Rather than receiving thanks for his help, Moses was taunted and accused for the first, but not the last, time by his own brethren: “Who made you ruler and judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14)
When Pharaoh heard that Moses had killed an Egyptian, he tried to have him killed, so Moses fled from Egypt into the wilderness in fear for his life.
Preparing Moses to Shepherd Israel
“Their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” (Exodus 2:23–25)
Though Moses felt the call of God on his life in Egypt to deliver his people, he was not ready to fulfill that commission. All his years in Pharaoh’s courts had not prepared him.
To prepare for what was to come, he first needed to spend 40 years tending flocks in Midyan (Midian).
There in the wilderness, Moses found favor with Jethro, a Midianite Priest, and married his daughter Zipporah.
Moses had a son whom he named Gershom, a Hebrew name that comprises the word ‘Ger,’ meaning ‘stranger,’ and ‘Sham,’ meaning ‘there.’
We understand from this that Moses hadn’t forgotten his people. He felt like a stranger in a strange land. (Exodus 2:21–22)
Despite the sense of loss and alienation that Moses experienced, God was preparing him to deliver the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt.
Responding to the Call
“Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight of why the bush does not burn up.’” (Exodus 3:2–3)
Finally, after 40 years shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, from the midst of a burning bush, Moses hears the call of God to go back to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from their cruel bondage.
The lesson we can learn from this, John, is that people of destiny can spend years in a humble position before God calls them to service. God sometimes tests us in small things before exalting us to greater ones. We need to have patience with God’s timing and wait in hopeful expectation.
Here at the burning bush, the Lord identified Himself to Moses, not as a new or foreign God that Moses did not know, but as the God of his fathers.
“I am the God of your father, the God of Avraham (Abraham), the God of Yitzhak (Isaac) and the God of Yaacov (Jacob).” (Exodus 3:6)
God confirmed to Moses that the Israelites are His people and that He had heard their cry for help.
“And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9–10)
In any sane person’s estimation, delivering Israel from Egypt would take a powerful army. Moses must have been thinking that and had to have been astonished that God was sending just one man—him—to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go.
After spending so many years in the wilderness, he had been broken and humbled. His honest reaction was ‘who am I to do this great thing?’
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
Many of us also look at our own inadequacy and doubt that God would possibly want to use us.
What’s the only thing we really need? God’s assurance that He will be with us!
“And God said, ‘I will be with you.’” (Exodus 3:12)
He Who Was, and Is, and Is to Come
“Say to the Israelites, YHVH, the God of your fathers… has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:15)
Moses knew that he couldn’t go to the Israelites under his own authority. He had learned this painful lesson 40 years earlier. This time, he had to be sent by divine authority.
Moses, therefore, asked God for His actual name so he would have an answer if the Israelites tested him to see if he was really acting on God’s behalf (Exodus 3:13–14).
The Hebrew words that the Lord provided for His name are Ehye Asher Ehye. What is commonly translated in English as I am who I am, or just I Am, actually means I shall be that I shall be. (Exodus 3:14)
God’s answer reveals the wisdom of Moses’ question. God wants Israel to know Him and is therefore, careful in providing the answer.
God also provides another name and instructs Moses to assure the children of Israel that YHVH—from the four Hebrew letters yud, hey, vav, hey which make up God’s sacred name—is sending him. (Exodus 3:15) [In most English Bibles, the word LORD is inserted where YHVH occurs.]
This name is derived from the Hebrew root word to be.
By this, God proclaimed His eternal nature: He is the God who was, who is, and who forever will be!
The angels continually profess this glorious mystery around the throne of God: “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh (holy holy, holy) is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8)
In calling himself ‘I will be,’ God declared that He is without beginning or end. He is outside of time and can step into our past, present and future to meet the need of the moment.
The True Nature of God
Although it may seem at times that God stands far off and hides himself in times of trouble, this is only our faulty, time-bound perception. The truth is that God is faithful to keep His promises to His covenant children in His perfect way and time.
We can see from this Parasha that God loves freedom and hates injustice, tyranny, oppression and bondage of all kinds.
He desires to deliver us so that we may live free—free of sin, of guilt, of shame, and of all oppression.
And in a similar way that He sent one man, Moses, to deliver His people, He sent Yeshua (Jesus) to deliver all who would be His people.
Yeshua proclaimed His mission of healing and liberation in Nazareth, while visiting the synagogue one Shabbat.
As He read the Haftarah (prophetic portion), He proclaimed:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Isaiah 61:1–2; Luke 4:16–19)