Knowing God Through Obedience Exodus 7:1-7
Today we conclude the sermon series based on Dr. Henry Blackaby’s book, Seven Realities for Experiencing God. Let’s quickly put up a list of the first six principles we have covered.
1. God is always at work around you.
2. God pursues a loving relationship with you.
3. God invites you to join him in the work he is doing.
4. God speaks to us.
5. We will experience a crisis of faith.
6. We must make adjustments in order to obey God. So, today we are covering the seventh principle which is “We come to know God by experience as we obey him.” That’s a reasonable statement isn’t it. If we have worked through the previous six steps, then the final step to take is to be obedient or do what God has for us to do and as we obey, we have first-hand knowledge of God. We have knowledge of God because we have experienced his presence living through us
. Let’s wrap up this series with the help of Dr. Blackaby and look at 5 aspects of obedience as it applies to our relationship with God. I want to use the seventh chapter of Exodus this morning to cover these five principles. Exodus 7:1-2 “The Lord said to Moses, see I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be like a prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites to go out of this land.”
Obedience Requires Focus There is a three-letter word that I think could be easy to overlook but contains the first essential principle for obedience. God told Moses, “see.” The purpose in the word “see is for getting Moses focused, dialed into what God was about to do. God told Moses you are going to be like God to Pharaoh = meaning you’re going to be demonstrating my power. Aaron s going to be like a prophet = meaning helping you communicate my will. All of this Moses isn’t to improve conditions in Egypt. No, watering down the mission, no taking a little off the edge of what I am calling you to do. Moses you and Aaron are going to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of the land. When God tells Moses to “see” it’s a moment God tightens up Moses’ focus so he can be fully obedient. If you haven’t read the book of Exodus much, you need to know this message from God comes right before the first of the ten miracles or plagues are carried out by Moses and Aaron. When God says “see” God was preparing Moses to stay focused on the purpose for the power God was about to demonstrate through Moses and Aaron. It would have been a waste of time for the miracles to be done but the Israelites remain slaves. Our obedience follows our focus. If we don’t know what God wants us to do, then we cannot know whether we are being obedient to him. To have spiritual focus is to make a claim what God has spoken to us. New Vision Statement The great thing about our new vision statement, “We are a caring and serving church for changing times” is that statement gives us focus of what we should be doing, and we can measure whether we are living out that vision statement.
• We can use that vision statement as a church to decide what action of compassion we should do or not do.
• We can use it to answer the question, does a ministry and action of the church contain compassion and serve others or just serve ourselves.
• We count after three months six months or a year what ministries of compassion and serving have we carried out.
• Without focus faithful obedience an experience of God is unlikely to happen.
Obedience Requires Taking God at His Word God said, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring my people the Israelites, company by company, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgement.” vs.3-4 Wow, that’s big talk. There are some major claims of what God said would happen and some of it is confusing.
• God claimed he was going to cause Pharaoh to be stubborn and not give in easily to let the people go free.
• Yet Moses will perform multiple signs and miracles so the people would be set free
• God would bring all the people out of slavery; not just improve conditions a little – but bring deliverance.
Egypt was probably the greatest power in that region at that time. It was two guys with a stick against a King and his army. But we know who won. Moses and Aaron experienced victory because at some point they had to take God at his word. Taking God at his word means we do what God has instructed us to do even though the situation looks impossible or improbable.
• We speak the word of kindness to a person who doesn’t deserve it.
• We hear the difficult news even though it scares us.
• We give generously even though we can think of other places to spend our money
. • We take time to be with God even though we don’t think we have time.
You might have a situation today where all that remains is taking God at His word and giving that word life through your actions. Obedience is a Process Notice something else in verse three of this passage. God said to Moses, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt.” Our obedience to God is a growing or evolving process. God told Moses upfront, this isn’t going to be resolved in one miracle. This is not going to be one and done moment. There is not going to be one plague or miracle I am going to do that will cause Pharaoh to step back and say, okay I get it, your God is the God, take off. The multiple signs and wonders gradually built the credibility that the One who was putting the words and power into Moses and Aaron was the real deal. I might be wrong, and this interpretation might not be original, but could it be while Pharaoh’s heart grew callous toward being obedient to God, plague after plague, miracle after miracle, the faith and heart of Moses and Aaron was growing with trust in God? God has designed us in many ways to develop and evolve as people and grow in maturity. The obedience in Moses and Aaron had to grow. I love a point Dr. Blackaby makes about Abraham in Genesis 22. He writes how Genesis 22 contains the story where God test how far Abraham had come in trusting God. God tells Abraham to take his only son Isaac, the heir to succeed Abraham and fulfill God’s promise from Abraham a great nation would come. God gives instruction that the only heir Abraham had was to be sacrificed to God. I won’t go through any more of the story other than to say, we know just as Abraham raised his knife to sacrifice Isaac, God waved Abraham off and provides an alternative sacrifice. God assured Abraham there was no need to harm Isaac. Blackaby makes the point that this story didn’t occur on the front end of Abraham’s relationship with God; it happened after Abraham had been walking with God for over thirty years. God allowed for Abraham to have other test, other experiences of God before he tested Abraham in such a way that revealed Abraham’s total surrender to God. Obedience is a process. Jesus took three years to develop his disciples, obedience is a process. Can you see a process of growing obedience that God has been working in your life? Can you identify movement of growing obedience from the basic, the low risk to the more demanding ways God has called you to follow? Obedience is about Knowing God; Not Accumulating Blessings God then said to Moses, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.” God assures Moses through the signs and wonders of what God was going to do, Pharaoh and everyone else would know, understand and see God is Lord over all. I remember a former Old Testament professor who once explained why we read in Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion” (Israel). He said the reason why they wept was because they thought that since they were no longer in Israel, God could not be with them. They had been carried to a strange land. He said there was an ancient understanding that gods and spirits were geographically limited. In other words, your gods didn’t travel. The Israelites thought they could not experience God unless they were back in Israel. Keep that in mind now in what God told Moses. “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.” God was saying, He was not bound or limited by circumstance of geography, He is the Lord. They were going to know or understand that. Moses, Aaron and their people also would know. The greatest blessing is not to acquire the blessings of God but to know him. The greatest blessing is to be able to say especially when situations are difficult, I have seen God move before and in His own way, He will move now. There is no price you can pay for that inner peace and hope. Dr. Ravi Zacharias often points out in his talks a word from I believe C.S Lewis, or maybe C.K. Chesterson that people do not grow weary from suffering but from experiencing pleasure and discovering pleasure does not bring the fulfillment they expected. They are missing God. The Apostle Paul once said, “I count everything else as rubbish/trash compared to knowing God’s greatness.” Philippians 3:8 On this Sunday before Thanksgiving, knowing God more deeply, grows our gratitude because we have seen the way God has moved and knowing God in deeper ways is more rewarding than anything else. Obedience Reveals Love. The scripture says, “Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.” vs.7-6 I don’t know of anywhere in the stories about Moses where it describes his is love for God. The Old Testament stresses more about faithfulness and faithfulness seen through obedience to God. But last week I said all of scriptures and especially the Old Testament needs to be interpreted through the eyes of Jesus, meaning his teachings and his life. Listen to something Jesus said to his inner circle of disciples. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me…” John 14:21 Remember, Jesus fulfilled the law and teachings of the Old Testament. Jesus took the laws and teachings a step further. • He modeled relationships, which the Old Testament laws and principles were guiding us to in the first place, a perfect relationship with God and others. • Jesus was radical and the first to pray to God using the title “Papa” or “Father” a very affectionate term. • He was the first to talk about unconditional agape love. • He referred to those who followed him as children of God, even “little ones” meaning people new in their faith. • He understood our faith flows from our hearts. Jesus said our obedience to God reveals our love and where our hearts really stand with God. Disobedience reveals as Blackaby expressed it, “we have a heart problem.” It doesn’t mean we are condemned or rejected, by God; but disobedience means there is a problem in our hearts if we are living contently with disobedience and our constant response is “I know I should but.” We come to know God, and others know of God through our obedience. God wants us to have more than a virtual relationship in our minds. He will only settle for his presence alive in us. Where he is speaking and directing you today, take Him at his word and put his word into action. Amen