This summer we are looking at the life of Moses and how one of the recurring themes in his life was his ability to overcome. Moses was born a Hebrew slave and should have been killed at his birth but he overcome his history thanks to several faithful women who overcame their history and their own place in the world to not only rescue Moses but move him from place of poverty to power. Last week we heard how Moses overcame his ego when God called him to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. Moses had to get over himself and realize that God was inviting him to be part of something historic and life changing for everyone involved and it really didn’t need Moses’ ability or strength, just Moses willingness to be used by God.
When Moses finally agreed to lead God’s people he was told to go to Pharaoh and ask him to let the Hebrew people leave Egypt so they could worship God. Exodus 5:1-9. It is clear from Pharaoh’s response that leading God’s people out of Egypt was not going to be easy and if Moses was going to do this he was going to have to overcome his enemy, the most powerful man in Egypt –Pharaoh.
To help Moses overcome Pharaoh, God provided him with miracles to perform to help convince Pharaoh that God was real and that God wanted his people to be free. Exodus 7:10-13. This show of power didn’t move Pharaoh so the next day Moses returned as Pharaoh was entering into the Nile River to bathe and as he stepped into the water, Moses turns it all into blood. Exodus 7:19-24.
Pharaoh still would not let God’s people go; in fact, all that happened was that Pharaoh dug in his heels and became stronger in his opposition. Even though this was God’s plan and God’s power at work, the enemy was strong and was not going to give up easily and the truth is that the enemies we face are strong and even when God is on our side, they do not give up easily.
When Pharaoh didn’t let God’s people go after all the water in the land was turned to blood, God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh with another plague, a plague of frogs. Frogs covered the land and at first it seems like Pharaoh has agreed to let the people go if Moses will make the frogs go away. The next day all the frogs died just as Moses said they would but when the people of Egypt got relief, Pharaoh changed his mind and would not let God’s people go. The enemy was holding on strong. .
God sent several more plagues on Egypt. First there were gnats, and then flies, and then all the livestock of the Egyptians died but Pharaoh still did not let God’s people go. Then God sent a plague of boils that broke out on all the Egyptians but none of the Hebrews and then there were plagues of hail, locusts and darkness. After each plague Pharaoh simply dug in his heels and refused to let God’s people go. There were times Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses and work out a deal where he would allow some of the people go and worship God, but Moses held firm and when Moses held firm so did his enemy.
Moses returned to Pharaoh one more time and this time the plague coming was going to be the death of all the first born in Egypt. Pharaoh still refused to let God’s people go so the angel of death moved through Egypt and those who were in homes protected by the blood of a lamb were spared death, but all other families lost their first born. It was after this plague that Pharaoh finally gave in and allowed the people of Israel to leave. Exodus 12:31-39.
So after 10 plagues and one powerful miracle, it appears that Moses has overcome his enemy and God’s people were allowed to leave Egypt but the enemy has not given up. Once again Pharaoh changes his mind. Exodus 14:5-9a. Just when it looked like God’s people were free and clear – the enemy attacked again and the people are in a difficult situation because in front of them they have the Red Sea and no means of crossing over and behind them they have the fast approaching Egyptian army. It appears to be a hopeless situation, but Moses has learned an important lesson during the past several months. Moses has learned that he can overcome his enemy if he will be persistent.
After the first miracle and then the first plague, Moses could have called it all off and given up, but he didn’t, he stood strong against his enemy again and again 10 times Moses went back and fought against Pharaoh and this process told Moses that to overcome his enemy he had to stand firm and stand strong, which is exactly what Moses now says to the people. Exodus 14:13-14.
Overcoming our enemy calls for persistence. Moses had to go back to Pharaoh 10 times and then when it seemed like they had finally overcome the enemy – the enemy attacked again. Moses persisted in his faith and once more trusted that God would do something to rescue them. While Moses didn’t know how God was going to do it, he knew God would do something and so he stood firm and in time God parted the Red Sea, the people of God crossed over and the waters came crashing down on their enemy once and for all.
The life of Moses teaches us that overcoming our enemy calls for persistence. Our enemy can be anything that we fight against in this world. Our enemy can be addictions, it can be depression, it can be negative self esteem, it can be the destructive forces of the culture around us and yes it can be people who are determined to bring us down or destroy us. This week we have once again seen that our enemy can be long standing attitudes of racism and bigotry and the idea that human life is not sacred and valuable. While our enemy can be any number of things, in each and every situation the way we overcome our enemy is with persistence. Like Moses, we aren’t going to overcome our enemy in a single day, it may take many days, many difficult circumstances and maybe many years and lot of working together, but if we will persist, we will overcome.
The word persistence means to go resolutely on in spite of opposition, which tells us is that there is going to be opposition. Overcoming the enemy means that there is someone or something working against us and therefore the road ahead is going to be hard. Overcoming our enemy is not going to be easy and we need to understand that from the beginning. The second thing this definition tells us is that we have to be resolute or determined to not let anything stop us as we move forward. Moses quickly learned how strong his enemy was when Pharaoh not only refused to let the people go but actually made their life more difficult, but he also learned to be resolute and determined by seeing God’s strength return each time Pharaoh said no. Moses learned persistence through the opposition and it was his persistent faith in God at the Red Sea which brought him and all the people of Israel victory.
To overcome our enemy we need to be persistent and the life of Moses teaches us how we can develop persistence in our own lives.
1. PAY ATTENTION. We need to listen to God and God’s word and then we need to put what we hear into practice. Moses spent a lot of time listening to God as he was working to overcome Pharaoh. After each plague, Moses listened to what God had to say and then Moses followed God’s instructions. It was important for Moses to listen and act on what he heard because the safety of God’s people depended on it. For example, the night the angel of death moved through the land, God’s people were protected because they put the blood of a lamb on the door posts of their homes. These were clear instructions God gave to Moses to give to the people. So Moses paid careful attention to God and followed what God said and this helped him overcome Pharaoh.
We also need to pay attention and listen and learn all we can if we are going to overcome our enemy. We need to listen to God, but we also need to listen to the wise advice of others. We need to listen to experts who can help us and leaders who can guide us through the difficult and dark days we see around us. We also need get our ego out of the way and remember that we might not have all the answers but we can learn from and lean on others.
2. PRAY. We not only need to pay attention but we also need to pray and ask God for his help and strength. Prayer connects us to God and we don’t just pray for wisdom, we pray for the strength and the endurance that God gives us to keep going. I am sure there were times Moses was ready to give up. The plagues were not pleasant and while many of them didn’t touch the Hebrew people, life in Egypt must have been horrible during this time and so Moses was not just turning to God for help but for the strength and patience he needed to keep going. To persevere we need to pray and ask God to be with us and to give us the strength and patience to keep going.
3. PLAN. Persistence also means planning ahead so we can move forward. To be victorious, we need to be a step ahead of our enemy and anticipate their moves so we can be prepared when they attack. If the enemy we are fighting is addiction, then we know that once we start saying no those things that have a hold on us that the temptation to give in is going to get stronger and when that happens we might need people to step in and help us. We need to plan ahead and be prepared to get the help we need. When a previous church member of mine was fighting the enemy of alcoholism, she planned to have people surround her during difficult times when she knew she would be most likely to give in and that plan kept her strong more than once as she worked to overcome her enemy.
4. PACE OURSELVES. There is also a certain pacing in this story of Moses that helps him endure until he overcomes. There are the times Moses goes to Pharaoh and has to stand strong, but then he is able to return home and get rest and strength from those around him. There are times of action and times of rest and it is this kind of pace that is needed if we are going to overcome our enemy. Our enemy is strong and powerful and is not going to give up quickly or easily so we need to be prepared for the long haul which means we need to pace ourselves. Periods of rest and recovery are very important in any battle and the battle of overcoming our enemy is no different.
6. PRIZE. We also need to keep our eye on the prize and remember why we are fighting. For Moses, the prize was freedom and life in the Promised Land. God continued to remind Moses that there was a land flowing with milk and honey waiting for them. The prize for us might be a healthier life or marriage, it might be greater satisfaction in a job or the joy found when we are living for and with God. The prize might be a world where we are able to live together despite our difference and where we reach out to those who are troubled and broken with the love and grace of God. The Apostle Paul tells us the importance of keeping our eyes on the prize. Philippians 3:12-14.
Persistence can be learned and developed when we pay attention to God, pray, plan, pace ourselves and keep our eyes on the prize and it is this kind of persistence that is needed if we are going to overcome our enemy.
This week I had to ask myself if I really believe what I am saying here and if this kind of persistence can help us over the evil we have seen in Charleston S.C. At times it seems like overcoming the violence that comes with racism, bigotry and the devaluing of human life will never happen, but the relatives of those killed and the witness of many in the community of Charleston gives us hope that persistence can help us be victorious. We have been reminded by the family of those who lost loved ones on Wednesday night that we can overcome this evil by persistently holding out the love of Jesus. We need to stop dividing ourselves racially, economically, socially and religiously and remember that Jesus taught us that every person is a child of God and that we are called to love and welcome everyone into our hearts and lives. It is this kind of persistent love in the face of opposition, persistent grace in the face of violence and persistent hope in the darkness of despair that overcomes the attitudes that lead to the horrific actions we saw this week.
The granddaughter of Daniel Simmons, a retired minister who was killed on Wednesday, said it best when she said to the court, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.” May we embody this same spirit and be resolute in reflecting the fullness of Jesus in the face of all opposition, knowing that it is only the love of God seen in Jesus Christ that will help us overcome this enemy.
Overcoming Our Enemy
1. This week read the story of Moses and how he overcame the power of Pharaoh. Exodus 5-14
• What lessons on overcoming our enemy do you learn from Moses example?
2. Identify an enemy in your life. An enemy can be any person or force that seeks to bring you down and destroy you. An enemy can be a person, emotion, health issue, mental health issue, financial issue or any cultural force that adversely affects us.
3. Persistence is needed in overcoming the enemy and persistence can be developed with these steps:
• PAY ATTENTION
• PACE OURSELVES
4. Identify how you can each step in #3 can help you in overcoming the enemy you named in #2. Be specific in your prayers and plans, identify times for rest and write down your prize so you always know what you are fighting for.
The righteous may fall seven times,
but they always rise again.