Friday

“Then the LORD said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from 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 country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.’” (vv. 7-8)

Exodus 3:7-15 Friday 31 October 2014


Background

Following straight on from yesterday's passage, God speaks with passionand compassion, declaring a heartfelt intention to get involved onthe side of the Israelites. The repeated use of "I" highlights thepersonal commitment to end their suffering, in a chain of verbsending with the emphatic "I have come down". God is no longerdistant or disinterested, but present in person, active on theirbehalf. The reality of God's concern and support takes shape in thepromise of land. Without land, individuals and people are dependenton the whims of others. A piece of land gives independence andsecurity; to these enslaved wretches, land would - literally - havemeant the earth. The promised land is "flowing with milk andhoney", or perhaps 'grape syrup' - productive through animalhusbandry and through agriculture. In fact, Israel is not ideallysuited to farming, with poor soil and unreliable rainfall, but forthe people it was the land of God's promise. And in words that echoominously down the centuries, the land was already inhabited byothers.

God commissions Moses (verse 10) as, later, the prophets wouldbe called and commissioned (Isaiah6:8-9). And Moses is very well aware that God's arrival carriesacute personal and political consequences for himself. This God isby no means focused exclusively on the spiritual. Life is going tochange for the Israelites, geographically, economically,politically; and Moses is the chosen agent of that change. It isMoses who will have to face Pharaoh on behalf of the people. Nowonder he reacts to God with increasing anxiety about his capacityto achieve this, culminating in the heart-breaking honesty of Exodus4:13 - "O my Lord, please send someone else".

God's comfort and reassurance comes through the revelation ofthe holy name. Conventionally translated "I am who I am" (v. 14),following an early Greek translation, the Hebrew words could alsomean "I will be who I will be". And perhaps the name is intended tocarry both meanings, unchanging present dependability balanced by adynamic orientation towards the future. Certainly 'I am' wouldconnote God's presence throughout Israel's history - as Jesus wellknew when he used the phrase to describe himself (see, for example,Mark 14:62). The revelation of this new namegoes alongside the name that reminds Israel of God's covenantrelationship with their ancestors (verse 15), holding togetherIsrael's past and future.


To Ponder

  • In a capitalist society, the possession of land tends to be anindicator of wealth. How would you go about explaining how and whythe land matters here, to a non-Christian friend?
  • Have you ever felt, with Moses, "O my Lord, please send someoneelse"? What happened then?
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