God calls Moses, What is God Calling You To?
Message for September 3, 2017.
Based on Exodus 3:1-15
Our story from Exodus is known as the call of Moses, God is calling Moses to rescue his people from the tyranny and slavery of the Egyptians. This story is known as a “call narrative” and call narratives are an established genre or style of writing used by biblical writers over the centuries to tell how heroes of the bible are called by God.
To say that Moses has an incredibly interesting life story, is a classic understatement! He begins life as a child of parents from the Levites, the priestly class of the Hebrew people at a time when the Hebrews, God’s chosen people are now embroiled in slavery to the Egyptians. Moses becomes the man who leads his people out of slavery, presents them with God’s 10 commandments and eventually leads them to the Promised Land. Moses is born about 4 centuries after Joseph had helped the Pharaoh save the Egyptian people from starvation. During those years, the Hebrew people have flourished in Egypt, and the new Egyptian Pharoah finds this threatening, concerned they could potentially overpower the Egyptian people. This king no longer remembered what Joseph had done four hundred years before. And to destabilize the Hebrew population, Pharaoh orders the killing of all Hebrew male babies at birth. Moses is born during this time. Moses’ mother hides him as long as she can, then makes a waterproof basket for him, and sends him adrift into the path of the Pharoah’s daughter at her bathing place along the Nile River, and the princess rescues him and adopts him as her own. Moses’ swift thinking sister offers to find a a wet-nurse to feed the baby, who of course is Moses natural mother, thereby ensuring Moses’ entrenchment into his own people’s ways from infancy until the time when he is weaned, about 3 years of age or so. Here’s a little tid-bit I just read about this past week. The Hebrew word translated into “basket” (2:3) literally means little ark: 1 Now, we all know the story of Noah and how that big ark saved the people and animals that world repopulate the world, and now the story of Moses the man called by God to save God’s people, also begins in an ark, albeit a little one. I suspect this ‘little’ detail would not have been missed by the readers of this story in the original language.
The excerpt of Moses’ story that we read today’s starts with Moses just having a regular day, out shepherding his father in law’s sheep. How does Moses, raised as grandson to the Pharoah, come to be a lowly shepherd? Well as it turns out, he may have grown up in the royal household, but he never forgot his roots as one of the people of Israel, and in a fit of rage killed an Egyptian man whom he found beating one of the Hebrew slaves—one of his own people! The Pharoah hears of the killing, and wants Moses killed. Moses flees to the wilderness of Midian. And over time, he marries and starts a new life there, among the Midianites, distant cousins of his own people.
So that’s how we find Moses to be the shepherd of his father in law’s sheep, on Mount Horeb, “also known as Mount Sinai—(Exodus 19.11). In the ancient world, mountaintops were the traditional dwelling places for the divine. There on the mountain Moses encounters and unquenchable burning bush.”2 — a bush that does not burn up, it just keeps blazing away! — admittedly not something you see every day! And so Moses goes to check it out. From the bush comes the voice of God, calling him by name. And Moses says “Here I am”. The Lord tells him he is standing on Holy Ground and so, to take off his sandals, a sign of reverence we know is still used in other religious cultures, including Islam. And God reminds Moses just in whose presence he is, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (3:6) Moses is overwhelmed, understandably—this is not just a bush burning with an unquenchable fire, but a talking burning bush. To his credit, he doesn’t run screaming away, he stands his ground, with an awareness of who he is encountering, and instead hides his face, he is afraid to look at what he realizes is God.
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