Introduction Dietmar Joosten
We greet everybody this morning. This is a wonderful opportunity to listen to the living word of God.
It is grace to be faithful to the Lord and such grace if the Lord finds you while you are still young to be ready to do His calling. It is wonderful if people can be faithful to the end.
I would like to share a portion which has been a blessing to me: Being called by the Lord, being ready, being open to His command.
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. Acts 7:30
Stephen was selected in the early church to see to the needs of feeding the people. He was a man full of the Spirit of God. Such a person will experience opposition. As God worked in revival power, they also experienced opposition - heavy, extreme opposition. Jesus said that if they hated Me, they would hate you too, because the servant is not greater than his Master. It is wonderful to have a Master. If you want to walk alone - do it, but you will often experience bumps, accidents, mishaps and hardships which you may be unable to cope with.
Stephen was faithful in his position although he was accused of blasphemy against God, the Temple and the laws of Moses. It is astounding that learned men, teachers of the Scripture, can bring unfounded and non-Scriptural accusations that a man of God, a servant of the Lord, the anointed, must endure and seek to exist and defend himself for the sake of righteousness - for the sake of the gospel itself.
Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit when he had to bring his so-to-say last defence, his testimony with words that coincided with Scripture. He testifies about this Moses who was called by God in the wilderness.
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’ Acts 7:30-34
Is this not amazing that the God of the universe, the Creator, would say to a man, “Come. I will send you to Egypt.” Have you heard these words? Come. In the last book of the Bible the invitation is “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Rev 22:17 You will only experience life and the living water that will quench your thirst if you obey this call and come.
This text is so rich but, in this hour, may you experience that you Christ is beckoning you to come. Moses was 40 years old when he tried to intervene in a fight in Egypt and took the side of an Israelite. He handled it rather roughly and the Egyptian died in the process. Possibly because he was the son of the princess, there was no inquiry. After some time, he saw two Israelites quarrelling and said, “I want to bring peace. You are brothers, why should you fight?” He had the spirit of the peacemaker whom the Lord calls blessed ‘for they shall be called the sons of God’. If there is a fight, do you want to join? Are you the one who stirs the pot, or do you try to bring peace and discourage friction? We should seek the peace of Christ, not the peace of own flesh, our own doing, ourselves. Moses unexpectedly got a reply from the men, “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us?” Little did that Israelite know that he was speaking words of truth and even prophecy. Moses would become a ruler and a judge. Then Moses feared that his deed would come to light. He ran away from Egypt into exile in the land of Midian, where he hid.
After 40 years had passed, when Moses was about 80 years old, he had this encounter with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God chooses those whom He wills. He can choose you while you are a child. Can you sound God’s trumpet. We have often experienced God has used children in this revival to sound his trumpet.
Although Moses had many excuses – Lord, I stutter, I mumble, I will not be able to stand before Pharoah - but when God calls you to come, do not say that you cannot. He who calls from heaven will be with you. He will supply your every need. He will be in your mouth. He will be in you. You will be in Him and clothed with Christ. He says, that even if you have to stand before rulers, governors and powers, do not fear what you will say, for I will be with you and give you the words you need to say at that time.
We thank God who calls people in their old age. He hears the groaning of His people and sees their oppression and He comes down to deliver.
Over the last weeks and months, we have heard God calling us out of a life of degradation and shame to Him who comes down to deliver us. Who else could have gone or should have gone if Moses had said he could not? Who will go if you do not answer God’s call?
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. Acts 7:30
He met him in the wilderness. The wilderness is turned into a garden because God was there. John the Baptist, that man greater than any man born of a woman, preached and lived in the wilderness of Judea. People from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas came to hear him because he brought a message. It was not his message. The Pharisees, scribes and the learned men sent their people to ask, “Who are you? Are you Elijah or one of the prophets?” What did He say of Himself? “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. The One who is coming supersedes me. I am not even worthy to untie His sandals.”
The Lord found a Moses, of whom it was later said that he was the friend of God and the humblest man on earth. Satan is bent on destroying you and stopping you - using all his evil forces, because he knows with what calling you have been called and what fruit will result from it.
Therefore, the Bible urges us to be watchful and pray because the devil walks around like a roaring lion seeking those whom he can devour. You may notice someone who commits himself, a person who answers the call, but then suddenly he is whisked away, and the lion has devoured him. He no longer sees things as he saw them before. Why? He is in the belly of Satan, the roaring lion. But for grace, Jonah was in the belly of the fish and he cried there for three days and nights. He describes what he experienced there. Jonah had an opportunity because God prepared a fish for Jonah to bring him back from his disillusionment. But once you are in the belly of that roaring lion, how will you get out? It will be darkness. How did you end up there? The word of God warns us: be careful of people who are dressed in sheep’s clothing, but are ravenous wolves inside. They are full of deception and contradiction. If this wolf calls you and you listen, he will tear you to pieces.
We thank the Lord for a Moses. When he saw the fire in the bush, he marvelled at the sight. It was marvellous to him. It was attractive. It was not just a story of a miracle that God was performing. Perhaps, “I know about miracles… I have heard about that… it is not as wonderful as they say it is… it could have been a lightning strike… I have often seen it in the wilderness…” Never write off something which God does, lest God writes you off. Moses drew near to observe. He left his path because this fire was marvellous to him. The bush was not consumed. It was fuelled by something which he had not understood before. God is a consuming fire, but we are not consumed by it if we listen to His call saying, “Come and I will send you!” This sight was good in his eyes. It was right. It was righteous. He was drawn to it. When we were young, we were drawn, we were attracted, there was something more about KwaSizabantu than our homes. We were drawn to the Lord’s servants. We longed to be there on the weekends. We asked our parents to take us there. We are thankful today that our parents were willing to listen to their children who said that they could hear that voice calling them. Children, it does not end with just marvelling at the sight. You must have a wish to be there, a desire to behold God’s wonders and God among His people.
When Moses got closer, the voice of God spoke and said, “I am the God of your fathers!” How great is this God! Do you know Him? Can you lay down your life at His feet? The God of Abraham, the God who called him out of his land, Mesopotamia, and said, “Come out from your relatives, your house, and go to a place which I will show you.” God took him from one place to the next and he was not concerned about building a house for himself and his family, he lived in tents. The Bible says that he saw the heavenly dwelling that God would prepare for him one day and therefore he was prepared to live in tents.
God spoke to this father, Abraham, about things He purposed, of all the promises to Abraham which would be fulfilled through Moses. That was the life of Abraham, the father of the faith. He was told that his descendants would be as the stars in the sky. He did not say that I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He said I AM. The great I AM is coming to us. He says come! What prospects are there for our lives? Why hold on to sin and degradation, your failures and things of which you are ashamed and wish nobody knew about. Why listen to the deception of your own feelings and heart?
Moses heard it. Have you heard God speaking? Moses heard it. He needed no interpretation. And he trembled. He dared not look. When God presents Himself then the next step is to take your sandals off your feet for the place on which you stand is holy.
God has these wonderful promises. He says who He is, but He also says, if you want to come, take off your sandals because He wants to use a pure, clean vessel. This was the life that Moses lived. Whenever he displeased God, he was struck. He knew that he dare not be disobedient. He dared not allow anything between the One who called him and his own heart.
Stephen related all this; he did not read it. We do not read that he was a scribe who knew the Scriptures well, but what he said was scriptural. It was as in Genesis. He related it as true. If God calls you and if you are filled with His Spirit, your words and testimony will be true. Today people speak the oracles of God, yet people are enraged by it, they are cut to the heart and are prepared to kill God’s servants because the truth pierces their own hearts. They are unwilling to bow their stiff necks and hard hearts.
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. Acts 7:54 Matthew Henry even likens it to the parable where the Lord says that while the Lord tarried the one servant beat his fellow servants and when the Lord returns, He will take that person and cut him asunder.
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:57-60
In verse 55, some say he was probably elevated into heaven to see what he testified about. Others say that God came down to Stephen. It could be both. When God comes down, He speaks, He directs, and does things that some humans do not understand and do not want to understand because of their pride, position and their own aims and purposes.
10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” Titus 1:10 – 12
In Titus we read about this type of person. Are you a Cretan? Were you born in Crete? That you belong to the group of liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons? Paul says this testimony is true.
13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. Titus 1:13 – 16
Do you want to escape from these professors of God? Have a heart like Moses. Turn aside from your way. Behold the call of the Lord. Who else can save you out of your own misery and depression because of what you have heard and what professing Christians have told you? Where are the ones who belong to the I AM. Your end may come soon. What is your hope? Darkness? Distrust, disunity?
God’s people were groaning and crying out for salvation. They were bound by the chains of hell and demons. God came down because He heard their cry. Do you hear His voice that says come and I will send you? Be obedient, like Moses. It is your hope. If you are looking for hope, there is hope – a cleansed life of obedience to the great I AM. Turn from deceivers, turn from fables, turn from your own knowledge and own experiences. Behold Him who burns in the bush. He says, “Come, I will send you - the great I AM who is with Moses!” Moses could say: Lord, this is what they are saying, how must I answer? Take your rod and throw it on the ground before them. Take your rod and lift it up and the Red Sea parted.
Without God we are useless, lost, forsaken. Do not rely on your own mind. Do not rely on your own heart. You will go astray, for sure. You may reach heights that others have not in position, honour, finances, but God’s people will remain groaning. God will have to pass you by because of your unwillingness.
Do you see this wonderful picture of fitting into the plan of God, into what He has pre-ordained? All His promises came into fulfilment, and even Stephen, the first martyr, could experience glory at the end of his life when he fell asleep and was gathered to those who serve that great and almighty I AM.
Conclusion Dietmar Joosten
God dealt with Moses for 40 years. God was not satisfied until he had reached that perfection in his life. It was not easy. There was a time in my life when I reached a point where I said, “Moses had 40 years, Dietmar you have not had that yet.” God deals differently with people, but I used that as an excuse and said that Moses had 40 years so there was hope for me also. God was not satisfied until the cup was full and ready to overflow.
When we deal with our children, we feel sorry for them. When we realise that God is dealing with our children, we feel sorry for them after a single week. God will stop working when He thinks the time is ready. Children, if your parents teach you something, it is not for a day, it is for life. If you tell a lie, remove it. Why? Because the Lord Jesus wants you. Bow children, bow.
Parents, do you complete the work of God in your child’s life? Can God use you? Are we prepared? Do we bow when God deals with our lives? He has been visiting different families and children. When God visits your family do you find fault? God deals with you because He wants to help you, not the person next to you. If someone advises you, you feel as though it is the end of the world for you. Remember Moses. God never stopped until the job was done.
Uncle Heino once said, “Show me parents, show me a family where the parents were strict and upright and where there was discipline, show me where those children are today.” I say, show me a family where things are not done in that manner and yet the children stay intact and at home. We always turn things upside down. We say that we are no longer under bondage. You are only under the bondage of your own sin, you are not free, that is why you talk in this manner. Moses, you will only be right if you remove those shoes. Remove those things which are stopping you, then I will speak to you.
Children, the Lord Jesus tells you today, “Come, come to Me. I need you.”