Exodus 2:11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.
There he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite, and since no one was around, Moses killed the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not (Acts 7:25).
Moses assumed the Israelites would rally around him, and that he would lead an insurrection. When things did not go according to plan, Moses ran for his life to the land of Midian (Exodus 2:15). He was forty years old at the time (Acts 7:23), and for the next forty years (Acts 7:30), he would shepherd another man’s sheep in the middle of nowhere.
Moses’ life did not turn out the way he expected. He thought he was destined for greatness, but when he took action, things went badly. He spent most of his life as an Egyptian prince, but now he was a lowly shepherd. For the next forty years Moses had time to think. Should he have believed in God? Should he have killed the Egyptian? Did God still have a plan for his life? Moses had been so sure of himself, but now he was confused.
Moses did not realize that God was still preparing him. Moses believed in God, but he also believed in Moses. He had to learn that God could work with or without him. God might be happy to use Moses, but God did not need Moses. Just because you are great, does not mean that God will use you greatly. Moses had to learn the lesson of humility, so that he might be used by God in the future.
In fact, Moses became a humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3). His youth had slipped away, along with his self-confidence. He used to be powerful in speech and action (Acts 7:22), but now he was slow of speech and tongue (Exodus 4:10).
Time is a teacher of humility, and happy are those who learn it soon. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up (1 Peter 5:5-6), wrote Peter. The choice is ours: we can humble ourselves, or be humbled by God.
Exodus 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
Horeb means desert or desolation, and may describe Moses’ mood as well as the landscape. The first part of Moses’ life was filled with promise and potential, but then he was underemployed. Shepherds were detestable to Egyptians (Genesis 46:34), so Moses was doing a job that he was conditioned to despise.
If a man succeeds early in life, but not later on, he may feel like a failure. Moses had been on top of the world, but now he was in a place called desolate. But there he would learn that God meets people in desolate places. Whenever our lives become worse than we expected, that is where God is likely to meet us. He is the God of the desert.
Exodus 3:4 God called to him from within the bush, Moses! Moses! And Moses said, Here I am.
Moses saw a bush on fire that would not burn up. When he got closer, he saw that God was in the bush. This seems rather unlikely, but the God of heaven and earth is free to reveal himself any way he pleases. God in a bush reminds us that God is humble. After all, what is more humble than a bush?
In fact, God is more humble than we may realize. If I became a worm to save the worms, that would be an act of humility. But I am much closer to being a worm than God was to being human. The difference between people and worms is finite, but the difference between God and people is infinite. For God to become one of us required extreme humility.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8), wrote Paul. God’s humility did not end with his incarnation; it went all the way to his crucifixion, death and burial. The maker of heaven and earth did all this for our salvation. When we understand God’s humility, we won’t be afraid to humble ourselves in order to know him better.
Exodus 3:5 Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.
This was the same ground where Moses had to watch his step because his sheep had done their business. But the presence of God made the ground holy. Common ground becomes holy ground whenever God is uniquely present.
This also applies to the church. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20), said Jesus. If Christians worship in a barn, that place becomes sacred, because of the presence of Jesus. But afterwards, it becomes a barn again. If Christians worship in a cathedral, it too becomes sacred, because of the presence of Jesus. But afterwards, it is just a fancy building.
By telling Moses to take off his shoes, God was teaching him to worship with respect. God is not a mild-mannered deity whom we should approach casually. He holds the power of life and death, and should be approached with reverence. The church in Corinth displeased the Lord through careless worship, and some of them died as a result (1 Corinthians 11:31). So let us worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29), says Hebrews.
Exodus 3:6 I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the ones to whom God had pledged the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:20), where Moses would lead the Israelites. Abraham’s son was Isaac, Isaac’s son was Jacob, and Jacob’s sons became the twelve tribes of Israel.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob truly believed in God, but were not always perfect. When Pharaoh wanted Abraham’s wife, Abraham did not resist (Genesis 12:10-20). Isaac did something similar with his wife (Genesis 26:7-9). And, while Jacob never gave up his wives, he could be deceitful (Genesis 27:36).
Nevertheless, God identified himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of imperfect people who truly believe in him. It is not perfection that God requires, but genuine faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:7). This should be a comfort to imperfect believers everywhere.
Reflection and Review
How did God humble Moses?
How do we know that God is humble?
What kind of people were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?