2. Encountering God’s Presence (Ex. 2:11-3:10)Related Media
Have you ever had a “head-turning” experience - one of those “you’ll-never-guess-what-I-saw” experiences? A number of years ago we took our children to Ripley’s “Believe-it-or-Not” in Niagara Falls where, amongst other things, we saw Sandy Allen, the tallest woman in the world at that time. That was certainly a head turning experience. She was 7’ 7” tall, weighed 314lbs, and wore size 22 shoes. At that time, she received her sneakers second-hand from Indiana Pacers basketball star Rick Smits.
In her first letter to Guinness World Records in 1974, she wrote: “I would like to get to know someone who is approximately my height. My social life is practically nil, and perhaps the publicity in your book may brighten my life.”
Her published request did help to bring about a reversal of fortunes for the Indiana secretary. First, came an offer from film director Federico Fellini to take a role in his film, Casanova, in 1975, and then her first date with a 7-ft. Illinois man. On July 14, 1977, she went into hospital for a pituitary gland operation to stop further growth. But finally, poor circulation and weak leg muscles made her dependent on a wheelchair.
In this article we are going to look at a “head-turning” experience in Exodus 3:1-10. Let’s start by asking whether these head-turning experiences with God are limited to Bible characters or whether we can still encounter the presence and power of God in our lives today? Can we still hear God’s voice, see his glory, feel his presence, and respond to his call on our lives?
The subject of this sermon is: “Encountering God in the everyday events of life.” In our passage, God is revealed as the God who appears to ordinary people in ordinary circumstances and reveals to them the extraordinary.
Moses’ life had been a roller-coaster ride. He had risen spectacularly from son of a Hebrew slave to the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; from an ark of bulrushes to a palace of gold; from a life of slavery to the lap of luxury (Ex. 2:1-10). And yet in a moment of time, he had fallen just as spectacularly from the pinnacle of power to the pit of poverty; from 40 years of being somebody in a palace to 40 years of being nobody in a wilderness (Ex. 2:11-25).
Moses was no stranger to the extraordinary ways of God, having been delivered from certain death at his birth, adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter into the royal family, and raised in all the wisdom of the Egyptians such that he became a great communicator and leader, one who was “mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). All this left its stamp on his life and led to a momentous decision. At 40 years old, at the peak of his career just when he seemed to have the world by the tail, he decided to turn his back on all the wealth, power, and prestige of Egypt, refusing to be called “the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” and, instead, he chose to be identified with his Hebrew people (Heb. 11:24-25).
One day he decided to go out into the brick kilns and fields to see with his own eyes the oppressive slavery under which his Hebrew people laboured and what he saw made his blood boil - one of the Hebrew slaves was being ill-treated by his Egyptian slave master. When he thought no one was looking, Moses sprang into action and killed the Egyptian slave master. The next day he went out again and saw two Hebrew slaves fighting. He tried to reconcile them and to his surprise one of them said: “Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?” (Ex. 2:14; Acts 7:27-28). At that moment his life unravelled. Anger had led to murder which led to rejection by those he tried to save. When Pharoah heard about what had happened he “sought to kill Moses” (Ex. 2:15) but Moses fled for his life to the land of Midian, where he married Jethro’s daughter (Ex. 2:21) and tended his sheep in the wilderness (Ex. 3:1).
Forty years have now passed. Instead of being Israel’s saviour, he was Jethro’s shepherd. Instead of being successor to a Pharaoh, he became son-in-law to a priest. Instead of being the leader of a nation, he was a leader of sheep. Instead of being the ruler of a dominion, he was a roamer in a desert. Instead of being married to a princess, he was married to a shepherdess.
As he lay down to sleep at night, he must have looked up at the stars a million times and wondered where God was in all this. As far as he was concerned the God he had given up everything to serve had effectively ceased to exist. He had only wanted to do what was right, to use his power to liberate God’s people from the cruelty of slavery. And just when he had put his decision into action, God seemed to abandon him.
This particular day was just another routine day - nothing to set it apart from any other day - just doing the same old thing. But it’s on routine days that everything changes when we encounter God.
I. In An Encounter with God, He Meets You Where You Are (3:1)
God meets you in ordinary activities. “Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (3:1a). Moses was having just an ordinary day - no forewarning that this would be any different than any other day. There was nobody around as far as the eye could see, no signs that something spectacular was about to happen. In fact, Moses’ last 40 years had all been ordinary, routine, boring - listening to the monotonous bleat of sheep, nursing them, leading them to pasture, protecting them. But that’s exactly where God meets you. He meets you in the ordinary activities of life and…
God meets you in ordinary places. “He led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God” (3:1b). The “back of the desert” was an ordinary place - nothing special about that, nothing to write home about. That’s where we so often encounter God. He breaks into our lives on just ordinary days doing ordinary things in ordinary places, just when we least expect it.
Edmund Burke, an 18th century philosopher said: “History is full of momentous trifles.” By that he meant that experiences, which on the surface seem ordinary, can actually be extraordinary. We need to be aware of God’s presence in the ordinary. The problem is sometimes we just plain don’t have time for Him. We don’t notice when God breaks into the ordinary to reveal the extraordinary to us. Encounters with God aren’t necessarily ecstatic experiences. They can happen right in the shop where you work, at your desk in the office, at home as your looking after your children.
So, in an encounter with God, He meets you where you are. And…
II. In An Encounter With God, He Attracts You To Himself (3:2-4)
God attracts you to himself by appearing in a burning bush (3:2-3). “…the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed” (3:2). In the ordinary course of this day Moses sees a bush on fire. There was nothing unusual about that. In fact, it was quite common for desert shrubs to catch fire. But this was no ordinary fire. This bush was on fire but it did not burn up. This is so totally extraordinary that Moses stops to look. “Moses said: ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn’” (3:3). Moses had probably seen many desert scrub bushes on fire, but he had never seen anything like this before. This warranted further investigation. This was a “great sight” because it was a visible manifestation of the presence of God in a burning bush that was not consumed.
We all have burning bush experiences when God gets our attention in the ordinary events of life to show us the extraordinary; when he creates an uncommon event out of what would otherwise be quite common; when there’s no doubt that God is acting and speaking. How has God attracted your attention recently? Perhaps it’s the birth of a baby that generated a sense of awe and wonder in you. Or, perhaps it was a life-changing tragedy. Or, perhaps someone you shared your faith with got saved and you recognized the awesome work of God. It’s so easy to overlook a burning bush experience because at first glance it looks so ordinary. Just make sure you don’t right it off as mere coincidence. Look for God’s hand, listen for his voice, sit up and take notice, recognize his interruption in your life.
Moses could have easily concluded that this was just another instance of spontaneous combustion. Or that just another bunch of nomads had camped there the night before and failed to extinguish their camp fire properly. Or that lightning had struck again. He could have seen it out of the corner of his eye and just kept on walking. But he didn’t. He was sensitive enough to recognize that this was no ordinary bush fire.
We need to be sensitive to burning bushes that are not consumed. They happen all around us. Yet we so often fail to recognize them. Most people keep on walking. Disasters occur (planes crash, surgical operations are unsuccessful, fatal illnesses strike) and they just keep on walking. Or, unexpected victories occur (in which seemingly impossible odds are overcome) and they just keep on walking.
Do you stop to look for God in all this? Or, do you just shrug it off, pass by on the other side with no time, no feeling, and no interest. Remember that in an encounter with God, He meets you where you are (in ordinary activities and places) and He attracts you to himself. Those are the times when God says: “I have not forgotten you. I’ve been watching you. Now I’m going to use you. I’m present and powerful in your life.”
God attracts you to himself by appearing in a burning bush and God attracts you to himself by calling you by name (3:4). “So God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (3:4). God is a personal God who relates to you individually. “Thus says the Lord who created you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine” (Isa. 43:1).
I know that today God does not speak audibly to us, but He still speaks directly to our hearts, minds, consciences, and wills through his Word and his Spirit. When God calls you by name, be ready to respond. Moses was just like a school-boy responding to a role call in class: “Here I am - right where I should be.” There’s no rebellion. He didn’t say, “Where were you when I needed you back in Egypt?” He just stopped what he was doing to listen.
When God calls you, stop what you’re doing! God doesn’t want a speech in reply. He doesn’t want to read your resume or hear how good you think you are. He wants you to say, “Here I am.” He wants you to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” to “be still and know that I am God” (Ex. 14:13; Ps. 46:10-11). He wants you to stop, look, listen. He speaks through his Spirit when we pray and listen. He reveals himself through his Word when you stop and think and look. Sometimes, like Samuel, we hear a voice but don’t recognize it as God’s. But at least be responsive enough to say: “Here I am.”
In an encounter with God, first God meets you where you are. Second, God attracts you to himself, and third…
III. In An Encounter With God, He Reveals Who He Is (3:5-10)
He reveals that He is a holy God (3:5). “Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground’” (3:5). God’s presence cannot be defiled. That’s what shoes do. They bring in dirt from the outside. That’s why we take them off indoors.
God demands that we be holy for He is holy (Lev. 11:44). He wants us to be separated from the world to Him. Moses was on “holy ground” – already separated by and for God. All he had to do is respond by taking off his shoes so that there was nothing to defile him in God’s presence. The transcendent, holy, sovereign God of the universe can only dwell among and be approached by holy people (Lev. 11:44-45), whose bodies are washed with pure water and whose hearts are sprinkled from an evil conscience (Heb. 10:22; Tit. 3:5). This holy God is present with us, identifies with us, delights in us. The God who is “there” is the God who is “here” dwelling among us. But the condition of his dwelling among us is that we be holy just as he is holy.
In God’s presence, the ground you stand on is holy. Everything connected with God is holy because God himself is holy. He is here today. This is holy ground! Make sure you take your spiritual shoes off by removing everything from your life that defiles, everything that is contrary to God’s nature and character. Don’t think you can be “buddy-buddy” with God. God is not some sort of indulgent father who caters to your every whim. Nor is He “the guy upstairs” or the “big guy” as some say - such expressions are blasphemous. God is transcendent, wholly other than we are, beyond us. But He is also immanent, “Emmanuel, God with us.” That’s the mystery of faith, that this transcendent God whose thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways (Isa. 55:8-9) is the One who enters our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.
In an encounter with God, God reveals that He is a holy God and He reveals that He is a faithful God (3:6). “Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (3:6b). The God who revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He is faithful is the God who now reveals to Moses that He is faithful - steadfast in love, perfectly trustworthy. The God who revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He keeps his promises is the God who now reveals to Moses that He keeps his promises. The God who revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would redeem Israel someday is the God who now reveals to Moses that He will redeem his people. The God who revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things for Him now reveals to Moses that He will use him.
In the presence of such a great God, “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God” (3:6c). After 40 years of silence Moses’ past all flooded before him. Perhaps, he had bad thoughts about God - questioning where God had been all these years; questioned God’s faithfulness and his promises; wondering why God had bothered to save him from the bulrushes. Undoubtedly, he felt so unworthy and useless that the very thought of being in the presence of God struck terror into his heart so that “he hid his face.” That’s what happens when you encounter God. He reveals to you that he is a holy and faithful God and you become so aware of your own sinfulness that you hide your face – you’re afraid to look on God.
But take courage, for in an encounter with God, God not only reveals that He is a holy and a faithful God, but also He reveals that He is a redeeming God (3:7-10).
First, He is a redeeming God who takes notice of his people (3:7). “And the Lord said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows’” (3:7). God is always totally aware and in control of our situation. He “sees” our oppression. He “hears” our cries for help. He “knows” our sorrows. Contrary to what Satan wants you to believe about God, God is a redeeming God who takes notice of his people. And contrary to what you may think based on your present circumstances, God sees, hears, and knows all about you - whether you are a single mother, an unemployed father, or a depressed young person.
First, then, God is a redeeming God who takes notice of his people, and second, He is a redeeming God who delivers his people (3:7). “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good land and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey” (3:8). God is a redeeming God who delivered his people from Egypt and who has provided complete deliverance for us too! The redemption of God’s people is now complete in Christ. If you are a Christian, you have been delivered from sin to righteousness, from bondage to liberty, from darkness to light, from hell to heaven, from time to eternity, from death to life.
In an encounter with God, He reveals that He is a redeeming God who takes notice of his people, He is a redeeming God who delivers his people, and, thirdly, He is a redeeming God who sends a Saviour for his people (3:9-10). “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (3:9-10). The one whom the people rejected, God sends as their saviour. “This Moses whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush” (Acts 7:35).
That’s how God delivers his people - by sending a Saviour. Our Saviour and Deliverer is the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son. The One who was despised and rejected by men is the One whom God sent to be our Saviour so that we could be saved for eternity. That’s the most head-turning event in all of human history. That’s the story that Christians never come to the end of saying: “You’ll-never-guess-what-happened-to-me. God saved me.”
If you’re not a Christian, you can be delivered by this redeeming God too! Redeemed from Satan to God; from sin to holiness; from your addictions to freedom; from your anger to peace; from your hate to love.
I think when Moses got home that day the first thing he said was, “You’ll never guess what happened to me! I met God at a burning bush! I saw him with my own eyes. I heard him. I’m so fired up about God I feel like I’m going to explode.”
Are you on fire for God? Remember our thesis: God is the God who appears to ordinary people in ordinary circumstances and reveals to them the extraordinary. Have you encountered God in the ordinary events of your life? When did God last get your attention? How did it happen? What did he reveal to you? How did you respond?
One day Moses chose to follow God not materialism and self-interests, and his life fell apart. Forty years later, God called him and his decision was still the same – to follow God. What about you? Perhaps you’re discouraged. You wanted to serve the Lord and then He seemed to abandon you. Perhaps you’re wondering where God is and what He is doing. Let me encourage you to be ready to say: “Lord, here I am! I’m ready to serve you, just where you placed me, listening for your call, waiting for you to use me.”
My personal mission statement is this: “To utilize my gift of preaching and teaching to deepen people’s desire for God and love for his Word.” I trust that you have a deep desire for God, a desire that comes from meeting Him at burning bushes, from seeing Him in the pages of his Word, from hearing God through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, from fellowship with God in prayer and your everyday walk with Him.
I trust that you have a passion for God to encounter him wherever you are – in your kitchen, office, or the classroom. To encounter him whatever you are doing – working, playing, or going to sleep. To encounter him in worship, in your devotional times each day. Would you commit today to look for him and to burn with zeal for the God who appears to ordinary people in ordinary circumstances in order to reveal to them the extraordinary?
Related Topics: Christian Life