I would like to look at Moses in much the same way as I did Daniel last week. We can find the ancestors of New Testament soul-winners in the first half of our Bibles. As I said last week, they are not precise duplicates or images of today’s evangelists, but they do have characteristics and traits which can help in our service and ministry. I expect that this will be our last attempt at this line of reasoning. And hopefully you won’t think that I am being overly repetitious.
But you may be wondering: if Moses is our soul-winner, then who is he trying to win to the Lord? To answer that, I remind you we have been learning over the last few weeks that every needy soul is basically the same – and yet slightly different. And that means we can’t talk to a Roman Catholic about Christ in the say way that we would to a Muslim. And efforts to win our grandchildren to Christ should be different than what we do in talking to a stranger. When we come to Moses, I’d like you to picture him witnessing to two very different people.
Unlike our last message, this time let’s start with our evangelist.
Have you ever thought about Moses as a soul-winner? I can’t say that I ever did before this week. He is better known as the law-giver, and sometimes we speak of the “Law of Moses,” even if that isn’t true. Sometimes he is described as Israel’s deliverer, and sometimes he is a type of Christ – Israel’s saviour.
In this, we come to our first lesson and application. Over the years, I have known a few professional evangelists, and I’ve read of many more. Most of them went from church/church, preaching the gospel, as if the pastor and its members never did. They ministered to those churches upon invitation. Rarely did they ever do any personal soul-winning. For their service they received offerings or in some cases they were promised a certain compensation. We can’t find this sort of ministry in the Bible, even in those scriptures which speak of “evangelists.” Yes, there were people whose lives were totally dedicated to sharing Christ with others – like Philip. But then there were thousands more, like Aquila and Priscilla – tent-makers and house-wives – who also loved to share the message of Christ. Upon Saul’s persecution of the Jerusalem church, most of its members scattered. And virtually everyone became an evangelist or soul-winner, sharing the Word with others – Acts 8:4. In Moses’ case, no one is going to accuse him of primarily being a soul-winner, and yet in a way he was. And the same should be true of every saint, whether he is a parent, a plumber, or the president of a bank.
Consider Moses’ early life. Despite being a part of God’s chosen generation, royal priesthood and peculiar people, his home life was far from ideal. Can you imagine as an infant or toddler being placed in a foster home, and then to be nursed by his true mother and perhaps visited by his older siblings once in a while? This was not common. It was probably confusing to a little guy. He might have considered himself to have been rejected by his nation, his church and especially by his father. He might have considered these things to be good reasons not to serve the God of Israel. But he didn’t.
His education was of the highest caliber. He went to prep school and then on to EU – Egypt’s University. In those schools, he was taught to look at life through Christless spectacles, even though his mother taught him the truth. He was faced with the dual, contradictory education which many kids face today. You might say, he was taught a rudimentary form of evolution and instilled with the survival of the fittest. Such things distract young Christians today, but they didn’t distract Moses. He knew who he was – an Israelite – a son of Levi and a grandson of Jacob and Abraham.
And with that knowledge, added to the privileged position he held, he took it upon himself to serve God. But it was like a great many professing Christians; his service was in the strength of the flesh. He even killed an unjust Egyptian, thinking that he doing God a favor. But that backfired, just as fleshly service always does, and at the age of forty he fled into the desert – fugitive. For the next forty years, this child and servant of God, floundered around doing almost nothing for the Lord.
And then one day he was brought into the throne room of God, just like Isaiah, and there the Lord spoke to him. At the burning bush God basically said, “Whom shall I send into Egypt, and who will go for us?” Moses replied, “Don’t look at me, Lord. I am a nobody, a failure, a has been. I am no good for you.” As I’ve said before, that is exactly the person the Lord loves to use – not the wise men, not the mighty, not the noble, but rather the God-chosen, foolish souls to confound the pharaohs of this world.
It is a good thing to be humble before the Lord, but it is something else to use humility in order to rebel. Don’t think that the Lord is pleased with our arguments against speaking out for Him. He is not. “Moses, I know better than you do, how weak and sinful you are.” God demonstrated to Moses that He knew exactly how naturally sinful and corrupt he was. “Put thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.” Like all the rest of us, Moses was just a sinner saved by grace, but called by God to serve and glorify Him.
One of the lessons to take from this Old Testament mirror includes the fact that Moses’ brethren didn’t understand or appreciate him. Israel was in a state of disrepair and despair; enslaved in a land of utter worldliness. God’s people were not evangelical for a variety of reasons, even though they had been chosen and called for that purpose. And when Moses was set on fire by and for the Lord, his own people feared and shunned him. They had been “going to church,” because it was expected of them, but their hearts were empty and their worship was robotic. Revival may start with a single person, but it will never be a revival if it is kept confined to that one person. It took the persistence of Moses and the miraculous power of God to convince Israel of God’s upcoming blessings.
Moses’ gospel ministry began with a message of condemnation, and that remained its primary characteristic. And I don’t have a problem with that. As Paul said, “the law is holy, and just and good,” and through it, like a school teacher, sinners are taught that they need a Saviour. But in addition to the law, Moses knew something very special about the Lord. “And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, (Jehovah) the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” The Lord graciously gave to Moses a glimpse of Saviour, which he was then to share with Israel.
I have heard preachers go overboard emphasizing that the Lord Jesus said, “I AM the light of the world,” “I AM the bread of life,” “I AM the water of life. I am, I am, I am. I have heard pastors tell their congregations that in these things Christ was calling Himself “Jehovah.” I have a hard time doing that. But John 8 is a statement above and beyond: When the Jews were arguing with Christ about His relationship with Abraham, “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I AM” – John 8:58. At that point, the Jews picked up stones with which to kill Him, because they saw this as blasphemy. And correctly so. The Christ of the New Testament, is the “I am” who was speaking to Moses. And that “I am” is the person Moses was to share with Israel and Pharaoh. Moses preached the law, as modern evangelists should do, but he also knew a little about Lord Jesus. A true presentation of the gospel includes a message of sin’s condemnation as well as God’s salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
It might be argued that Moses’ ministry was primarily directed toward the king of Egypt, the Pharaoh.
What might we learn about our ministry by considering the evangelistic contact between Moses and Pharaoh? First, we notice that they were indirectly related to one another. They were raised in different wings of the same royal palace. Moses’ foster mother was either the daughter of this Egyptian king or his sister. And when we present the gospel to another person, we are giving it to a distant relative. We all share the same blood, despite a few differences in blood-type. And in our original state, our sin was no less offensive to God than that of the drug dealer or child molester. The unsaved son of a Baptist preacher is no less a rebel than the atheistic evolutionist. They both need to be saved. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.”
Pharaoh was not an unreligious man. As it is commonly put these days, he was to some degree “spiritual.” At various points in Egyptian history the king would have honored the god Re, because he was considered to be the incarnation of Re. And there was the sun god, a cow goddess and a cat goddess. There was Isis, who was often depicted holding the child Horus, which looks very much like the Madonna. Her husband was Osiris. These are just the tip of the religious iceberg in Egypt. There was some reverence for the River Nile, and crocodiles, frogs, beatles, and on and on. Like all men everywhere, Pharaoh was religious; he had his false gods and corrupted worship. And like most sinners, Pharaoh’s religion placed him in a godlike position. Satan came to the mother of us all and asked, “Don’t you want to be like God?” “Don’t you want to be the god of your life?” Pharaoh’s religion distinctly put him in that spot – human deification.
In Exodus 7 Moses went into the presence of Pharaoh carrying the message of Jehovah. Obviously it wasn’t in a church context, and Moses wasn’t preaching a large congregation. It was a form of personal work, personal evangelism, if it could have gotten as far as the good news. Essentially he said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” “Submit yourself to the Lord God.” But Pharaoh refused, so Moses’ co-evangelist, Aaron, threw their symbol of authority, their staff, down onto the floor, and it turned into a serpent. But the false religionists of the day duplicated the miracle, until God’s serpent devoured the others. God’s truth, when used wisely, silences and defeats the claims of all false religion. Nevertheless, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by permitting the man’s native rebellion to reject truth.
Then began an epic war between Jehovah and the gods of the Egyptians. A war we call “the Ten Plagues.” After each battle Moses returned to Pharaoh with the exhortation: “repent.” There is little use to talk to a lost person about the Saviour, if first there isn’t any humble repentance. This is one of the sad failures of modern evangelism: the presentation of Christ to people who aren’t ready to truly admit their need of a Saviour. Plague after plague successively crushed Egypt into the sand, forcing the king’s head to turn toward the Lord. Finally by Exodus 10 Pharaoh was willing to admit, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you.” But those were mere words – temporary words, and immediately his heart was hardened again. He might have said, just like another king centuries later: “almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”
Eventually came the work of God’s death angel. Exodus 12:29 – “And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.”
So with the blessing, or curse, of the Passover, Israel left Egypt, heading toward the Red Sea. You might say that the Egyptians “got religion,” and Pharaoh told Israel they could leave to worship God. But two chapters later, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel” – Exodus 14:8. Shortly thereafter Pharaoh and his army died at the hands of God in the midst of the Red Sea. The lesson is: despite the reciting of the proper words, no sinner is going to truly repent and trust God’s message of grace until he is given a new heart – until he is regenerated. “Ye must be born again.”
Moses’ efforts at bringing this royal sinner to Christ failed. Despite what I have heard in dozens of sermons and what I have read in a dozen books, in simply following the rules of the expert evangelists there is no guarantee of success. Everything is dependent upon the grace of God. Pray for the grace of God. If you are lost, pray for the grace of God. If you would like to be a soul-winner, pray for the grace of God. Salvation, from beginning to end is dependent upon the grace of God.
Pharaoh was not converted under the ministry of Moses, but someone else was.
Moses also had a ministry within his own nation Israel.
At the beginning of the Book of Exodus, Israel was no more a people of God than Egypt. Oh, yes, they bore the right name. They were children of Jacob (Israel), and children of the father of the faithful, Abraham. They knew and practiced some of the traditions their forefathers shared with them about the Lord. They weren’t exactly idolaters; they weren’t following the Egyptians into their religious dens of iniquity. But with some exceptions, they weren’t properly worshiping the one true and living God, and they knew nothing about the One who is the great “I am.”
If I can depict them this way, they were connected to Christendom by name, but without knowing Christ. They were still enslaved by the world – Satan’s world. They were consumed with making a living and trying to stay alive, enjoying what little free time they had with their families, but not with God. Carnal society had put a ring in their nose and was pulling them around like cattle. They were building palaces and tombs to be left in the world, laying up no treasure in Heaven.
When Moses came on the scene, having been directed to do so by God, they didn’t appreciate him. Moses wasn’t eloquent; he confessed to having a slow tongue. His sermons weren’t impressive. He was an old man; his pilgrimage in life was passing 80 years. Nevertheless when he and Aaron initially gathered the elders of Israel together, the people rejoiced in God’s message of hope, and “then they bowed their heads and worshipped.” They were not averse to reigniting their old family religion, so long as it didn’t involve anything radical. When Pharaoh rejected Moses’ request for religious liberty, Israel turned against the man of God. They said, “Ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.” “You said that we’d would enjoy serving God, but you didn’t tell us how difficult it would be. We are not willing to make the sacrifices you are asking us to make.”
During some of the early plagues, Israel suffered as much as the Egyptians did. Many in Israel were as stubborn and rebellious as their oppressors. They were ashamed of the evangelical ministry of Moses. They wanted him to shut up. They saw, tasted and smelled the blood-colored water of the Nile. The frogs, lice and flies were everywhere, even in their slave shacks. But then when the three days of thick, palpable darkness fell on Egypt, “the children of Israel, had light in their dwellings.”
I look at the ten plagues and see Pharaoh becoming harder and harder, more stubborn and more rebellious. He was moving farther and farther from repentance before God, and from humbly acknowledging his sin. But Israel, on the other hand, was becoming more and more submissive before the Lord. The witness of Moses was being carried with the blessing of the Holy Spirit in their hearts – hearts which at first had been as stubborn as Pharaoh’s. The soul-winner must not give up, because he has no idea how long it will be before the Lord will bless with the conversion of that soul.
Eventually came the day when God told his servant that it was time to close the deal and to present the Saviour. Israel was told that just like Egypt, they stood on the brink of death and hell. There was no difference between the idolaters and the religious, empty, professing Christians. They were told that soon God’s angel of Judgment would sweep over the land, and there would be death in every home, every stable, every sheepfold and probably in every chicken coop. The people who had believed Moses’ gospel of death, destruction and grace and salvation, also took the blood of Christ’s representative, the Passover Lamb, and applied it to the door of their hearts. With the application of that blood, people were redeemed. You could say, that night souls were saved.
Israel had to endure the same preparatory work that Nebuchadezzar endured before he would admit that Jehovah is God, repenting and trusting Him. The sufferings of the first of God’s plagues made Israel forget the sufferings of their sinful lives under the Egyptians. The conviction of God made them miserable in different way than the Egyptians had done. And when the good news of salvation was made plain, they, as a nation, jumped at the offer of redemption. The ministry of God’s soul-winner in this case was blessed with souls.
Again, just as we did last week, I ask you, what will it take before you acknowledge your need of the Lord? How much will you have to suffer before you listen to the words of God’s evangelist? Will the death angel have to come to your house before you acknowledge there is judgment for sin? Will you have to smell the fire and brimstone before you look into the face of the Good Shepherd? What will it take, Mr. Pharaoh, to bring you to your knees before the Lord? Moses’ message, just like John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ was “repent.” Moses’ illustration, just like Paul’s message was “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Will you repent and trust Christ Jesus this morning?