PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 3:1-6; The Presence of God

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20100606_exodus03_1-6.mp3

6/06 Exodus 3:1-6 The Presence of God

2:21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah. 22 She gave birth to a son, and he called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” 23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel––and God knew.

3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Moses, God’s deliverer to his people, descends from his high position as adopted son of the king to bring rescue, he acts on behalf of his people, but is misunderstood, rejected by his own people, and exiled into the wilderness. He sits down by a well. He rescues some women that have come to draw water, settles down with the Midianites, and marries Zipporah, the daughter of this pagan priest. Stephen in his sermon in Acts 7, tells us that Moses was forty years old when he was exiled from Egypt (v.23). Now, another forty years has passed (v.30). Moses, God’s chosen instrument to deliver the Hebrew people from Egypt is in the wilderness. Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the Pharaoh had died. The people hoped that a change in leaders would mean help for their situation, but if anything, things got worse. Their hopes were crushed. So they groaned. They cried out for help. They plead for rescue. And God heard. God remembered his promises. God saw. God knew. God, who had been there all along, working behind the scenes, blessing his people, was about to step to center stage and take decisive action to honor his promises. God had been at work preserving and preparing this man for the past 80 years to be his instrument to deliver Israel from bondage, and now, in response to the prayers of his people, he is ready to unleash his promised plan. Remember, this was all under the sovereign hand of God, who was working all things according to the purpose of his will. He had told Abraham half a century earlier:

Genesis 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. …16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation…

So we find Moses, a shepherd in the wilderness. It is interesting to compare Moses with Jacob. Jacob too fled for his life from his home and met his bride to be by a well. He too tended her father’s flocks for twenty years, and in that time became independently wealthy, with flocks of his own greater than the flocks of his father-in-law. But we see Moses now at the end of forty years still with nothing of his own, still tending another man’s flocks.

He had learned shepherding and he is keeping and leading the flocks. In fact his shepherding takes him to the back side of the desert, maybe in search of greener pasture, probably weeks away from home. It is notable that in this time his perspective has changed. This was a journey that brought him west, in the direction of his former home in Egypt, but it was now the back side of the desert to him . It is in this obscure place that unsuspecting Moses will be confronted by the living God himself.

3:1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

There is no indication that Moses was seeking this encounter with God. God took the initiative and got Moses’ attention. This is always the way it is. God initiates and we respond. Here we have the angel of YHWH appearing to Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. Now we know the bible teaches that God is omnipresent, or not limited by space:

Jeremiah 23:23-24 “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.

Psalm 139:7-10 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

I Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

So when God revealed himself to Moses out of the burning bush, we are not to think that God was at that moment limited or confined to that bush or that particular place. Just as we saw in the closing verses of chapter 2, when it says God saw and God remembered, we are not to think that God was becoming aware of new information or being reminded of something that slipped his mind, but that he was about to take action on behalf of those who needed his help. God chooses to reveal himself to us in ways that we can comprehend and relate to.

We also know from the bible that God is not material, He is spirit, and invisible.

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (c.f. John 6:46)

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

I Timothy 1:17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

I Timothy 6:15-16 ––he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

I John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

So when the text says that he appeared to him, that he looked, and that he saw, we are not to think that Moses was able to see God in the fullness of who he is. Rather, God condescended to reveal himself to Moses in a way that he could understand. God who is spirit, invisible and everywhere present, came down as it were and showed himself in a form that Moses could relate to. In this case a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. God has often used fire as a visible representation of who he is. A pot of fire is how God represented himself in his covenant with Abraham (Gen.15:17). He showed himself as a pillar of fire to lead the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex.13:21). He descended in fire to give Israel his law at Sinai (Ex.19:18). Ezekiel saw him as a fiery shape (Ezek.1:27; 8:2). Daniel saw him seated on a throne of fire (Dan.7:9). The apostle John saw him as one whose eyes were fire (Rev.1:14). The bible describes God as a consuming fire (Deut.4:24, 9:3; Is.33:14; Heb.12:29).

Fire and smoke draw attention, but they also conceal from view. Fire is both attractive and destructive. Fire will consume or purify all it comes in contact with. There is both attraction and separation. God is holy, and we are drawn to his holiness, but as sinners his holiness will consume us. This was the prophet Isaiah’s cry as he was brought into the presence of God:

Isaiah 6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Isaiah understood the absolute holiness of God and the consequences of someone who is not perfectly righteous entering into his presence. He was purified with fire.

So Moses is on the back side of the desert and sees a bush that was on fire but was not being consumed. Moses, having spent forty years tending Jethro’s sheep in the wilderness and trying to stay warm on cold desert nights, would probably be very familiar with how quickly a small bush like this would burn up and disintegrate into ash. What caught Moses’ attention was not the fire alone, but the fact that the bush was engulfed in flames but was not being consumed. This could serve as a picture of Israel in Egypt, in the midst of the fire of suffering, and yet multiplying rather than being consumed. This would also be a striking picture for Moses of God’s holy presence, and he, a sinful man, not being consumed by it. This is God’s mercy toward sinners made possible by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus in our place. However Moses interpreted it, this is what he saw and what caught his attention.

But the primary revelation came not by what Moses saw, but by what God said. God has revealed himself to us not in pictures, but in words. In John 1 and Revelation 19, Jesus is called the Word, and throughout the bible we see God as a God who communicates in words.

Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Our God is a God who has spoken. In fact, we have in our hands his word written so that we can have a reliable accurate trustworthy record of who he is and what he requires of us. God himself puts great priority on his word.

Psalms 138:2 … for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.

Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

In fact, there are serious consequences for disregarding God’s word.

Luke 9:26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

God reveals himself by speaking, telling us about himself. He calls out to Moses “Moses, Moses”. The repetition of a name in that culture indicates intimacy and endearment. Jesus confronted those who called him “Lord, Lord” but did not do what he said. They claimed to be close to him but did not really have any relationship with him (Luke 6:46, Matt.7:21-22). So when Moses heard his name repeated, he would understand that this is a friend, someone who cares deeply about him. So he responds.

God’s instructions are clear; “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” God gets his attention, calls out to him, and then tells him to stop. God is teaching Moses what he is like. He is not to be approached casually. He is holy. God initiates the encounter, and God lays down the rules of engagement. This is who I am and this is how I am to be approached. God commands that Moses remain at a distance, because a holy God cannot be approached by sinful man. Because God is holy, the place where he appears is holy. There was nothing particularly sacred about the geographic location or the dirt; the Jews did not consider it special, and we don’t even know for sure where it is. The presence of God made the place holy. This is the first time in the bible the word ‘holy’ is used. God is set apart, separate from everything that falls short and totally committed to promoting his own honor. He is in a category by himself. He alone is worthy to be worshiped. So God demands that Moses treat him with the proper respect. He is to come no closer. He is to remove his sandals and take the position of a slave in relation to his master.

Just who is it that is speaking to Moses here? The narrative begins by saying that the angel of the LORD or the messenger of YHWH appeared to him. In verse 4 it says that YHWH (or Jehovah) saw, and then it says that God (Elohim) called to him out of the bush. The angel of YHWH, YHWH, and Elohim (God) are all used interchangeably in this passage. Because in this passage God makes himself known in a visible way, this points us to Jesus.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jude points us to make the connection with Jesus

Jude 1:5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Jesus himself claimed to be the one who spoke from the burning bush

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

Here he makes the concrete connection with history. He claims to be the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. This is the very God that Moses’ own father worshiped. This is the God who made promises to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. This is the one true God, the omnipotent creator of all things.

Let’s look as we close at Moses’ response to the one true God revealing himself. God has initiated a relationship with Moses. God has established the terms of this relationship; he is to be treated as holy. He revealed his identity as the only true God who created all things and made promises to the patriarchs. When Moses understands who he is dealing with, he hides his face, because he is afraid to look at God. Over and over in scripture we are commanded to fear the Lord. We are told the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We see a proper humility before God knowing that a sinful human cannot hope to survive an encounter with the holy God.

Genesis 32:30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Judges 6:22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the LORD. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.”

Judges 13:22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”

Isaiah 6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Our pride, our rebellion, our running after other things with the hopes that they will satisfy, our valuing of other things more than God invite his righteous wrath.

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

And yet seeing God for who he really is is the one thing that will truly satisfy our deepest longings. And as believers in Jesus, this is what we look forward to.

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is .

Revelation 22:4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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June 6, 2010 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , ,

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