Moses had discovered in his early adult life that he was not cut out to be the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. The story of his realization and departure from Egypt comes before this passage.
“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1)
But neither was he, it was about to become clear, cut out for being a simple shepherd or herder.
“There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”(Verses 2 – 3)
Ponder with me, beloved reader, the fact that God knew Moses well enough to know he would not be afraid and run off but would be curious and investigate. Moses may not have known himself well, or known his own strengths and abilities well, but the Lord God did.
“When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Verses 4 – 5)
Remember that while Moses grew to manhood in the palace of the Pharaoh, his early years were spent in his home with his Jewish parents and siblings. There he must have absorbed the stories of the Lord God who had been the God of his forebearers many years ago.
“He said further, “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.” (Verse 6)
I will address a little further on my thoughts on this identification of the Lord God.
“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. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.” (Verses 7 – 9)
I am sure there were years and years in Egypt when the descendants of Joseph were remembered by the Pharaoh and treated well. Their wants and needs taken care of because of the service that Joseph had rendered to the Egyptians. But that time had passed a long while ago.
It is interesting to consider that the Israelites/Hebrews did not cry out to the Lord God in the good years and in the plenty, to keep them and bless them. But when times were tough and oppression was all around them and consumed them, then they cried out to God. It is a pattern that the astute reader will see again and again.
“So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Verses 10 – 13)
The years in Egypt had been long, and the gods of the Pharaohs were more familiar and had names and attributes that defined them. Worship of them was set and prescribed. Idols and images of the Egyptian gods were numerous, I am sure. The God from history was now an unknown.
“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.” (Verses 14 – 15)
It is clear to me beloved reader, having checked it several different ways, that the Great “I AM” identified the God-self as the God of the three early establishers of God’s called people. Not the God of Joseph. Not that Joseph was slighted, but Joseph was put into service for Pharaoh. Joseph had an important role to play but not as the gather and the one established God’s people. And not, interestingly, the God of Israel but the God of Jacob. Joseph and his brothers became the tribes that made up God’s people. But the men who God called were included into the name of the Lord God.
It is interesting too, that the God of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob is one aspect of the Divine. Nomenclature is “the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other disciplines”, and that is what is going on here. Under the broader term of the “Divine” is the Jewish/Christian God. That does not mean the Divine and the God of Abraham/ Isaac/ Jacob are different and distinct from one another. It simply clarifies how one’s perspective on the Divine shapes the name that one gives to the Divine. This is an issue I have long felt needs to be addressed.
What do you call the Divine, beloved reader? It is good to know who is calling you – calling you to act in the world and to journey a certain path. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob simply followed the Divine who became intimately known to them. Joseph trusted the Lord God taught to him by his father Jacob/Israel. Now, Moses is the conduit for that God to reform God’s called and chosen people. But as we read before, it is a hard task to call and form a people. Let us continue to read about their journey, how it impacts our life journey, and how we might be called also. Selah!