Yesterday we saw the death of Jacob or Israel and Joseph, and we also saw how the people of Israel went from being honored and respected guests and for a time the most powerful people in the land of Egypt. This all changed because a new Pharaoh came to power who “did not know Jospeh”, which simple means a new dynasty came to power, and this new dynasty was looking to take back power from the Israelites so they made them slaves and began to oppress them. They even went so far as to say that all male babies born to the Israelites were to be killed on the spot. But we, also, see that God had a plan for his people during this time, because he moved the parents of one new born male Israelite in particular to defy Pharaoh’s order and let their son live. And that son would go on to become the man that we know as Moses, who would lead his people out of the land Egypt and slavery. But before Moses could do this God given task some work was needed to be done in his life, which is what we see in Exodus 3.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”—Exodus 3:1-3
Even though Moses had received the highest level of education in Pharaoh’s royal household, it was not enough to equip him for God’s work. He needed the time alone with God and forty difficult years of caring for sheep in the desert to prepare for his future task, which was to shepherd (lead and care for) Israel through the desert.
The “angel of the Lord” who appeared to Moses is actually the Lord himself, but more importantly he is the second person of the trinity. The “angel of Lord” is an Old Testament euphemism for Jesus, because you see the “angel of the Lord” also appeared to Abraham at his moment of greatest testing. And our story continues starting in verse 4 and going through verse 6.
When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.—Exodus 3:4-6
The Lord first revealed his holiness to Moses. Holiness refers to the completeness, purity and perfection of God’s character. It requires separation from sin and evil. It also requires a commitment to do what is right and to remain in a right relationship with God. Moses constantly had to keep in mind that the God he served was holy—so holy that a human could not even look fully at him without dying. God’s first revelation to Abraham was of his great power, but to Moses it was of his holiness. This illustrates the principle of “progressive revelation”, meaning that God often reveals himself and his plan to people in different ways and through a process of stages over time. And this great revelation to Moses continues in verse 7 and goes on through verse 15.
The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey —the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain. ”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say 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,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.—Exodus 3:7-15
Just as God was concerned about the misery of his people in Egypt, he continues to be aware of all human suffering. He hears the cries of those who are troubled and hurting. He sees when other people take advantage of them. God’s people can and should call on him to mercifully intervene, or bring the help of his presence, into their situations. Regardless of the source of trouble—whether it be circumstances, people, Satan, or sin—God’s comfort, grace and help are more that enough to meet all our needs. And just as God promised to deliver the Israelites into a “land flowing with milk and honey” he will deliver us into a place that is just as prosperous if we trust him. Because the phrase “milk and honey” referred to places that were rich in resources and agriculture. The honey included the thick sweet syrups made from grapes or dates as well as that which was made by bees. Which were all signs of a prosperous and thriving life, none of which the Israelites had in Egypt, and which we don’t have if we don’t place our faith and trust in God.
And now we come to the most important part of Exodus 3: the name that God told Moses to give to the people of Israel as way of identifying whom had sent Moses to set God’s people free. The Lord gave himself the personal name “I AM WHO I AM,” a Hebrew phrase that indicates action. From this phrase we get the Hebrew word, Yahweh. God was saying to Moses, “I want to be known as the God who is present and active.” And there are two hugely significant things that we should see in this the most personal and in the minds of the Israelites and all those who practice Judaism sacred name of God. The first is that the name Yahweh reflects the promise of God’s constant presence with his people. It expresses his faithful love and care and his desire to bring people into a right relationship with himself. This relates to the basic covenant promise, “to be your God” found in Genesis 17:7. The Lord, also, states that this will be his name forever. And the second significant thing is that when Jesus Christ was born, he was called Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. Jesus, also, referred to himself by the name “I am”, and we will discuss the significance of this in greater detail when we get to John’s gospel. But the great revelation that Moses had continues in verse 16 and goes through verse 22.
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob —appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
“And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”—Exodus 3:16-22
During Joseph’s time, the Israelites had been invited into a region of Egypt called Goshen, but they were later forced to be slaves there. They deserved back wages to pay them justly for the years of hard slave labor, but they were not supposed to take anything by force. God would cause the Egyptians to have favor toward the Israelites so that when they asked for sliver, gold and clothing, the Egyptians would give them far more than they asked for. Instead of hiding their escape out of Egypt like runaway slaves, they would be able to go out like a victorious army carrying the fruits of victory, which was the whole point of God’s revelation to Moses. And it is the whole purpose of the book of Exodus and furthermore the whole Bible. God wants you to put your faith and trust in him so that you, like Moses and like the people of Israel, can march out of whatever has kept you in bondage like a victorious army carrying the fruits of your victory through God’s power. And we will see that everything else that happens throughout the rest of the Bible revolves around Moses placing his faith and trust in God after his encounter with him at the burning bush.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Exodus 4:1-5:21, Matthew 18:1-20, Psalm 22:19-31 and Proverbs 5:15-21