The in-form Sturridge is to return to Liverpool for treatment on a thigh injury but it is hoped he will be fit in time for next Tuesday's key game in the Ukraine.
Sturridge tweeted: "Gutted to be out the England match!! Hopefully I will be fit soon... #justmyluck"
And manager Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Southampton striker Lambert will therefore make his first England start at Wembley.
Sturridge has scored in Liverpool's first three league games this season but aggravated the injury during the 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Sunday and said afterwards he was worried about shooting due to the discomfort he was in.
And Cardiff defender Steven Caulker has also been ruled out of the Moldova match after picking up a knock in training.
Lambert came off the bench to score in a recent friendly against Scotland and Hodgson said: "I have picked the team and Rickie Lambert will start, yes.
"He deserves a chance. I can't deny had Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge been available, it would have been harder for him to get a starting place, but I am more than happy to have a player of his calibre to start this game."
Hodgson also confirmed that Arsenal's Theo Walcott and Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck will provide Lambert with assistance from the flanks.
Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and Ashley Cole are set to start in front of goalkeeper Joe Hart while Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere will definitely play in midfield.
Hodgson said: "We've not exactly been lucky have we? We've lost Daniel, and Wayne (Rooney), and our two potential right-backs in Glen Johnson and Phil Jones.
"Before that it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, so we have lost five players that, a couple of weeks ago, I was really banking on.
"I know it's a cliche but it's a great opportunity for the ones who maybe would not have got a game had the others been available, and it's now up to them to do the job."
Touch and go
Asked whether Sturridge might be available for next week, Hodgson said: "He's worked hard at his treatment.
"The initial prognosis was that he would not be fit for either of them. We didn't accept that and he didn't accept that either, so he's worked very hard to try and have the necessary treatment.
"I would think it will be touch and go, we won't know until Sunday morning.
"He reports back on Saturday evening; Sunday morning we have a training session before we leave for the Ukraine and, if he passes it, he'll be with us. If he doesn't he'll be staying with Liverpool."
As for Caulker, Hodgson added: "Steven unfortunately turned his ankle in training. It's not a very serious matter but it will keep him out of the game tomorrow night. It won't keep him out of the Ukraine game.
"He's expecting to do some running tomorrow evening after the game with the players who don't play but he won't be on the bench tomorrow."