Have you ever been called by God to complete a great task?
You may not have had a divine experience like Moses,
but through a series of "amazing coincidences"
you were pretty sure God called you to this task.
This task may be bigger than we think we can handle.
If God calls you to do something, donít you think he is going to make it possible for you to accomplish this task, no matter how improbable it seems?
One of the great joys of being a Christian is discovering the specific mission (or ministry) God has called for you.
It may be to lead a small group.
It may be to raise children in a Godly home.
It may be some sort of service at this church.
They way you know is:
1. You have a joy & passion for this task.
2. God gave you the ability to accomplish this task.
Sometimes God calls to do things that we think are beyond our capabilities.
That is the story of Moses & "the burnish bush."
It is the call of God to a great task.
As you read Chapters 3 & 4, notice the patience of God to deal with Moses doubts.
Remember, what God asks, God enables!
Chapter 3 contains one of the most well known passages in the Bible "The burning bush."
This is the chapter where God first spoke to Moses through a burning bush.
It is point in Mosesí life where God first called him into service.
I spent some time this week thinking about why a "burning bush"?
Why not just send Moses an angel to deliver the message?
Why not something even more dramatic and obvious?
Why did God wait until Moses was eighty years old to call him into service?
Weíre going to talk about these questions in this lesson.
(As you can tell, I have way too much time on my hands.J)
God teaches us to meditate upon His Word.
That simply means to think about and contemplate its meaning.
So these pondering questions of mine can be Biblically supported!
With that, lets get to the text., Chapter 3, Verse 1: 3:1 Now Moses was shepherding 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 the mountain of God, to Horeb. 3:2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from within a bush. He looked-and the bush was ablaze with fire, but it was not being consumed! 3:3 So Moses thought, "I will turn aside to see this amazing sight, why the bush does not burn up."
To review from last week, (Chapter 2)
Moses spent the 1st 40 years of his life training to be king (Pharaoh) of Egypt.
Moses killed an Egyptian, who was persecuting a fellow Hebrew.
The Pharaoh found out about this, and wanted to kill Moses.
Moses made a run for it to the dessert.
Moses spent the next 40 years in the dessert (or wilderness) working for his father-in-law, tending his sheep.
We know the duration of time as Stephen records these facts in the New Testament, Book of Acts, Chapter 7.
So here was Moses, out in the dessert doing the job heís been doing for the 40 years.
Iím sure heís had a lot of time to think about his actions in Egypt.
Moses went through the "should haveís, could haveís, and would haveís" about his early days in Egypt.
By now, at 80, Moses probably hit a point of contentment,
but God had a different idea!
assume because you are at any age, God canít use you!
At this point, Iím sure Moses thought he was a "nobody".
This will become more obvious as we get into the dialogue between God and Moses.
Verses 1-3, Moses is setting up the reader for the big dramatic moment.
It wasnít until verse 4 that Moses understood He was talking to the creator of the Universe, but it was hinted at in the first 3 verses.
Verse 1 states that Moses took the flock to the Mountain of God.
Verse 2 states that "an Angel of the Lord" spoke to him.
Verse 3 states that Moses is going to "check out this amazing site"
Notice what got Moses attention in Verse 3.
It was not "The Angel of the Lord"
It was the fact that the bush was not burning up.
Apparently, a bush that spontaneously catches on fire was an occurrence that happens once in awhile in the dessert.
What got Moses curiosity is that the bush was not consumed!
One reason God used a burning, but non-consuming bush is he knew that would get Mosesí attention.
God will work on our level the same way. He often uses things we are familiar with to get our attention.
Most of the commentators agree that "the burning, but non-consuming bush" a picture of Godís Mercy, or Godís Grace
The Hebrew word for "Thorn Bush" means "to stick or to prick".
Almost all scholars agree that this has to do with sin.
When Adam first sinned, God through a curse on him:
"Cursed is the ground because of youÖ It will produce thorns and thistles for you, (Genesis 3:17-18a, NIV)
So here in the desert, we see a ball of fire burning "sin".
Yet the sin is not consumed. Why?
This is Gods grace upon us.
God has to judge sin.
If God is perfect by definition, a perfect God is perfect both in judgement and love.
He can not tolerate any sort of wrong (sin)
But in Godís grace and mercy, we are not consumed
A lot of Christian commentators go a step further, and speculate that the "crown of thorns" on Jesus head when he was crucified is the same symbol of "God judging sin" on our behalf!
Last comment about these verses: In Verse 2, Moses calls the mountain of God "Mount Horeb". This is the same mountain we know as Mount Sinai, the mountain where God (later) will give Moses the 10 commandments.
"Horeb" probably means dessert or desolation"
It may give us an idea what the terrain was like at this place.
For all of us "symbolic" types out there, many point out that Moses (like us) was in "desolation" in our sinful state with God, before God calls us out of the world.
Here comes the big moment: 3:4 And when the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him from within the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." 3:5 And God said, "Do not come near here. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." 3:6 He also said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
My 1st question as studied this passage, was "why take off his shoes?"
Why not "get on your knees", or get on your face" before a mighty & holy God?
The problem is our western culture view of worship.
In the eastern culture, to take of oneís shoes is to be a servant, or a slave.
God wanted Moses to understand "who he was and who God was.
The next thing to think about is "Godís opening words"
First God says "Moses, Moses".
You may not catch the significance of that, but Iím sure Moses eventually did.
Iím sure Moses felt abandoned by God.
After the first 40 years of thinking "Iím the deliver Godí promised" and then spending 40 years in the desert, after the "incident"
Iím sure He now felt abandoned from God.
So for God to yell out Moses, Moses
God is reminding Moses "I still know who you are!"
God is reminding Moses ĎIím still there".
"I still have my eye on you!"
Thatís the application for us. The constant reminder that God will never leave us nor forsake us no matter what our situation or how isolated or how desolated we feel!
Next thing out of Godís mouth is "I am the God of your father (ancestors), the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
OK, thereís an introduction for you.
Why not the God who created the Universe?
Why not the God of Adam & Eve?
Or the God that is greater than all of the Gods of Egypt?
Whatís this title?
The focus is on the promises God has specifically made.
God made specific promises to Abraham (Genesis 15:13), Isaac (Genesis 26:24), and Jacob (Genesis 28:13) about God leading the Israelite family into Egypt and 400 years later, bringing out a nation.
One of the great things to contemplate about the nature of God is that
1. He can not lie. (Titus 1:2)
If God can lie, He is capable of going back on His word.
God makes lots of promises to us as believers.
If God is capable of lying, we can not trust Him!
Remember that Moses is despondent at this time.
40 years ago, he thought God was going to use him to lead the people out of Egypt.
Now, 40 years after that, Moses either thought God was not going to go through with it (Mosesí ego) or Moses was not going to be involved.
So for God to call Moses by name, and at the same time, remind Moses of the promise, had to be a shock to Mosesí system.
And how did Moses react? Verse 5: " Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
He probably felt so guilty and/or afraid of Godís judgement he couldnít look.
Yet here was God about to call Moses for a great task!
The important lesson for us is God can use anybody!
Despite our failures, our doubts, our lack of self-confidence, our focus on our past failures, God doesnít care. God wants to use you.
God is not looking for ability, God is looking for availability!
There is a great quote by Evangelist Thomas Moody in the 19th Century that goes
For 40 years Moses thought he was somebody.
For the next 40 years, Moses thought he was a nobody.
Then Moses learned God can use anybody!
Last week I talked a lot about the "wilderness" experience of our lives.
Those times in our lives where we feel isolated, alone, or like a failure and we feel like we are in the "wilderness".
What is there to learn here is
1. God is always there. Period.
2. God has a purpose for us going through this wilderness.
3. God can use us as He sees fit.
It is always important to bring up "the sovereignty of God. It is best to explain it through a famous American childhood riddle.
Question: Where does an 800-pound gorilla sleep?
Answer: Anywhere he wants to!
Keeping that riddle in mind helps us to understand the sovereignty of God. God has a plan, and God will carry it out. No matter how hard Satan or man tries to screw it up, Godís plan will stand.
The LORD Almighty has sworn, "Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand. (Isaiah 14:24 NIV)
Next set of verses: 3:7 Then the Lord said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 3:8 I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and large, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the territory of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 3:9 And now, indeed, the cry of the Israelites has come to me, and I have also seen how severely the Egyptians oppress them. 3:10 So now, go, and I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt."
Notice the verbs of God speaking. That says it all.
I have surely seen the affliction of my people. (Verse 7)
I have heard their cry. (Verse 7)
I have come down to deliver them.
God sees, God hears, and God gets involved.
Benjamin Franklin is famous for the quote: "I have lived a long time sir, and there is one thing of which I am certain. God interferes in the affairs of man."
The question is "which side are you on?
Jesus said, ""For whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:40 NIV)
Back to one of the original question. Why use Moses? If God had intended to bring the Israelites out of the land, why not do it Himself? Why not use the leaders of the Israelites who are currently in Egypt?
Well, lots of reasons.
First of all, God works through us. That is his nature. You can see that throughout the entire Bible. This is how God gets us involved and keeps us focused on Him.
Verse 10 says, "I (God) am sending you (Moses) to bring my people out of Egypt.
To use one of my favorite quotes.
Without God, we canít.
Without us, God wonít.
Second, Moses is ideal for the job. The combination of leadership skills he learned the first 40 years, Mosesí knowledge of Egyptian leadership, plus Moses next 40 years in desert survival made him an ideal candidate.
Next, what the "land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites?
This is a description of the land of Israel. How else could you describe it to a people who have never been there?
This is the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 15: 13-21)
Moses, like all Jews living in Egypt at that time was probably told of this promise as a child.
This was God reminded Mosesí of his promise!
Some have asked "Gee, what about the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, and other unpronounceable people. Why would God kick them out of the land?
Remember the "800 pound gorilla analogy" of Godís sovereignty.
Heís in charge. God will do what he wants to do.
Second, God needed a nation to be a witness to the world, in order to bring in the Law, the Bible, and the Messiah.
This land (i.e. Israel) is located on the only natural land bridge between 3 continents. It was the ideal location (think central trade route) to be a witness to the world.
Next, God wants to use Israel as an example for us.
Israel was born as a nation in Egypt.
"Egypt" is a type of the world.
God calls us out of the world to live a new life to serve Him.
If you think, "Iím out an limb" in this analogy, remember what Jesus said to a Jewish Rabbi (Nicodemus) that you must be "born-again". Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand this by studying the Old Testament.
Jesus said to Nicodemus ""You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? (John 3:10 NIV)
Jesus drew on this analogy & expected Nicodemus to know it!
Next. Remember the question, why 400 years? There is an interesting clue in Genesis 15:16:
God said to Abraham" In the 4th generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (Genesis 15:16NIV)
Apparently the Amorites were sinful people themselves.
God judges nations as well as people.
There is a limit of Godís tolerance of sin.
Once a "limit" is reached. God will wipe out a nation!
Do you know any Amorites around today?
Archeologists have reported that the people who were occupying the land had some pretty despicable practices.
There is an interesting comment about the Canaanites
One archeologist reported (through Halleyís Bible Handbook) that "Their practices of child sacrifice were so sickening, Iím am surprise God waited as long as He did to judge them."
By the Israelites conquering other nations, that is an additional sign to the surrounding world that God is greater than all other foreign Gods.
Last point, why describe the land as "flowing with milk & honey?
Remember this is an agricultural society.
Milk comes from cows or goats. This means it is good grazing land.
"Honey" is associated with bees. This means good agriculture for flowers and other products growing from the ground."
Itís a colorful way of expressing the land as good for any sort of farming.
Verse 11: 3:11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" 3:12 And God said, "Surely I will be with you; and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain." 3:13 But Moses said to God, "If I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me, 'What is his name?'-what should I say to them?"
Ladies and Gentleman, I believe Moses has a bad case, of lack-of-self-confidence.
This is the first of five "protests" by Moses given in Chapters 3 & 4 to God.
"Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?"
"Who am I to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
Iím just a nobody-shepherd out here in the dessert!
If I can get you to remember one application from this lesson, it is this:
What God asks, God enables
If God has called you to some task, be it great or small, God will gives you the means to pull off that task.
Did you notice Moses did not ask "How shall I organize & manage this?"
Moses did know that what God wants to do, God is capable of doing.
What Moses lacked was confidence in himself to do this task!
Notice Godís patience with Moses. God doesnít say "Shut up and get going", he says:
"Surely I will be with you" (just as He will be with us!)
When we are feeling discouraged and lacking self-confidence, God will work with us to build us up again.
This is why daily Bible reading is important especially in difficult times.
Godís word is a constant reassurance of his presence & his love and that He is with there with us during difficult times.
The next thing is interesting. The "sign" God gives, is that when you bring the people out you will serve me on this mountain.
God assures Moses that the great promise to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob is going to take place.
The second part (serve me on this mountain) is a sign of obedience.
God has done a great work in our lives to.
What does God demand in exchange for this? Obedience!!!
Christianity has always been about "putting your money where your mouth is".
Saying you believe God is one thing.
Acting upon Godís word is having faith, and that is what he requires!
Jesus said" "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46 NIV)
The next logical question Moses asks, is what shall I tell the people when they asked who sent me?
At this point in Mosesí life, Moses had no confidence in himself.
He wanted to take along some sort of proof.
This is natural. Picture Moses walking back into the Israel camp after 40 years and saying "God spoke to me through a burning bush, and he told me to lead you out of Egypt". The first thing the leaders would say is "Yeah, right, you and what army?"
The answer to Mosesí question of "Who shall I say sent me? Is interesting.
So God said to Moses, "I AM that I AM." And he said, "You must say this to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" 3:15 God also said to Moses, "You must say this to the Israelites, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.'
God answered "I AM" is my name. Sounds strange at first.
Here we are introduced to the most Holy name of God, Literally "JWTH",
In the original Hebrew, there are no vowels.
Therefore people pronounce it either "Jehovah, or "Yahweh".
The truth is we donít know.
Most translations say "I AM" or "I AM THAT I AM", or literally "The becoming one".
If you asked God what is your name, and He said "I AM",
I would ask (or think to myself) what kind of name is that?
My first thought would be "I am what?"
Children will often ask, "Who created God?" Godís response is "I am that I am".
If you think about it, God does not owe us an explanation of who he is.
Out of His grace, He lays out the plans for our lives.
But God does not explain his origins, nor in His Sovereignty is He required to give us an explanation.
Understanding what "I AM" implies, actually helps in your Christian Faith!
In the Bible, the name Jehovah is often combined with other Hebrew words to suit whatever purpose God has at that moment.
Without getting into the Hebrew, there are names of God that combine "I AM" with other passages.
Such as I AM (God is) "the great provider"
The name Jesus is a Greek derivative of the Hebrew Joshua
Literally "Yeshua" means "I AM (God is) Salvation".
Jesus himself, claimed to be the Great "I AM
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58 NIV).
Verse 59 tells us the Jewish leaders picked up stones to try to kill him. They understood that Jesus was claiming to be "voice of the burning bush", the great "I AM".
The Gospel of John is actually organized around seven specific "I AM" statements. ("I AM" the bread of life, "I AM" the light of the wold, "I AM" the door, "I AM" the gate, "I AM" the Good Shepherd, "I AM" the resurrection, and "I AM" the true vine.)
God also said to Moses, "You must say this to the Israelites, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.'3:16 "Go and call together the elders of Israel and say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, appeared to me-the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-saying, "I have attended carefully to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. 3:17 And I promised that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey."'
I can understand God referring to himself as "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".
That is not his name.
This is a reminder to the Israelites of Godís promise.
The last part of Verse 15 implies a command by God "This is my name forever, and this is my memorial from generation to generation.'
God expects them, and us, to remember his name.
One of the 10 commandments is to not misuse the name of God.
"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Exodus 20:7 NIV)
Why does God care so much about his name?
Mainly because when we represent Him, it is His reputation on the line.
When we say we are "Christians", it is the reputation of God that is being judged as well as ours.
God being "I AM", is saying He always was, He is, and He always will be. This implies he knows all things.
In Verses 15 and 16 there are two commands given.
Before each command, God says "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"
This is repeated to remind Israel of His contractual relationship.
Verse 15 focuses on the importance to remember his name.
Verse 16 says that God is aware of their suffering in Egypt.
Verse 17 again is the reminder of his redemption promises.
Essentially, Verse 16 & 17 are repetitive of Verses 7-9
Well, if Moses is a typical male, God has to say it several times before it sticks in his head.J
I also see it as a confidence builder for Moses.
Moses is still suffering from lack of self-confidence.
His questions about "Who shall I say sent me" supports this view.
This is another reminder of the saying "Where God leads, God enables."
If God wants you to perform a specific task,
God will also prepare you for that task.
Whatever it takes!
"And the elders will listen to you; and then you and the elders of Israel must go to the king of Egypt, and say to him, 'The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. And now, let us go three days' journey into the wilderness, so that we may offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.' 3:19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go, unless compelled to do so by overwhelming force.
There is a great promise to Moses in Verse 18.
"And the elders will listen to you"
Remember why Moses left Egypt in the first place.
Forty years ago, Moses thought that he was ready to redeem Israel
After the murder, an Israelite said to Moses "Who made you a ruler over us ?(Exodus 2:14)
God is saying to Moses "Now I want you to lead the people because now I have prepared the elders hearts to listen to you!
Hereís a question. If the Israelites rejected a 40-year old Pharaoh-to-be as their leader, why will they accept an 80-year-old shepherd who they havenít heard from in 40 years?
That was Mosesí question.
God only promises "And the elders will listen to you"
Remember that Moses believed God, he simply didnít trust in his own ability. After that statement, he did not question God again about whether the elders would believe Him!
Thereís a great application for us to trust in Godís words.
The next part is really interesting. Moses is to say to Pharaoh "let us go three days' journey into the wilderness, so that we may offer sacrifice to the Lord our God."
Notice it doesnít say. "Hey Pharaoh, Let all the Israelites go out of the country, give us all your gold & silver and youíll never see us again.
Notice it doesnít say. "Hey Pharaoh, Let us go or all these horrible plagues will happen and God will kill all of your first-born children.
It was true God wanted the Israelites to go worship Him in the dessert.
It was also true that God had no intention of them ever going back to Egypt. So whatís the deal?
First of all, if Moses & the elders laid out all of Godís requests to Pharaoh, Pharaoh would never go for it.
God wanted to show Pharaoh that in the end, he would have no excuse.
By making a more reasonable request (a 3 day holiday)
Pharaoh is showing the natural hardening of his heart.
Many people ask the question, "If God hardened Pharaohís heart, how can you blame him for what he did?
Did God harden Pharaohís heart?
Yes. The scripture is clear on this and will state so in Chapter 4.
Did Pharaoh say "no" out of his own free will?
Yes. The scripture is clear on this too.
So how do you reconcile the two?
The answer is we first choose our will. If we choose to reject God and follow after some other "god", then the God gives us over to that thought.
To paraphrase God "OK, you want to reject me and worship idols, OK then, Iíll change your mind so you "really" like idols.
One can reject God to a point where it is too late. Your heart is too hard to turn back. This is usually from a lifetime of rejecting God. That is what Jesus meant by "blaspheming" the Holy Spirit being an unforgivable sin. (Mark 3:29).
Paul said it Romans: "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28 NIV)
Last set of Verses: 3:20 So I will extend my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will do among them; and after that he will let you go.3:21 "And I will give this people favor with the Egyptians, so that when you depart you will not go out empty-handed. 3:22 Every woman will ask her neighbor and the one who happens to be staying in her house for gold items, silver items, and clothing. And you will put these articles on your sons and on your daughters-thus you will plunder the Egyptians!"
So here is God laying out his game plan to Moses.
God will show "all his wonders" to the Egyptians (the plagues to come)
God will "take" all the goodies from the Egyptians when you leave.
Some translations say "plunder" the Egyptians.
It is best to think of it as "back wages due".
The Israelites were in slavery. This is God getting even.
The promise to Abraham made in Genesis 9 applies "I will bless those that bless you and curse those who curse you".
Notice something interesting. God asks the women to take the gold & silver.
I donít have a good answer as to why the women (versus the men).
In Chapter 11 Verse 2, when this actually occurs, it mentions both men and women were to ask the EgyptiansÖ
Maybe the women had better taste in silver & gold! J
I read some speculation on this topic, but no satisfying answer.
Maybe God figured the women would be less violent in the material taking.
Notice something else. He doesnít ask them to take it for themselves,
But for their children.
In comparison, there is nothing more painful than watching your children suffer. It is more difficult than suffering yourself.
A lesson was being implanted in the childrenís heads that all this was for their benefit. This wasnít just about paying back the existing Israelites.
It was about teaching them that a promise is being made to a future generation!
Next week, we will finish Mosesí doubts and questions.
Father, like Moses, we have great fears and doubts about our own lives. We know that you are capable of great things, but we lack the confidence in ourselves to accomplish your will. As you have said so many times in your word "Be Strong & Courageous". Like you helped Moses, guide us and assure us of the task you want to accomplish in our lives. For we ask this in Jesusí name, amen.