JOHN – the Baptist – ANSWERED THEM, “I BAPTIZE YOU WITH WATER. BUT ONE MORE POWERFUL THAN I WILL COME, THE THONGS OF WHOSE SANDALS I AM NOT WORTHY TO UNTIE. HE WILL BAPTIZE YOU WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND WITH FIRE. (Luke 3: 15).
WELCOME TO OUR SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP.
OPENING HYMN (CH-46) THIS IS THE DAY OF LIGHT: let there be light today; O Dayspring, rise upon our night, and chase its gloom away.
This is the day of prayer: let earth to heaven draw near; lift up our hearts to seek Thee there, come down to meet us here.
This is the first of days: send forth Thy quickening breath, and wake dead souls to love and praise, O Vanquisher of death!
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY LORD GOD, we have come to worship You – to declare Your faithfulness, to acknowledge Your majesty and to marvel at Your love. We come to listen – to the message of the Scripture, to the words of Christ, and to the inner prompting of Your Holy Spirit. We come to receive – hungry to hear You, thirsting to know You better, and longing to be filled. We are here to pray – for ourselves, our world and one another. Sovereign Lord God, accept this time of worship, and help us through it to draw nearer to You. Open our hearts to the love of Christ, our lives to the cleansing flames of Your Spirit, our minds to all that You are and continue to do, and so may we worship You not just in these few moments that we have set aside, but in every moment of our lives, to the glory of Your name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – EXODUS 3: 1-14.
NOW MOSES WAS TENDING THE FLOCK OF JETHRO HIS FATHER-IN-LAW, THE PRIEST OF MIDIAN, AND HE LED THE FLOCK TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE DESERT AND CAME TO HOREB, THE MOUNTAIN OF GOD. THERE THE ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARED TO HIM IN FLAMES OF FIRE FROM WITHIN A BUSH. MOSES SAW THAT THOUGH THE BUSH WAS ON FIRE IT DID NOT BURN UP. SO MOSES THOUGHT, “I WILL GO OVER AND SEE THIS STRANGE SIGHT – WHY THE BUSH DOES NOT BURN UP.” WHEN THE LORD SAW THAT HE HAD GONE OVER TO LOOK, GOD CALLED TO HIM FROM WITHIN THE BUSH, “MOSES! MOSES!” AND MOSES SAID, “HERE I AM.” “DO NOT COME ANY CLOSER,” GOD SAID. “TAKE OF YOUR SANDALS, FOR THE PLACE WHERE YOU ARE STANDING IS HOLY GROUND.” THEN HE SAID, “I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHER, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, THE GOD OF ISAAC AND THE GOD OF JACOB.” AT THIS, MOSES HID HIS FACE, BECAUSE HE WAS AFRAID TO LOOK AT GOD. 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, HITTITES, AMORITES, PERIZZITES, HIVITES AND JEBUSITES. AND NOW THE CRY OF THE ISRAELITES 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 GOD ON THIS MOUNTAIN.” MOSES SAID TO GOD, “SUPPOSE I GO TO THE ISRAELITES AND SAY TO THEM, ‘THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS HAS SENT ME TO YOU,’ AND THEY ASK ME, ‘WHAT IS HIS NAME?’ THEN WHAT SHALL I TELL THEM?” GOD SAID TO MOSES, “I AM WHO I AM. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE TO SAY TO THE ISRAELITES: ‘I AM HAS SENT ME TO YOU.’ ”
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – BOOK OF ACTS 7: 30- 34.
AFTER FORTY YEARS HAD PASSED, AN ANGEL APPEARED TO MOSES IN THE FLAMES OF A BURNING BUSH IN THE DESERT NEAR MOUNT SINAI. WHEN HE SAW THIS, HE WAS AMAZED AT THE SIGHT. AS HE WENT OVER TO LOOK MORE CLOSELY, HE HEARD THE LORD’S VOICE: ‘I AM THE GOD OF YOUR FATHERS, THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB… NOW COME, I WILL SEND YOU BACK TO EGYPT… MOSES TREMBLED WITH FEAR AND DID NOT DARE TO LOOK …
During the past few weeks, we have had lessons of faith through the lives of the early patriarchs in the Book of Genesis. Noah, Abraham, and Jacob were all guided by the same principle, – Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for (Hebrews 11: 1-2). In this way Abraham, his son Isaac and grandson Jacob became examples of faith that was gifted to them by God, to enable them to cope with the humanly unpredictable Future. In Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph’s time, the people of Israel were saved from famine by going to Egypt to survive. In the 400 years that followed, the Israelites increased abundantly, and the land was filled with them. To oppress them, the Pharaohs made them slaves, and ordered the midwives to kill all male Hebrew babies. When MOSES was born, his mother hid him in a basket in the bullrushes of the Nile, where he was discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised up him in the palace. Growing up, Moses sympathized with his people, and when he saw an Egyptian mistreating some of the Israelites, he killed the Egyptian, and fled to Midian to escape punishment. He married Zipporah, the daughter of a Midian-priest, who bore him a son named Gershom. God heard the cry of the Israelites, and remembering His Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, planning an Exodus for them from Egypt… When God has a big job to get done, He does not pick the greatest person to do it. He simply chooses one available to Him. God chose Moses because He knew that Moses was able to be used, and spoke to him in a very unique way: from a BURNING BUSH.
1. MOSES, THE SHEPHERD, BECAME THE REPRESENTATIVE OF GOD. There is no indication that Moses was seeking the mountain of God. As a shepherd, he was searching for good grazing ground for his father-in-law’s sheep when he saw a Burning Bush that was not consumed. It was pure curiosity or concern of a spreading bush-fire that brought him to God. When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”(verse 4). The human conversation and the Divine presence in the Salvation-Act is a clear reference to Jesus, as both the Godly and the Human are to act for the right outcome of SALVATION. God spoke here as a human; He entered the human world to correct the plight of His people, and He required human action on His behalf. But God had to come down to bring them up. The promise of God was the same OLD COVENANT: – a good land flowing with milk and honey (v. 8). But with a mission for Moses: – So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt (v. 10). Moses’s objection of – Who am I ?! – was false. He had the best education, he knew Pharaoh’s court, spoke the language, but he refused to be known as the son of the Pharaoh’s Daughter, rather a part of God’s people. So God assured him, – 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 God on this mountain (v. 12). The mountain of God is involved in both the Old- and the New – Covenant: the second time the sign will be THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, Whose last promise was also that, – I WILL BE WITH YOU…
2. THE BURNING BUSH REPRESENTED GOD, THE “I AM WHO I AM”. It is from this answer that we get God’s Name. In Hebrew, it is four letters – YHWH. The name is cryptic, and perhaps intentionally so. It means that our God is INSCRUTABLE, INDEFINABLE, and WHOLLY DIFFERENT. (The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Abingdon Press, 2007). Pious Jews even nowadays substitute THE NAME for YHWH when pronounced. God announced to Moses that this name – YHWH or YAHWEH – will be His name forever. The IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE GOD, ONLY WISE, who has revealed Himself in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who was, and is, and shall be for ever and ever. The God who knows the future since He is not bound by time, who doesn’t depend on anything or anybody, and so He can speak and have it done perpetually, without reason to doubt it. The God who came in Jesus to seek and save even the lost, – IF -, they believe in Him. As it is defined in the The Epistle to the Hebrews, – Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Like worry, faith is also orientated towards the Future. Through faith we trust God within the future we are facing. Moses’ worries were gone as God – The Great I AM – identified Himself as the God of Moses’ ancestors, the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This had to be meaningful enough to the Israelites, who revered these names. They knew of God’s dealing with these patriarchs in the past, and within their tragic present in Egypt they continued to believe that God is able to turn their future bright again.
3. THE CONTINUING SIGN OF THE BURNING BUSH IN THE CHURCH. The Pre-Reformed Church already discovered the significance of the Burning Bush, suggesting it as a type or prophetic picture of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who – just as the bush burned but remained whole – gave birth to the Son of God as a virgin. But it was in 1583, that a group of Huguenots decided to use the Burning Bush as an emblem of the Reformation. It was to signify their resistance in the fire of persecution that peaked eleven years earlier with the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, when thousands of Reformed Protestants were murdered in Paris and in its surroundings by the Catholic king. In fact they were using John Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Acts, where – in Chapter 7 – Calvin observed that the Burning Bush constitutes an appropriate image of the Reformed Church, that was continually subject to the fire of persecution, yet – in keeping with Christ’s Promise (Matthew 16: 18) – it is ever alive. As Reformed Presbyterianism spread throughout the world – especially via Scottish emigrants and missionaries – it typically carried with it some version embraced by our Scottish Kirk. Today, the Burning Bush figures on the official crests of many Presbyterian churches worldwide. There is no record indicating that any General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ever gave approval to the use of the Burning Bush–emblem, but as early as 1691 it appeared on the front page of an Act of the General Assembly, as it is seen today, even above the door of our church. Its Latin inscription:- NEC TAMEN CONSUMEBATUR, in English means: YET IT WAS NOT CONSUMED.
Indeed, THE GREAT I AM continues to reveal Himself to us, as He did to Moses long ago. God, who cares for us, loves us, and protects us all, who believe in Him, through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
LIVING AND LOVING GOD, we thank You that You are constantly at work, striving to fulfil Your purpose – not just the course of history, not only the destiny of nations, but equally the life of each one of us, that You have created precious in Your sight and very important. We thank You for the way You have moved in so many lives across the years. Especially today we remember how You encountered Moses – the way You have met him, confronting him with Your presence and will, challenging him through Your call, and leading him to accomplish great things for You and for Your people. We thank You that You can change anyone, however impossible that may seem – that the hardest of hearts and most godless lives can be overcome by Your power, love and grace, moved to turn away from their past life and commit themselves wholeheartedly to Christ. Loving God, we lose sight sometimes of Your transforming power, easily becoming cynical, disillusioned and world-weary, frustrated by our repeated failure to serve You better. Yet whether or not we see it, You are still present, still striving to fulfil Your purpose, and still able to surprise us by the way You change what seems unchangeable. You have done great things for us, and we offer You our praise and thanksgiving. We pray for those who are sick or terminally ill through Coronavirus, cancer, or any other deadly disease, and for those who look after them, skilfully, lovingly, or prayerfully. Give comfort to those who mourn loved-ones. We pray for those caught up in circumstances which seem to be beyond their control, and who feel unable to cope with the problems of life. Encounter them, Lord, and give them strength, healing, guidance and Salvation. We pray for the world with all its troubles and beauties; for Your Christian Church Universal in all its denominations, for our Church of Scotland in all its presbyteries and parishes. Be with all the members and adherents of our congregation, bless our loved-ones wherever they are, and hear our prayers for those whom we now name quietly in our hearts … through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-32) – IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, GOD only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might; Thy justice like mountains high soaring above Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest – to both great and small; in all life Thou livest, the true life of all; we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish – but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of Glory, pure Father of Light, Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight; all laud we would render: O help us to see ‘tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee.
MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU; THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE SHINE UPON YOU AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU; THE LORD TURN HIS FACE TOWARDS YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE (Numbers 6: 24-26) THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.
Sandor, your Minister.