GOD’S DRAMATIC CALL TO MOSES DETAILS HIS COMMITMENT TO DELIVER FLOWING OUT OF HIS COMPASSION FOR ISRAEL’S BONDAGE
The burning bush theophany ranks right up there as one of the greatest attention-grabbers of all time. No surprise that Moses stepped out of his ordinary daily activities to pay special attention to God’s call that would determine his role in redemptive history. What a marvelous sight – a bush burning in the middle of the desert that was not consumed. The compassion of the Lord for His people flows out of His covenant promises to the patriarchs and is stoked by the brutal affliction suffered by the Hebrews at the hands of their Egyptian oppressors. Moses is called to return to the throne of Pharaoh (now that a new king is in place) and demand that the Israelites be released to go worship their God. Again, no surprise that Moses should express some hesitancy at this bold mission.
I. (:1-6) THE DRAMATIC CALL OF GOD IS UNUSUAL AND IMPACTFUL
A. (:1-3) Natural Observation — God Intervened in Moses’ Life and Got Moses’ Attention
1. (:1) Serving Faithfully in Normal Daily Activities
“Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Mt. Horeb is another name for Mt. Sinai; Moses chose this day to take the flock over to a different area to find pastureland; the providence of God directs him to just the right location for his divine appointment
Philip Ryken: We were introduced to Jethro back in chapter 2, where he was called Reuel. It is possible that the man had two names, which was common in ancient times. It is also possible that Reuel was the name of Jethro’s father, which would actually make him Moses’ grandfather-in-law (see Num. 10:29). But perhaps the most likely explanation is that Jethro, which means “his excellency,” was a formal title indicating the man’s status. In any case, he is called Jethro throughout the rest of Exodus.
Application: we need to be faithfully serving God in our normal daily activities; and we need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit to stepping out of our comfort zone to perform special services for God’s kingdom; How difficult is it for God to get our attention?
2. (:2) Startling Theophany (Christophany)
a. The Optics
“And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush;”
The angel of the Lord is the preincarnate second person of the Trinity
Application: We are dealing here with a very special moment in redemptive history; do not expect that God’s call in your life will be so dramatic; God deals with Moses in very unusual fashion; that does not mean that God does not intervene in our lives to lead us to perform specific ministries in harmony with His overall kingdom agenda. But God’s calling to us will usually be in line with the spiritual gifts He has granted us and the opportunities He opens up for us, and the preparation He affords us, and the counsel He makes available to us.
b. The Oddity
“and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire,
yet the bush was not consumed.”
Constable: Because Israel has frequently been in the furnace of affliction throughout history, though not consumed, Jews have identified the burning bush as a symbol of their race. This symbol often appears on the walls of synagogues or in other prominent places not only in modern Israel but also in settlements of Jews around the world.
Walter Kaiser Jr: The fire, then, symbolized God’s powerful, consuming, and preserving presence (cf. 19:18; 24:17; Judg 13:20; 2 Chron 7:1-3; Ezek 1:4-28; Dan 7:9-10; Heb 12:29). When Moses went over to inspect this unusual sight, God issued his call by repeating Moses’ name to express the urgency of the message (cf. 1 Sam 3:10 for this same type of urgent summons).
Philip Ryken: The miraculous sign pointed as well to God’s eternity and self -sufficiency. Like the burning bush, God never runs out of fuel. His glory never dims; his beauty never fades. He always keeps burning bright. This is because God does not get his energy from anyone or anything outside himself. He is completely self-existent and self-sufficient in his eternal being. According to Gregory of Nyssa (330-c.395), what Moses saw in the burning bush was nothing less than “the transcendent essence and cause of the universe, on which everything depends, alone subsists.” The burning bush revealed the power and the glory, the eternity and the self-sufficiency of God.
3. (:3) Seeing But Having Difficulty Believing
“So Moses said, ‘I must turn aside now, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.’”
Natural investigation is not going to be able to figure out a scientific explanation for this remarkable phenomena; divine revelation will be the key; but there can be no arguing the facts which Moses observed – this was not some type of hallucination
B. (:4-6) Divine Revelation – Understanding God’s Holiness and His Covenant Connection Essential to Responding to God’s Call
1. (:4) Repeated Call – for Emphasis
“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.’”
Bruce Hurt: Notice the repetition Moses, Moses, which in Scripture generally indicates a message of special importance. Other examples include: Abraham (Ge 22:11); Moses (Ex 3:4); Samuel (1Sa 3:10); Jerusalem (Mt 23:37) Martha (Lu 10:41) Simon (Lu 22:31), Saul (Acts 9:4 Acts 22:7 Acts 26:14).
2. (:5) Revelation of Holiness – Transcendence of God
“Then He said, ‘Do not come near here;
remove your sandals from your feet,
for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’”
Bruce Hurt: It was not that the actual ground on which Moses stood was holy; rather, it was the presence of the holy God that made it holy. The direction to Moses to remove his shoes was in conformity with what was well known to Moses, for, having been brought up in Egypt, he would have known that the Egyptian priests observed the custom in their temples. Today it is observed in all Eastern countries where the people take off their shoes or sandals before entering mosques and synagogues as a confession of personal defilement and conscious unworthiness to stand in the presence of unspotted holiness.
3. (:6a) Reminder of Covenant Connection and Purposes – Immanence of God
“He said also, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”
We always find in Scripture this balance between the Transcendence and Immanence of God. There is a sense in which God is so far above us that He is unapproachable; yet there at the same time is the sense in which God is so near us that relationally we can approach Him with a sense of intimacy and family familiarity.
4. (:6b) Response of Fear
“Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”
Tim Chester: God is awful and terrible I the old meaning of those words – he evokes awe and terror. You don’t treat him lightly. God is not your “mate”. Indeed, if you were to meet God, your instinct would be to hide your face. Even the sinless, glorious seraphim cover their faces in the presence of God (Isaiah 6:2). God is above us. The theological term for this is “transcendence”.
II. (:7-12) THE DETAILED CALL OF GOD –
COMMITMENT TO DELIVER FLOWS OUT OF COMPASSION FOR BONDAGE
A. (:7-9) Deliverance by the Personal Involvement of God
1. (:7) Compassion for the Bondage of the Hebrews
“And the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.’”
2. (:8) Commitment to Deliver Them – Personal Involvement
a. Bring Them Out of Bondage in Egypt
“So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the
b. Bring Them Into Prosperity in the Promised Land – Currently Occupied by Powerful Pagan Nations
“and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.”
John Hannah: Canaan was ideal for raising goats and cows. Feeding on good pastureland the goats, sheep, and cows were full of milk. Flowing with honey means that the bees were busy making honey. Milk and honey suggested agricultural prosperity.
Bruce Hurt: The mention of these people groups makes it clear exactly which land they were to inhabit. And yes, it was a land of milk and honey, but these 6 nations serve as a warning that it is also a land of idolatry and immorality, both of which would eventually ensnare many of the sons of Israel. Unfortunately, they had received good “training” in idol worship in Egypt (which Israel was still clinging even after they entered the promised land – see the aged Joshua giving a strong warning to the nation – Joshua 24:14-15 – note their answer in Joshua 24:16 just like they said in Ex 24:3,7! Good intentions, but weak wills). They had “tears at the altar” but there was no obedience in the crucible of the temptations and testings in everyday life!
B. (:9-10) Deliverance by the Agency of the Leadership of Moses
1. (:9) Compassion for the Bondage of the Hebrews
“And now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.”
Philip Ryken: When God’s people suffer, they sometimes wonder whether God even cares. But the story of Israel in Egypt is a dramatic example of what is always the case: God knows exactly what his people are going through. He is well aware of what is happening to us. He sees our suffering. He also cares about it, which is why he responds to our cries for help. God is full of pity and compassion for the people he loves.
2. (:10) Commitment to Deliver Them – Sending Moses to Pharaoh
“Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh,
so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
John Hannah: Interestingly while God promised the people two things (deliverance from Egypt and entrance into a new land), He commissioned Moses to accomplish only the first. God knew Moses would not enter the Promised Land (Deut. 32:48-52).
S. Lewis Johnson: God is truly concerned over the condition of Israel. One might say, why did not he come much earlier? Why wait all of these years, it has been 40 years since Moses left Egypt, what does he wait for forty years? Well, because there has to be a moral preparation of Israel as well. Their hearts must be prepared to receive the leadership of a man like Moses and follow him.
C. (:11-12) Hesitation on the Part of Moses Addressed — Hesitation #1 – I Lack Confidence / Significance
1. (:11) Hesitation Expressed — Based on Moses’ Insignificance
“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh,
and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’”
2. (:12) Hesitation Answered – Based on the Significance of God
a. Presence of God – Sufficiency of God’s Favor
“And He said, ‘Certainly I will be with you,’”
b. Promise of Deliverance – Victory is its Own Confirmation
“and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt,
you shall worship God at this mountain.”
MacArthur: A second divine promise signified the future success of the mission, suggesting that Israel would not be delivered simply out of bondage and oppression, but rescued to worship (cf. Ac 7:7).