Series on Exodus, I The Calling of God's People, C The Commission of Moses. Text: 3:1-15, Title: Facing the Grace and the Glory


We now come to the beginning of the second forty years of Moses’ life. This is one of the great moments in human history. It is awe inspiring yet simple enough for a child to understand. All of those places where God calls his servants are impressive, but none more than this. This is the God who will thunder from this same mountain where Moses has come with such devastation that the people beg that no further word be spoken to them. It is also called Mt. Sinai. Yet here God is patiently pleading with Moses. Moses, at this moment, appears as one of the conspicuous failures of history. Born lowly, raised to great heights, plunged into despair, with his career ruined, he was an exiled, unknown, forgotten man for forty years. He was a stranger in a strange land. Forty years to repent of having tried to be the deliverer on his own. Forty years to learn his lessons, and now God comes to him and says I want you to be the deliverer. As in all those places where God calls his servants there is a great revelation of God Himself. People are not moved to great tasks except they see the Lord as he truly is. We see three things about God here: His grace, His glory, and His greatness.

I His Grace

The grace of God confronts us in two ways on this occasion; first in his appearance, and secondly in his announcement.

A  Appearance

Moses is confronted with the Lord himself in a burning bush in 3:2 and 3, There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. 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-why the bush does not burn up.” Fire is a sign of God's presence. In Exodus 19:18 we read that Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire, and in Deuteronomy 4:24 it says, The Lord your God is a consuming fire. But the bush is not consumed which is not only curious, but the opposite of what we would expect. Appearances can be deceiving. In 1884 an unpretentious and plain couple grieving over the loss of their son met with the president of Harvard University. They wanted to establish a memorial for their recently deceased son. President Eliot impatiently said, “You probably want to contribute to a scholarship fund.” They said, “We had in mind something more substantial, perhaps a building. The president patronizingly dismissed the idea as too expensive. The next year he read that 26 million dollars had been donated to start a new university in California. Their son’s name was Leland Stanford Jr. Here God comes down but the fire of his presence does not consume even the bush which was eminently consumable. God is a consuming fire, but when he comes in grace he does not consume Moses and he does not consume his people. The angel of the Lord in the bush is most certainly the pre-incarnate Son of God because the angel is almost immediately called the LORD, or Jahweh. So, He is identified as the Lord in the passage, but even more clearly identified in Exodus 23:20 where God says, “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him.” This means the messenger is a manifestation of God’s person. He is called an angel because he is the messenger of the covenant, an appearance of the lord, what we call a theophany. Angel n Hebrew, simply means messenger. The significance of this is that the Son of God is the one who comes down to mercifully deliver his people. In this bush there is an emblem of God’s final mercy. That is why John Calvin’s symbol is a burning heart in the hand of God. The heart is aflame but it is not consumed because of grace.

B Announcement

And along with the visual representation in the bush, God announces his intention in 3:7-10, The LORD said, ”I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusite. 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.” These are His people and He has made a covenant with their forefathers. He has heard their cry, but the most conspicuous declaration on the part of God is found in verse 8, I have come down. Salvation and deliverance is about God coming down. He not only rules over history He enters it. And, of course, he cannot come down in the fullness of His glory except in the incarnation. The apostle John says in his gospel, Chapter 1, of the Word that he was made flesh, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth. Jesus is the fullness of him who fills all things, says Paul. This is grace. God came down in the burning bush, he came down to deliver, only because he was coming down in the incarnation in the future. And in Revelation 21:2 the Apostle John sees the holy city of God, the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. The direction of Grace is always down , from God to His people.

II His Glory

The glory is displayed in verses 5 and 6, “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. The command to take off his sandals is a reminder to Moses of the glory of God's holiness. God is kind and merciful but he does not come to his servant Moses in a casual or careless way. Some people treat God that way. It is a kind of “thanks for stopping by” attitude. But Moses is commanded to go barefooted because he is a sinner. The sandals represent the defilement of sin which is rooted in his being and clings to his person. Though God is merciful he cannot excuse sin, and Moses is afraid because he realizes he is being confronted by the living God who is holy. Like Isaiah he is a man of unclean lips who dwells in the midst of a people of unclean lips and he says in his heart woe is me for i am undone for my eyes have seen the Lord of hosts, the one who is holy, holy. holy. If you go to the supermarket you will find all kinds of bleaches, cleansers and chemicals to make your white clothes whiter. You think they are white, but if you compare them to the snow, they will not look so white. People go blind from overexposure in a snowy environment. Isaiah says we are unclean but God says through him, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. That is what God’s holiness is like. Later in Exodus 33 we find Moses becoming very bold. He wants to see the glory of God which is his holiness. So we read in 33:17-20, And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”  And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” God hides him in the cleft of a rock. and only permits him to see his back lest he die. And in Exodus 34, Moses comes down from the mountain and his face shines so that the people are afraid to look and he dons a veil. Paul's commentary on this is found in II Corinthians 3:7-12, Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!  Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. Paul says the net effect of the new covenant is to remove the veil, because the glory of God has been revealed in Christ it can be imparted to us in our justification so that we are as white as snow. The Holy Spirit brings this holiness to us. On the one hand, because we are in Christ and covered by his righteousness, we have an assurance and comfort they did not have in the Old Testament. On the other hand if God manifested Himself as he did to Moses and Isaiah we would still be overcome with the glory of his holiness. It is only in Christ and in the gospel that we draw near.

III His Greatness

God's greatness is revealed to Moses in his name. God says to Moses i will be with you, but the significance of this is that one who goes with him is the great I AM. In 3:13-15 we read the conversation, Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” The name of God is Yahweh, unfortunately transliterated as Jehovah in the American Standard Version. It is called the tetragrammaton-four letters “yhwh,” and it means I am, or I shall be. It was the name the superstitious Jews would not speak. It is identified in your English Bibles by being written all in capitals or upper case letters as, LORD rather than Lord. It signifies, first of all, that God is the self existent one, the only true God, As Francis Schaeffer says it, He is “the God who is there.” And it therefore points to his greatness because he is the God of creation, the one who is the Alpha and Omega, without beginning or ending, the ultimate cause of all that is. Ezekial describes the scene of God’s throne with the same cherubim that Isaiah saw crying holy, holy, holy and we are impressed with His greatness in Ezekiel 1:22-2:8, Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked like an expanse, sparkling like ice, and awesome. Under the expanse their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings. Then there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads as they stood with lowered wings. Above the expanse over their heads was what looked like a throne of sapphire, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.”  As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.  You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you. I’ve been reading a book by Randy Alcorn entitled ‘Dominion.” In his novels he gives the most captivating descriptions of what heaven and hell are actually like. In one account a young mother in heaven sees the cherubim around the throne of God chanting Holy, Holy, Holy. “She fell on her knees and trembled at a terrifying holiness beyond comprehension. Just as she’d once heard Niagara Far away she now was at the base of the waterfall, a waterfall of holiness that made Niagara seem like drips from a kitchen faucet. Her instinct was to run from the terrifying holiness as from a tidal wave. But her mind reminded her emotions that this was the essence of the same carpenter she loved. It struck her as amazing that the carpenter could laugh and relate so easily, even casually to her. For that which the cherubim surrounded was the essence of Elyon, who was the carpenter Himself.” BUT Yahweh not only means I AM , it means I will be which speaks of God revealing himself in word and deed and of the promise that he will go with us. All of this is wrapped up in this name. He is the self existent God who will be with Moses as he reveals Himself through his servant.


So it is that Moses meets the God of his fathers in his grace, in his glory and in his greatness, and thus he is commissioned to begin the seemingly impossible task of delivering the Israelites from Egypt. Every task in the kingdom of God borders on the impossible, and none may be undertaken without an understanding of who God is. Thus the Lord always prepares his servants to do his will by revealing himself to them.