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EXODUS 3:1-15
Series:  Burning Bush Adventures - Part Three

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 6, 2010

This morning we are going on in our series of messages focused on Godly manhood and the life of Moses.


The society we live in says that manhood has to do with sexuality and performance.  Manhood is what we look like - what we possess - rugged individualism that’s in touch with our feminine side.  Rambo in high heels.  Which is a tad confusing.  Isn’t it?  What makes a man manly? 


We’ve been looking at how God - Who created men - we’ve been looking at how describes manhood - Godly manhood - how God defines it - enables it - what God desires of men.  We’ve been looking at Moses as our example of Godly manhood.


We’ve seen that Moses was raised both Hebrew and Egyptian - a unique background that God had given Moses - that Moses tired to use - and failed miserably at because he was trying to be God’s man without God.


We saw Moses sitting by a well in Midian - wondering what had happened to his life - as we often wonder how we end up in the places we end up.  Moses who ends up shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks - learning that our lives are not so much about how we view our lives so much as our willingness to be used by God wherever and whenever and in whatever God leads us to do.

The bottom line of what we’ve seen is that for a man to be manly he first needs to be Godly.  That means having our hearts - the core of who we are - strengths - weaknesses - wounds - desires - whatever - laid bare before God - daily laying all of that before God in sacrificial surrender and passionately seeking after God from the depths of our hearts - so that in God’s timing and in God’s strength - according to God’s plan - God will lead us forward to the awesomeness of what He has purposed for us to be.


Which brings us to Exodus 3 - starting at verse 1 - which is the whole scene with the burning bush.  There’s no better way for us to get into the right frame of mind to look at this scene than to sing the “Pharaoh Pharaoh” song together.


(Song:  Pharaoh, Pharaoh)


You all ready to look at Exodus?  Exodus 3 - starting at verse 1 - we’re picking up where we left off last Sunday:  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.


Let’s pause and get our bearings.  Looking at the map - Midian - where Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro - is way to the southeast of Egypt.  Somehow Moses leads Jethro’s flock over to what is probably this mountain - known as Mount Sinai.  We’re not exactly sure which mountain it is.  But traditionally this it.


Verse 1 tells that the “mountain of God” is in a place called Horeb - which literally means “desolation.”  Hold on to that - the mountain of God is the middle of where?  Desolation.  Middle of no where.


Verse 2:  The angel of the Lord appeared to him - Moses - 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.”


In the middle of no where - desolation - with a bunch of sheep anything would be interesting.  But a bush burning and not burning up is like Disneyland - a huge tourist attraction.  Irresistible to investigate.


Verse 4:  When the Lord saw that he - Moses - turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”  And he - Moses - said, “Here I am.”


Verses 1 to 4 focus on God’s Presence in Desolation.  Let’s say that together, “God’s presence in desolation.”


Have you ever read this scene and asked yourself, “What is God doing on a mountain in the middle of no where?”


Answer:  We really don’t know all the reasons.


But one reason that God is out there in all that desolation is because that’s where Moses needed Him to be.  All that desolation is a picture of Moses’ life.  He’s failed in Egypt and now he’s out in the wilderness hanging out with sheep.  His life is a barren landscape - dry - rocky - empty.  For 40 years Moses has been going no where.


Have you ever been there?  There are times when we may feel like that.  Empty.  Dry.  Alone.


The last place we’d expect to meet God is in those dry lonely places of our lives.  And yet, there’s God - hanging out in Horeb calling to Moses.  We may think we’re alone.  But we’re not.


Then there’s this bush.  The bush burns but isn’t burned up.  You all got that right?  Why?  Why isn’t this bush charcoal?


Answer:  We don’t know.


But we do know that the bush burning isn’t about the bush.  The bush is just an ordinary shrub out in the middle of no where.  This isn’t about the bush its about God - God Who’s in the midst of the bush - the awesomeness of God’s presence - God’s glory on display.


That the bush isn’t consumed by the holy God is a picture of God’s presence in Moses’ life.  Moses - who is a sinner like us - in the very presence of the holy God Moses should be toast.  But God chooses to be in the midst of Moses’ life without destroying Moses. 

That’s a comfort to us.  God - in all His holiness - despite what we may think of ourselves or where we may be in life - God in all His holiness God still desires to dwell with us - not toast us in wrath.


Moses sees this marvelous site and decides to turn aside and investigate.  Its a God moment that comes as a result of 40 years of exile shepherding sheep and wandering in the wilderness.  40 years earlier - when he killed the Egyptian - trying to be the deliverer of the Hebrews - Moses looked this way and that - but not to God.  Now - in desolation - for the first time in the whole account of Moses’ life - Moses looks to God. 


When Moses turns to God what does God do?  God speaks to Moses, “Moses, Moses!”  God speaks when Moses is ready to listen.


Grab that for yourself - in the aloneness of where we often find ourselves - after we’ve exhausted all our resources - exhausted all our efforts at trying to be so clever at making our lives work - after exhausting ourselves resisting doing what we know is what God would have us do - when we’ve finally been humbled by the desolation - broken by the wilderness - when we’re finally ready to turn to God - to listen to God - God is right there where we desperately need Him to be.


Let’s go on.  Verses 5 to 9 focus on What Moses Needs To Learn About God.  Let’s try that together, “What Moses needs to learn about God.”


Verse 5:  Then He - God - said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”


Four lessons Moses needs to learn about God.  Lesson number one:  God is holy. 


How many of you - when you’re going into your home - how many of you take your shoes off at the front door?  Outside our homes where we walk with our shoes - all that out there is dirty.  People want to respect the cleanliness of someone’s home - so when we come in shoes get taken off.


Sandals - especially in the wilderness and when we’ve been around a lot of sheep - sandals get dirty.  We can picture that.  God tells Moses, “Take off your sandals.  You’re on holy ground.  Respect the purity - the sacredness - of where you’re entering.”


What makes the ground holy?  God.  God’s presence.  Where God chooses to dwell becomes holy because God is holy.


God is morally holy - universes above us - completely separate from us - in moral purity - and a whole of other ways too.  Morally God is other than what we are.  Totally different.  We live in the filth of sin.  There is no sin in God.  Its hard for us to even begin to understand that kind of purity. 


All that calls for a reverential awe - an awareness of our unworthiness - to be in His presence.  We don’t casually come into God’s presence to hang out with our good buddy - the big guy upstairs.  When we take off our sandals - treat this sanctuary as different - dress differently when we come here - when we’re consciously reminded of Who we have come to worship - or in our individual times of prayer and meditation and worship - we get a sense of that reverence.


We’re in the presence of the holy God because the holy God calls us to be in His presence.  The holy God Who chooses to enter into our dirty world - to dwell on a mountain in the midst of desolation - to call to us - to turn to Him - to be in His presence without being consumed. 


Verse 6:  He - God - 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 is holy.  Second lesson:  God is faithful.


Moses turns away because he gets Who it is Who’s talking to him.  A huge God moment.


Have you ever grabbed that for yourself?  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - the God of the Bible - think about all of that history and all of what’s transpired - that God is here with us - with you - today.


God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - now God is at work honoring those promises.  God shows up in our lives not to destroy us - poof - wrath of God stuff - God shows up in our lives to help us - to fulfill His promises to us.


God is holy.  God is faithful.


Verse 7:  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.


Third lesson:  God is compassionate.


God says, “I have seen the affliction of My people.”  “Seen” is more than just observing something.  “Well, all that suffering is really interesting.  That must really be a bummer.”  “Seen” in Hebrew means being emotionally attached.  Seeing with compassion.  Paying attention to the details of someone else’s life because we deeply care about them.


God says, “I have given heed to their cry.”  Do you ever have the experience where someone is listening to you but you get the impression that attention-wise they’re actually in a different zip code?  Have you ever done that to someone?  You don’t have to raise your hand.


God doesn’t blow His people off.  He’s paying attention - listening carefully to the cries of His people.  He’s deeply interested in what’s going on with them.

God says, “I’m aware of their sufferings.”  “Aware” is a Hebrew verb we looked at last Sunday - “Yaw-dah.”  Like Yoda - the little green guy.  Yaw-da has the idea of fully knowing someone - intimately.  The same word the Hebrews used to describe sexual intercourse.  God taking that kind of intimate notice - knowing intimately - what’s going on with His people.


Moses responds to God in fear.  God responds with compassion.  God cares deeply for His people.  Our suffering moves God deeply.


Jesus - God incarnate - Jesus at the funeral of Lazarus - aware of the suffering of Mary and Martha - Jesus deeply moved - deeply troubled - Jesus weeps.  That kind of depth of compassion.


Verse 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 (and the parasite - sorry - just making sure we’re all awake).  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. 


Fourth lesson:  God has a plan.


God gets it.  God’s people are in bondage.  They’re suffering terribly.   God is going to take them to a better place.  Way better.  A land so much better they can only dream about what it might be like.

That’s huge.  Isn’t it?  Just connecting a few of the dots - looking forward through what’s coming up in history for God’s people.  God delivering His people - bringing them from Egypt into the promised land - God establishing a covenant relationship with His people - setting up the whole process of sacrificially atonement - how to live within that covenant relationship with God.  All of that pointing the way to Jesus Who is the once-for-all atoning-for-sin sacrifice on our behalf.


God has a plan for history - God through Jesus - God - taking people out of the filth of sin and putting them into a relationship with Him. 


God enters into our suffering - our bondage - our desolation - the filth of this world - giving to us a life with Him now and forever.  A place with Him that goes beyond whatever we can possibly imagine.


God gets it - the need of His people.  God’s got a plan that included Moses and the people back then and even us to day.


God is holy.  God is faithful.  God is compassionate.  God has a plan.  God is going to deliver His people.


Verses 10 to 15 focus on God’s Promise of Involvement.  Let’s say that together,  “God’s promise of involvement.”

Verse 10:  Therefore - because I am the holy faithful compassionate God with a plan - Therefore - here it is - the plan - 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?”


(Cartoon:  When God stopped communicating through burning bushes)


Can you hear Moses pouring water on God’s plan?  “That’s the plan.  Send me?  God are you nuts?  I tried this already.  Remember?  Kill the Egyptian.  Take leadership with the Hebrews.  In case you’ve forgotten that didn’t go so well.  Egypt and Pharaoh are the last place I need to go.  Seriously.  We’ve all had a good laugh.  Now, what’s the real plan?”


Verse 12:  And He - God - said, “Certainly I will be with you - underline that promise.  “Certainly” is the Hebrew particle “kiy” - it has the idea of indeed - of course.  It could read something like this, “No seriously - that really is the plan - and to prove it I’m going with you.”


Going on :  “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.”


In other words:  “This is such a done deal - I have so got this one covered - that you’re coming back here to this mountain to worship me.  And when you come back it’ll be like déjà vu.  You’ll know as certain as I’m telling you now that I am the holy, faithful, compassionate, God with a plan who sent you.”


Ever said that?  “If I only knew then what I know now.”  Faith is the opposite of that.  “I know now what I’ll know then.”  Certainty of God’s sovereignty over future history - God working out His plan - the assurance of things hoped for the conviction - the certainty - of things not yet seen.  (Hebrews 11:1)  Don’t you pray that you could live every day with that kind of faith?


Verse 13:  Then Moses said to God, “Behold I am going to the sons of Israel - “Let’s just say for sake of argument that I do go along with this plan of Yours” - “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?”


Reading through the rest of this chapter and into chapter four Moses keeps coming up with objections - excuses - why God should send someone else.  “I don’t know you’re name.  They won’t listen to me.  I failed toastmasters.  Maybe the next person on your list would be better.”


Why?  Bottom line:  Moses thinks he’s a failure.  He’s already failed once.  Big time.  For 40 years - sitting by wells - wandering in desolation - shepherding sheep - Moses has carried that failure with him.

When God asks Moses to go back to Egypt God is asking Moses to step back into what Moses fears the most.  To go face-to-face with his own fears and inadequacy.  To give up control of his own life such as it is.  To trust God with it all.  To go and confront Pharaoh - a man who wants to kill him.  To take leadership over a people that’s already rejected him - a people that he will surely disappoint.


The greatest need of a man is what?  Respect.  Its hard to imagine something more terrifying for a man than to do than what God is asking Moses to do.


Ever been there?  Exposed to great personal risk.  Knowing that there is no way to live up to the expectations of others.  Failure is not an option but the only probable outcome.


It may be a conversation you know you need to have - the restoring of a relationship - or the confronting of someone you love.  It may mean taking on a new ministry or a new role or employment.  Opening yourself in vulnerability.  Dealing with sin in your life.  Name it.  A place you fear to go. 


Moses’ question in verse 11 - “Who am I?”  is very closely tied to verse 13 - “Who are you?”  “I need to protect myself here.  I know my inadequacy.  If I’m going to move forward I need to know Who You are.”


Verse 14:  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.”  God, 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, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’  This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”


Names for Semitic people - especially the Hebrews - names were a profound thing.  Your name was who you were - your reputation - the summary and representation of your character.  With a good name you were respected.  With a bad name you were dishonored. 


In Scripture, the “name” of God is the description of who He is - God’s reputation - His character - His nature.  The Bible contains a number of different names for God that God uses to reveal different aspects of His character or how He deals with mankind.  Here, God reveals Himself as “I Am” - the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God tells Moses, “This is My memorial-name to all generations.”


“Generations past and generations to come are going to know Me by this name.”


“I Am Who I Am” speaks of God’s self-existence.  No one created God.  He is the holy, faithful, compassionate God with a plan who has always been - always is - always will be - absolute - sovereign - unchangeable.  God simply is.


The Hebrew verb here in verse 14 translated “I am” is the same verb that’s in verse 12 - what we underlined - where God answers Moses “Certainly I will be with you.”  In the Hebrew that verb is in the same tense.  “I am with you”  Emphasis on the constant “now.”  When you go to Egypt - when you come back here - when you go to the promised land - “I am and forever shall be with you.”   


The transliteration of “I Am” from Hebrew to English - as best as we can tell - is Yahweh.  The most frequently used name of God in the Bible and yet the one name the Hebrews would never write or say.  Its just too holy - too sacred to profane by writing it or speaking it.  Which is why we’re guessing at its pronunciation.


Stay with me.  Yahweh is the name that God uses to speak specifically of His covenant relationship and promises to His people.  It is an intensely personal name.  Yahweh Who redeems His people.  Yahweh Who delivers them from bondage in Egypt.


Are we still together?  The name Jesus comes from the Greek form of the Hebrew  “yeshua” - which combines the name of God “Yahweh” with the word “yasa” - to help - to deliver - to save. 


God’s memorial name is for us today.  His presence is with us today.  Same God - same presence - same plan - same promise.  “I am and forever shall be with you.”


No matter how desolate - how alone - how dirty - how deeply in need of redemption - Yahweh - Jesus - is with us now and forever.  He is the holy God who is faithful, compassionate - Who has a plan for our lives.


“Moses - as surely as I am aware of the suffering of My people I am aware of what you suffer with.  I know your fears.  I have compassion on you.  But what you fear does not change my awesome purposes for your life.  So, you are going to need to trust that I really do have a plan and that I am and I will be with you always.”


Can you hear God saying that to you this morning?


If we could be what it means to be a godly man without God then that wouldn’t be what it means to be a godly man.  Let me say that again.  If we could be what it means to be a godly man without God then that wouldn’t be what it means to be a godly man.


We would be simply a man - like Moses - living in fear - alone in our desolation - trying to somehow overcome our own inadequacy - certainly falling short of God’s great purposes for our lives.


God wants to take us where we cannot go without Him.


We men like adventure.  Right?  A challenge - hills to climb - mountains to conquer.  With God - life really is the great adventure.  But we can only go there if we’re willing to stop trying to go there on our own strength and cleverness - to stop making excuses - to stop coming up with objections and fears - and to trust God to take us where we cannot go without Him. 


What desolation are you in?  What keeps you in bondage?  In fear?  Alone?  What holds you back from God’s best for you?  From being the man God created you to be?


Where does God want to take you?  Are you willing to let God take you there?  Even if it means being out of control and trusting Him with all that you are?


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright© 1960,1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.