Aug 9 2012 - 1.1 Exodus 3:1-10, Moses hears the voice of God
Years in the wilderness
Moses had been brought up in Pharaoh’s court, yet he had a heart for the plight of the Israelites – he longed to see them delivered from slavery and oppression. But his attempts at helping them had resulted in him having to flee from Pharaoh and from Egypt – having to abandon his people to their fate. For 40 years he had lived in the wilderness acting as a shepherd to the flocks of his father-in-law.
Had Moses forgotten the Israelites? Had he settled into his new life with wife and family and the mundane responsibilities of caring for sheep and goats? Or did his mind sometimes turn with longing and regret to the condition of his own people back in Egypt? We do not know. But 40 years is an extremely long time to have your life’s work put on hold.
One thing we do know. God had not forgotten his people Israel, neither had he forgotten Moses. Nor were the wilderness years wasted. They were to prove their value when Moses was called to lead the flock of God for 40 years through the wilderness towards the promised land.
There are times when I am tempted to feel that God has forgotten me and that I have been left to wander in the wilderness. Were past visions of the work God had for me simply false dreams? Can I reconcile myself to the mundane? I need to learn afresh that God never forgets, nor are wilderness years a waste of time. They are God’s time of training and preparation, even as Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness were essential preparation for his ministry. I need to learn also that it’s not about me. God is concerned to display his own glory not simply to endorse my plans.
Lord, teach me patience, and help me to learn well the lessons you have for me this day.
The fire that burns but does not consume
Moses’ attention is drawn to the strange sight of a desert bush which appears to be on fire but is not consumed – it is not burned up. What is this strange sight? It is the presence of the Living God. He is the fire that burns but does not consume. His is the presence that sets the bush ablaze with glory.
But it is no comfortable matter to stand in the presence of the Living God, a God of burning holiness. There is a paradox in the God who draws us near and yet whose holiness must hold us at a distance: a paradox which finds its resolution only in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Living God, thank you that, because of Jesus, you do not keep me at arm’s length but embrace me in you holy love. Fill me with holy fire. Set me ablaze with your glory. Consume all that is not fit to stand in your holy presence.
O Thou Who camest from above,
The pure celestial fire to impart,
Kindle a flame of sacred love
Upon the mean altar of my heart.
There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer and fervent praise.
The God of the covenant: the God who sees and hears and comes down
God announces himself to Moses as the “God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. He is the God of the Covenant. He is the God who made promises to Abraham not only to bless his descendants but also that through them, all peoples on earth shall be blessed. God has not forgotten his promises, he has not forgotten his saving purposes towards a world in bondage and oppression, he has not forgotten his people Israel.
The wilderness years are over. The time has come for the promise made to Abraham (see Genesis 15:13-14), to be fulfilled – “When the time had fully come, God …” “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise …’
Am I impatient with God? Perhaps there is a holy impatience which cries out, “Lord, how long? Lord why do you not act?” Teach me to trust you in the wilderness. Help me to know that you are the God of the Covenant and that you will act to fulfil all that you have purposed and promised.
The Lord tells Moses, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
This is the character of the God of the Covenant: he sees, and hears, and knows, and comes down to save. This was his promise to Moses and to Israel. This is how he has acted towards us in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has come to us.
There may be times when I am tempted to feel that God is far off – that he is the God of the Deists or the unmoved mover of the philosophers. Help me to know that you are the Living God, the God of the Covenant, the God who is seen supremely in Jesus Christ, the God who sees and hears and knows and comes down. You are Emmanuel, God with us.
The God who calls
Moses must have been delighted to hear that God knew all about the enslavement and pain of his people and that he was going to come down and sort it out. Less delighted perhaps with the words that followed: “And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
God had said, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians”, why then does he now want to send Moses to confront Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt. No wonder Moses responds with such reluctance (see 3:11 and following).
God is pleased to use human agents – even when he comes to save the world through the Lord Jesus Christ. And the risen Christ sends out his disciples in the power of his Spirit to proclaim the good news that God has come to liberate an enslaved people and mend a broken world.
I find it easy to pray that God’s kingdom may come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. I long for God to touch the lives of many of those whom I love and to bring them into the glorious freedom that Christ alone can give. I long for him to show his love and care for those who have lost hope and live lives of quiet desperation. I know that God can do it. I know that the Spirit of the risen Saviour can transform the most indifferent heart and fill the empty soul with a sense of his unchanging love and strangely powerful yet comforting presence. But I’m not so keen on Christ’s call for me to become personally active in the work of the kingdom – the work of making him known.
Living God, open my ears to hear what you are saying to me, soften my heart to make me gladly obedient to your call and empower me by your Spirit for the work you have for me to do. Keep me from using prayer as a substitute for my own action – prayer that pleads, “Lord, send someone else.” Help me to respond, “Here I am … send me.”
Jesus, confirm my heart's desire
to work and speak and think for thee;
still let me guard the holy fire,
and still stir up thy gift in me.
Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat,
till death thy endless mercies seal,
and make my sacrifice complete.