In A Flame Of Fire
April 10th, 1979 @ 12:00 PM
IN A FLAME OF FIRE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-10-79 12:00 p.m.
The background of these days when Israel and Egypt are hammering out a peace treaty between them brought to my heart the subject of the pre-Easter services for this week. They concern Israel and the land of Egypt; and taking the subject of "Moses, the Mighty Man of God": yesterday, The Renunciation, leaving the throne of the pharaohs to cast his lot with the oppressed people of God; then tomorrow, The Great Non-Compromiser; and Thursday at high noon, The Birthday of the People of God; and Friday, the day our Lord was crucified, The Blood of the Passover Lamb; and today, In a Flame of Fire.
This Moses, that I think in the court was known as Ramoses, in tribute to the great sun god Ra, and because of the antipathy of the Jewish people to idolatry, they cut off the Ra, and he came to be known through all history that followed after as Moses, but almost certainly, practically, certainly, in the court of the pharaohs, as the crown prince of the house, and heir apparent to the throne, he was known as Ramoses. And when he came of age, he made the great decision to cast his life and lot with the people of the Lord, despised, enslaved, as they were. But the offer on his part to be a deliverer and a savior was rejected and repudiated by his own people. And I can imagine it was an infinite and indescribable surprise to Ramoses, when offering to be their savior and their champion and their deliverer, they rejected him. The seventh chapter of the Book of Acts writes of that rejection like this:
And when Moses was full forty years old. . .he visited his brethren. . .and seeing them suffer, he defended the oppressed, and smote the Egyptian taskmaster: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would have delivered them: but they understood not. And when he sought to intervene in an altercation between his own people, they thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? Will you kill us, as you did the Egyptian yesterday?
And that leads to the second part of the infinite despair of Ramoses. Not only did his people refuse him and thrust him away, saying, "Who made you a prince over us?" [Exodus 2:14; Acts 7:27], but apparently there was a change in the kingdom, and a new pharaoh came into the land [Exodus 1:8], and he consolidated his hold upon the throne of Egypt by pointing to Moses as a murderer who had cast his life and lot with the people of God, those hated and despised and enslaved Hebrews, and had himself murdered with his own hand an Egyptian officer. Therefore, in dejection and despair and defeat, Ramoses fled from the land, crossed the desert, threaded his way through the passes of the rugged Sinaitic Peninsula, and weary, undone, in absolute despair, sat down, weary, by a well [Exodus 2:11-15].
I might comment here, incidentally, how the providences of God always work mightily and wonderfully. Had Ramoses succeeded to the throne of the pharaohs, he would have been just another mummy, cataloged with a certain number that you could go visit in a museum in Cairo; "God having some greater and better thing for him," as God’s providences always do for us [Hebrews 11:40].
Seated weary by the well, you have here an instance of the tremendous personal strength and power of Ramoses. While he was seated there, there came the seven daughters of Reuel, that’s his name; it means "friend of God," Reuel; Jethro is his title as the high priest of Midian. Seated there by the well, in despair and dejection, there came the seven daughters of the priest of Midian, Reuel, Jethro, to water their flocks [Exodus 2:15-16]. And as has been the custom in the dismal past, as those seven daughters drew water for their flocks, other shepherds came and drove the girls away, and took the water they had drawn to quench the thirst of their own sheep. And when Moses saw that, and as you know, he had a volative spirit – it was because of the violence of the internal spirit of Moses that he finally was precluded from entering the Promised Land [Numbers 20:10-12] – when Moses saw that, he arose, just this one man himself, and he cast out all of those shepherds, all of them, threw them out; and then helped those seven daughters water their flocks [Exodus 2:17]. And when they returned home to Jethro, to Reuel, their father, they told him about that unusual Egyptian [Exodus 2:18-19]. Think of the strength of that man: with the power of his hand he slew that taskmaster in Egypt [Exodus 2:12]. You remember what Deuteronomy 34 says about him? When God said time for him to be translated, to die, a hundred twenty years of age, his eye was not dim, nor was his natural force abated; this Ramoses of Egypt [Deuteronomy 34:7]. So Jethro says, "Where is he?" And their father says, "I cannot imagine your leaving him in the desert. Fetch him" [Exodus 2:18-20]. So Moses comes, and he becomes the son-in-law of Jethro [Exodus 2:21]. And for forty years, for forty years, for forty interminable years, he lives the life of a humble shepherd [Acts 7:29-30]. The golden scepter that was in his grasp has been exchanged for a shepherd’s crook. And the man who once had an empire in his grasp is now nursing and caring for little lambs, for forty years; God having prepared some mightier and better thing for Ramoses.
Then upon a day – and how many times is this true in our lives? – upon a day, nothing especial about that day, it was like any other ordinary day. There were no angel faces seen, there were no heavenly voices heard; the sun rose as it had every other day for forty interminable years. But that day – and we’re like that; there are days in our lives, they come unannounced, unheralded, but in the after years when we look back upon them, we say, "That was the great turning point in my life." So this day the sun rose and fell upon the jagged rocks of the peninsula. And as always, the flocks, seeking food in scanty herbage, and little lambs lying close under the shadow of the great boulders, but that day, as Moses cared for the flock on the back side of the desert, he passed a common bush aflame. Many a man would have just seen it burning and passed on by; Moses, astute, paused. The bush was unconsumed [Exodus 3:1-2]. And as he paused before its flame, an Angel of the Lord spoke to him and said, "Take off your shoes; the ground on which ye stand is holy ground" [Exodus 3:5]. And Moses asked, "Who are You? And what is Your name?" And the voice out of the flame of fire replies, "My name is I AM That I AM, Yahweh," a form of the Hebrew verb "to be." We add to it the vowel pointing of Adonai, the Hebrew word for "Lord," and it comes out Jehovah. "I AM That I AM, that is My name" [Exodus 3:13-14]. And it appears in His speaking to Moses out of the flaming fire. "I am the God of thy father, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" [Exodus 3:6], the God of the past; the next verse, "And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people" [Exodus 3:7], He is the God of the present; and the next verse, "Come now, I will send thee unto Pharaoh that thou mayest bring My people out of the land of Egypt" [Exodus 3:10], the great mighty omnipotent God, His name is "I AM" [Exodus 3:14], yesterday, today, and unchangeable forever [Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8].
And this Moses, forty years had not blunted the despair of his life. And Moses replied, Moses said unto God, "Who am I? Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? [Exodus 3:11]. In zealous order I tried it once, and I was repudiated and rejected by my own people [Exodus 2:14-15]. And as a hunted and hounded murderer, defending my people, I fled from the land, and now You ask me, You call me to go back? No. No."
Forty years had not in anywise changed the hurt and the tragic disappointment in his soul. But God says, "This time, this time, I will go with you. It will not be as it was before in the arm of the flesh, in your own strength; but this time I will go with you" [Exodus 3:12]. And God said to Moses, "What is that in thine hand?" And Moses replied, "I have a shepherd’s staff; I have a rod" [Exodus 4:2]. And God said, "Cast it to the ground." And he cast it, and it became a serpent, so viciously violent Moses fled from before it [Exodus 4:3]. And God said, "Put your hand on it." And he seized it by the tail, and it became a rod in his hand [Exodus 4:4]. And God says, "This is a sign of My omnipotent power and presence with you." Think of that rod, the shepherd’s staff. He held it over the waters of the Red Sea and they parted on either side [Exodus 14:16, 21-22]. He held it over the armies of Amalek, and Amalek was defeated [Exodus 17:9-13]. He struck with it the rock, and waters of river, rivers of water gushed out [Exodus 17:6] – just a rod.
Isn’t that like the Lord God? The common things in life always are those He uses to glorify Himself. It will be a ram’s horn, the blowing of a ram’s horn, and the walls of Jericho fall down [Joshua 6:20]. It will be an ox goad in the hand of Shamgar, and the people are delivered from the Philistines [Judges 3:31]. It will be an earthen pitcher in the three hundred of Gideon, and God gives the victory [Judges 7:19-22]. It’ll be a sling in the hands of little David, and the giant Goliath falls to the ground [1 Samuel 17:]. That’s God! It’ll be a sawdust trail under Billy Sunday. It’ll be some humble instrument that the Lord glorifies with His omnipotent power. "What is in your hand?" "The rod" [Exodus 4:2].
Then He gave him the second sign, "Put your hand in your bosom." He drew it out and it was leprous. "Put it back." He drew it out, and it was whole again [Exodus 4:6-7]; God’s ableness to cleanse and to forgive. And then a third one: "See this water, pour it on the land. It became blood" [Exodus 4:9]. "Thus will I judge all of the gods of the Nile" [Exodus 4:6-9]. And Ramoses, in the power of an omnipotent God, returns to the land of Egypt [Exodus 4:19-20]. What a difference the call of God, and the will of God, and the presence of God, and the power of God can make in a man’s life. He himself is omnipotent doing God’s will. He himself is immortal until God’s work is done. And thereafter the story of Moses: out of the solid rock, He brings forth streams in the desert [Exodus 17:6]; out of the Dead Sea, God calls through him the fruits and flowers of a great nation; and in his hands, the Lord deposits the freedom, the exodus of his people chained in slavery in the land of Egypt [Exodus 3:9-10]. That’s God! And what a difference, doing the will of God, answering the call of God, what a difference does it make in a man’s life.
So Lord, may each one of us find God’s will for each one of us. And then doing it, may the power of the Lord rest upon us. And may we find victory and achievement in answering God’s call, to the glory of Thy blessed, blessed Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus, amen [2 Peter 3:18].
IN A FLAME OF FIRE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Flight from Pharoah
II. God’s providence in it
III. Human strength vs God
IV. Call in the desert
V. Forty years in the desert – preparation, humility
1. Who sends me? I AM
2. Power? Leprous hand
3. Proof of authority? Water to blood on dry land
4. Eloquence; Aaron