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Moses And The Burning Bush  (ch. 3:1 - 22)

 

In verse 1 we see that Moses had become a shepherd, like his father and fathers before him.  He tended his father-in-law's flock.  His father-in-law was named Jethro.

 

We see that Joseph led these flocks to the far side of the desert.  Some text say the "back side", or, the "west side", of the desert.  It was the Semite custom in those days, to determine direction, they'd find the sun, look to the east.  Their backs when naturally be facing the west, their left hand north, and their right hand south.  So for those texts that use the term "back side", that means west.

 

Verse 1 also says that Moses came to Horeb, the mountain of God .  Horeb is also referred to Sinai in the Bible.  There is some confusion over these two terms, but generally speaking, it seems that Horeb is the mountain range, and Sinai is the individual peak, or mountain in the range of mountains. 

 

The verse speaks of Horeb as being 'the mountain of God".  Most scholars feel that this mountain range wasn't known as the mountain of God in Moses' day, but became known as the mountain of God because of what transpired between God and Moses at this site.  So when the writer wrote these words, it was known as the mountain of God in those days.     

 

In verse 2 we note that "the angel of the Lord" appeared to Moses.   The term "angel of the Lord" is usually understood by most scholars to be pre-incarnate Jesus.  Thus Jesus appeared to Moses in the form of fire in a bush. 

 

In verses 2 and 3 Moses notices that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn.  For this reason he went to investigate what was going on.

 

In verse 4 we see that once Moses saw the burning bush, God called out to him.  God speaks Moses name twice.  He says, "Moses, Moses."   We have seen this before on occasion.  When God wants our attention, He often speaks out our name twice for emphasis sake.

 

In verse 4 Moses simply answers, "here am I."  You wonder how he felt when he heard his name being called out from a bush that was burning but was not being consume by the fire.  Fear might well be gripping his heart.

 

Many Sunday sermons have come from verse 5.  God tells Moses to come no closer to Him. He also tells Moses to take His sandals off because that ground is holy ground.  The ground is only holy because God's immediate presence is there. Once His immediate presence leaves, that ground is no longer holy. 

 

I use the term "immediate presence" because in one sense of the word God is in all places at all times.  That is part of who He is.  Yet on the other hand, I believe, as well as others, that there is a place where God is, or, there is a place where His immediate presence is.  In this verse, God's immediate presence is in that bush that is burning, and that is why the bush is burning in the first place.

 

God's presence burns whatever is earthly.  His presence at the end of this age will burn the good works that Christians do from their own strength and power.  As the apostle Paul puts it.  Works that are wood, hay, and stubble will burn, but works that are gold and silver will not burn.  Then there is the fire of judgment in the Lake of Fire.  Fire represents the burning of all that is not of God.

 

God tells Moses to take off his shoes.  There are a number of ways people take this.  Taking off of shoes is a sign of respect in many countries.  In Canada, for the most part, people take their shoes off when they enter someone's home.  This is not the case in the United States, and this is often one thing that Americans note when they visit Canada.

 

In verse 6 God introduces Himself.  He says that He is the "God of your father".  That's Amram.  He then tells Moses  that He is also the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  At this point Moses hid his face from God because he was afraid.  I think this is how we would all feel.  If we were in the immediate presence of God we would hide our faces as well, partly out of fear and partly out of feeling insignificant.

 

In verses 7 through 9 God tells Moses that he has seen the suffering, the cries, and the oppression of His people.  He is now going to rescue His people from the Egyptians and return them back to Canaan where they belong.  You might remember that God told Jacob before he left Canaan that his stay in Egypt would be temporary, even though "temporary" meant four hundred and thirty years. 

 

I look at verses 7 through 9 and see God's concern about His people.  I picture God today being just as concerned.  He looks down on His people with great compassion, even though they are not living as they should.

 

Verse 10 tells us that God told Moses to "go", that is, "go back to Pharaoh in Egypt," because He was going to use Moses in leading the Jews out of Egypt.  I'm sure the first thought that came to Moses mind was that of the Egyptian he murdered many years ago.  So in verse 11 Moses asks God, "why him"?  For many logical reasons Moses doesn't seem to be the best choice for the task.

 

More than Moses murdering an Egyptian,  Moses has seldom spent any time with his own people.  He was raised as an Egyptian, in the palace of the Pharaoh, and now for the last forty years he was living in Midian.  Moses was a Jew, but he has never lived among the Jews.  Why would the Jews even want to trust him to lead them out?  Why would they even want him to do such a thing?  If someone was to rise up and be their leader it would seem that it should be someone who has lived among them that everyone knows.  No one knows Moses.

 

You can unde4stand why Moses was taken back by what God was saying.  God just told him that He would free Israel , and now God tells Moses that he was to go and talk to Pharaoh.   Moses' first impression might well have been, "you said, you were going to free Israel , and now you're asking me to do it."     

 

In verse 12 God replies to Moses.  He says that that "this" will be the sign that I have spoken to you.  God then proceeds to say that you, that is, our plural in Hebrew, meaning the Jews, will worship at the mountain.  So what is the sign?  The sign is the burning bush and how it will relate to the future when Israel comes to this place again.  Moses will remember, and will know that this is where they should worship and give thanks for Israel 's deliverance.

 

Verse 13 continues the dialogue between Moses and God.  Moses knows he is talking to God, but he is having a hard time understanding God's train of thinking.   So Moses anticipates what the Israelis will say when he tells them that God has sent him to them to lead them out of Egypt.  He anticipates them asking, "what is His  name?"  In other words, "what God are you talking about?  What God do you claim is sending you to us?"   I think Moses is right here.  The men of Israel would surely ask Moses, what God told you to come to us, it can't be our God.  We don't know you??   You can certainly understand how Israel would think Moses was coming to them in the name of another god, other than their God.      

 

God doesn't ignore this question.  He must have thought it was a logical question and worth answering.  So in verse 14 He says, "I am that I am."  He then tells Moses to say, tell Israel that "I am " has sent you. 

 

God continues in verse 15.  He tells Moses to tell Israel that the "Lord", the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has sent you.  The word "Lord" here is "Yahweh".  "Yahweh is very similar to the Hebrew word that is translated as "I am".  That is why we say that "Yahweh" means "I am".   

 

God then tells Moses to tell Israel that this is the name He should be called forever.  Some problems have resulted from this verse, especially in recent years.  Some, who I call extremists on this point, say that we must call God Yahweh, or some other name that is close to the spelling of Yahweh.  If we call God by the name of God, or any other name or word, we are in the wrong and don't know what God we claim to serve. 

 

There is a problem with this thinking as I see it.  First of all, the Jews of old would not say the name of God because they felt it was so holy.  They would not write it either.  To make a long story short, because the Jews did not say the name of God, or write it, we are really uncertain what His name is meant to be.  For this reason, there is much uncertainty today the name God wanted Himself to be called by.  The closest we can get to is the name "Yahweh", or a few other names similar in spelling.  The spelling of  "Yahweh" has been debated over for years, so we aren't one hundred percent sure that is the actual spelling. 

 

In verse 16 and 17 God tells Moses to go up to the elders of Israel.  We see, even at this early date, that there are elders in Israel .  This is the first mention of Israel having elders in the Old Testament.  God told Moses to go and tell them that God sees their misery, and the He will deliver them from the bondage of Egypt.  

 

God has an everlasting relationship with Israel.  At times He blesses them, and at times He curses them, but all the time, He watches over them.  We are now coming into the period of time when God's judgment on Israel is in its final stages.  The seven years of great  tribulation at the end of the age is in part a judgment on Israel to bring them to their knees.  They will repent, and God will in turn bless them with the eternal blessings He promised to Abraham,  and confirmed to many people throughout the Old Testament. 

 

We see God's plan in verse 18.  Moses and the elders are to go to the Pharaoh and tell him that the Lord, the God of Israel, that's Yahweh Elohim, has spoken to them and they are to go into the desert and worship God their.  Now that sounds outrages.   Why would the Pharaoh let his slaves leave Egypt?

 

In verse 19 God tells Moses that He knows the Pharaoh won't let Israel go, "unless a mighty hand compels him."   That indeed is what is about to happen.  Pharaoh would not let his slaves go.  That only makes sense from Pharaoh's perspective.  This then forces God's hand. 

 

In verse 20 we see God's response to Pharaoh's reluctance to let Israel go.  God tells Moses that He will perform great wonders in Egypt that will make Pharaoh let Israel go.  When it is time for God to do something for Israel, you can be assured that He will do it, no matter what it takes.  In this case things got pretty drastic.  In the case of Israel at the end of this age, things will get very drastic as well. 

 

In verse 21 God tells Moses that when the time comes, He will make the Egyptians act favorably toward Israel .  You will see in the coming chapters that God judges Egypt with suffering so severely that Egypt will happily let Israel go free.  God will, and can do such things.  Again, He will do whatever He wants, no matter how drastic it is, to bring about His will, and He did just that in this instance. 

 

We should remember the Abrahamic Covenant again at this point.  God told Abraham that He would bless those who bless Israel and that He would curse those who curse Israel.  When Joseph entered Egypt God blessed Egypt because Egypt blessed Joseph.  Now that Egypt had enslaved Israel, God would curse Egypt.  This is the way it is throughout history past, present and future.   

 

Verse 22 says that the women in Israel are to ask, even take, silver and gold, and other good things from their neighbour to take with them on their trip as plunder.  This is clearly Egyptian neighbours, not Israeli  neighbours.  

 

Some people today make more of a deal over this than they should. In some circles a whole doctrine has been built up around this verse.  The doctrine is called the transfer of wealth.  These people believe that before the return of Jesus the wealth of the world will be transferred over to Christians.  This is a far leap away from logic.  To take this verse and say that is not what this verse is speaking about, but many interpret the Bible incorrectly all the time.  There is a real need for Christians to be taught the art of Biblical interpretation, otherwise called, hermeneutics.   

 

Signs For Moses (ch. 4:1 - 17)

 

The conversation between God and Moses continues in chapter 4, verse 1.  Moses is reluctant to do as God says.  He now asks God, "what if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'the Lord did not appear to you?'"  Once again, this is a legitimate response.  Why would Israel listen to a man who has been away from them for so long?  It is only common sense.  Many scholars really feel that Moses really doesn't want to do what God tells him to do and so he is trying to get out of it.  That may be so, but, the objections that he raises are worth considering, and God does just that.

 

God's response to Moses objection is found inv verses 2 through 5.  God asks Moses what is in his hand.  Moses says that he is holding a staff.  God tells him to throw the staff on the ground, which Moses does.  The staff becomes a snake, that frighten Moses, so he steps back.  God then tells Moses to pick the snake up by the tale, which he does.  The snake turns back into a staff.  God tells Moses that when Israel sees this miracle, they will believe that you have been sent by the God of their forefathers. 

 

The miracles of Jesus in New Testament times were meant to do the same.  They were to be a sign that God had sent Jesus to Israel, yet even with these miraculous signs, Israel as a whole did not believe that God had sent Jesus. 

 

In verses 6 and 7 God provides Moses with yet another miracle.  He told Moses to put his hand inside his coat, and as he did, his hand became with leprosy.  When he put his hand back into his coat, his hand became normal again.

 

In verses 8 through 10 we see that there might be the possibility that Israel would not believe or listen to Moses even with the above two miracles.  God even admitted that possibility.  So God provided another miracle.  He told Moses that is this happens, he should take water from the Nile River, pour it on the ground, and it would turn to blood.  I would think the sight of blood might persuade Israel that God had sent Moses to them. 

 

In verse 10 we see yet another objection by Moses.  This is why many scholars feel that Moses is trying to get out of what God wants him to do.  Moses himself has just seen a couple of miracles.  You'd think that this would convince him that God would help him carry out this request, but apparently it doesn't.  You might think that if the miracles that Moses has just seen, and he had just performed doesn't motivate him to do God's will, how would they motivate Israel to accept him. 

 

So Moses tells God that he is not an eloquent speaker.  I'm sure God knew that, and that did not stop Him from choosing Moses to do His will.  Moses says that he is slow of speech and tongue.  Some suggest that Moses might have had a stuttering problem, or some kind of speech impediment.  We don't know this for sure.   All we know for sure is that Moses though that he had difficulties speaking, whether that was really the case or not, is hard to know. 

 

Verse 11 is both interesting and important.  God says, "who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or dumb?  Who gives him sight or makes him blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?"  This statement is important for a number of reasons.  One reason is that it comes directly from the mouth of God.  It does not come through the inspired speech of a person. 

 

Another reason why this statement is important because it tells us that God makes some men and women deaf, dub, and blind.  Some people may struggle with this, especially those of the hyper-faith persuasion.  It is interesting to me because I am legally blind.  There are a number of ways that people would think concerning my blindness.  One might be that it is a birth defect, just a happenstance.  Other's might think that the devil made me have bad eyesight.  Yet this passage says that God has made my eyes not see well.  If I accept this, then that puts things into a much different light than if I think the devil made me blind, or it was simply the luck of the draw from birth.  If God made me this way, then I need to accept it, unless He decides to change things. 

 

Moses ends the objections in verse 13.  He simply asks God to send somebody else  It is as if he just gives up trying rationalize things with God.  He just comes out with it.  "Please send someone else", he says. I think Moses is a timid man.  He is simply too shy.  Besides, the murder of the man still might be in the memory of some, even though it has been decades since he killed the man who was attacking a fellow Jew.

 

At this point, in verse 14, we see "that the Lord's anger burned against Moses."   God got angry with Moses.  And, since the phrase reads, ". anger burned .."  this tells me that God was very angry at Moses. 

 

Also in verse 14 God tells Moses that his brother Aaron the Levite was on the way to meet him and he was exited to be reunited with Moses.  These two men had not seen each other for years, or so we think.  It is interesting that as God was trying to convince Moses to do His will Aaron was on his way to see Moses.  Clearly, God had sent Aaron to Moses, knowing Moses would put up this fight. God works all things out for His own purpose.  A number of things come together at any given time to make sure His will is done, as is seen here.

 

God, in verse 15, tells Moses, not asks, that Moses will tell Aaron what to speak to the people, and He will help them both in the process.  The whole point here is that God never asked Moses to be a good speaker.  He never made Moses to be a good speaker.  Being a good speaker didn't matter to God.  It does however matter to us more than it should.  We put too much emphases of a man's speaking ability in church circles these days.  What mattered to God was that Moses would do as he was told.  God wanted Moses to represent Him to Israel.  That is what God wants of us today.  Our talents are secondary to what God would have us to do.  Besides, we are not to do God's will in our own strength anyway.  We are to solely depend on Him. 

 

 If you read 2 Corinthian 4 you'll see a good example of how this should play out in the life of Christians.  Paul tells us that we have God's treasure in earthen vessels.  The vessel is the not the important thing.  It is the treasure in the vessel that is important.  Too often than not, we are concerned about our vessel and not the treasure we hold within.  That shouldn't be. 

 

In verse 17 God specifically says that Aaron would speak for Moses and that it would be like Moses is God to Aaron.  Of course Moses isn't God, but Aaron would say exactly what Moses tells him as if he were God.  Of course, what Moses tells Aaron is what God tells him.   

 

In verse 17 God tells Moses to carry his staff because God would use it to perform miracles before Israel so they would know that both Aaron and Moses were sent by Him. 

 

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