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This morning we will be going through this portion of God’s word verse by verse. Please follow along in your Bibles or service folders. There are also questions you may wish to answer as we go that are printed inside the back cover of the service folder.
In our Gospel lesson we heard Jesus tell the Jews, before Abraham was born, I AM. That was a shocking statement! How could Jesus say that! He wasn’t even 50 years old and Abraham had been dead for a about 2000 years! “Who do you think you are Jesus?” They understood who he was claiming to be. They knew he was pointing them back to the conversation God had with Moses at the burning bush. As we study that conversation, we will learn the answer to the question, “Who Is the LORD?”
Verse 1 Now Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, a priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
You might wonder what Moses was doing shepherding flocks in the wilderness of Sinai. We usually think of him as the Prince of Egypt. He was the one who was rescued from the Nile by the daughter of Pharaoh and adopted as her son. What’s a Prince of Egypt doing tending sheep in the wilderness? Maybe you remember that one day Moses came upon an Egyptian task master who was abusing a Hebrew slave. Moses stepped in. He killed the Egyptian, but then he had to flee the wrath of Pharaoh. That’s when he met Jethro’s daughter and married her and became a shepherd in the wilderness of Sinai.
Verses 2-3 The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in blazing fire from within a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but the bush was not burning up. So he said, “I will go over and look at this amazing sight—to find out why the bush is not burning up.”
When God wanted to get people’s attention, he would sometimes cause his glory to be seen. Often, he showed his glory in the form of a bright cloud, and sometimes in the form of what looked like fire. You remember that he did both as he led Israel out of Egypt – leading them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. On the day of Pentecost, he got people’s attention by sending what looked like tongues of fire and having them rest on the heads of the disciples. God got Moses’ attention by having his glory appear like a blazing fire in a bush in the wilderness. This was a bush, not a tree. It was a dry, thorny bush that should have been reduced to ashes in just a few minutes. That’s what Moses expected, but when it was not burned up by the fire Moses decided to check it out.
Verse 4 When the Lord saw that Moses had gone over to take a look, God called to him from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses! Moses!” Moses said, “I am here.”
The Lord SAW, and God CALLED Moses by name! Don’t overlook that! Moses had learned the history of his people from his mother whom the daughter of Pharaoh had hired as his nurse maid. He had heard about the promises God had made to Abraham. But the Hebrews were foreigners in a foreign land and were now enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. He himself was living as a fugitive in the middle of nowhere. He wasn’t enjoying the comforts of the palace in which he had grown up. Certainly, he would have been tempted to think, “where is God? If he exists at all it sure seems like he has forgotten his people, and me!” But NO. God had his eye on Moses. He had not forgotten him. He called him by name!
There is great comfort for us here. God promises never to leave us or forsake us. He always knows where we are. He always knows what we are doing. He sees us and he knows our situation. He calls us by name. In fact, Scripture reminds us that he has redeemed us. He has purchased us for himself with the precious blood of Christ, his one and only Son. He has put his name on us and claimed us as his own at our baptism.
Verses 5-6 The Lord said, “Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” He then said, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
When we are tempted to wonder if God knows or cares about us, our view of God is diminished. In our eyes, he seems small. He seems uncaring. He seems powerless. But when he shows himself, we realize how wrong our view of God is. The holiness of God strikes fear in our hearts as it did in the heart of Moses. We realize how sinful, how powerless, how frail we are. We realize that the blazing fire that does not consume but burns forever should engulf us. If Moses had doubted the presence and power of God, when God spoke and commanded him to take off his sandals because he was in the presence of God and standing on holy ground, he could doubt it no longer. The presence, power and holiness of God revealed his sin and filled him with fear. May we never lose our sense of awe when we think about God, his omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnipotence, his glory and holiness.
Verses 7-10 The Lord said, “I have certainly seen the misery of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry for help because of their slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now indeed, the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me. Yes, I have seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Come now, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the same being who spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden. He is the same being who appeared to Abraham 400 years before Moses was born and promised to give his descendants the land of Canaan, and even more importantly, that through one of his descendants all peoples of the earth would be blessed. He is not a distant God. He has not been on vacation for the last 400 years. He has SEEN what is going on in Egypt. He has HEARD the cries, the prayers for help. He is AWARE of the suffering of his people. And, he has a plan. He is going to do something about it.
God says the same things to us. No matter what our situation in life. No matter how bad or hopeless it seems. He says to us, “I SEE you. I HEAR you. I am AWARE of everything that is happening in your life. And, I have a plan to deliver you. Ultimately his plan is to guide you through the wilderness of this life with all its troubles and temptations and finally to take you to be with him in the real Promised Land of heaven.
Verses 11-13 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” So he said, “I will certainly be with you. This will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If 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?’ what should I say to them?”
God told Moses that he had come to call him to be the one to deliver Israel from Egypt. Forty years earlier Moses thought about doing that on his own when he intervened on behalf of a Hebrew slave and killed the Egyptian task master, but he failed. His plan failed because he was on his own. He failed because it was not God’s time, nor was killing an Egyptian God’s way.
Now, forty years later, Moses’ thinking is completely opposite. Who am I to go to Pharaoh? Moses says. He makes all kinds of excuses, and finally just tells God to find someone else.
If you have ever tried to do something you thought was a good thing and failed, there are some questions you should ask yourself. Did you, like Moses, try to do it on your own without consulting God or asking for his help and guidance? Did you do it in a way that involved breaking one of God’s commandments, as Moses did? If, later on, the opportunity to do this good thing came along, did you hesitate because of your previous failure?
It’s a difficult line for sinful humans like us to walk; that line between sinful self-confidence and sinful self-deprecation. If we stray to the one side, we think we don’t need God. If we stray to the other side, we fail to act and to trust God’s promise to help. The solution is to search the scriptures; to learn all we can about God’s will and hear his promise I will certainly be with you. Through the Scriptures we learn that without Jesus we can do nothing- nothing that is good or pleasing to God; but with Jesus, attached to the true vine by faith, we are enabled by him to produce much fruit.
Verses 14-15 So God replied to Moses, “I am who I am.” He also said, “You will say this to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.” God also told Moses, “Say this 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, and this is how I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’
Moses had basically asked for a letter of introduction and recommendation from God. He felt that he needed a way to let Israel know that he wasn’t making things up. The Lord, the one true God, actually sent him. God granted his request. He told Moses, tell them “I Am” has sent me to you. I Am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I AM, not I was. Even though they are dead I am still their God. I am the one and only true God. I am the one who simply exists, who is completely other, independent of time. I am the same, yesterday, today and forever.
The Lord is the one who created everything that exists by the power of his word. He is the one who spoke to Abraham, who took on flesh and blood so that he could keep his promise to crush the serpent’s head. He is the one who is always present to keep every promise he has made. He is the light of the world and the consuming fire. He is the one who forgave Moses for killing the Egyptian and called him to serve, to lead his people to the Promised Land. And he is the one who forgives all our sins in Jesus and calls us to live and to serve him every day. He is the one jwho knows everything that is going on in our lives, who calls us by name, hears our every prayer, and is leading us to the Promised Land of heaven. He is here, present right now as he promised to be when two or three are gathered in his name. Stand in awe as Moses did. Then, trust that he is certainly with you as you trust in Jesus and live your lives in faith each day.