In the last blog, I asked if Moses had a future. God begins to answer that question for Moses and for us with a strange burning bush. Why spend time with Moses? Because we, too, tend to focus on failure or weakness, and mislabel ourselves. We think that’s the end of our future. We conclude something like, “After all I’ve screwed up, God will just move on to someone better. Someone more obedient than I am.” God had to clarify His position on these questions with Moses and it’s a good illustration of God’s heart toward us as well. Let’s ask again: does Moses have a future? Do I?

Moses had an equipping upbringing

God had been equipping Moses for 40 years. His parents had two children before he came along, yet when they saw him, they considered him beautiful or fair to God. (Acts 7:20) His mother, hired as his nurse, likely spent that time telling him God would use him to deliver His people because she believed he had been destined by God for a special purpose.[1] Acts 7:22 says he was educated in all the wisdom and learning of the Egyptians and characterizes him as a man who was powerful in both his words and speech and in his actions. According to Acts 7:23, Moses apparently served under Pharaoh’s direction until he was 40. I picture a fearless leader, a man of influence who could speak and everyone listened.

But at 40, Moses felt he should check on his people, the Israelites. Acts 7:25 says he thought his people would understand God was going to use him to free them, but they did not understand at all. He understood he was called by God; however, he did not leave the timing of the call or timing to act on it to God. Instead, he took it into his own hands. His brethren rebuffed him for it. Pharaoh wanted to kill him, so he fled. A shepherd of sheep “in the backside of nowhere” for 40 years.

A burning bush gets his attention

Forty years is a long time to try to stay focused on what Mom said God had for him. Moses began to label himself differently from Mom’s label of “fair to God, deliverer of Israel.” He likely believed Israelites probably saw him as a pampered prince, even an Egyptian, and certainly a murderer who only made trouble for them. He doubts he is still capable of all that God had built into him during his first 40 years. No longer influential. No longer a gifted speaker. Certainly not fair to God. He had already proved he most certainly was not a deliverer.

Then he led sheep to a mountain named Sinai. Perhaps there would be grazing there. I doubt he was thinking about what God would do there in the future. He did not realize God was still training him.

2 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.    5 “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground Exodus 3:2, 5 (NLT2)

The burning bush should be consumed in a quick flashfire, but it continued to burn so Moses checked it out. God saw He had his attention and told him to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground. In that culture, shoes were worn to protect feet from defilement and dust,[2] so removing them was considered acknowledgement of personal defilement and unworthiness.[3] While Exodus says he went over to look or investigate, Acts 7:32 says he did not dare look. The difference is explained in different meanings of the word “look” that suggest even though he went to see why it kept burning, he could not comprehend the impact for his life. He was still seeing his future through filters of flawed labels.

God still keeps covenant promises

6 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 3:6 (NLT2)

First, God assured him He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That’s important. It conveyed the idea that God would be consistent through the generations, that the covenant made with Abraham applied to all the generations. This assurance was repeated in verse 13 to emphasize its importance. God was trying to remind Moses that what He had promised before was still in effect. God’s purpose for Moses was still in effect. Nothing had changed.

7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey–the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:7-10 (NIV)

God had seen the oppression all along. Exodus 2:24-25 say that God heard (hearing also implies the actions He would take in response), God remembered (not as though He had forgotten all about them until now), God saw, and God knew (meaning He was experiencing it with them.) God never left them in all those years.

Notice who would do the rescuing. God, not Moses on his own. God keeps His word, His covenant and His promises. God reiterated His calling for Moses in verses 7-10, telling him, “Now it’s time!” When it’s time to act, we partner with God, not act on our own. Meanwhile, God is still watching over His people.

Nowhere in these verses does God chastise him for taking things into his own hands. He is not condemned for his faltering faith in what God has said. God almost seems to ignore what Moses did. He simply tells him it’s time to go free Israel and gives him specifics as to what He will do. But Moses responded by covering his face because he was so afraid.

Asking the wrong question

Second, the struggle to embrace his future begins. In verse 11, Moses asks, “Who am I that I should go do it?” God’s patient response? “I’ll be with you. In fact, when you came back by here again, you’ll worship Me on this mountain.” Don’t skip over what is not said. No condemnation. No chastisement for any failure, perceived or real. What would God say to you in a similar situation? Be assured there will be no chastisement or condemnation. God’s discipline is not like that. It is corrective instruction, given in unconditional love.

Why did God not answer the question? Moses had asked the wrong question. He didn’t realize how he needed God. He needed, not his natural abilities and training, but to realize who God was in the calling and action. God is powerful enough to help us succeed, no matter what He asks us to do.

Who is God then?

Third, in Exodus 3:13, Moses asks who he should say sent him. He needed a clearer picture of how this might happen. Certainly his brethren won’t respond to “pampered prince, Egyptian, or murdered.” What might have gone through his mind as he contemplated God as the God of his own future? Did he feel hopeful again as he listened to God spell out in greater detail some of what will happen as he goes to deliver the message to Pharaoh? Or is he still stuck in “Now I’m only a shepherd”? God reminds him He is the God of his future. Still!

To keep this blog short we will skip the concept of I AM and explore that next week.

I just don’t know….

Fourth, in Exodus 4:1, Moses is certain Israelites will remember him from 40 years earlier. Still convinced they will only see him from back then. He asserts they won’t believe him, listen to him, or obey him. They won’t be able to trust him. And they will wonder if God really sent him. Moses, listen! Can’t you hear what God says to you? In Exodus 3:18, God told him they would listen to him. God has just told him who sent him and how to explain it. Moses is really stuck in that false identity.

Takeaways

  1. “Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 (AMP)
    Given what God said to Moses, how does this verse speak to you?
  2. Have you, like Moses, been asking the wrong question by looking at your natural abilities and limitations?
    Prayerfully ask God to begin showing you who He is regarding the future He promises for you.
  3. 24 And God heard their sighing and groaning and [earnestly] remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the Israelites and took knowledge of them and concerned Himself about them [knowing all, understanding, remembering all].” Exodus 2:24-25 (AMP)
    How does it comfort and encourage you that God has been there, experiencing all your past with you?
  4. Read the following verses. How do they reveal changes in and for Moses as he began to trust who God is and who God said he really is?
    Exodus 11:3
    Exodus 33:11
    Exodus 33:13, 17
  5. Read Exodus 2:24-25. God is always watching and always has a plan for bringing about His purpose for you. He is watching carefully to all that is going on, and will never wait too long.

Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey

Carol Boggess © 2021

Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts

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[1] Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History Old Testament. London: Religious Tract Society, 1890. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

[2] Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History Old Testament. London: Religious Tract Society, 1890. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.

[3] Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, David Brown. A Commentary: Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments. Toledo, OH: Jerome B. Names & Co., 1884. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.