Exodus 3-4 / Week 2
Moses is 80. 40 years have passed between the end of Exodus 2 and the start of Exodus 3. Forty years of oppression, slavery, and state sponsored genocide (1:22); of horror and of untold stories of anonymous suffering, hopelessness and despair; of grief and loss and of living in constant fear. Forty years of unanswered prayers (2:23); of silence from heaven; of apparent Divine disinterest. We are told in 2:25 that ‘God was concerned about them’, but to the Hebrews who lived and died working the brick kilns of Egypt, to the mothers who had watched their sons drown in the Nile, to those whose lives were ‘bitter’, there was no indication that God had heard their groaning. Any talk of God’s concern would bring little consolation. What’s the point of a God who is concerned, but who does not act?
And yet, while the spotlight burns on the plight of the Church centre stage, a shepherd is tending the flock of his father-in-law in the darkness off stage. A seeming irrelevance to the plight of the Church. And yet in a forgotten shepherd we find the hope of the world and of the Church. He may not have appreciated it at the time, but Moses had spent a generation rehearsing the part he would play in the drama of God’s redemption (3:12). If ever there was someone you could think of as an understudy for Jesus, it would be Moses. Few have been brought deeper into an understanding of the experience of Jesus than this humble shepherd in the wilderness of Midian (see e.g. 32:31-2 & Num.12:3). As the Exodus unfolds, we’ll begin to see just how profound Moses’ grasp of the death of Christ is. But is it any wonder that when Jesus wanted to speak to someone about His own Exodus, He chose Moses (Lk.9:30)? Luke is very clear about what Jesus, Moses and Elijah discussed, although English translations obscure the point by telling us that ‘they spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem’ (v.31). However, the word Luke uses is ‘…His exodus’. In fact, if you think about it, the whole scene is somewhat reminiscent of events of the Exodus, with all that lightning and glorious brilliance shining out from the top of a mountain! It must have brought back memories of Sinai for Moses, who of course had been engulfed in the glory of, and had heard the voice of, the Father before (Dt.4:11-12). Many Bible students delight to point out that in the events of Luke 9, Moses was finally granted his desire to stand in the promised land.
The account of the (un)Burning Bush is one of the most famous passages in Scripture. And as is so often the way, the way in which it has been pervasively handled by those who are not Christians has obscured the deep realities that Christians should be able to perceive. Historically, this is a passage that has captivated some of the greatest Bible students the Church has ever seen. But as with so much in the Book of Exodus, we may assume we understand more than we actually do.
Who or what do you think the Angel of the LORD is that appears to Moses in the flames of fire? What is the relationship between the Angel of the LORD (3:2); the LORD who saw that [Moses] had gone over to look (3:4), and God, who called to Moses from within the bush (3:4)?
Why does the LORD / Angel of the LORD appear to Moses in a bush that was on fire, but which did not burn up? And why does Moses have to take off His sandals (3:5)?
‘I AM WHO I AM’. What does this teach us about God? How does that draw us into worship? How was this identification of the LORD, along with the LORD’s promise to be with him (3:12), supposed to encourage Moses as he is commissioned to the task of leading the people out of Egypt? And what about ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers…’ (3:15)?
In 3:18, Moses is told to request a 3 day journey into the desert. He does this in 8:27 (though without the elders of Israel – how did that happen?). Isn’t this disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst? Is God suggesting Moses should lie?
What is the purpose or reason the LORD gives for redeeming His people from slavery in Egypt? Do you think this is still the main purpose for the Church? How well do you think our Church fulfils that purpose? How could we do it better? Can you think of any other parts of the book of Exodus that might help inform our answers to these questions?
Why doesn’t the LORD find someone more willing to serve Him in this task? Why won’t He just accept that Moses doesn’t want to do the job, (3:11, 3:13, 4:1, 4:10, 4:13) and call someone else instead of getting angry with Moses, (4:14)?
The difference between the hesitant and unwilling Moses of Exodus 3-4 and the man of strident faith he becomes later in the book is breath-taking. How do you think he grew? What lessons are there for us to learn if we want to grow in our faith?
In Chapter 4, the LORD gives Moses 3 signs. Do you think there is a significance and meaning to them (and if so, what?), or are they simply ‘random’ signs that prepare Moses to perform much more significant signs and wonders in his confrontations with Pharaoh?
What do you make of 4:11? How do you feel about a God who ‘…makes him deaf or mute …makes him blind’? Do you think we should still talk about God like this? Are you comfortable worshipping and proclaiming such a God as this? Does this section (vv.11-17) encourage you or disturb you as you seek to serve the LORD?
As we consider the relationship between Moses and Aaron (4:14-16), what do we learn about a prophet’s experience of being inspired by the Spirit of the Lord? How does this affect your view of the Bible? Why does Aaron’s role become less prominent as the narrative of Exodus unfolds?
What is the significance of Israel being called the LORD’s ‘firstborn son’ (4:22-23)?
It is often suggested that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, and only as a result of this did the LORD harden his heart. But what do we make of the fact that here in 4:21, the LORD speaks of hardening Pharaoh’s heart even before Moses has addressed him (see also Ps.105:25)? What use does the Apostle Paul makes of this passage in Romans 9:14-18? Do you agree or disagree with Paul? Why / why not?
4:24-26. What on earth is going on here? What is the meaning of circumcision? Why would the LORD move to kill Moses (or perhaps Moses’ son himself) because one of his sons wasn’t circumcised? And why does Zipporah call someone a ‘bridegroom of blood’? Does this have any relevance at all to Christians in Ipswich in the 21st Century?
At the end of Chapter 4, the mood is deceptively optimistic: Moses has finally, if a little reluctantly been commissioned, supported by Aaron; the signs have been successfully performed, and the people believed (4:31). The Church bows in worship, seemingly confident in the realisation that their God has in fact heard them, and was concerned about them, after all. But their joy is fragile, and shatters at the first touch of opposition. Moses is not yet a great leader, and neither is he leading a people who are resolutely envisioned, and who are stepping out in faith to follow one they recognised as called of God. All of which leaves the focus of the Exodus not on the great contribution made by Moses, Aaron or the elders, or indeed the people of Israel, but solely on the Lord who set His affection on Israel and chose them to be His treasured possession not because they were more numerous, but because the LORD loved them and kept the oath He swore to their forefathers (Dt.7:6-9; also 4:34). This and this alone explains the Exodus, and indeed the Church in every generation.