Here Am I…Send Aaron
March 27, 1994
Sometimes the mental pictures we have of certain Bible characters are all messed up. We get a particular image in our brain and it’s almost impossible to get it out. Take Moses, for instance. When I think of Moses, I think of Charleton Heston about to part the Red Sea. It’s Moses and then it’s Charleton Heston and then it’s Moses. Such is the power of the silver screen that for many of us, Charleton Heston is Moses. Once you’ve seen The Ten Commandments, no one else could ever be Moses. (Of course it gets confusing when you see Moses in a business suit doing commercials for the phone company.)
Now all of that is harmless enough, but sometimes our images get in the way of reality. Again, Moses is a good example. The image most of us have of Moses is the one found in Hebrews 11—the mighty hero of faith. Moses who stood up to Pharaoh, Moses who led the children of Israel across the Red Sea, Moses who received the Ten Commandments, Moses who spoke with God face to face. All those things are true. He was a hero and he was mighty in faith.
But there’s another side to the story. Back in the beginning, Moses was anything but a hero. You remember the story of the Burning Bush and how God spoke to Moses and said, “Moses, I’ve got a big job for you to do.” It turned out that God wanted Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. It was a big job and God needed a big man to do it. The only problem was, Moses didn’t want any part of it.
He had two basic objections to the whole plan. Number one, he didn’t want to mess with the Pharaoh. Number two, he didn’t think the people of Israel would follow him. In short, he thought the whole idea was a disaster and that maybe God should look somewhere else for a leader.
Thanks But No Thanks
Which brings us to Exodus 4. It begins with Moses asking a very practical question, “What if they do not believe me?” It’s a good question because there was nothing in Moses’ resume to suggest that he was God’s handpicked deliverer. In fact, the last he had been seen in these parts he was killing an Egyptian and hiding his body in the sand. And he ended up in the desert for forty years. No, he wasn’t the last man you’d figure to be a great hero, but he was close.
So he says to God, “What if?” Isn’t it fascinating how we all like to bargain with God?
There’s just something in us that makes us a little suspicious of God’s motives.
“Now Lord, what if I do speak up for you down at the office, and what if I get in trouble, what are You going to do then?” “And what if I do volunteer to teach Sunday School and the kids turn out to be brats, can I get out of it?” “And by the way, about this tithing my money, what if I give my money and then can’t make my car payment, will you make it for me?” “Lord, what if I take my vacation next summer and go to the mission field, what if I get some strange disease from eating overripe mangoes and my hair falls out, what then?”
You see, Moses had the same problem we all have. He understood exactly what God wanted him to do. It was perfectly clear. Moses, you’re the man to lead my people out of Egypt. That was the whole job description. Moses’ problem wasn’t his knowledge. He knew exactly what God wanted. And his problem wasn’t his education or his family background. God had already taken care of all that.
Moses’ problem was fear.
He was afraid that if he really did what God wanted him to do, it wouldn’t work out right. Something would go wrong. Like maybe the Pharaoh would have him thrown to the crocodiles or the children of Israel would laugh at him or he’d be trapped by the Red Sea and only a miracle could get him out.
Moses wanted perfect assurance of the end result before he took the first step. He wanted to know that everything would work out in the end. And so he’s out there by the Burning Bush trying to “what if” God to death.
We do the same thing. We qualify our obedience with a demand that God guarantee our success. Or least we demand that God guarantee us an easy road. Or at least we demand to know where the potholes are. And that’s why we hesitate to obey God. We’re trying to “what if” the Almighty.
Stalling For Time
Naturally it didn’t work out the way Moses thought it would. He gave God a “what if” and God gave him an object lesson. He said, “Moses, what is that in your hand?” And Moses said, “A staff.” And God said, “Throw it on the ground.”
Isn’t it interesting that God doesn’t bother to answer Moses’ question? That’s because Moses’ problem doesn’t have anything to do with his academic question. You see, when God calls you to do something, the “what ifs” don’t matter. When God calls you, it’s going to work out one way or the other. And all your little “what ifs” are just so much wasted time.
And that really is the issue, isn’t it?
As long as you are saying “what if,” you aren’t obeying. You’re negotiating. And there’s a big difference.
To obey means you say, “Lord, I’m ready. Now you work out the details.” To negotiate means you say, “Lord, you work out the details and then I’ll obey.” Get it straight. As long as you are negotiating with God, you are not obeying Him. You are just stalling for time.
Greater Than Snakes
So God says, “Throw the staff on the ground.” When he does, an amazing thing happens. The staff turned into a snake. Then God said, “Pick it up by the tail.” When Moses did, the snake turned back into a staff. A double miracle.
Now there are a couple of facts that will help you understand this a little better: Number one is that snakes represented power and life to the Egyptians. Number two is that snake-charming was a big business in ancient Egypt. The snake charmers had perfected the ability to make a snake go rigid by grasping it at the nape of the neck.
And here God is equipping Moses to defeat the snake-charmers at their own game. They could make a snake go rigid … but they couldn’t turn a staff into a snake! No magic in the world could do that. God is making the point that he is greater than all the power of Egypt. What their magicians did through a kind of sleight-of-hand, God did through His own power!
But there is an even greater point from this story. It’s down in verse 5: “This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.” God is working through the miracle so that Moses’ own people will believe him. The message is crystal-clear. All Moses has to do is obey and God will take care of the rest. If Moses needs a miracle, he’ll get one. If he needs an answer to prayer, it’s on the way. Whatever he needs, he’ll get, as long as he is obeying God.
Get the point clearly. For Moses there was one issue and one issue only. Will I obey God? Once the answer was yes, then the miracles kicked in. Why? Because once Moses said yes, God was obligated to take care of His servant.
“What Iffing” The Almighty
It’s the same way for you and me. When God calls us, will we obey? When we read it in the Word of God, will we obey? When we hear it from the pulpit, will we obey? When we discover it in our quiet time, will we obey? When we read it in a Christian magazine, will we obey? When a friend gives us a piece of advice that we recognize is of the Lord, will we obey?
When we negotiate, when we start “what iffing” the Almighty, we are just stalling for time. We want to make sure everything will work out before we say “yes.” God is not obligated to give us that assurance.
But when we dare to say “yes” to God, even when it hurts, even when it might cramp our lifestyle, even when it means changing the way we act and talk and dress and the places we go and the people we hang around with, when we dare to say, “Lord, I’ll get involved. I’ll stop sitting on the sidelines. Here am I. Send me.” Then, and only then, the miracles kick in, the answers begin to come, and the sun begins to shine again. Why? Because once we obey, God is obligated to take care of us. And He will. As He did for Moses, so He will do for us.
What Are You Willing To Do?
To say that is to say nothing more than what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) What God said to Moses and what Jesus said to his disciples, is the same word I declare to you this morning. Will we put the kingdom of God first in our affections? Will the things that matter most to God matter most to us?
Will the things that break God’s heart break our hearts?
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. What will you give to the world that He loved? Will you give your money? Will you give your vacation next year? Will you give a meal for an international student? Will you give the time it takes to write a letter? Will you give a year or two years or thirty years? Will you give your son or your daughter?
Last Tuesday afternoon the missionaries who are with us for the conference met with me for an hour and a half. I had a wonderful time listening to their stories. The one who talked the most was Eva Lodgaard. She told us all about her work with the Scripture Memory Mountain Mission in southeastern Kentucky. Eva has been on the field for 44 years. To put that in perspective, World War II was just ending when she moved to Kentucky.
In those days you didn’t need as much to get started as you need now. Eva told us how one of the Sunday School classes here at Calvary (back then it was called the Madison Street Bible Church) pledged $15 a month in support. Then someone else pledged $5 a month. That’s all she had—$20 in support. But off she went to the mountains of Kentucky.
In the beginning she didn’t have a car, but it didn’t matter because those roads were mostly ruts in the ground. Sometimes they would walk from place to place, sometimes in the early years they would ride horses, going from school to school telling those forgotten mountain children about the Lord Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t an easy life. Nobody had much money, there wasn’t any electricity back in those hollows. People were dirt-poor. Not everyone was glad to see them.
Over these 44 years Eva has seen God do some remarkable things—most especially how God brought into existence the remarkable Camp Nathanael. That camp has become the hub and focus of the mission work and each summer hundreds of boys and girls memorize Bible verses so they can come to camp.
I forgot the most important thing. Eva is one of us. She was a part of the church while she was a student at Moody and she was a part of the “Go Ye” Missions prayer group. We are her home church.
You think about it and you wonder what 44 years of mission work in the hills of southeastern Kentucky will do to a person. It’s not a glamorous life and you won’t read about her in People magazine. You wonder, are there any regrets? Does she wish she had spent her life in some more fashionable endeavor?
I got my answer last Tuesday and then she repeated it yesterday at the Missions Breakfast. Eva said, “If my body could take it, I would do it all over again.” Then she said, “It’s all been good.” She was smiling when she said it.
The Miracles Followed After Them
I make a couple of simple comments on Eva’s story. The most obvious one is that she is a genuine hero of the faith. She represents all that is good and right about this church. If you want to know why missions is a big deal around here, take a look at Eva. And we’ve got 27 more just like her. That’s why we spend $150,000 a year on world missions. Because our money is going to support men and women of faith who aren’t in it for the money or to build a personal empire. They go because God has called them and they must obey.
You see, the reason our missionaries are on the field is because they didn’t try to “what if” God. They didn’t make any deals. They didn’t demand any assurances in advance. God called and they obeyed. And the miracles followed after them.
Where does that leave us? We gaze silently, baffled and amazed by those who have chosen the path of obedience. They have blazed a trail for us to follow. Will we obey, or will we stall for time, making silly excuses while the world burns and God waits for His sleepy children to wake up?