people saying, well, you don't understand their perspective. And here's what they can bring to the table. And this is why they belong. And I did it again and again and again and again over several years. And then what happened at the very end of the story is that person went to leave the organization. We land in the exit interview, and they look at the other people in the room and they say, I'm extremely unhappy. This is a few things that I'm unhappy about. And actually, it's Ben that I'm most angry with, and he's the reason I'm leaving.

And I'm sitting there going, what?

I don't think I said a word, actually, but I was blown away.

And, you guys, it didn't just make me mad. In this, like, interpersonal relationship thing. What happened for me was a small version of what I believe it happened for Moses. I'm trying to bring together these two different worlds as best I can and extremely imperfectly, by the way. I was certainly not perfect in the process. But once that came out that I was to blame for this person's disgruntled experience, I was like, I don't know where to go now.

And it really took me to this point where I was like, I hate Christianity. I hate this faith. I hate the church. I don't want to belong in this place anymore. Because clearly, when I stand up and do the thing that I believe is right, I don't reap any benefit from it. There is no reward from it. And when I stay over here, I'm wondering if we're actually caring for and treating these people on this other side as best we can. So I don't want any part of it. And I went into my own kind of desert, where up was down, left was right, everything seemed backwards and disconnected. And Moses himself enters into this place now feeling like for so long that he had 1ft in one people and one in the other. And he makes a decision, and now he feels like he has no place to run, no place to turn to. And so it's simply the desert for him to be fearful of everyone and everything.

I want to call out maybe for some of you today who are finding yourselves in this desert place, I want you to understand that I know why you're in the desert. I actually think sometimes it can be good for you. And I want to encourage you that God still exists in that desert as well as in the groups of people. If you're floating and wondering and wandering, God is with you in those deserts today, just as he was yesterday.

And I believe that this illustrates that it's extremely difficult to mess up our life.

When we finally acknowledge that we're not the center of the universe, I think we're tempted as human beings to do something wrong or to have this one moment of weakness and begin to believe in our own minds and hearts that that thing is the end of all of it. I've ruined my life. I've ruined this person's life. God's redemption and mercy and forgiveness is far greater than all of that. Cause I want you to notice that God uses everything about Moses to create this leader that would ultimately lead the Israelites out of this slavery and oppression.

First of all, Moses doesn't actually go to Pharaoh, like, you know, later on in the story until he's 80 years old.

And in the meantime, God uses everything about Moses, his fear, his education, his leadership, his feeling of a lack of belonging, his anger and his rage, his impatience and his insecurity, all to fashion this incredible leader, a man of God. He uses all of it. Now, sometimes I look, when I'm parenting my children, you know, and I want to, like, rip attributes out and put other ones in. Have you ever tried to do this to great failure? Some of you parents out here?

I want to take this little bit out, and I want to add this in. But the thing is that I understand about God is I really, truly believe he uses all those attributes, whether I interpret them to be good or not. God has a tendency to use all those things. My daughter's a perfect example, right? I really believe that if Jovi could get tattooed a bad word across her forehead to keep people away from her and to back off, let's say, I think my daughter, who's seven, might do that.

She has this attitude, you know? And the older she gets, the more I'm like, you know, that attitude actually might come in a little bit of handy. It's tough to parent right now, because she wants to use that word on me, too.

But I believe, you know, with maybe some of the boys that come around later on and maybe in your career, this whole attitude, you know, it just might work.

Why don't we keep some of that punk rock in there? You know, God wants to use that. There's attributes in you that you are believing are going to sabotage your destiny or your dreams, or they're going to cap your potential. And I really believe that God wants to use all of your perfections and imperfections in order for to accomplish his glory.

There is no part of you that God doesn't understand and simply cannot use, even if you resist it all the way to the last moment. What happens later on is Moses encounters God in a burning bush, by the way, which is a crazy thing. The bush is burning, but it's not consumed. And the voice of God is coming out, and it's telling Moses, this is what you need to do. And you know what Moses does because he's so deeply crazy and insecure. He says, look, I know this is wild, and I know this is the voice of God, but I don't know if I can go do the thing you're asking me to do in a miraculous way through this burning bush in the middle of a desert because I'm not a very good public speaker.

What?

This is not the time to argue, Moses.

This is a yes, sir situation.

Some of these people this is how I know. I don't know that we would be any better even if Jesus was walking around in flesh and blood right now in this day and age, because you've got Peter in the New Testament also, who Jesus is like, hey, come out and walk on the water. Peter's like, totally, I'm going to walk on the water. He starts walking, and then you know why he falls in? Not because the miracle stops. It's because Peter's like, wow. I mean, I'm walking on water, but some of these waves are getting big. I'm not sure I can walk on those. What? You're already walking on water?

Sidebar Moses has a tendency to be so consumed with everything that is wrong with himself, and yet God wants to use it anyway. I believe that the same is true for you.

The task that God gives us is not to never get lost. Moses gets lost, right? It's not to never screw up. Moses screws up again and again, and he will all the way through this book of Exodus.

But what Moses does end up doing in every situation that we believe is the godly thing and the thing that we should emulate is that he obeys God even when he's lost or stuck or struggling, he comes around to obeying God. Now, obeying God sometimes looks like death. Sometimes it looks like a desert. Sometimes it looks like you're even more lost than you've ever been. And maybe it is a version of loss, and maybe it is a death to some things. But ultimately God is calling us to obey him so that the oppressed might go free.

When it says the end of Exodus two, it says, years passed, the king of Egypt died, but the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery, and they cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God.

God heard their groaning. And he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And he looked down on the people of Israel, and he knew that it was time to act.

I love the idea that God turns and he hears his people. I also have a lot of questions about why he allowed them to get enslaved in the first place. That's hard for me, and I don't have every explanation about that. But what I do find beautiful, despite that, and you find it in several stories in all of scripture, is that God does. And I believe that we can be confident in this today. God does hear the voice of the enslaved and the oppressed and the struggling. He heard them then, and I believe he hears them and us today, and he knows that it's time to act. God has a special, particular, it seems, relationship with those who are under the burden of slavery. And I'll illustrate it with this story from Mark, chapter five. It says, this is about Jesus. Now, it says, jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him. And a woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them. But she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. She had heard about Jesus. So he came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. For she thought to herself, if I can just touch his robe, I will be healed. Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she'd been healed of her terrible condition. And Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone from him. And so he turned around to the crowd and he said, who touched my robe? And his disciples said to him, look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask who touched me? Everyone's touching you.

But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.

I love this image of our Lord and savior Jesus, in the middle of a crowd, being touched by everyone, experiencing something different through the one that was crawling through and suffering simply just to touch his robe. Now I don't want to. I always hesitate to be really prescriptive about how God does things. As we see, even just in the story of Jesus and the gospels, Jesus performs miraculous things in all kinds of situations. He turns water into wine with a group of people that simply look at him and go, well, booze is gone.

What are we going to do now?

And he performs a miracle. He performs miracles with fathers of daughters that come up to him and express a kind of faith. And he remarks on their faith. It's made them well. He passes by someone who's depressed, sitting by a pool that is known to heal the first person that gets into it at a certain time of day. And he talks to this person and says, well, why aren't you healed? And the guy says, well, nobody's around to put me into the water, so I guess I'll just sit here.

And Jesus heals him. He heals a blind man who puts mud on his eyes, who the disciples have pointed out and said, well, what's wrong with him? Is it him or his parents? And Jesus goes out of his way to heal this man.

Jesus does things in a particular Jesus way that, again, I don't always understand, but I do believe this for our community today. And I do think it's prophetically. I believe that we are in a position today as a church in our context, where like this woman with the issue of blood, instead of crying out to God in our suffering, we have looked to every single other alternative to try to fix what ails the church in our day. Let's connect it with this ideology. Let's connect it with this leader. And I hope that we see in the middle of all of our trying and attempt to discover, of grabbing onto leaders in social media and news networks, of grabbing onto simple willpower, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, self help books. I hope we're discovering that in the middle of that house that we built for ourselves to try on every single thing to cure what ails us, we see Jesus walking out the window outside, and we do everything we can as westside church, for you as an individual, for you as a family, to simplify this journey of Christianity and faith again. And we cry out to God as the nation of Israel did. We begin to crawl along the streets with every effort to simply be with Jesus.

I believe that you personally, that we as the church, will find healing in that space in place. How is it going to work for each of us individually? How's it going to work for our nation? How's it going to work for our church? I don't know exactly all the ins and outs, but I know that a people that will do anything simply to touch the robe of Jesus, that an oppressed people found enslaved under the thumb of the regime of Pharaoh, these people that cry out and are obedient to God, seem to find healing in a way and a shape and a form that is full of the love of Jesus.