Learning About God
Every person can grow in their understanding of God by noticing the actions to be learned.
I used to be a member of a board for the Michigan Conference and a big part of my job was to arrange speakers to address issues that churches were facing. Since I live in Lansing I was usually the one who picked the people up from the airport. This would be a challenge when I only had a portrait or a verbal description of the person. One time the man I was meeting had a portrait that made him look short. I saw the guy at the airport, but he was taller than me. Another time I was looking for the man, and I watched the people who got off from the airplane. After everyone had exited, I decided that the man I was looking for no longer had dark hair, but instead had grey hair. For one of the speakers I only had a verbal description, and I choose to wear a hat that would stand out and let him find me.
It is funny how we can develop a perception about a person based on just a little information. We can find ourselves getting caught doing this with God also. We pick out little things about God and we apply them to large parts of God’s character. I would like to look at actions God takes and see what we can learn about God in this passage.
First let me give you some background information of where we are. That little baby we were talking about last week grew up. He apparently realized that he was a Hebrew, because when he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew he takes action and kills the Egyptian. When this becomes known Moses is a wanted man and heads out into the wilderness to avoid being caught and killed.
I would like to take notice today of actions that God takes in this passage. So we will be pulling out the phrases where God does something. Lets look at these actions and learn what we can about God.
Action I. God hears
A. After Moses had settled with the Midianites we see what appears to be a greater oppression taking place. This causes the Hebrews to cry out to God for help. In v. 24 we are told that God heard their groaning. The Hebrew people had been in Egypt for about 500 years at this point. For part of the time they were honored guests in the country and now they are slaves in the country and things just seem to be getting worse. So they cry out to God looking for some kind of relief from the oppression they are experiencing. We are told that God heard their groaning. He was listening to what was happening in their lives. In the second part of that verse it says that he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
B. In 3:11 Moses even carries on a conversation with God. He sees the burning bush and out of curiousity goes to examine the sight. When he arrives he notices that the bush is burning, but it does not burn up. God begins speaking to Moses. Moses listens for a while, but then he hears that this plan involves him. Remember he left Egypt because he was a wanted man. Now God is suggesting that he go back to Egypt. Moses objects and God responds to each of Moses’ objections. In this we also see God hearing Moses and dealing with his concerns.
C. Sometimes talking to God can seem like talking to a statue. We say what is on our mind and we make requests, but we don’t ever really expect to get a response. In this passage it becomes very clear that when Moses speaks to God, God hears what is being said and he even responds to it. When we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we can know that he is listening to what we are saying. If we listen it is not just a one sided conversation.
Action III. God calls
A. While we were on vacation my wife and some of my kids went on a hike. I took the car and intended to meet them at the other end of the trail. As I was waiting I saw a man that I had noticed taking the trail after my family had left. So I stopped him and asked him for some information. It was the middle of the afternoon and I think I was the first person to talk to him all day because he talked a lot. It was probably pretty refreshing for this man who had been by himself to have someone say something to him.
B. I think Moses must have felt a little like this hiker. He was watching his father in laws sheep and it appears that he is by himself. He might have been by himself for a long time. When he is investigating this bush God calls to him. He has a special task that he wants Moses to do. He wants him to return to Egypt so he can rescue the Hebrew people from their life of slavery. God had spoken to Moses because he had something that he wanted him to do.
C. We talk about Pastor’s and their call. We usually think of a pastor being called by God into the ministry. It is not like another job where someone feels that this will fit them. Instead it is something that God has directed them to do. Much like the situation with Moses God still calls people today. Sometimes that call can be for a lifetime, or maybe it is to complete a task. Is there something that you feel God is calling you to.
Action IV. God feels
A. I think we all have images of God that float around in our mind. Maybe we have several images, or maybe the image evolves over time. It can be easy for the image to be of a distant unfeeling individual. It might even be like an idol that does not respond, but is only made of stone or wood. There is a statement in this passage about God that really shakes up that notion.
B. In 3:7 God says to Moses, “I am concerned about their suffering.” Imagine what it must have done for Moses to hear God say that he was concerned about something. I am sure that was a big deal. It was probably an even bigger deal for Moses to go to the Israelites and say, “God is concerned about your suffering.” The Israelites had been slaves for a number of years. They had probably crying out to God for many years, maybe even over a hundred years. We all know that over a period of time it can become disheartening to pray for that long and not receive any kind of an answer. There had to be a huge sigh of relief when they realized that God had heard their prayers and was working on a solution for them.
C. The God that we come to is not a distant uncaring God. He is not like the judge he passes judgment without emotion. He is not like the idol that sits by lifelessly when you express your concerns and desires. God is concerned about the things you are concerned about. In many cases he probably has a deeper concern than we do. Our God feels and he has emotions.
Action V. God rescues
A. We should not lose sight of the reason that God was speaking to Moses. Moses ran away from Egypt out of fear for his life. He came to be a shepherd in Midian, working with his wife’s family. Now as he comes to the burning bush he had been in Midian for about 40 years. All of this time the Hebrew people are suffering under their slave drivers back in Egypt. I would guess that Moses had put everything that was Egypt behind him. He was content to live out the rest of his days in Midian with sheep. Just as with Joseph, Moses is being prepare for the work God had for him. He was going to rescue the Hebrew people. He had been trained as an Egyptian. This gave his all sorts of qualifications to address Pharaoh. This was Moses’ time to shine. He was going to do what God had been training him for.
B. The Hebrew people had been crying out to God. In v. 8 God tells Moses, “So I have 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, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (3:8). God had not forgotten his people. He certainly had not forgotten the place he had promised them. So now he is getting ready to act. He is going to use Moses to bring the people out of their life of slavery and return them to the land that God had promised them and the land they had occupied generations earlier. God was going to do what he had promised hundreds of years earlier. They would again be taking possession of the land and he would be sending someone to rescue them.
C. God had not ignored their problems, nor had he overlooked their suffering. He was simply waiting for the right time to step in. I think that many times we forget God knows our situation better than we do. We have times when we cry out to God and ask him to rescue us. If it doesn’t happen right away, we start to doubt God. God rescues us at the right time. Sometimes if might feel like he is late, but the truth is God is always right on time. He rescued the Hebrews and he did it right on time.
Action VI. God is eternal
A. The idea of eternal is something we have a hard time grasping. Everything we know has a beginning and an ending. God does not follow these same rules. When Moses asked God who he should tell the Israelites sent him God said, "Say to the Israelites, ‘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, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” Each of these guys had been dead for 500 years. He wants to communicate that he is the same God that had dealt with them before. The phrase that jumped out to me was that this was his name forever.
B. When God tells Moses who he is he says, "I AM WHO I AM.” This is an indication that God is the same he has always been. He does not change. Since I am a person who changes, as do most people we think that god will often change also. I might decide I like a certain kind of food one day and then another kind of food the next day. I change my mind and so we think that God is gong to change his mind also.
C. God does not change his mind. His is not going to wake up one day and decide that he does not love me anymore. He will always be the same to us. Our understanding of him will change, but God will not change.