A Bible Study exploring all the 3:16s in the Bible as they illuminate
- the Human Condition
- God’s Revelation of His Plan (Current location of study)
- God’s Fulfillment of His Plan
- Our Response
“Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt,” – Exodus 3:16
Here we are in Exodus and God’s plan is rapidly unfolding. Rapidly, from a reading standpoint, that is. I discussed last week that God has a different perspective on time than we do. In review so far, God revealed to Adam and Eve after their original sin that he would bring one of their offspring to confront Satan. It was many generations later (an unknown number of years, but hundreds or even thousands) that Abraham was born (about 2166 B.C.). Then it was approximately 600 years after that that Moses was born, who then was called by God when he was 80 years old to lead the Israelites out of their Egyptian slavery. Then another approximately 1500 years until Jesus would die on the cross and rise from the dead, claiming victory over the power and penalty of sin.
God made a promise to Eve and it was THOUSANDS of years later for that promise to be seen fulfilled by human eyes! I emphasize this point, especially within the context of our current society in which it seems we expect instant gratification or knowledge or resolution – God’s timing is not our timing. Today’s 3:16 verse ends with God saying “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt.” He is fully aware of your situation, whatever, wherever, and whenever it is!
Let’s look at that verse in its full context (Exodus 3) and see what we can find about God’s revelation of His plan to us.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
At this point in his life Moses was approaching his 80th birthday (Exodus 7:7). He had grown up in Egypt as the adopted son of the king of Egypt. He was aware of his Hebrew roots, though, and ultimately felt a stirring in his heart even while in Egypt to serve as a rescuer and intercessor for His native people (Exodus 2:11-15). This ultimately resulted, though, in his exile from Egypt. Notice that God orchestrated events so that Moses would be at the site of Mount Horeb, which is near (or the same as) Mount Sinai, where God would later meet with the Israelites and give them the Law. More on that later.
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And 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, for he was afraid to look at God.
The term “angel” and “the LORD” are used interchangeably through this passage. “Angel” just means “messenger” and represents the method in which God chose to deliver His message to Moses. This is similar to other biblical passages (e.g. with Abraham, with Jacob, with Paul, etc.) in which God appears visibly to a person. God told Moses the place was holy, not because of anything about that particular place, but because of God’s presence in it and His interaction with Moses. To be holy means to be “set apart” and God had chosen this time and place to set apart Moses for His work. Then God revealed himself to Moses as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus referenced this passage in Matthew 22:29-33 to make the point, regarding eternal life, that God “is not God of the dead, but of the living,” and God’s introduction of Himself to Moses emphasizes that point as well.
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Here now, after 400+ years, God lays out the next phase of His plan of the redemption of His people. In a single paragraph God describes the basic events that will be written about through the rest of the Biblical history sections of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the 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 thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
We don’t know what kind of exposure Moses received during his first 80 years of life to knowledge of God and His ways. We do know that the Israelites as a whole had what oral traditions had been passed down since Abraham, but there was no written law and they were surrounded by the polytheistic (many-gods) culture of Egypt. Moses had legitimate questions of God. “Who am I” and “What shall I say to them” and “What is his name” are all reasonable queries and God did not rebuke him for asking them. God said, “I AM WHO I AM” and instructed Moses to tell the people “I AM has sent me to you.”
It is interesting that God’s first reply to Moses’ question was “I will be with you.” “I will be” is another way to translate the same Hebrew verb that is translated “I AM“. In other words, God was linking Moses’ mission with the Name of God, in essence saying “you and I are going together on this journey.” God also says that “this is my name forever.” This is solid assurance of God’s planned long-term, even eternal, fellowship with Moses. But the same sentence in which God promised his presence continued with an expectation of obedience and faith. Look at the entire sentence – “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” God is providing Moses with assurance that He will be accompanied by God, and the “sign” of God’s presence will be that the people will return to this mountain to worship and serve God.
Think about that. God’s promise will be validated by something that won’t be seen or realized until AFTER the obedience takes place. God says “Do it, and when it’s done you’ll know that I was with you.” That’s both amazing and scary from Moses’s perspective. Now WE know from the hindsight of having the whole story in scripture that Moses and the people saw LOTS of validations of God’s presence prior to their arrival at Mount Sinai – the signs of Moses’ staff, the plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the appearance of manna, bitter water turning sweet, water produced from the rock, and the defeat of the Amalekites. But God didn’t promise all these things up front. He just said “I will be with you and the evidence for that will be your return to this mountain with the people.” God often gives us clear instructions without providing all the details of how things will fully play out.
This brings us to this week’s 3:16 verse (bolded below) and beyond.
Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’
God’s call to Moses was not only to action but also to sharing God’s plan with others. Moses was to involve the leaders of the Israelites in their rescue. He was to obey in deed AND word. This is a call, in a sense, to share the “good news” of God’s deliverance. God says, “they will listen to your voice.” Again God is setting the expectation for Moses to obey and have faith that the outcome will happen. Also through the hindsight of scripture, we know that things turned out fine, but as Moses lived out the instructions it didn’t always seem to go very smoothly. He met resistance from the king of Egypt (Exodus 5:2 and beyond), the Israelites (Exodus 5:21 and beyond), and later on even from his own family (Numbers 12). But God did warn him that he would encounter some resistance.
But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.
Here again, even though God promised that He would act on Moses’ behalf, he did not feel it necessary to elaborate on all the details. He just said he would do “all the wonders that I will do” and that the result would be the freedom of the Israelite nation.
Finally, to complete this chapter, God said:
And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
This would fulfill the promise that God had made to Abraham 600+ years earlier (Genesis 15:14): “But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.“
I’ve touched on several things in this post. Let me summarize with a few closing points:
- Don’t be discouraged if God doesn’t seem to be moving as fast as you’d like. He knows what you need and He is faithful to sustain you.
- God has been very clear in scripture of His expectations of all His people. Jesus summed it up when asked about the greatest commandment by saying (Matthew 22:37-39), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There are multiple ways and approaches to accomplish these things and it may not always go smoothly, but the expectation is still there.
- Remember that whatever you’re going through, this earth is not our final home. Just as the Israelites left Egypt (a picture of their “old” life) to travel to the promised land (a picture of our walk with God as His people), the destination was still ahead of them and they were to trust God to bring them there (a picture of how we should anticipate our future home in heaven).
We’ll continue with a look at the Israelites’ journey in anticipation of God’s revelation of His plan by looking next week at Numbers 3:16. I hope to see you then!