A Sermon on Exodus 3.13-17; John 20.19-21 by Dr. Michael A. Milton, Senior Minister, originally Preached on: Sunday, November 4th, 2007 at The First Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga, TN
At the conclusion of this message, I announced that I had accepted what we felt to be God’s call to become President of Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, North Carolina.
Introduction to the Reading
Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3.10 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 11 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 12
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” Exodus 3.13 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”* And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 14 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 15 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 16 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ 17
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” John 20.19 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 20 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 21
Introduction to the Sermon
I recently read the words of a friend of mine, John Huffman, of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA. He was reflecting on how God had shut doors and opened doors for him through His life. I was particularly touched as I read of how God opened doors and shut other doors to force John to be sent to the places he has gone. The more I thought about his life, and the life of ministry, the more I thought how being a Christian is, in a real way, a life of being sent. When God called Paul the first thing that happened to him was that he was sent to Damascus. There Ananias baptized him and ministered to him. Then Paul, we learn from other places was sent into Arabia, for a three year time of seminary with God. Then God sent him to Jerusalem. Then God sent him to Antioch. From there God sent him and sent him and sent him again. God sent Paul to accomplish His mission on earth.
When God wants to accomplish something great, He not only saves us He sends us. This is the most basic and fundamental part of being a Christian.
In studying the divine sending of Moses, we come to see something about how God sends us. Consider these four truths about sending.
1. We are sent from his Presence
To begin with let us say that to be sent, you need to hear God and that comes from a calling that comes outward and inward. In the text Moses has a divine encounter with the living God in that burning bush. And the Lord spoke from that bush. Everything we know about everything else that Moses did in his life started with that encounter. And the same is true of us. Trace the Reformation to Martin Luther hearing God speak to Him from Romans that we are justified by faith. Trace the ministry of John Wesley to the time at Aldersgate Street when he knew that God saved him by grace. In our time trace the conversion of James Kennedy to the radio broadcast of Donald Grey Barnhouse. In my life I trace that moment to the seed-sowing ministry of the woman who reared me, Aunt Eva, and to the fish net moment of grace when Dr. Kennedy asked his two famous questions of me. If God sends anyone there must be a time of knowing His presence in your life. When God comes to a man or a woman to be sent for His purposes there is one thing for sure: there has to be an encounter with God. This comes in worship. This comes in reading and studying God’s Word. This may come in times of prayer and reflection. But you must know that God has come to you.
When Jesus appeared to his disciples on the first day of the week, He appeared and told them “as the Father has sent Me even so I am sending you. In saying “even so” Jesus drew the necessary parallel between His life and theirs. To encounter the risen Christ personally is to be involved with the sending work of God in the world. Or, to put it another way, if you experience the risen Jesus you will have no choice but to begin a new life of being sent. Being sent is what being a Christian is all about. And this happens when we are in His presence.
I have talked to someone who was with Pope John Paul II. And when they left the Vatican, this person, a faithful Catholic before, told me that she would never be the same after being in the Pope’s presence and receiving His blessing. She said that her life had new meaning. Now this is an illustration of how coming into the presence of someone important can change your life. How much more, though, when we come into the presence of Jesus.
I wonder if so many in the church today are weak and our witness in the world is compromised and our heart for missions cools, why we get involved in consumerism in worship, consumerism in church leadership styles and so forth because of this one thing: we have not been in His presence.
My beloved, if we neglect His presence we will forfeit our power. But if we will but ask forgiveness and invite Him to come to us, and if we draw near to Him in prayer and private worship, as well as in small groups and in the assembly like this, Jesus will draw near.
And when He does we will be sent forth from His presence with a mission and with a purpose.
We also see from this that:
2. We are sent in His name
This is what God tells Moses. You shall go in the name of “I AM.” This is a special name, a covenant name that is given only to God’s people. In other words the people are to recognize that this is not your vision, not your doing, not your calling, but this is the I AM who is present through you.
When you look in your Bibles and you see the word Lord, if it is all in caps then it is translating the Hebrew consonants that is the covenant name of God. Even today when Jews read this they do not say the “holy name” of God. But this is the name that God wanted to be used to identify Himself. The I AM God. He is the God who is here.
We all know the power of a name. When I was commissioned as a US Army officer and made a chaplain, the President of the United States signed my orders. So when I am on duty and serving in uniform I serve at the pleasure of our President and all of the officers under his authority who are over me. I receive salutes; I carry command authority from the President and his officers over me. I am sent forth to do my work in his name.
How much more, my beloved, when you go in His name the demons must flee, the pain must subside, souls will be saved, and lives are to be built up, because of the name of Jesus. Let us cling to our orders: we are sent in His name and at His name “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
We also see here that…
3. We are sent in His authority
This is a vital truth. Behind Moses’ question is the matter of authority. Before when the Hebrews learned of his murder, and Moses made a proclamation, they doubted his authority. So it is natural that Moses should be concerned about this assignment. But the Lord says that you are to tell them that “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – appeared to me and said: I have sent me to you.”
There is a story in the Book of Acts. Turn with me to Acts 19.11-16”
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. Acts 19.16
It is always a bad day when the demons start talking back at you! But there is no power over evil just by using religious incantations. There must be the life of Jesus inside of us for our lives to be useful. We always take a beating in the world when we do things in our power, in our authority rather that in Jesus’. The Church must go forward not on business principles but Biblical principles. We are sent forth not with human authority but with divine authority. We speak to the world, to other people, in the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, not our own.
The greatest Christian I have ever known in my life was my Aunt Eva. She had no degrees, no money, no prestige, no name, and no unique giftedness. She just had faith. And I have seen many businessmen in my living room as a boy who had come to ask her for counsel. And when I was church planting and faced challenges, I would go to her bedside and I would kneel with that 97-year-old woman and ask her advice. She lacked many things. But she had one thing: the authority of Jesus Christ resting on her through the power of the Holy Spirit.
This church’s place in this community must not be because of programs or prestige or power or history or legacy or money or any of that. It must be on thing: the authority of Jesus Christ in His Word and in the lives of her members.
I believe the world takes notice when a church or a Christian stands in the authority of Jesus and speaks. We will never lack an audience if we are ministering in His name. The powers recognize the name of Jesus and when we are under His authority we are sent with power.
Finally, we see another aspect of Moses’ sending and ours”
4. We are sent with His Promise
“And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittittes, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey.”
“I have promised…” That promise was God’s covenantal promise—a promise extending back to Adam and Eve that God would send a Redeemer to crush the head of the Enemy; a covenant made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that God would bring about a nation, and a land, and ministry to the world. All of these promises were brought to bear in the sending of Moses. He had God’s Word that God would bring them out of slavery, out of misery and into a land of enemies. But as we have seen, the enemies were not going to be able to withstand God’s power.
There is no evil today that can withstand the covenant promises of God.
It has been my pleasure since I have been here to commission our new missionaries each year. I seek to send them forth with the Promise of God, that Christ will be victorious. Christ will establish His Church and the gates of Hell, the encampment of the Canaanites and the Hittites, the well defended fortresses of man made religion, of hatred and rebellion against God. But today I want to commission each of you. I use the words of my friend John Huffman at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, CA:
“Remember this. No matter how old or young you are, you are meant to be sent. Be willing to be surprised by God. Open yourself to a maturing faith that enables you to be continually used by God!”
Amen! Be willing today to release your life into the life of Jesus. Be willing to be sent, as we have learned today,
From His Presence
In His name
In His Authority
With His Promises
To share the life of our Lord with those who are in bondage to sin or sorrow or worry or loneliness.
Because of how Jesus came to us on the Cross, you can trust God that wherever He sends you, He will go too.
 <!–[if supportFields]> ADDIN EN.CITE <EndNote><Cite><Author>Huffman</Author><Year>2007</Year><RecNum>2144</RecNum><MDL><REFERENCE_TYPE>0</REFERENCE_TYPE><AUTHORS><AUTHOR>John A. Huffman</AUTHOR></AUTHORS><YEAR>2007</YEAR><TITLE>Meant to be Sent</TITLE><SECONDARY_TITLE>Preaching Journal</SECONDARY_TITLE><VOLUME>23</VOLUME><NUMBER>3</NUMBER><PAGES>56-59</PAGES><DATE>Nov./Dec. 2007</DATE></MDL></Cite></EndNote><![endif]–>John A. Huffman, “Meant to Be Sent,” Preaching Journal 23, no. 3 (2007), 56-59.<!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>