FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM: A Study of the Book of Exodus
The Success of God’s Program Depends Upon God not Us
Exodus 2:23-3:22 SCC 6/24/12
Here comes the Call of Moses. But it is much more than that. It is the divine preparation of the servant of God, a servant who already knew what his destiny was. Here Moses is shown how his destiny will be accomplished. It will be accomplished because the divine Presence will guarantee the power, and the promise of that Presence comes with the important “I AM” revelation. The message that comes through in this, and other “I will be with you” passages, is that when the promise of his Presence is correctly appropriated by faith, the servant of God can begin to build confidence for the task that lies ahead.
GOD IS MOVED WITH COMPASSION WHEN HIS PEOPLE CRY OUT TO HIM FOR HELP
There is the report of the Lord’s response to Israel’s cry. The nature of God is clearly displayed in this portion as a God who is moved to compassion for his people when they cry out to him for help. On the human side Israel groaned in their bondage and cried out to the LORD. On the divine side, the LORD heard their groaning, remembered the covenant, looked on Israel, and knew them. These expressions are intended to convey the faithfulness of the LORD for his people in bondage. He had never forgotten them.
These are anthropomorphisms; human terms attesting to God’s actions. Such are expressions for our benefit, so that we might understand more about God’s relationship with us. It means that there is no other way that we can even begin to grasp the nature of God and his dealings with us. Yet we can see that our God is a person with emotions, intellect and will. To say God heard their complaint means that God responded to it. Likewise, “to remember” means to begin to act on the basis of what is remembered. These emphasize God’s sympathy and compassion for the people. God is near to those in need. In fact, the deliverer had already been chosen. “And God knew” is the idea that God took knowledge of them, noticed or regarded them.
NB: So God is engaged in the lives of his people. His character is such that we can cry out to him in any circumstance and know that we have a hearing. Peter said, ‘cast all your anxiety upon Him (God) because he cares for you’ 1 Peter 5:7. Jesus said ‘come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest’ Matthew 11:28. An easy yoke gives the burden to the larger one bearing the burden. Rest is contentment with what God is doing.
GOD COMES TO DELIVER HIS PEOPLE IN DISTRESS 3:1-10
God appears in a burning bush 1-7
1. Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai v 1. Later Moses would shepherd the people of Israel, and lead them to Mount Sinai to receive the Law. The designation “the Angel of Yahweh” is often interchangeable with the holy name itself, indicating that it refers to the LORD. Here then is a reference to the pre-incarnate appearance of the second person of the trinity v 2.
2. God chose to reveal himself through a blazing fire in a thorn bush. The symbolism of fire in the book frequently accompanies the revelation of God as he delivers Israel, guides her, and purifies her. This revelation is of fire coming from within the bush, not from outside; and it represents the Lord who is in the midst of his people and will deliver them from persecution and make them into a holy nation. In the Bible the point of the Lord is a consuming fire is that he judges and purifies. Note that the nature of the Lord is a holy, purifying God, a consuming fire, before whom none can stand. This is consistent throughout revelation even to the last in Revelation 1:12-16.
3. Moses curiosity leads him to investigate. Something strange is going on here v 3. The repetition of the name ‘Moses’ in God’s call is emphatic, making the appeal personal, direct and immediate v 4. The use of the personal name shows how specifically God directed the call, and that He knew this person. It would have been an encouragement to Moses that this was indeed the LORD who was meeting him. Even though the Lord was drawing near to Moses, Moses could not simply approach Him. There still was a barrier between God and man, and God had to remind him of this with instructions v 5. Because God was in this place, the ground was different--holy. The vision of the Lord, even if in a manifestation, demands reverence for the awesome holiness he brings.
4. These warnings are followed by the self-disclosure of the LORD: I am the God of the Patriarchs v 6. The significant point here is the naming of the patriarchs, for this God is the covenant God, who will now begin to fulfill His promises. Moses was afraid from gazing” meaning “he was afraid to gaze”. Once again the nature of this covenant God is clearly displayed: “I have seen,” “I have heard,” “I know” and “I have come down to deliver” v 7. If one were to ask what I AM signifies, these verses provide a preliminary answer: He is! He is the one who sees, thinks, hears, knows, remembers, and intervenes to deliver. All that the humans bring to this deliverance is a cry for help. It is their affliction, their cry of distress, and their sorrows that the LORD will resolve. One instinctively knows that the human dilemma is hopeless apart from divine intervention. The existence of a compassionate, covenant God is the hope that we share with the ancient Israelites.
God gives His instructions to Moses 8-10
1. God’s coming down is a frequent anthropomorphism in the OT. It expresses His direct involvement, often in the sense of judgment v 8. The purpose of God’s coming down is to ‘deliver them’. “Flowing” modifies “the land” and “flowing” is explained by “milk and honey.” These two products will be in abundance in the land, and they therefore represent the abundant land. The language is hyperbolic, as if the land is streaming with these products. This is an extravagant land already occupied by people God will dispossess for His own (Canaanite, Perrizite, etc.,.).
2. God had seen the oppression and so knew that these complaints were accurate, and so he initiated the proceedings against them v 9. The word for the oppression has the idea of pressure with the oppression--squeezing, pressuring, which later was used for torture. Three times oppression and deliverance mentioned 2:23, 3:7 & 9. These instructions for Moses are based on the preceding revelation made to him. The deliverance of Israel was to be God’s work--hence, “I will send you” v 10. When God commissioned people, often using “to send,” it indicated that they went with His backing, His power and His authority. Moses could not have brought Israel out without this.
GOD GUARANTEES DELIVERANCE OF HIS PEOPLE 11-22
1. This section begins with Moses’ immediate response (not an attempt to get out of it so much as a feeling of being overwhelmed): "Who am I that I should go . . . and that I should deliver. .? v 11. When he was younger, Moses was confident and impulsive; but now older the greatness of the task makes him unsure. Moses at this point is overwhelmed with the task of representing God, and with his insufficiency, and so in honest humility questions the choice. The point was that who he was made no difference. What mattered was who the Lord was. That is the subject addressed now. God’s immediate answer is “I shall be with you” v 12. It makes no difference who the servant is if God is with him or her. The promise of the divine presence overcomes the world. In view of Moses’ hesitancy, a sign is necessary to prove the promise. In this passage the sign is a confirming one, i.e., when Israel worships at this mountain that is proof of the message. In the meantime, Moses will have to trust in the Lord.
2. Moses, at this point still apparently willing to go, wishes to know how to identify the God of the fathers to the people v 13. The point that is being made seems to be that the God who appeared to Moses is a sovereign independent of creation v 14. The first “I AM” would have conveyed that the LORD exists (is actually alive) and that he is with his people. But the relative clause modifying the first verb shows that he exists independently. He is absolute, sovereign, independent, etc. So the significance of this explanation is the means of convincing Moses and the people of the sufficiency of his nature. We could say that among other things he is stressing that 1) he is present with them (“I am with you” was already introduced), 2) that he exists independently (so that no power on earth can limit him), 3) that he has absolute power, and 4) that he is the covenant God (“I am the God of . . .”). Do not miss the impact of this revelation for the task that lies before Moses (and us) v 15-16.
3. The words of the Lord “I have surely visited” in v 16 refers to the long-awaited fulfillment of the prophecy of Joseph: “God will surely visit you” (Gen. 50:24). This is the visitation from on high, God's coming to deliver his people. They will connect these dots. When the sentence states that God visited someone, it means that He intervened in their lives to change their circumstances or their destiny. When he visited the Amalekites, he destroyed them. When he visited Sarah, he provided the long awaited child. It refers to God’s active involvement in human affairs for blessing or for cursing. Here it would mean that God had begun to act to deliver them from bondage and give them the blessings of the covenant v 17.
4. The LORD has planned that Pharaoh refuse so that wonders could be worked in the world v 18-22. “Wonderful” frequently refers to that which is surpassing, amazing, incredible–what God does. His name is “Wonderful” (Isa. 9:6 in its theological fulfillment). Through these wonders the Lord will deliver his people, and they will plunder Egypt v 22. Thus, when God stretches out his hand to strike Egypt, everyone will know that God has sent Moses, and then Pharaoh will let the people go. All the elements stress that it will be God's marvelous work.
1. It is true that God is with every believer, but the truth is especially beneficial for those who lead. Moses, Gideon, Samuel, the disciples, and a host of others, knew full well that if God went not with them they dare not go; but if God was for them, who could be against them?
2. The situation is that the people were in bondage to Egypt; today people are in bondage to the world system, its power and influence. But if they cry to the LORD for deliverance, he will respond with compassion and resolve.
3. If there are people in the Church who sense the need, and who know the will of God (what God wants done), they need to examine their spiritual gifts, consider how God is working in and through them providentially and find a way to get involved in what God is doing.
4. Realize that the success of God’s program does not depend on their abilities or performances. It will be God’s work from start to finish.