• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to their vocation of being a blessing to the whole world.
• As we go through Exodus, we are following the Common Lectionary (or selection of Bible readings) that most mainline Christian denominations also follow. Hearing the Word as set down in the three year lectionary used globally, is one of the way we express Oneness (or the “catholic” – “universal” nature of God’s church. Our schedule of bible passages in Exodus has lots of bible texts in between each one! So it is an important to get what happens prior to our text each week.
• A very important thing happens before our text for this week begins. Read Ch 2:11-25.
• verse 11: Moses obviously grows up to be a young man. He grows up in the royal palace with all its privilege, and yet it seems that he has learnt or sensed that he is actually one of the ethnic minority population called “the Hebrews”. He is not an Egyptian.
• He does two things that show a certain passion and concern for the plight of his people. He first “watches” their “hard labour”. Moses is seeing what Pharaoh’s daughter saw and heard when she saw Moses in the ark and heard his crying and “was moved”.
• Both things Moses does are done in secret – at least he thinks they are. “He looks this way and that” checking to see if anyone is seeing him.
• The issue is really about authority. It is clear that when he kills the Egyptian slave master who is beating a Hebrew and then when he tries to settle a dispute between two of his countrymen, he has no authority. One of the two Hebrews who are beating each other up pop that authority question (verse “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” asks the Hebrew slave. And then in direct challenge to his actions, “Are you thinking of killing me like you did that Egyptian the other day?” Moses is found out and very scared.
• Pharaoh quickly turns on this adopted son of his daughter. But, as will become more and more apparent, Pharaoh’s attempts to deal with these Hebrews and their God will become less and less effective!
• Everything speeds up and is compressed together. Moses flees across the huge desert, somehow survived on the land way over in Midian and sits down by a well” (verse 15).
• Verse 19: This “one who was drawn from the water” now “draws water for some women at the well.
• He helps some women at the well (wells are always places of meeting in the desert communities). he meets a man who seems to have two names. here he is called “Reuel” and in other places he is called Jethro. He agrees to arranged marriage with one of Jethro’s seven daughters, Zipporah.
• “Zipporah” in Hebrew means “one who tweets”. Maybe she was a frequent Tweeter user!
• They have a son, Gershom, which means “alien there”. Maybe Moses is no getting as far away as he can from his Egyptian upbringing. After all, the king did try to kill him!
• Verse: 23-25: Again we hear of this crying out and now God seeing and hearing and “being concerned” about them. he is about to show his concern and do something about it…….
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say 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.’
2. The location of this burning bush (Mount Horeb or Sinai) moment is not known for sure, but is seems that it might have been on the western side of the Sinai Peninsular.
3. Flames: This is a very common way that the biblical writers try and give a visual picture of God’s presence. It happens again in Exod 19:18 when the glory/presence of God descends upon the same mountain and gives the 10 commandments. Later on in the desert journey, a pillar of fire will guide the community at night time. We New Testament people make a link with Pentecost Sunday and the “tongues of fire”.
4. Moses has “seen” God’s people in pain and now he wants to “see” this great sight. He will see the fire and see some other things as well! Note that God then “sees” Moses coming up the mountain. Interesting that the man who wants to discover something has now become the discovered one by God! This self-appointed shepherd who lacked authority to fulfil his calling will now receive God’s authority and power for the humanly impossible calling he will no be given!
5. Now we have the famous moment of God’s call and giving of the most precious gift he ever gave his people. Moses is given his commission to shepherd Israel in three ways;
o God is present: Moses is made aware of this (take off the sandals on holy ground)
o He is informed that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – God is a known God with a history of promises to and blessing of and saving people.
o God announced his intentions. Moses hears what God is wanting to do through him – save his people.
6. Again we hear for the third time since Exodus began that God has seen and understands the plight of his suffering people (they are “crying out” – like Moses in the ark). He is now going to “come down” with one intention – RESCUE. Pharaoh’s daughter was indeed a sign of God’s rescue when she found Moses.
7. Moses does not receive his calling well. He objects – three times in all. He knows he needs God’s authority and power to do this humanly impossible thing called shepherding God’s people! First he asks “Who am I” for this task. Answer: A nobody! God responds with a promise of assurance. “I will be with you”.
8. This calling and this giving of God’s name is all about Worship. Who will God’s people serve/worship? They are doing “hard service/labour” to pharaoh and the gods of Egypt and it is killing them. God is going to act to gather them into his presence in a new way so that they can serve/worship him. The service of God will be rest, not slavery. God does the giving and the blessing and the healing in worship p- not the people. They attend to worship not to appease the Lord, but to receive from him the good things he promises. in this way they “rest in his presence” as he rested from his labour on the seventh day.
9. Moses does not seem convinced! He asks the obvious question of God. Moses has asked, “Who am I”. Now he asks, “Who are you”!
10. Now comes the giving of the greatest gift that God ever gave to human beings besides their very existence. “I AM WHO I AM”, or “I AM WHO I WILL BE” is God’s personal name (YHWH: in English)
o It has never been uttered before and by giving Moses his personal name, God ushers in a whole new era of relationship intimacy with humanity.
o God has many names in Old Testament: El Elyon – God Most High, El Roi – God who sees me, El Shaddai – God Almighty, El Olam – God Everlasting,
o By this personal name (YHWH – Yahweh), Moses and human being will have unprecedented access to his presence and being.
o This name is really as mystery. It reveals God in a new personal way, but it also conceals God. God is still God but closer. It is untranslatable and in Hebrew it is unpronounceable. It has four letters and has been called the “Tetragrammaton” (four letters). It would become the holiest and most guarded name and the name to only be used under very strict ritual/worship conditions for Jewish people.
o This is a huge risk for God. Once his gives his personal name he is open to more personal abuse. It is like us giving our name to a stranger. Once it is done, we are more known – and open to our name being abused. Same with God.
o By this name Moses will have authority to save and shepherd God’s chosen and blessed people.
o In most English translation bible, this name, in English “Yahweh”, is usually printed “LORD”.
o Moses still objects a little after our text. Moses says he cannot speak well enough. God fixes this my telling him have his brother, Aaron, as a spokesman for him in his calling (Exod 4:1ff). God also gives him the first part of the program of “sign and wonders” that Gods will employ to begin the battle Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.
11. God will never withdraw this special name, no matter how much it is abused. he will never deny personal access to his presence for his faithful people. In New Testament terms, the name YHWH is translated “Kyrios” (my Lord). This is name by which people address Jesus. “Lord, have mercy on me”, (“Kyrie, eleison”). In John’s gospel, jesus says the seven great “IAM” statements – I AM the God Shepherd, I AM the gate for the sheep, I AM the Brad of Life, I AM the way the truth and the life…..
• We are all priests in the sense that we have access to God’s very presence by his grace and mercy. We pray for people to God on their behalf. This is why on Sunday we pray ”The Prayer of the Church”. Here we actually perform a public service in praying for the world in God’s gracious presence.
• Worship of any god other than YHWH – or Jesus Christ the LORD, kills people, enslaves people and destroys relationship with God and each other.
• Worship is primarily an act of the Lord to which we respond in prayer, thanks and praise – not the other way around. “Liturgy” is a word the New Testament writers chose from their culture to express what they believed was going on when we gathered in God’s presence around the Word and the Holy Meal. “Liturgy” means “public work”, or “work of the people”. We respond to God’s good gifts of forgiveness, life, teaching, guidance, and healing by doing our public work – never only for ourselves but for the whole world and for others present.
• With this biblical view of worship, worship can then become what it was established to be by God – REST!
• It is no merely human thing to be called and commissioned by the Lord for service in his church or his world. Moses objects three times. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Jonah, and Jesus himself asked for their calling to be taken from them. Someone once said that anyone who willingly wants to lead God’s people is either full of themselves or just plain unaware of what God is asking them to do!
• But God promises to be with the ones he calls. He gives them his own personal name, which means access to his blessing, power, wisdom and hope to fulfil their calling.
Are you resisting God’s call to serve at the moment? What are your fears? What are your excuses?
Are you resting in God’s personal presence in worship or are you labouring in some kind of slavery in worship? Why?