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Jan 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

January 28, 2018 – Exodus Chapter 3

God Encounter — Part 1

One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
“Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1-6

Intro: In the Book of Exodus, Moses has two extended dialogues with God

And both are radiant with profound revelations of God

  1. The first is here in chapters 3-4:17
  2. The second is found in chapters 32-34
    With Moses, we have a vivid experience of God

– personally speaking, I do not find abstract theology compelling
• it’s true that the Bible is packed with theology
◦ but for the most part it is communicated through story
◦ God revealed himself in dynamic encounters with his people
• truth is first experienced then, perhaps, digested with mind
◦ its essence is not philosophical, but relational

In The Varieties of Religious Experience, America’s brilliant philosopher/physician/psychologist, William James wrote, “What keeps religion going is something else than abstract definitions and systems of concatenated adjectives, and something different from faculties of theology and their professors. All these things are after-effects, secondary accretions upon those phenomena of vital conversation with the unseen divine . . . .”  “In the religious sphere, in particular, belief that formulas are true can never wholly take the place of personal experience.”

– as important as it is that we can identify and articulate our beliefs,
• knowing theological concepts is never as important as knowing God
• and knowing him in the firsthand experience of our encounters with him

This first dialogue is critical because it raises important questions
• the remainder of Exodus provides the answers to:
◦ who is Moses?
◦ Who is this God?
◦ Who are God’s people and what defines them as such?
◦ What is God’s overarching purpose?

1-7 Moses, grandson of Pharaoh, has achieved the status of a shepherd

The first sentence is one of those that make you back up
– there’s some confusion regarding Jethro’s identity
(his name given in ch. 2 was Reuel, which might cause us to wonder whether this is the same person)
• not only that, Hebrew text does not say Sinai, but Horeb
(cf. Ex. 17:6; Deut. 1:6, etc. — this might make us wonder if this is another mountain or another name for Sinai)
◦ both the man and the mountain have two names
◦ and both have titles:
Jethro, the priest of Midian
Sinai [Horeb], the mountain of God
• we have to re-read chapter 2 and research elsewhere to work this out
◦ the mix-up (if that’s what it is) has us thinking about names and identities
◦ we are being prepared for the encounter
– we’re also told that Moses led Jethro’s flock far into the wilderness
• literally, behind the desert (the King James Version as backside of the desert)
◦ it is an odd geographical reference
• perhaps it is an indication of geographical space that was “spooky”
◦ moreover, it is the mountain of God, before anything ever happened there
◦ were there already local legends about the sacredness of this place?

Moses saw something uncanny – something that made no sense
– Hebrew, “he saw and LOOK!” or “Behold”
• we’re supposed to visualize what the storyteller points out
• on the mountainside he saw a fire that burned, but did not consume
◦ had to take a closer look, but approaching it, he was warned not to come closer
– this scene illustrates an experience of the sacred
• it is all mystery — an exposure to the supernatural
◦ how did Moses respond? With reverence
he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God

God’s call from the flames and Moses’ response tells me something about prayer
• it is frequently repeated in the stories of others
◦ God calls someone’s name and that person responds with, Here I am
• when I say this, I am presenting myself to God
◦ I’m giving him my complete attention
◦ I’m surrendering the moment to him
(or surrendering to him in the moment)

7-10 God explains his purpose for the encounter and lays out his plan

God tells Moses that he’s seen the oppression of Israel and heard their cries
– he calls them my people – God assumes ownership of and responsibility for them
• he made a promise and entered a covenant with their ancestors
◦ and in keeping with his promise, he has come to their rescue
• this is the “big idea” of Exodus – God’s salvation of his people
◦ we’ll see more of this as we go on
– there are two key words (because of their repetition) we want to notice
power in verse 8 is literally hand (in 2:17, Moses rescued girls from hand)
◦ in verses 19-21, God makes reference to:

  • Pharaoh’s resistance that will require a mighty hand
  • God raising his hand to strike the Egyptians
  • and the fact that Israel will not leave Egypt empty-handed

◦ we will come back to this next week
• the second word is see (including look and watch)
◦ three times the word is doubled

  1. I must see the sight (v. 3)
  2. I saw to see (v. 7)
  3. I watched to watch (v. 16) adds force

◦ doubling a word adds force to it, intensifies it
(cf. heaven of heavens, holy of holies, Lord of lords)

Why is this important?
– because we think God misses things
• even if we “know” better, it’s what our experience tells us
◦ “God has forgotten me,” “God doesn’t answer my prayers”
• last week’s story combined seeing and action
◦ that is what happens here when these key words are combined
◦ God’s has seen and he will lift his hand to help

11-12 Moses tries to dodge God’s call

Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am i to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?

This is not drama, it is not trivial nor is it simply cliche
– at this point in the narrative, Moses’ identity is in question

Thomas Dozeman observes how we have already seen his “lack of identity and changing family situations from Hebrew, to Egyptian, and finally to Midianite . . . .”

• I think he was convinced God had the wrong guy

 “It can’t be me! I don’t have a vision, resources, energy; I don’t have anything. And I don’t want this”

• he could not see himself in this role or as this person
– who was Moses? He was a man in a state of becoming
• he would become Israel’s premier leader, unique in every way

There never has been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face (De. 34:10)

◦ a prophet, a priest, law-giver, miracle worker
◦ but I think his ultimate identity became Moses, the servant of the LORD

But God does not tell Moses any of this, he only says, I will be with you
– this was God’s promise to each one of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
• it was exactly what Joseph experienced in Egypt, and the LORD was with him (Ge. 39:2 & 21)
◦ God’s presence with him is what kept him alive
• and all through the Old Testament this is the solution to Israel’s inadequacy
– essentially God was saying,
“Who you are is irrelevant. You’re a tool, a glove on My hand”

13-15 Of course, that naturally leads to next problem Moses brings up

Verse 13 begins like v. 9, “Look” (we want to visualize this too)

“Picture this: I go to these people and I say, ‘God wants me to lead you out of Egypt,’ and they’re going to say ‘What God? What’s his name?’ So what am I supposed to tell them? ”

• and now we come to one of the greatest moments in Bible
– God reveals his name to Moses, which is to say, he reveals himself
• up to now, the closest thing to a theological statement has been God’s titles
Everlasting God, God Most High, He who sees, He who provides, the Almighty
◦ all of these were revealed to people to the way God was involved in their circumstances
• a name, however, is much more than a title
◦ in scripture, a name is a person’s identity
◦ if you knew the name, new the person

Does God really give a name, or is this description of his nature?
– Hebrew scholars argue possible meanings of this difficult verse
• we’ll stick  with the well known, I AM WHO I AM
• but at same time, we admit there is some ambiguity here
◦ it reveals and conceals at same time
◦ it allows them to call on God, but not to conjure him
– an entire book could be written regarding the name, “Yahweh”
• we’ll come across more insight, so just a couple of thoughts for now

◦ his name is an affirmation of his existence
but the name tells us he is not an impersonal cosmic force or energy
rather, he is Person
Whoever comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6, NASB)
◦ his name spans space and time, This is my eternal name
God intersects with every here and now moment of our lives
whenever we meet God, it is always an intersection of eternity with our chronological time
his eternal now
◦ by his name, he makes himself accessible to his people, always and everywhere

16-22 The rest of the chapter is reiteration and more details

A word regarding verses 21-22
– in a “culture of scarcity” such as those that appear in scripture
• it was believed that there were just enough resources for everyone to survive
• if someone had an abundance, then someone else was deprived
– it is not uncommon for people in impoverished nations, cultures or classes
to assume that people from an affluent class or culture won’t miss a few items
• the thinking is, “Those people can afford to be robbed or ripped off”

Another thought is that the Old Testament envisions a redistribution of wealth
– for example:

. . . the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous (Pr. 13:22, NASB)

Conclusion: I was reading Matthew 14 last week

It tells the story about the disciples in the storm
– when Jesus came through the dark, walking on the water
• they were terrified, thinking he was a ghost
◦ but his voice came to them across the waves,

Don’t be afraid, he said, Take courage. I am. (v. 27)

◦ I had to look this up to make certain Jesus identified himself as I am
• why didn’t he say, “It’s me, Jesus” or “It’s me, your Lord”?
– Jesus came to them through the dark, in their hour of desperation
• his presence was that of Yahweh,
◦ who saw them oppressed by the waves and he heard their cries
◦ he was with them in the here and now of their need

Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God
He comes to us in our distress
He reassures us that he is with us
And if we want to,
he welcomes us to come and walk with him on the water

Like Moses, the desert shepherd
Some of us don’t want to be more than what we are
We fear it means risking what we have
our tent, our shepherd’s staff, our life in the desert
So I close with a question,
but rather than ask it myself
I will let Jon Foreman (from the band Switchfoot) ask it,
because I need to hear it too, and make up my mind

“This Is Your Life”

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

Yesterday is a kid in the corner
Yesterday is dead and over

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes

This is your life are you who you want to be?
This is your life are you who you want to be?

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose

And you had everything to lose

One Comment

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  1. Bill Livingston / Feb 3 2018

    I am who I want to be. At last. I have caused, and suffered, pain to get here. I have exulted in life. Experienced great triumphs of soul. Soared in Spirit. Experienced deep love. Amassed a treasure of experiences with loved ones. However, if I am not who Yahweh wants me to be, here am I, send me.

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