How Moses Met the Father

Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 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.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. “Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

      “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

      Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 

Exodus 3:1-14

I love this story and I love the character of Moses in the Bible. From the time that I was a kid in Sunday school classes I’ve always found Moses to be such an interesting person to study and follow because he has so many cool stories and experiences right? I mean, most characters in the Old Testament get like 1, maybe 2 cool “bible stories” but Moses has SO many! Moses in the basket, Moses and the burning bush, Moses and Pharoah, Moses and the Great Escape, Moses Parts the Red Sea, Moses and the 10 Commandments, Moses in the Wilderness… it’s crazy! He may not be the most interested man in the world like the guy from the beer commercials, but he’s definitely in the running for at least the Old Testament.

Coming to this story of Moses, a story that I’ve heard hundreds of times probably over the years, it was fun to approach it with a new angle. The angle not of Moses being called or God as the Burning Bush, but to approach it and try to understand the relationship and connection that occurs in these few moments we read about in verses 1-14. For me, I’m a big story person, so the best way that I can come up to break down scenes like this is to think of all of the different characters in the scene and then break down the most important characters and see what I get out of it. So, here we have the characters of God and Moses as the two main characters in the scene. What do we learn about each of them independently and together over the course of the interaction?

First, we have Moses. Moses has already had a few interesting stories pop up before this point in Exodus and one of them is him murdering an Egyptian man, causing him to flee “his people” the Israelites and his family, the Egyptians. He establishes a family in the desert because he is still a good man and stood up for some women that were being attacked. So we know that Moses has made mistakes and acted impulsively and aggressively – if you were here last week you should be starting to see a pattern in some of the men in the Old Testament – and that he is still good at heart because he killed the man to protect an Israelite and he came to the aid of others in the desert. We also see that Moses is pretty good at following rules even when he’s not quite sure about it. I mean, he was curious about a bush that was on fire and when the unburning, fire breathing, talking bush told him that he was God and that Moses should take his sandals off, we can assume Moses went along with the program since nothing else is mentioned. That’s a pretty “go with the flow” kind of human being, am I right? So, off the bat we have: broken and imperfect but good hearted, and he’s pretty good at going with the flow and following God’s lead.

Let’s jump over the God because this is really cool. It’s really cool because it’s a lot like many of the other experiences where somebody meets God in the Bible…. I can immediately see some of you thinking and going, “No, Payton, I’m pretty sure there is only one burning bush in the Bible. I thought you were going to seminary?”

But that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is that God is awesome here because he not only reveals himself to somebody new in the Bible in a new way, but he also reveals things about himself to us, to all of us who He knew were going to read these words and be led to him in the future. And the first thing that he reveals to us is that he is fire.

He is a fire and that is by design because – as we’ve seen in previous experiences and as we’ll see throughout the Bible – God could have come to him in a dream, reached out to him as a voice, or simply chosen one of an endless number of forms to meet with Moses, but he chose a burning bush for a reason. He presented himself as fire because fire is real. It isn’t something that you just know about, it’s something you experience and He knew that Moses needed to experience Him. See, Moses knew about God, he believed in God, but did he know God?

In the same way I can knowledge of all aspects of my wife but that doesn’t mean I know her. It means I know about her. It’s my experiential relationship with her that let’s me truly know who she is and be in relationship with her. As much as society seems to wish more and more that we could all just meet, be, and interact digitally, experiences still matter and fire is an experience. I love fire. I’m just going to go ahead and say it, and not in an arsonist, “I just wanna see something burn”, kind of way. But, I love sitting on my back porch with my kindle and an afternoon beverage. We’ll just call it tea. A glass of tea on the rocks and a book and a fire. The smell of the wood burning, the feeling of warmth and the beautiful light dancing in my sight line above the book. It’s an experience, right?! I’m an Aggie in a line of Aggies and the bonfire is an experience! Right?

God wanted Moses to experience Him. He wanted to come to know him by feeling him and seeing him and smelling him and drawing near to Him. God needs to be experienced.

But, he also revealed something else and this is something big. He came not just as a fire, but a fire that doesn’t consume the bush. He appears as a fire that doesn’t need fuel a fire that is independent of everything and is a being all on its own. Fire, typically, needs what? Heat, fuel, and oxygen. God was showing us that he doesn’t need any of that because he is the cause of all of it. He is completely independent unto himself and he is not defined by you or me or anybody else to be “their God”. He. Is. God. I AM WHO I AM. Yhwh.

He actually backs that claim up with the revelation of his name in verse 14. “I AM WHO I AM”. Not I was or I will be, but I AM. He has no end and no beginning. Everything in the natural world has a “cause” that creates it, but not Him. He is the great I AM. The causer, the Creator. He is a great God. Amen.

So, let’s look at the scoreboard right now: We have God, the burning bush that doesn’t burn. The fire that is felt and experienced, and we have Moses, the broken and fallible man who is kind of a coward but has a good heart and he just goes with the flow of what’s happening in front of him. Seems like a bit of a power mismatch right? And, we see this power mismatch felt in verse 11. God finishes this long monolog about who he is, how he has heard the cries of his people, and who his people are ending with the sending forth of Moses as the one who will save them. In verse 11 Moses responds with, “You sure you’re talking to the right guy?” I’m paraphrasing a bit here but essentially he takes a look around to make sure God is talking to the right dude walking in this particular stretch of desert. He feels inadequate. He feels like he is clearly unqualified to take on this task that God has given him. He meets God in as close and as physical a way as he possibly could and he immediately feels like he is undeserving and not up to the task.

Now, I’ve never killed anybody and I’ve never met God as a burning object that doesn’t burn, but I’ve definitely felt inadequate before God. It’s a feeling I fight on a daily basis. I definitely fight it every week as I prepare to stand up here on Sunday morning. How many of y’all feel worthy of God? Feel worthy of his call, his love, his son, and his salvation? It doesn’t take a calling to stand up to Pharaoh or a call to ministry to feel inadequate. It can be as simple as being asked about your faith and not feeling worthy enough to share it. Feelings of inadequacy are some of the enemy’s most important tools. But, how does God respond?

God is faithful. He’s faithful and he doesn’t just send Moses away and say, “Never mind, I’ve found a better candidate.” He tells Moses that He will be with Moses. God is going to walk with Moses and never leave his side through this experience because he is a good and faithful God. Amen.

He is a good and faithful father, but we are still human. We are still human and so even though we know his power and we know his faithfulness, we still fall short in having faith ourselves. And, again, Moses is no different. Here I almost picture him like a little kid getting ready to fess up to something that they think the adult doesn’t know about even though the adult knows darn good and well. He tells God that he’s glad God is on his side, but he kind of did a thing and the Israelites might not be so cool with it. As if God doesn’t already know about this, right?! So he says he needs to know God’s name so that he can give it the Israelite leaders when he returns, and God says, “I AM WHO I AM”.

God continually reinforces Moses in this sequence. He goes on to continue to reinforce Moses long after Moses has truly met the Father, but Moses learns to The Lord more and more. Moses recognizes this immensely powerful God is not just a philosophy or a fact that he knows. God is a real, live being who wants to be in our presence.

And that brings us to our last bonus point in this story. I had never really heard of this before and I hadn’t put too much effort into researching it previously, but there is another major character in our story.

If we go back to verse 2 we see him introduced at the same time as God. God appears as fire here and there is a third thing we come to know about God here. Fire can be life giving and it can be life taking. It can provide warmth and comfort and life, or – if you get too close – it can take it away. God is the purveyor of eternal life and death, but we see in scripture this tension that is created by His presence in our lives. He is the ultimate source of all that is good and he longs for us to draw near to him, but we can’t draw too near. Or, at least, in the Old Testament we couldn’t. We are told throughout the Old Testament that we cannot stand in the presence of God or we will die. We are humans and we have sin and because of that, we cannot be in His divine and direct presence unless there is a filter. Not looking at his face as with Jacob, or being able to see and hear him directly in the presence of The Angel of God. Our third character.

The Angel of God only appears when somebody is going to be in the presence of God, and we only see God speak in the first person when the Angel of God is around. Otherwise it’s the angel Gabriel or another angel and they refer to The Lord in the third person. They are speak on behalf of God, but never as God directly. This, and other things throughout the Bible, have lead a growing number of scholars to believe that the Angel of God was Jesus Christ in his ethereal form. That the only way to be in the presence of God even BEFORE he came on earth, was through him. Isn’t that beautiful?

Isn’t that reassuring to know that the only way the Moses could come to God was in the same exact way you get to come to God now? That his brokenness and his past sins were wiped away so he could stand before God in the presence of Jesus? That Jesus has always been and always will be our salvation in the face of God? And isn’t it reassuring to know that even though Moses had no confidence in himself, that he had no idea what he was doing, and that even he knew so little about God that he was almost killed by him before he even got started in his work, and that God sets all of that aside and loves us, believes in us, and delights in us in the same way that he did his son Moses.

That’s how Moses met the father. In his brokenness, in his inadequacy, and in his reassured faithfulness. And God called to him, accepted him, and sent him forth knowing that god is the great I AM. A real God that wants us to experience him and be known by him.

Let’s Pray.

About Pastor Payton

Payton splits his time and calling as the Head Pastor at New Hope Methodist Church and Macedonia Methodist Church in Waller, TX. Both churches are members of the Global Methodist Church denomination, and Payton is currently working towards his ordination as a Deacon in the GMC.

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