Moses is still in Midian. While looking after his father-in-law’s sheep, he has a dramatic, life-changing encounter with God. He is at Horeb, a.k.a. Sinai (see Acts 7:30), a place of huge future significance, and he sees the now-famous burning bush, in which the angel of the Lord appears to him. God calls to Moses, and he approaches. The Lord reveals himself as the God of his ancestors (v6), and Moses hides his face in fear. Echoing 2:23-25, the Lord explains that he has seen and heard the misery of his people, and that he has ‘come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land’ (v8). Wonderful news! No doubt Moses was overjoyed! Until he discovered his role in this – the Lord wants him to go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt! Understandably, Moses is reluctant (v11), but the Lord promises his presence, gives Moses a sign, and then reveals his ‘name’.
The Lord emphasises to Moses the he is the same God that his ancestors knew (v6, 15, 16), but gives him a deeper understanding of his being and character, by making himself known as Yahweh, or ‘I am who I am’ – i.e. I am the one who is, who exists, the true and living God, unlike the ‘gods’ of Egypt – ‘gods’ which are not, which have no real being or existence, false and dead ‘gods’ (as are the secular ‘gods’ worshipped by so many in our nation today). This revelation to Moses wasn’t mere philosophy, or even theology, but an invitation, a summons to approach God and know him. Moses actually encountered God himself, and it changed his life forever.
The Lord calls Moses to gather the elders of Israel, and explain that the God of their fathers has seen their suffering, and that he has not forgotten his promise to give them a land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ (v17). In order for this to happen, God will stretch out his mighty hand and perform wonders among the Egyptians, and cause them to repay the people of Israel for the years of hard labour and oppression (v21, 22).
Of course, Moses had a unique role in the purposes of God for Israel, and not everything here applies in a direct sense to us as Christians today. Nevertheless, through the gospel of Christ, who ‘has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses’ (Hebs. 3:3), we, too, can encounter the ‘God who is’. We are able to approach, not a burning bush, but God’s throne of grace ‘with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebs. 4:16); we can ‘draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings’ (Hebs. 10:22). Let us determine to make full use of this amazing privilege!