This morning, this past week, and for all of your lives, you have been impacted by a man named Edouard Benedictus. How? Edouard was a French chemist who made a wonderful accidental discovery. One day in 1903, he was up on a ladder trying to grab a beaker, when it fell and broke on the floor below. Edouard descended the ladder, expecting to find glass fragments strewn about the floor of his lab. Instead, he found his beaker – shattered but nevertheless intact. Knowing that beakers do not behave this way when dropped from heights, he questioned his lab assistant and learned the beaker had previously held a liquid plastic solution – cellulose nitrate – which had apparently evaporated, leaving a slight film on the inside. Since it appeared clean, the assistant had simply put the beaker away without washing it.
That same week, Edouard read about the many automobile accidents in which people were often maimed or killed by the shattering glass of the windshields. He realized that his own accidental discovery held the key to making these windshields safer. Although his laminated glass was used in World War I gas masks before it made it to automobiles, by the 1930s car manufacturers were producing vehicles with this safety glass in them.
Edouard Benedictus may have been a good chemist, but his laminated glass was an accidental discovery. Had he not dropped that flask, he would have read the newspaper article and wondered if a solution to the problem would ever be found. We often encounter problems, too. Our world is brimming with them, but most of the time we see them as someone else’s problem to solve. We come across people with financial problems – whether they live on the street or down our street – but we do not try to help. We know others experiencing emotional problems, such as grief from a recent loss or the pain of divorce, but we might be a bit too busy to slow down to comfort them. Others have physical needs of all sorts, and we can think of all sorts of reasons why we aren’t the ones to bring much-needed support. So many people have deep spiritual needs, because they are disconnected from a holy God; they might not even be aware of this desperate need, but it is too awkward to bring it up. There are all sorts of problems in this world, but God has a solution, and yes, it involves YOU!
This truth is repeated over and over through examples in the Bible. One of those examples is found in the life of Moses. We learn about him in the book of Exodus, but those sections are so lengthy that we will use a much shorter summary, found in the book of Acts. Turn to Acts 7:17, where Stephen is speaking on the life of Moses. As most of you know, we are moving through the events of the Bible in a series called The Story. This is week 4 of 31, and the benefit is that we get to see God’s grand plan for humanity through the lens of several smaller events. You might remember from Pastor Mark’s sermon two weeks ago that God promised Abraham a nation. Last week, the incredible events of Joseph’s life brought his clan – it was not yet a nation – to Egypt. At that time, the Pharaoh was so happy with Joseph that he gave this family of 70 people the best lands in an area called Goshen. A lot had changed since that time, as we will see in our passage. Let’s read Acts 7:17-37:
17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. 20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. 23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. 30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. 33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’ 35 “This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and did wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. 37 “This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ – Act 7:17-37 NIV
And this is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
I wonder if most of the Israelite slaves had become disillusioned with the God of Abraham. After all, what good was it to become a nation if you were a slave nation? Nevertheless, God had a plan. He had actually given it to Abraham. Genesis 15:12-14 records this very specific prophecy:
As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.
It took 565 years for this prophecy to come to pass. Meanwhile, the Israelites slaved away, and that was all they had known for 400 years. The account we read of Moses makes him unique, because he was never subjected to the slavish conditions of his fellow people. Moses was passionate about their plight, and it appears that he had some sense that he needed to get involved in the solution, but he did it his way. It was a shortcut attempt at achieving God’s plan. The kill-one-guard-at-a-time approach was not God’s solution to the problem. I’ll give Moses some credit; perhaps he hoped he could incite a riot, but even that would have fallen short of what God intended. The result was a man who left Egypt without his people and lived in the desert for forty years.
God’s solution involves you despite your shortcomings
As a shepherd, Moses simply got used to his new life and had no intention of going back to Egypt again. Freeing his people was a lost cause, much like himself. But here we find a wonderful principle. God’s solution involves you despite your shortcomings. When God approached Moses through the burning bush, He announced His plan to save Israel. Moses undoubtedly approved of God’s plan…that is until God sent Moses to Egypt to lead the mission. Exodus 3 records this conversation:
“So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
In that chapter, Moses actually tries to get out of God’s plan several times before God finally tells him it was never an option. That is true for us, too. It is never an option to back out of God’s plan. People have been learning this truth for generations since Moses. It took Gideon awhile to warm up to the idea of delivering his people from oppression; Jonah tried to take a ship in the opposite direction of where he needed to go, only to be swallowed by a fish and taken to the Assyrians anyway; Esther was warned by her uncle that if she didn’t play her part in God’s plan, then God would find another deliverer, and she would be judged. Paul was confronted by Jesus and told what he “must” do. This same Paul complained to God of his shortcomings – things that kept him from being able to fulfill God’s plan as best he could. And how did God respond to this? He said, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore [Paul says] I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
I take great comfort in this principle. It seems like I am regularly put in some sort of situation that I’m not qualified to handle. What have you been given recently that is too big for you to handle? Sometimes people are good for making excuses for why they are unable to do something. God says that those excuses are why you can do something, because you will be dependent on Him. That is what God told Paul, and it is what He told Moses. When Moses told God that he was not qualified to lead Israel, God did not come back with any patronizing sentiments. There was no, “Just believe in yourself, Mosie,” or “You can do it!” When Moses said he was a nobody, God simply says, “I will go with you.” And that’s His promise for you. So what are your insecurities? God will work despite them. What are your inadequacies? He will work through them. Or are you unwilling to get involved? God never said it was an option! His solution involves you despite your shortcomings.
Following God’s solution involves overcoming obstacles
As you submit to Him, however, you will find another principle. Following God’s solution involves overcoming obstacles. The landscape of Christian history is littered with people who began to be used by God but gave up when it became too difficult. We are often led to believe the lie that life in God’s will should be smooth sailing. It’s anything but smooth sailing!
After Moses went back to Egypt, Exodus 4-5 record that he and his brother Aaron first went to the Israelite leaders, telling them God’s plan to deliver the nation and showing them miraculous signs God had given Moses to perform. The leaders were overjoyed and began to worship God. Then Moses went before Pharaoh. Pharaoh was unimpressed with Moses’ message and his miracles, and he called in the Israelite leaders to tell them they obviously had too much time on their hands if they were prone to such flights of fancy. Their punishment was that they had the same quota of bricks to make, but they had no straw to make them. Shocked and confused, the leaders lashed out at Moses. Why would God do this? Why would He bring Moses all this way if it was only going to make things worse for Israel? That was his question to God. God responded, telling Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country” (Exodus 6:1).
God allows obstacles to come into our path when we follow Him, but these obstacles have purposes to them. First, they help us to grow. The sweat and toil from working in a seemingly insurmountable task has a tremendous impact on our own growth. God uses it to build character in us and to prepare us for what lies ahead. Second, our obstacles help us to trust. “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh…because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” God’s plan was to display His power to Israel. He sent ten plagues their way, proving over and over again that the God of Israel is the one true God. And the Egyptians finally begged Israel to leave. Pharaoh quickly realized he had just let his labor force leave, so he roused the army to go after them. Again Israel had to trust God with an insurmountable obstacle. Just before Moses was used by God to part the Red See, he told Israel, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again” (Exodus 14:13). If God had made all of this easy, there would have been no need to recognize or trust God. The goal is to help us realize that we need His intervention.
There was a time in the history of Britain that the British people were overrun by invaders from the north. The Irish and the Picts continually attacked them, taking their crops, burning their villages, and plundering them. They saw Britons as fearful and weak-willed, which they were. This was in the fourth century, a long time before English people were characterized by phrases like, “Keep a stiff upper lip,” “Keep calm and carry on,” or, “Never, never, never give up.” The British people were so harrowed by these assaults that they sent a delegation to the Romans, who had recently left Britain, promising that they would live under Roman rule forever if they would just come back and protect them. Rome did come back and protect them, beating back the enemy, but they had no interest in staying. Not long afterward, the Romans received yet another plea for help. So they sent a legion to defeat the enemy, build a twelve foot wall across Britain, and help the people decide to fight. The Romans told them that the enemy had the advantage over them because of their own lack of spirit. Then they left the Britons alone to fend for themselves.
Do you ever feel like you have been left alone to fend for yourself? Does the idea of following God’s plan all the time seem impossible to do? Remember Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You haven’t been left to fend for yourself. You have obstacles that are designed to build growth and trust in you.
Following God’s solution brings deliverance
Sometimes it amazes me that God uses us at all. It isn’t as though God actually needed Moses to carry out this task. Like anything else from God, this task was God-sized from day one. When we take part in it, we learn that following God’s solution brings deliverance. Any time we get involved with God’s plan, we learn that His plan was bigger than we ever imagined. In our Story series, we talk about the Upper Story and the Lower Story. In the Lower Story, God brought deliverance from slavery to freedom. The nation of Israel saw God send plagues to judge the Egyptians. They heard the cries of the people, wailing over their losses, especially after the tenth plague – the death of all firstborn sons. They felt gold and jewelry being pressed into their hands from a fearful people who were desperate for them to leave. God had delivered them.
In the Upper Story, we find deliverance from despair to hope. That is what God does. He takes our hopeless situations, God brings unbelievable hope! Ultimately, God delivers us from death to life. This is what He had been doing through the nation of Israel. All of it was already foretold. All of humanity – not just Israel – has been sold into slavery, and God’s plan is deliverance. His plan with Israel, as we will see, was to build a nation of people holy to God. They were to be a light to the rest of the world to point it to the God who delivers us.
The tenth plague that was so devastating to Egypt was of the angel of death, who went through and killed the firstborn son in every household. The only protection from the angel was the blood of a spotless lamb. Families had to take a year old male lamb with no blemishes, slaughter it, and spread its blood on the top and side door frame of their homes. When the angel of death came to their home, it passed over that home and did not kill anyone there. There God gave a glimpse of His ultimate plan, because Jesus became the Passover Lamb for all of humanity. John the Baptist saw Jesus and called Him “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus Himself agrees, for He made similar claims throughout His earthly ministry. He once told the crowd, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full!” (John 10:10). God brings us from death to life.
Following God’s solution brings deliverance! Have you followed God’s solution for your life? God is not simply the one who delivers us from our physical problems. Those show that He cares enough about us to deliver us from our spiritual problems. Any earthly deliverance is wonderful, but it does not compare to the deliverance that comes when God has forgiven you of your sins and granted you eternal life in Him! Is God your Deliverer?
A missionary recounted to fellow missionaries at a missions conference a powerful story. He was once showing a film about Jesus to a foreign village. In that village was a blind woman by the name of Pani. She was listening to the Jesus film in her village as those with their sight were watching. Pani was greatly moved when, she heard on the film, Jesus restored the sight of the blind man. When Pani heard these words she cried out, “I want to receive my sight too.” At the conclusion of the film a miracle took place. Pani could see! Jesus restored her sight! As the mission conference attendees heard this wonderful story they began to show emotion for such a miracle. They were stopped of their emotional exuberance by the missionary as he gave them a reminder. The restoration of Pani’s sight was not the greatest miracle that evening. A greater miracle took place than the restoration of her sight. Pani received forgiveness of her sins that night by trusting Jesus as her Savior! She heard Jesus speak the sweetest words of all, “Your sins are forgiven.”
I hope you will be used of God to be the solution according to His plan for various problems or trials. But most of all, be used of God to have an eternal impact on the world around you. God’s plan is to deliver lost humanity from bondage. Have you been freed from bondage? Will you join God’s plan to reach the world around you? God has a solution, and yes, it involves YOU!