First Mennonite Church
April 12, 2015
God: His Self-revelation and Our Calling
Text: Exodus 3:1-15
Today I am continuing with the series Sharing Your Treasure Sundays. Two of you besides submitting your favorite texts, you also made the following questions: How does God reveal himself to us? Can man/humans see God? These are not only valid questions, but they are crucial questions we all need to find answers for. The simple fact of being able to ask these questions signals that the question of God’s existence has already been solved. That is to say, anyone who wants to know how God reveals himself to us humans has no doubt about the existence of God in the first place.
Moses fled the wrath of Pharaoh for killing an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew slave. Moses went to Midian, got married to Jethro’s daughter and started to work as a shepherd for his father-in-law. As he led his flock to the farthest side of the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And something quite unusual happened. Moses noticed that a fiery angel of God was the midst of a thorny bush. The supposed burning fire was actually an angel “perched”/standing in the middle of a “thorny bush” Heb. “Senah.” This phenomenon attracted the attention of Moses, so he decided to go and take a closer look.
Let us pause for a moment. Here is the question again:
How does God reveal himself to us humans? How does the Bible present God? What is the track record of God and his self-revelation? According to Genesis, the Invisible, Eternal, and Almighty God took the initiative to enter into the visible, temporary, and finite world. Nobody invited or requested God to create the world or to get involved with humankind. That, already shows the sovereignty of God. God in his sovereignty takes the initiative of getting involved in human affairs. In Genesis we read that the Spirit of God entered into this formless, empty, and dark deep watery chaos to bring upon and within it light, life, and beauty. God gave a new form to this deep dark world by separating darkness from the light he created, water from dry land he brought into existence, and God transformed the formless chaos and gave it a beautiful order. And God gave this beautiful creation not only freedom to flourish but a marvelous purpose also. And therefore the invisibility of God became clearly visible through his creation. God’s eternity became more evident when compared to the changing seasons embedded into his creation and creatures—including the humans he created. The Almighty character of God was emblazoned in all his creation—the mountains, the sun, the oceans, and the creative mind of Adam, Eve and his descendants. God revealed himself through his work. God revealed himself through his kind disposition to everything he created. God revealed himself by giving freedom and purpose to everything he created; the light of day for Adam to do his work and night for him to rest. Everything had a purpose: the open skies for the birds to fly and the open oceans for the fish to swim, and trees to produce their fruit for the sustenance of all creatures. From the largest organism to the microscopic, everything has a purpose to fulfill in God’s beautiful creation.
From the moment God entered into the realm of the material world and of humans, as he did in Genesis 1, he did it on his own initiative. He entered to create, to transform, and to give a purpose. This way of God’s revelation is a clear picture of how God would continue to reveal himself throughout the entire Bible. Now let us go back to Moses and see how God revealed himself to him in the desert.
Moses was in the desert because his life up until then had been a mess. From the inside, Moses was torn in two. He had come to realize his true identity. He was part of the oppressed people of Israel, yet he ate at the table of the oppressor. In his intervention between two members of his own people, he realized his life was in jeopardy (Exodus 2:13-14). Moses fled because Pharaoh had found him to be siding with the oppressed (2:15). And in Exodus 3, Moses was in the desert, both literally and metaphorically. Moses was in a dark world. But it is there where God took the initiative to reveal himself to Moses. And here is an interesting thing: Moses saw a fiery angel in the midst of a thorny bush. Neither the bush nor the angel plays any major role in what happened next. The fiery angel and bush only become means by which God would call Moses’ attention. It is from this seemingly burning bush that a voice calls Moses. Verse 4 reads: When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
Again let us pause here for a second. God used the angel and the bush to call Moses’ attention. As we will see, God calls Moses from the bush. It is not the bush that does the talking or calling; it is God. It is not the angel that reveals itself to Moses but God. It is God who calls and commissions Moses. But God did use the angel and the bush to make Moses come closer to where God would reveal himself. What is God using to call us? What experience or desert are we in from where God might make us hear his voice? It is not uncommon to hear the testimony of people that God used a given situation to call their attention to Him. Every so often we hear people say that their calling from God came when they were in a desert—so to speak. Sometimes this desert had been an illness, a personal crisis, or spiritual hunger. And there they heard the voice of God calling them.
On the other hand, how is God using us to call others? How are we agents God is using to call the attention of others? How are we the place from which God is calling and commissioning others? We should always remember that although we point out God to others, it is God who ultimately calls people to repentance and to Himself. The church is the place where God often speaks both to us who know his voice and to those who have not heard his voice before. And in that respect we are messengers/angels of God. We serve as bushes, (sometimes thorny bushes) from where God continues to speak.
God called from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” There are few occasions when God has called people by their name twice. Abraham, Samuel, Paul were called twice by their names the first time God called them. And so was Moses. It is not every time when God calls people that he calls them twice by their name. Moses immediately responded with submission: “Here I am,” he replied. But Moses apparently kept going closer to the burning bush and God called again: “Do not come any closer. 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.
Not only did Moses keep going closer to the burning bush, but he was also determined to see what exactly was happening. Moses kept his eyes wide open wanting to see who was there in the burning bush. But when God identified himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses realized that he was looking at nothing less than at the face of God. Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Let me say here in parentheses: at this first encounter between God and Moses, Moses clearly avoids violating the holy presence and face of God and so he readily covers or hides his face. But down the Exodus journey when Moses was pleading with God to continue with them on the journey, Moses seemed more emboldened and even asked God to reveal his face to him as guarantee that indeed God was pleased with Moses (Exodus 33:17-23).
Let us pause here again. When God revealed himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and of Jacob, Moses understood that this God was not just any mysterious being who happened to have encountered him in the wilderness. It was the God of his ancestors. It was the God of the Creation, and the One who had chosen Abraham and his descendants. But more importantly, it was the God who has heard the cries of his people, the God who has seen the suffering of his people, and the God who was coming to deliver Israel.
This is the God we worship today. The God we worship today is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is the God of Israel. It is a God who is not self-centered, but one who interacts with his creation and with mankind. He saw the suffering of the enslaved Hebrew people. He heard the anguish of the cries. And he was moved to action and to deliver them.
My dear brothers and sisters, the God who has called us, the God who we are worshiping today is the God who sees us, hears us, and is moved to compassion for us. He sees how we are and where we are. He hears what we say, and even our silent cries. He is also moved to compassion and desires to deliver us from our pain, anguish, and wants to give us his deliverance. All of these, he wants to give us through his Son Jesus Christ. Let us approach the holy place of God. Let us hear his call. Let us revere him. Amen!
Next Sunday I will finish this topic by looking at how God further identified himself to Moses and to his people Israel.