This Sunday in the church year, we are back to a certain number of Sundays after Pentecost. If you have forgotten, we are currently at twenty-two. But on this Sunday, there is certainly a memorable Old Testament text. God comes to Moses in the burning bush [Exodus 3:1-15].
Before we look at that text, it is also important to look at the context. The last three verses (23-25) of chapter two are a significant summary of a lot that has happened, although they are not so well known:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew (The Lutheran Study Bible, ESV, Concordia Publishing House, 2009, page 99).
Knowing the context is usually very helpful. The reason God comes to Moses is significant. God is on a special rescue mission. This mission begins on a mountain, and then it moves to a tabernacle, and then it moves to the temple, and then it moves on to Jesus. And then Jesus moves to his special ‘mountain’ to finish that mission.
The ESV translation actually follows the Hebrew quite well. You might notice the emphasis on the noun ‘God’. And there are a couple of important verbs which God does.
One of those verbs is ‘to remember’. Do you remember that this verb is extremely important in Genesis? It is part of the sentence which turns entire structures around. In the account of the Flood, there are lots of bad things happening. And then, at Genesis 8:1, the text says, ‘And God remembered Noah….’ And then good things start to happen. This happens again at 19:29 and 30:22. By the use of the word ‘remember’, God reminds his people that no one can stand in his presence because of sin; they all need help. And when God helps, that is a significant thing.
Another important verb is ‘to know’. Adam ‘knew’ his wife (Genesis 4:1), and they had a child. That was a very good thing. There was a king in Egypt who ‘knew not Joseph’ (Exodus 1:8). And that was a very bad thing. Knowing something is usually very important. And the Exodus text says that God knew….
God knew what? God knows everything! But you probably already knew that. The text is there to say that he is going to do something about it. Just as the word ‘remember’ points to an action, so, also, to ‘know’ points to an action as well. Little actions mean a lot when you are talking about the living God.
The action of the text for this Sunday ultimately focuses on God. Here are a couple verses from the text: And the angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses] in the flame of the fire… (ESV; v. 2). When the LORD saw that [Moses] turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush… (ESV; v. 4).
Whether God or an angel does something, it still is a significant event. An angel is a messenger. And whether God does something himself or he sends a messenger, that action is very important. And this close connection between what God does and what an angel does occurs elsewhere.
In Genesis 22, when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, Isaac, the text says, ‘…the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy and do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me (ESV; v. 11-12).’ Then the text says that the angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time. This time he says the following: ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you … and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice (ESV; v.15-18).’
In Genesis 24, the servant of Abraham was looking for a wife for Isaac, and Abraham says to him, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, “To your offspring I will give this land,” he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there (ESV; v. 7).’ Later, when the wife is found, the text says that the servant bowed his head and worshiped the LORD [this is the first time these two verbs appear together], and then he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen (ESV; v. 27).’
Is there a confusion between what an angel does and what the Lord does? Not if the LORD is a loving Lord who is willing to get involved when it comes to saving his people.