After years, the moment for the personal encounter with the living God had come. The mount Horeb in the wilderness became the beginning point and the spiritual highlight place for Moses in his personal encounter with God. Alone with God, thus was his beginning. Alone with God, thus was his end. Jesus later on began his earthly ministry the same way. He started out in the desert, alone with God but attacked by the devil, who wanted to join that blessed party and could not. Then Jesus left up to the mountain of God, heaven itself, alone with God? And the blessed company of all the saints in Christ and the angels. This is the place also Moses would one day join.
1Now 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.
2The 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.
Often the theophanies in the Old Testament are linked to the appearance of angels. Thus, it is the angel of the Lord, sometimes closer to an angel, sometimes identified with God himself, that appears to Moses in form of a blazing fire, symbolising God’s holiness consuming man’s sin. This is the God who creates matter and transcends it. This is the God who saves and can consume. Moses was called into God’s presence not to be consumed but to be enlightened and filled with God’s presence.
3So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.”
4When 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.”
5Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
6He 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.
God reveals himself as the holy God and the personal God, the God that should have been known to Moses but that he had not yet known personally. Up to this point, Moses had been raised in two cultures, in two traditions, in two religious contexts. However, even though he was raised by his mother in the house of Pharaoh, apparently there was no personal relationship that had yet developed. This moment came in the wilderness at the mount Horeb. Fear of God still needed to develop into trust in God leading to peace with God and resulting into becoming a powerful instrument in God’s hands.
7The 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.
God’s people had abandoned God, but God had not abandoned his people. The suffering had increased sufficiently so that, finally, his people would seek him again. God was waiting for them with open arms. Now they were ready to receive the miracle and to be restored to a peace relationship with God.
8“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.
The deliverance is near when the cry is sincere. God has planned blessings upon blessings as consequence of the restoration of the peace relationship, his people was about to receive a land of peace in God’s presence where they could freely worship God and be with him. Those that did not want this peace relationship with God would lose that country.
9“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.
God knows the suffering of his people, but we still need to express ourselves before God. This is not to inform God. It is not because God needs it. It is because we need to turn to him for fellowship. He wants to come to live in us, to live through us so that others can be reached as well.
10“Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
The restoration of peace relationship between Moses and God prepared Moses to become a messenger of peace to his people and everyone of the Egyptians who wanted to join God and his people. However, it became a mission of judgment for all those who decided to reject God.
11But 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?”
Moses was the right person, but he was humble (cf. Num 12). He had to learn to trust God and his might in order to accomplish his mission. Whenever God gives a mission, he also equips with all we need to accomplish this mission. The arm of the Lord, the power of the Holy Spirit is there to do everything that the Lord has planned and wants to accomplish through us. If we are only willing to do what he has designed. He is enough. His grace and his power are sufficient.
12And 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.”
The key to the success of God’s mission is that God is with us. This phrase was repeated in the story about Joseph. He had success in all trials and tribulations because God was with him. God was in him. He was with God. He was in God. The presence of the Holy Spirit made this possible. Thus it is with Moses. Thus it is with you.
13Then 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?”
14God 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.’ ”
Yahwe, from the Hebrew verb hayah, “to be” means the eternal, unchanging God. He is who is and does not change. Actually, he must not change, God forbid, because he is perfect and changing would mean to become less perfect. When biblical texts say that “God repented” this means that we have a condition, an expectancy that God had from people that they did not fulfil or that they finally did what God wanted them to do and then the blessing came again. Rhetorically, the expression is an argument ad hominem, considering a human perspective to explain what God did or did not do in contrast to what was expected based on what God said he would do.
15God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, 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 is My memorial-name to all generations.
16“Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.
17“So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’
18“They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’
The restoration of the peace relationship begins with a restoration of worship and forsaking of sins. The people needed to recognize their sins before God, offer sacrifices for forgiveness expressing the sincerity of their repentance. They needed to worship God for three days before the time had come for deliverance from slavery.
19“But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion.
God sends Moses on an impossible mission. Impossible because Moses had only words to speak, no army to accompany him. Pharaoh had no reason to listen to Moses, only good reasons to kill him right away. How foolish this mission must have looked in Moses’ eyes. How foolish might look the mission that God gives us. God is sovereign above all circumstances and above all people to interfere and to force those that need a little kick from the Lord. Where we cannot, God can and will. No power on earth can resist him. Only let us be sure that it is God’s mission and not our own.
20“So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.
God strikes his enemies until they recognize his power and submit unto him. It is better to submit now unto God before it is too
21“I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed.
God will cause again the pagans to bless his people. This would not have happened if the people Moses had organised a violent slave revolt. Jesus taught the same lesson to those among his apostles who wanted to jump on assault at the Roman Herodian temple garrison.
22“But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus, you will plunder the Egyptians.”
The Israelites will ask the Egyptians, not by force, to give them a goodbye gift.