A study of Exodus 3:10-22 and the way God works with and through Moses.
Exodus 3:10 “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Moses is confronted by the voice of God, on Mount Horeb (Sinai). For the past forty years, Moses has been wandering in this wilderness, near the “Mountain of God.” Up to this point, Mount Horeb has simply been a mountain; a place to find wandering sheep. But God chooses a day, calls it now, and decides to work mightily in human history.
Consequently, an eighty-year-old Moses is confronted with a magnificent site. God sets a bush ablaze, yet the bush is not consumed by the fire. From this burning bush, Moses hears the voice of God. For eighty years Moses has heard nothing but the history of God, the story of God, or the idea of God. On this day, he hears the voice of God.
When God moves, he is often short on long introductions. There will be plenty of time for Moses and God to get acquainted. This is not the time for perfunctory remarks. Rather, God is ready to reveal his plans to his chosen child Moses. It is important to remember that Moses has lived most of his life without a true father, family, and home. He was taken away from his birth family at a young age, raised under Pharaoh’s less than welcoming roof, and eventually forced to live in the wilderness as the son-in-law of Jethro, the Midianite. Moses has lived his entire life as a stranger or foreigner.
As is often the case, God chooses a man with nothing to do something great! Through the burning bush, God reminds Moses he has heard the cries of Israel, he has seen their oppression, and he knows what they need. Then with a matter of fact certainty, God transitions the conversation and beckons Moses on the adventure of a lifetime. “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
How similar this command is to how Jesus called the disciples. “Come and follow me!” This is often how God starts a conversation. The details will be made known in the “following”. The task is laid out in the simplest of terms. Moses, I’m going to take you from this place of complete insignificance. I’m going to have you walk right into Egypt, into Pharaoh’s house of bondage and you are going to lead the children of Israel out of their slavery. Any questions?
So many of us say that we want a fresh encounter with God. However, whenever God encounters individuals in his Holy Scripture, he usually turns their lives completely upside down. In the beginning, far more questions arise than are answered.
Exodus 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
Whenever God speaks into our lives, the first question is almost always an issue of our sufficiency to carry out the task. Thankfully, God seldom answers our human adequacy questions. If God had responded to Moses’ question it might have gone something like this. “Who are you? You are dust formed into clay, formed into man, given breath like all others. You are limitation upon limitation. You are vapor, mist, a moment in time, soon to be forgotten. Who are you, Moses? Just a man, an old one at that. . .”
God doesn’t start with Moses’ capacity. God starts with God’s capacity! So often we try to change our life from our perspective. We limit our choices, options, and possibilities based on our own limitations. We see our history, biology, psychology, ethnicity, race, economic standing, or current condition as the ultimate determination of our future spiritual prosperity.
Although it is good to know ourselves, it is far better to know God. God’s ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts, and most likely his plans are not our plans. Transformation is a gift from God. It is rooted in God’s divine strength, plan, and purpose for our life. Self discovery is not the first step to healing. God discovery is the beginning of all good things.
Exodus 3:12 He (God) said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
God’s response is a tad bit humorous in light of the task at hand. Moses is worried about the actual deliverance of the Israelites. How is he going to get anyone to listen to him. Who will believe that he has authority to lead such an amazing undertaking. Moses is worried about the next steps. God, on the other hand, is already looking at the big picture.
Don’t worry Moses, I’m going to have another conversation with you on this same mountain. The only difference will be that thousands of Israelites will be encamped at the foot of this Holy Mountain. In other words, God tells Moses, “Don’t worry about the details, I will finish what I have started.”
Often we get so consumed with the details that we forget a very important principle. If it is truly God who has come to deliver us, the question is not how he will deliver us, but whether we will truly trust that he is our deliverer. Sometimes we worry about the plan because we are resting our faith on the probability of the solution. If the solution seems probable or possible, we are more likely to follow God’s lead. However, if the problem seems insurmountable and the solution seems impossible, we are often reluctant to step out in faith.
Too often we play the odds when it comes to God’s leading. If the odds seem good enough, we bet on God! This is not how God brings deliverance. In fact, true slavery, true bondage, requires true faith. True faith is a passionate conviction that God will do what he has said he will do, even if all signs point to the contrary.
If God has spoken to you about the deliverance of your children, then he has spoken, and we must believe. How it will happen is not nearly as important as the fact that it will happen. There will come a day when you are no longer standing on that mountain alone. Rather, your children are praying beside you!
Exodus 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
Exodus 3:14-15 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘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 thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
“Is there a God?” is, for many, not the primary question. Rather, the bigger issue is, “If God exists, can God be known?” Or more importantly, from humanity’s perspective, “If God exists, does God know me?” Relationship is at the heart of so many spiritual questions. Does the creator really desire relationship with me, or am I so far below the thoughts of God that I exist more like an ant in an anthill?
These scriptures give us profound insight into the heart of God. God knows Moses by name, he is aware of the plight of the Israelites, he has a plan to free them. Not only this, but God desires that his rescued children would know him not just by his deeds, but by his name.
Verse 14 is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to translate into English. When Moses asks for God’s name, God proclaims that he is YHWH. These four Hebrew consonants are, in some way, a modification of the “to be” verb. This means that God’s name literally means “I am” or better yet, “I am what I will be and I will be what I am.” That is God’s name. However, God’s name is not a sentence, it is his name. Interpreters have struggled with how best to represent this reality. Many translations will use the word LORD (all caps) to stand for the name of God (YHWH). The use of LORD carries on the tradition of giving reverence to God’s name buy not saying it directly. The only problem with this translation is that it makes God’s name sound generic. The name God gives to Moses is certainly not generic.
Think of it this way. Yahweh is God’s personal name, just like my personal name is Doug. God’s personal name means something like “I am what I will be and I will be what I am.” My name is not ripe with such deep meaning. Let’s carry this on a little further. I am a pastor, that is my role. So one could introduce me in this way, “Doug, our pastor.” God’s personal name is YHWH and his role is God. In the Holy Scripture God introduces himself this way, “Yahweh, the God of your fathers” translated “The LORD, the God of your fathers.”
This is an important lesson to study; in fact I encourage you to read through this section a few times. Why? Because God has not only given us his name, he has also shown us his character through his name. Moses needed to understand God’s character, God’s name. We need to understand this as well. God is the great I AM! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He keeps his promises, finishes what he has started. He is the reason for all, and all finds reason in him. Before you and I were, God was and will continue to be!
Moses must have taken tremendous confidence in God’s name. The answer to everything, the reason for everything, the beginning of everything has revealed himself to me. I AM (YHWH) knows my name and I know his name. He can truly be known. Not only can God be known, but I can make him known to others. I can proclaim his name in the assembly and they too will find him.
I encourage you to learn the name of YHWH (Yahweh). When you see LORD in all caps, think “I am what I will be and I will be what I am”. When the world seems chaotic, out of control, futile, and hopeless, trust the name of the LORD! YHWH is in control, he will make sense of all, he will be all in all what we need. The journey to freedom is rooted in the name of God.
Exodus 3:16-17 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD (YHWH), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’
God does more than promise freedom, he promises blessing. God is going to do more than rescue the Israelites from their slavery, he is going to give them their own land of prosperity. This is true of our lives as well. God wants to do more than just free you from your sins, addictions, and dysfunctions. Rather, God wants to bring you out of bondage so that he can bring you into a life of spiritual prosperity. Sometimes we become so problem focused that we forget to look at the land God is going to bring us into.
Even in bondage it is appropriate to see the promised land that will be ours on the other side of freedom. Freedom is not the absence of sin! Freedom is dwelling securely in God’s blessing and reward.
Exodus 3:18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’
Moses is to give Pharaoh and the people of Israel this primary purpose for leaving Egypt. The Israelites are leaving Israel to worship YHWH their God. God shows Moses his ultimate motivation for freeing the Israelites. God doesn’t want to just bring the Israelites into the promised land, he wants to bring his children into relationship with him. They are to be set free from Egypt for the purpose of worship.
This is God’s purpose today. God frees us from sin so that we can enter into holy communion with him. An appropriate response to freedom is worship. Too often we want freedom on our own terms. We want to be freed from our bondage so that we can enter into a land of prosperity. However, we forget that the land is not our reward, but God who rules the land is our reward. Too often people find freedom in church but are unwilling to praise God in the wilderness. The promised land cannot be entered outside of worship. Worship is a literal sign that we are free from bondage and ready to enter into God’s provision.
Exodus 3:19-22 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
God lets Moses know that this is going to be a real struggle, an actual battle. I have found that freedom often takes more fight than we would ultimately desire. Sometimes freedom comes at an instance, other times we are called into a season of passionate warfare.
God promises Moses that he will ultimately provide for Israel’s needs. He will give these soon to be freed slaves enough resources to make it. However, there is going to be a real battle against the current oppressive powers. They will not so easily let go of their dominion. Pharaoh will do everything in his power to maintain his grip upon the Israelites. God will be victorious, but things will get worse before they get better.
How many of us are willing to pursue that kind of freedom? What if I were to tell you right now that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. You are going to face increased persecution, trials, and frustrations. At times it will seem almost unbearable, as if your very life is at stake. Do you have the faith to enter into this kind of fight?
God as my witness, I am confident that many of you are going to face the fight of your life if you truly lay hold of the freedom found in Exodus. If you would be willing to trust me, trust God, trust his word, and his body (the church), you will find freedom. It may cost you everything but that which is eternal.
Freedom was forged ultimately by the terrible cost of the cross. To walk in that freedom, we too must sometimes share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. However, we are confident that by faith we can find freedom from our bondage. Not only can we find freedom, but we can learn how to truly worship God in our freedom as we enter into God’s eternal promised land.
Much love to each of you. I pray particular courage for those who choose to pursue these words with a passion worthy of the cross!
Pastor Doug Bursch