Sermon Date: March 7, 0910
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Exodus 3:1-8, 10-15
Let's Take Off Our Sandals!
The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt; the Promised Land was 300 miles away. If you had to walk 300 miles, what kind of shoes would you want? Good ones! If you knew there would be poisonous snakes and scorpions along the way, now what kind of shoes would you want? Tall ones! How 'bout no shoes at all? Probably not our first choice. God's Word this morning is about a spiritual journey that we're all on. This world is like a desert full of poisonous snakes and scorpions. Our destination is heaven. Our spiritual foot ware? In a sense, Nothing! To make it safely to our heavenly home God tells us to Take Off Our Sandals. 1. Let's stand in awe of God's holiness. 2. Let's draw near to see His faithfulness.
Before we get into our text, let's review why the Children of Israel were in Egypt. Man had not learned his lesson from the Flood. In the following centuries, knowledge of the true God was being passed down from generation to generation. And incidentally there's 4000 year old evidence of that in China. Unfortunately, people began inventing their own gods to stand side by side with the Lord God, and then they dropped the Lord God altogether. God's answer was to grow one special nation, who would still be a Gospel light for the rest of the world. And so, God called Abraham. Abraham had Isaac. Isaac had Jacob. Jacob had 12 sons. God moved those 12 sons together with their wives and children to Egypt. There they were segregated into their own area, and grew from 70 to over 2 million. Anyway there was a dynasty change in Egypt. The new pharaoh enslaved the Children of Israel. He also tried to reduce their number by ordering that all the baby boys be killed. Many of you know the story of how Moses was spared and became a Prince of Egypt. At the age of 40 Moses murdered an Egyptian slave driver, who was beating on an Israelite. Pharaoh found out. Moses fled for his life and came across a believing family. He married one of the daughters and for the next 40 years Moses shepherded his father-in-law's sheep. Now, Horeb was actually a mountain range with some lush plateaus here and there. Moses was leading his sheep to a plateau near a mountain peak called Sinai. Off in a distance he could see a fire. It was odd, because it was a thorn bush, blazing away, and yet it wouldn't burn up. We read, So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight." When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Don't over-think this, like why was that ground holier than anywhere else since God is everywhere? Or, why could Moses stand there with his bare feet but not with his sandals on? In those days, when people would go into someone's house they'd take off their sandals as a sign of respect, because with all the animals loose in the streets, they never knew what they might have stepped in. Moses was to take off his sandals at Mt. Sinai out of respect for God, because God had chosen Mt. Sinai as a place where He would reveal Himself in a special way.
This is just kind of an aside. But here in church God reveals Himself through His Word. So, how do we show respect in today's culture? This is a hard question. On the one hand if someone has died we show respect by being very quiet and still. Jesus died for us! This would mean being very quiet and still in church. On the other hand, little children are often wiggly and noisy, and our LIVING Lord says, Let the little children come to me. How do we balance these two? Well, gradually children do learn to be quiet and still, but then praise God, He sends us more children. And so, we just keep working at it.
Anyway, reading on in our text, Then God said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Why did God use a burning bush to symbolize Himself, and why was Moses afraid to look at it? God's wrath burns against sinners. Also just as God is unchanging and eternal, His wrath is unchanging and eternal. The problem for Moses and for us is we're sinners. And so, to correctly understand what God says in His Word, and especially if we want to make it safely through life to heaven, let's take off our sandals! Let's stand in awe of God's holiness. For example, why is work often frustrating? Why is there pain in our relationships? Why are there earthquakes, wars and diseases? In all of these things God is showing His wrath because of sin. If we respect that, we will not accuse God of being unjust for allowing such things to happen. Also, we will not brazenly offer God excuses for our sins or think that surface level obedience makes up for them. Instead like Moses, we will fear to offend God anymore than we already have. Is this where you're at in your life? If you are, do you drive the speed limit for the sake of conscience or for the sake of not getting a ticket? If it's only for the sake of not getting a ticket, you must be assuming God doesn't mind little sins anymore. But God says, take off your sandals! His anger burns as much for our little sins as for big ones. Also those little sins can often grow into big ones. Worst of all, justifying little sins leads us into thinking that we don't need Jesus and His Word that much. With that attitude, how can we expect to make it safely to the Promised Land of heaven?But someone might argue, The thief on the cross made it. So, why can't I have a little fun now and repent later? Remember, there were two thieves on a cross. The other one was not given repentance in his last hours. We should never put God's love to the test. Rather day by day let's bear the fruits of faith in our life, and then we will never cut down like that fig tree in the Gospel reading. I pray at this point that you're getting a little nervous. You're realizing that you could be a lot more obedient to God's will and fruitful with your time, talents, and treasure than you have been. On the other hand, changing and doing all the things we ought to be doing out holy love, we know that's not happening! God wants us to feel this way, because when we're standing in awe of His holiness, we're ready to see His faithfulness.
We read, The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." The Children of Israel were God's people, not because of their merits, but because of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You see, these promises included sending Jesus, who would step in between us and God's wrath at sinners. As a result, Jesus would receive our death sentence and all who trust in Him would receive eternal life. But how can we be absolutely sure of this? Moses had a few doubts. He said, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" Remember, Moses had a death sentence hanging over his head. But God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." Doesn't this strike you as a strange sign for reassuring Moses? God affirms His faithfulness to His promises by making another promise. God still works that way. He doesn't usually affirm His promises with something we can see. He affirms them through His Word. And so, to make it safely through this life, let's draw near to God through His promises. Through His promises He trains us for whatever temptations or pitfalls may lay in our future. However, just as the time to save for retirement is before you retire, so now is the time to for training in the Word, because that's how God keeps us safe. Now, in Moses' case, he had already fallen into a temptation or pitfall. He feared the Children of Israel no longer believed God's promises and wouldn't follow him out of Egypt, and so he'd be risking his life for nothing. We read, "Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" In Bible times, a person's name was understood as more than his handle. It was also his reputation. God's name is everything He's revealed about Himself. His character, what He done, what He will do. So, when God calls Himself, "I am", which is also the Hebrew word for LORD, God is emphasizing that He never changes. And so, God will never go back on His Word in punishing sin. But He will also never go back on accepting His Son's death as the substitute death for our sins.
Another way God showed Moses He never changes was with the burning bush. His wrath at sin never stops burning, but neither does His zeal to keep His promises. For example after the sermon, we'll be celebrating the Lord's Supper. Has God's Word today made you more aware of how serious sin is? Has it helped you to see more clearly that you need a clean heart? Then draw near to the altar to see His faithfulness. Take and eat His body and blood, which is a sign from God that we will worship Him in heaven, for He will remember our sins no more (He promises), and He will preserve us in faith and cause us to grow in fruits of faith (again He promises); and He whose name is I Am cannot go back on His promises. From a human point of view, going through life believing in God's holiness and trusting in His promises is like walking barefoot. Our human reason sees no scientific proof that any of this is real, or that we're going to be safe through this life and in the life to come. Nevertheless, let's take off our sandals before God. I'm not saying this will make our life here a walk through the park. Nevertheless God is burning with zeal to make our lives here productive and to bring us safely home. And finally when we do reach the Promised Land, we'll be able to look back, and we will see that the great I AM was with us all the way. Amen.