#3 (THE "5 EXCUSES OF MOSES" SERIES)
"WHAT IF THEY DON'T BELIEVE ME?"
TEXT: Exodus 4:1-9
INTRO: No one likes rejection, and because of this we often fail to try and do things. There are times in life when we have missed out on rich experiences because we were too afraid that others would not listen or follow us, or that we would just plain fail. Our fear of being rejected may have not only kept us from experiencing something good but may have kept others from having a great experience also.
This is the biggest fear of Christians when it comes to witnessing about Jesus Christ and salvation, we are so afraid that we won't be believed or listened to so we don’t even try and tell others. We are even afraid that if we are listened to we will still be rejected, so we do nothing or say nothing either way!
It is true that if we witness there will be those who will not believe us, and some will reject us, but there will also be some who will listen and believe!
ILLUS: AN ENGINEER BY THE NAME OF GARY AND HIS FAMILY WERE STAYING IN SOME CANYONS IN A MOUNTAIN GORGE AREA. CLOSE BY THEY HAD FRIENDS WHO WERE STAYING IN SOME CABINS AS WELL. NEARBY WAS A HOTEL. A HUGE STORM HAD COME UP AND THE RAINS HAD FALLEN QUITE HEAVY AND QUICK. BEING AN ENGINEER, HE HAD SOME IDEA OF HOW WELL THE QUICKLY RISING RIVER COULD SUDDENLY MAKE A CATASTROPHE OUT OF THE WHOLE AREA. WHEN HE COULD TELL THINGS WERE NOT IMPROVING HE JUDGED THAT THERE WAS ONLY ABOUT 30 MINUTES BEFORE THE RIVER WOULD BREAK LOOSE AND COME DOWN THE GORGE TAKING THE HOTEL AND THE CABINS WITH THEM. HE INSTRUCTED HIS WIFE AND CHILDREN TO HEAD FOR HIGH GROUND WHILE HE WENT TO THE OTHER CABINS AND WARN HIS FRIENDS AND THE HOTEL GUESTS AND OWNER. AS HIS WIFE REACHED HIGHER GROUND SHE WATCHED AS THE RIVER ROSE, AND SURE ENOUGH ABOUT 30 MINUTES FROM THE TIME THEY HAD LEFT IT SWEPT DOWN SUDDENLY THROUGH THE GORGE. SHE WATCHED THE HOTEL FLOAT AWAY; CARS WERE BOBBING IN THE WATERS, EVEN A GREYHOUND BUS. THEIR CABINS CAME FLOATING DOWN THE RIVER. SHE DISCOVERED LATER THAT MANY WERE SAVED, HOWEVER, MANY REFUSED TO BELIEVE GARY, AND IN HIS ATTEMPT TO GET THEM TO GO, HE TOO HAD DIED IN THE TRAGEDY! THERE WAS NO QUESTION IN HIS MIND ABOUT GOING, ABOUT WHETHER THEY WOULD BELIEVE HIM, HE HAD TO GO! – Source Unknown
Can we afford to hesitate by asking "what if they don't believe me?" You will note Jesus' response to this same question; He lived and spoke out anyway!
The real question is not "What if they don't believe me?" it is "What if they do believe me?"!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we must not hesitate to go and share the goods news of salvation. We are not to be afraid of the response; we are to be faithful to the call!
I. FEAR OF FAILURE 4:1
A. Trial of Acceptance 4:la
1. Moses now attempts his 3rd excuse to not obey God's call on his life and it is full of self-pity and fear!
a. “What if they don't believe me?”
b. "Why waste my time if they don't respond?"
c. "Why look odd or like a fanatic if I don't have to?"
2. You will notice that Moses is not struggling with the message, the message was about salvation, he was struggling with being believed and being accepted!
a. He had a great message, one full of hope!
b. What slave didn't want to hear about freedom!?
c. His fear was about personal rejection!
3. “What if nobody follows me, if nobody takes me at my word, what if they don't even listen to me?”
a. However, he was not asked by God to worry about the response, just be faithful to the mission and the message!
b. God does not ask us to do something strictly based on numerical success; it is based on His will to get the message out!
ILLUS: IN A RECENT CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP HELD IN RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA, 123 OF THE TOP 128 RUNNERS MADE A SERIOUS ERROR; THEY MISSED A VERY IMPORTANT TURN! ONE COMPETITOR NAMED MIKE DELCAVO HOWEVER STAYED ON THE RIGHT COURSE AND BEGAN WAVING HIS ARMS FOR HIS FELLOW FOLLOWERS TO STAY WITH HIM. ONLY 4 OTHER RUNNERS STAYED WITH HIM ON THE RIGHT COURSE, THE OTHER 123 WENT THE WRONG WAY. AT THE END OF THE RACE THE REPORTERS ASKED HIM, "WHAT DID YOUR COMPETITORS THINK ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO GO THE WAY YOU DID?" HE SAID, "THEY THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY THAT I WENT THAT WAY, UNTIL THE END!" WHAT WAS IMPORTANT FOR HIM IS THAT HE WENT THE RIGHT WAY AND MADE EVERY ATTEMPT TO FLAG THE OTHERS TO JOIN HIM. THOSE WHO DID WERE GRATEFUL AT THE END; THOSE WHO LAUGHED DID NOT DO SO AT THE END HOWEVER. MIKE RAN THE RIGHT WAY EVEN THOUGH OTHERS DIDN'T LISTEN, AND SO SHOULD WE! – Source Unknown
4. Moses was more concerned about his own rejection than God's possible rejection!
a. Did he really think God would feel sorry for him?
b. Was his concern for his own rejection really worth having 3,000,000 fellow Jews continue in slavery?
c. What about us? Are we so afraid of rejection that we would rather let millions go to Hell rather than risk telling others about Christ and salvation? Are we any better than Moses?
B. Trial of Authority! 4:lb
1. Moses adds that they might even go so far as to claim "that the Lord did not appear to him!"
a. They would thus not even believe it even happened, that God had ever appeared to Moses and given him the authority to come to them!
b. It is easy to understand this thought of Moses; after all he did run away from Israel 40 years ago and just leave them!
c. He had been a failure before … S0 by what authority would he come now!
d. They might think he had gotten a little weird living in the desert for 40 years talking to sheep all the time!
2. His past mistakes were robbing him of the confidence he needed now!
3. If he was challenged, how could he prove that he came by God's authority to lead them, everything in his past demonstrated the life of a quitter!
4. He was going to need some help establishing God's authority in the eyes of others, this was going to take God's help, there would have to be evidence!
ILLUS: A YOUNG SOLDIER IN THE UNION ARMY DURING THE CIVIL WAR LOST HIS OLDER BROTHER AND HIS FATHER IN THE FIGHTING. HE WENT TO WASHINGTON D.C. TO SEE IF PRESIDENT LINCOLN WOULD GRANT HIM A DISCHARGE FROM THE WAR SO THAT HE COULD GO HOME AND TAKE CARE OF HIS MOTHER AND RUN THE FARM. WHEN HE ARRIVED IN WASHINGTON HE WAS FORBIDDEN TO SEE THE PRESIDENT. NO MATTER WHAT CHANNELS HE TRIED HE WAS REBUFFED. HE FINALLY SAT DOWN IN A PARK ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE WHITEHOUSE AND CRIED. A YOUNG BOY APPROACHED HIM AND ASKED WHY HE WAS CRYING. AFTER TELLING HIS STORY THE BOY GRABBED HIM BY THE ARM AND PULLED HIM ACROSS THE STREET TO THE BACK SIDE OF THE WHITEHOUSE, THERE THEY SLIPPED IN PAST THE GUARDS. AS THEY WALKED TOGETHER UP TOWARD THE OVAL OFFICE THE YOUNG MAN NOTICED THAT THE GUARDS ALL SUDDENLY STRAIGHTENED UP AND SALUTED AS THEY WALKED BY. THEY WALKED RIGHT INTO THE OVAL OFFICE WHERE PRESIDENT LINCOLN STOOD NEXT TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE LOOKING AT A MAP. WHEN LINCOLN LOOKED UP HE ASKED, "WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU TODD?" TODD WAS HIS SON, TODD SHARED THE BOY’S STORY AND THE PRESIDENT ISSUED A DISCHARGE! THE YOUNG SOLDIER HAD NO AUTHORITY ON HIS OWN, BUT THE RULER'S SON COULD BRING HIM INTO THE VERY PRESENCE OF POWER, AND GRANT HIM THE REQUEST HE NEEDED. WE GO INTO THE WORLD TOO WITH NOT JUST OUR OWN AUTHORITY TO SAVE THE LOST ... BUT WITH THE SON'S POWER! – Source Unknown
5. We can do nothing for God if we use the excuses "they might not believe me" or "they won't even believe you appeared to me!"
a. IF we do use these excuses what will be the results for those who are lost?
b. Jesus both called us to witness and has given us the authority to do so!
6. When does a candle begin to shine? As soon as it is lit!!! There is no excuse to wait, not even a new Christian has an excuse!
II. FREEDOM OF FAITH! 4:2-9
A. Test of Authority 4:2-5
1. To remove Moses’ excuse God asks a simple question, "WHAT IS THAT IN YOUR HAND?"
a. What did Moses need to be able to do the job?
b. Did his lack of a university degree in theology prevent him from leading others out of slavery?
c. Did he lack the necessary finances to accomplish the task?
2. All that he needed was what he already had at hand! When God calls us we already possess what is needed to fulfill the call to win the lost!
a. All Moses owned was a Shepherd’s staff.
b. It is true that by itself it was not a formidable weapon against Egypt, but yielded to God and used by Moses it was transformed into a powerful symbol of God’s power.
c. God can use the ordinary to do the extraordinary!
3. God asks Moses to throw it down first!
a. Ironically, Moses is asked to throw it away or cast it down first, only when it is out of Moses' hand and in the hands of God will it change!
b. Moses' obedience to lay it down first was critical to getting it back from God in a new way!
c. As he throws it down it becomes a snake, no doubt a venomous snake by the reaction of Moses! (Probably a cobra, which was the symbol of Egyptian authority and sovereignty, it was on Pharaoh’s headdress shaped in gold.)
4. Throwing it down was a way of symbolically giving it over to God, only then could it change into something more!!
a. Moses ran from this at first, he wanted to run from God's authority out of fear!
b. Did you know that God has given you authority to preach His good news already? ... Yet how many of us run from it in fear when we see it!?
5. Stranger yet, now God asks him to pick it back up again, and by the tail!
a. Any snake handler will tell you this is crazy, you never pick up a poisonous snake by the tail; you do it by the head if you want to live!
b. This request was a test of faith on Moses' part!
c. God was asking him to trust him to pick it up in a way the world would have scoffed at!
d. The question here was one of obedience! Moses faces his fear, and obeys God's Word (authority!) and reaches out and grabs it by the tail, and immediately it again became a staff.
6. This test was to be done in the eyes of Israel first, before doing it before Pharaoh!
a. This would help Israel see that indeed God's authority was with Moses!
b. Moses would not have to prove he had authority by great decrees, he would prove himself by faith & obedience!
c. This is still true today, we demonstrate we have God's authority when we are willing to act in faith and obey His Word!
7. Those who listen to the voices of discouragement will never succeed for God!
ILLUS: ENRICO CARUSO WAS TOLD BY ONE MUSIC TEACHER: "YOU CAN'T SING YOU HAVE NO VOICE AT ALL!" BEETHOVEN'S MUSIC TEACHER SAID ABOUT HIM, "AS A COMPOSER HE IS HOPELESS!" AN EDITOR OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT SAID THAT SHE WAS INCAPABLE OF WRITING ANYTHING THAT WOULD HAVE POPULAR APPEAL ... THAT OF COURSE WAS BEFORE HER WORK, "LITTLE WOMEN!" WALT DISNEY WAS ONCE FIRED BY A NEWSPAPER EDITOR BECAUSE HE THOUGHT WALT HAD NO GOOD IDEAS! F.W. WOOLWORTH WAS 21 WHEN HE GOT A JOB IN A STORE BUT WAS FORBIDDEN TO WAIT ON CUSTOMERS BECAUSE HE WAS SUPPOSE TO HAVE NO SENSE! THEY ALL HOWEVER IGNORED THE VOICES OF DISCOURAGEMENT AND WENT ON TO EXCELLENCE! – Source Unknown
8. Moses' example of obedience to God's Word won the right to exercise authority!
a. Israel would see this and understand that God had ordained this shepherd!
b. This would establish God's authority over Egypt later when the same incident has Moses' serpent consuming Egypt's!
c. The Israelites understood the symbol of the serpent as the sovereignty of authority; now Moses would be shown to have this greater authority ... he could lead!
B. Test of Acceptance 4:6-7
1. This next test was not shown to Pharaoh, only Israel, it was a demonstration that although Israel was full of sin and in need of cleansing they were being accepted by God and He would cleanse them!
a. Moses is instructed to put his hand into his cloak, and when he did it came out leprous!
b. Leprosy was a horrible disease, it was loathed by the Egyptians and in their writings they claimed this as one of the reasons they let Israel go finally, to get rid of the leprosy Israel carried!
c. Leprosy has often been a symbol of sin!
2. This demonstration showed that deep within there was uncleanness, but God asks Moses to put his hand once again in his cloak and this time due to nothing that Moses does it comes out totally clean!
a. This sign which was not shown to Pharaoh is an obvious attempt of God to show Israel that though unclean He would cleanse them, He would accept them unlike Egypt who stood only to reap judgment!
b. These slaves would need to know that the God of their fathers would accept them after all these years!
c. This is the message of salvation for Israel, yes they have been unclean, but in obedience to follow God's call they would come out clean!
The first sign would establish
Moses, the second would establish
4. Here God's unconditional love is shown to Israel by this miraculous cleansing of leprosy.
ILLUS: GROWING UP I HAD A GOOD FRIEND THAT I FREQUENTLY WENT OVER TO HIS HOUSE AFTER CHURCH FOR DINNER. HIS NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR I REMEMBER HAD A DIRTY BACK YARD WITH A DOG TIED UP NEAR A DOG HOUSE. THE DOG WAS A POOR EXAMPLE OF DOGS, IT WAS MANGY, IT WAS SKIN AND BONES AND LOOKED LIKE DEATH WARMED OVER. THE OWNERS NEXT DOOR TREATED IT LIKE A TOY, ALMOST NEVER BRINGING IT FOOD OR WATER. WHEN I WAS THERE I WOULD SNEAK APPLES AND WATER THROUGH THE FENCE. IRONICALLY HOWEVER, IF THE OWNERS CAME OUT, EVEN THOUGH THEY MIGHT AT TIMES KICK AND ABUSE THE DOG, THE DOG WOULD GREET THEM WITH A WAGGING TAIL AND A WILLINGNESS TO LICK THEIR FACES IN JOY! THIS ALWAYS AMAZED ME, CONSIDERING HOW MUCH ABUSE THE POOR DOG TOOK ALL THE TIME FROM THESE EVIL PEOPLE! HOW MUCH MORE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER UNCONDITIONALLY LOVES US, THOUGH WE HURL INSULTS AT HIM, THOUGH WE KICK AGAINST HIS WILL AT TIMES HIS LOVE REMAINS UNCONDITIONAL AND STRONG! HE LOVED ISRAEL, NOT BECAUSE THEY DESERVED IT BUT BECAUSE HE CHOSE TO LOVE THEM! THE WORLD KICKED AND ABUSED GOD'S SON WHEN HE CAME, YET “GOD SO LOVE THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM WILL NOT PERISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE!” JOHN 3:16 – Dennis Marquardt, from my childhood
5. Moses had no excuse not to go now, God had demonstrated to him that he had God's authority, that Israel would be cleansed, only one fear remained ... what about Egypt?!
C. Test of Accountability! 4:8-9
1. Would Egypt pose a threat to God's plans?
a. This final miracle would demonstrate that God's hand of judgment was on Egypt, a judgment of destruction!
b. The water being poured out turned to blood as it hit the ground; there was no undoing of this demonstration like the leprosy!
c. This test was repeated in Pharaoh's sight later as a sign that there was destruction facing Egypt, God's hand was against Egypt!
2. There comes a time when proof of rejection takes it's final toll, the evidence was clear, Egypt was not interested in God or His ways therefore the day of accountability had arrived!
a. All men and women will one day stand before God to give account of their life!
b. It won't be what we said we would do that will matter but what we actually did that will be revealed and judged!
ILLUS: LIKE THE YOUNG MAN WHO WAS BEING SENT TO SPAIN FOR HIS COMPANY FOR A TIME PERIOD OF SEVERAL MONTHS. HE ACCEPTED THE OFFER AT THE PROTEST OF HIS FIANCÉE WHO HE WAS ABOUT TO MARRY. SHE WAS WORRIED BECAUSE SHE KNEW THAT SPAIN HAD MANY BEAUTIFUL WOMEN AND HE WOULD BE THERE FOR QUITE A WHILE. SURE ENOUGH SHE BEGAN TO WORRY ABOUT HIM AND WHAT HE DID IN HIS SPARE TIME, SO SHE CAME UP WITH AN IDEA. IT DIDN'T HELP THAT IN A LETTER HE HAD RECENTLY SENT THAT HE ADMITTED TO THE TEMPTATION OF BEING UNFAITHFUL, BUT SO FAR HAD FOUGHT OFF THE TEMPTATIONS. ONE DAY HE RECEIVED A PACKAGE IN THE MAIL FROM HIS FIANCÉE BACK HOME. IN IT WAS A HARMONICA AND A NOTE THAT READ, "I'M SENDING THIS HARMONICA SO YOU CAN PRACTICE DURING YOUR SPARE TIME AND KEEP YOUR MIND OFF THE LOCAL GIRLS." HE WAS TOUCHED AND WROTE HER BACK THIS NOTE, "HONEY I WILL PRACTICE EVERY NIGHT AND I WILL ONLY THINK OF YOU!" WHEN THE TIME CAME FOR HIM TO RETURN HOME, SHE MET HIM AT THE AIRPORT ... AND AS HE RUSHED TOWARD HER TO EMBRACE HER SHE LIFTED UP HER HAND TO STOP HIM AND SAID, "HOLD ON THERE ... FIRST I WANT TO HEAR YOU PLAY THAT HARMONICA!" THE DAY OF ACCOUNTABILITY HAD COME! – Source Unknown
This final test would remove the fear from Moses and Israel that Egypt
was a threat. God would hold
a. This would calm Moses' fear in returning to Egypt!
b. This would calm Israel's fears about Egypt!
c. It would also show Israel that there is a price for unrepentant sin!
4. Moses' third excuse is unacceptable, therefore He must go!
5. These signs would help Moses with the struggle of "what if they don't believe me?"
6. God too will enable us to fulfill His call to save the lost, all we have to do is go and obey!
CONCLUSION: Moses and Israel's natural fears had to be replaced with supernatural faith! Moses' success was not in who he was but in what he had, a simple staff became the instrument of God to challenge the world! God will use what we already possess and when that is yielded to Him it is God's power to challenge "Egypt!" What has God put in your hand to use for Him? God uses what we give him!