Alright guys, it’s been a few weeks since we last talked about Moses and Spring Break was in there, so let’s recap and make sure we’re all on the same page.
Jacob and all of his sons moved to Egypt where things were pretty good. But then the Israelites started multiplying at a rate that frightened the Egyptians. So when Joseph and his whole generation was dead, including the Pharaoh he was BFFs with, the new pharaoh looked at this situation and was basically like “This is not good! These Israelites are going to join together with our enemies and overthrow us.”
So what was his grand plan? Not to make friends with them or better assimilate the Israelites in Egyptian culture, no. He decided the bets plan was to kill all the male babies. Needless to say, the Israelites were not happy about this.
One woman named Jochebed wanted to save her baby, but she knew she couldn’t hide him. It was inevitable that pharaoh’s men would find the baby and kill it. So she built it a little floaty basket and sent him down the Nile River—which would have been extremely dangerous.
Pharaoh’s daughter was out bathing in the water when she saw the basket. She pulled the baby out of the basket and basically decided that even though the baby was a Hebrew, she was going to raise him as her own.
That’s basically where we stopped. The Bible then skips forward a few years to when Moses was grown—at least a teenager if not a little older. Please go get your Bibles and turn to Exodus. Remember, Exodus is the second book of the Bible.
Can someone read Exodus 2:11-15?
11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and saw their forced labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, he saw two Hebrews fighting; and he said to the one who was in the wrong, “Why do you strike your fellow Hebrew?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a ruler and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” 15 When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses.
But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well.
Moses is grown up and he goes out to the Hebrews. It says “his people” which makes it seem like he knew he was a Hebrew. Most movie adaptions of this story make the revelation of his birth a shock to Moses—whether it’s Prince of Egypt or the Ten Commandments—but we don’t know if that’s true or not. All we do know is at this point, when Moses goes out and see the Egyptian beating a Hebrew, at that point, Moses already knows he’s a Hebrew.
So Moses goes out and sees these people who are his people, not different from him except in the chance that he got found by an Egyptian woman. In another life—he would be one of these slaves doing forced labor. And he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. And he couldn’t take it.
He kills the Egyptian.
But it very carefully says “he looked this way and that” before he did it. He didn’t want anyone to know what he’d done because killing an Egyptian is not just against God’s law—which he may or may not have known at this time—but against Pharaoh’s law—which he definitely would have known.
He doesn’t want anyone to know what he did.
But the next day he goes out and he sees two Hebrews—his people—fighting each other. And he’s basically like “Isn’t your life hard enough without you guys also beating each other up?” But the Hebrews don’t want his opinion.
The Hebrews probably don’t know Moses is a Hebrew—he would seem Egyptian to them—and even if he was Hebrew, they don’t want his opinion. And it turns out, they know he’s a murderer.
Somehow the word spreads and Pharaoh finds out and Pharaoh is mad. Killing an Egyptian is not cool for the adopted son of his daughter to do. Pharaoh wants Moses to pay the penalty, which is death.
But Moses doesn’t want to die so he flees. And he ends up in Midian.
Can someone read Exodus 2:16-22?
16 The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defense and watered their flock. 18 When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.” 21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. 22 She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.”
In Midian, Moses basically meets a priest and his daughters. When he’s sitting at the well, the daughters arrive to water their father’s flock and are basically bullied by some other shepherds. But Moses defends them. So they take him home and introduce him to their dad. Basically Moses decides to stay here with these people forever. He marries a woman named Zipporah and they have a kid. Does it seem like Moses has any intention of ever going back to Egypt? [Let them answer.]
Definitely not. And why would he? He’s wanted for murder there! Sure he’s abandoned his people who were suffering—a people that he surely felt for at one point, that’s sort of the whole reason he killed that Egyptian was to save one of his own people. But now Moses seems determined to put that all behind him. Now that his own life is in danger, he’s not going back there. He’s not willing to risk himself for the Hebrews.
Moses is living a pretty good and decent life in Midian….while his people are suffering.
Can someone read Exodus 2:23-25?
23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.
Moses may have forgotten his people, but has God? [Let them answer.]
No. He has not.
Can someone now read Exodus 3:1-3?
3 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”
Moses, however, is just living his life in Midian, being a shepherd. He’s out one day with his flock and he sees something crazy. There is a bush that’s on fire…but it’s not burning up.
You guys have seen something be burned before, right? When logs and paper and other things burn, the material turns to ash. This is natural. But this bush wasn’t turning to ash. It was on fire and nothing was happening to it. That’s a pretty crazy thing, and Moses thought so to.
Can someone read Exodus 3:4-6?
4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “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.
The burning bush has Moses attention, and then it really gets his attention when God’s voice comes from it. God calls his name, and Moses responds. God tells Moses to remove his sandals because he is on holy ground. Why? Why remove his shoes? This wasn’t something that was required of priests later in the old testament when they entered the temple and were in the presence of God, so why require it here?
I don’t know and my commentary didn’t have a very good answer either. It hypothesized that maybe it was a standard tradition of something to do before a superior person. Or it’s possible it’s because….God is trying to instill in Moses that this moment is special.
Moses isn’t entering the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple. He hasn’t gone through the purification processes required to do such—which serve the dual purpose of making someone clean and also putting their mind on the seriousness of entering God’s presence. Moses just kind of stumbled upon God, while doing his job, in the middle of the wilderness.
But God’s presence is holy no matter where it is—in a Temple, Church, on the street, at school, or in the middle of the wilderness. So maybe God wanted Moses to do something to recognize that holiness, so that Moses would realize the seriousness of this conversation.
God then explains to Moses he is the God of Moses’s people, and Moses hides his face, afraid to look at him. This makes me wonder if Moses does indeed know a little bit of who God is. Having been raised as mostly an Egyptian, it’s very possible his Hebrew religious education was lacking. But it’s also possible that since Jochebed was around when he was a small child, she might have taught him some basics. Or it’s possible covering your face is also a thing Egyptians would do should they come face to face with God. Regardless, Moses realized he was talking to someone of the upmost awesomness and importance and that deserved his humility and respect. And Moses was also probably a little afraid.
So why is God talking to this runaway murderer named Moses? We’ll let’s see. Can someone read Exodus 3:7-10?
7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
God has a mission for Moses.
Not just any mission: no, God wants Moses to go back to Egypt, where he is basically a wanted criminal, and somehow free all the slaves from under the rule of the Egyptians and then take them to the land God promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—which is currently inhabited by a bunch of other people.
Do you guys think the Egyptians are going to be happy to see their free labor go away? [Let them answer.]
Yeah, no. This sort of thing rarely goes well historically. Slavery has sometimes ended without bloody revolutions, but that takes a long slow time, during which many people remain enslaved until the higher up people finally ever so slowly realize the people they are enslaving are humans too and maybe they shouldn’t be doing this. For slavery to end this fast? As fast as a guy coming in and saying “Let’s stop this now.” That usually takes a war or a revolution, as shown in our own country’s long history with slavery.
Or it takes a divine intervention, which in this case seems to be happening. It just so happens that God’s plan for a divine intervention involves Moses.
How do you guys think Moses feels about this? How would you feel if God gave you this huge responsibility? [Let them answer.]
Well let’s see what Moses says. Can someone read Exodus 3:11-15?
1 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.
Moses doesn’t want to go, and he gives God excuses on why he can’t. First he’s all like “Who am I to do this? Surely I’m not qualified.” To which God basically responds, “Your qualifications don’t matter, it’s mine that do. I’ve got your back.” Does that satisfy Moses? No! Next he’s like “But if I go, who will I say sent me when they ask me your name?” God has an answer for that too, which we’ll come back to.
But Moses doesn’t stop with the excuses there. Oh no.
In Exodus 4:1 he says “But suppose they do not believe me or listen to me, but say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” Which is basically “suppose they think I’m insane?” God has an answer to that too. He changes Moses staff into a serpent, and is like basically show them this trick and they’ll see the power I have given you.
Then can someone read Exodus 4:10-13?
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” 13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.”
Here Moses is like “God I’m not good at talking. Don’t send someone as bad at talking as me.” And God’s just like “Dude, I will give you the words to say.” And Moses is still like “But don’t send me God!”
Moses is literally talking to God, he has literally been given a divine mission from God, and he just doesn’t want to do it.
There is often when people in life are just like “If God just told me what to do, I’d totally do it!” But Moses is a prime example of sometimes we just don’t want to do what God says. Sometimes what he asks us to do is too hard.
We don’t want to go to Egypt. We don’t want to have to talk to people. Life in Midian is good. Moses has a wife and kids, a family. His life is simple and easy. But God doesn’t always call us to the simple and easy life does he? Sometimes he tells us to go back to the land where we can be arrested for murder, and go anger the most powerful guy in the whole world by telling him you’re taking all the Hebrews and leaving.
Sometimes what God asks us to do is really hard.
And sometimes we feel like we’re not the best person for the job. We think “God can’t want me to be a pastor, I’m not good at talking!” Or “God can’t really mean for me to help homeless strangers, I’m an introvert who doesn’t like meeting new people!” Or even “God can’t mean me to move to a land where being a Christian is illegal to spread the word there, I could die! That’s not safe!” But sometimes God really means for us to do those things.
Just like Moses.
In the end Moses does agrees to do it. He gathers his family and he goes back to Egypt. We’ll see what happens when he gets there next week. But for now I want to back up a little.
When Moses asked God who he was, what did God say? Can someone re-read Exodus 3:14?
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
When Moses asked that question he was probably looking for an easy answer, like “oh yeah tell them my name is Bob.” In the ancient Egyptian religion that Moses would have been familiar with, every god would have had a name like Horace, Set, Osiris, and others. But God doesn’t give Moses a name.
He says “I am who I am.”
God’s answer is basically to state his existence. I am who I am. My Jewish commentary says this could also translate to “I will be what I will be,” meaning “My nature will become evident from my actions.” This can also be seen when God says many times how people will know him as Lord because of the wondrous things he will do. Basically a sort of “the proof is in the pudding.” You’ll see I’m God because it will become evident.
My Christian commentary also says it can be translated to “I cause to be because I cause to be.” Which is a statement of creation, that God is then indicating he created everything. I creates and sustains the world, and that name reveals that.
Why are there so many translations for what seems pretty standard? It’s because state of being verbs are weird. In English our state of being verbs are I am/You are/He is/They are. Or in past tense, I was/You were/He was/They were. When you say “I am” you usually follow it up with an adjective or a statement of who you are. “I am happy.” “I am Susan.” “I am hungry.” “He was cool.” You’re making a statement about your state of existence. I currently exist in a happy state. I exist as Susan. I exist in a hungry state. He existed in a cool state.
God says I am, he is…what? He is…everything. Creation is his signature. Everything is God. God’s name is that he exists. He is.
Now in Judaism, this phrase “I am who I am” is roughly translated to the name Yahweh. When people refer to God as Jehovah, that is a mistranslation of Yahweh. And if you’ve ever watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in Latin Jehovah is spelled with an I because there are no Js in the Latin alphabet, fun fact that’s a little off topic. Jehovah is a mis translation that people often still use, we see it in a lot of hymns and old writings. So just know that.
But God says his name is “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” in Hebrew, I will be What I will Be, I am who I am, I cause to be because I cause to be.”
Now we’re going to flip way forward in our Bibles. I want you guys to flip forward to the Gospel of John. John is the fourth Gospel, which makes it the fourth book of the New Testament.
Before we read it a few things. In this section Jesus is talking to Jewish religious leaders in what was probably the temple courtyard. These Jewish leaders are not happy with what Jesus has been saying or doing. And as per usual, they’re basically trying to trap him into saying something wrong. And Jesus had been talking about God and Abraham.
Ok can someone read John 8:57-59.
57 Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
The Jewish leaders ask him if he’s ever seen Abraham and he says “before Abraham was, I am.”
Does that sound familiar to any of you guys? [Let them answer.]
Yeah. In that sentence, right there, Jesus is claiming to be God. Before Abraham was, Jesus existed. But he’s not just saying that. If you just wanted to say you were alive since before Abraham, you’d say “Before Abraham was, I was.” “Before my little sister was born, I was born.” But that’s not what Jesus says.
The Gospel of John is written in Greek, the words he used were “ego ami” (Ἐγω εἰμι) which translates to that present case existence. I AM.
Before Abraham was, I AM.
You’ll hear people say Jesus never directly claimed to be God, and to a certain extent that’s true, because he never said anything that translates into English as “I am God.” And even here, the words are Greek, he didn’t call himself Yahweh. But he is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, claiming to be God right here. He is very clearly calling to the meaning of Yahweh and the name God gave himself when talking to Moses. And if that’s not proof enough, what do the Jewish leaders do in response? They pick up stones to stone him. They’re furious at him and according to the Jewish Law. It’s Leviticus 24:16, which I’ll read for you:
16 One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death
Anyone who says something blasphemous is to be put to death, and this thing that Jesus said? Claiming to be the God, claiming to be I AM, that is the most blasphemous thing you can do! No wonder these Jewish leaders wanted to kill him immediately.
And this is not the only time Jesus says something like this. Pastor Doug likes to call them “I am” statements. They are all over the Gospel of John.
Our God doesn’t have a name. Our God is. He is. He exists. And Jesus lays claim to that. Before Abraham was, I AM.
Jesus is God, and right here he says it.
And this is part of why studying the Old Testament is actually so important. Without that context, without knowing who Abraham is—God’s chosen father of his people—without knowing the conversation between Moses and God, you might be able to infer that Jesus is claiming to be immortal, but it’s hard to see it in its full depth. But these Jewish leaders Jesus was talking to would have spent their whole lives studying the Old Testament and they knew exactly what he was saying.
And now, we do to. Jesus is the very same God who spoke to Moses in that burning bush.