Pastor Joel Leyrer - The Second Sunday After Pentecost - Sunday, June 14, 2020

Text: Exodus 3:1-10

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Dear Friends in Christ. If I gave you a minute, could you identify an old familiar family friend or relative who has always been around and seemingly has always been a part of your life? Maybe someone you grew up with or an especially close Aunt or Uncle? Someone you don’t even think that much about because they always seem to just be there? I’m guessing many of us can. 

While such people are always a great comfort to us because they are so woven into the fabric of our lives, the downside to familiar people and things is the potential for taking them for granted. Or not appreciating them for their importance to us.

For many of us, the Apostles’ Creed might fit into that category of an old familiar friend. Many of us have grown up with it, and whether you’re a longtime Lutheran Christian or a relatively new one, we come into contact either with it or it’s counterpart, the Nicene Creed, every time we gather for worship.

But because it is so familiar, we want to make sure that we don’t take it for granted. So, for the next several weeks we are going to pay attention to it and make it the subject of our summer sermon series. We’re going to go through it piece by piece, and each week we’ll connect a Bible event to the individual phrases we confess in the Apostles’ Creed.

We begin right now with the opening line, where we profess that we believe in

GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY

And the Bible story we’ll be looking at demonstrates that God is indeed

1.  Almighty in his power

2.  Almighty in his presence

3.  Almighty in his blessings

A couple of preliminary remarks before we turn our attention to this Word of God…

Moses didn’t know this, but at the time of our text two thirds of his life was behind him. The first forty was spent as a child and a young man of privilege in Egypt, the adopted son of royalty. The last forty was about as opposite of that as could be. You may recall that Moses was forced to flee Egypt after he committed a capital crime in the defense of a countryman. He took up residence in the land east of Egypt, a region called Midian, where he married and worked as a shepherd for his father-in-law.

One day in search of pasture Moses finds himself at a mountain called Horeb. Elsewhere in Scripture it is called “Mount Sinai.” Our text describes it as “the mountain of God,” and deservedly so. This mountain will play a prominent role in the life of God’s people because this is where God will deliver to them His Ten Commandments.

According to God’s timetable, Moses’ four-decade period of probation and training and discipline was about to come to an end. He who shepherded a flock was about to emerge as the appointed shepherd of God’s people. And at center stage of this transition was a burning bush.

Throughout the Old Testament we often see fire as a symbol of God’s presence. Another case here. Moses sees the bush which is on fire but does not burn up or burn out. He considers it a strange sight, so he goes to investigate. He probably expects at most some sort of natural oddity. He gets far more as he is confronted with the presence and the holiness and the voice of God.

God calls Moses personally by name, tells him to observe the then-in-place custom of removing his sandals as a sign of respect, and identifies himself as “the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses is beginning to understand what’s going on here – and he’s starting to get uncomfortable.

God goes on to tell Moses that he is at the receiving end of more than a religious experience. This is a commissioning. Moses was given the task of leading the Children of God out of their captivity in Egypt.

It was a formidable task. An incomprehensible task. And a task Moses neither felt worthy of nor wanted. So, in the verses that immediately follow our text he begins to enumerate a series of reasons why this is not such a good idea and how he was not qualified. God, in turn, patiently reassures Moses that “I will be with you” (verse 12).

Let’s stop here and make a few observations and applications. What can we learn about God, and through Moses, about ourselves?

We first learn that ours is a God who communicates. In Old Testament times he spoke in a variety of ways. To Abraham, he spoke as a man. To Moses on this occasion, he spoke through the burning bush. To the prophets of later years, he spoke through visions.

The point is that God communicates with his people. And while the medium may be different, the conversation remains the same today as God speaks to us through his Word. It is for this reason the Bible is called “the revealed knowledge of God,” because this is where God makes his will and his promises and his care and his concern known.

Contrary to what some may suggest, God is not the “Nameless One of a Thousand Names” or “The Great Unknowable One.” He can be known, and he continues to speak to his children through his Word. Therefore, if we wish to know God, we must be People of the Book. We must be in our Bibles. Because here is where he talks to us.

We also learn that ours is a God who knows us personally. It is signficant that when God addressed Moses he didn’t say, “Hey earthling. Listen up.” No, he called him by name. God wanted Moses to know that he knew him personally.

God wants us to know that, too. One of the all time great comforting sections of Scripture are the opening verses of Isaiah 43. There God says: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” And we are reminded that long, long ago, at a time that predates most of our memories, through the waters of baptism God put his name on us. He called us by name and made us his own.

And if he knows us personally, he also knows us intimately. He knows who we are and how we are wired and what our fears are and what our concerns are and what it is that sets us into a tailspin and what it is that can pull us out of it. He knows that, because he is our loving Maker and Creator – God the Father Almighty.

Moses needed to hear that, because at that moment on Mt. Horeb his future just got a lot more complicated than he liked and far more uncertain than he cared for. You don’t have to read between the lines to figure out that Moses was telling God something like “I’m very honored to be considered but I really don’t want the job.”

One Bible commentator makes the wry remark that Moses was a man who needed “tons of reassurance.” Well, when facing an uncertain future, Moses is not alone. Most of us can line up right behind him. We need tons of reassurance.

Which, of course, God gives us. God reminded Moses that he is powerful – almighty – meaning, he can do exactly what he sets out to do. In his earlier remark to Moses that he is the God of his father and his ancestors, God was not just dropping names. He was telling Moses: “as I took care of them, so I will take care of you.” God was reminding Moses and us that we are to base our future on the past. As he has never failed us or abandoned us in the past, so he never will in the future. And in that promise we rest assured.

However, it must be said that the greatest reassurance of God’s attentiveness to us took place some 1500 years later than our text and on a mount we call Calvary. There Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was crucified instead of us and in our place. “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” eternally from the sin that rightfully damns us to hell.

If ever we are uncertain or scared, a trip to that mountain provides each of us with “tons of reassurance” regarding God’s love and care.

Just beyond our text we learn of Moses’ is persistence. Having been commissioned, he continues to try to talk God out of it. If I do indeed go to the Israelites, who is that I should say sent me? What follows is one of the most far reaching verses of the Bible: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’”

“I am who I am.” Here God reveals not just his name, but himself. Think about this. As a verb, “I am” is a present tense. It speaks of God’s eternity, of his timelessness, of his unchangeableness, of his constancy. In all these areas, he is God the Father Almighty.

The name was a reminder to the Israelites that he would indeed never leave them or forsake them. It spoke of the changeless nature of his grace and protection toward his children. It was the promise that those who are Children of God live in the continual present tense of his love. Therefore, they could go forward into their future with confidence.

What a comfort it is to know the nature of our God. In the beloved evening hymn we sing, “Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not abide with me.” And He does. We, too, live in the continual present tense of God’s love.

So, when our personal situations change, let us find strength in this: our God does not. Because, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Same love, same promises, same presence 24-7.

So, in summary, here is what God tells us today:

The bush is still burning and God is still yearning to communicate with us through His Word.

And while we live in a far different place and time than did Moses in our text, God’s name – and all that it means for his precious Children – is the same.

Because he is God the Father Almighty. Almighty in his power. Almighty in his presence. Almighty in his blessings. Which means we are never alone. We are never abandoned. We have nothing to fear. Ever.

Because through the power of the Holy Spirit we know who God is: Almighty. Amen.