Here I Am, Don’t Send Me

“God heard the groaning, and God remembers His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” (Exodus 2:24, 25).

Let’s be clear.  God never forgets. It is just that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  God does not always work as we would wish He would or in the time frame that we would like.  We might as why?  As a sovereign God, God is all-knowing and all-powerful.  Therefore how can you, me, or anyone comprehend all that must go into the decisions that God makes?  By divine inspiration, when the author stated that “God remembers and acknowledges,” it is a way of saying, “The time is right for Israel to inherit the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” 

Moses, having understood his rescue by the Pharoah’s daughter and that Salvation came through the Ark of bulrushes, had tried to take matters into his own hand. He had failed. Now an eighty-year-old sheepherder stands before the burning bush.  A fire burned brightly amid the bush, but the bush was not consumed.  From within the fire, a voice is heard. “Moses, Moses!”  Moses responded and said, “Here I am.”

From the midst of the burning fire, God responds by saying, “Do not draw near this place, ‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’ Moreover 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 upon God.”

After acquainting Moses with His presence, God introduced Himself as the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this way, God reminded him of the promises made to the patriarchs. The oath which He was about to fulfill with the children of Israel. In the expression “thy father,” the three patriarchs are classed together. Why? Because of the personal relations enjoyed by each with God and the promises each received directly from God.

For Moses, the swagger of youth was softened by the years of toil and isolation as a lowly sheepherder. The desire to lead men into battle has been damped by chasing after sheep. Moses had replaced the school of Egypt with a deep relationship with the things of nature around him. Therefore when Moses hears the words of verses nine through eleven, Moses is stunned.   “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 Pharoah that you may bring My people the children of Israel out of Egypt.”  “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh’” (Exodus 3:9-11a).

 Hey God, remember me.  I am the man who fled Egypt after killing a man. I was told, and the Ark symbolized that I was to save the people of Israel from the oppression of the Pharoah.  I tried, I failed! I ran! I tend sheep and have a family.  And, I am no longer 40, I’m an old man, I am 80 years old. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11).

From Exodus 3:11 – Exodus 4:17, Moses objects to this call in five different ways.  “Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11-12). “Who are You? (Exodus 3:13-16). “What if they don’t believe me?” (Exodus 4:1-9). “I am not eloquent” (Exodus 4:10-12). And finally, “Send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13-17).

God’s response is, “I will be with you.” “I will reveal my name to you,” which we will look at further in a moment. “I will give you three divine signs” (rod, leprosy, blood). I will reveal to you and them who I am.  “I will teach you.” And finally, God appears to be angry with Moses but says, I anticipated your reluctance; therefore, I have already sent Aaron, your brother.”

There was no guarantee this new Pharoah would be any friendlier to him than the one who placed a bounty on the head of Moses for killing an Egyptian. Therefore, I can understand Moses’s reluctance.  But to ask, who are you, after God had already reviewed before Moses, his relationship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shows a fundamental distrust on the part of Moses.  God responded, “I AM WHO I AM.”

Let’s not forget that this is the pre-incarnate Christ that is speaking with Moses.  When we finally get to the new testament, we see that Christ on several occasions said, I AM, and qualified it with living, water, the bread of life, light to the world, the God of your Salvation, and the list goes on.  Therefore, what God is doing is revealing to Moses how God can provide for him and the children of Israel.  Over the forty years that Israel wandered through the desert, the pre-incarnate Christ was all these things. He was their refuge. He supplied their physical and spiritual food and water.  He protected them and blessed them in ways they could not comprehend.

But Moses, the reluctant war hero turned shepherd, could not wrap his head around the fact that God was once again asking that he lead, guide, and direct Israel out of Egypt and to the promised land.

God tried to reassure Moses, and so in Exodus 3:20, He says to Moses, “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. And I will give the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house. Articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters so you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:20-22).

When Abraham was told that his descendants would be afflicted for 430 years, God had said, “When they leave Egypt, they shall take with them the riches of Egypt.” God was reminding Moses of the promise given to Abraham to reassure Moses that God was with him and all of Israel. 

Moses continues to object, and so God becomes angry.  I wonder if there are times when God asks us to do things, and we mount up the arguments against as Moses did, and God becomes frustrated with us. 

In closing this post, I want to draw our attention to Exodus 3:22. This text uses an interesting word. That word is “plunder.”  Plunder is a military word indicating terminology used in war.  Why? Why the use of a military word in this passage.  Because it sets us up the conflict between two powers present within the exodus story, we have been introduced to the first power in Exodus chapters 1 and 2. This power is the power that enslaved and oppressed the Israelite people.  Its earthly representative was Pharoah, but as we will see later in the story, the entity behind that earthly power is non-other but the same entity that deceived The Woman in the garden.   The second entity is God, who in chapters 3 and 4 talked with Moses, convincing Moses to rescue God’s people from the hands of their oppressors.   

The author wants us to know that there is a war going on, a war involving God and the entity behind the world’s powers.  God is about to win a major conflict in this war using a reluctant earthly leader named Moses.

“So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, ‘Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’  Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead’ ” (Exodus 4:18, 19).

The Bush that Would Not Burn

Moses spent forty years as a shepherd in Midian (see Acts 7:23 and Exodus 7:7). During the many days and nights in the field, while tending sheep, he no doubt meditated on the things of God. I am sure he must have prayed for his people who were suffering in Egypt. I have often found it interesting that throughout the scriptures, God calls those that are busy. Gideon was threshing grain, Samuel was serving in the tabernacle, and David was caring for sheep.  Elisha was plowing in the field, and four of the 12 disciples were managing their fishing business.  Matthew was collecting taxes.  God calls those who are already busy.

Exodus 3:1 confirms or reiterates the events seen at the close of chapter 2. “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God” Exodus 3:1.

Verse two and four give us a description of a flame or fire from the midst of a bush, yet the bush did not burn. But what is even more significant is the description at the beginning of verse two. “And the angel of the LORD appeared to him” (Exodus 3:2a). Jumping down to verse four, it states, “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush.”

There is a lot within these two verses deserving our attention. Let’s begin by unpacking the first part of verse 2. “The angel of the LORD.” The word used for angel in Hebrew means messenger.  So a messenger of God came down and was in the midst of the bush that did not burn.  Who is the messenger? For the answer, we must turn to the New Testament. But first, in Genesis 1:1, we are introduced to the family of God by the fact that the word used to describe God, Elohim, is used as a plural. In Exodus 3:2, the word used to describe God is Yahweh, which member of the family of God was in the midst of the bush. In Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, and John 1:1-5, all give us the understanding that the pre-incarnate Christ was the active agent in creation.  He spoke and the world came into existence. John begins by stating that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” he came down from heaven and formed “the man” out of the dust of the ground.  Later that same day He formed “the woman” from the rib of “the man.” So then, the Creator of this world and principal spokesperson for the God Head to this world is the Pre-Incarnate Christ.  

Therefore the messenger sent to Moses to speak to him from the burning bush that was not consumed is none other but the pre-incarnate Christ. 

“So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am!’” (Exodus 3:2-4).

The significance of the bush being on fire but not consumed should not be lost upon our hearts. The burning bush was an appropriate visible representation of the message God was about to give Moses. In contrast to the more noble and lofty trees, the thorny bush may be compared to the people of Israel in their humiliation, who were despised, enslaved and oppressed by the superpower of that time, Egypt. The fire burning but not consuming represented the refining affliction of slavery and oppression. Do not get me wrong. I am not advocating slavery or oppression.  But the bush was not consumed because God does not give His people over to death.  He would not allow Egypt or any other earthly power the authority to destroy the Hebrew people.  Thus in the burning bush, the bush represented the children of Israel. The fire was the fire of affliction that they had encountered under slavery.  The pre-incarnate Christ had personally come down from heaven to give Moses a message. That message was the time has come to rescue Israel from their affliction because God would not allow his people to be destroyed.

The pre-incarnate Christ called out, “Moses, Moses!” Moses responded and said, “Here I am.” 

I wonder, does God ever call us to lead others out of difficult situations.  It had been forty years since Moses had tried to do this very thing on his own.  Had he learned any lessons while tending sheep?  Perhaps another question to ask ourselves is this.  Have we learned any lessons as we have walked the path of life? When God calls us, are we willing to respond as Moses did by saying, “Here I am.”  When people around us need help, need help from the addictions and oppression of life that enslave them, do we respond as Moses did and say, “Here am I.”

Let’s see what happens as this conversation between the pre-incarnate Christ and Moses continues.  Has Moses learned anything while tending sheep for 40 years?

Moses’s – Re-Education

I appreciate how the Bible presents both the successes and failures of the people portrayed throughout its pages.  The Bible’s heroes often failed just like we do. Moses was born of a humble existence to parents of a people enslaved by Egypt, and as a baby, was condemned to die. The order had been given for all male babies born to Hebrew families be thrown into the Nile river. The mother of Moses built an Ark of bulrushes and lovingly placed him among the rushes along the Nile River.

His older sister kept watch as the Pharoah’s daughter came to bathe in the river. The princess saw the Ark and her heart went out to the young boy. Eventually, when Moses was old enough, his mother brought him to the palace to be raised by the Pharoah’s daughter to become the next Pharoah of Egypt. 

As we have discovered in Scripture, the Ark is a symbol of Salvation. His mother told Moses about the symbol the Ark represented and that he would save the Hebrew people from the oppression of slavery and bring the people back to the land promised to Abraham.

But Moses had failed when he tried to rescue the Hebrews doing it his way instead of relying on God’s leading.  As a result, Moses killed a man, Pharoah threatened to have Moses killed. Moses fled from the face of Pharoah and dwelt in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.

The Midianites were descendants of Abraham by Keturah (see Genesis 25:1, 2). They seemed to have remained worshipers of the true God for some time.  Reuel (later known as Jethro, (see Exodus 3:1) was a priest to the true God in Midian (see in Exodus 2:16), and that he had seven daughters.

“And they (the daughters of Reuel) came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away; But Moses stood up and helped them water their flock” (Exodus 2:16b, 17).

Despite what had happened in Egypt, the text tells us several things about Moses’s character.  His flight from Egypt had not blunted his instinct for intervening again in injustice and righting wrongs.  He was quick to act against oppression, even when he was alone and isolated.  And interestingly enough, the odds were not stacked in his favor. He commanded enough strength of personality and physicality. He was strong enough to chase off a group of shepherds that had thwarted the actions of Reuel’s daughters.  When he finished defending them, Moses then accomplished the work the seven sisters had been sent to do.

The passage implies that these shepherds refused to wait their turn and took advantage of their numbers and strength over the seven sisters.  Moses acts as a kind of saviour to the girls, accomplishing what they couldn’t do with their power. But the passage also sets the scene for the re-education of Moses. 

But Moses had a lot to learn.  He relied upon his strength and will of character instead of relying upon God.  Yes, I am sure God helped with the situation. Still, the reality is, Moses once again took it upon himself to defend those who were oppressed and suffering from injustice. Moses showed in this act that he was not a coward. He was generous and helpful to people he hardly knew.  Moses acted out of principle without thought of personal gain.  Traits that would do him well 40 years later when he returned to Egypt to lead God’s chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, back to the promised land. 

Moses was content to live with the man (Reuel), and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land” (Exodus 2:21, 22).

Over time, the king of Egypt died.  Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; their cry came up to God because of their bondage.  God heard their groaning, and God remembers His covenant with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them (Exodus 2:23-25). 

From the time he fled Egypt to verse 25 of Exodus 2, Forty years passed.  Moses has been re-educated while tending sheep.  It is believed that he wrote the books of Job and Genesis while tending his father-in-law’s sheep. The proud arrogance of his youth was gone.  In its place, a humble man existed.  A man that was still moved by the injustice he saw around him.  Moses was now a man that was in tune with God and reliant upon God. He was no longer self-reliant.  He was ready to be used by God for great work. The question is, does Moses still see his great potential?

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