God’s Self Revelation

Exodus 3 Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. 13 So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

15 Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. 18 So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.”

We return to the book of Exodus this morning and find that Moses is still in the wilderness, shepherding the flock of his father-in-law. Moses had been born at a time of crisis in the history of Israel. Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews and cruelly oppressed them. Upon reaching the age of forty years, Moses, who had been miraculously saved and adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh, went out to visit his people and struck and killed an Egyptian who had been beating a fellow Hebrew. Moses had “supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” They rejected their God-appointed savior, and as his forefather Jacob had done, he fled to distant relatives in the east, met a woman at a well, married her, became a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock, and had children in exile.

Chapter three has five sections. In verses 1-3 is the Shepherd and the Burning Bush. In verses 4-6 Moses is introduced to Yahweh. In the center of the passage from verses 7-12 we learn that God is ready to save his people. In verses 13-15 Moses is told the Name of God. Finally, in 16-22, God tells of his plan of salvation for the Israelites.

At the heart of this chapter is God’s self-revelation by sight and sound as the Savior of Israel. God is preparing Moses to act as his Mediator between God, the Hebrews, and the Egyptians. God will do this not because He needs Moses but because He relates to His people covenantally, in human terms. In Exodus, God is using Moses, but in the greater Exodus, God will Himself appear as a man—Jesus Christ—as the Savior of the world.

The Shepherd and the Burning Bush 1-3

In the beginning section, we find Moses shepherding the flock “of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian.” Moses had fled Egypt and found refuge with the Midianites. The Midianites lived in the region around Mount Horeb, and they also had their descent from Abraham through his second wife, Keturah.

Here is a former adopted son of the most powerful man in the region’s most powerful nation, living as a common shepherd. In Genesis 46:32, Joseph tells his brothers, “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” Concerning this, one commentator writes of Moses, “Moses’ identification with his own ethnic people was now so strong that he was willing to serve in the occupation of shepherd, an assignment that no one who still thought of himself as an Egyptian would ever have taken on, so loathsome was shepherding to Egyptians.”1

Whatever aspirations he had at one time seem to have been dashed. In chapter seven, we learn that Moses was eighty years old when he went to speak to Pharaoh. So, roughly forty years have passed since Moses fled Egypt. According to our reckoning, at least, he is an old man. By this time, he would be accustomed to his life as a shepherd and familiar with life’s daily and seasonal routines as a shepherd in the wilderness.

In verse one, the text notes where Moses is—namely, “the west side of the wilderness… and Horeb, the mountain of God.” This is the region and mountain that Israel will come to in Exodus 19. Horeb is another name for Sinai. This will become significant later in the book and biblical history.

Mountains play an important role in the Bible. They are meeting places with God. The Garden of Eden was on a mountain (Ezekiel 28:13-14). 2 The Tower of Babel was a man-made mountain meant to ascend into the heavens. Abraham offered Isaac to God on Mount Moriah, where the temple would later be built. Israel will return to Sinai in Exodus 19, where God will meet Moses and the people. God humiliated the Baal worshippers during Elijah’s ministry at Mount Carmel, and Elijah then went to Mount Sinai, where God revealed himself to Eljiah (1 Kings 19). Jesus gave his most famous sermon on a mountain. Jesus was transfigured on a mountain. And Jesus ascended into heaven from a mountain.

Mountains, being nearer to heaven, were naturally a place where one would go to approach God. This is the meaning of the so-called “high places” in the Old Testament, where Israelites often went to worship God, though he commanded them only to worship at his designated high place, his temple in Jerusalem. Watch for this theme in the Scriptures—find a mountain, and you will likely find a place where God will meet with man, or man will vainly attempt to meet God.

Verse three says, “And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” We were first introduced to the term “angel of the LORD” in Genesis 16, when Hagar, the servant of Sarai, is fleeing her mistress. The context there is clear that this “angel of the LORD” is God himself.

This passage, too, makes it very clear that this “angel” is “the LORD, Yahweh—we see this in verse 4, 6, 7, 13-16, 18, etc. “Angel” means messenger, and in this case, we should understand that this “angel” is a representation of God. In this case, this messenger took the form of a “flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.”

God often appears in a fire in the Bible. We see this first in Genesis 15, where “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between pieces [of animals Abraham had offered in sacrifice to God.] (Gen. 15:17) Later in Exodus, the LORD will go “before them by day in a pillar of cloud… and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.” (Ex. 13:21) At Sinai, in Exodus 24:17, “the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.” This image of God appearing in fire continues throughout the Old Testament.

God appearing in fire is a way of showing forth the light of God. David writes in Psalm 27:1, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” Light is connected with truth in places like Psalm 43:3, “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me…” Isaiah connects light with the promise of the Messiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” We have seen that light has a big place in the gospel of John. In the first chapter, John writes of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

The fire and the symbolism of light are important here, but the true marvel is that the fire did not consume the bush. It is this that captured Moses’ attention. At first, Moses knew nothing of the fire—only that it was something altogether new to him, that the fire did not consume the bush. The scene is now set: the forsaken savior of Israel, the once prince, now shepherd, is about to hear of the exodus he is about to accomplish in Egypt.

Introduction to Yahweh

Moses will now be introduced to Yahweh. This is the second main section of the chapter. “Yahweh” is the Hebrew word translated into all capitals “LORD” in most English Bibles. We see this name of God used seven times in this chapter. We’ll soon learn more about the significance of this name.

Once Moses turns aside, God speaks. He calls, “Moses, Moses!” Why does God use the burning bush to capture Moses’ attention rather than his voice? There was something particularly significant about the order here. God seems to want Moses to connect his voice to the burning bush. I found Scott Oliphint particularly helpful in considering the burning bush. He writes, “There is something uniquely revelatory about the name of God as presented to Moses in the unburning bush. God not only says who he is; he also shows who he is.” 3 As we consider the details of the burning bush—let’s watch closely at what God says while considering what he does.

The fire is burning, but the bush is not being used as fuel—it continues to exist without being destroyed by the fire dwelling in it. The fire is self-existent, otherworldly. Yet it is there, in “the midst of [the] bush,” which is as earthly as Moses. Later in Exodus, God’s fire will lead the people of Israel without consuming them. God will dwell with his people as he dwelt in the midst of the bush.

Immediately, God cautions Moses not to approach any closer. He says, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” In encountering God, Moses is immediately confronted between the holy and the common. Having revealed himself in the burning bush near Moses, God had turned the common wilderness into “holy ground.” This holy ground could only be trod in bare feet—why? This would surely have been a question Moses would ponder. Later, priests in the Tabernacle will be in bare feet as well. Additionally, the mosaic law would regulate the clean/unclean distinction in relationship to whether the animal had hooves—sandals, so to speak. (Lev. 11:3)

God then identifies himself, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He had made covenant promises He had not forgotten them. In the words of Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

Moses then hid his face from God, “for he was afraid to look at God.” You can hardly blame him. Men have been hiding from God since Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve disobeyed the LORD and ate the forbidden fruit. The sight and sound of God would frighten the strongest and boldest of men—the being that made the ground around him holy, is holy, and apart from the Holy Spirit, we are unholy. Isaiah, when confronted by the LORD said, “Woe is me!” (Isaiah 6:5) and Job said, “I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)

Yet all men everywhere are tempted to treat the holy as common, to blaspheme God. We do this when we misuse the name of God or the name of Jesus Christ, His Son. We do this when we lightly disregard the law of God. We do this when we treat the Lord’s Supper as common fare. We do this when we neglect corporate worship or think of it no differently than going to a friend’s house or the movies. Grace, we must be a reverent people, regard Him as holy, and teach others to do the same.

God is Ready to Save

Now that Moses has met Yahweh, he is about to learn that God is ready to save his people. This is the third and central section of the chapter—God’s covenant faithfulness. God relates to Moses his awareness of his people’s suffering. Verses 7 and 9 parallel each other, expressing solidarity with Israel, with a specific promise of their deliverance in between, in verse 8.

Notice how “I have surely seen the affliction of My people” in verse 7 is repeated in verse 9 as “I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.” “I have heard their cry” in verse 7 is repeated in verse 9 as “the cry of the people of Israel has come to Me.” God is being very clear with Moses. He knows their suffering and oppression, and he will act. When God remembers, He always acts.

In the middle of that expression of sympathy and understanding is the great promise: “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of 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 place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” Notice how this is sandwiched between God’s declaration to Moses of who He is and His name. Central to God’s identity is his faithfulness, his trustworthiness, his covenant-keeping love.

We had heard God’s expression of love for Israel at the end of the previous chapter, but now Moses is hearing it himself, and it is he that God intends to use to accomplish salvation for Israel. God has shown Moses his holiness and transcendence—that is, his distinctness from creation. Now Moses is being shown the steadfast love of the LORD for his covenant people. God has not forgotten them, nor has God forgotten Moses. God has seen and heard their suffering and has “come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.”

Not only does he intend to deliver them, but he has prepared the land to which he will take them. He calls it “a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” It is the same land in which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had all sojourned—a land that each of them had to flee due to famine. The land had not been spoken of this way, as “a land flowing with milk and honey” yet. This is a land that God has prepared for his covenant people. Notice, too, that God lists the names of six nations: “the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” These six nations have been working all these years to prepare the land so that the seventh nation, Israel, would find Sabbath rest upon it. Even this subtle detail points to God’s love for his people.

In verse 10, God gets to the point with Moses. He says, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Remember that Moses already tried to save Israel by killing a man who had been beating a Hebrew slave. But the people rejected him, and he had to flee Egypt. God’s plan is to use Moses to go up the chain of command all the way to Pharaoh! At this point, Moses understandably expresses some doubts about the plan. Moses had to flee Egypt for his life. Now, God wants him to go back? Who of us doesn’t regularly doubt the wisdom of God in one way or another? And are not our doubts magnified when our lives or livelihoods are put at risk?

Moses asks God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11) What do you think of Moses’ question? Is this a proper humility?

Moses considers God’s plan of salvation in human terms—he is focused on his authority and influence. He is an outcast of both Hebrew and Egyptian society. The Israelites rejected him when he sought to save them, and he forever alienated himself from the Egyptians when he killed one. Why would either side listen to him, let alone give him an audience? It is here that we see the main point of this whole chapter. God says, “But I will be with you…” God’s plan of salvation hinges not upon Moses, the Israelites, or the Egyptians—but on God alone. As Paul writes in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” God doesn’t need Moses to accomplish salvation, but God is going to use him as a mediator. Moses is to represent God to both the Israelites and the Egyptians. Moses will be the voice of God—declaring God’s plans and judgments to both Israel and Egypt.

We will consider this office of Mediator later. For now, let’s continue in verse 12. God tells Moses of the sign meant to accompany this pledge of God’s authority. God tells Moses, “When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” God is stating as a fact, not merely as a promise, but as though it has already been accomplished. Both Moses and the people will return to the very place they are currently speaking—and there they will serve God. “Serve” in this verse should be understood as “worship.” The two words are largely synonymous in the Bible.

Moses next wants to know how he will be able to persuade his fellow Israelites that his commissioning is truly derived from the God of their fathers. As one commentator writes, they won’t ask Moses “what God’s name is…because they do not know it…They ask the name because they do know it and will not be constrained to listen to a spokesman from God who cannot establish that their named God has indeed sent him.” 4

God’s name is not the kind of name we’re accustomed to. God’s Name is holy and expressive of His very identity. God tells Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Ex. 3:14) Throughout the Old Testament, this name, in Hebrew, is Yahweh. This is translated in most English translations as the all-capital, “LORD.” What kind of name is “I AM?” What does it mean? Why is this the name God has chosen to share with his covenant people?

Scott Oliphint says it well when he writes that God gave “an analogy in the bush” that helps us understand His name. “First,” he writes, “the fire, which itself represents God… is in and with the bush. It could have easily hovered above the bush or beside it. It could have had no obvious relation to the bush at all. The significance of its presence in the bush is that it is meant to signify Yahweh’s presence with his people. It shows that God is a covenant God—dwelling with His people. Second, the fire in the bush does not derive its burning from the context in which it burns. It is self-generated, contradicting all rules of creation. The bush is on fire, but the fire is not dependent on the bush; it possesses its own energy. There is, it seems, a deliberate miracle given by God to unveil the significance of the divine name, “I AM WHO I AM.” It stresses the absolute independence of God’s being, that he possesses being in and of himself in a manner that is uncaused… It is the ultimate fact about God that makes the human mind stagger and reel because we have no categories to describe or understand this element of the existence of God—that he simply is… Here we have in miniature an extraordinary illustration of that undying biblical principle that God’s ultimate purpose in creation, though remaining all the while God, is to dwell with his people. This is the Emmanuel principle that runs from the garden of Eden to the closing chapters of Revelation.” 5

This is important—let me rephrase and restate it for you. There is meant to be a connection between God revealing himself in the burning bush—which is not burned up, and the divine name “I AM.” God revealed himself to Moses in the form of fire—in a bush that was not consumed by the fire. The fire did not need the bush for fuel; it is untroubled by the fire that appears within it. God does not need anything in creation, he is wholly independent of it. God is independent and self-existent. He is the Creator distinct from His creation but does not remain outside it. God is fully present, engaged, and with His creation. As Douglas Stuart writes, God’s “name should… be understood as referring to Yahweh’s being the creator and sustainer of all that exists and thus the Lord of both creation and history, all that is and all that is happening—a God active and present in historical affairs.” 6

That is the first thing we must understand about the name, but we should also recognize that even though God is distinct, independent, and self-existing from His creation, he can and will dwell with his people. This, in fact, is the main storyline of the Bible—God uniting heaven and earth to dwell with His people.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) The two were separate and distinct realms. On the second day, God separated heaven and earth and “called the expanse heaven.” On the third day, God gathered the waters under the heaven together “and let the dry land appear.” He called this place “Earth.” After he finished creation, he came to Adam and Eve in the garden, a garden sanctuary—the meeting place between God and man. But as we know, Adam fell, was cast out of this garden, and estranged from his Creator.

The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to restore a place where God can meet with man. To this point in the Bible, God has only dealt with a few men—Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Exodus 3, God initiates the reconciliation between God and all men—to fulfill what he promised Abraham. This reconciliation reaches its climax in the incarnation of Jesus—the God-man. Recall the words of Matthew 1:23, “‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us.)” Or remember the prologue to John’s Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14) The Lord’s prayer directs us to pray for this unification of heaven and earth—”Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matt. 6:9-10) The Bible ends with this same theme in Revelation 21—where the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven to earth. And then, “a loud voice from the throne” says, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

God uses this metaphor throughout the rest of Scripture to show how all men everywhere have been enslaved by sin and need redemption from their bondage to sin. In the gospels, we find Jesus preparing a great exodus himself, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

“I AM” is to be the name that Moses tells to “the people of Israel. He is also to remind them that He is “the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” As we saw earlier, central to God’s identity is his faithfulness, his trustworthiness, his covenant-keeping love.

God’s Plan of Salvation

This brings us to the final section of the chapter—God’s plan of salvation for Israel. God has shown Moses who He is, He has said who He is, and He will now tell Moses what he will do. The plan is fairly straightforward. First, Moses is to “gather the elders of Israel” and tell them what God has told Moses. God assured Moses they would listen to him.

Moses and the elders are then to “go to the king of Egypt and tell him, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'” Now, this may surprise all of you who know the rest of the story. Moses is not to ask for full release from slavery but only to travel three days into the wilderness to sacrifice to God. Perhaps we can spend more time on this question later in the book, for Moses will repeat this request to Pharaoh. For now, let’s acknowledge that if Pharaoh will not concede to this more modest request, there is no chance he will be willing to let all of them go forever out of his dominion.

Again, the plan is simple—go with the elders of Israel and ask Pharaoh to let them serve God in the wilderness. In verse 19, there is an important “But.” God knows “that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” God knows this and is ready to use that mighty hand. He declares to Moses, “I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.” God goes on to say that the Israelites will “plunder the Egyptians” when they leave after God gives the people “favor in the sight of the Egyptians.”

This simple plan will be accomplished only by the “mighty hand” of God. God is going to accomplish his redemptive purposes. Moses must only do as he is commanded, and God will do the rest. Israel is to leave Egypt with its riches and enter a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

God has much more to tell Moses; in fact, Moses, too, has a lot more questions for God. But we’ll save that for next time. Let’s wrap up chapter three.


What are we to take away from Moses’s encounter with God at the burning bush? First, God is the all-powerful, all-wise, independent, self-existent God. He doesn’t need anything—especially you or me. But God does use people like you and me to accomplish his purposes. God has been preparing his people for hundreds of years and Moses for eighty years by this point. God is going to use Moses to accomplish the salvation of Israel. Moses is privileged to participate in and witness the events of the exodus. We, too, have the privilege to participate in and witness the events of the greater exodus.

Greater exodus, you may wonder? Yes. Earlier, I hinted that “In the gospels, we find Jesus preparing a great exodus himself.” Let’s take a look at Luke 9:28-36. Turn there with me.

“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his EXODUS, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”

I said earlier that we would discuss the office of “Mediator.” Here, at the Transfiguration, we clearly see Jesus acting as the mediator between God and man. We see Jesus as the meeting place between God and man in his body.

Jesus, like Moses, took some of his flock up a mountain. There is no burning bush here, but something bright captures the attention of the three disciples. The face of Jesus “was altered” and “his clothing became dazzling white.” Two men, Moses and Elijah, appear and begin talking to Jesus about his “exodus”—don’t let the word “departure” mislead you—the word in Greek is “exodus.” They are discussing “the exodus, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Why Moses and Elijah? These are the two men God revealed himself to at Mount Sinai. (Ex. 3, 1 Kings 19) Here, “Peter and John and James” are witnesses to a new revealing—the God-Man, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God’s “Chosen One.” The transfiguration of Jesus serves us today as the self-revelation of the Incarnate God in the flesh of man. Jesus Christ is about to plunder the kingdom of Satan—”proclaiming liberty to the captives” (Luke 4:18), releasing captives from the law “which held us captive” (Rom. 7:6), delivering “all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb 2:15), and setting men free from slavery to sin (Rom. 6:17).

The voice of God declared the authority and identity of Jesus Christ: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And so just as the elders of Israel and the king of Egypt were to listen to the voice of Moses, the three apostles with Jesus on the mountain were to listen to the Son. And so are we. Jesus is the very Son of God, invested with “All authority in heaven and on earth.” (Mat. 28:18) Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6)—that we who had been slaves of sin have been set free in Christ.

Just as the Israelites in Egypt were born into slavery, every child born into the world is born into the slavery of sin. But unlike Hebrew slaves, we do not need to await our redemption—Jesus has already accomplished it at the cross. Remember, all of you who have already been set free were bought with a price. (1 Cor. 6:20, 7:23) Those of you still enslaved to sin, plead with God for salvation. Do not harden your heart as Pharaoh, but submit. Listen to God’s Chosen One!

I said earlier that the main point of this whole chapter is that God’s plan of salvation hinges not upon Moses, the Israelites, or the Egyptians—but God alone. This holds true for the salvation that Jesus Christ has accomplished for us upon the cross. We contribute nothing to our salvation—it is entirely a work of Jesus alone. Some of you may be wondering then, if God doesn’t need Moses, why does he involve him? What can Moses do that God cannot? What does it matter what we do or don’t do if God is so powerful? The answer is actually at the beginning of the Bible.

From the beginning, God intended that men should be the creatures exercising God’s will and purposes in His creation. God charged men to “have dominion” (Gen. 1:28) over all that He had created and told us specifically to “work it and keep it.” (Gen 2:15). This is what it means to bear His image on the earth. By doing God’s works on the earth, we proclaim to all of creation that we are His creatures and accomplishing His will.

God does intervene on our behalf because we are fallen, and our ability to fulfill the dominion mandate was hampered because of the fall and God’s curse upon the earth. In Exodus 3, God intervened to prepare a Savior, a mediator who would accomplish His salvation. God promised Moses, “I will be with you.” (Ex. 3:12) God equipped Moses for the task which he was given. Yes, it would be hard. We will see that in subsequent chapters. But what greater cause could Moses give his life to but the God-appointed salvation of His people?

It mattered what Moses would do, and it matters what we do. Yes, God can accomplish His purposes apart from us. But He has, from the beginning, used men to exercise His dominion. Adam and Eve fell, but God promised he would give them a savior that would be born a man. God used Noah to save a remnant of men and all animals during the global flood. God had promised to bless “all the families of the earth” through Abraham. (Gen 12:3) Moses was the next man that God would use as His means of redemption.

God has equipped all believers with His Holy Spirit so that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. God has entrusted this world to us and given us His Spirit to fulfill both the dominion mandate—being fruitful and multiplying upon the earth—and the Great Commission—making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all Christ commanded. These two tasks are intertwined.

Moses was commanded to save Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, bring them into covenant with God, and bring them to the promised land. We are commanded to do likewise. We have been commanded to make disciples of all nations—plundering the kingdom of darkness, liberating those enslaved to sin, bringing them into covenant with God, and delivering them into a heavenly and eternal kingdom. All have a role to fill in this mission. But on Mother’s Day, I want to give some specific application and encouragement to you.

Mothers, you are life-givers—filling the world with people who are loved and have been discipled in the faith. All women can do this—and what greater calling could there be?

Mothers, God has uniquely equipped you for this task: to birth, nurse, nurture, and care for children. These are hard tasks. You mothers know better than I the physical, mental, and emotional demands that children place upon you from conception and every day after. But it is worth it all, is it not? In John 16:21, Jesus says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” Being a mother is an awe-inspiring vocation. Embrace the role gladly and submit to God in it.

Do as Paul writes in Titus 2: love your husbands and children, be self-controlled and pure, prioritize the work of your home, be kind, and submit to your husbands—that the Word of God may not be reviled. You will find God’s blessing in obeying Him. There is a spiritual mothering that all women may offer, even after your children have grown up and left your home, or even if you’ve never had children of your own. As Jesus says in Matthew 12:48-49, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” So gladly pursue God’s call upon your life to fill the world with people who know and obey the LORD—start with your children and extend outward from there.

Fathers, support your wives in their mothering. Give them what they need to mother well. Honor your wife in front of your children. Do not argue with her in front of them. Require your children to respect and obey their mother. Ensure your wives have the money necessary to clothe and feed your family. Honor your wife in the ways that God has uniquely equipped her to be a life-giver. Men, you too are called to fill the world with disciples of Jesus. Teach and model obedience, starting with your family and extend outward to your workplace and your community. If you aren’t reading the Bible with your family—start today.

Children, honor and obey your mother. Along with your father, she is your God-appointed authority. She has love and wisdom to offer you. Gratefully accept both. You need her love, wisdom, and experience. Tell her you love her. And you grown-up children, honor her still. Ensure she has no unmet needs. Help her in her weakness. Encourage her in faith. As Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:4, “show godliness to [your] own household and make…some return to [your] parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” Children, you too, can help fill the world with disciples of Jesus. Start by obeying your Mom and Dad. Love your siblings, your neighbors, and classmates. Pursue obedience and holiness. Read and study your Bible.

As I said at the beginning, “At the heart of this chapter is God’s self-revelation by sight and sound as the Savior of Israel.” God prepared Moses to act as His mediator as a shadow of what He would do through the greater Mediator, Jesus Christ. While Christ rules on his heavenly throne, Christians fulfill the role of mediator to the world.

As we learned in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is one of the main ways we witness to unbelievers—the unique, Spirit-filled love one Christian has for another. So may our love be genuine (Rom 12:9), and may we always trust in God’s redemptive plan and participate with joy in fulfilling his kingdom work, knowing that He is at work in and through us by the power of His Holy Spirit. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

1. Douglas K. Stuart The New American Commentary: Exodus, B&H Publish Group, 2006, p. 108

2. James B. Jordan Through New Eyes, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc. Brentwood, Tennessee, p. 155

3. K. Scott Oliphint God With Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, Crossway 2014

4. C.R. Seitz as quoted in T. Desmond Alexander Exodus: Apollos Old Testament Commentary InterVarsity Press Downers Grove, Illinois p. 88

5. K. Scott Oliphint God With Us, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois (Kindle edition)

6. Douglas K. Stuart The New American Commentary: Exodus, B&H Publish Group, 2006, p. 121