Week of July 9, 2006


Bible Passages:  Exodus 3:4-8a, 19-21; 4:10-12, 27-31.


Biblical Truth:  God is holy: yet He takes initiative to persuade people that He can and will help them in overwhelming situations.


God Takes Initiative to Help: Exodus 3:4-8a.


[4] 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.” [5] 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.” [6] He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. [7] 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. [8] So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians.  [NASU]


Exodus 3:1-12 provides the introductory context for the revelation and explanation of this unique divine name. This section establishes first of all the certainty of the Presence of God in the fire of theophany, in the auditory experience of the identifying and calling word of God, and in the certification of the place as a holy place by virtue of the appearance there of God. This certainty, in turn, establishes the authority for the call of Moses, namely, that God is to be with him in the mission he is to undertake, just as he is with him at this special moment. And the linking of this experience of Moses with the experience the sons of Israel are yet to have is cleverly made by the sign that is promised as the proof of God’s Presence, namely, that the sons of Israel, along with Moses, shall worship God together at this very same mountain. From the next section [3:13-22] forward, much of the narrative of the Book of Exodus is in one way or another a proof of the claim of God’s special name. This section, introducing that name, gives us a first glimpse of the essential point of that claim: He is here, really here.


[4-5] When Moses moves closer for a look at this remarkable fire, Yahweh calls out to him from the midst of the bush. The verb forbidding too close an approach by Moses is frequently used in the Old Testament as a technical term to describe an approach to the Presence of God in worship. Finally, in the ultimate certification of this site being a place where God is present, Moses is told that he stands now on holy ground, and so must remove his shoes in reverence. Holiness means separation. Something holy is set apart. In the case of God, holiness means that he is set apart from everything he has made. It is the distinction between the Creator and the creature, the infinite distance between God’s deity and our humanity.


[6] The God who is manifesting himself to Moses is identified with exact precision. Moses is told that this God who addresses him is the God of the three great patriarchal fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That Moses understood the identification of this God is made clear by his reaction. Where before he continued to gaze at the bush, he now covered his face, afraid to stare at God.


[7-8] God’s relationship with his covenant people is a personal relationship. It is also a saving relationship and this is why God revealed himself to Moses. The God who sees, hears, and knows his people is also the God who saves. God was reaching down (to stoop, come down) to bring (deliver, rescue) his people up out of Egypt. Here we see that the God who is awesome in glory and fearsome in holiness stoops to save. There was something God was saving them from. He was saving them from their slavery in Egypt, delivering them from the house of bondage. There was also something he was saving them to. He was saving them into the Promised Land. The point is that God not only knew and cared about the plight of his people but was also planning to do something about it. The story of the exodus is the history of how God rescued his people, working out their whole salvation from beginning to end.


The way God rescued Israel from Egypt is the way God always rescues his people. The exodus is not simply past history but present reality. The God who revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush is the same God we serve today. Whenever and wherever we worship him, we are standing on holy ground, praising the God of Abraham and crying out to him for salvation. The exodus from Egypt reveals the pattern of salvation in Christ. Israel’s bondage is a picture of our slavery to sin. Until we come to God in faith, we are living in the Egypt of our sin, enslaved by its passions and desires. Therefore, we are in as great a need of salvation as were the children of Israel. If we are to be rescued, God will have to stoop down to save us.


God’s Power Exceeds Any Other: Exodus 3:19-21.


[19] But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. [20] So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. [21] I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed.  [NASU]

[19-21] Since he knew how hard Pharaoh’s heart was, God knew that the elders’ request would be denied. God also knew what it would take to bring Israel out of Egypt. This part of Exodus provides an outline for the next eleven chapters. Step-by-step this is how the Israelites would be saved: the people will believe, the king will be hardened, the Egyptians will be plagued, the deliverance will occur, and finally the Egyptians will be plundered. This proves that the God who saves is a God who knows the future.

The exodus is a perfect example of God’s unique ability not only to know the future, but also to predetermine it. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, he knew precisely what would happen. Everything would happen according to his plan, as everything always does. What God would do to conquer Pharaoh’s heart also proves his power. He did this by performing extraordinary deeds of supernatural power. Only after God had proved his might by performing all his wonders would Pharaoh let God’s people go. Actually he would do more than let them go. The Hebrew phrase suggests an expulsion. Pharaoh would be so eager to get rid of his former slaves that he would practically push them out of Egypt. And when they finally went, the Israelites would plunder the Egyptians. Centuries before, when he made his covenant with Abraham, God specifically promised that his people would come out of their captivity with many possessions [Genesis 15:14].


God Knows How to Help: Exodus 4:10-12.


[10] Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11] The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? [12] Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”   [NASU]


God answered the objection of Moses by reminding him that he was fearfully and wonderfully made. Moses had been given exactly the gifts that God wanted him to have and those gifts were to be used for God’s glory. If it is true that God made us exactly the way he wanted, then we cannot complain about our lack of ability without grumbling against God. Every time we complain about our personal limitations, what we are actually doing is insulting the God who made us. The thing to do instead is to serve God as well as we can. Even if our gifts are limited – as everyone’s gifts are, in one respect or another – they should be used for God’s glory. If God is with us, then whatever abilities or disabilities we have can be used for his glory.


The Bible does not say why Moses was unwilling to go. It probably had something to do with the issues he had already raised. If God’s angry response in verses 14-16 is any indication, Moses was still worried about his speech problem. Very likely he felt inadequate and afraid. But whatever the reason was, it really didn’t matter. Quite simply, he was refusing God’s claim on his life. There is a time when it is appropriate to ask the kinds of questions Moses had been asking. But once we know what God wants us to do, it is time to stop asking and start obeying.


God Can Be Believed: Exodus 4:27-31.


[27] Now the Lord said to Aaron, “Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. [28] Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which He had sent him, and all the signs that He had commanded him to do. [29] Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the sons of Israel; [30] and Aaron spoke all the words which the Lord had spoken to Moses. He then performed the signs in the sight of the people. [31] So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.  [NASU]


Everything went according to promise. Aaron went out to meet Moses on God’s mountain, just as God had promised [Exodus 4:14]. Once the two brothers had embraced, Moses reported what had happened to him at the burning bush. Aaron agreed to help him, just as God had promised [Exodus 4:15-16]. Together they returned to Egypt and gathered the elders of Israel. Aaron told them everything that Moses had seen and heard. Then he performed the sign of the snake, the sign of the leprous hand, and the sign of the blood. Once the people had witnessed these miracles, they believed the promise of salvation. It all happened just the way God had promised.


It is worth noticing how little space the Bible devotes to the meeting with the elders, especially when this is compared with the amount of time Moses spent worrying about the meeting beforehand. The prophet’s fears turned out to be ill-founded, as fears always are when they come from a failure to trust God’s word. In spite of all his misgivings, Moses had no trouble persuading the Israelites to believe the good news of their deliverance. There is a valuable lesson in this. Often the real struggle comes at the point of deciding whether or not to follow God. Once the decision to follow him has been made, everything falls into place, and we are able to glorify God.


Exodus 4 ends with worship. Even while they were still waiting for their liberation, the Israelites began to give God the glory. They understood that the God of Moses is a God to be worshiped and adored. He is a God who rules every heart by his sovereign will. He is a wonder-working God, a God who keeps every last promise of salvation.


Questions for Discussion:


1.   From 3:1 through 4:17, we have a narrative describing the interaction of two characters: God and Moses. List the attributes and actions of each character. What do these verses tell us about who God is; about his purpose for having come down; about why he is calling Moses? What do these verses tell us about who Moses is; about his strengths and weaknesses?



Exodus, Alan Cole, Inter-Varsity Press.

Exodus, John Durham, Nelson Publishers.

Exodus, Philip Ryken, Crossway.