In a Nutshell…
Read the passage here.
Last week we talked about the revelation of God’s name to Moses, and by extension the Israelites. This happens when Moses encounters God at the burning bush. Today we’re going to look a little further into this encounter.
The first thing to remember in this encounter is why it happens. And it happens because God has heard the cry of His people and is determined to rescue them. When we’re reading Exodus, it’s possible to lose track of the story. What I mean by that is that, when we’re reading Exodus, we read a story of God rescuing the Israelites from slavery. It’s an exciting story full of drama, miracles and wonders, God giving the law to a rebellious people, but ultimately delivering them to the promised land.
But when we read Exodus, we can’t forget what we’re actually being rescued from. What we’re actually being delivered to. Because Exodus is a continuation of the story. Exodus is about the creation of a nation. Exodus is about making a people for God’s own name. It’s about creating, and blessing (through the Law), a people who will be a blessing to the whole earth. It’s the fulfillment (or beginning of the fulfillment) of the covenant that God had made with Abraham.
But this isn’t the whole story either. Because Abraham is chosen to be the father of many nations – those nations who are delivered from the state of sin which has become a part of our cycle ever since Adam and Eve. It’s sin that is the problem. It’s separation from God, fallen-ness from our created purpose, that God is rescuing us from.
So God heard the cry of His people.
The second thing to notice is how Moses responded. When God revealed Himself to Moses and announced His intention to rescue the Israelites from Egypt, Moses wasn’t thrilled. Maybe Moses was glad to hear that his people would be rescued, but he certainly wasn’t thrilled to be chosen.
But three times, Moses tries to get out of it (4:1, 4:10; 4:13).
- 4:1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
- 4:10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
- 4:13 But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”
The first time Moses expresses his reluctance, God gives him three signs. Each of the signs points to a later sign that God will reveal in Egypt.
3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand.
6 Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow.
7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.
9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”
After the signs, as we saw, Moses still expresses reluctance, saying he does not speak well. This time, God reminds Moses of who He is.
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Certainly the God who did all these things, could give Moses the words to speak. Certainly God will be with Moses.
When Moses (basically) declines yet again, God gets angry but relents and allows Moses to take his brother Aaron with him.
So the question is, Why is Moses afraid? This is an interesting question because we have seen Moses is concerned about the plight of his countrymen. And we wonder how we would have responded if God himself had appeared to us, shown us His wonders, and given us a mission.
Oftentimes we say things like, “if only God would show me what He wants me to do.” Or, “If only God would give me a sign.” But the truth of the matter is that the sign is not the problem. The problem is not knowing what we should do, knowing where we’re supposed to go – the problem is whether we’re willing to do it – to go there.
Jesus noted a similar issue in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew 16:4 – “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.”
We’ve been given the sign of Jesus – his death and resurrection. We know that there is a new life that is given, that we are called to live. We know that the old way, the way not-of-God leads to death, but we keep living that way – going that way.
The irony of Moses’ reluctance is that God had already given him a sign. God showed up. He spoke to Moses and told him exactly what to do. Yet Moses was afraid.
Truth be told, Moses’ response isn’t that hard to understand. He had spent the past 40 years living in Midian as a shepherd. He got married, he had kids, he had a routine, and he was happy (probably). His life made sense to him and he was good at it. All of a sudden God stepped into his life to up-end his world. All of a sudden, God shows up to pull Moses out of his comfortable life, his familiar routine. All of a sudden, God tells Moses to leave his home to a new country – a new world.
How would you have responded? How do we respond?
Have you ever felt like your life is not where you thought it would be? Have you ever thought that things have turned out a lot differently? That all your plans, all your preparations have left you completely unprepared for the life you are actually living? We try desperately to control the outcomes. We try desperately to make sure we take all the right steps. But the truth is, I think, that we actually have very little control over our things. That isn’t to say that we have no control – we certainly can make good choices or bad choices.
I think the point that I’m making is that life is a leap of faith. Life requires that we step where we do not know. It requires that we do the best that we can, but that the outcome is in many ways out of our hands. God asked Moses to take a leap of faith. God asked Moses to step somewhere completely alien. God had been preparing Moses for years and now He asked Moses to walk.
But God didn’t ask Moses to step out alone. In last week’s passage, after Moses receives God’s call, Moses responds:
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God’s response
12 And God said, “I will be with you…
What we have to remember as we read through the story of Exodus – the story of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt into the promised land – is that Moses didn’t actually do much. It was God who saved, God who delivered. All of the signs that Moses receives, all of the wonders that are shown to Pharaoh, point to the fact that God is present.
So What Now…?
Moses’ issue does not seem to be that he doesn’t believe God – not exactly. His fear seems to be based in his lack of belief of himself. “What if they don’t believe me” “What if I can’t speak well enough?” “What if I’m not good enough?” Of course, Moses is right. Moses isn’t good enough – in the same way that none of us are good enough; none of us deserve God’s calling or his blessing. By himself, Moses could never have defeated the Egyptians or led the Israelites to the promised land.
But God said, “I will be with you…” This is the content of God’s message. God’s word to Moses is not that Moses has to deliver the Israelites or defeat the Egyptians. God will do that. God is simply telling Moses to say what God tells him and to walk where God leads.
Can we do that? Can we allow God to be God in our lives? Are we willing to let him free us from our old lives and lead us into the promised land?