Moses' grasp [understanding] of God's nature grew enormously. When God directed Moses to return to Egypt and lead Israel to freedom, Moses' understanding of God's nature was extremely poor. The last place Moses wanted to be was in Egypt--for any reason!
The fact that Moses grew from doubting to confidence in God should be of great encouragement to us.
In attempts to evade responsibility, Moses asked God relevant questions [relevant from Moses' perspective]. (1) "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11) Had he not failed miserably in an earlier attempt to help Israel? (2) "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" (Exodus 3:13) In Egypt, Israel knew many, many gods by name. Moses saw this as a significant problem. (3) "What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.' " (Exodus 4:1). Moses surely experienced a "credibility problem" in his previous attempt to help Israel!
To us, it is always relevant to question God. Note Moses sense of no self esteem, fear of being challenged, and fear of rejection. Also note the matter was not about Moses, but about God.
Then Moses tried to reject God's mission--he simply was not the man for the job! "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." (Exodus 4:10)
Bottom line: Moses simply did not wish to do what God wanted done.
At this point in his life, Moses' grasp of God's nature was poor!
At this point, Moses does not challenge either our faith or our faithfulness.
Even though Moses went, he was easily discouraged. The core of his discouragement arose from his failure to grasp God's nature. The first time he requested Pharaoh to release Israel, Pharaoh not only refused, but also increased the misery of the Israelites. Pharaoh's rejection crushed Moses and brought the Israelite taskmasters' contempt! (Exodus 5:21) In his misery, Moses made this statement to God: "Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all" (Exodus 5:23). Evidently Moses forgot God's earlier statement: "But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go." (Exodus 3:19, 20)
It is easy to be discouraged. It is easy to forget God's promises of difficult situations and determined resistance.
The man who had serious doubts became the man who had no doubts. By the time Moses led Israel out of Egypt he knew and trusted God. He knew the nature of the Self Existent One. As his knowledge of God's nature grew, his faith in God grew. His confidence in God grew so much that this man who doubted and was easily discouraged developed a special relationship with God. God spoke to Moses "face to face just as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11).
Make a strong connection between knowing God's nature and growing in faith.
When Miriam and Aaron challenged Moses for leadership over Israel, God said this about Moses: "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?" God spoke to His prophets in visions and dreams, but He spoke to Moses "mouth to mouth." God had communicated with Miriam and Aaron, but never in as personal way as he talked with Moses.
Note God's special appreciation for Moses (even when Moses began as a man who had no confidence and tried to reject God's purposes).
Moses even reflected the nature of the Christ who would be born hundreds of years later! (Deuteronomy 18:15,18; Acts 3:19-26--especially note verse 22.) The close of Deuteronomy noted Moses significance in his acceptance by God (Deuteronomy 34:10-12).
The readings declare Moses' nature and dependence on God reflected the nature and dependence on God later found in Jesus Christ.
God's first declaration of His holy nature is found in Exodus 20:4-6: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
God clearly distinguished Himself from idolatry. God was not pleased if Israel simply worshipped something! The distinction between God and idolatry begins with God's holy nature.
God is vastly superior to anything people can imagine or think. Any idol is vastly inferior to God. God alone is deserving and worthy of human worship. God's people know and respect that truth! God, because of His nature, can call people to accountability! He is generous with His mercy to those who love Him and surrender to Him. Only He is holy!
Only God is worthy of worship! His worthiness and His holiness are inseparable.
God's second declaration of His holy nature is found in Exodus 34:6,7. God instructed Moses to return to the mountain with two stone tablets to replace the broken tablets. When Moses arrived, the Lord descended in a cloud and made this statement about himself: "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
"It is because of Who I am that makes Me deserving of Israel's devotion." Israel was not called to follow an inferior God!
Consider the declarations of what God is: (1) compassionate; (2) full of grace; (3) full of mercy; (4) full of truth; (5) a promise keeper; and (6) forgiving. Consider the declarations of what He is not: (1) He is not easily, quickly angered; (2) He will not ignore rebellion.
Note God's Self-Declarations about His nature. He is caring, generous, and trustworthy. People can depend on Him without questioning or fear!
Consider the numerous times scripture acknowledges God's nature. Read Deuteronomy 4:31, 5:9, 10, and 7:9, 10. Read Psalm 86:15, a prayer; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 108:4, a song; and Psalm 145:8, praise.
If time permits, have different students read each scripture. Note how God's nature supports the situation within the read scripture.
Note an angry Jonah's declaration of "I knew you are that way" when God forgave the people of Ninevah (Jonah 4:2); Israel's acknowledgment of the doubts of their ancestors in Nehemiah 9:17; and Joel's call for Israel's internal repentance (Joel 2:13).
Jonah did not want God to be true to His nature if it meant the Assyrians would receive forgiveness. Israel knew their ancestors failed to place their confidence in God. Joel focused on the fact that Israel's basic problem was internal.
After noting this emphasis on God's nature, read again Paul's statement in Romans 2:4: "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" It is not understanding human wickedness that moves us to repent. It is God's goodness. God's nature is good beyond human comprehension. God's goodness shames us so we cannot ignore the incredible injustice of our evil.
People are moved to redirect life and lifestyles when (1) they grasp how good God is and (2) grasp how unjust human evil is.
He moved from being a man who tried to excuse himself from responsibility to being a man with absolute confidence in God. It changed him from being a doubter to being a person who, in full faith, could talk to God "face to face."
The first occasion was in the opening of the law He gave Israel. The second was when He came to Moses on the mount to replace the tablets of stone.
Jonah wanted the Assyrians to suffer the consequences of their wickedness, not be given compassion. Israel needed to understand that their ancestors' failures could be traced to their failure to have confidence in God. Joel wanted Israel to realize that "going through the external motions" was meaningless if they had no internal commitment to God.
God's goodness, not the consequences of human evil, is the foundation for a lasting, continuing commitment to a changed life.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 5
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