A sermon by Harry Goodhew
A great deal is said about Moses in the Bible: about his birth, life, death, and his achievements. He certainly was unique, called by God for a particular task, and in that regard, he is impossible to copy. He filled a special place in the history of God’s dealings with His people and in the redemption of the world. Along with Elijah he appeared with the Lord Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration and talked of the ‘exodus’ our Lord would soon accomplish in Jerusalem by his death and resurrection.
Yet while so singular there is said of him something that we can emulate. In the Letter to the Hebrews it is said of him that he was not intimidated by the anger or power of the mighty Pharaoh. Rather, he gained both courage and perspective from another source. It’s that source and that perspective that I would like us to consider with you today.
One translation of Hebrews 11:27 puts it this way, “he (Moses) persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.”
Moses had previously fled from Egypt because of the Pharaoh’s intention to kill him. While shepherding the flocks of his father-in-law he approached the mountain of God and there the Angel of the Lord spoke to him. The Unseen One addressed him from the bush that burned but was not consumed. That voice charged him with the task of leading God’s people out of their Egyptian bondage. That wasn’t a task that Moses greatly relished. He had already fled the country because of the wrath of Pharaoh. The Pharaoh was a supreme monarch and, at the time, king of one of the world’s greatest powers. To confront and challenge such an opponent was, from a human perspective, preposterous. His own record in Egypt made him an even less than desirable candidate for the role.
Yet, in the end, he did it. And he did it because he saw, beyond Pharaoh and the might of Egypt, the One who could not be seen. He had heard his voice and knew his directions. Confidence in that almighty Unseen One carried him forward. He knew that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator of all, stood with him.
Many years after Moses, and perhaps 60 or more years after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, a vision of the realities of heaven was given to John, the author of the Book of Revelation for seven of the churches in the Roman Province of Asia. The purpose of the vision was to encourage and stir up those churches as they experienced a range of challenges: violent persecution, internal heresy, loss of love and faith, and spiritual decline. Their earthly circumstances were all too obvious. They needed something else. They needed an altogether different perspective.
The vision in chapters 4 and 5 of the throne of God in heaven and of Christ, the Lamb of God, presiding over the unfolding events of human history was to enable them to see what their persecutors could not see – The Unseen Lord of heaven and earth. Their calling, like that of Moses before them, was to take courage and strength from looking to those unseen realities and to remain steadfast.
You and I are called to live by that same ‘Moses principle’. The principle of living daily as people who see Him Who is Invisible: people who look beyond the immediate to what lies behind it all, looking beyond what is seen and presently experienced.
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke chapter 12. A vast crowd had gathered to see and hear Jesus. He said:
“I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.
“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.
“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
In a crowd, in a world full of millions of people, is it realistic to think that God, the Almighty God, has any interest in me, one, lone, solitary individual? To live by the Moses principle is to see that each one of us is known to Him and is precious to Him.
When I think of myself in relation to God, how am I to think as I reflect on my own weaknesses and failings? Paul wrote to his friends in Colossae who were ordinary believers. They were not perfect and they needed to grow and mature as followers of Christ. He said to them (Colossians 3:1-4):
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
They were to see themselves as “hidden with Christ in God”. The unseen dimension of their lives was to be held permanently in their thinking about themselves and about life. It was to be the foundation of all else that they were being called upon to be and to do. And you and I are called to see ourselves where they were, “hidden with Christ in God”. The language of the passage gives the sense that being hidden is the now permanent state of the believer – concealed, covered, hidden, and kept secret with Christ in God. This position, granted by grace alone, through faith in Christ, is the unseen reality by which you and I are called to live, to serve, and to grow as followers of the Lord Jesus.
Psalm 91 is a wonderful Psalm. It makes promises of God’s protection and care in a range of life circumstances. Clearly, it was a Psalm that Jesus knew well for Satan used words from it to tempt him in the wilderness to put God to an unwarranted and inappropriate test.
The psalm does not envisage that the one who looks to God will pass through life without challenges for it says in verse 15 “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him”
What the psalm does do is present the Unseen One as the refuge and fortress of the one who trusts in him. Listen to the opening seven verses of the palm.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
It is grace and mercy, it is the virtue of our Lord’s death and resurrection, it is the gift of God’s own Spirit to dwell in us that allows us to take this psalm to ourselves and live in its embrace.
The psalm presents a picture similar to that which Paul laid out for the Colossians. The one, who dwells in the hidden or sheltered place of God himself, who lodges in the Almighty, will confidently say to the Lord you are my refuge and my fortress.
This is the confession of one who sees the Unseen and takes his or her position in Him as the provision for all of life’s circumstances. It is easy enough to say these things when life is smooth and pleasant, the test is to assert them and live by them when life presents us with bruising and scaring experiences, when we cannot see any way out of our dilemmas. Then, in those circumstances, more than ever we need to look to the One who is unseen and hold onto his promises. He once said to His people through the prophet Isaiah (42:2-3)
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
If you and I are looking for a supreme example of what it means to live life as seeing Him who is Invisible we need look no further than our Lord himself. Recall these words from the Letter to the Hebrews (12:1-2)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It was the Unseen One and the joys of those unseen realities that focused the attention of the Lord Jesus and took him through the cross and on to the throne of glory.
Let’s ask God to enable us to live by the ‘Moses principle”, that is, always seeing Him who is invisible.