Last week we began our series entitled “Lessons from Moses” and in looking at Moses early life, we talked about the beginning of his journey and how God used a terrible situation to ultimately bring God glory. Today we will look at Moses' encounter with God at the burning bush and how God proved to Moses that we can have confidence in God.
Back in the mid 1980's there was a young man that played running back for the University of Auburn. He was good. In fact most people thought that he would be drafted by the NFL and have a nice career. However, half way through his senior year he was blindsided looking back for a pass. The result was some nerve damage in his right shoulder and some loss of mobility. He tried to play through it but his arm just could not do it anymore. He began to lose strength and eventually began to lose mass. While he could still run and his left arm was just fine, his right arm cost him his football career. Completely devastated he continued with school and graduated with his business degree.
It was several years after graduation that he began to feel God calling him to be a public speaker. He thought maybe his playing days at Auburn would help in this deal, but there was one overriding factor that was going to make public speaking incredibly difficult for him. He had a stuttering problem. Now as a running back he did not have to speak. Working on a company's financial records or researching market trends he did not have to speak. But public speaking was going to cast a blinding spot light on his condition. He was terrified! He initially thought God got it wrong. He knew that public speaking, regardless of what he had or wanted to say, was just not in the realm of possibility for him.
Our story today gives us a similar situation as Moses is called by God to be the liberator of the Israelite people from Egypt and Moses immediately begins to raise all sorts of self-doubts about why God would call him for this task.
Our Scripture lesson today is actually divided into three sections, the calling of Moses, Moses doubting himself, and Moses doubting his reception. In fact this section is part of a larger section that runs all the way through 4:17, and we will look at a portion of that next week.
But as our story begins we find Moses tending to the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro. Now Scripture tells us that Moses led the flock beyond the wilderness to Mt. Horeb. One question that often gets asked here is why? Why could Moses not tend to the sheep close to Midian? Well it is no accident that Moses arrives at Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God. Because it is here that Moses is called into service.
It is here at Mt. Horeb that Moses sees a bush that is on fire but is not being consumed by the fire. His curiosity is immediately peaked and begins to go over to get a closer look at the phenomena. However, when God sees that God has Moses' attention God calls out to Moses from the bush. Moses is told not to come any closer and to remove his sandals. Notice that Moses is not told take off your sandals and then come closer. Moses is in a holy place and has no right to even be there so Moses is told “Come no closer!” and God reveals who is calling Moses. “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. Notice Moses' change in demeanor. He goes from curiosity about this burning bush, wanting to get closer to examine it, to being told to come no closer and hiding his face out of fear and reverence.
God then tells Moses that God has observed the misery and oppression of the Israelites in Egypt and God has come down to deliver them from the Egyptians and bring them up to a land flowing with milk and honey. God continues by telling Moses that he is to go to Pharaoh and bring God's people out of Egypt. Moses' first response is wait a minute, who am I to do something like this.
Why Moses questions God is up for debate. One would think Moses would be ecstatic to be a part of this grand deliverance, but he is not. You see, Moses is not only concerned about his own qualifications for this task, he is concerned how those he will come in contact with, the Israelites and Pharaoh, will view his qualifications. After all the only thing the Israelites know about Moses, if anything, is that he was raised in Pharaoh's house, killed an Egyptian, fled, and is now a wanted man and Pharaoh is the one that wants him. Moses has two objections here, I do not think I can do what you are asking and no one else will think I can do this either. At this point Moses is still focused on himself and what he will do and not on the idea that it will be God's might that will accomplish all of this. God then tells him that God will be with him and he will not be alone. But this is not enough for Moses. Moses then asks God what name should he give to Israelites when they ask who sent Moses. God replies with the ever famous line, tell them I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent me to you. The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.
God then instructs Moses to go and say this to the elders of Israel and they will go with Moses to Pharaoh and ask that the Israelites be allowed to go on a three day journey to sacrifice to God. God goes on to tell Moses that Pharaoh will deny this initial request. However, because of this denial God will then strike Egypt and Pharaoh will agree to let them go. But not only will Pharaoh let them go, the Egyptian people will pay the Israelites to leave, thereby allowing themselves to be plundered by the Israelites.
In looking at this piece of Scripture it is easy to see why Moses' confidence is not exactly sky rocketing. This is a huge ordeal. The Israelites had been in Egypt 430 years at this point and when they left there 600,000 men, plus all of the women and children, plus all of the livestock, plus all of the plunder that was going to go with them. This was not just a few people that Moses was going to pick up. This was significant. This was monumental. I can understand how Moses may not have been immediately jumping for joy at this task placed before him.
So what can we learn from Moses' reaction to God. One thing is that God is always with us. This was a gigantic feat that God was going to accomplish but in Scripture God never told Moses that he was going to do it alone. God repeatedly said “I will be with you”, “I will lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey”, “I will reach out and strike Egypt”. What God does tell us in Scripture, repeatedly, is that we are not alone. From Matthew 18:30, wherever two or more are gathered in my name you can be sure I will be there too. From Acts 2:3-4 when the Holy Spirit came to the early believers. From the sacrifice of Christ himself, for our benefit, so that we could be fully restored to God. God has told us, proved to us, that we are not alone.
Another thing we can learn is that God has gone before us and equips us Look back to the beginning of our story. What was Moses doing? He was tending Jethro's sheep. God was taking what Moses thought was running away time and using it to train Moses. Moses was going to be the person to take care of the Israelites, God's chosen people. So God equipped and prepared Moses in the fields while he was tending to Jethro's sheep. God was laying the ground work long before he called Moses. God does the same for us. God knows the future. God knows the plan for us. And God knows what needs to take place for God's will to be done. God will not send us alone and God will not send us where God has not already gone before.
One more thing we can learn is that there is a purpose. God was not bored one day and decided to send Moses to free the Israelites to see what would happen. There was a purpose. There was a purpose to Moses being saved as an infant and growing up in Pharaoh's palace. There was a purpose for Moses making his way to Midian and tending the sheep. There was a purpose to Moses taking the sheep to Mt. Horeb, the mountain of God. Now we are not privy to God's purpose all the time, but we do not need to be. We simply need to trust God, get out of own way, and allow God to use us. So often we want to know the why for everything. We are curious by nature and sometimes that is our downfall. Trust in God, trust in God's plan, and see what marvelous things God can do!
That man from Auburn University finally decided to trust God and in God's plan and began to speak publicly about his faith. He knew this was more than he could do alone so he says he prayed to God and said I am willing to try this but you have to get me through it. He went out on stage and spoke flawlessly. His confidence grew, his audiences grew, and God's Kingdom grew. I have seen this man walk up to the scariest, meanest looking people, and have them on their knees, accepting Christ as their savior, inside of five minutes. The confidence of this man to trust God has yielded wonderful results for the Kingdom. So one time I asked him about all of this and we spoke for a few minutes. In our private conversation he stuttered on almost every word. When we were finished he looked at me and said when I speak for myself I stutter. But when I speak for God, it is flawless.