Exodus 3:16-22 ~ 20100704 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
7/4 Exodus 3:16-22 God Knows
God made himself known to Moses. He told him that he has compassion on his people. He has seen, he has heard, he knows, and he has come down to deliver them. He is sending Moses to deliver them. Moses asks the question 'Who am I?' God clarifies that it is not who you are, Moses, that makes a difference, but who I am. So Moses asks God 'Then who are you? Tell me your name. What are your credentials?' God gives him the verb 'to be', He says I AM THAT I AM; I am the uncaused cause; I am the only independent being in existence, the self existent source and ground of all that is. I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I am the same God now that I was then. I am the same God who made the magnificent promises to the patriarchs, and I will keep those promises because I AM. I am that I am, and I am to be remembered in this way throughout all generations.
Now that God has revealed something of who he is to Moses, he clarifies his instructions. He had told Moses
Now he tells Moses to go and gather the elders of Israel. this is the first time in the bible that we hear of the elders of Israel. Genesis 50:7 talks about the elders of Egypt, but Israel had no need for structured leadership. Up to this point in their history, Israel was merely a family with promises that God would make them into a great nation. Now, during their 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God had taken them from an extended family of 70 people, to a nation that is a national threat to Egypt, organized with elders. Moses is to go to these elders, gather them as a group, and declare these words to them:
Moses is to reiterate what is said of God in 2:23-24 and what he said to him in 3:7-9 that he has seen and heard, he knows, he cares, he remembers his covenant, and he is doing something about it. Moses is to introduce God as 'YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.' God wants the people to be reminded that he is the same God who made promises to the patriarchs and is now fulfilling those promises.
God tells Moses to tell them this: "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt." This would be a mixed message to anyone. Imagine you are having a hard time with someone at work and God says to you "I have observed you and what has been done to you." God knows what has been done to me - that's good! But he's also observed me. He knows how I've responded to the pressure. He's seen me at my absolute worst. He knows every thought I've thunk and every motive of my heart. That is a sobering thought, is it not? It's a sobering thought, but it is also a freeing thought. I have nothing to hide because I can hide nothing. God knows everything I've done, he knows all my sin. He sees my heart even more clearly than I do myself. He knows me more intimately than anyone else, and he loves me! Do you realize how freeing that is? I don't have to put on pretensions or wear a mask and pretend to be someone I'm not. We have one who knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he still pursues us in relationship. This does not mean that God doesn't care how we think or feel or act, or that we can continue to sin that grace may increase. No. God is a holy God. But he knows that we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1) and we cannot improve ourselves. He knows he is buying 'damaged merchandise - used - as is' and he has counted the cost that he will expend in time and labor and most importantly the blood of his own dear Son to wash us and heal us and restore us to mint condition and present us to himself as a people for his own possession, zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).
God says to Moses, tell the elders:
God is making a promise to his people. The word translated 'promise' is simply the word 'said', the same word that is found throughout the creation narrative; 'and God said let there be... and there was'. For God to speak is to promise. If God said, then what he said is as good as done. Tell them "I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt". In verse 7, God said that he had seen their affliction. Now he says he is going to bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt. Affliction has its purpose in the plan of God. Joseph named his son Ephraim, because, he said, "God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction" (Gen.41:52). Jesus said:
God does not promise his people a trouble free existence from this point on. He does not promise them exemption from all affliction. They will continue to have their share of affliction. But the affliction of Egypt has served its purpose, and God will now bring the people up out of the affliction of Egypt. He will bring them to the land. God had promised to give his people the land:
God is promising to bring his people out of the land of affliction and to the land of six enemy nations. This would not be easy. God was preparing his people from the very beginning for what they would face. There would be plenty of obstacles to overcome, but God promised to accomplish what he had promised if they relied on him. This was a good land, described as 'a land flowing with milk and honey', a land abundantly overflowing with blessing.
What comes next is an amazing promise that God gives to encourage Moses. Moses has questioned his qualifications for the responsibility of representing God to the people. Then he questioned who it was that he was representing. If I go to the people and they ask who it was that sent me, what should I tell them that your name is? Moses has gone out to the people once before, thinking they would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand (Acts 7:25). Now, 40 years later, Moses is apprehensive about going back. Moses doubts the reception he will receive with the people who rejected him before. God gives Moses a staggering promise. Verse 18 says "And they will listen to your voice." How can God say that? How can God know how the people will respond? This God, this one who says I AM, I am the ground and source of existence, I cause to be all that is, this God guarantees to Moses the future actions of free moral agents. God says to Moses, I am sending you, and I can tell you exactly how the elders of Israel will respond. How can he say that? This same God who is acting in Moses life to send him is also moving in the lives of the elders of Israel to prepare them to hear Moses and his message.
Not only will they listen, but they will go with you to Pharaoh. God gives Moses the script. When you and the elders of Israel go to the king of Egypt, this is what you are to say:
Moses and the elders of Israel are to ask politely for a week off. We've been slaving for you for 400 years. Can we please have time off for religious reasons? YHWH, the God of the Hebrews has met with us. Adam and Abel and Noah and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob sacrificed to YHWH. We have neglected to sacrifice to our God for the last 400 years. We will go out into the wilderness where we won't offend your people or your gods to sacrifice to YHWH our God. This is a very reasonable request. According to ancient Near Eastern customs, the Pharaoh should have respected their request and allowed them to perform their required religious duties (Enns, p.107, fn.34). But God is seeking an occasion against this king of Egypt, as he makes clear by his prediction of what will happen, again another stunning statement of his sovereignty, and a gracious preparation for his people to brace themselves for what is coming.
I am asking him to do something so reasonable and so modest that his rejection will demonstrate the depth of the hardness of his heart. God knows the future response of this pagan king to a question that hasn't been asked yet. God knows exactly what it will take to break him and cause him to surrender. It will take more than military might or political power to move this king. It will take the divine intervention of a sovereign God. Moses, remember when you went out and saw the Egyptian striking down the Hebrew and you had compassion and were moved to intervene and strike down the Egyptian? I have compassion on my people, and I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt. It will take a mighty hand, and I am that hand. I will strike Egypt with all the wonders I will do in it. After that, he will let you go. I will work marvelous, surpassing, extraordinary things, things that are beyond anyone's power to do. This word was used only once before, in Genesis 18:14 when God is answering the doubts of Abraham and Sarah over the promise of a son in their old age. "Is anything too hard (wonderful) for the LORD?" God is setting the stage for an epic display of his awesome power through the ten plagues. The Exodus is all about God and his glory. Listen to the first person pronouns: I know... so I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it.
And there's the promise. Then he will let you go. You go to Pharaoh. He will not listen. I will strike Egypt with all (not some but all) of the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. What precision of prediction! What clarity of purpose! What encouragement of ultimate victory in spite of repeated setbacks! After that he will let you go. Rescue! Salvation! Deliverance at last! The Pharaoh will let you go. But that's not all. God does exceeding, abundant, beyond all that we can ask or imagine.
God is not merely going to rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt. He says "you shall not go empty". God has a perfect plan. For shortsighted me, it would be good enough just to escape. Then I'd have to figure out how to make it out there. But God is going to provide for the needs of his people. He is going to bless them beyond what they could possibly conceive. And he promises this up front, so that when it happens, they can marvel at how awesome this God is. God says 'I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. That's a remarkable statement. This is a people who is so fearful and resentful that their government could tell them to throw the Hebrew babies in the river and they would obey. Now God says 'I will give you favor in their sight'. They'll give you anything you ask for. God's sense of humor is beautiful. The mighty Pharaoh's plan was frustrated by a handful women. Two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah who feared God. Moses' mother, who creatively obeyed the king's command by placing her baby in the Nile in an ark, and the Pharaoh's own daughter, who raised his arch-enemy under his own roof. Now, God says you are going to plunder the Egyptians. But not because you were victorious in battle. I will get the victory and your Hebrew women will plunder the spoil. The most powerful nation of the world willingly, voluntarily plundered by women and children!
Paul prays for us that we would understand how lavish God is:
God is awesome beyond our capacity to comprehend, he knows the end from the beginning, he holds the future in his hand, and he blesses his people far more abundantly than all that we ask or think! God has given us everything in Jesus.