BIBLE STUDY SERIES #77, 78 and 79

18 April, 1993

THE BURNING BUSH - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

On recent programmes we have been following the unfolding Scriptural account of the manner by which Almighty God is preparing the way for the re-generation of His creation. We saw, on our last few studies how the eighty-year-old Moses, tending the tribal flocks on the slopes of Mount Sinai, had been attracted by the sight of a burning bush which was not consumed by the flames. There, God had met with him, and had begun to give Moses his directions regarding a return to Egypt, to confront the Pharaoh of the oppression, and to demand, in God's name, and by God's authority, the release of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage.

Moses has already raised one objection to God's designation of him to be the person to do this, asking "Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3:11). God has answered him with the promise that, when he had succeeded in this, he and the children of Israel would worship God at the same location on Mount Sinai. Moses has yet more objections.

Moses now attempts to evade the obligation of following this commission from The Almighty God with the excuse that the children of Israel will not recognize the authority which he claims in quoting God's words to them. The New Bible commentary (Revised) states of this: "Moses raises the obstacle of the people's ignorance of the character of God and hints that thereby they will not believe the messages he brings. Moses is not here asking for the bare name of God which has not been made known to them, but rather for the inner significance of a name already known... ."

14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
15. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

The fourteenth verse is one of the most significant verses of the Bible; one which ties the Old and the New Testaments together, for herein we find The Almighty God of Sinai using the exact same title which Jesus Christ used of Himself in John 8:58 as the culmination to His discussion with those Jews whom He had agreed were Abraham's seed, but not Abraham's children.

All the commentaries have much to say concerning that title. The Companion Bible notes translate it as "I will be what I will be (or become)." The New Bible Commentary note says of I AM THAT I AM "The word translated `I am' is the Heb. ehyeh, first person imperfect of the verb hayah, `to become'. The tense is indefinite, meaning equally `I was', `I am being', and `I will be'. (The same word is used in verse 12 above, Certainly I will be with thee.) This fuller expression explains the shorter form of the name `I AM' or `Jehovah' (YHWH, verse 14) which is the third person of the same verb and has the same meaning. No other words could so perfectly express the revealed truth and infinite mystery of the nature of the true God. `I AM THAT I AM' signifies that He is self-existent, the only real being and the source of all reality; that He is self-sufficient; that He is eternal and unchangeable in His promises; that He is what He will be, all choice being according to His own will and pleasure."

Keil and Delitzsch point out that "This name precluded any comparison between the God of the Israelites and the deities of the Egyptians and other nations, and furnished Moses and his people with strong consolation in their affliction, and a powerful support to their confidence in the realization of His purposes of salvation as made known to the fathers. To establish them in this confidence, God added still further: `This is My name for ever, and My memorial unto all generations;' that is to say, God would even manifest Himself in the nature expressed by the name Jehovah, and by this He would have all generations both know and revere Him."

We pick up the Biblical account at verse 16 as Almighty God continues to address Moses:

16. Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
17. And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.

Keil and Delitzsch explain that Moses was now instructed that, on his arrival in Egypt, he was first of all to inform the elders, as the representatives of the nation. That is to say, he was to tell the heads of the families, households and tribes of the appearance of God to him, and the revelation of His design, to deliver His people out of Egypt and bring them to the land of the Canaanites. They further remind us that the words "I have surely visited" point to the fulfilment of the last words of the dying Joseph in Genesis 50:24.

18. And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.

Keil and Delitzsch mention that the request for Pharaoh's permission to go out could be translated "we will go, then", and it "is couched in such a form as to answer to the relation of Israel to Pharaoh. He had no right to detain them, but he had a right to consent to their departure, as his predecessor had formerly done to their settlement. Still less had he any good reason for refusing their request to go a three days' journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to their God, since their return at the close of the festival was then taken for granted."

The commentary continues "God knew the hard heart of Pharaoh, and therefore directed that no more should be asked at first than he must either grant, or display the hardness of his heart." This lesser initial demand was actually to present an offer of mercy to Pharaoh. Had Pharaoh granted the request, Moses would then, of course, make known the further requirements of God, which Pharaoh, having granted the smaller initial request, might then find easier to grant by way of extension. However, by refusing even this smaller request, Pharaoh was "without excuse" when judgment was finally rendered by God. We continue the Scriptural account at verse 19:

19. And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.
20. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
21. And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:
22. But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

This final provision would form a just payment for the years of unpaid slavery and oppressive loss of freedom. God is just, and as we watch Him prepare this demonstration of that justice we should take note that all such historic events in the Exodus history of Israel were done for our instruction. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christian Israelites in I Corinthians 10:11-12 the following words: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

These days, we find that many of our acquaintance could hardly care less what happened to those ancient Israelites, who were the ancestors, as we, of the British-Israel-World Federation believe, of the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world today. We should remember that one of the marks of the last days, immediately prior to the return of Christ, was prophesied to be that very attitude. St. Peter, in II Peter 3:3-4 states:

3. Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,
4. And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Perhaps with that meditation we ought to close today's study. We shall continue our examination of those directives and assurances which Almighty God proceeded to grant to Moses from that burning bush on our next programme.

25 April, 1993

THE BURNING BUSH - PART V

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

The Bible outlines a Great Plan of Almighty God for the Redemption of His people, Israel, and the Salvation of whomsoever The Holy Spirit moves towards Him. As a general objective in our present series of Bible Studies, we are centring our attention upon a clarification of that design. To that end, on recent broadcasts we have made our way through the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and we have of late been studying the opening chapters of the Book of Exodus.

In our imagination there now arises before our eyes a wilderness scene which, in all likelihood would be rather rugged, with steep and rocky shadows under a strong sun, and in the foreground there spreads a stony and somewhat parched pasture.

Although his younger years were spent as the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, and he had the benefit of learning all that Egypt could teach, Moses has now, for the last forty years, dwelt as a fugitive in this land of wilderness, experiencing a life woven of a warp of stress and a weft of peace. He has probably prayed and thought often of the members of his family and the rest of the Tribes of Israel, still labouring in misery under the hot Egyptian sun and the taskmasters of Pharaoh.

We must now classify Moses as a shepherd, according to his daily occupation. How often have those engaged in that occupation been sensitive to the call of The Almighty God. There had been Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before him, and the children of Israel who entered Egypt by Joseph's invitation, all familiar with the demands of that occupation, and there would come others down the concourse of history.

There would be David, son of Jesse, who wrote the twenty-third Psalm, sometimes called the Shepherd's Psalm, and who was called from tending the flock to be anointed king over God's people. There would be the Prophet Amos who, in Amos 7:14-15 dared to answer King Amaziah, stating likewise how the LORD had called him as he followed the flock. There would be the shepherds abiding in the fields of Bethlehem in Luke 2:8-20, keeping watch over their flock by night on the night when Christ was born, and who were called to witness abroad regarding the events of that night to all who would hear. And then there would be Jesus Christ, whom the writer of Hebrews 13:20 calls "that great shepherd of the sheep".

Now let us return to view the scene at Sinai. We have watched as the eighty-year-old Moses tended the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, in the relatively silent stillness of the semi-desert near Mount Horeb, on a day which probably appeared to him like any other day.

We watched as he raised his eyes to observe a bush which was on fire; a bush which continued to burn but was not consumed. Here, as he stood before the Burning Bush on the slopes of Sinai, an holy conversation with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had followed, in which Moses had been confronted by the requirement of his God, The I AM, (The Everlasting God), that he, Moses, must go to Pharaoh, in order to demand the release of God's people from Egyptian bondage.

Moses had demurred, first, by expressing his own doubts concerning success, by asking "Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh?...", and then, upon being assured of God's presence, Moses had further sought to evade the call by protesting that the people of Israel would question the nature of The God Who would become his authority to speak. In reply the great name of The Almighty, The Everliving, "I AM THAT I AM" was spoken, and that objection was met.

Now we listen as Moses continues to raise another difficulty, picking up the Scriptural account at Exodus 4:1.

1. And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

Now the argument shifts to the possibility that those who heard the message of deliverance which he was to bring to them would not believe that Moses was truly God's messenger, and thus a true prophet. That was, indeed, a real possibility and not just an excuse, for after all, it had been many years since any sign of God's presence and power to save His people had been demonstrated to them. The passage of those years amounted, in fact, to generations, during which The Almighty God had been silent.

True, there was the account, passed from father to son down the generations for about four hundred years, of that old story in which The LORD, The Almighty God was stated to have made covenant with their forefather Abram, as recounted in Genesis 15:12-16. It was said that Abram's God had spoken to him, and told him that a certain amount of time, indeed four hundred years of sojourning exactly, would transpire before his descendants were released.

As we view the matter in retrospect, we may note, as does the Companion Bible, that these four hundred years date from Isaac's birth (Acts 7:6). The four hundred and thirty years mentioned in Exodus 12:40 extend, as a Companion Bible note to that passage relates, from the time of that promise or Covenant made with Abram in Genesis 15.

The Israelites might have calculated the passage of those years, and by now they might indeed be hopefully yearning for sign of that promised release as the time approached. But would they believe the claim of Moses that it was to be by his intervention that this signal was to be given, and the promise fulfilled? It was a valid objection, and The God of Israel graciously met it, by granting Moses the power to perform miraculous signs as we find in the next verses. The New Bible Commentary (Revised) states "The point about the nature of these wonders is that they will have weight with the Hebrews in their environment of Egyptian magic."

2. And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5. That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.

Regarding this first sign, I should mention that The New Bible Dictionary, under the heading "Serpent", portrays a cobra in a reed basket with the explanation "A conventional Egyptian rendering to convey the nature of the powerful goddess (who protected the king), of whom it was a symbol", and adds that it comes from a tomb of about 1450 BC.

The Companion Bible note on the words "caught it" equates the term to "stiffened it", and mentions that it is the same word translated "hardened" when referring to Pharaoh's heart. The New Bible Commentary mentions that taking the snake by the tail was an "act of faith. Normally, to avoid its bite one would take it by the neck."

As it later transpired in Pharaoh's court, it appears that there existed a magician's trick, known to Egyptian wise men and sorcerers (of whom two are named Jannes and Jambres in II Timothy 3:8), whereby an object which gave the appearance of a stick could be held and then released to reveal it as a snake. Under the heading "Magic and Sorcery", The New Bible Dictionary says, of the later account, that it "leaves us free to decide whether they were clever conjurors or whether they used occult methods."

Moses, learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, would probably have been conversant with that magician's trick. Thus, his action in recoiling from the snake which appeared before the burning bush demonstrates that this was no magician's trick, but a true miracle which was totally unexpected. He was not just being shown some elaboration on the magician's fake.

Keil and Delitzsch have some interesting comments on this matter. Regarding this first sign, they state: "The turning of Moses' staff into a serpent, which became a staff again when Moses took it by the tail, had reference to the calling of Moses. The staff in his hand was his shepherd's crook...and represented his calling as a shepherd. At the bidding of God he threw it upon the ground, and the staff became a serpent, before which Moses fled. The giving up of his shepherd-life would expose him to dangers, from which he would desire to escape. At the same time, there was more implied in the figure of a serpent than danger which merely threatened his life. The serpent had been the constant enemy of the seed of the woman (Gen. iii.), and represented the power of the wicked one which prevailed in Egypt..."

"But at the bidding of God, Moses seized the serpent by the tail, and received his staff again as `the rod of God,' with which he smote Egypt with great plagues. From this sign the people of Israel would necessarily perceive, that Jehovah had not only called Moses to be the leader of Israel, but had endowed him with the power to overcome the serpent-like cunning and the might of Egypt; in other words, they would `believe that Jehovah, the God of the fathers, had appeared to him'."

We are about out of time, so perhaps I can leave with you a meditation concerning this event. The Almighty God deemed Moses to be prepared after his years of training at Pharaoh's court and as a shepherd in the wilderness. Just as Moses was called from his forty-year occupation as a shepherd to a new and far greater, if more dangerous, service so we, who are occupied from day to day and week to week in our own world of tensions and concerns, equating to that life of semi-desert silences, may likewise, at the time of God's choosing, be challenged by the Great God of that same Flaming Bush of Sinai to perform a service for Him today.

We, of the British-Israel-World Federation see the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon peoples as modern-day descendants of the Israel of old time, fulfilling the prophecies made to the Patriarchs. If those modern-day descendants are to be brought out from a bondage of a new order equivalent to that of the Pharaoh whose protector was a snake, then God may well move through a like process to that of the call of Moses, to prepare us for that new Exodus when the time appointed finally arrives.

In order to overcome the Pharaoh whose symbol was a snake, Moses, the shepherd, was equipped through the miraculous sign of the shephered's crook which became a snake. In Matthew 10:16 we read Christ's words, spoken to the Twelve: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." We shall continue this study on our next programme.

2 May, 1993

THE BURNING BUSH - PART VI

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

The Bible outlines the Great Plan of Almighty God for the Redemption of His people, Israel, and the Salvation of whomsoever The Holy Spirit calls. Our present series of Bible Studies centres our attention upon this design. On recent broadcasts we have made our way through the Book of Genesis, and into the opening chapters of Exodus.

On our last programme, we saw the eighty-year-old Moses, before the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai as he received God's call to go to Pharaoh in order to obtain the release of the children of Israel from bondage. Moses is reluctant, and has offered three objections to God's plan. To each, thus far, God has given answer and assurance.

To the objection that the children of Israel will not believe that he is authorised to perform this task, God has made answer by empowering Moses to perform the first of three miracles; that of turning Moses' staff, or shepherd's crook, into a serpent which reverts to a staff upon being grasped by the tail. This was given, as Exodus 4:5 states: "That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee."

If one miracle is not sufficient to give Moses confidence, and to effect the desired result, another is now given. We begin reading at verse 6.

6. And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
8. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.

Of this, The New Bible Commentary says that "God Himself here explains the true purpose of miracles. They are to serve as persuasive proofs or `signs' of the presence of divine power and are therefore not to be expected at all times, but, as appears in the Scripture record, only when there is special need to establish God's authority in face of doubt, uncertainty or apostasy."

The Companion Bible notes that this is the first mention in scripture of Leprosy. In a note appended to Leviticus 13:2, the Scofield Reference Bible relates the symbolism of leprosy to sin.

Keil and Delitzsch indicate that the leprosy represented the impurity of Egypt in which Israel was sunken. They state "But God had the power to purify the nation from this leprosy, and would endow His servant Moses with that power. At the command of God, Moses put his hand, now covered with leprosy, once more into his bosom, and drew it out quite cleansed. This was what Moses was to learn by the sign; whilst Israel also learned that God both could and would deliver it, through the cleansed hand of Moses, from all its bodily and spiritual misery. The object of the first miracle was to exhibit Moses as the man whom Jehovah had called to be the leader of His people; that of the second, to show that, as the messenger of Jehovah, he was furnished with the necessary power for the execution of this calling. In this sense God says, in verse 8, `If they will not hearken to the voice of the first sign, they will believe the voice of the latter sign'." Once again we pick up the scriptural account.

9. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.

According to The New Bible Dictionary, "blood" is more often used in Scripture in the sense of "death by violence" than in any other sense. We gain some further insight concerning this miracle if we realise that "Egypt is the gift of the Nile." Keil and Delitzsch note "The Nile received divine honours as the source of every good and all prosperity in the natural life of Egypt, and was even identified with Osiris... . If Moses therefore had power to turn the life-distributing water of the Nile into blood, he must also have received power to destroy Pharaoh and his gods. Israel was to learn this from the sign, whilst Pharaoh and the Egyptians were afterwards to experience this might of Jehovah in the form of punishment... . Thus Moses was not only entrusted with the word of God, but also endowed with the power of God..."

What reaction should we expect of Moses, now that he has seen these undeniable miracles placed at his disposal in order to facilitate the task at hand? Will he agree to God's demands? Is he now prepared and equipped for all that lies ahead? We continue at verse 10.

10. And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

Keil and Delitzsch note the meaning of Moses' words in their comments. Moses said, in effect "I am not a man of words, but am heavy in mouth and heavy in tongue, both of yesterday and the day before, and also since Thy speaking to Thy servant" or in other words, "I do not possess the gift of speech. I find difficulty in the use of mouth and tongue from the very first." Moses meant to say "I neither possess the gift of speech by nature, nor have I received it since Thou hast spoken to me."

I might insert the interesting thought that Moses, who sought to evade God's call in Exodus 4:10 by arguing that he was "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" is described by Stephen in Acts 7:22 as "...mighty in words..."!

Incidentally, and for what it may be worth, Chapter LXX of the Book of Jasher supplies a connected story which relates that at three years of age Moses, while lying on Bathia's bosom at a banquet, reached out and took Pharaoh's crown, placing it on his own head; an act some deemed deliberate and for which the court contemplated his execution.

The Jasher account says that a test was devised to decide whether the action had indeed been deliberate and symbolic, or merely that of an uncomprehending infant. This test involved the presentation to the young child of an onyx stone and a live coal. The Jasher account states that an angel guided Moses to take the coal and bring it to his mouth, burning part of his lips and part of his tongue. Thus, according to that account, the taking of Pharaoh's crown was deemed an unwitting act of no symbolic significance, and Moses' life was spared.

Perhaps we might pause for a moment to contemplate the fact that Moses, whom The Almighty God, The I AM of Sinai, had prepared, and was now sending to perform one of the greatest commissions which a man has been asked to accomplish, thinks himself unequal to the task by reason of an impediment!

Others also have known some disadvantage or other in life, which must be overcome on the way to serving God. St. Paul had a "thorn in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12:7). Probably many today have impediments of one kind or another which they must face if they are to go forward in God's service. I feel sure that most missionaries, if they were asked, would be able to supply some comments about similar problems which were submitted to The LORD as they embarked on their missionary journeys.

To all who experience such an impediment, and in humility or concern yield it to God, the account of Moses' call to serve should yield support out of this scripture, for "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

How does The LORD God answer Moses? How, indeed, would He answer any of us, if we were thus called, and showed a similar reluctance to serve by reason of such an impediment?

11. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
12. Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

With this, Moses has exhausted all of his objections which have substance. God has granted assurances which cover every aspect of Moses' arguments to this point. He is, in fact, insisting upon granting Moses a great honour which all subsequent history attests.

The passage which follows reveals a deeper cause of Moses' reluctance, and we shall find, beneath all that has been said thus far the true reason for Moses' attitude. To this point, the arguments have been valid, and God had met them. The subsequent conversation we shall have to leave for our next broadcast, as our time has about run its course for today. Let me leave with you the thought that God has infinite patience in dealing with any one of us when our impediments are real.

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