Opening Prayer: Almighty God, your glory is above the heavens; your name is Holy Holy Holy. We are but dust and ashes. We are children who barely know our right hands from our left. We do not know which way is up and which way is down. But you have called us here into your presence. You have summonsed us, and we have come in faith, believing that you will speak to us by your Word. Therefore empower your Word now; give us the words of life that we might live. For we pray in the name of King Jesus, Amen!
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that God chose the weak things of this world to undo the strong and the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. This is one of the glories of the Christian faith: things are not as they seem. This is part of what we celebrate in the season of Lent.
The Burning Bush
In Acts 7 we are told by Stephen that Moses was 40 years old when he fled from Egypt, and that he was in Midian for 40 years before returning to Egypt (Acts 7:23, 30). Here in Exodus 3 we are told that he was a shepherd for 40 years for his father-in-law Jethro. As he is leading the flocks by Horeb (Mt. Sinai), he sees the Angel of Yahweh in a flame of fire in the midst of a bush (v. 2). The wonder according to the text is that this bush is not being consumed by the fire. This is not merely a bazaar gimmick to get Moses off the beat path so that God can get his attention (although it does seem to be that) (v. 4). It is also a vision of sorts meant to image what God is going to speak to Moses about. The bush is Israel in the crucible of Egypt, burned but not consumed. The place where Moses is standing is “holy ground.” The point of course is God’s presence, but more so, this is a reversal of the curse of the ground (Gen. 3:17).
The Promise of God
God has heard the cries of his people in Egypt, and he intends not only to deliver them out of bondage but to also bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey (v. 8). This is how God always works: his deliverance is always out of death, slavery, cursing into life, freedom, and blessing. The language of a land “flowing” with milk and honey would have reminded Israel of the Garden of Eden. But this is an Eden glorified. This is the way God always works; we are called to a life of continual conversion, continual repentance. Nor is He content with the status quo or merely what was good back then. He always strives for better. God hears the cries of his people, but it should be pointed out that this is exactly what God had promised 400 years ago to Abraham (Gen. 15:13, 18-19). Finally, notice that God gives Moses a sign, the promise that he will return and “serve God on this mountain” (v. 12). The sign is a promise. This is a reminder that we are never called to obedience apart from faith. We are always called to believe the promises of God.
The Name of God
Moses asks God what name he should give to the people if they ask who has sent him. And God says, “I AM WHO I AM.” He goes on to command Moses to also tell them that “the LORD God of your fathers… has sent me to you” (v. 14-15). The all-caps LORD in our Bibles is the name “Yahweh” which is something like the third person form of “I AM,” something like “HE IS.” But the name is tied to the fathers also; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are referenced three times in this passage (3:6, 15, 16). This is nearly God’s name. His name is not merely a title or position. His name is what he has done. His trustworthiness is bound up in who he has been God to. Notice that God’s name is bound up with the names of particular individual people. God’s name is bound up with us. This is how we know that God can be trusted: he has staked his reputation on us (cf. Num. 14:11).
Conclusions & Application
The passage closes with God’s promise that Moses will be accepted by his brethren, but will be rejected by the king of Egypt. They are to go and ask permission to sacrifice to Yahweh, three days’ journey into the wilderness (presumably at Horeb/Sinai), and yet God promises that the king will not allow them to until after God has done “all the wonders” that he will do. Then they will go out with articles of gold and silver and clothing. The Egyptians will be plundered, notice, by women.
We have to realize that Egypt was the greatest civilization the world over at this time. Not only was it a phenomenal feat to attempt the freedom of this enslaved people, it was seemingly a great folly to think that Egypt would be plundered by women. God is not worried about armies, popularity, science, or foolish laws made by men. He does not care about the polls. God has determined that the nations of this world are to be the inheritance of Jesus Christ. Just as God set Jeremiah over the nations of the world, he has set Christ, the great Jeremiah (Jer. 1:10).
You are God’s people, and therefore you may not doubt or worry about the state of this world. You are called to be faithful in your callings without heeding the catcalls of the world. An old man with a walking-stick challenging the most powerful ruler in the world looked like a great folly. It looks to all the world like foolishness and insanity. But it was the means by which God threw down the greatest civilization on earth. Likewise, simple acts of obedience may look like foolishness. Husbands remaining faithful and chaste; wives refusing to be bitter or backbite with their tongues, children obeying their parents and despising the treasures of this world, eating meals with gladness, serving the poor, loving our neighbors: All of these look like acts of weakness. What are we doing? Taking over the world and toppling kingdoms.
Closing PrayerAlmighty God, God of our Fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we declare that you are the Creator and Ruler of All. No one can stop your hand; no kingdom or nation is invincible to your will and rule. We know and believe that you have given this world to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he will rule until every enemy submits, until all the earth is filled with your glory. Give us grace to live in this grace.