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The Story of the Reluctant Servant

AN EXPOSITION OF

EXODUS 3:4-6

     4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I

Moses before the Burning Bush

c. 1614

     5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

“Moses, put off thy shoes from off thy feet.” Literally, “slip off your sandals”. Normally, in the ancient world, it was the servant who put off their shoes. But now Moses will become a faithful servant of God. He is called that in Numbers 12:7. “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.”

As Moses stood before the Lord, he stood on holy ground. Where God is, there is holy ground. Moses recorded God as calling it “holy ground”, and Stephen repeated the expression in Acts 7:33. In every place where the people of God meet there can be holy ground, if they meet with God in spirit, and in truth.

     6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

The importance of this event is magnified in the New Testament when the Lord uses it to confirm the Doctrine of the Resurrection in Matthew 22:23-32.

“The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,

     24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.

      25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:

      26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.

      27 And last of all the woman died also.

     28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.

     29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

     30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

     31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,

    32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

And then in the book of Acts, Stephen cites Exodus 3:1-6 in his sermon. (Acts 7:30-35) It is always a great moment when the LORD speaks directly to our heart. The proper response is to bow before His sovereignty, and to hide our faces.

Moses hid his face. Moses did this because he was afraid to look upon God. Moses knew that no man can look upon God and live (Exodus 33:20). Not only can no man look upon the fullness of God in His essential being and live, but no man can see God in His essential being. The apostle Paul wrote that God only has “immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” (1 Tim. 6:16)

However, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have seen the Father. “Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:8-9)

God’s Knowledge
Becomes God’s Purpose
Exodus 3:7-8

     7 ¶ And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;

     8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

God will deliver His people, but He will use a mediator. (Ex. 3:10) The Psalmist remembered how God used Moses. “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.” (Psalm 103:7) Moses knew the ways of God while the children of Israel only understood, or saw, the acts of God.

The acts of God include bringing the Hebrew people to a land filled to overflowing with milk and honey, representing the symbols of prosperity in an agricultural society.

     9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

The Commission of Moses
Exodus 3:10

      10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

There is an important principle to be recognized in the commissioning of Moses. It is important to be sent to do the work of the Lord. “Moses, I will send thee.” One can look into the history of the Christian era, and see this great principle.

In the 4th century, during the Arian controversy, when the divinity of Christ was assaulted, God sent Athanasius to stand for the truth. Athanasius suffered a great deal for defending the faith.

The Church today is still indebted to Athanasius, for the fact that many of its teachers and preachers, down through the centuries, have firmly held to the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ.

The Principle of Mediation continued through Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Hudson Taylor, and George Mueller, that God’s people might be brought forth from spiritual bondage, as Moses brought forth the Hebrew people out of the physical bondage of Egypt so long ago.

Having already survived forty years in the desert, after fleeing from the face of Pharaoh, Moses had become a prepared leader.
Moses was prepared by being married.
He was prepared by being a parent.
He was prepared by being a shepherd, which is a ruler.
He was prepared by his deep mediations in the desert. God’s servants have a deep personal relationship with Him.
Moses was also prepared by the hunger of an exile’s heart. He wanted to be with the people of God. Every Christian has the heart of an exile. We want to be with the Lord. (John 17:24; Phil. 1:23)

The Reluctant Leader
Exodus 3:11-12

     11 ¶ And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

Though Moses was a prepared leader, he was a reluctant leader. The reluctance of Moses was rooted in the fact that he was a humble man, a modest man. Gideon had the same response as did Jeremiah. When we say, “I cannot”, let it be followed by, “But God can!”

     12 And he [the LORD] said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token [sign] unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

The sign that God was going to honor the work of Moses was the burning bush. (Exodus 5:1) But what is the meaning of the sign? Perhaps it is a representative of the nation Israel which is like a bush, small and insignificant. Israel is burning. God is burning all over Israel. God will judge Israel, and then purify Israel. The people must pass through the judgment, but covenant mercy will be shown to them in time, and they will survive.

The prophet Isaiah said, “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isa. 33:14)

The answer to Isaiah’s question is, the elect. The elect of Israel, and the elect of the Church, shall pass through the fire, and shall be purified, because Christ passed through the Cross, and is made perfect. Because Christ is united to His people, there is the promise of Exodus 3:12, “Certainly, I will be with thee.” Here then, is one of the great promises of the Bible. Embrace it, and rejoice.

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