He Qualifies the Called | Dr. Chip Bennett
He Qualifies the Called
Exodus Week 4
I mean, so often It's just the truth we go through life, and — I had a devotion with the worship team right before, and we read out of Proverbs 4. The verse was to guard your heart with all vigilance. It’s so easy, in the world that we live in, where everything sort of comes in, in ways, but that's why we gather here, that's why we come here and sing songs, that's why we go to the Word of God, because we need that connection with God. We need to come together, as the people of God, to experience Him in a new and fresh way, and to be reminded of what He’s done for us. Would you agree with me on that? Don’t we all need that to some degree? Amen? Good.
Well, I was reading recently, and I found this to be an interesting story. It sounds like it's a true story. If somebody comes up and says, “Fact check, it's not true,” I’m saying it's absolutely true. I think the veracity of the story, though, is probably true. It goes back to Thomas Edison. When he was developing the light bulb, they had figured out how to make it, but they needed to figure out, “How do we get this thing out?”
And of course, at the time, mass production was not like it is today. So, it took the original group of people, 20-some-odd hours to build a light bulb. This first one that got built, it needed to go up the stairs of Edison's house into a vacuum tube, and he asked a young man if he would carry that light bulb up.
Now, you can imagine what that would be like. You're carrying the light bulb that just about 20 hours have been spent with. You’re thinking one thing, right? Don't drop it. Yeah. Good. Y'all are with me. So, he goes up the stairs, and the story is that when he got to the top of the stairs, he tripped, fell, and the light bulb crashed, burned, and all of those good things. Well, back to the drawing board. Another 20 hours. Everybody's worn out, everybody's tired, and now it's got to go up the stairs to the vacuum tube. The story is that Thomas Edison looked at the same young man and said, “Take it up there.”
He took it up there and he made it this time. There’s something about that story, whether it's factually 100% true or whether it's not, I think the reason the story continues to go and to be told is there's something about us that we go, “Man, I've dropped some light bulbs in my life.”
I've dropped plenty of them. I'm sure many of you all can relate. We’ve all had some light bulbs that we've dropped. But there's something at a level of emotion that speaks to us when someone gives us another chance. There's something about that that speaks to all of us because all of us know we've dropped light bulbs. We know that we've had many of them. Is there anybody that would say, “Hey, I'll let you do this again?”
And so, I want to talk about that, this weekend, because I think it's something that as we go through some more of the text of Exodus, it’s going to be something that really speaks to all of us. But before I get into that, I want to remind everybody that we're in a series called “Exodus.” I try to do this at the beginning of every message because, I don't know, some people may have missed a message or two, or you may be new and you're coming into the series. We're just a few weeks into the series, but I want to remind everybody of what we're doing. We're going back and looking at some of the highlights of the story out of the book of Exodus. The reason that we're doing that is because the theme of the Exodus, the theme of the children of Israel being taken out of Egypt, is one of the largest themes that runs through the entire Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, when you get to the prophets, they're constantly reminding the people of Israel, “Don't you remember when you came out of Egypt? Don't you remember what that was like? Don't you remember how they treated you? Don't treat people the way they treated you.”
And you see this all the way into the New Testament. There’s this constant reminder, like, “Hey, don't you remember? Don’t you remember what God called you to do? He called you to be a kingdom of priests. He called you to be His mirror image to the world.”
And so, when we're reading scripture, many times in the Old Testament, and even in the New Testament, we're being told, whether it's through these exact words, whether it's through stories, or whether it's through epistles or whatever else, that as the people of God, we tend to forget what God delivered us from and what God delivered us for. So, we're going to go back and read these stories so that we can go, “Yeah, I really see what God did there, and I really see what He was doing there.”
Because in scripture, when we go to read scripture, it was written to the people of God, and it was written, since we tend to forget things, when we interface with scripture, for us to be asking the question, “Are we really living as the people of God?”
Not to doubt if we are the people of God, not to question whether or not our salvation is secure, but to ask the question, “Have I tended to forget a little bit about what God did for me? Have I tended to forget what it was that God called me to do? Was there a time in my life where I was a little bit more focused than maybe I am right now?”
So, we're going back and looking at the text of Exodus, and we're sort of mining it. What does it really mean to look like the people of God? And then what we're going to do is, when we get to the Christmas season, we're going to read the first chapters of Matthew, and you're going to go, “Oh my goodness. I've never read these like this,” because now you're going to know the Exodus story, and you're going to see that Matthew is totally using that story as he's talking about Jesus. It'll be like, “Wow, this is really cool.”
So, last week, we ended up at the sort of midway into Exodus 2, and what had happened is Jochebed, who is Moses' mother, had raised him. And we don't know, but somewhere probably until about year three to year nine. We’re not quite sure. But she finally then delivers Moses over to Pharaoh's daughter, and Moses becomes her son. That's when she names him Moses. So, that's where we left off.
Well, what happens after that is we don't really hear what happened when Moses was being raised by Pharaoh's daughter. You sort of have to go, “Well, we know that Pharaoh was well-to-do.”
We know that they had good food. We know that they would've had good clothing, that they would've had great schooling, that Moses would've had a pretty luxurious lifestyle. He would've been exposed to many, many things that the average person would not have been exposed to. But we're not told anything about that. What we're told is when he has grown up. That’s the next thing we see. And it tells us that he sees the task masters, he sees the people who are oppressing his people, the Hebrew people — even though he's still the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, Pharaoh's grandson, he sees how the Hebrews are being treated. One day, when he sees what's going on, he sort of steps out and kills an Egyptian. He's just struck with how this is not right, and he kills this person. Of course, he buries him in the sand, and that's super emblematic because if you understand Egyptian religion, you didn't get buried right away. If you wanted to have eternal life, the last thing you did is get buried.
So, Moses is not only saying, “I'm killing you,” but, “I'm keeping you from eternal life by burying you in the sand right now.”
It's pretty strong statement that he makes there. Well, the next day when he goes out, he sees two of his Hebrew people sort of going at it. He says, “Hey, you guys. Stop. Don't do this.”
We're told in the text that they said, “Who made you a prince and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Then Moses was afraid. He thought, “Wow, hold on. A lot more people know what I did than I thought. I don't know how pervasive this is.”
And he's afraid because he knows that that means he's in jeopardy. He probably has been told, when he was a kid, that he was good, that she saw that he was good. It goes back to creation. He's like another Adam. He's also another Noah because he's been put in the ark. There are so many similarities that he probably knows that there's something that he's called to do. And now he's hearing, “What do you think you are, a prince or a judge over us?”
And it says he was afraid. He said, “Wow. Probably a lot of people know about this.”
We’re told in the text, “When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian.”
Now, Moses has gone from the palace to the pasture. Moses has gone from luxury to being a shepherd. He finds Zipporah at a well, which is important in Genesis because, typically, you'll find that the patriarchs find their wives at wells.
And that's an important theme as you go into the New Testament. But he starts to work for his father-in-law, Jethro, and he's a shepherd. You can read it in Genesis. It says that the Egyptians despised shepherds. So, this is a man that's been in Pharaoh's court, that's had the lap of luxury, that's lived a great and incredible life, and is now in the wilderness tending sheep as a shepherd. And we pick up this story in Exodus 3:1.
It says, “Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Sinai is another name for that, but he's come to this place that will become very, very, very significant in Moses' life at another time. But he's come, and I think the text wants us to see — at least I see it this way, and I'm not in isolation. Most of the people who write on Exodus, and most of the people that are scholars, see that Moses has traveled probably somewhere between 7 to 10 to 12 days away from where he lives with his flock. Now, he may have traveled that far because maybe they didn't have something to graze that was as good, and that's probably somewhat of the deal. But he's probably taking these long walks because he's probably thinking what could have been, or maybe what should have been, or maybe, “I've just dropped a lot of light bulbs in my life, and I've got time to think about it as I travel, being a shepherd.”
And you can feel what's going on here in the text as he's gone this long way.
And we're told, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.”
This is like, “Whoa. This is probably not what he was expecting. This is a moment here.”
And we're told, “He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.”
There’s this bush. It's a thorny bush. It’s a bush that if you fell into it, you'd suffer a little bit. It's a bush that the Lord is showing Himself in as a flame of fire, and He’s showing Himself in a bush of suffering. Of course, Jesus also will have a crown of thorns put on His head, as well. But He’s in this bush and, all of a sudden — Moses, he’s not unaware of a bush. He knows what they look like. He's not unaware of fire. He knows what it looks like. He knows this. But it says here that he looked, and he saw that it was burning, but it wasn't consumed.
In other words, there was something going on in this bush that was different. It was an ordinary bush, but there was something extraordinary going on. This was a natural bush, but there was something supernatural going on here, in front of him, and the text is very clear. He said, “I’ve got to stop here for a moment. I’ve got to turn aside to see this great site, and why the bush isn't burned.”
So, there are quite a few words here to arrest our attention that Moses went, “Oh, something's going on here a little bit differently than normal.”
I wonder how many times in our lives there are things going on that, if we were absolutely paying attention, we might notice something that was natural was something really going on that was supernatural. Something going on that's just sort of ordinary might be extraordinary in front of us. And Moses stops, he takes a moment, and the reason I know this is important because of the next verse.
“When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see,”
How many times have we missed God because we were just chugging along through life, and didn't stop to see God at work?
It says, “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him…”
When I read this, of course, I know there's no question, theologically, because of the call of God on Moses. If Moses wouldn't have paid attention here, God would've got his attention somewhere else. But I often think, “Chip, how many times have you missed God because you just weren't paying attention?”
He calls to him. This is a tender way of calling.
And for a guy that probably is thinking about his life, thinking about some of the light bulbs he's dropped, where he's at, what's ever going to happen — my mom told me some things were going to maybe happen in my life, but it doesn't look like it really is going to happen. He says, “I'm here. I'm here.”
“‘Here I am.’”
And the text says that the Lord said to him, “‘Do not come near.’”
Now, the tender “Moses, Moses” is there. The grace, the love, and everything, but He says, “Now, don't come any closer.”
“‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’”
I know when I was reading this, preparing this, I wrote down in my notepad something that I went back to, and I said, “I'm going to put this on the slide when I do this message.”
This is what I wrote down. I said, “We need some more ‘when holy happens’ moments in the church today.”
We need to realize that although God is loving, kind, He’s our friend, and all of those things, He’s also God. He’s also a little bit like, “Don't get too near,” because He’s God, and take off your shoes because He's holy. There needs to be a little bit more of “holy happens.” I think of C.S. Lewis. When the beaver says, about Aslan the lion, who's a type of Christ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, “Is he safe?”
He goes, “He ain't safe. He's a lion, man. He ain't safe, but he's good because he's the king, I'll tell you.”
And let me tell you something. God is good, but He’s not safe. Sometimes we need to realize we're not just playing with just anybody when we're talking to God. We’re talking to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We're talking to the Holy One. We’re talking to the One who is holy in His essence, who is pure in His essence, and sometimes we just need to hear. Maybe we just need to have a little bit more respect, take our shoes off, and realize that when God shows up, that's holy ground.
I think that we need a little bit more of this “holy happens” in the church. I was thinking about it, and I was like, “Man, that’s so true,” because God becomes so, “I need this, I need that, I need…” — there are sometimes you just need to lay on your face, and say, “God, You are holy.”
I always say that in the book of Revelation, they don't fly around the throne of God saying “love, love, love.” They don't fly around singing “grace, grace, grace.” They fly around singing “holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
I think the American Church could use a dose of holiness. I just think we could use a dose of it. And I say that in reverence because I grew up in a holiness tradition, and I saw it become religious bondage. But I also know that God is a holy God, and sometimes you’ve just got to recognize that where you're standing is holy ground. Take off your shoes and don't get too close.
“And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”
This is a personal moment here for Moses.
“You’ve heard about me. You know that I'm God. Your mother probably told you. Your father told you about me. But this is a moment where you're meeting me.”
This is personal no. This isn't about a story because see, God doesn't have grandchildren. He only has sons and daughters. Which is why what we do is important because even though I don't agree that it would ever happen, because the gates of hell won't prevail against the Church, we still should always be sober in understanding that the Church is always one generation from extinction.
“And he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”
And Moses responded. Later on, Moses is actually going to see God. There’s going to be some better understanding, but what he does is he hides his face. He's like, “Man.”
We probably could use a little bit of this sometimes, too. Just a little, like, “God is holy.”
“Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen…’”
It's interesting. In Exodus 1, where's God? In Exodus 2, where's God? Well, He shows up now in a big way in Exodus 3. He says, “I want you to know, in case you were maybe just reading in the first two chapters, and you wondered where I was at.”
“‘I have seen the affliction of my people who were in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters.’”
Don't you ever believe, as a child of God, no matter what's going on in this world, that somehow God is silent and unaware. He is very aware of the sufferings of His people, and He takes it personally. Remember when He calls to Saul?
He says, “Saul, Saul.”
The guy that's ravaging the Church, the guy that's persecuting people, what does he say?
“Why do You persecute me?”
He takes it personal. He says, “I've heard their cry.”
He says, “‘I know their sufferings,’”
If you ever wonder if God knows your sufferings, listen to this guy. He knows your sufferings better than you do. He is aware. He is there. Whether you see Him or whether you don't, He’s there. And now He’s come on the scene, and He says, “I've come down, and I'm going to deliver them.”
It's a moment here. Then He says this.
He says, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
What's his response? “Lord, I've dropped some light bulbs. You might not have the right person. I'm a shepherd. I mean, I used to be a somebody. I had to run. I’ve been out here a long time. I know that maybe my mom has said something about some things. God, you might not have the right person.”
“‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
“God, you might just have the wrong person. I've been up those steps many times, and I've dropped those light bulbs a lot. Are You sure?”
And God says what we all need to hear, and what is the prerequisite to be called in service to the Lord.
He said, “‘But I will be with you,’”
“It’s not just you, Moses. It's me. If I'm going to be with you, you're going to get it done. And just so you know that you're going to get it done, listen to me. Here's your sign. When you've brought everybody back out, you're going to come right back here to this mountain, and you're going be and a lot different man when you come back to this mountain after you've delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt. What you're going to realize is it's not about ‘who am I?’ It's about who I am, Moses. And if I say I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it.”
If God says He will do it, He will do it. Moses could walk in all the faith and assurance of all the world that he was going to get back to that mountain because God told him he would be back to that mountain. What can we learn from these stories? As the people of God, what can we draw from these rich stories?
Well, first of all, the people of God understand this, and you need to understand this. There will always be detractors to our destiny. There will always be people that tell you you're not good enough. There will always be people that stomp out your dream. Sometimes the detractor will be you because, here, what do we have early on?
“Who made you a prince or a judge over us?”
They're already derailing, already detracting, and so many people never move out of the boat, never take a step to do something for the Lord because they go, “Everybody's told me I can't. I've been told it all my life. My dad said, my mom said, the person said, my own brain said.”
Let me make something very clear so that everybody hears this: God's plan for our lives is not derailed by the accusation of others. Simply, end of story. And hear your pastor, and hear him well: The louder the critics usually means the greater the call.
I can tell you, as a pastor, the biggest critics I've had have come from the cheapest seats. I mean, that. The old enemy will get in there and tell you that you can't do something, your family will tell you that you can't do something, your brain will tell you that you can't do something, your friends will tell you that you can't do something. Let me tell you something: If God has spoken in your life, He will do what He says. Period. And nothing can change that.
Second: The people of God realize that all the ups and down — everybody's always looking for meaning. I mean, we’ve got self-help books, we’ve got YouTube videos, and we've got all this stuff. You'd think, by now, if the self-help books worked, nobody would have any problems. Right? There are like a hundred million of them written. You’d think we'd be great. So, what's the problem? Why are we so depressed, anxious, and all this stuff? Because we're looking for meaning. But hear me. Listen. The people of God, this is what we realize in reading these texts. All the ups and downs of our lives, all the light bulbs you've dropped in your life, find meaning, which is what you want.
“I don't understand. I did this.”
They find meaning when faith becomes personal and vocational. When faith not only becomes yours, and now you have a relationship with God, but you also now have something that you are doing for the kingdom of God. When those two things get put together, all of a sudden, you start to see, “Oh, man. God can take all these things and use this stuff in an incredible way.”
He said, “Look, I'm the God of your father. I'm the God of all, but I want to be your God. I'm going to call you to go do something.”
And when that happens, something clicks. I want you to hear this. I want you to hear this well because somebody needs to hear this. Who we are in the moment of our calling is the exact person God intended to use. And you say, “Yeah, but you don't understand. I’ve got all kinds of light bulbs that I've dropped.”
No, no, no. The person that God calls is the exact person that God wants in that moment. Douglas Stuart, a great Old Testament scholar, says that God's faithful provision over all the many generations since Abraham was beginning to come to fruition. All the stuff that had happened was culminating into Moses. Let me just give you a glimpse into how God uses things, and how He uses our doubts and our light bulbs that we've dropped. Let's look at Moses for a second.
First of all, humility and brokenness are the prerequisites for godly leadership. That's just the prerequisite. Moses needed to be 40 years in the wilderness. He needed to tend to some sheep. He needed to feel some of the brokenness. David needed to go to the cave. Everybody needs a moment. When we come to the table, Jesus takes the bread, He blesses it, and He breaks it. Because whatever God blesses, He breaks. It’s only when we're broken that we can really be used for God. It's only through the fissures and the cracks of our life that God's light actually shines.
Let me give you another reason. You can't take others through the wilderness you've never been through. Moses’ setback to go through the wilderness is actually a setup so he can lead God's people through the wilderness. See, you and I are the people God needs in that moment. And we always will go, “Who am I?”
God will say, “Let me tell you who I am.”
And not only that, but if you're too good to lead sheep, you'll never be able to lead people. And God knew that. And so, where Moses was at was exactly — all of his ups and downs found their meaning in the personal and vocational calling that God had.
And some of you are going to go, “Yeah, I know, I know, I know.”
Let me give you the third point. The people of God know that our calling is not based on our qualifications, but on the One who called us. Nobody's worthy to do anything for the Kingdom of God. Newsflash. Nobody is. This has been said before, but I'm going to say it again. I want this to sink in. God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls. You say, “Well, I don't know.”
Let me give you the text. Who am I? He says, “No. I'll be with you. It's not who you are, it's who I am. I'm the One that makes the qualification, not you.”
And the last thing I want to tell you is this: The people of God learn — and this is so important. Drink this in — that our deepest hurts and our scars are redeemed in service to the Lord. All those things that we've run from — like the woman at the well who comes in the middle of the day because she doesn't want to deal with her scars, she meets Jesus. She runs back into town and says, “Come meet the man that told me everything I’ve ever done.”
Her scars have become her testimony, and the Lord — this is so powerful. He says, “This is going to be your sign, Moses. This is going to be your sign. You're going to come back here one day, when you’ve brought them out, and you're going to serve me on this mountain. You’re going to realize that everything that's happened in your life, everything that's gone on, has gone on for a purpose, for me to use you the way I need to use you, because your deepest hurts and your scars have been redeemed. One day, you're going to be able to see it.”
I want you to hear that. If we had people in America that could tell people, on a regular basis, “Let me tell you about this guy Jesus. He can totally change your life. He can take brokenness and hurt, and He can make something out of it. He can turn chaos into good. He can turn a past life into a great life. He can turn all these things. He can do all of these wonderful things.”
Rather than doing all the stuff that we do, all the bickering, arguing, and division, can you imagine if the people of God, on their tongue, walked around and said, “Let me tell you about my Jesus who can take all our brokenness and hurt and turn it into a glorious ministry to others.”
Can you imagine? See, what I want you to hear is that I don't know what light bulbs you've dropped, because I've dropped plenty myself, but God is not kept from using you, nor are you kept from being used by God, because you dropped some light bulbs. He'll use those dropped light bulbs for His glory, and we need to believe that.
I’m going to pray for you, and then we're going to sing this song. I picked this song. I picked this song. It’s upbeat. You’re going to love it. Many of you all know it. I don't want you to leave. I want you to sing it. It's poppy. It’s fun. Listen to the lyrics and let it flow over you. Let it just absorb you because some of you need to hear the Lord say, “Hey, go get that other light bulb and take it back up those stairs because this is your moment right now. This is your moment to let me be personally involved, and for you to get vocationally involved.”