Scripture: Exodus 3:13-22
13 But Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” 15 God continued, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, and Jacob’s God, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me.
16 “Go and get Israel’s elders together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me. The Lord said, “I’ve been paying close attention to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 I’ve decided to take you away from the harassment in Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land full of milk and honey.”’ 18 They will accept what you say to them. Then you and Israel’s elders will go to Egypt’s king and say to him, ‘The Lord, the Hebrews’ God, has met with us. So now let us go on a three-day journey into the desert so that we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ 19 However, I know that Egypt’s king won’t let you go unless he’s forced to do it. 20 So I’ll use my strength and hit Egypt with dramatic displays of my power. After that, he’ll let you go.
21 “I’ll make it so that when you leave Egypt, the Egyptians will be kind to you and you won’t go away empty-handed. 22 Every woman will ask her neighbor along with the immigrant in her household for their silver and their gold jewelry as well as their clothing. Then you will put it on your sons and daughters, and you will rob the Egyptians.”
Theme- God sees and hears Israel’s oppression and resolves to do something about it.
- Exodus doesn’t tell us how long Israel had been oppressed before Moses found the mountain but there had to be significant time between Pharaoh’s first oppression and this event, why would God wait so long to intervene?
- What does God’s name signify about God’s character and desire for Israel?
- What does verse 12 mean that God will be with Moses and provide him with a sign?
God is responding to the cry of the people which denotes a sense of moral outrage. Israelites are not simply crying out because they are suffering but because they are facing extreme injustice.
The language used to describe Canaan is descriptive of a place that was ideal for a rural pastoral lifestyle, something the Israelites would have been forced to give up as conscripted laborers in cities.
The name God provides Moses can reflect God’s eternal nature and being “I am that I am” or God’s creative nature “I cause to be what I cause”.
The demand of being allowed to go three days out to make a sacrifice would have been a reasonable and customary request for laborers for Pharaoh to deny it reveals his character and desire to brutalize the Israelites.
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In Genesis Abraham and Hagar both discover the God who sees, and Jacob finds the God who leads; yet it has been centuries since these events and hundreds (thousands?) of people are crying out in their distress and not encountering God. It is against this backdrop that Moses stumbles upon a rather strange vision of a bush that is on fire and yet remains whole. In this bush Moses encounters a deity but not simply any deity it is the same God who personally oversaw the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is in this encounter that Moses discovers he is the one who will bring the message of liberation to the enslaved Hebrews. As I ponder this exchange between God and Moses I do think Moses’ first to objections to God’s plan are valid, “Who am I” and “Who are you”. Moses has not live with his family and people, he has suffered yes, but he has not suffered with them. Why would Moses be a trustworthy leader for an Israelite whose entire life has been spent in forced labor gangs working for Egypt. Why would that Israelite trust this man who was a member of Pharaoh’s household and exiled to the wilderness. Further, who is this new God who is sending Moses?
God spoke to Abraham and Jacob but we are told that these patriarchs knew God as El-Shaddai, and to my mind the sudden change of names o YHWH poses an issue. In my mind I would expect God to say to Abraham, “Say El-Shaddai has sent you” and then reveal the divine name of YHWH later. But this is not how God acts because in disclosing the divine name to Moses God is doing more than simply providing him with a title. God is revealing the Divine character, God literally “is”, God is declaring in this name a commitment to be both present with the people and one who creates on behalf of society. Hagar understood God to be “the God who sees”, this name for God reflected on how God saw her predicament. Here God is providing a new name for Moses to use that moves beyond Hagar’s comment God does not simply see what is happening and then react, God is present with the people. This is an important reality as we consider how the people were crying out for liberation. The Israelites, in the midst of their oppression, were lamenting their lot in life. God was not content to simply hear from a distance and respond with acts of power, God reveals to us that while the Hebrews were suffering God was listening to their anguish. Hearing in this passage is not simply a physical act, God is not simply listening to the concerns of the people. The message relayed to Moses is that God is sympathizing with Israel, God feels their pain and responding the anguish they experience.
I wonder what the Israelites would have been thinking as they labored in bondage, I think they might have felt abandoned. Yes, there might have been one or two who had confidence God was with them, but I imagine there was a greater sense of spiritual homelessness. The story does not say that God was not present and working with the Hebrews before Moses, in fact we see God’s blessing on Israel from the beginning of the story. But it is at this point in the story when God will step in to alleviate Israel’s bondage. There are times and ways that God might seem absent from life, but this is the point where we remember the name God chooses to be identified as, the one who is. God is the one who is present with the oppressed and marginalized, seeking to liberate them. And it is to this calling that God invites Moses, Moses by working with God becomes a person committed to liberating the oppressed people and helping to provide them with a new life living in God’s abundance. And what is it Moses receives, the blessing of God’s presence as he works to liberate the people. As Moses commits to God’s plan for justice Moses he becomes even more aware of God’s continual presence in his life. We are shown a picture of God’s own self in this passage, God is concerned with bringing justice and abundance to the world and with being abundantly present in the lives of God’s people.
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