Even Moses Needed Help Sometimes
Exodus Even Moses Needed Help Sometimes 33:12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10; Matthew 22:15-22
Today is Laity Sunday, when we celebrate the leaders in the church who are not ordained clergy. In other words, we celebrate everyone in this church, and recognize that we are all part of God’s people, working together to promote the advancement of His Kingdom. We all know that our world is struggling and divided, with so many people suffering and isolated. We celebrate that even though some of our church family are not able to join us due to the pandemic, we are still a people with a purpose, joined together in the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. My greatest frustration as a pastor has been listening to those who don’t realize just how capable they are, who could do great things but lack the courage and self-confidence to try something new. If only they would take that first step! For none of us is alone; not only is the Spirit always with us, but we support each other and hopefully provide the encouragement everyone needs to succeed. When the Spirit is urging us to do something for God, we must respond and act, but sometimes that takes a little help from our church family. Sometimes, it takes a lot of help!
Moses did not choose to be a leader, in fact, he ran to Midian away from his people, but God found him anyway, and called him to serve. None of us have been called to be like Moses, very few have. But each of us is called in some way to be servants of God and leaders among his people. Even those who are in need or have physical problems that require them to be served by the church somehow can be leaders in the church. Paul teaches us that every part of the body has a function, and in God’s Kingdom all of us have a role to play, both the weak and the strong. Even Moses needed help and was given Aaron to make up for the abilities Moses thought he lacked. Later, Moses had to appoint leaders who could take over some of his responsibilities, as the people were too numerous, and Moses couldn’t do it all alone. Moses started out like us, just trying to live his life, with few apparent natural gifts, but he was given a job and a purpose by God and the strength in the Spirit to perform it. Like us, he would face setbacks, opposition, and frustrations to the point of wanting to give up, but God was with him and provided what was needed to complete Moses’ life’s work. God does the same for us.
Our reading from Exodus is just one scene in a much larger narrative arc. Moses descended Mt. Sinai with the tablets of stone and found the Israelites worshipping the golden calf and threw a justified hissy fit. Now he is back up on the mountain to get a second copy of the Ten Commandments after breaking the first set in anger. How frustrated Moses must feel, perhaps he even feels defeated and ready to give up on this people God has called him to lead. Surely, we can forgive Moses feeling a little inadequate and hesitant to lead this stiff-necked people any further. But really, the people should know better! Moses has done so much already and needs a little help. And so:
Moses said to the LORD, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exo 33:12-14 NRS)
You would think that after the plagues and the dividing of the Red Sea, not to mention the burning bush that started it all, as well as being led by pillars of fire and smoke, that Moses wouldn’t need any more signs of support from God. He should know who goes with them, perhaps he just needs some reassurance. So, what is it that makes him need even more help from God? The trigger seems to be the disobedience of the Israelites: you really can’t blame Moses since he was doing what God asked of him. It isn’t a moral failure or scandal on Moses’ part, unlike much of what we hear in the news about leaders today, but a failure of the people. But Moses still takes it hard. Isn’t it strange that after all that he has been through, all he has seen, Moses still needs more, he needs a taste of God’s glory to keep going; he still needs to know God’s ways. Or so he says, perhaps he just needs some reassurance that God is still with him, after the people have turned their backs to both God and Moses.
Moses even asks who will go with them, even though God has been with them all the way. This reminds me of when God first calls Moses, and Moses asks who he shall tell the people has sent him, and God tells him “I Am” has sent you. But he feels inadequate in his abilities, and asks for help from Aaron, who would prove to be a lesser man than Moses. It also reminds me of Elijah listening for God’s still small voice, a sign that God is still with him, even after many mighty acts but now alone and pursued by his enemies. So even after all that they have been through together, God needs to pass by and give Moses a taste of His glory, reassuring Moses that God is still with him, and will give him the strength to get moving forward again and to face what lies ahead.
Some of us have been at this a long time too and need to hear again that God is with us and will see us through this dark time; His Spirit is with us, guiding us and comforting us. When others let us down, the Spirit will carry us to victory. And not only will we complete our mission here, with the Spirit’s help, but God will bring us into His rest. There are two aspect of God here that may cause some tension for us: His entirely otherliness, beyond our comprehension and holy beyond comparison. But at the same time, He is also near to us, connected, immediate, and knowable to us. Like Moses, we cannot get a full look at His glory yet, but we are able to get a glimpse, enough to keep us going. He is glorious and majestic, so far above us, and yet He loves us and provides for us, coming down to us in the form of Jesus and abiding with us in the Spirit.
Paul reminds us that the Gospel is not just words, and we also know that the Bible is not just another book. When we read those words at home or hear them at church, or when someone shares with us the Gospel message or their experiences with Jesus, we are not hearing mere words, but are touched by God’s glory. As Paul writes:
we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it.. (1 Thess. 1:4-7)
These words of Paul now apply to us also, even in a very different time and place, as believers in Jesus who go forth from here in power in the Holy Spirit. Each of us not only has the power and gifting to serve here in our church, but also in our community, and will be given the words necessary to share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection with those who need to hear it. We carry that power and glory and seek to pass it on wherever we go. The Word of the Lord sounds forth from us, too. As we have imitated Christ and the fellow believers we have looked up to as role models, we are now to be examples for others, not just here in church but in our families, to our neighbors, and even to strangers. We may not have had face to face experiences with God as Moses did, but we still have access to the same glory and carry the same Spirit of power within us. For as Paul reminds us, we:
serve a living and true God, and…wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming. (1 Thess 1:9-10)
We face a very uncertain future, as a church, country and world. We each need to play our part, doing what God assigns us to do and boldly stepping into the future. This is not just a job for the clergy, but for each one of us. Remember that you never go alone, for not only are we all in this together, but the glory of God in the power of the Holy Spirit goes with us. He will get us where He wants us to go. Amen.