Lessons from Moses - The Burning Bush

Lessons from Moses - The Burning Bush

Date: 01/25/1997 
Do you sometimes feel like God doesn't hear you? God knows what we can bear and will not allow things to come to us that we cannot bear. His timing is perfect.
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We are going through the story of one of the great heroes of history. Not only a Bible hero, but Moses is a hero of all history, the whole human race. He has by his life had an effect on virtually every other life since then. For those who are joining us, we are now continuing the series we are doing here on Moses.

When we left Moses, he had finished his first 40 years living in Egypt. He tried to deliver his people through his own strength. It backfired. It was not God’s timing. He tried to do carnally what the Lord was going to do with supernatural power, and he fled into the wilderness of Arabia, he met a man, Jethro, seven shepherdess daughters, ended up marrying Zipporah, which means “little bird,” and was content to take care of sheep. Moses probably thought, “My big chance of delivering my people is over and behind me now. I blew it. I guess I’ll make the most of being a shepherd.” Little did he know that in that time period of 40 years while he was there in the wilderness, God was preparing him for great things.

Turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Exodus. Let me say something while you’re turning to Exodus 2:23. Let me remind you. Some of you have noticed that it’s taken three weeks to get this far, and then you realize that there are five books of Moses, and you’re figuring probably about February 2003 we’ll be done with our series on Moses. That wouldn’t be all bad, now, would it? But things are going to move pretty quickly after this. So I just wanted to let you know that we will not be talking about Moses through the rest of the year, but we wanted to give special attention to the first part of his life. We’ve already learned the life of Moses is divided in three sets of 40, and now we are entering the conclusion, really, of the second set of 40.

Exodus 2:23. He’s had his son, and it says, “…in the process of time…” Keep in mind also the chapter divisions in the Bible are not necessarily inspired. I personally think this would have been a good place to start chapter 3. The person who put the chapters and verses in the Bible did it so it would be easier to find passages. It’s been adopted universally. We don’t have any information that this person received divine guidance in picking his chapters and verses.

“Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died.” This was the king who was pursuing Moses. Incidentally, keep something else in mind. Moses’ life, divided in three sets of 40, is also divided in three sets of the pharaoh trying to kill him. His life begins with the pharaoh trying to kill him as a baby. Isn’t that right? Then you have at the end of 40 years, he tries to deliver his people, he kills an Egyptian, and the pharaoh tries to kill him again and he escapes. Then another 40 years later the pharaoh tries to kill Moses as he crosses the Red Sea, and every time Moses is delivered. When he was a day old, 40 years old, and 80 years old, he was delivered from the pharaoh. Who is a pharaoh a symbol of in our story? The devil. Will God deliver you and me from the devil? How many times was Jesus tempted by the devil? Three times. How many times did Jesus get victory over those temptations? How did Jesus get victory? By quoting Moses. All three times He quoted the writings of Moses. Isn’t that interesting? Incidentally, friends, if the writings of Moses were good enough for Jesus to refute the devil, then don’t you think you and I could be edified by the writings of Moses? It’s good enough for Christ; it’s good enough for me.

The Bible says (verse 23), “Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.” Now, I want you to jump down to chapter 3, verse 7. “And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard’”—what does it say?—“‘their cry.’” Go down with me to verse 9. “‘Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me….’” Wait a second. Lord, they’ve been there a long time. They’ve been suffering at least 80 years. For a while they served in Egypt, but it was not hard labor. Around the birth of Moses when they started executing the babies, it really got intense, and everything they made them do they made them serve with rigor. Now they’ve been crying 80 years. Do you think the children of Israel were starting to think, “God doesn’t hear our cry”? Did God hear their cry?

Have you sometimes thought, “I’ve been praying about this thing for so long; God doesn’t hear my cry”? Have you thought that before? Keep in mind, God sees things in eternal pictures. He knows what we can bear. He will not allow us to suffer more than we’re able to bear, and His timing is perfect. We are impatient creatures because our lives are so short and compact that when we’re in trouble, we cry, and we want an instant remedy. It’s always been that way, but I believe it’s worse now than it’s ever been. Christians become impatient. We live in the age of fast food.

We’re at the drive-in at Taco Bell, and if we have to wait 60 seconds we become restless. We get a headache, and if we can’t take a pill and get instant relief, we become restless. Little acid indigestion—we want to spell it R-O-L-A-I-D-S. Right away we want relief, right? And because we’re living in an age in America where we want instant relief from our cry, we’re weak on patience, aren’t we? The Bible says, “Here is the patience of the saints.” Sometimes we think that God does not hear our cry.

Luke 18:7. This is a parable Jesus tells. Remember the parable about a widow? She went to the judge, and she pleaded for mercy. She was being oppressed, and the judge was too busy taking care of other things. He wasn’t even an honest judge. He didn’t really care much about people. She persistently goes after the judge, and finally Jesus concludes the story by saying, “The judge says, ‘This widow, even though I don’t regard God or man, she keeps pestering me, and so I’m going to plead her case,’” and this is what the Lord says in conclusion of this parable. “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” Will He ultimately avenge those who cry out day and night, though He does what long with Him? “Though He bears long.”

Do you sometimes feel like God is bearing long with your need and your suffering and your problem? Keep in mind, if you are a Christian, I promise you, you will ultimately find relief from your problem. Christianity offers relief. Salvation offers relief. Sometimes relief comes in the form of death. The Bible says, “[Blessed] in the [eyes] of the Lord is the death of His saints.” But God hears your cry. Four times in the passage we just looked at here it says, “He heard their cry,” “He heard their cry.” God not only hears your cry; He knows why you’re crying. He knows every detail better than you do.

Exodus 2:24, “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” In other words, now He’s getting ready to act on what He’s heard. “And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.” He’s going to take action.

Chapter 3 [KJV] tells us how it begins. “Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law.” Who is Moses a type of all through this story? Christ. What did Jesus say? “I am the good shepherd.” Did Jesus take care of His Father’s sheep? He said the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, and I think that Moses became a good shepherd.

“And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.” There’s been much discussion about where Mount Horeb, sometimes called Mount Sinai, is. One thing we know, it says here it was three days’ journey from the land of slavery, so it was probably somewhere in the south of the Sinai Peninsula. When they said “back of the desert” there, they meant the far reaches. So he’s in the far reaches. In the spring there was grazing. Even in the desert there’s grass in the springtime. So there was a degree of grazing there, and he led the sheep back to that desert. He was by himself.

How long had Moses been there before this event takes place? Forty years. How many of you would think your life of ministry was beginning at 80 years of age? Don’t underestimate what God can do. Sometimes we think, “What more can I do? My life is spent and gone,” and Moses probably was beginning to feel that way. He was just getting ready to change history. Also keep in mind, even though the call came to Moses late in his life, he did so much more by listening late in his life than he had done in the first 80 years. He did so much more with God after 80 than without God before. There’s no limit to what God can do through any individual except your own surrender. You and God are an invincible army, even with your weaknesses that may come with age. Don’t misunderstand. Moses was pretty hardy. As a matter of fact, even at 120 he climbs a mountain. The Bible says his natural force had not abated. He was in good shape at 80 years of age. But God needed to give him 40 years to learn some new things and unlearn some old things. In preparation for his lifework, he had to spend some time following sheep.

Sheep are not noble creatures, in my estimation. I used to live with the Navajos, and a lot of them were shepherds out there on the reservation. I used to have fun. They would herd the sheep, and I had a motorcycle, and I’d herd the sheep on my motorcycle, and that made it a little more fun. But they’re not really bright creatures. They’re domestic in that they need people to take care of them. Let loose in the wild they just don’t make it. They’re stubborn, sometimes they’re a little bit idiotic, they try your patience, and through following sheep Moses was developing the tender, patient characteristics he would need to pastor a flock.

He’s not the only one. How did God prepare David to be a king? Before he could be a good king he had to be a good shepherd. Joseph, a few generations before Moses, became prime minister of the greatest kingdom of the world. How did Joseph prepare? Not only was he a slave in Potiphar’s household, he was a shepherd for his father. Abraham, a shepherd. Being a shepherd is good preparation.

Moses perhaps had been very impressed with the pyramids and the great temples of Egypt and all of the sights and the wonders and the splendor there. Now as he roamed through the desert with the majestic peaks that God made and beheld the creation of God, a new instruction was taking place in his mind.

I know firsthand how this works. I grew up in New York City. I was an atheist. I was surrounded by the things that man made, and because I was constantly surrounded by the things man made, I had a lot of confidence in man. It was easy to be an atheist. You’re influenced by your environment. When I finally moved to the cave, and now I was in a desert wilderness surrounded by the things that God made, I was able to unlearn and lay aside the things I had been taught all my life and be taught some new things. Part of preparation for your life work is not only learning what God has; sometimes it’s unlearning what the world has. This is what God needed to do for Moses over that period of 40 years.

“And the Angel of the Lord…” Who is the Angel of the Lord? Sometimes it says “the angel of the Lord,” and you read the context and it’s perhaps Gabriel. It mentions him by name at times. But there are other times when it calls “the Angel of the Lord,” it’s another name for God Himself, the Son of God, God the Son. We know that because as he approaches the Angel of the Lord, he is told to worship, and the Bible says you are to worship whom? An angel? No. The apostle John is forbidden to worship the angel there in Revelation 19:10, but the Bible tells us we can worship Jesus.

“And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’” As he’s wandering through the desert regions there, he perhaps from time to time saw where these thunderstorms would pass over and lightning would strike some foliage and it would burn, and he saw a burning bush off in the distance, but as he watched and watched and watched, it continued to burn, but it did not burn up. So he drew closer and said, “What is this sight?” And as he got closer and closer, he realized he was witnessing something supernatural, and he very carefully ventured closer until the Lord spoke to him.

Before I go any farther, what is that burning bush a symbol of? I think all through history the burning bush is a symbol of God’s people. God’s people have gone through a whole variety of fiery trials; yet they are not consumed. God’s people had been in Egypt, and the bush burned, but they were not consumed in Egypt. God’s people were burned in the furnace of Babylon, right there even with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but they were not consumed. In the days of Esther there was an effort made to destroy God’s people. The bush burned, but it was not consumed. It was not consumed during the time of the Roman persecution. It was not consumed when the Roman pagans persecuted the Jews, and it was not consumed when papal Rome persecuted the church during the Dark Ages, and all through time the bush has burned and it’s not been consumed because God has preserved them. So God’s people are a symbol of this bush that burns but is not consumed.

It also might be a symbol of the Shekinah glory that would later rest on the mercy seat, continually supernaturally burning fire.

Exodus 4:3, “God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’

“And he said, ‘Here I am.’”

I heard one minister bring out an interesting point. The Lord calls not only men, but He calls women. But whenever the Lord calls men He has to say their name twice. God never says, “Ruth, Ruth,” but He does say “Abraham, Abraham,” “Moses, Moses,” because men—Ladies, have you discovered sometimes it’s hard to get a man’s attention?

“And he said, ‘Here I am.’

“Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’” One of the first things that God is helping Moses recognize is reverence for the Almighty. “As you approach Me, take your shoes off your feet.” This is not the last time this happened. It was the first time. It also happened again in the book of Joshua.

Turn with me to Joshua 5:15 [KJV]. The Angel of the Lord, Commander of the Lord’s armies, appears to Joshua and gives him some interesting instructions. “And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.” Here you have two examples in the Old Testament where Moses and then his servant Joshua take their shoes off. In the Bible feet had a lot more sacred connotation—it represented the direction of your life—than they do now. Sometimes their shoes got dirty as they walked the dusty roads that they shared with the animals (you understand what I mean), and it represented something unclean. So they’d take their shoes off when they came into a sacred presence. Isn’t it interesting that Moses and Joshua take their shoes off out of reverence when they approach Jesus? And in the New Testament Jesus tells the apostles to take off their shoes, and then He gets down and washes their feet. He became the perfect, absolute complete Servant.

Back to our story here. This is holy ground. Incidentally, I think we’re losing reverence. I don’t want to rush past this. As a matter of fact, I’ve already told several people this is going to be a real challenge this morning to talk about all the different elements that are just in the burning bush experience. I could just talk about reverence right now for the next half an hour. I was not raised understanding reverence for God. I’ve had to learn it the hard way, both through study and through the Spirit speaking to my heart. But if there is a place, a physical place on earth—we don’t have the temple anymore; we don’t usually run into a burning bush—if there is a geographic location where we ought to be reverent, it’s when we gather in this sanctuary to worship God on the Sabbath day, because the day is holy and the place is dedicated for holy things. I think that we ought to conduct ourselves with reverence in the house of God. I’d like to read a few quotes to you that I picked up. I have a lot more than I can share with you in limited time.

Augustine said, “God is not greater if you reverence Him, but you are greater if you serve Him.” By revering and respecting God, you are elevated. You cannot take God off His throne. But revering God will elevate you. Someone else said, “He who fears God need fear nothing else. He who fears not God needs fear everything else.” I have one more here. “Reverence is one of the signs of strength. Irreverence is one of the surest indications of weakness. No man will rise high who jeers at sacred things.” I think angels wonder when they cover their face and their feet in the presence of God, and they cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and we come into a place that is signified by His presence and we’re so flippant and irreverent and so casual sometimes. I think sometimes we’ve lost the sense of awe that we ought to have in the presence of God.

From time to time we need to be reminded of these things because not all of our brothers and sisters of other denominations share that view. One thing I’ve discovered is Seventh-day Adventists are a hodgepodge of people from many different denominations. Our church is a melting pot of people from everything from Buddhism to atheism to Catholics and Protestants from all different groups. We are a movement, I like to say. But our Catholic brothers and sisters that come from the Catholic Church into the Seventh-day Adventist Church have a much better understanding of reverence than many of the Protestants that join the church. Have you ever walked into some of these Catholic cathedrals? I’m not saying that we should become idolatrous, but there’s a silence there, there’s a reverence, there’s a sense of sacredness about it, that I think we could learn from.

Back to our story. He says this is “holy ground.” Verse 6, “Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face….” Now, that was appropriate. He suddenly realized this was the eternal God, and just like the angels in Isaiah chapter 6 hid their faces, Moses hid his face, “for he was afraid to look upon God.”

Keep in mind, while Moses was in the wilderness for 40 years, he wanted to do something for God, he thought, “I’ll never lead my people out,” and he wrote the first book of the Bible. Do you know what the first book of the Bible is? Genesis, no. First book is Job. Almost all Bible scholars agree, by its style and historical content, Job is the first book that was written. Then he wrote Genesis. And Moses was well acquainted with the chronicles and the heritage—Jethro, his father-in-law, was a servant of the same God of Abraham. He was called the priest of Midian. There were other people who worshiped the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses knew the stories about how they had wrestled with God and thought they would die because they had seen God. And when He said, “I am the God of your fathers,” he hid his face, thinking he would die, because that was taught that no man can see God the Father and live, which means if this was not God the Father that he was looking at, who was it? God the Son. The Bible says no man has seen God the Father. But we have seen God the Son.

So he hid his face. “And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters….’” Who is the taskmaster? That’s a symbol of the devil that oppresses God’s people, right? “…for I know their sorrows.” You ought to underline that. Do you sometimes think the Lord doesn’t know what you’ve been through? He knows your sorrows. When I first started working with the Heritage Singers, they were singing a song back then that “Tears are a Language God Understands.” And they had another one, “He Sees Your Tears.” God knows when you cry.

I have seen their sorrows, and “‘I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.’” Did Jesus come down to deliver us from slavery? God came into the world to do that. “‘…to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.’” Now, don’t miss this. Verse 10, “‘Come now, therefore, and I will send you….’” Underline that if you underline in your Bible. “Come to Me; then go for Me.” Jesus, early in His ministry, says to all of His disciples, “Come unto Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden,” and then at the end of His gospel He says, “Go, tell all the nations.”

In 2 Kings 7:9, when these lepers had found this great bounty during a time of famine, one of them came to his senses. He says, “Come” that we may “go and tell the king’s household.” There’s a reason for this sequence. We’re talking about the call of Moses, and incidentally, if you’re a Christian, you’ve been called. Everybody’s been called. Before you can go for God, you must come to God. We have some people out there trying to go for God, and they have not yet first come to God. You have to come to Him and surrender, take His yoke, and then go for Him.

That’s why He says, “Come now.” When do you come? Now. “‘Come now … that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go…?’” And I think that’s the right answer for all of us. “Who am I? I’m unworthy. I’m a sinner.” “‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” You and I can’t do it, friends. Without Christ, how much can we do? Nothing. But God says, “‘I will certainly be with you.’” Another good verse to underline. This is a great passage here. Moses is sensing his unworthiness, and I can imagine he would be reluctant. Last time he was in Egypt they were pursuing his life. He’s become accustomed to the wilderness. He’s a little reluctant; feels unworthy. “Who am I?” And God says, “I will go with you.”

“‘I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you…’” You notice in a little bit God is going to give signs for Moses to the people, Israel, so they’ll believe. He’s going to give signs to Moses for the Egyptians, the plagues, so they’ll believe. And now God is doing something to start everything off. He’s saying, “I’m going to give a sign to you.” Here it is.

“‘When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’” Right here where the bush burns, you’re going to bring everybody back here, and when that day comes you’re going to know that I delivered all the people through you. Then you’ll have no doubts.

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’” Let me explain why he’s asking what may seem to you a strange question. The Israelites had been a long time in Egypt, surrounded by the idols of Egypt. All the Egyptian gods had different names. They worshiped cats and frogs and elements and water and rivers and sun, and as a matter of fact, many of the plagues that fell on Egypt were plagues on their deities, plagues on their gods, to show they were powerless. So Moses, having been a little bit tainted by the theology of Egypt, said, “What name should I use? Which god are You? Are You Ra? Are You the river god? What are You?” And I can just hear the Almighty take a deep breath. He says, “I’m not the god called Fred or Bob. I’m not one of these little porcelain statues that sits on the dashboard of your car. What do you mean, ‘Which god are You?’ I’m the God that makes the bush burn without being consumed. ‘Which god are You?’ What shall I say?”

[KJV] “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM.” This is a very hard phrase to translate from Hebrew. Moffatt translates it (and I agree with him), “I am the Eternal One.” “I am the Self Existent One. I am the God that all the other little gods are made out of. I’m the One that exists through all eternity. I’m self existent. I don’t need anything else to exist. I AM THAT I AM.” Now, don’t miss that phrase.

“‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’” That would be a strange introduction—“What’s His name?”

“I am.” Or, “The Eternal One.”

I want you to notice what Jesus says here (John 8:58). I want you to know who it was talking in the burning bush. John 8:58 [KJV], the Jews were preparing to stone Jesus. I wonder why they were going to stone Him. “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” They were talking about Him being around before Abraham’s time. They said, “You’re not 50 years old yet. How do You know Abraham?” And He says, “…before Abraham was, I AM.” Then the Jews took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy because Jesus was using the title of the Almighty that He had given to Moses. “…before Abraham was, I AM.” Who was in the burning bush? Jesus.

Acts 9:5 [NIV]. This is the conversion story of Paul. “‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.” He says, “I am Jesus.” I want you to notice in the Gospel of John how many times Christ uses that phrase to introduce Himself. He says, “I am the bread,” “I AM THAT I AM,” “I am … the truth,” “I am the door,” “I am the way,” “I am the vine,” “I am … the life,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection.” Every time Christ said “I am” in the Gospel of John, He was reassociating Himself with the God that Moses communed with there in the wilderness. I think that’s a wonderful point that illustrates that Christ is the Almighty.

“Moreover God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “The Lord 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, and this is My memorial to all generations.”’”

Let me say a word about the name of God. We’re rushing along here, and there’s so much in here. I could talk about any of these things for an hour. You are going to meet Christians, if you haven’t already, that will put great emphasis on only calling God by a certain name. Have you met anybody like that? One group will say, “You have to call Him Jehovah or He won’t answer your prayers.” Another group will say, “You have to use the Hebrew pronunciation, Yahweh.” Or someone else might say, “You need to call Him Lord” or “Almighty,” or you might run into some new fringes that I’ve missed.

The Bible tells us God has many names. The names of God depict His characteristics. When He said, “I am the Self Existent, Eternal One,” that’s one of His characteristics. He also said, “I am your Father in Heaven.” He also said He is “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father.” He is called the King of kings. He’s called the Lamb, the bread. I could go on and on and on, the names of God in the Bible. Be careful not to fall in with some of these groups that say you have to pronounce God’s name a certain way or He will not answer your prayer. God is bigger than that. Do not take His name in vain. That’s a sin. But I don’t think that we ought to get hung up on which name specifically—.

It is appropriate, incidentally, to call Him Jehovah. I think because of our Jehovah’s Witness friends emphasizing that, we shy away from that title. It is a biblical title. It’s appropriate to call Him the Almighty, the El Shaddai. You can call Him your Lord, your Father. Jesus even goes so far as to say, “I am your Friend.” That almost borders—you think it’s irreverent to call Him your Friend. But that’s what He said. These depict different characteristics of God. Use His name reverently, but do not think He’s going to turn His back on you if you don’t pronounce it properly. For one thing, it’s wrong to think we have to speak Hebrew to pray, that you have to say His name in Hebrew. The Bible doesn’t tell us that anywhere.

Which of you who are parents, when your children are little and they’re trying to begin to communicate with you, if they can’t say your name properly, would you say, “I’m not listening until you say it right”? “It’s ‘father.’ Don’t call me ‘daddy’; ‘father.’ Not ‘papa’; ‘father.’” What parent will do that? “No, I’m not going to answer your prayer. I don’t care how thirsty you are. You’re going to dry up until you say it right.” This is how some of these Christians are talking about God, like He’s not going to listen to you if you don’t say it right. He’s happy you’re addressing Him! The Lord wants to know who is seeking Him honestly with all their heart; those are the ones He’ll answer. He looks on the heart. He does not critique our pronunciation. But when you take His name, take it reverently.

Who shall I say sent me? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Verse 16, “‘Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, ‘I have surely visited you and seen what is done…; and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.’”’” Notice the contrast. From affliction to a land flowing with milk and honey. Here you have one of the first references to milk and honey in the Bible. You’ll see many references from here on after in the Bible. Why does God call the land of Israel a land flowing with milk and honey? I’ll give you some thoughts.

First of all, milk and honey are opposites and yet they’re the same. Milk and honey are animal products, but you can eat them without killing the animal. Basically, milk and honey come from flowers and grass. Cows eat the grass and the flowers, produce more milk. The bees pollinate the flowers and produce more honey. Milk and honey are opposites in that milk is a perfect culture for disease. Are you aware of that? Without pasteurization and homogenization and all these things, it doesn’t last very long, and a lot of people have died from drinking bad milk. Honey, no disease can live in it. You get a sore throat—they say a little lemon and honey. Milk rots right away. They’ve found honey in the pyramids that was crystalized. They warm it up, and they could eat it. Probably tastes a little bit like mummy dust, I don’t know. But it was still honey, still edible, didn’t have any diseases in it, right? Very interesting. They’re complete opposites. Do you know that you can live—I don’t recommend it, but you can live on a complete diet of milk and honey? That’s right. (Complete honey with the pollen.) It’s very interesting that God said milk and honey. From affliction to milk and honey. That’s what God wants to do for you and me.

“‘Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, “The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.”’” When Abraham left with Isaac, how long a journey was it from Hebron to Moriah? Three days’ journey. What does a day equal in prophecy? From the beginning of Christ’s ministry until He lay down His life, how long was it? Three years and a half. Incidentally, it was three days until they came to the mountains of Moriah, then half a day up the mountain. Same thing with Moses, too, another symbol of Christ.

“‘But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand.’” God knew they’d meet with resistance. He said, “I’m going to help you with that.” “‘So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.’” Does the devil want to let go of you? It’s going to be because of God’s intervention that we are freed. “‘And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.’” Back in Bible time, they did not have paper currency. Food, clothing, gold, and silver was money. Remember when Naaman went to pay for his healing? He brought silver, gold, and clothing. When Samson made a bet there at the wedding feast, he bet clothing. They had not received payment for their hard labor for all these years, and now they’re going to get paid. Is there payday someday? Absolutely.

Let’s rush along here. Exodus 4:1, “Then Moses answered [the Lord] and said, ‘But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice…’” Was there a risk that when God calls you and sends you, they won’t listen? When I preach, I realize that not everyone’s going to listen. But that’s not my problem. My problem is to preach. It’s the Spirit’s job to impress hearts. I make an altar call almost every service, and I know that sometimes nobody will respond. That’s not my problem. My problem is to give an invitation and let the Holy Spirit work on that. But what if they won’t listen to me?

“So the Lord said…, ‘What is that in your hand?’

“He said, ‘A rod.’

“…‘Cast it on the ground.’ So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it,” and you would, too. Now “the Lord [says] to Moses, ‘Reach out your hand and take it by the tail’ (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand [again])….” You don’t grab a snake by the tail. I had a friend one time during a speaking class. He did a demonstration. You were supposed to give a speech using an object. I used a guitar. He brought in a live rattlesnake. He had everyone’s attention. He got an A. He grabbed the snake and pulled it out of the aquarium during the demonstration. He grabbed it right behind the neck. You don’t grab it by the tail. You can only do that one time usually. A bunch of the girls got up and ran out of the class. It was very effective, though.

He grabbed it by its tail. This was a sign that when you can take the serpent by the tail (who’s a serpent a symbol of?), it’s representing victory. He said then (verse 5), “‘that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’

“Furthermore the Lord said to him, ‘Now put your hand in your bosom.’ And he put his hand in his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous, [white as] snow. And He said, ‘Put your hand in your bosom again,’” in the breast of his garment. “So he put his hand in his bosom again, and drew it out of his bosom, and behold, it was restored like [the] other”; it was clean. Now, what is that a symbol of? In your hand represents your actions. Your heart—the heart is desperately wicked. The reason we have evil in our hands is because we have evil in our bosom. And one of the signs that God is God is He can change what’s in our hand because He can change what’s in our bosom, in our heart. That’s the second sign.

Then finally He goes to the third sign. He says, “‘Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign. And it shall be, if they do not believe even these two signs, or listen to your voice, that you shall take water from the river and pour it on the dry land. The water which you take from the river will become blood on the dry land.’” You know the first miracle of Jesus was turning water into wine. Wine is a symbol of blood of the covenant, right? Isn’t it interesting the very first thing Jesus did was turning water into wine? He gave the people sweet wine. The end of His life they offered Him sour wine on the cross. Jesus traded blood with you and me, didn’t He? He offered us His pure blood, representing life, innocence, and He took our vinegar. He took our sin. When Jesus died on the cross, there was blood on the dry ground, wasn’t there? Water and blood came out of His side and spilt upon the ground.

“Then Moses said to the Lord” (I’m rushing; I’m almost done here, friends), “‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent….’” First he says, “I’m not able.” Now he’s beginning to make excuses. He says, “‘I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’” He had not spoken Egyptian in many years, and he didn’t speak Hebrew very well because he only spoke Hebrew until he was 12 years of age. He at least spoke Egyptian until he was 40. He said, “How am I going to go speak to my people?” He spoke kind of a stuttering form of Hebrew called “Hebonics” back then. (Sorry, friends!)

“‘Now therefore, go….’” God says, “‘I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’” This is the first example in the Bible of the gift of tongues. He didn’t say, “I’m going to help you babble for the pharaoh.” He said, “I am going to enable you to speak either personally or through a translator, namely Aaron. Aaron will speak to the people for you. You speak enough Egyptian to talk to the pharaoh. You don’t speak very good Hebrew; Aaron will help you, and he’ll translate. I’ll give you the gift of tongues to speak to the pharaoh.”

Sometimes you might think, “How could the Lord use me to share the gospel?” Don’t ever forget this. Underline it in your Bible. “‘I will be with your [tongue].” Who made your tongue? If God wants you to say something, He’ll help you. If it means He needs to take a coal from His altar, like He did with Isaiah, and touch it on your lips and say, “I’ve cleansed your lips,” God will do that. But if God gives you a message to give, don’t worry about how unable you might be or how feeble you might feel your gift of speech is. God can enable you to give the message. Not only can He enable you through improving your speech, what you lack in speech He can make up for in the Spirit that goes with it. God can touch the listener with the Holy Spirit.

And He says, “‘Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. Now you shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth.’” Who does Moses represent? You “‘put words in his mouth. And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do.’” Do you know what’s wonderful about this? He said you don’t need to know everything now. I’m going to teach you along the way. “What do You mean, Lord? Do You mean I don’t have to know everything before I go to the pharaoh?”

“No, I’ll teach you as you proceed from day to day what you are to say.” This is what happened with the conversion of Isaiah. He said, “I am a man of unclean lips,” and God said, “No problem.” He cleansed his lips. Paul said, “What am I to do?” And God said, “I’ll show you what you’re supposed to do. You go to Damascus, and people will come to you.”

“‘…he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.’” Moses was to be kind of an intermediary between God and man, just as Christ.

“‘And you shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.’” Here you have this 80-year-old shepherd, he’s going to march into the palace of Egypt, he’s wearing shepherd’s garments, and he has a stick in his hand, and he’s going to have a showdown with a king of the earth who holds a golden scepter, and with a stick that represents the authority of God, he’s going to have victory, because it was God’s stick. David, as a shepherd, came out against Goliath one day, and he had a shepherd’s staff in his hand, and Goliath said, “Am I a dog that you come to me with a stick?” He had been sent by the Lord, and if you’re sent by God and you have the authority of God and the power—that rod represented the power of God. Jesus someday is going to rule all nations with a rod of iron, going to smash them to smithereens. It’s a symbol of judgment, authority, and power. And when God sends you, He gives you authority. The Bible says when the apostles preached, they spoke with authority because God had sent them.

This is a message of the call that God gave Moses, and I think each one of us needs to see the bush burn. We need to know that if God has called you to Christ, you’re not only to come to Him, you’re to go for Him. Is that your desire, friends?

[Hymn—I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go]

One lesson we’ve learned from our study today is that God has called every one of us to be workers in His field. There’s a problem, the Lord says. The problem is not that people out there are not interested. They are interested. The harvest is great. The problem is that the laborers are few. But before you can go and labor in His field, Jesus said, “First you must come, and I’ll empower you and send you, and I’ll go with you, and you can go.” I wonder if there are some here today—the Lord is stirring your heart and He has a work for you today, but perhaps you have not made a complete surrender. There may be some here today who have not yet said, “I want to be a Christian. I want to accept Jesus as my Savior,” or some who have not made a complete sacrifice. If you’d like to make that decision, you can make it right now. Come to Him that you might go for Him.

[Hymn]

There might be some of you who, like me at one time thought, “God can’t use me. I’m a mess. I’d like to work for others, and I feel this stirring. I feel the bush burning in my heart that God wants me to go, to deliver people who are afflicted by taskmasters, but I’m not fit.” The Lord said, “I’ll teach you what you should do.” Part of your deliverance process, part of your conversion process, is coming just like you are, and then He enables you and empowers you to go. Come, just like Moses came. You might stutter, you might feel inadequate, you might feel uneducated, you might feel feeble, you might feel sinful, like a failure. You might feel weak, 80 years old. But He has a work for each of us to do, and by coming, it could be the very blessing you need for your own conversion. In working for others you can work out your own salvation. Is it your desire to say, like Isaiah said, “Lord, Here am I just like I am; send me”?

[Hymn]

Before we close with prayer, are there others here today who would like to say in the presence of God, “Lord, I believe that You have a work for me to do in my home, with my neighbors, where I work, and I want to be available, I want You to use me, to take my lips and my voice and help me be a witness for You, a channel through which You communicate truth”? Is that your desire? Would you like to say, “Lord, use me. Here I am. Send me”?

Father in heaven, as we today have talked about one of the great heroes of Holy Writ, Moses, we have been treading on holy ground. Lord, we’ve heard Your name from Your Word today, and we pray that we’ll realize that You are the Eternal, Self Existent, Sacred One. Help us, Lord, to have reverence in our lives and our hearts and our words for who You are as the Great I AM. Also, Lord, I pray that You’ll help us to recognize when we feel the warmth of that burning bush in our lives, that You have placed a love in our hearts that we cannot keep to ourselves, but we feel driven, we feel a burning desire to share it with others. Lord, we know that before we can do that effectually, we must come just like we are, take our shoes off and kneel in Your presence, and say, “Lord, here I am. Send me.” As long as we know that You’re going with us, we can go anywhere.

Lord, a lot of needs are represented in the lives of Your people here. Some of us have been afflicted by slavery. Deliver us right now. Help us to know that though our hands might be leprous, You can change our hearts and change our hands and cleanse us. Help us know that, though we’ve been a captive to the devil that’s been snapping at us, we can take him by the tail. And help us not to forget that blood that was spilt on the ground because of Jesus’ sacrifice for each of us, these signs that You’ve given, that we might believe.

Lord, I pray that this church will be blessed with an outpouring of Your Spirit, that every member will realize that we are ministers. Help us to live holy lives, Lord. Help us to be channels of blessing to a perishing world. You’ve told us that the harvest is great and people are searching, but the laborers are few. I pray that each of us now will say in our hearts, “Lord, here am I. Send me.” Bless us now as we go from this place, to know we do not go alone. Help us to remember that even though we leave this holy place we do not leave Your holy presence, because You’ve promised to be with us always to the end of the world. In Christ’s name we ask. Amen.

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