Introduction: We must never idealize Old Testament heroes or forget how difficult it was for them to maintain their faith in the long-awaited promises of God. We see, for example, how even Moses could doubt God’s purposes in the face of Pharoah’s intimidating cruelty. He complains in Exodus 5:23: “Ever since I went to Pharoah to speak your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Doesn’t this sound like Moses was doubting God’s promise to redeem His people? It was the same way at the Birth of Christ: because of Herod’s violent attempt to wipe out the Christ-Child in Matthew’s Gospel, many were crying out in fear that God’s purposes of salvation would never be realized! But let us take heart. God knows our weaknesses, as He knew Moses’. May this week’s Bible notes refresh us during the busy Christmas season!
Monday: read Exodus 3:21-4:1. Despite God’s moving the Egyptians to bestow wealth on Israel, (Ex. 3:21-22), Moses is doubtful of God’s call in Ex. 4:1, and afraid that Israel will flatly contradict it, saying, “The Lord did not appear to you.” As we see Moses balk – despite the burning bush and other Divine revelations in Exodus 3 – we ought to marvel at how sluggish Moses is to believe in God’s power. But Moses is no different than the rest of us. If Jesus had to rebuke His disciples’ unbelief after the stilling of the storm in Mark 4:40, expressing His oft-repeated disappointment in their faithlessness: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?,” we should reckon that there will be many times when God has to take us back to first principles in order to revive our flagging faith.
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to daily revive your weak faith, with the words of hymn # 491:
Take me, O my Father, take me;
Take me, save me, through Thy Son;
That which Thou wouldst have me, make me,
Let Thy will in me be done.
Long from Thee my footsteps straying,
Thorny proved the way I trod;
Weary come I now, and praying,
Take me to Thy love, my God.
Fruitless years with grief recalling,
Humbly I confess my sin;
At Thy feet, O Father, falling,
To Thy household take me in.
Freely now to Thee I proffer
This relenting heart of mine;
Freely life and love I offer,
Gift unworthy love like Thine.
Tuesday: read Exodus 4:1; 4:10-14 and Numbers 12:3. Let us thank God that the author of the book of Exodus was unafraid to record his own shameful doubts about God’s call in Ex. 4. This is one of the proofs that the authors of Scripture, like Moses, were inspired by God. They write so much about their own faults and the faults of their dearest and nearest relatives – only God could give them the grace to write books so contrary to self-exalting human nature! For example, just as Moses records his faltering faith in Exodus, so Asaph, the great choir director of Jerusalem, confesses that his envy of the wicked made him like a “brute, ignorant beast,” (Psalm 73:22). And what about Paul’s confession that he was a “murderer, persecutor, and the greatest of sinners” in 1 Timothy 1:13-15? This is not usual in human writers, who tend to laud themselves and one another in the hopes of garnering the praise of men and the favor of God. Nor was it the norm in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were known for building monuments to themselves, seeking the place of honor at public banquets, and performing their religious exercises,” to be seen by men,” (Luke 20:45-47). How different is the humbling effect of the grace of God on the pens of those who wrote the Bible!
Meditate and Pray: “Lord, let us never forget our sinful tendencies to wander from your grace. Give us the frankness each day to express our dependence upon you with hymn # 457, verses 2 and 3:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let That grace now, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
Wednesday: read Exodus 4:1; 4:10-14 and 2 Timothy 2:3-8. In Ex. 4, God must struggle with an unwilling Moses and his ongoing refusal to step forward in response to His call. As verses 10-14 make clear – Moses objected to the point of arousing God’s wrath, insisting that God send someone else! This should prompt the question: “Why does God spend so much time calling and equipping such unwilling servants?” Why indeed! Surely none of God’s creatures are as stubborn as mankind. And even His own people are compared to stubborn livestock which tend to go their own way, like sheep!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the many pictures of His patient oversight and guidance of our lives. He has the patience of a potter with clay, molding, bending and conforming us to His will, over time, without breaking us in our frail condition. He has the patience of a shepherd, who repeatedly must seek after the stragglers and the lost sheep. He has the patience of a farmer, who must wait for the seed He has sown to appear in the soil. Lord, when we are tempted to lose patience with the spiritual progress of our lives, or the lives of other believers who disappoint us, help us, with Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3-8, to reflect long and hard on the long-distance race, military campaign and long-awaited harvest which is the Christian life. Remove from our hearts the restless, impatient spirit of the age in which we live. Amen.
Thursday: read Exodus 4:1; 4:10-14 and Romans 15:13. “Why does God spend so much time calling and equipping such unwilling servants as Moses?” The same question arises when we think of God’s call to other unwilling servants of God. Think of Jonah refusing to go to Nineveh; or the weary Elijah who wanted to give up and die; or the fearful Jacob who almost starved his family rather than go to Egypt; or the quaking Barak who would not go to battle unless Deborah accompanied him! And in the New Testament? Think of the thrice-Christ-denying Peter; or John Mark, who in Acts 15:38 was temporarily rejected for service by Paul because of an earlier desertion from his duties; or timid Timothy; or a host of other servants of God in the Bible, who show the weakness of their own spiritual determination to follow God – even at the times when they are most needed! How amazing that God is willing to use any of us in His service when we fall so far short of having any ability to serve Him honorably. Clearly, when it comes to His commands on our lives, He must enable our obedience at each step or we are undone!
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God that His call upon our lives is not based on our ability to obey. As John Calvin wrote on Paul’s Romans 15:13 prayer for enabling grace in our lives:
Paul now concludes with prayer; in which he desires the Lord to give the church whatever he had commanded. It hence appears, that the Lord does in no degree measure His precepts according to our own strength or the power of free-will; and that He does not command what we ought to do, that we, relying on our own power, may gird up ourselves to render obedience; but that He commands those things which require the aid of His grace, that He may stimulate us to prayer.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing… Amen.”
Friday: Exodus 4:13-18 and Philippians 1:3-6. Before studying the three signs God used to reassure Moses that the rescue mission out of Egypt would be successful, we must correct any impression that God’s servants are always unwilling, working with slack hands and cold hearts, coerced by a God who is too strong to resist. God is beginning a new work in Moses, which He will carry on “to the day of Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 1:6), and Moses will grow in boldness and willing service, until he actually serves God with joy, not with the paralyzing fear we have seen so far. To quote Romans 15:13 again: God’s purpose is “fill us with all joy and peace…,” so that our work becomes hopeful, and our lives useful! Not for the Lord our weaker efforts, the ashes of our hearts – no, He will claim the best and greatest of our efforts for Himself, and make us glad in giving them!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His determination that we will serve Him with all our hearts and ripened powers. Ask the Lord to make you such a willing servant in all that He calls you to do, using these words from the Scottish Hymnal, composed by Thomas Gill:
Lord, in the fullness of my might,
I would for Thee be strong:
While runneth o’er each dear delight,
To Thee should soar my song.
I would not give the world my heart,
And then profess Thy love;
I would not feel my strength depart,
And then Thy service prove.
I would not with swift wingèd zeal
On the world’s errands go,
And labor up the heavenly hill
With weary feet and slow.
O not for Thee my weak desires,
My poorer, baser part!
O not for Thee my fading fires,
The ashes of my heart!
O choose me in my golden time:
In my clear joys have part!
For Thee the glory of my prime,
The fullness of my heart!