Out of Bondage chapter 3

Chapter 3

Moses life now was that of a shepherd like his ancestors. They weren’t his sheep; they belonged to his father-in-law, the priest[1] of Midian.

One day he led the flock to the end of the wilderness and came to Mount Horeb. Mount Horeb, also called Mount Sinai, is where Yahweh gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

Moses was startled by the sight of a bush that was blazing but wasn’t consumed by the fire. It was an amazing sight and Moses wanted to find out what was going on. Yahweh called to him from the burning bush and he answered, “Yes? I’m right here!”

Yahweh told him not to come any closer and to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground.

There were a lot of gods in Egypt but the Israelites had been separated in Goshen and Moses would have learned about Yahweh – that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There may have been many gods in Midian and Moses had spent his adult life in Egypt and Midian. He needed a plainer picture of Yahweh. Yahweh told him that he was not like all those gods Moses had come in contact with. First he told him he was powerful and holy. He also told Moses that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Moses saw the difference. He hid his face. He wasn’t afraid to look at the gods he had been used to, but he was afraid to look at the God who was talking to him out of a burning bush.

Yahweh told him that he had “taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey, the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.”[2]

Yahweh assured Moses that he not only heard the cry of his people but had seen for himself how cruel the Egyptians were to them. He said it was time for Israel to go back to the Promised Land so he was sending Moses to Pharaoh to bring his people out of Egypt.

Moses made a mistake that is common of humans. He thought Yahweh expected him to be able to “help God” all by himself. He knew he wasn’t qualified and asked Yahweh if he knew something that he – Moses – didn’t know about himself. Yahweh does know something about each of us that we don’t know ourselves and we can see that our God was preparing Moses for the task all of his life. By the same token we can be sure that our God is using the circumstances of each of our lives to prepare us to function well in our individual places in his plan.

Yahweh assured Moses that he would be with him and told him as proof that when he brought his people out of Egypt they would worship their God on that very mountain where he was talking to Moses that day.

Moses was planning ahead and, thinking about the problems that would probably arise, he asked, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’”[3]

Yahweh also told Moses to tell the Israelites that Yahweh, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – emphasizing that he was the God of each of them – sent Moses to them. He told Moses that Yahweh had always been his name – I AM – and that is how he would always be known.

Then he said, “Now be on your way. Gather the leaders of Israel. Tell them, ‘God, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I’ve looked into what’s being done to you in Egypt, and I’ve determined to get you out of the affliction of Egypt and take you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, a land brimming over with milk and honey.”’[4]

Yahweh assured Moses that the Israelites would listen to him, go with him to Pharaoh, and tell him that Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews met with them and said for Pharaoh to let them take a three day journey into the wilderness to worship their God, Yahweh.

Yahweh said the he knew that the king of Egypt wouldn’t let them go unless he forced them to so he – Yahweh – would intervene and hit them where it hurt. The people going into the Promised Land would have understood that Yahweh was talking about the gods that the Egyptians worshiped as much as any pain inflicted. Hurt pride is often more painful than physical pain.

Yahweh told Moses that when he got through with them the Egyptians would be glad to send them off – they would even gift the Israelite women with their silver, gold, jewelry, and extra clothes.

Summary of chapter 3

Moses was tending the sheep on or by Mount Horeb when Yahweh got his attention by showing him a bush that was burning but not consumed. Torah commentators[5] have some ideas about why he chose a burning bush.

Rashi sees the Burning Bush as a symbol of God’s sheltering presence during times when the Jews will go through “burning difficulties.” That would be a good lesson for the people going in to possess the Promised Land as well as Yahweh’s people through the ages – including the present age and the future.

Rabbenu Bechaya quotes a Midrash that notes the Hebrew word for bush (“Sneh”) is similar in spelling to the Hebrew word “Sinai.” This Midrash sees the Burning Bush as a symbol of the fire that would be burning on Mount Sinai when Moses was given the Ten Commandments.

The Tosafot Daa’t Zekanim says that a bush cannot be used for idol worship and thus Moses was hearing God’s will from a medium that would be free of all spiritual pollution. This is an important point because it was evidence that Yahweh was not a god created by man.

Yahweh revealed himself to Moses the God who always was and always will be – the great I AM. Moses had to realize that he was different from every other god. He revealed himself in a burning bush that wasn’t being destroyed by the flames. He told Moses that he was holy by instructing him to take off his shoes because the very ground around was holy. Moses needed to know that Yahweh was different than any other god he had been exposed to. Moses had to know that Yahweh’s power was great enough to sustain him in the task that Yahweh set before him. The fact that this was the God of his ancestors would give credibility to the message he had for the Israelites.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary says: ” Formerly Moses thought himself able to deliver Israel, and set himself to the work too hastily. …. Formerly, self-confidence mingled with strong faith and great zeal, now sinful distrust of God crept in under the garb of humility; …. But all objections are answered in, Certainly I will be with thee. That is enough. Two names God would now be known by. A name that denotes what he is in himself, I AM THAT I AM. … Also, here is a name that denotes what God is to his people. The Lord God of your fathers sent me unto you. Moses must revive among them the religion of their fathers, which was almost lost; and then they might expect the speedy performance of the promises made unto their fathers. … Moses is here told that petitions and persuasions, and humble complaints, would not prevail with him; nor a mighty hand stretched out in signs and wonders. But those will certainly be broken by the power of God’s hand, who will not bow to the power of his word. Pharaoh’s people should furnish Israel with riches at their departure.

Prayer: Lord, I am weak but you are strong. You have equipped me to reflect your image to the part of the world you place me in and I will dwell there and cultivate faithfulness. Because I know you from the records kept by your family – past and present – as well as from my own experience with you I can trust you enough to die to my own self-will and let you direct my way.


Things to think about

  1. When Yahweh told Moses he was going to use him to get his people out of Egypt he seemed to think his God had made a mistake. Can you relate to that?
  2. Have you ever felt an uncontrollable urge to do something good and stopped yourself because you wonder if others would remind you that you weren’t qualified?
  3. What did Yahweh mean when he said that he was I AM? Remember Yahweh is the third person of the verb heyah “To Be”. Whether in the first or third person the word expresses our God as THE (one and only) Self-existent One responsible for all existence including his own –the great I AM.
  4. What do you think was the message in the burning bush?

 

 

 

[1] Wikipedia says: “A priest ….is a person authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities.”

[2] Verses 7,8

[3] Verses 13, 14

[4] Verses 16, 17

[5] http://www.aish.com/tp/b/app/48944531.html

 

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