Dying To Self
June 13th, 1990 @ 7:30 PM
DYING TO SELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-13-90 7:30 p.m.
You are going to listen to a homily tonight. In the theological seminaries, they have professors of homiletics. In the nomenclature of the institution, it refers to preaching. You take a course in homiletics; it is a course in preaching. A homily itself is actually taking a passage of Scripture and commenting on it verse by verse. That is a homily.
And tonight, I want you to turn to the fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus. If you don’t have a Bible with you, why, just look in the pew right in front of you and you will find it. And we’re going to have a homily tonight from Exodus 4:18 to 5:23. So you turn to the second book in the Bible and be prepared to follow the pastor.
Now five times in this reference to Moses in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, it speaks of “by faith: and the type and the subject and the theme is: Dying To Self:
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child . . . By faith—second one—by faith [Moses], when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the emoluments and the pleasures and affluence of sin for a season . . . Third one: by faith he forsook Egypt … as seeing Him who is invisible.
Four: through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of the blood… And five: by faith they passed through the Red Sea, being delivered from the Egyptians who assayed to slay them.
Now the homily, in Exodus 4, beginning at verse 23: faith is dying to self. It is setting ourselves aside that God may work through us in His own righteousness [Exodus 4:22-23].
And Moses was allowed to make his first efforts for the emancipation of his people in his own strength and he failed ingloriously and fled to Midian [Exodus 2:11-15]. And that’s where our passage will begin. And in the years of solitude in Midian, he was reduced to nothingness [Exodus 2:16-22]. Then God, in the bush that burned unconsumed [Exodus 3:1-3], placed in his hand the almightiness of heaven, and Moses is finally yielded to the purpose of God as the staff he held in his hands [Exodus 4:1-5].
So we begin now with our homily in chapter 4 verses 18 and19:
And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said—the father-in-law said to Moses, Go in peace.
And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
Now that is according to the ancient custom of the tribe and of the clan. So Moses leads his sheep back to the central camp for the last time and prepares to leave for Egypt.
Now, three things happened in preparation for his journeying to Egypt. Number one, found in 4:21-23:
And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I put in thine hand: but I will hardened his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, My firstborn:
And I say unto thee, Let My son go, that he may serve Me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.
So this is a further revelation of what God will do in Egypt when Moses obeys the word of the Lord and goes down into that land to carry through the purpose of God.
All right, the observation: God’s will is revealed a step at a time. You never know, ever, the whole purpose of God for your life at any beginning, at any one time. We leave in His grace and goodness, and trust Him for the beyond, and we learn as we obey. No one of you ever shall know the entire will of God for your life—how it will come out—when you begin. You take it a step at a time and, as you obey, you learn God’s will.
Now, beginning at verse 24 to 26:
And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.
Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
So God let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
Now our homily: God emphasizes, in this second incident in the life of Moses on the way to Egypt, God emphasizes the importance of His ordinances; in this instance, the ordinance of His circumcision. Moses falls into a dangerous illness by the hand of God. God did it. God allowed it; and the reason God did it was because he had neglected the rite of circumcision [Genesis 17:10-14].
Now why did Moses neglect that sacred rite? It must have been due to Zipporah, his wife—and next, I’m going to later on talk about that—it was due to Zipporah’s dislike. She did not like the ordinance, and this youngest son, Eliezer, remained uncircumcised. But God’s workings are always in the same pattern: when we disobey God, it is like gravel in the machinery, it is like a stone in the foot of a pilgrim and of a traveler. When you disobey God, there will always be a very sad recompense.
Now what happened here in this instance: Zipporah goes back to her father, Jethro [Exodus 18:2-3]—you will read that later on in Exodus—and she is not with Moses until he brings the children of Israel out of Egypt and goes by his father-in-law’s home in the land of Midian. When we disobey God’s plain commandment, you always can remember there will be a repercussion and a sadness in it later on. And thus it was in the life of Moses.
Now verses 27 and 28:
And the Lord said to Aaron, Go into the wilderness to meet Moses. And he went, and met him in the mount of God, and kissed him.
And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which He had commanded him.
Now the homily: this is the brotherly alliance that remained for the rest of their lives. This is the first time that Aaron had seen his brother, Moses, in forty years, and when they met they kissed, and they made a covenant there in the mount of God. That’s where Moses saw the burning bush and God spoke to him out of that plant unconsumed [Exodus 3:1-10].
So Moses is now on his way to Egypt. We pick up the story in verse 29 in chapter 4. And Moses and Aaron now are in Egypt: 4:29-31:
And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord hath spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
And the people believed—
they accepted the leadership of those two brothers—
and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that He had looked upon their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.
This is the interview of Moses and Aaron with the elders, the heads of tribes and families. And a new day is promised in the coming of those two men of God. This is the first time in four hundred years of slavery that they have a light of hope from heaven, and the response was beautiful. The elders bowed before the Lord and worshiped [Exodus 4:31], and the true beginning of a true deliverance is at hand.
Now chapter 5, verse 1:
And Moses and Aaron went in, and stood before Pharaoh and said, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let My people go, that they may hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness.
That must have been a new departure for Moses because he is now a suppliant before Pharaoh in the exact place that he had occupied as the crown prince [Hebrews 11:24-27]. This Pharaoh who is now ruling Egypt could have been Ra Moses—Ra Moses.
Ra was the god of Egypt, the sun god, and the Pharaoh was worshiped and looked upon as the son of Ra; and Moses’ name was Ra Moses—Ra Moses. When he denied the idolatry of Egypt, no longer would he be called Ra Moses. They cut off the Ra, they cut off the idolater’s name, and he is now known, throughout all the years, as Moses, who is drawn out of the water for the purpose for which God had prepared him [Exodus 2:3-6].
Now verse 2: “And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” [Exodus 5:2]. This is Pharaoh’s supercilious scorn: “Who is the Lord, that I . . . ?” You see, each Pharaoh was a god and he was worshiped. For him, the Pharaoh, great Egypt existed. For him, the Pharaoh, the Nile yearly overflowed. For him, the armies marched and fought. And for him, the multitude of magicians and priests ministered.
“Who is the Lord God that I . . . ?” [Exodus 5:2]. The Pharaoh was insulted. He was presented with a mandate from a God greater than himself. It was unthinkable to him, for the God of Israel was a God of conglomerated slaves. And his royal lips curled in scorn when he said, “Back to your burdens and back to your tasks. I will not let Israel go” [Exodus 5:4].
Now we continue with our homily: beginning at verse 5, through verse 21 [Exodus 5:5-21]. I haven’t time to read it. There is a new order. There’s a new mandate from the Pharaoh. In his supercilious scorn, and in his wrath, and in his insulted spirit he says, “From now on, I give you no more straw to make brick. You will find your own straw, but the tale, the number of bricks that you are to make every day, will not be lessened” [Exodus 5:6-11]. That meant there was double work to compensate for those seeking stubble. It took about half of them to scour the land to find stubble [Exodus 5:12]—the Bible calls it—and half of them to make brick, and it was an impossible assignment [Exodus 5:13-14].
In chapter 5:15-16, the people, who are so tragically burdened, bypassed Moses and cried to Pharaoh [Exodus 5:15-16]. And in verses 20 and 21, they come from Pharaoh, who has scorned their appeal, and they pour out upon Moses and upon Aaron the bitterness of their desperation, 20 and 21:
They met Moses and Aaron…and said, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made us to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, in the eyes of his servants, and you put a sword in his hand to slay us.
Now, verses 22 and 23:
And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore has Thou done so evil by these people? And why is it that Thou hast sent me?
For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he has done nothing but evil to this people; and You have not delivered them at all.
This is the resort to an agonizing, and baffling, and troubled, and failing soul. Moses has died to self-esteem and to pride. He lies on the ground before God, the corn of wheat that dies, and that is what God seeks in us. We must get to the end of ourselves before God can begin in us, and that’s why the sixth chapter begins with a “then” [Exodus 6:1].
Now we shall see what God can do. Through fire and flood, we learn to depend upon God. And sweet people, when you come to the end of your way that is always the beginning of the might and power of the Lord God. When we can die to self, the Lord God can begin to live in us. When we utterly fail, the Lord then has opportunity to show the might and strength of His right arm. As long as we are sufficient in ourselves, God has no place or part in us. It’s when we are devastated, in abject failure, that God can come in and do His miraculous and marvelous works.
Sweet people, I guess the reason I think in these terms is because of the place in which I now, at this moment, stand. Yesterday, I went through that campus of our college. It is a vast enterprise. I didn’t realize it. It’s the first time I’ve done it. I did not realize the extensiveness of that renovation—and we’re pouring $5.5 million into it. Outside of that center auditorium, that whole thing has been gutted out. It is being remade.
When we bought that property, they said the corner building must be imploded. I said, “They don’t build buildings like that anymore, those beautiful Greek columns and pediments and the architecture of that building. You won’t find a building like that in the earth today, anywhere.” So they are gutting it out and even the dome, which was hidden underneath the roof they’ve built, even the dome is there. All of that is going to be restored.
And that’s going to be one of the most beautiful and effective campuses for any school in this earth, and we’re going to have hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of young preachers taught how to deliver the message of God, how to pastor the church, how to be an effective missionary. There’s no end to the glorious ministry of that school in that beautiful place, with a whole block of parking back of it.
Then at the same time, God has given us this Life Foundation. I never thought of such a thing. I had given it up. I had tried and failed. And it is now ours.
Then of course, these young people say we have filled this Ruth Ray Hunt Building, and there’s no place for us to expand or to grow. And that building at 505 came to us at $9.23 a square foot—an unheard of thing. And we can move out the adults, the older adults, in our C.E. Building. It is joined to that youth building, and our young people can expand their work and our adults can grow over there in the new property that we own.
But O Lord, dear God, where are the gifts and the money to pay for those tremendous expansive programs? I bow before the Lord God: Lord, we must have at least five million dollars. And our people have just responded, but their response is not one half of what we need. O God, what shall we do? What can I do? Where shall I turn?
We’ll just see what God does. I have absolutely and literally come to the end of the way. And our people—so many of them—have such burdens, trying to exist: the economy down, so many things changing in life. We have literally come to the end of ourselves, absolutely, and we are looking to God.
Please, Lord, please see Your pastor of the church and Your people of the congregation bowed before Thee in intercession, in appeal. God must help, and we’re looking for that glorious intervention from His gracious and saving hands. Out of what we’re doing will come preachers, saving the lost, preaching the gospel, all over this world. And out of what we are seeking to do will be ministries to the poor and the homeless, by the thousands. And out of it will be the building up of the teaching ministries of our dear church, as you saw last Sunday night, those young people thronging down here, accepting the Lord as Savior [Romans 10:9-13], giving their lives into full-time service. That’s God, and we’re looking to Him for that ultimate and final victory.
Now sweet Eddie, let’s sing us a song of appeal. And while we sing the song, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you who would come and to be with us, answering the call of the Spirit of the Lord in your heart, on the first note of the first stanza, come. And God sanctify and hallow the commitment you make, while we stand and while we sing.
DYING TO SELF
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Exodus 4, 5
Faith of Moses
1. After first
forty year Moses allowed to try to emancipate Israel
2. Then forty years
3. Moses yielded to
God’s plan and purpose
Journey to Egypt
1. God revealed His
will one step at a time. We learn as we obey
alliance with Aaron
4. Interview with
5. Audience with
attitude of Pharaoh
7. Moses baffled
and in agony