(“Questions From Israel’s Exodus” series: post #6)
Forty years had passed since Moses had killed an Egyptian taskmaster, fled from Egypt, and settled down in Midian. His Pharaoh grandfather, the one who had sought his death for killing that taskmaster, was now dead (Exodus 2:23). As for the Israelites, they were still crying out to God because of their bondage to the Egyptians (Exodus 2:23). God heard their cries, as He had heard all the ones that had risen up before those, and He set Himself to the task of getting Moses back to Egypt.
God accomplished that task by appearing to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Sinai, which was also known as Mount Horeb (Exodus 3:1-2). As Moses was shepherding his father’s flock in that area one day, he noticed that a certain bush wasn’t being consumed by the flames even though it was ablaze. This unnatural occurrence piqued his curiosity, and he went to investigate. As he stood there before the bush, suddenly a voice came from the midst of the bush. The voice said, “Moses, Moses!” Moses, in total astonishment, said, “Here I am.” Then the voice said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5, N.K.J.V.). How’s that for an attention getter?
The Bible says it was the Angel of the Lord who spoke from the bush (Exodus 3:2). Don’t miss the capital “A” on that word “Angel.” This Angel of the Lord was a character who showed up from time to time in the Old Testament era, and each time He did it was clear that He was none other God Himself. For example, the Angel of the Lord in the story of the burning bush went on to say to Moses, “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6, N.K.J.V.).
Since the Bible always places God the Father in heaven, commentators interpret the Old Testament’s Angel of the Lord to be Jesus, God the Son, appearing in a preincarnate form. This interpretation makes logical sense, and it also explains why the Angel of the Lord never appears in the New Testament. Commentators call each appearance of the Angel of the Lord a “Christophany,” which simply means “an appearance of Christ.”
Moses’ reaction to hearing that he was having a conversation with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to hide his face in fear (Exodus 3:6). Jesus, however, kept on talking:
And the Lord said, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:7-8, N.K.J.V.)
It is here that we would expect Moses to say: “Yes, Lord! I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for forty years. I was trying to lead your people all those years ago when I killed that Egyptian taskmaster, but things didn’t work out like I thought they would. But if You are ready for me to make another run at it, I’m all in. When do I leave for Egypt?” But that is decidedly not what Moses said. Rather than be quick to take the Lord up on His offer, Moses started dragging his feet and making excuses for why he wasn’t the man for the job. Here is a list of those excuses and God’s response to them:
- (Exodus 3:11-12): Moses said, “Who am I that I should do this job? I’m nobody.” God responded by saying, “I’ll be with you. I’ll even give you a sign that I truly have chosen you for this assignment. That sign will be: When the whole exodus is said and done, you and the people of Israel will serve Me right here at this same mountain.”
- (Exodus 3:13-14): Moses said, “I don’t even know Your name. When I go to the people of Israel and they ask me the name of the God who has sent me, what shall I say to them?” God’s answer was, “My name is I AM WHO I AM. Tell them, ‘I AM has sent you.'”
- (Exodus 4:1-9): Moses said, “But what if they won’t believe that You have sent me or that You have appeared to me?” In response to that, God first told him to throw his rod down on the ground. As the rod was lying there, it became a serpent. When Moses picked it back up, it became a rod again. Second, God told him to stick his hand in his bosom. Moses did, and when he pulled the hand back out it was white with leprosy. Third, God told him to stick his hand in his bosom a second time. Moses did, and when he pulled the hand back out the leprosy was healed. Fourth, God said to him, “And if the people won’t believe these signs, you will take water from the river and that water will become blood on dry land.” All of these miracles would be God’s way of verifying that Moses truly was His handpicked leader.
- (Exodus 4:10-12): Moses said, “Lord, I have never been an eloquent speaker.” (By the way, that’s an interesting claim considering that Acts 7:22 indicates that Moses was mighty in words and deeds during his first forty years in Egypt. Was Moses lying to God about not being a good speaker?) But God’s response was, “I am the one who makes everyone’s mouth, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you should say.”
- (Exodus 4:13-6): Moses said, “Lord, please send somebody else!” God responded to that by getting angry and agreeing to let Aaron, Moses’ older brother, serve as Moses’ spokesman. God would tell Moses what to say, and Moses would in turn pass those words along to Aaron.
Excuses, excuses. But before we come down too hard on Moses, let’s admit that we oftentimes don’t respond much better than he did to God’s commands. God, of course, doesn’t buy our excuses anymore than He bought those Moses tried to use That’s why I encourage you to stop making yours and just go ahead and bite the bullet by obeying God. I won’t tell you that obedience is always easy, but I will tell you that it is always right. Thankfully for Israel (and the world at large) Moses finally did what God was calling Him to do. Here’s hoping that you do the same in accepting your calling.