As we move together through the Book of Exodus, I want to make sure that all of you know my approaches and understandings. Yes--I have been blessed to study the Old Testament for almost 55 years on a scholarly level. BUT, I want you to know that I do not know the whole message of the Bible, all tied up in a nice box with a ribbon on top. I have MUCH to learn from YOU. Yes--I have read lots of scholars for many years in several languages--but, believe me, I have hundreds of years to go. So, PLEASE help me.
A long established approach or method of the Pentateuch, including the Book of Exodus, is Literary Historical Criticism, or Source Criticism. Scholars committed to this view insist on dividing the Pentateuch, including the Book of Exodus, into earlier sources--most scholars identify this as J, E, D, and P. Others add H, L, N, and others. I think I have a pretty good understanding of this approach, and I highly honor and respect those who hold this approach. In my opinion, there is definitely an important place for pursuing this kind of scholarly work, and I applaud and encourage those who spend their lives to do this. I myself spent several years in doing this sort of thing, and intend to do so on a scholarly level.
At the same time, there is a strong growing scholarly approach which affirms that one needs to examine the biblical texts as it stands in its present final form. In these blogs, this is my approach right now, BECAUSE it seems only logical that the biblical speakers and writers presented the books of the Bible as they stand now, freely admitting that they used earlier sources as they made these compositions.
I hope this little explanation will help the reader. Now to continue our story--And REMEMBER, I am striving to be your "friendly reporter and story teller" of the biblical text, not attempting to create a new story. Of course, I may miss the biblical teaching. If so, let me know].
Exodus 3:1-4:17 is one of the best known passages in the Book of Exodus, and perhaps in the entire Old Testament. This is the story of God's appearance to Moses at the burning bush. Many important ideas occur in this text. In an attempt to follow this account, I will break this down into several points.
Note: At the very beginning, the event of the burning bush is when Moses was on "Horeb, the mountain of God" (Exodus 3:1). Horeb is another name for Sinai. It is significant that several important events involving Moses took place on a "mountain" (see Exodus 19:1-9; 24:15-18; 32; Numbers 20:22-29; Deuteronomy 34:1-8--but there are other texts as well). While people today often think positively of "mountaintop experiences" in life, most of Moses' experiences are very negative. Like all of us, Moses was a very human being. He OFTEN thought and said and did the wrong thing. It would be a mistake to "idolize" Moses--or, for that matter, any other human being.
A good example of Moses' weakness and failure clearly describes in the story of God appearing to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-4:17. For beginners, very briefly, God commanded Moses to return from Midian [where Moses has been living for 40 years--read Exodus 2:11-25] to Egypt to guide his fellow-believers, the Israelites, out of bondage. Throughout, consistently, Moses repeatedly tries to persuade God it is not best that Moses go to Egypt and guide the Israelite out of bondage. Here are Moses' FIVE ARGUMENTS:
1. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" 3:11. Moses argues that he is not qualified to do this--he is not "up to" this charge.
2. If I come to the Israelites in Egypt, and they ask me, "What is the name of the God of your ancestors?", what shall I say to them? 3:13. Moses assumes the Israelites themselves will not believe that God has spoken to Moses.
3. If I [Moses] come to the Israelites, the Israelites will not believe me or say the Lord appeared to me--4:1. Moses assumes the Israelites must either believe or not believe Moses' words--and they certainly will not believe Moses' words.
4. I am not eloquent--I am not a good speaker--I could never persuade the Israelites to follow you, O Lord--4:10. In the first 40 years of his life, Moses grew up in the royal house of Pharaoh--Exodus 2:10-15. But the Bible says virtually nothing about Moses' education. It is a good guess that Moses had the best available Egyptian education of his day. But Moses claims he "failed" in "communication" or "speech." So, he certainly could not motivate and direct the Israelites.
5. "O Lord, send someone else"--4:13. Moses ran out of arguments. So he said baldly and very frankly: Lord--I DO NOT WANT TO DO what you commanded me. If you want to get this done, send someone else--NOT ME.
I am sure I would have done worse than Moses. Most of us would have done worse than Moses. BUT--Moses sinned on THE MOUNTAIN--Mount Horeb, Mount Sinai. By his words and his actions, Moses DOUBTED God's power and ability; Moses was UNSUBMISSIVE to God's command; Moses was DISOBEDIENT to God. I know--we all do the same. And we wish we were so weak. BUT do not "idolize" Moses. God carried out his purposes and his accomplishes--NOT THROUGH Moses, BUT IN SPITE OF Moses. That is the way God has to work most of the time.
There is another PERSON on that MOUNTAIN whom we should idolize and revere and serve. Soon, we will return to this same passage [Exodus 3:1-4:17] to see what this event may teach us about God--and ourselves.