Sermon:  When you Seem to be on the Losing Side


Summary:  Our efforts at doing the right thing often seem to have little to no effect because evil gains the upper hand, which raise the questions of whether God is absent or powerless.  However, we should remember that God acts in his own time with his own plan, and that we don’t' see yet what God will do.


Text:  Exodus 1-2


Scripture Reading:  Ps 46:6-10



1.  I get Voice of the Martyrs magazine

          a.  It is a reminder that Christians all over the world are under attack

          b.  In many countries, it is illegal to be a Christian, to worship, to convert

          c.  Could be tempted to think, "Where is God in all this?"

          d.  This is a question that stands out in this morning's text

2.  Start a new series - Life of Moses (track with LTC theme)

          a.  LTC theme - been doing LTC long enough, repeating the 10 year cycle

          b.  Moses is an imposing figure in Biblical history

                    - Performed great miracles

                    - Lead an entire nation out of slavery

                    - Lead the people through the desert, even against foreign enemies

                    - Talked to God like one would talk to a friend

          c.  If anyone reminds us that God is with us, it ought to be Moses

3.  Sometimes people have to go underground

a.  This is what happened in the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan, etc.

          b.  May feel as though God is absent.  Is he?

4.  Exodus 1-2 Maybe find an answer to this question

          a.  The story is a continuation of Genesis

          b.  Begins with family of Jacob, who had been renamed Israel

          c.  Started out with 70 - a family, and grew into a people

          d.  Ironic, first to recognize them as a people is the one who tried to

               exterminate them - Pharaoh


I.  Paranoia  of Pharaoh (v.1-11)

          A.  Pharaoh became afraid of Jacob's descendants

          B.  Look at what happened

                    1.  They started out as 70 people

                    2.  v.7 - They were fruitful and "increased greatly:

                              a.  Footnote - They "swarmed" over the land

                              b.  They "multiplied"

                              c.  Ever seen how rabbits multiply?

                                        - They not just have one baby

                                        - They have a litter, and each of the bunnies has litter

                                        - Soon, they will be all over the place

                              d.  That is nothing compared to how Israel multiplied

                    3.  A new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph arose

                              a.  Did not know how Joseph saved Israel

                              b.  All he saw were Israelites "swarming" everywhere

                              c.  May side with enemy and turn against them in time of war

          C.  (v.12-14) Pharaoh tried to break and demoralize them to weaken them

                    1.  Made Hebrews into a slave class

                    2.  Was ruthless in inflicting hard labor on them day in and day out

                    3.  Instead of weakening them, they grew stronger and multiplied

          D.  The grew so much that the Egyptians were in dread of them. 


II.  Pharaoh comes up with Plan B (v.15-16)

          A.  Problem is they keep multiplying, so we need to nip that in the bud

          B.  Called together the Hebrew midwives

                    1.  Text names two of them, Shiphrah and Puah

                    2.  Murder the male children the moment they are born!

          C.  (v.17-19)This plan does not work either due to the midwives' actions

                    1.  They feared God more than Pharaoh, so they let the boys live

                    2.  Pharaoh realizes babies are living, calls midwives to account

                    3.  Their explanation? 

                              a.  Hebrew women better at having babies than Egyptians

                              b.  But this was not true; they let the boys live intentionally

                              c.  They risked their lives in saving these baby boys

          D.  They were deceitful to Pharaoh.  Is that okay in this case?


III.  Is there anything in the text that indicates their actions are approved?

          A.  If we keep reading, we get our answer

          B.  (v.20-21) God blessed the midwives

                    1.  God was good to them - established households for them

                    2.  They helped to preserve families in danger of Pharaoh

                    3.  So, God established families for them

                    4.  They took great risk in disobeying Pharaoh and then covering it

                          up with a story about hearty Hebrew women


IV.  Can also see approval in the subtle way the text tells the story

          A.  Who have been some of the most evil despots, rulers?

                    1.  Top of the list:  Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Kim Il Sung

                    2.  Name are recognizable as some of the most infamous

                    3.  In ancient times, people might add a couple more to the list -

     Herod the Great and Pharaoh

          B.  Who was Pharaoh?  Text does not give his name!

                    1.  Scholars not in totally agreement which Pharaoh this was

                    2.  For someone who tried to destroy a people, you would think it

     would give his name!

                    3.  Text not spend more time than necessary on Pharaoh

          C.  However, do DO know the names of the heroines in the story

                    1.  Puah and Shiphrah - Names etched in history

                    2.  God was interested in identifying and highlighting them

                    3.  Then the text says that God blessed them!

          D.  So, the text approves of these two heroines

                    1.  Selfless bravery in protecting innocent lives of Hebrew babies

                    2.  Might have been "safer" to follow Pharaoh's orders

                    3.  But they feared God more than Pharaoh

                    4.  History is full of people who risked lives for what is right and just

                              a.  Those who sheltered Jews in Nazi Germany &

     purposefully made defective ammunition as Oscar


                              b.  Heb 11 - Faith chapter - Holds Rahab up as an example

     when she hid 2 Hebrew spies on her roof

                              c.  Voice of the Martyrs tells of Zafar Bhatti in Pakistan

                                        - Christian who established a ministry to help the poor

                                        - Shared Christ at every opportunity, and at great risk

                                        - Arrested for blasphemy, beaten in prison, people

  tried to poison his food several times

                                        - His sister asked to pray that he would stay strong in

  his faith


V.  Did the midwives turn the tide?  Yes, but not in a way we would think

          A.  Their actions do have an immediate effect

                    1.  No telling how many lives they spared by their efforts

                    2.  v.20 - Hebrews continued to multiply and became very mighty

                    3.  Pharaoh's "plan B" has failed

                    4.  Pharaoh needs to give up!

          B.  But, Pharaoh enacts a "Plan C"  (v.22)

                    1.  Resorts to mass infanticide -instructs ALL the people to kill them

                    2.  Now, no place would be safe for a Hebrew baby boy

          C.  We are understandably horrified

                    1.  God is supposed to be the hero

                    2.  Why doesn't he do something more?

          D.  It seems that all midwives did was postpone the inevitable - but there

      is more


VI.  (2:1-10) Favorite story, lots of "coincidences" - We anticipate something great

          A.  Chain of events leads Pharaoh to grow up in Pharaoh's household  

          B.  His name, Moses, is interesting:

                    1.  It means, "to draw out"

                    2.  Is Moses going to "draw out" the people?

          C.  Moses grew up with his mother as a nurse, knew who he was

          D.  (v.11-12) Moses makes a decision, rescues Hebrew slave!

                    1.  Things are about to turn around!  Finally!


VII.  (v.13-22) Nothing changes for the Hebrews.  Huge disappointment!

          A.  What do we make of this? Many preachers rush to God's rescue here

                    1.  God knew what he was doing

                    2.  He rescues Moses from the Nile, prepares him for the job

                              a.  First, he gives Moses a top notch education

                              b.  Then, Moses needs to go to the dessert to learn desert

     survival to lead the people into the desert

                    3.  God knew what he was doing!

                    4.  Makes a great sermon

          B.  BUT - The text does not mention any intervention by God here

                    1.  This is a stark contrast to the mention of God's presence in the

      stories of Joseph in Genesis (Gen 39:5,21; 45:7-8)

                              a.  Joseph becomes overseer of Potiphar's house, so God

     blesses them

                              b.  God was with Joseph, and gave him favor in the sight of

     the chief jailer

                              c.  God sent Joseph to Egypt to preserve Jacob and family

                    2.  In the rest of Exodus, God becomes the central character

                    3.  But here, God is conspicuously silent

C.  It does an injustice to the text to say God was directly responsible

                    1.  It is much neater and simple to say “It was God’s will”

                              a. Are you sure it was God’s will that all those babies be

    drowned in the Nile?

b.  Are you sure it was God's will for people to be massacred

     by tyrants and despots throughout history?

c.  Are you sure it is God's will for his faithful Christians to be

     thrown in prison, tortured, and killed?

                    2.  For many who suffer injustice, this is not very palatable

                    3.  We need to be careful not to be too presumptuous and arrogant

     in giving overly simple answers

          D.  Here is what we see in this part of the story:  It attributes nothing to

     God, and everything to humans

                    1.  By human effort, midwives temporarily saved some babies

                    2.  By human effort, Moses was spared from death

                    3.  By human effort, Moses rescued a single Hebrew slave

                    4.  By human effort, Moses winds up a stranger in the desert


VIII.  Here is a lesson:   Human effort by itself is futile

          A.  (v.23) Even when Pharaoh dies, things get no better

                    1.  What can Israel do?  Their would be deliverer is gone

                    2.  80 years go by, all they can do is cry out

          B.  (v.24) Guess what?  God has good ears.  He hears their cry

                    1.  God heard the cry of Hagar and Ishmael

                    2.  God heard the cry of Job

                    3.  God heard the cry of Lazarus' loved ones

                    4.  In each case, God responds, in his own time

          C.  But why does God wait for so long?  The text does not answer


Concl: Where was God?  He was within hearing distance, and he hears, & remembers

1.  Human effort fails.  They didn't need more effort, they needed a redeemer

          a.  God would eventually redeem them with an outstretched arm

          b.  He will do so in his own time and in his own way

c.  We all need a redeemer.  (inv)

2.  Don't despair.  Yes, things can get really bad

          a.  Many Christian based services are being forces to close due to their

     Christian orientation

          b.  Examples abound

                    - Adoption agencies which partnered with govt, shut down

                    - Benevolence ministries that had gotten food from USDA, no

                      longer get food, which was over half of their food

                    - Licensed counselors that can no longer legally counsel abused

                      children on sexual orientation confusion

                    - Chaplains disciplined for praying in the name of Christ

          c.  Seems like world is more antagonistic toward Christianity every day

3.  Are Christians an endangered species as some suggest?

          a.  I remember meeting a group of Christians in Belarus

                    - They were from a small village north of Minsk

                    - Were there all through the years of Soviet communism

                    - They worshipped, ministered to others, read Bible, etc.

                    - Remained strong through all those years

          b.  Jesus said the gates of Hades will not prevail against us

          c.  We will continue to worship, serve, and minister regardless

          d.  Amazing - The church persecuted is often the church at her BEST

4.  Jesus said, "Surely I am with you always"

          a.  He is "Immanuel" - God with us

          b.  We are part of a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, never destroyed

5.  Last slide