Written For Our Instruction
Study Guide, March 4, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
One of the great things about our Men’s Retreats is that we come away with so many ‘take-aways’ that we can further dwell upon and then pass on to others. They are ‘take-aways’ that become ‘give-aways’. And since we had so many ‘take-aways’ from our Retreat we thought it would be especially helpful to turn some of them into ‘give-aways’ for the Chapel family.
And, of course, some are just helpful everyday kind of things to know, some like we have talked about recently, like a few of these observations from women about men. Just practical stuff, okay? Women have observed why men love to barbecue: It’s because whenever danger and fire are involved, men love to be in on that! Some of you guys probably have some pretty good barbecue horror stories, right? I had a friend that put a bunch of flour all over some pork chops and then put them on an open fire…you talk about charcoal flamed meat…they were torched! Women also say that lots of men suffer from ‘open-cupboard-itis’ and ‘open-cabinet-itis’. I think for most guys, it would just make sense to be able to just look and see what’s available in the cupboards without the doors covering up the stuff, you know? Men think in terms of ‘what’s practical’. How about this department store issue? Women have observed that some men can slip into a coma while waiting for their wife to come out of a fitting room. So, you might want to just check on them once in a while. And we’ve touched on this one a bit, but it’s amazing how frustrated it makes women to realize that men really can think about ‘nothing’… and for a considerable amount of time. When a man is asked what he is thinking about and if he says “Nothing”, he really means it, even though it’s hard for women to imagine you can actually think about ‘nothing’!
Anyway, these are just a few practical everyday kind of things to ponder, you know? But now, the Apostle Paul pointed out that one of the reasons the Scriptures record so many observations about so many different men and women is because of this: “…Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Rom 15:4 NASU Thank the Lord, there is hope for us all! Right? Therefore, through the lives of these real men and real women in real places in real life situations we can learn how God really works in and with and through real people; people like us; you and me. And we also marveled over the wondrous truth that no matter how much you may have messed up or flubbed up or tripped up, if you will look up and listen up and fess up to God, He will pick you up and fix you up and fill you up and wonderfully use you for the glory of God and the blessings of others and yourself as well.
So lets look at some of those ‘take-aways’ from some of those people that were written about for our instruction. And we’re not going to go through the story line of each character, rather we’re going to just highlight some of the significant things we learn form their adventures. So first lets’ look at some observations about Moses.
You all know the classic response that Moses gave to the Lord after the Lord met him on Mt. Horeb, which is another name for Mt. Sinai, from the midst of a burning bush and revealed His great plan to use him to assist God in the deliverance of the Israelites. Yeah, we are told that Moses’ response was: “But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” Ex 4:10 NLT Tongue-tied and tangled words….yeah, I can relate to that. But this was Moses’ defense. And notice that he said: “I’m not very good with words. I never have been.” “Oh, really?” Now, the Scriptures don’t say that the Lord said “Oh really?”. But God very well could have, because when we come to the detailed description of Moses in Acts 7:22 it reveals something quite different: “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds.” NASU How about that? You see, ‘a man of power in words’ and ‘not very good with words’ doesn’t really add up, does it? So what happened from the time that Moses was ‘powerful in words’ to ‘not very good with words’? Did he really lose his power or ability like he said? Or did he lose something else? It seems more like how Tony Evans put it: It seems that Moses had lost his ‘mojo’. Moses lost his ‘mojo’: He had lost that spark…that energy…that enthusiasm he once had. For some reason he had become discouraged, but not necessarily humble, yet. And we’ll talk more about that in a bit. But what had discouraged him?
Well, since we also find out more ‘behind the scenes’ information from the book of Acts we learn this: “But when he was approaching the age of forty, it entered his mind to visit his brethren, the sons of Israel. And when he saw one of them being treated unjustly, he defended him and took vengeance for the oppressed by striking down the Egyptian. And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.” Acts 7:23-25 NASU
And you know that it all went downhill from there. But what was the problem here? At our retreat we talked a lot about what the problem might have been…It might have been a communication problem. It doesn’t appear that Moses had let many Israelites in on his plan to deliver them. It’s hard to get behind a plan that you have not been told anything about, right? It’s like Dr. Evans said, “I’m not quite sure what Moses long term plan was. I don’t know if he thought he was going to deliver the Israelites one Egyptian at a time or if he was just trying to make a point.”1 Or it might have been an identification plan. Apparently Moses had been developing a deepening empathy for the suffering of his brethren for quite some time. We learn in Hebrews 11 about this: Heb 11:24-26- “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” NASU Wow, this is just another reason Moses is one of the heroes of the faith. And how amazing that, although it’s not explained how, somehow he had come to realize that, kind of like Esther, that he had been appointed for such a time as this, appointed to be used by God to be a deliverer of the Israelites. But when he first took action on this delivering mission, his brethren didn’t really identify with him as their ‘Deliverer’. They didn’t seem to know what he was up to.
But notice again what especially took a toll on Moses’ mojo: “And he supposed his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand.” Don’t you hate it when that happens? You think people understand your good intentions and that you are trying to help them, but….What are we to do? Now, we’re veering off road a little here, but we’ll get back. But we ought to point out that this is a common challenge for all of us when we have good intentions and really are trying to help people. But often-times when you try to help people they aren’t going to understand your good intentions nor the good that you are trying to do for them. So what are we to do? Sometimes it just comes down to this: “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.” (That’s from the Paradoxical Commandments by Kent Keith)
We are to relate to others based upon who and what we are, not based upon who and what they are. We don’t wait for people to deserve good before doing good, we do good whenever the good we are considering doing is the right thing to do. That’s called grace living and grace giving, and God always rewards our grace living and grace giving, regardless of what others do about it. So do good anyway.
But now we need to point out one caveat to all of this: Remember, we’re talking about ‘good intentions’ here, like Moses had…and yet it all went south. One of the reoccurring reminders from the Scriptures concerning our good intentions is this: ‘Without God’s directions guiding our good intentions we set ourselves and others up for a lot of unnecessary frustrations.’ And these unnecessary frustrations may have some really long-lasting complications; like forty years in the desert here with Moses.
Friends, our good intentions are good things; they really are. The fact that you have so many good intentions about doing good for your family, your friends, your co-workers and such is good and noble and honorable. However, like every good thing: In order to turn your good intentions into godly actions you need to let God in on them, and right from the start. You need to first ask God for His directions and first look into His instructions in order to guide you and guard you in acting on any of your good intentions.
Now Solomon had not yet written this before Moses took actions on his good intentions, but the Spirit of God within him was trying to impress him with this: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Prov 3:5-6 NLT It’s quite clear that Moses had not first cleared his ‘good intentions’ with God, nor had first gotten God’s directions as to how to go about acting on his strong impressions that he was going to be a part of assisting in the deliverance of his brethren. In fact, it took a long time for him to start trusting in the Lord with all of his heart and not leaning on his own understanding. He learned the hard way. Like some people have asked: “Is there any other way?” It often doesn’t seem like it, you know? Like that DC Talk song, “Why is it that I always have to learn the hard way?” Well, I guess because we are so often so hard headed, right? But Moses learned the hard way that Moses was never supposed to be in charge; he was suppose to be controlled by the only One who is to rightfully be in charge over our lives.
But here’s the wonderful thing about that: When God does have charge over our life and when we then do look to God for His directions for guiding our good intentions…oh sure, there may still be push-back from others we are trying to help, but now God will have our back in whatever good we are trying to do, as well as we will have His blessing on whatever good we are trying to do. And when God has your back and you have God’s blessing on whatever you’re trying to do, then in God’s book, your good intentions become godly deeds and actions, regardless of the immediate outcomes. Amen to that?
But now one more thing that we earlier pointed out that Moses had to learn in order to experience God’s fellowship and for God to be able to use him. And that is: humility. I had never heard it put this way before, but when God told Moses to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground, it was like, as Dr. Evans put it; it was like God saying; “Moses, while you’re standing on top of those sandals in front of Me, you are still too high. You need to come down off those sandals and back to the dust, from which I made you.” Moses had to think about who God really was and who he really was.
Most people in the world have no idea how dependent they are upon the mercies and grace of God for everything they have and everything they are. John the Baptist once asked: “So what do you have that has not been given to you?” We could start with breath, and then all of our abilities and talents and mental capabilities and on and on. Two things are required for Biblical humility: You have to know who your Maker is; and you have to know that your Maker made you. And you see, when you know this, then you become humble before your Maker, and then your Maker will begin to exalt you with a sense of your significance; knowing that He made you with special purposes in mind for you. But again, only when you know who your Maker is can you then know who you are, and can then begin to have an understanding that since God made you that means that He has special purposes for you. And you can’t get anymore significant than that.
Let the world chase after success for themselves; you focus on significance for God; significance in letting God use you for the purposes that He made you. For nothing satisfies any more than that!
1. Dr. Tony Evans, It’s Not Too Late, p 23