Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
This narrative is a chain of glorious wonders. We see here—
I. An old man called to go out on the great errand of his life. The education of Moses for the great mission of his life lasted eighty years. God never sends forth fruit until the season is fitted for the fruit, and the fruit for the season; when the hour was ready for the man, and the man for the hour, then God sent forth Moses.
II. The burning bush from which that call was sounded. (1) This was a sign to indicate the peculiar presence of God. (2) It was also a symbol of His people, eminently adapted to encourage the prophet in undertaking their cause.
III. The angel who uttered this call. We see at the first glance that He is Divine; we next learn that He is an angel; we further find, from a chain of Scripture proofs, that He is Christ.
IV. The covenant under which the Angel gave him his commission. It was the same covenant that had been given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
V. The Angel's name. That name asserts (1) His real existence, (2) His underived existence, (3) His independent existence, (4) His eternity.
VI. The effect to be wrought by the remembrance of His name. (1) It was intended to inspire profoundest reverence for the Being to whom it belongs. (2) It reveals the infinite sufficiency of a Christian's portion. (3) It gives encouragement to Evangelical enterprise.
C. Stanford, Symbols of Christ, p. 61.
References: Exodus 3:1-14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 57. Exodus 3:1-15.—A. M. Fairbairn, The City of God, p. 107. Exodus 3:1-22.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 141. Exodus 3:2—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 20; J. Edmunds, Sermons in a Village Church, p. 79; J. Hamilton, Works, vol. v., p. 185; The Weekly Pulpit, vol. i., p. 312; D. J. Vaughan, The Days of the Son of Man, p. 209; H. Varley, Penny Pulpit, No. 369; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 145; J. Jackson Wray, Light from the Old Lamp, p. 231.
Exodus 3:2-6I. The vision. (1) The vision was miraculous. (2) Moses had this vision when he was in solitude. (3) It was symbolic (a) of Israel in Egypt; (b) of the Church in the world; (c) of the truth of the Gospel; (d) of ourselves who have the religious life within us.
II. The voice. (1) It revealed the majesty and grandeur of God. (2) The voice revealed the special providence of the great God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (3) The voice proclaimed the faithfulness of God. (4) The voice demanded reverence.
T. Jones, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. v., p. 220.
Reference: Exodus 3:2-6.—S. Leathes, Truth and Life, p. 70.
Exodus 3:3I. The story of Moses is the story, at first, of failure. Two great streams of influences moulded his life, the one drawn from the Egyptian surroundings of his early days, the other drunk in with his mother's milk and his mother's teaching. On the one side he had the speechless-eyed deities of Egypt looking for ever into his face, on the other he had a belief in the governing providence of God. He expected to find amongst his own people aspirations after better things, and responsiveness to his own spirit, but he met with chilliness, coldness, and refusal to follow. Then came his exile in Midian, an exile from all his early dreams and hopes, from the position he had in Egypt, from the future which flowed before him.
II. The vision was the revelation that restored him to faith and energy. The revelation was threefold. It was a revelation (1) of permanence, (2) of purity, (3) of personal power. A revelation of permanence, for the bush was not consumed; it held its own life amidst the devouring flame. A revelation of purity, for before he could enter into the deep meaning of that vision, a voice had bidden him "put his shoes from off his feet, for the place on which he stood was holy." A revelation of personal power and love, for out of the distance, out of the background of the vision, giving it its heart and life, came the voice of Him who proclaimed Himself through all the changes and vicissitudes of the life of Israel, as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.
III. The revelation was not for Moses alone. There is in every common bush the light of God, and only those see it who draw off their shoes. We forget to turn aside to see the great sights about us. If we give our hearts leisure to meet with God, God will meet with us.
Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 91.
References: Exodus 3:3.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 308. Exodus 3:4.—H. Allon, Congregationalist, vol. viii., p. 469.
Exodus 3:5I. The essence of reverence lies in our forming a true estimate of our place amongst the powers around us, and so understanding aright and habitually feeling what is our relation to them. Now, to do this, (1) we must apprehend something of the mystery of life in ourselves and in others; (2) we must recognise the distinction of the different grades of being in those in whom life is, and seek to find and to keep our own due place in that mighty and marvellous scale of existences.
II. We must bow down before Him who is the fountain of all life, the life of all who live. This adoration of the soul before Him is the central point of the grace of reverence, and its influence pervades and adjusts all our other relations, both towards Himself and towards the other creature of His hand.
III. It is a question of the deepest moment to us all how, in an age one special temptation of which is clearly to lose its reverence, the gift can be kept quick and living in ourselves. (1) The first step must be the keeping guard against whatever tends to irreverence. All that professedly robs life of its mystery does this. So, even more directly, does all that robs revelation of its awfulness. Receiving God's word as God's word, striving to do it, striving to overcome temptations to doubt, not by crushing them out, but by turning them into occasions of prayer and of adoration, these efforts, and such as these, will keep us in an irreverent age from the great loss of irreverence. (2) Above all, we must pray for reverence as the gift of God; for such prayer not only draws down a certain answer, but even by its own action tends to put our spirits in the frame of reverence.
S. Wilberforce, University Sermons, p. 335.
References: Exodus 3:5.—C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of Life and Godliness, p. 114; W. J. Butler, Sermons to Working Men, p. 259; G. Litting, Thirty Children's Sermons, p. 189. Exodus 3:6.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 214; J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, Lent to Passiontide, p. 336; Old Testament Outlines, p. 25; Congregationalist, vol. vi., p. 428.
Exodus 3:7Quite apart from its religious significance, there is no other historical phenomenon that is to be compared for a moment in interest with this ever-growing wonder of the Jewish race. The light falls clearly and steadily on its history from first to last. The whole connected story lies before us like a mighty river, which from some high mountain summit you can trace from its fountain to the ocean.
I. The history of this people is thus the history of mankind in its central seats of power. It brings with it living reminiscences of the remotest past. In order to understand how strange a phenomenon is this indomitable vitality of the race, a race without a home or a country, compare their history with that of the numberless tribes of other races who have been either migratory or settled. Excepting the Arabs, also Abraham's descendants, all the other settled contemporary races around Palestine have either died out completely, as the ancient people of Tyre, Edom, Assyria, Babylon, Egypt; or, if migratory, they have been lost and absorbed after a few centuries. The bond that has held the Jews apart from other nations, and yet together, has been their common religion, their common historical glory. When all Eastern Asia held evil to be incurable, and eternal, and Divine, the race of Abraham held that evil was "but for a moment," and that God's goodness and justice alone were eternal; and it is they who have taught this lesson to the nations of the modern world.
II. Notice next the tragic side of this wonderful national history. The honour of being the intellectual and spiritual leaders of the world for four thousand years, has been paid for by four thousand years of national martyrdom and humiliation. The terrific penalties announced at the beginning for failure in their national vocation amidst the great nations of the ancient world, have been exacted to the letter. The so-called Christian nations have made their lives for nearly fifteen hundred years one prolonged Egyptian bondage. New Testament Christianity has at last taught us English, at least, to love the nation to whom we owe such priceless blessings. We believe that the time is hastening on when Christ will return to avenge the quarrel of Israel, and to end "the times of the Gentiles" by the restoration of the scattered nation to its old central position in a renovated world.
E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 65.
References: Exodus 3:7.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 229. Exodus 3:7, Exodus 3:8.—M. G. Pearse, Thoughts on Holiness, p. 230. Exodus 3:8.—J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 32.
Exodus 3:10(with Hebrews 11:27)
I. How was the earlier history of Moses an education for the great work of his life? In order to free his people from their bondage, Moses needed sympathy and faith; and the Bible gives us three phases of his life, wonderfully adapted to educate him in these qualities: (1) his education in the Egyptian court; (2) his attempt to convince the people of their brotherhood; (3) his flight into the wilderness.
II. How did this vision explain to Moses the work of his life? (1) The vision of God prepared him for the work of his life. It showed him the everlastingness of God, and his own unworthiness to do God's work. But the voice upheld him amid the overwhelming sense of his nothingness, and made him feel his vocation. The everlasting sympathy was with his people in their sorrows, and that thought upholding his sinking weakness, became a clear, strong call to action, and summoned him with the voice of the Eternal to his calling. (2) The vision of God gave endurance in fulfilling that work. "Moses endured as seeing Him who is invisible." He had received the grand revelation of the name of God, which was to abide with him until his work was done: "I Am that I Am." This revelation of the name of God made him feel the glory of the vision as an ever-present power. Under that consciousness the sense of his own insignificance faded, his terror of Pharaoh passed away. Even though his work should seem to fail, that mighty vision had given him a grasp on eternity which would keep him strong and true.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 3rd series, p. 81.
References: Exodus 3:12.—Parker, vol. ii., p. 308; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 17; J. Hiles Hitchens, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 40.
Exodus 3:13I. Moses on entering upon a great mission naturally inquires the conditions upon which he proceeds. Before going on any of life's great errands we should know (1) Who has sent us, and (2) What is the business on which we proceed.
II. In the revelation made to Moses, "I AM hath sent me unto you," we have being distinguished from manifestation. "I AM" is the summary of Being.
III. The answer which Moses received from Almighty God was an immutable authority for the greatest of missions. Only let us be sure that we are doing God's errand, and Pharaoh and Caesar and all names of material power will fall before us, never again to rise.
Parker, Wednesday Evenings at Cavendish Chapel, p. 105.
References: Exodus 3:13.—A. Fletcher, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 213.
Exodus 3:14-15In the long bondage of Israel the God of their fathers had become to the most a name, a faint echo, an image ever growing dimmer. They were in a country where countless gods were worshipped, where the forces and products of nature in all their changes were adored. The very conception of Deity was polluted and degraded by being associated with creeping things and monstrous shapes. How wise then that God should be presented to them as "I AM." "I AM THAT I AM,"—the Being who is, as essential life, inscrutable and unchangeable, and who was also the God of their fathers. God is thus set very high and yet He is brought very near, near in a way to appeal to the heart. To us the two aspects of God possess the same importance and interest. Let us look at them in several different lights.
I. God is the Incomprehensible One, and yet is revealed in His intercourse with men. The conviction of God's unsearchableness lies at the root of all reverence and awe. Before the "I AM THAT I AM" our spirits lie in deepest adoration and rise into loftiest aspiration. But we need equally the other side. We need a God revealed in the essential features of His character, and it is in His dealings with men who feared and loved Him that He has made Himself known.
II. God is the Independent and Absolute One, and yet He enters into covenant and most definite relationship with men. He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. The great sea of His love has its channel and tides. His infinite love and mercy have their regular fixed ways not less than the sunshine.
III. God is the Eternal One, and yet the God of dying men. Every moment that we have of fellowship with the Eternal God assures us that for us there is no death. The thought of death only makes us cleave the more to the Eternal God.
IV. God is the Unchangeable One, yet the God of men of all different types and temperaments. He is the same Lord over all. Take these three patriarchs, so closely related in blood.
How different they were. Yet God was the God of all the three, for they all agreed in being seekers of God.
J. Leckie, Sermons Preached at Ibrox, p. 35.
References: Exodus 3:14.—T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 156; Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 12, 3rd series, vol. ii., p. 81; C. Kingsley, Gospel of the Pentateuch, p. 132; J. Travers Sherlock, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 44; R. Heber, Sermons Preached in England, pp. 102, 124. Exodus 3:14, Exodus 3:15.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 61. Exodus 3:19, Exodus 3:20.—Bishop Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 239. 3—Parker, vol. ii., p. 31.
And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto 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 is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.
And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.
And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.
And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:
But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.