I Have Come Down
The burning bush was an attention getter. Fire in a place where all the vegetation is dry and extremely flammable, is dangerous. Fire that does not consume dry vegetation and does not spread is not natural. By nature, fire consumes bushes and it spreads.
The Lord got Moses’ attention by appearing in a flaming fire inside a bush. The fire was burning, but the bush was not consumed. So, Moses turned aside to see what he called a “great sight.” By turning aside, he shows that this thing has his attention.
Once God saw that the burning bush had Moses’ attention, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” Moses responded, “Here I am.” At this point, God makes it clear to Moses who it is that is addressing him. It is not just a bush. God is speaking to Moses from out of the bush. He instructs Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on holy ground, and then He tells Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Now, Moses is afraid. He tells us he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God, but I am pretty sure that does not express the full measure of shock, surprise and alarm felt by Moses in those moments.
To this point, we have covered only the “attention-getting” phase of this interaction between God and Moses. In Exodus 3:7-12, the Lord introduces the reason for this meeting with Moses. He explains why He has interrupted Moses and states his purpose. He says:
I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. (Exodus 3:7 ESV)
This is now the second time Exodus has told us that God sees. Exodus 2:25 says:
Now, God is telling Moses, “I have surely seen...” Of course, Moses recorded his experience in Hebrew and the “surely seen” is a translation of what was originally a Hebrew expression. If you look at this in the Hebrew, you see the word for “seeing” written twice. Kind of like writing “seeing, seen” in English. Another way of translating this is to say, “Seeing, I have seen.” This expression is used to mean continuation more than certainty. The English “surely seen” gives the impression of certainty of seeing, but the actual phrase expresses a continual watching and seeing.
God has been watching, and as Exodus 2:25 says, “He knew.” But now, God adds something more to this statement. He says:
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, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. ()
First, God says, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.” And second, God says, “I have come down to bring them to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Both of these statements have parallels in the gospel. The good news of the gospel is that God has been watching our slavery to sin, our lost condition and our suffering and has come down to deliver us. Jesus Christ is God come down in human flesh. He gave His body on the cross to pay for our sins, to satisfy justice and to reconcile us to God. He also came to bring us to be with Him where He is, to a new heaven and a new earth and to the city that God has prepared for us.
This is good news. And, it was good news for Moses and the people of Israel. Maybe Moses had the brief thought, “It is about time! The people have been suffering all my life and I am 80 years old.”
If God had stopped there, Moses would have said something like, “Thank you for that wonderful piece of news.” And then, he would have gone back to watching his father-in-law’s sheep.
I am afraid that this is how many of us treat the good news of God’s deliverance. So, please follow Moses’ account of what God said to Him. Moses says God said:
Moses is no longer able to just go back to watching the sheep and doing what he has become comfortable with. Moses is shocked. He says:
“You want ME to go and do WHAT?”
Moses had tried 40 years earlier, and all he had managed to do was to kill one oppressor. What could he do against an institutionalized abuse and oppression? The whole country of Egypt, from the king on down, was structured to perpetuate the slavery of the Israelites. What was one man supposed to do? When Moses was 40 and strong, educated and a warrior, he thought he was up to the task. Now, at 80, he realizes more than ever before in his life that this is an IMPOSSIBLE task, not difficult, not improbable, not impractical, IMPOSSIBLE.
God delights in giving impossible tasks. For example, He gave these tasks to:
• Noah: build a 300 cubit boat
• Abraham: sacrifice your only son
• Joshua: conquer Jericho and all of Canaan
• Gideon: take on a huge army with 300 men with lanterns and trumpets
• David: kill Goliath
• Jeremiah: proclaim judgment to an apostate nation
• Peter: feed my sheep
• Paul: carry the name of Jesus before the Gentiles, kings and Israel
• Martin Luther: preach the gospel to an apostate church
• Dietrich Bonhoeffer: preach the gospel to the Nazi regime
These are just a few examples out of the many thousands of servants of God who have been given impossible tasks. In Moses’ case, Moses had some objections, or we might say obstacles that he foresaw.
First, he believed that the people of Israel would not accept or see him as a deliverer. This objection is covered in Exodus 3:13 through 4:9. Second, Moses did not believe he had the skills necessary. In Exodus 4:10, he expresses this by raising up the issue of not being eloquent. And finally, he asks God to please send somebody else. In other words, this objection centers on “let somebody else do it.”
Experience had taught Moses. These objections actually ended up being pretty accurate. On a number of occasions, the children of Israel decided to stone Moses and were prevented only by Divine intervention. Needless to say, they were not always happy with Moses’ leadership. Regarding skills, Moses learned as he went. For example, his father-in-law at one point helped him to see that he needed to delegate some of the tasks of leadership. And then, as far as the “let somebody else do it” objection is concerned, we see Moses burdened just about beyond his ability to endure on a number of occasions throughout the years in the wilderness.
We all have these same objections and then some when God calls us to an impossible task. Oh, by the way, did I mention that God has called each of us to an impossible task?
Let us be clear about the task He has given each of us.
We are to be His witnesses. Here are some places where Jesus explains what it means to be His disciples:
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. ()
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ()
• Disciple Making
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ()
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. ()
These are Jesus’ words to each one of us. A disciple is not a special class of believer. We are either a disciple of Jesus or we are not. To hear the voice of God, and then go back to watching the sheep, so to speak, is to reject God altogether. Moses was not the same after the “burning bush” experience. He never watched sheep again. Peter was not the same after the “Do you love me?” experience. He never fished again. Paul was not the same after the “Damascus road” experience. He never completed His mission to destroy the “Way.” And, no one can “accept Jesus as Savior” and remain the same.
We all have the same objections Moses had. For instance:
They will not accept my testimony. My family knows my weakness, my anger, my lies. I cannot be the one to tell them about Jesus. My friends know me too well. They will not believe what I tell them. It is an impossible task.
I am not eloquent. I do not know how to share the gospel. I will mess it up and confuse them. I am not a preacher and certainly cannot give three points about anything let alone speak on propitiation. It is an impossible task.
Let somebody else do it. First of all, it is too costly. I will lose my friends, my family, my job, my pension, my car, my house, my life ... It is an impossible task.
If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. ()
The task is impossible, but it is not optional. Moses’ question, “Who am I?” is the question we all face. And, the answer God gave Moses is the answer Jesus gives us and it is the only answer we need.
God told Moses:
"But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." ()
“I will be with you” is the promise God gave Moses. This is also the promise Jesus gives us.
The task is not the same for everyone, because each individual has his or her own circumstances. However, the message is the same. God has come down to deliver us out of our slavery to sin and to bring us up to a land flowing with milk and honey.
A word of caution is appropriate here. This land flowing with milk and honey is not the same for us as it was for Moses. Jesus has promised us the resurrection and a place with Him in His kingdom, not a place in this age nor this world. In this world, He has promised us persecution, hardship and trouble. He has promised us that the world will hate us and at times those who kill us will think they are doing God a service. Remember, those closest to Jesus, the twelve, all died for their confession of Christ, except for John, who although he suffered greatly, still died of old age.
The reward comes later. For Moses, the reward would come after having led the people out of Egypt. God said:
...when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain. (Exodus 3:12, ESV)
For Moses the reward was a nation, but it was also eternal. As Hebrews 11:16 tells us of the faith of our forefathers:
“...they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.”
"Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” ()