Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 1 (weeks 1-4; January 5-26, 2020) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
Lesson Aim: Answer the call of God to serve his people.
By Mark Scott
The lyrics to a silly old quartet number went, “Excuses, excuses, you’ll hear them every day. And the Devil he’ll supply them if the church you stay away.” More than once Jesus told parables about people using excuses not to accept the call into the kingdom (Matthew 22:5, 6; Luke 14:18-20).
As great as Moses was, he faced feelings of inadequacy about being called by God to be Israel’s deliverer. In fact, he offered God some classic excuses. If Exodus 1 and 2 deal with the preparation of the deliverer, then Exodus 3 and 4 deal with the commission of that deliverer. But at best he was a reluctant deliverer, at least at first.
The Circumstances of the Call | Exodus 3:1-10
The circumstances of the call were nothing short of miraculous. At age 80 Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law (Jethro or Reuel). He had led sheep to the far side (the hindered part—the English Standard Version says, “west side”) of the wilderness. There was a mountain identified as Horeb (“desert” mountain usually referred to as Sinai), the mountain of God. Moses would need to get familiar with this mountain as it would feature large later in his life (19:20; 24:13-18). A special theophany took place. An angel appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. The oddity was that the bush was not consumed. Since fire was one of the signs of the presence and power of God, Moses would know that he experienced a genuine God-encounter. We should note that God did not yell Moses’s name from across the desert. God just lit a bush on fire and waited for Moses to turn aside and see it. To experience the deep things of God there is a need for curiosity. God called Moses’s name twice—probably indicating the earnestness of the call. Like Isaiah, Moses answered, “Here am I” (Isaiah 6:8).
The circumstances of the call were also nothing short of sacred. While God engaged Moses with the burning bush, God did not want Moses to approach him casually. Any place that God invaded was holy. Moses had to remove his shoes as a symbol of such. God identified himself in the heritage of Moses. God put his own covenantal name beside that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s fire made Moses turn aside. God’s presence made Moses remove his sandals. But God’s identity made Moses afraid.
The circumstances of the call were nothing short of the love and tenderness of God. God saw Israel’s misery, God heard Israel’s cries, and God was concerned (knew) for Israel’s suffering (distress or pressure). God was so high and exalted that he had to come down and save Israel from all the “ites” (Hittites, etc.) God was not immune to the suffering of his people under Egyptian bondage. So God would rescue (save) Israel, but he would do so through calling Moses.
The Objections to the Call | Exodus 3:11-17
The phrase following God’s call of this deliverer was, “But Moses.” If God calls us to do something, the next word in the sentence should not be, “But.” Moses began listing the excuses as to why he could not answer this call. Essentially there were four excuses (3:11, 13; 4:1, 13). The first three excuses are in question form: Who am I? What is your name? And what if they do not believe me? We should learn from this that God is not threatened by our questions. He will not quit being God because we ask tough questions. The final excuse is not a question. Moses just laid down and quit. “Here am I, please send someone else.” That is when God got angry. God can handle our questions. What he dislikes is our refusal to accept his call.
As puny as the excuses were, we learn some great theology in God’s answers. Who is Moses? No one really. He is a “little leader” (a sermon by Louie Giglio). God answered the first excuse with the promise of his presence. Israel had been serving Pharaoh, but they would worship (be enslaved to) God on his mountain. What is God’s name? In other words, what would be Moses’s authority? His authority is located in the famous name of God (Yahweh). This revealed forever name means, “I am.” God answered the second excuse with the power of his name. Of course, Jesus used this very phrase as part of his claims to be God in the flesh (John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).
This reluctant deliverer would bring Israel from bondage to a land flowing with milk and honey (a phrase indicating agricultural prosperity). Like Moses, we should answer God’s call to serve his people.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
Image: Moses at the burning bush, illustration from Bible Pictures and What They Teach us by Charles Foster (1897), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.