John T. Willis

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Could Not Live Without Friends

I love my wife, my parents, my children, my grandchildren--my whole family.

But also, I could not live without friends. Some family members are not dependable. Some family members decide to "go south." But there are some friends who are always there, in good times and bad, through thick and thin.

Approximately a year ago, I had open heart surgery followed by an unexpected stroke. My wife was always there with me unfailingly. But also, some of my friends stood beside me every step of the way. We had already been through several tough times and situations, so we all pulled together in this situation. I could not live without friends.

Four special thoughts about friends stand out in my mind.

1. 2 Chronicles 20:7 and James 2:23 describe Abraham as a "friend of God." Often, we think of God as being so transcendent and so distant from and above us that he cannot be or would not be his "friend." The Bible teaches that God desires to be our "friend."

2. Jesus teaches his disciples in John 15:15: "I do not call you servant any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you FRIENDS, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father." How many Christians are willing to entering into a relationship of friendship with God and Jesus?

3. Several lines in the book of Proverbs capture the beauty of friendship.
Proverbs 18:24: "Some friends play at friendship,
but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin."
Proverbs 27:10: "Do not forsake your friend or the friend of your parent;
do not go to the house of your kindred in the day of calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby
than kindred who are far away."

4. I cannot be an elder or a shepherd in my church or a teacher in my university classes unless these wonderful individuals are my friends. ONLY when we can establish a TRUE friendship between one another that good things happen. Our world teaches us that "professors" MUST be aloof--PROFESSIONAL. So, many refuse to be with their students. I disagree. Of course, one can "cross a line" that is unhealthy. BUT, I want my students and my fellow-Christians that our relationship is a STRONG, TRUE, GENUINE FRIENDSHIP.

Do you have a true friend? What can you share with all of us about the power of friendship? God has "wired" us to be friends. Praise God for such relationships.

John Willis

God the Father and Israel His Son

As we continue our story through Exodus 4:18-7:7, while Moses is about to leave Midian toward Egypt, God says to Moses:

"'When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord: ISRAEL IS MY FIRSTBORN SON. I said to you, 'Let MY SON go that he may worship me.' But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.'" (Exodus 4:21-23).

This little paragraph communicates a VERY IMPORTANT truth about God and Israel using the form of a METAPHOR. Yahweh declares: Israel is my SON; and thus, naturally, Yahweh is Israel's FATHER.

The Bible repeatedly and consistently portrays Yahweh [God] as FATHER and his people Israel as God's SON. Sometimes, this is "collective"--"son" singular for the whole people [as in Deuteronomy 1:31; 32:6; Hosea 11:1; etc.]; sometimes, this is "distributive"--"sons" and "daughters" for individual Israelites [as in Isaiah 1:2-4; Jeremiah 3:14, 22; etc.].

We will return to this theme, because it keeps coming up throughout the Bible. Here, I think of a few important observations.

1. Jesus capitalized and focused on the metaphor of God as Father, but Jesus did not originate this idea. Jesus promotes and enhances this idea. The "Model Prayer" is one good example of this--Matthew 6:9-13.

2. "Father" is a METAPHOR. It is a major mistake to think of God as a sexual being--God is not sexual. God is NOT MALE. The Bible also presents God using the METAPHOR of MOTHER--see Exodus 19:4 [a mother eagle]; Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 49:14-15; 66:13; Luke 13:34 [God through Jesus is LIKE a "hen," NOT a "rooster"]; etc. But God is NOT FEMALE. These are METAPHORS!!!

3. Like Israel [the Israelites], the New Testament church [Christians] is like God's "son" or [plural] God's "sons and daughters"--see Romans 8:15-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; 1 John 5:1-2; and often.

4. The Bible also uses this same METAPHOR to communicate other ideas. For example, in 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Psalms 2:6-9; 89:25-27, God is like a FATHER and the earthly king [David, Solomon, or some other king of Israel] is God's SON.

In teaching in my classes, I enjoy emphasizing the figure of God as FATHER. But I have learned that this metaphor offends some students--because some human fathers are abusive, corrupt, domineering, rude, and overbearing. BUT the Bible does not describe God as abusive. Rather, our God is gentle, caring, patient, loving, and faithful.

How does this metaphor strike you? Give me some thoughts.

John Willis

Friday, June 26, 2009

Death Is No Respecter of Persons

Yesterday [25 June 2009], TV and Radio reporters began announcing that Farrah Fawcett [age 62] and Michael Jackson [age 50] both died. Today, stories and comments and reports of all kinds fill the newspapers, the morning and noon TV news programs about these two deaths. Fawcett is a famous movie star and Jackson is a famous performer. Both are very wealthy. Both are now dead.

Death comes suddenly, unexpectedly, at any age, with finality. You and I will die also--today or tomorrow or next month or next year or much sooner than we wish or expect.

In the past few years, I have been involved in the deaths of friends and relatives, some who were fellow-students in high school and college and PhD degrees, some my former students [that is very hard for me to believe or accept]. I think of Bob Vance, Dan Boyd, Prentice Meador, Jim Mankin, Charles Trevathan, and the list goes on and on.

Every now and then, we need to consider some important lessons we might learn from the fact that we are going to die. Here are some thoughts that come to my mind.

1. Every day is very important to me. God gives me time--one day. God gives me energy--to use today. I want to use this as wisely as I can. I want to use my time with God, then my family, then my students and friends, and maybe some time to study and grow and share with others.

2. The choices I make each day after very important to me. I can make bad choices that will harm me and others, or I can make good choices that will improve my heart and life and help others.

3. God did very well thousands of years before I was ever born, and I imagine God will get along very well long after I die. So I am very happy to trust in God and fully believe he will carry out his purposes whether I do everything right or not, or whether I think my way is the right way or the only way.

4. The Bible assures us that death is not the end of human life. By God's power, God will raise us up from the dead. I believe God will do that. I cannot do this or make it happen, but God does many wonderful things all around me that I do not understand, so I'll bet you he can do this also.

5. Oh--by the way--I am not the judge. God will judge Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. That is God's job. I am concerned about whether I am living for God. What about you?

What are your thoughts about death--my death--your death?

John Willis

Stubborn Moses

The next logical section of the Book of Exodus is 4:18-7:7. This block of material contains six scenes:
1. Moses and his family leave Midian on the way toward Egypt, and the Lord seeks to kill Moses at a lodging place on the journey. 4:18-26.
2. Moses and Aaron arrive in Egypt, tell the Israelites God's words and signs Moses had revealed to God in Midian, and the Israelites believe God. 4:27-31.
3. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and ask Pharaoh allow the Israelites to sacrifice to Yahweh in the wilderness for three day; Pharaoh denies this reject and increases the laborious work of the Israelites; Moses complains to God that this is happening. 5:1-23.
4. God assures Moses that God will deliver the Israelites from Egypt, but Moses excuses himself from accepting God's responsibility because Moses is not a good speaker. 6:1-13.
5. The biblical narrator gives the genealogy from the sons of Jacob to the grandson of Aaron. 6:14-25.
6. Yahweh commands Moses to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the wilderness for three days, but Moses excuses himself from accepting Yahweh's responsibility because Moses is not a good speaker. 6:26-7:7.

Several important ideas appear in this portion of the Book of Exodus. One recurring theme here is that Moses continues to be stubborn. His stubbornness appears three times in this account.

1. After Yahweh finally "forces" Moses to leave Midian toward Egypt at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-4:17), when Moses and his family are traveling and stop at a lodging place for the night, Yahweh seeks to kill Moses, and Zipporah quickly circumcises their son and delivers Moses. Exodus 4:24-26. Obviously, Moses should have circumcised his son, but did not do so. The ongoing flow of the narrative indicates that Moses' REAL problem is that he still did not want to go back to Egypt and guide the Israelites out of bondage. He still held on to the same thinking he repeatedly declared at the burning bush. Moses was ENDURING his journey which Yahweh was forcing him to do, but he did not REALLY want to do what Yahweh commanded him.

2. When Pharaoh rejected Moses' and Aaron's request that the Israelites spend three days in the wilderness, Moses complained to Yahweh: "O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people." (Exodus
5:22-23). Moses still does not believe Yahweh is actually going to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses complains that Yahweh is not doing what Yahweh promised--and Moses thought in advance that Yahweh would behave in just this way.

3. Yahweh tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell Pharaoh that Yahweh instructs Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the wilderness for three days, but Moses replies: "Since I am a poor speaker, why would Pharaoh listen to me?" (Exodus 6:30).

Like all of us human beings, for a long time Moses did not believe that Yahweh would deliver the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses was very stubborn. He was far from being convinced that Yahweh would do what Yahweh promised. We are so slow to change and do what God commands and influences us to do. We should be exceedingly thankful that our God is VERY PATIENT and FORGIVING. Otherwise, we would never carry out his purposes. Praise God for his marvelous grace.

John Willis

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Human Reciprocal Mission

According to the Bible, God the Father sent his Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to save lost humankind. God the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the one and only dependable "missionary" on the earth.

Indeed, God the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit charged those who sought to follow God to go into all the world and attempt to bring the lost to God. This idea is clear from Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3; 22:15-18 throughout the Bible.

Naturally, those who assume they are "the chosen people of God" assume they have a "mission" to convert the world to God. This is certainly pointed in the right direction and often works in that way. But "the self-designated people of God" often become self-centered, arrogant, and wrong-headed.

Ironically, often God uses "foreigners" or "non-Christians" as God's "mission" to convert and save "the people of God." READ THE STORIES IN THE BIBLE!!! For starters, here are three examples.

1. God promised Abraham "in you ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED." Genesis 12:3. BUT, when Abraham went to Egypt to survive because of a famine in the land of Canaan, Abraham lied that Sarah was his wife and claimed Sarah was his sister, BECAUSE Abraham was afraid that Pharaoh might kill him. When Pharaoh learned Abraham's lie, Pharaoh proved himself to be a righteous person and rebuked Abraham for his sin. Genesis 12:10-20, especially verses 18-20. NOW, who was the "missionary" in this story: Abraham the Christian or Pharaoh the non-Christian? Biblically, the answer is obvious. Sometimes, "the people of God" do the wrong thing and need to have others to convert them!!! All HUMAN beings are flawed. Maybe we need to rethink our view of "mission." God the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the only dependable "missionary."

2. In the well-known story of Jonah, God gave Jonah a "mission" to go to Nineveh and convert the pagan Ninevites. BUT Jonah went the opposite direction toward Tarshish. A great storm threatened the whole ship, including Jonah. Immediately, naturally, the pagan sailors exerted every possible means to save all the people on this ship, including Jonah. Jonah 1:4-16. NOW, who was the "missionary" in this story: Jonah the Christian or the pagan sailors on the ship? Biblically, the answer is obvious. Sometimes, "the people of God" do the wrong thing and need others to rescue them from sin and destruction. All HUMAN beings are flawed. Maybe we need to rethink our view of "mission." God the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spriti is the only dependable "missionary."

3. Jesus tells the story about a Jew whom a band of robbers attacked him and hurt him severely. Jews passed by the way and ignored their suffering comrade in need. A Samaritan passed by the way and was moved with compassion and rescued this Jew. Luke 10:25-37. NOW, who was the "missionary" in this story: the Jewish priest and the Jewish Levite who ignored the suffering man or the pagan Samaritan? Biblically, the answer is obvious. Sometimes, "the people of God" do the wrong thing and need others to open their eyes and do the right thing and save people in pain and need. All HUMAN beings are flawed. Maybe we need to rethink our view of "mission." God the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the only dependable "missionary."

Now, PLEASE do not misunderstand me. I am FOR Christians doing "mission." I firmly believe God has sent his people into the world to do God's "mission." BUT, God is wiser and more understandable and more compassionate than all of us. From a human point of view, "mission" is a two-way street--a reciprocal situation. While WE may have a "mission" to others, it may also be just as true that God is using OTHERS on HIS "mission" to reach out to US and rescue and save US from our sin and death and corruption. Let us learn to appreciate OTHERS, even the OTHERS that we are trying to reach them in God's "mission." Often, they bless us as much as we might bless them.

What do you think? Let me know.

John Willis

Aaron, Moses' Prophet

When Moses offered his fifth and final excuse to God to try to avoid having to return from Midian to Egypt and guide the Israelites out of bondage, "O my Lord, please send someone else" (Exodus 4:13), the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and the Lord retorted: "What of your brother Aaron, the Levite? I know that he can SPEAK FLUENTLY; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. You shall SPEAK to him and put the words in his mouth; and I [Yahweh] will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do." (Exodus 4:14-15).

At this point, God says something very significant in Exodus 4:16: "He [Aaron] indeed shall SPEAK FOR YOU [Moses] TO THE PEOPLE; he shall serve as MOUTH FOR YOU; and you shall serve as GOD FOR HIM."

Later, after Moses and Aaron arrive in Egypt and begin speaking with Pharaoh, a similar incident occurs in Exodus 6:28-7:1: "On the day when the Lord spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, he said to him, 'I am the Lord; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I am speaking to you.' But Moses said in the Lord's presence, 'Since I am a poor speaker, why would Pharaoh listen to me?' [Note--the same argument Moses made to God at the burning bush on Mount Horeb=Sinai in Exodus 4:10]. The Lord said to Moses, 'See, I have made you like GOD to Pharaoh, and YOUR BROTHER AARON SHALL BE YOUR PROPHET.'"

Aaron plays a significant role in the story of the exodus from Egypt and the wilderness wanderings. Exodus 6:20 states that Aaron was Moses' brother. Later, we will learn that Miriam was 13 years old when Moses was born, and Aaron was 3 years old when Moses was born.

In Exodus 4:16 and 7:1, Yahweh compares Moses with God, and compares Aaron with Moses' prophet. A close reading of these two texts shows that according to the Bible, a prophet is a "speaker" or "spokesman" or "mouth" or "mouthpiece" for God.

Many people believe and teach that a "prophet" is a person who "predicts" the future. In essence, this is not true. Prophets in the Bible spoke of the past, the present, and the future, depending on the context. But the fundamental idea of a "prophet" is a "spokesman" or "mouthpiece" of God. A careful reading of Jeremiah 1:4-9; 15:18-19; 1 Corinthians 14:2-3 bear out this understanding.

What do you think? Why? I need help.

John Willis

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We Are Takers

One of Walter Brueggemann's prayers challenges our hearts in his prayer entitled: "We Are Takers."

You are the giver of all good thing.
All good things are sent from heaven above,
rain and sun,
day and night,
justice and righteousness,
bread to the eater and
seed to the sower,
peace to the old,
energy to the young,
joy to the babes.
We are takers, who take from you,
day by day, daily bread,
taking all we need as you supply,
taking in gratitude and wonder and joy.
And then taking more,
taking more than we need,
taking more than you give us,
taking from our sisters and brothers,
taking from the poor and the weak,
taking because we are frightened, and so greedy,
taking because we are anxious, and so fearful,
taking because we are driven, and so uncaring.
Give us peace beyond our fear, and so end our greed.
Give us well-being beyond our anxiety, and so end our fear.
Give us abundance beyond our drivenness, and so ending our uncaring.
Turn our taking into giving . . . since we are in your giving image:
Make us giving like you,
giving gladly and not taking,
giving in abundance, not taking,
giving in joy, not taking,
giving as he gave himself up for us all,
giving, never taking. Amen.

John Willis


"Signs" play a major role in Old and New Testament accounts. The Hebrew word for "sign" is 'ot [pronounced "oath"] and the Greek word for "sign" is semeia [pronounced "suhmayyah"]. The word "sign" occurs 79 times in the Old Testament. This word has different nuances in different contexts, so it is very important to pay careful attention to the meaning of this term in each text. Broadly speaking, a "sign" is some kind of "indicator" or "pointer" beyond itself to something more important or greater. Occasionally, a "sign" is a "superhuman" or "miraculous" act of God, but often it is a statement or a promise or a symbolic name or a gesture which one encounters normally in daily life.

As we continue our journey through the Book of Exodus, in the story of the encounter between God and Moses at the burning bush on Mount Horeb [=Sinai],Exodus 3:1-4:17, God gives Moses and the Israelites FOUR "signs." Let us examine each of these signs.

1. When Moses offered his first excuse: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?", God replied: "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." (Exodus 3:11-12).
This "sign" is not a miraculous act of God, but a simple, straightforward assurance or promise to Moses that when Yahweh through Moses has brought the people of Israel, Moses and the Israelites shall worship [note that the word "YOU shall worship" is PLURAL in the Hebrew text here] God on this mountain [Mount Horeb=Sinai]. God expects Moses to believe and accept God's assurance. This "sign" will not occur until the Israelites return from Egypt to Mount Sinai. But God charges Moses to BELIEVE God will bring this to reality.
This is the same kind of "sign" which Yahweh gave Eli to instruct Eli that Eli's priesthood would come to an end and be replaced by Zadok. Yahweh said to Eli in 1 Samuel 2:34: "The fate of your [Eli's] two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be THE SIGN to you--both of them shall die on the same day." This "sign" is not a miraculous act of God, but a simple, straightforward statement that Hophni and Phinehas [Eli's sons] will die ON THE SAME DAY. 1 Samuel 4:10-11 relates that Hophni and Phinehas died on the same day when the Philistines routed the Israelites.
This is also the same kind of "sign" which Yahweh gave King Ahaz when Ahaz was faced with making a decision about whether he would trust in Yahweh or send to Tiglath-pileser III, the king of Assyria, to protect Ahaz and Judah against the forces of Rezin of Syria and Pekah of North Israel during the Syro-Ephraimite War in 734-732 B. C. (Isaiah 7:1-2). Isaiah 7:14 says: "Therefore the Lord will give YOU [plural--the Judeans with and under Ahaz] a SIGN. Look the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanu-el." This "sign" is not a miraculous act of God, but a simple, straightforward promise that within the next twelve months [733-732 B. C.], an anonymous young pregnant woman to whom the prophet Isaiah points will have a SON [not a daughter, not twins or triplets], and this anonymous woman will call this newborn son "Immanu-el," "with us [the Judeans in the days of Ahaz] is God." So, this "son" is a "sign" to Ahaz and the Judeans that God is with the Judeans and therefore must trust in him and not in Tiglath-pileser III.

2. When Moses offered his third excuse, "But suppose they [the Israelites] do not believe me or listen to me, but say, 'The Lord did not appear to you,'" Yahweh gave Moses three signs to prove or demonstrate the Israelites that the Lord did indeed appear to Moses at the burning bush: (a) God changed Moses' staff into a snake, and when Moses picked up the tail of the snake God changed it into Moses' staff; (2) God told Moses to put his hand into his cloak and it became leprous, then when Moses put it into his cloak again it was restored; (c) God told Moses to take some water from the Nile and pour in on the dry ground, and when Moses did this it became blood. (Exodus 4:1-9). Exodus 4:8-9 specifically designate each of these divine acts "signs." In this case, God's "signs" to Moses for the Israelites are miraculous deeds. And yet, the "signs" themselves are not important. Rather, these "signs" are designed to convince the Israelites to "believe" that Yahweh was with Moses and that Yahweh will be with the Israelites and bring them out of Egyptian bondage. Note that the word "believe" repeatedly appears in Exodus 4:1, 5, 8, 9.

There is a striking parallel to this understanding of "signs" in the account of Jesus' feeding the 5000 in John 6. The day after Jesus fed the multitudes with five barley loaves and two fish, the crowd found Jesus and asked him: "Rabbi, when did you come here?" "Jesus answered them, 'Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, NOT BECAUSE YOU SAW SIGNS, but because you ate your fill of loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." (John 6:25-27).

"Signs" are NOT goals for which God's people should seek or achieve, BUT RATHER "indicators" or "pointers" to God's greater truths and goals in life.

What are some of God's "signs" which he offers you for your life? Share this with others.

John Willis

Monday, June 22, 2009


Rain is a very mysterious, complete, marvelous, inescapable experience of human life. We human beings "receive" rain. We cannot "produce" rain. We can describe rain, and analyze rain, and predict rain, and enjoy rain, but we cannot "make" rain happen.

As a result of the Enlightenment beginning in the sixteenth century, many scientists and many modern thinkers assume that if there was a God who created the universe, God put certain "natural laws" on the planet earth, and rain happens according to the "laws" built into the warp and woof of life on earth. This is a "Deistic" view of creation and nature. This view is "logical" and "rational," BUT it is NOT Biblical, and it is NOT the only "logical" and "rational" explanation for "rain" and other phenomena on planet earth.

Briefly, here are a few "biblical affirmations" about rain. PLEASE consider, pray about, and ponder about these affirmations.

1. The Bible claims that "God SENDS rain." Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Your Father in heaven . . . SENDS rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45). Elihu declares:
"Surely GOD is great, and we do not know him;
the number of his years is unsearchable.
which the skies pour down
and drop on mortals abundantly." (Job 36:26-28).
According to the Bible, God "causes rain" to come on the land on earth. No one can PROVE this is true. No one can DISPROVE this is true. What do YOU think?

2. The Bible claims that sometimes "God SENDS rain" to punish wicked people by means of storms and floods. A classic example is the flood in the story of Noah. According to Genesis 6:17, God says: "For my part, I AM GOING TO BRING A FLOOD OF WATERS on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life." It would be a mistake to conclude that every storm or flood is the active work of God to punish wicked people. There are other biblical explanations of storms and floods. But "sometimes," God uses floods and storms to punish the wicked.

3. The Bible claims that sometimes "God WITHHOLDS rain" to punish wicked people. Amos 4;7 reports that God said in North Israel when the Israelites were rebelling against God:
"And I also WITHHELD THE RAIN from you
when there were still three months to the harvest;
I WOULD SEND RAIN on one city,
and SEND NO RAIN on another city;
one field would be rained upon,
and the field on which it did not rain withered."
[See also Jeremiah 14:1-6). Again, it would be a mistake to conclude that every drought or famine is the active work of God to punish wicked people. BUT "sometimes," God withholds rain to punish the wicked.

4. Isaiah 55:10-11 compares the beneficial RAIN falling on the land with the beneficent WORD OF GOD falling on the human heart.
"For AS THE RAIN and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have WATERED the earth,
giving seed to the sower and bread to he eater,
so shall MY WORD be that goes out of my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I SENT it."

Keeping watching all those passages in the Bible which refer to rain. Appreciate the wonders of God's gifts of rain. Our God is a marvelous, loving, transforming God. Praise HIM!!!

John Willis


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reassuring, Insistent, Steadfast God on the Mountain

Continuing our journey through the Book of Exodus, taking another look at Exodus 3:1-4:17, one encounters another personality on "Horeb, the mountain of God," and this is God Himself. As we examined this passage, we discovered that Moses did not fare well. He proved to be a person doubting God, being unsubmissive to God, even being disobedient to God. God wanted to use this individual to accomplish God's purposes, but, like all of us, Moses was VERY HUMAN and VERY FLAWED and SINFUL.

IN BOLD CONTRAST, "God on the Mountain" is dependable, resilient, immovable. He knew who he was and what he intended to do. The same Bible that portrays Moses "on this or that mountain" portrays God "on this or that mountain"--not only through the Book of Exodus and the Pentateuch, but throughout the entire Bible--Hebrew Bible and New Testament.

No biblical passage in scripture relates EVERYTHING the Bible teaches about God. One must meet God slowly and in small bits as one works through biblical texts about God. Exodus 3:1-4:17 declares three significant truths about God: God REASSURES people whom God wants to use them to carry out this purposes; God INSISTS that God accomplishes what God intends to do; and God IS STEADFAST or faithful or dependable as God presents himself to humankind. One can see this by re-reading God's FIVE RESPONSES to each of Moses' excuses which we explored in a previous blog.

1. When Moses proposed the excuse: "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?", God replied: "I will be with you," and eventually you and the Israelites will worship on this mountain [Mount Horeb=Sinai]--Exodus
3:11-12. God did not counter with an ARGUMENT, but with an ASSURANCE. Arguments are abstract ideas; assurances are personal, concrete, relational realities.

2. When Moses proposed the excuse that Moses could not tell the Israelites the name of his God who appeared to him at the burning bush, God replied: my name is: "I AM WHO I AM."--Exodus 3:13-22. [Note: In a previous blog, we discussed possible interpretations of the word "Yahweh," and I will not repeat this again here. The point is: Moses' excuse is ONLY an excuse. God will be with him and will deliver the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage--see especially verses 17-22, which explains God's response to Moses in verse 13).

3. When Moses proposed the excuse that the Israelites would not believe or listen to Moses, God replied: I give you three signs, and these will convince the Israelites that Moses' message is from God: changing Moses' staff into a snake; making Moses' leprous in his cloak; and changing water into blood--Exodus 4:1-9.

4. When Moses proposed the excuse that Moses is not a good speaker, God replied: I, the Lord, enables each individual to speak or mute or deaf or seeing or blind; God can do whatever he wishes--Exodus 4:10-12.

5. When Moses proposed the excuse that Moses begged God to send someone else, God replied, now very angry: MOSES--Aaron, your brother, speaks well; so when you speak to Aaron, Aaron will relate your message to the Israelites.

Summing up this picture of God:
A. God reassured Moses that God would be with Moses and enable Moses to accomplish God's purposes.
B. God insisted that Moses say and do what God commanded him in spite of all of Moses' excuses to the contrary.
C. God is steadfast, faithful, dependable--MOSES, you can count on me today, tomorrow, and throughout your experiences in Egypt, and throughout your life.

God is the MAIN ACTOR in the Bible. ALL HUMAN BEINGS fail one way or other. God is always there, always dependable, always patient, always insistent, always understanding, always transforming our lives.

John Willis