- Exodus 33: 12-17
- Isaiah 45: 1-7
- 1 Thessalonians 1: 1-7
Most of us know the story of Moses and his encounter with God at the burning bush, found in Exodus chapter 3, verses 1 to 17. Although Moses was Jewish, he had been cast as a baby into the Nile River in a woven basket, his mother hoping to save his life, and he was plucked out of the river by the Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him. Moses was brought up in the royal household, but things turned sour for him when he killed one of the Egyptians overseers, for having treated the Jewish slaves badly. And fearing arrest and execution, he ran away, into the desert. There he came to work for Reuel ( also known as Jethro), as a shepherd.
As the story in Exodus goes, when the Pharaoh died, the new Pharaoh treated the Jewish people worse than his father, and the Israelites groaned under this burden. And so Moses was out, tending the flock at the edge of the desert, near Horeb – which is known as the «mountain of God». And suddenly an angel of God appears to him as a flame of fire in a bush. God calls out to Moses from the bush, tells Moses that he has heard the prayers and sorrow of the people, and that God will deliver them from Egypt, through Moses.
As we may remember, Moses responds to God with 2 things:
- I’m not the right person for the job! I’m not a good speaker – I have a speech impediment!
- They’re going to ask «who sent you» – which God are you talking about? What should I tell them?
And so we are introduced to the concept of God as «I AM THAT I AM» – ‘Jehovah, the God of your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you.’
Today, I want to talk about being chosen and called by God: throughout the Christian Scriptures we read that «we are a chosen people» and «children of God». And I want to also talk about how we respond to being called or chosen, because we have choices about how we respond to this.
I’m going to use the four examples that we saw this morning in our readings:
- the children of Israel – that Moses leads through the desert and into the promised land
- Cyrus – as mentioned in Isaiah 45
- us – or other Christians
The first example, as I said, is Moses, and I just gave you a brief synopses above of his calling and being chosen by God. Most of us, however, have not had this kind of experience with calling or being chosen. Many of us are still struggling to find our purpose and passion – what are you supposed to be doing for the Kingdom of God? Moses’ experience, as related in Exodus is supernatural. Whatever kind of experience that it was – whether it was a vision, a dream or a surreal experience – the message and purpose was clear. You, Moses, are going to go and do this! I have chosen you, I am calling you, and this is what I want you to do.
I am sure that many of us wish that our calling were so crystal clear – although I’m not sure that I would have wanted Moses’ job either! I probably would have reacted the same as he did: I’m not the right person for the job, and I don’t even know how to do that. I don’t stutter, but I’m an introvert – you need an extrovert for this job! Find someone better suited for the job.
But note, Moses doesn’t go down in the history books of the Bible for being a brilliant or great orator, even though he seemed to think that this was what the job he was being called for required. Numbers 12 3: says
«Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.»
And in Hebrews 11, verses 24 through 30, it talks about the great faith of Moses. And in Deuteronomy 10, verses 12 to 13 it says that Moses chose to fear the Lord, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and keep the commandments of God.
Then, we have the children of Israel, who are mentioned throughout the Bible as being chosen by God. But, do you want to know something curious, it’s not only the Bible that says that the children of Israel are special and chosen. The Quran, in 2:47 says
O children of Israel! Remember those blessings of Mine with which I graced you, and how I favoured you above all other people;
This choosing is mentioned in many verses of the Bible, such as Deuteronomy 7, verses 6 to 9:
For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery… 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
We read, in Deuteronomy 26, verse 17 the response of the children of Israel to this calling:
You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice.
But we know that once again in Joshua 24 the children of Israel are asked to confirm their commitment: «Choose this day whom you will serve».
I want to mention also Cyrus, mentioned in the verses we read this morning in Isaiah 45. Bible theologians mention that this prophecy regarding Cyrus was 150 years before he came to power. Let me remind what these verses said:
This is Jehovah’s message to Cyrus, God’s anointed, whom he has chosen to conquer many lands. God shall empower his right hand, and he shall crush the strength of mighty kings. God shall open the gates … to him; the gates shall not be shut against him anymore. 2 I will go before you, Cyrus, and level the mountains and smash down the city gates of brass and iron bars. 3 And I will give you … secret riches; and you will know that I am doing this—I, the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by your name. … I called you by name when you didn’t know me.
This sounds a little like Jeremiah 1: 5, where God calls Jeremiah as a prophet:
«Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.»
And Psalm 139: 16
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
But most of us don’t have the clarity of being told (as Cyrus was eventually told) or as Jeremiah was told in his vision or as David came to know – that they were called even before birth. And yet, each one of us is chosen and called. How will you respond to this calling?
I realise that our calling is not as impressive as that of Cyrus – to crush nations and break down gates and walls, to conquer. We are not prophets of the stature of Jeremiah. We are not kings like David. But we are still called, chosen and given a purpose.
Thankfully, most of us can relate to the calling and being chosen of the children of God in 1 Thessalonians! And I want to spend the last few moments of this sermon, discussing our calling and the choices that we have to being chosen.
- You may choose to reject the calling – there is no obligation on any of us to accept the calling the God makes to us. Like children of an earthly father, we may choose to drift away and not have a relationship. We may choose to do our own thing, «be my own person» – sing «I did it my way».
- You may hear the calling and respond, but get caught up in the material world and daily life. I’ll call mum & dad tomorrow. I’ll visit them next week, next month, for Mother’s Day, for Christmas. With good intentions, but not developing and keeping a close relationship.
- Or you may choose to have a close and active relationship with God & Source – listening to the good news with great interest, opening your Spirit to communing directly with Spirit, filling you with power and life! You may live with strong faith, working with loving deeds constantly. You may become a living example for others.
All of us here are chosen and called. Some us may respond with the same fear that Moses had. Other ones of us may choose to live like Cyrus, completely unaware until much later in life of the very existence of God or the nature of our calling. Some of us will be like the children of Israel – knowing that they are called, but frequently straying and struggling to find our way back – letting material things replace the relationship with the Divine, looking for answers in the material world, rather than understanding that Christ is in us, our hope of glory. And others of us will choose to live a life of faith and humility, of prayer and works of faith and labors of love.
Let us pray!