3.3 The Call of Moses
For many decades, Moses did nothing more than live in a tent and herd sheep. It was in the middle of this endless rural purgatory that Moses met the God who hadn't spoken for 400 years. Previous to this, God had used angels, dreams, and three men to speak to the patriarchs. The miracle of the burning bush is a unique means of revelation. In this encounter,
a. God identified Himself as the covenant God of Moses' forefathers (Ex 3:6, Ex 3:15)
b. He was concerned for the sufferings of "My people."
c. He declared His purpose - deliverance of Israel from Egypt, bringing them to a new home in Canaan (Ex 3:7-9, Ex 3:17)
d. Moses was to be His agent, and God would be with him (Ex 3:10-2)
e. God revealed His name: 'I AM WHO I AM'. Later, He told Moses that He did not make His Name known to the patriarchs (Ex 6:3).
In this theophany, God revealed both Himself and Moses' own life purpose. All the chaos and dislocation of his past -- being cast adrift, raised in a foreign household, an observer of his people's suffering, and finally an exile -- was shown to have a divine purpose behind it. Like Joseph who had been thrown in a pit and languished in prison, only to be exalted by God to the right hand of Pharaoh, so Moses had survived his preparation period and was ready to serve as God's agent in his generation.
Except that Moses was now 80 years old and had grown used to sheep-herding. Moses resisted God's appointment (Ex 4:13). It was just too far beyond his expectations of life. Yes, there had been a time in his youth when he had wielded the rod of justice against the persecutors, but look where that had got him. It was too late for that now. He recited his inadequacies before God:
"I am slow of speech and tongue" (Ex 4:10).
But God was not looking for volunteers: Moses had no choice. His resistance angered the Lord. The only concession he gained was that his brother Aaron would do the public speaking. The Presence of God and the authority of Moses were symbolized by the rod that Moses carried, with which he performed signs.
In His instructions to Moses, God called Israel His '"firstborn son" (Ex 4:22) and threatened Pharaoh's eldest son. The right of the firstborn was the central motif of Genesis -- it was the predominant source of conflict within the patriarchal families. Here God used this same concept in a national sense. It denoted a unique relationship -- and yet “firstborn” implies that there may be other spiritual offspring.