Jesus Calls Each of Us
O LORD God, as I enter Your presence for worship, I do so with confidence—confidence in the truths of Your Word, which will be proclaimed to me; confidence in the grace, which You have shown me through Jesus my Savior; and confidence in the future, which You are preparing for me in heaven. Yes, bless me this day as I worship. Amen.
Towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry opposition from His fellow Jews and especially their religious leaders grew to a fevered pitch. When Jesus identified Himself as “I AM,” they picked up stones to kill Him but He escaped. It was not yet time for Him to sacrifice Himself.
The rich young ruler refused to follow Jesus, because he had so many things with which he would not part. In response to Peter’s question, Jesus promised great blessing to all who answer His call and follow Him with faithfulness!
Text: Exodus 3:1-10
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
In Christ Jesus, who comes to us in His word with this compelling invitation, “Follow Me!”:
We have heard a lot of talk about calls here at Immanuel in recent weeks. We called Brandan Heinze to teach mathematics in our Christian Day School, and the Spirit moved him to accept that call. We called Kristen Friedrichs to teach history, but she was led to decline our call and remain in her present calling with Blue Earth County. I received and accepted the call to serve the Grace, Peace, and St. Paul’s Tri-Parish. The voters of Immanuel will be meeting next Sunday to extend calls for two more teachers and shortly thereafter for a pastor to serve in my place. Later in this worship service, we will install our newly elected church council members and church officers. They have been called to serve in various leadership capacities within our congregation by our congregation’s voters. Calls from God, however, are not always extended in formal letters, affirmed by unanimous ballots of voters, or blessed ceremonially in worship services. In fact, most of the calls God extends to us, and He does extend calls to each of us, may seem to be quite informal and have little to do with God’s kingdom or the work of the church.
Today we want to consider the calls of God, first as an example—the call God extended to Moses, but then second by way of application—the calls God extends to each of us. Before doing so, however, let us make the connection between our calls and Jesus. Jesus claimed during His earthly ministry to be the Son of God. In fact, He refers to God as “My Father” no fewer than thirty-six times in the Gospel of John. As noted in our “Word of Truth” today, God identified Jesus as His “beloved Son” in whom He was “well-pleased” at the time of His transfiguration.God then commanded everyone—to “Hear Him!” (Mt. 17:5) In our 1st Scripture Lesson we hear Jesus say He is the great “I AM” (cf. Jn. 8:58). He thereby connects Himself directly to LORD God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and identified Himself as “I AM WHO I AM”—the always present, always powerful, never changing, and ever gracious Creator and Redeemer of us all! In our 2nd Scripture Reading Jesus states there is great blessing for those whom He calls, when they choose to follow Him. My dear friends, when we speak of our calls from God, therefore, we can truly say that JESUS CALLS EACH OF US! As He called Moses, so He calls each of us at His chosen time, in His chosen way, and for His chosen purpose!
As our text opens we are told that Moses “was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law…. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him….” Moses was eighty years old at this time. As you will recall Moses was forty years younger when he styled himself the leader of his enslaved people, Israel. While attempting to rescue an Israelite from an Egyptian taskmaster, Moses committed murder and was forced to flee Egypt to avoid royal retribution. In the meantime, he had met and married his wife, Zipporah. While he may have once dreamed of returning to Egypt, he had long-since given up such lofty goals of national leadership. Over the decades, he had contented himself with going into the sheep business with his father-in-law, and he had gotten to know the pasturelands of the Sinai Peninsula like the back of his hand. Then Jesus called him. This surely was not the time of life in which Moses expected a call from God. In fact, he may well have been dreaming of retiring and turning the flocks over to his two sons, but Jesus calls at His own time. At this point, Moses was no longer that strong, self-confident, self-centered, prime-of-life man he had once been, but rather he was an older, more mature, seasoned—that is, wise enough to have less confidence in himself and an understanding that true strength lies in the LORD—man. Moses was now a man whom God could use effectively. Now was Jesus’ time for Moses’ calling!
My dear friends, JESUS CALLS EACH OF US, and He does so at His chosen time! As I mentioned in my letter last Sunday explaining my acceptance of the call to Grace, Peace, and St. Paul’s, my first reaction to the call was that it had come at the wrong time. Pastor Naumann has not been here long. The jail-prison ministry is expanding. It did not seem to be the right time to leave. But after prayer consideration, the Spirit led me to understand that Jesus calls at His chosen time, not at the time we may think best. That is why we must ever remain sensitive to God and keep listening to Jesus. Solomon says: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). When does Jesus want you to get married? When does Jesus want you to have children? Is there such a thing as an “unplanned” pregnancy? Perhaps from our vantage point, but not from Jesus’. When a woman becomes pregnant she is being called to motherhood, and her husband is being called to fatherhood, whether they planned that to happen or not. The Bible tells us that in His providential care God has “made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him.” (Acts 17:26-27) JESUS CALLS EACH OF US to assume many roles and in the midst of a variety of circumstances at His chosen time!
He also calls us in His chosen way! We are told in our text that as Moses led his flock in the wilderness near Mt. Horeb, “the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.” Now to see a bush on fire in the wilderness was not unusual. The acacia bushes of that region are quite tall and are often struck by lightning during storms. What caught Moses’ attention was that the bush was not consumed. Generally such fires rose quickly and died quickly, but this bush was different. Moses then decided to go investigate this strange occurrence. As he approached the bush we are told: “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” The call of Moses was truly unique. Nowhere else in Scripture or in secular history do we hear about God calling someone from a burning bush, but that is the nature of Jesus’ calls. They are intended to make an impression on the specific person being called and to move that person to follow Jesus.
My dear friends, that is also true of Jesus’ calls to us. I have asked Yella Hensley to allow me to use his case as an example. I met Yella in the Blue Earth County Jail at my very first Friday Evening Bible Study. That first summer he attended every week and as the weeks went by he began asking more and more thoughtful questions. Before going to prison that fall, Yella informed me that being in jail had humbled him, but that there was nothing more humbling than having God send “an old, white, Republican” to teach him the Bible. It was while Yella was in prison that the Holy Spirit led him into a deeper and deeper faith in his Savior Jesus. It was while in prison that Jesus called Yella to begin numerous Bible classes. It was while in prison that Jesus called upon him to develop a compassion for his fellow inmates and a zeal to share with those men guilty of the most heinous crimes the truths of God’s Word, for it is that Word which the Spirit uses to instruct the hearts and minds of men, and it is through that Word that Jesus then calls men to faith and to action. The circumstances of Yella’s call are different than those for most, if not all of us here today, but that is the point. JESUS CALLS EACH OF US in His chosen way so that we will be led to follow!
Yes, JESUS CALLS EACH OF US, finally, for His chosen purpose! That was certainly true for Moses. The LORD identified Himselfas “the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God went on to point out that He was calling Moses to return to Egypt—not for Moses’ glory or in view of Moses’ greatness, but rather He was calling him to lead Israel out of their captivity in Egypt and to bring them to the land God had promised their fathers. God intended to use Moses’ life-experience as a shepherd in the wilderness of Sinai to keep His promise to give Israel the land of Canaan. For forty years Moses would fulfill his calling and his work would finally end only when Israel was poised to enter the Promised Land.
Jesus calls us to fulfill His purpose for us, for His Church, and for our fellow human beings. I have asked Harold and Betty Wolle’s permission to use them as an example of this truth. Harold and Betty were called by God to become husband and wife seventy years ago this month. For seventy years they have kept their vows to each other. Beyond the role of husband and wife, they have faithfully fulfilled the roles of being parents, grandparents, and now great-grandparents. If I have heard it once, I have heard it a dozen times this last month that Harold and Betty have set a marvelous example of what Christian marriage is meant to be. That is and will continue to be one of Jesus’ purposes for them in this life. God calls upon us all to “be imitators of God” walking in love, light, and wisdom! (cf. Eph. 5:1-2, 8, 15) This is what Harold and Betty have done. We are living in a time when people are amazed that couples stay together to celebrate a 20th Anniversary, much less a 70th Anniversary. Harold and Betty are an inspiration to their grandchildren, not only giving them hope for the future but directing them to that one Hope for the future—Jesus Christ!
My dear friends, are you looking for joy, for hope, and for meaning in this life? Then listen to Jesus, as your heavenly Father instructs us to do. Hear Him as He calls you to love others, to serve others, and to uplift others in whatever role Jesus calls you to do, and there will no doubt be many of them. As you listen and as you act—at times you may least expect it, in ways that will at times amaze you, and for purposes that Jesus will reveal to you—you may rest assured that Jesus’ blessings will come…if not in this life, in the life to come! Yes, when Jesus calls, dear friends, follow Him! Amen.