Episode 1. Out Beyond the Desert
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When we’re travelling through a spiritual and emotional wasteland, it can feel as though that’s it. It’s all over. There’s no future. But it turns out that God is in that place too. Why …
When you’re travelling through a spiritual and emotional wasteland, which we all do at some point, it can feel as though that’s it. It’s all over. There’s no future. But it turns out that God is in that place too. It turns out that He has a plan. It turns out, that your best is yet to come!
No Future for Me
We’re starting a new series this week that I’ve called, “Your best is yet to come”. I recently interviewed Margaret Court. Now Margaret is the greatest tennis player of all time that’s ever walked the planet. Greater than Steffi Graf and Martina Navratalova and Roger Federa and Andre Agassi – Margaret has won sixty two grand slam titles. She did that between 1960 and 1975 – no one else has even come close. Now she had a profound impact on me because when her tennis career was over, she went, “Wow, now what?” She went through really difficult times but in the midst of that, God gave her this notion through His Word that her best was yet to come.
She had depression and fear and anxiety, now you wouldn’t think that of the greatest tennis player that’s ever lived. Have a listen this is what she had to say: “After I became a Christian, had four children, my life became a mess. A lot of fear came into my life. I finished up having a torn valve of the heart, depression, insomnia, I was on medication for heart trouble – they said I would be on it for the rest of my life.
I was on tablets for depression and tablets for insomnia and it was back in the early seventies that two men from Full Gospel Business Men came to me and said, “Margaret, why don’t you come and hear something on faith and so I went and I started to hear how faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, how we could grow, how important it was in what we spoke and what we heard because Jesus says in the Scriptures, in Romans 12:2:
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Isn’t that interesting, because the depression hit after she gave her life to God? You know, you think sometimes, “Well, you give your life to God, you believe in Jesus and it should all get better.” But for her, it happened after her great tennis career and after she made a commitment to Jesus Christ as her Lord and her Saviour and it was in the midst of all of that, that as she started spending time in God’s Word, she got a sense from Him that her best was yet to come. We can often get to believing in our lives that we are all washed up. We look at the cold, hard realities of life and it’s all too hard. It feels like it’s over, it feels like we have nothing to live for.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like for someone like Margaret Court who was on the top of the tennis ladder for such a long time, who won so many tennis tournaments and was interviewed and Prime Ministers and Queens and people wanted to be around Margaret Court and then, all of a sudden she finishes all of that and life becomes about having babies and changing nappies. And all of a sudden, as she said, there was fear and anxiety and depression and sickness and it must have felt that it was all over.
And that happens to us whether we’re a tennis superstar like Margaret Court or ordinary, everyday people just like you and me. “Aw, it’s all over. That’s it! God isn’t planning on anything else in my life.” You get this sense of hopelessness, life isn’t going anywhere. “There’s no future for me!” It’s something that we all go through and we’re going to take God’s Word into that place. This week and over the next three weeks in this four part series that I’ve called, “Your Best is Yet to Come”.
Let’s just quickly pray.
Father, as we begin this series today, as we begin to take your Word into a place of wilderness and difficulty in our lives, I just pray that you would really convict us, Father, that your Spirit is at work in us and that your Spirit is at work through your Word and as we accept your Word today and over the coming weeks, I pray that you would convict us, that our best is yet to come. Father, we ask that in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now grab your Bible, we are going to spend some time with Moses. Now Moses was an ordinary, everyday person whom God used extraordinarily and this is not a message that says, “be like Moses” because you and I aren’t like Moses and what’s more, we never will be. God had a plan for Moses’ life just as He has a plan for mine and He has a plan for yours and those plans are different, based on who God has made us to be. Now this is a message about what God does with people like you and me. Even when we feel like we are burnt out old wrecks and it’s all over.
So grab your Bible and open it up at Exodus chapter 1. Here’s the scene: Abraham was the first man that God really spoke to, to engage His chosen people, the Israelites and Abraham had a son called Isaac, who had a son called Jacob, who had twelve sons one of whom was Joseph and Joseph, through a whole bunch of horrible things that his brothers did to him, ended up being the Prime Minister of Egypt and then all the other brothers came down during a famine and so the nation of Israel began to grow. There were twelve brothers all in all, including Joseph; they were the twelve tribes of Israel and they began to grow.
They grew so quickly and so numerously and so prolifically that Pharaoh became really scared of the fact that these Hebrew’s were going to overrun the whole of Egypt, and so he did some pretty horrible things. He decided to have all the young Hebrew baby boys drowned. They had to be thrown into the Nile River and Moses was one of those. Moses was one of these kids who were supposed to have been drowned. He wasn’t, God saved him – we’ll look at that in a moment. And he did some silly things and he ended up as a burnt out old wreck. He was “Mr – I have no future – Moses”. He was at the back of the desert, he was tending sheep, he was at the end of any career you could imagine and God had a plan for him. God was in that desert with him. Moses didn’t realise it but his best was yet to come.
God’s Mighty Deeds
Moses was one of these little babies, these Hebrews that was born and the Pharaoh’s plan was to kill all the young Hebrew boys and to stop the Hebrews from multiplying, so right from the beginning his life was under pressure. Have a listen, this is the story. It comes from Exodus chapter 2 verses 1 to 10.
Now a man from the house of Levi married a Levite woman and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months but when she couldn’t hide him for any longer she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch, then she placed the child in it and put it amongst the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood there at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Then Pharaoh’s daughter when down to the Nile to bathe and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to go and get it. She opened it and saw a baby, he was crying and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said, then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you and Pharaoh’s daughter said, “Yes, go,” and the girl went and got the babies mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me and I will pay you, so the woman took the baby and nursed him and when the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son and she named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’”
So here’s God’s miraculous intervention. Pharaoh is wanting to kill all the baby Hebrew boys and God intervenes miraculously – and you know, it’s always the way. When we are in a desert and we’re in a wilderness and we’re struggling, that we can look back to the past and see the power of God’s mighty hand as He’s brought us through things to the point where we are in life at the moment. We each have stories of what God has done.
Some people know them clearly, other people need to pray, “God show me when your hand guided my life in the past, to bring me to this point.” And when we feel burnt out and hopeless and life isn’t going where we want it to be, we can look back and see His mighty works. See the clear evidence of the work that He’s begun in us that He hasn’t finished yet. When I’m struggling, when I’ve got things in my life coming against me, it is such an encouragement to me to be able to look back and see what God has done in my life.
Anyway, Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s house with incredible wealth and privilege, but in his heart, God wove a sense of justice and passion for His people, the Hebrews, who were so oppressed as slaves under Pharaoh. We read on in Exodus chapter 2.
One day after Moses had grown up; he went out to where his own people were and watched them hard at their labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people, and glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”
The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us. Are you thinking of killing me like you killed the Egyptian?” And Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”
When Pharaoh heard of it he tried to kill Moses but Moses fled for Pharaoh and when to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters and they came to draw water and fill the toughs to water their father’s flock.
Some other shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock. When the girls returned to their father, he asked them, “Why have you come back so early?” and they answered him, “This Egyptian guy rescued us from the shepherds and he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” “Well, where is he?” he asked his daughters, “Why did you leave him there? Invite him to have something to eat.”
Moses agreed to stay with the man who gave his daughter Zipporah, to Moses in marriage. Zipporah gave birth to a son and Moses named him Gershom, saying ‘I have become an alien in a foreign land’. During that long period, the king of Egypt died and the Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out and their cry for help, because of their slavery, went up to God and God heard their groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob, so God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
Moses went from being a Hebrew baby on death row, to being like a son in Pharaoh’s palace, to being on the run for murder, to being in Midian in the middle of no where and even, amidst adversity, Moses trait shone out. God gave him a heart like that, he sees in justice being done to these young women at the well and he stands up for them. He sees one of his own Hebrew people being beaten and he stands up for them. It’s something that God put in him and it’s the same with you and me.
There are things that we love to do; there are things that we are passionate about. For me its story telling, now hang onto that. We are going to look at that in a lot more detail next week on the program. But here’s Moses who’s been through this roller-coaster ride, up and down, and up and down – he’s in the middle of no where, from Pharaoh’s palace to herding some lousy sheep in the back and beyond. That’s the way life goes sometimes, like God takes us out of the game and puts us on a shelf somewhere and we’re hidden away and we think it’s all over, but it’s not. A good bottle of wine matures and ages in a dark cool cellar; a caterpillar becomes a butterfly hidden in the cocoon; a baby grows in its mother’s womb, hidden away from the rest of the world because God does His greatest works in the dark. God does His greatest works when we’re in the desert; in the wilderness; in those places where it feels like it’s all over.
Now Moses spent years wandering around this land. He knew it like the back of his hand and later, as we will see in the next few weeks, he was to bring the whole of the nation of Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and pass back through this land that he knew backwards and they spent another forth years in this wilderness on the Exodus. God was getting him ready – his heart, his head, his skills, his abilities, his knowledge, and when we are in that place in the wilderness like Moses was, we think it’s all over – we think God’s given up on us, but that’s not it. God is doing stuff in that wilderness that we can’t imagine and what’s more, God is out there in that wilderness with us and when we least expect it, He comes along and says, “Now, I have a plan for you.”
The Back of Beyond
Let’s look at God’s plan because I truly believe that your best is yet to come. Moses’ story is really not a story about Moses at all – it’s about how God works. Sometimes we come to the Bible with the wrong questions. We think, “how can I be more like Moses?” and the answer is, we can’t. God didn’t make us to be like Moses. He made us to be us – me to be me and you to be you. The right questions look more like this: What does this story tell me about God? What’s God saying to me today about who He is and what His will for my life is and how I can respond to be the best ‘me’ that I can be? Moses story is actually God’s story and no more do we see that, when God shows up out the back of beyond to talk to Moses.
Let’s have a look, it comes from Exodus chapter 3 verses 1 to 12.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian and he led the flock out to the far side of the desert, literally out beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire within a bush and Moses saw that, though the bush was on fire, it didn’t burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I’ll go over and see this strange sight – why the bush doesn’t burn up.’
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from the bush and said: “Moses, Moses,” and Moses said: “Here I am.” “Don’t come any closer,” God said, “take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
And God said: “I am the God of your father; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” At this Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look on God. And the Lord said: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt – I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I am concerned about their suffering, so I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.
And now the cry of Israel has reached me and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them so now, go, I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt and God said: “I will be with you and this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt you will worship me on this mountain.”
It’s a profound passage of Scripture. Verse 1 of chapter 3 says that Moses was out there beyond the wilderness – at the back of beyond – in the middle of no where in a foreign land. And that’s how is feels in the wilderness as far as the eye can see, all there is, is desert and not a single soul to nurture us, to encourage us, to hold us. Moses must of felt forgotten, on the shelf, past his use-by date, and then God shows up.
You see, Moses didn’t realise it, but God was in that place, God was out in the desert with Moses. You know something? God is always out in the desert, with us, even when we don’t realise it. You might say, “Well, Berni, that’s great for Moses. You know, he had the whole burning bush thing, he had an angel of the Lord, the voice of God spoke to him, that’s great but I don’t have any of that in my life. It’s just not going to happen to me, come on!”
And my question to you is really blunt and it’s this: so why do you think that God went to all the trouble to put you and me together in this place today? Why is it do you think that God spoke to me specifically and said, “Berni, I want you to do this teaching from my Word about what I did with Moses.”
Today, we are hearing the Word of God and today I would encourage you to still your heart and you will hear His voice and not mine. For better or for worse, today this program, His Word is your burning bush. I truly believe that God is speaking into your life today and as we look at the story of Moses and the plan God had for Moses to be one of the greatest leaders of His people in all of history, I truly believe God is saying, “Your best is yet to come.”
Look at how He did it with Moses; look at verse 7 – the language that He uses where He says: “Look, I’ve indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt, I’ve heard them crying out because of their slave drivers and I’m concerned about their suffering, so I have come to rescue them.” God is speaking right into what we see was in Moses heart, way back, early, when he killed that Egyptian. Why did he kill him? Moses killed that Egyptian because he was abusing one of God’s people, the Hebrews. And when Moses went to the well and he saw these male shepherds giving the girls a hard time, Moses stood up for them. Why? Because God had given him a sense of justice.
So this language in verse 7 is music to Moses heart. It’s what God made Moses to be and to feel. It’s the passion He put in Moses heart. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s house. Who does God go to get to talk to Pharaoh? Moses. He knows the ropes.
God says, “I want to rescue my people,” who does God get to go and do that? The man in whom that call lives and then He says, “You’re going to come back this way, the sign that I am with you, is that you will come back to this mountain and you will worship me. This is the land that you have been herding sheep in for the last few decades. This is the land that you know like the back of your hand. This is the land I’ve prepared you in for forty years in exile, when you bring my people out of Egypt.”
That’s how God does it! All the time softening and mellowing Moses heart, teaching and training him, getting him ready out in the wilderness. Do you get it? God is up to something good in your wilderness and mine. No, we can’t always see it, we can’t always feel it, but that why God sent us His Word today, “Your best is yet to come!”
Now, if you have a look at verse 11, Moses was a bit apprehensive; he had fear and he had apprehension. When God drags us out of our desert, all of a sudden we go: “Oh, um, not like that God”, and that’s natural and we’ll look at that next week on the program. But today, in this place, in whatever desert or wilderness you might be walking through today, God is speaking to us through this story. God will take a burnt out old wreck from the back of the wilderness; He’ll show up and say, “your best is yet to come”.
“I’ve given you some things, I’ve taught you some things, I made you certain things, now, now is my time – your best is yet to come.” That’s God’s Word I truly believe today. When we’re in the wilderness and we want to give up, all we need do is go to Exodus 1, 2 and 3 and just have a read of Moses story. God is a God who trains us and grows us and builds us and refines us through fire and all of a sudden He shows up one day and says, “You, your best is yet to come!”