The account of Moses being called by God to leadership is one that reveals much about the character of God. It is the account that reveals something of the majesty of God and yet shows his faithfulness to his covenant purpose. We often think of Moses being the central character in Exodus chapters 3 and 4 but the truth of the matter is that the central figure is Almighty God. But this God is not remote but rather is aware of the needs of his people. Here we also see the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The Lord is one who keeps his covenant promises and this is very evident in this whole narrative. These chapters are an important key to understanding the God of the Bible. Now we need to look at these chapters a little more thoroughly.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
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.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
The New International Version. (2011). (Ex 3:1–11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Notice that Moses is going about his daily tasks when he meets with God, he was not in a worship gathering or even spending time in prayer, God just sovereignly acts and reveals himself to Moses in a way that will change the history of the world. Yet he is responding to the cry of his enslaved people, God’s concern and love for his people are clearly shown here. Once again we have encountered the mystery of how God answers prayer in his own sovereign way, surely the people of Israel cried out to their God they did not expect him to call a shepherd who was not even living in Egypt as their leader and under God the one who would deliver them from bondage But this is just what happened.
God has an amazing way of Getting Moses attention, Moses sees a bush that is on fire and yet it is not consumed by the fire, if we were to see such a sight we would do what Moses did and have a look at what was going on. But the whole situation gets even more unusual when a voice addresses him from the burning bush, this person addressing him knows him by name. This is a very personal encounter that will have far-reaching results, Moses call is to serve his people but this very personal encounter is with a Holy God and Moses needs to respond to that Holy Presence. Moses when he is addressed, he responds as one who is willing to listen to what God has to say.
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
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.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”(Ex 3:12–4:1). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Here we come to the revelation of the name of God, this is one of the most important statements about who God is in the whole of Scripture. This revelation of who God is governs all that is to follow on the pages of Holy Scripture. There is something about this passage that demonstrates both the otherness and the immediacy of God, He is present as the Holy One who is high and lifted up and yet he dwells with and cares for his people. God is the one who IS, he exists not in some greek notion of the God who experiences everything in the eternal now but a God who interacts with his people in time and space. The very name is dynamic I am who I Am can be translated many ways legitimately, it is a phrase which shows that God is dynamically present. This is echoed in the way John picks up on how Jesus uses the phrase “I am” which is immediately seen by the Jewish leaders as blasphemy. Jesus claims to be the bread of life and the way the truth and the life, his use of I am soon reminded those around him that he was making a great claim about himself. As we see in Jesus himself, majestic greatness and the willingness to be present in a special way with his people do not contradict themselves, when we look at Jesu we see the character of not only Jesus but of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.
Even in the light of God’s revelation of himself, Moses continues to try and make excuses for himself basically he does not want to accept the call to leadership. He makes every excuse conceivable and then he comes out with the honest request please send someone else. He sees at once the huge responsibility that leadership, power and authority bring with it. Moses was not an arrogant power grabbing man like Donald Trump but rather a man of humility, but at times his humility got in his way and this was one such time. It is possible to know that God is calling us to some task and realising our own weakness, we begin to make excuses, however, the Sovereign Lord will have his way, he leads us into ways of seeing things differently and then we accept his commission. The Lord has a way of breaking down our resistance and making us willing to follow his calling with joy in our hearts. When the Lord first called me to preach I thought it was the most miserable thing to do but now people often say to me “you enjoy preaching don’t you” to which I always answer yes. The Lord is patient with us as he was with Moses but we can not expect to test that patience indefinitely without provoking the Lord’s discipline. Moses found that out the hard way and so will we but we will always find that walking in the will of God is best, he is a great and glorious God, he is Holy and Gracious, High and lifted up, yet present with his people. The God who reveals himself in Exodus as the covenant-keeping God, the almighty God, the all-knowing God is the same God as Jesus reveals and the Holy Spirit testifies to. This is the God we are called to worship, to serve and to love with all our being.