Summary: The call of Moses demonstrates that even when God calls us, it’s not about us but about what God can do.
There used to be a cliché of a scene in many spy movies, science-fiction films, and thrillers. The scene would feature some mysterious person (or sometimes, even the protagonist) removing their dark glasses or doffing their hat and saying something like: “I know this is going to sound strange, but your country needs you. Should you do this, you’ll do your country a great service.” The scene played well to patriotic audiences. If such a situation would happen to us and we really believed the person or people who approached us, I think such an idea would play well for us in real life, as well.
We would all like to something meaningful, something that would make the world or our country a better place. We would all like to be remembered for some great accomplishment. And for those of us who are believers, we’d like to accomplish something great within God’s purposes.
I apologize to those of you who have heard me preach on Moses’ call before (even those of you who watched me play Moses in costume with the lame Jimmy Stewart imitation). I know that some of this message may be repetitious, but I assure you that God has given me something fresh and, combined with last week’s emphasis on the call of Moses from God’s perspective, I think it is significant to where many of us find ourselves these days.
Last week, we considered the fact that Exodus 2 shows us a people (Israel) and a person (Moses) who were neither open to nor mature enough to accomplish God’s purpose of liberation from slavery and inauguration of a new nation dedicated to God’s purposes. We examined the verses which indicated that God heard, God saw, and God knew experientially (personally and at a cost) the suffering of Israel. We continued into the burning bush experience where God reiterated to Moses the reality that He heard, saw, and understood from a personal perspective the oppressive situation in which Israel found herself in Egypt. For me, the emphasis on God’s suffering because of and involvement in human affairs was a profound reminder that I don’t suffer indignities by myself and I don’t hurt by myself and I don’t feel a sense of lost time and purpose by myself. God hears, sees, and experiences everything that I experience.
We also saw that while God personally vowed to get involved, God chose an individual—Moses—to be a divine partner in deliverance. This week, I want to focus on Moses’ response to this incredible gift from God. Moses’ call, like our own callings (whether as professional ministers or disciples with secular responsibilities) should challenge us to a closer partnership and relationship with the living God.
[Read text from Exodus 3:1-12 KJV.]
You may remember from last week that I suggested that, since the miracle of the burning bush was that it burned without being consumed (v. 2), the image was something of a metaphor for God’s Presence in our lives. God indwells us with a fire that can transform (harden, cook, sterilize, or purify/refine) that does not consume anything worthwhile (though it does consume the dross of sin when we confess it).
It seems to me that when Moses (v. 3) says that he must turn aside and see this great sight, he is a lot like you and me. We want to see a great sight—the sight that will make our lives worthwhile, meaningful, and inspiring. We want to see something that will astonish us and either assure or convince us of the reality of God’s Power. Some believers find themselves wanting to see speaking and interpreting tongues; others want to dream dreams and see supernatural visions; others want to be able to grant dramatic and visible healing through their prayers and laying on of hands; and still others want to see overt miracles that everyone else would have claimed as impossible. In all of these manifestations of God’s Power, the believers are looking for something that guarantees in their personal experience to one of their five senses that God is visibly at work in their lives.
We have some evidence of this in the text itself. The Hebrew verb translated as “see” in verse 3 is different from the verb for “seeing” used elsewhere in the chapter. The verb used here has the idea of seeing in perspective so that one understands. It is the root verb underlying the noun for prophetic visions. And here, Moses says that he wants to see this great sight and understand it. He believes that if he can figure out the mystery in this phenomenon, it will change his life.
But Moses had to discover that the POWER was not in the phenomenon; the POWER was in the PRESENCE of God within the phenomenon. Moses couldn’t cause the bush to burn without being consumed and Moses couldn’t add to the miracle with his devotion. Rather, Moses had to learn how to respond to God’s Presence. And that’s what we have to learn, as well.