July 16, 2017 | Exodus 3-4 • “Stepping Aside”

Exodus 3:1-15 (NIV)

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. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.


There is something I love about hiking with little kids … At first I didn’t love it, but I have grown to love it. When they are out on a trail, so many kids just aren’t in a hurry. They don’t seem to care about how fast they go … they don’t seem to care about how far they go.

They hike with a sense of wonder.

If something sparks their curiosity, they stop and look … everything stops for snow drifts … or shiny rocks … cool sticks … or bright fall leaves. I need to be better at slowing down and investigating.

I am sure I have missed great things because I was too interested in getting to the end of the trail or making good time.


Moses is good example of someone who slows down and goes out of his way to pursue wonder.

Moses saw that strange sight, the bush that was on fire, but somehow didn’t burn up, and went to investigate. Another translation of the passage says, Moses, “Turned aside.”

That picture of Moses “turning aside” has stuck with me this week … and has challenged me to take moments to “turn aside” … to take a moment to follow my curiosity … to pause to pursue wonder.

Moses “turning aside” led to an interaction with God that changed his life and changed the lives of many people.

Moses was willing to pause and go out of his way to investigate that strange fiery bush, but he was less willing to accept the calling God set on him.

It is an interesting conversation, Moses is so resistant … God is so persistent.

Moses had a point.

I doubt many people would have identified Moses as leadership material. If they had them back then, he wouldn’t have been on anyone’s “Best and Brightest” list or included in “Top Ten Young Leaders to Watch” magazine articles.

Who was Moses?

He was a murderer hiding out “in the far side of the wilderness” because Pharaoh was so angry he wanted to kill him.

Pharaoh had a point.

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (Exodus 2.11-12 NIV)

Moses wouldn’t have been our first choice, he really wasn’t prepared for the task, but God chose to include him.

God promised to be with Moses (hopefully that sounds familiar) … and God promised that when the Israelites were free people they would worship God together on that mountain where Moses had stepped aside to investigate that strange burning bush.

It wasn’t enough for Moses.

He wasn’t up for it … Pharaoh already wanted to kill him … he was pretty sure the Israelites wouldn’t believe him … he wasn’t much for public speaking … there were so many reasons why it wouldn’t work. Finally, and this is really what it says in the Bible, “… Moses said, ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else’” (Exodus 4.13).

It must have been exasperating for God … all these reasons … all this encouragement and none of it could satisfy Moses’ objections.

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do (Exodus 4.14-15 NIV). 

Moses gave in.

He told his father-in-law he was going to Egypt and set out on a donkey with his wife and son to lead God’s people out of the misery of slavery to life and freedom; something he never dreamed he was capable of.

What a picture Moses, his wife, his son and a donkey headed out toward Egypt and a showdown with Pharaoh.

Do you know what Moses named his son?


It means, “I have become a foreigner in a foreign land” (Exodus 2.22).

Moses spent so much of his life as someone who didn’t have his own place.

When Moses was a baby, Pharaoh was afraid his Hebrew slaves would grow bigger and stronger, and eventually rebel against Egypt, so Pharaoh decided to control the Hebrew population by throwing their baby boys into the Nile River. Moses’ mother couldn’t bring herself to obey Pharaoh, she put her baby in the river, but first she put him in a special basket she hoped would keep Moses safe and bring him to someone who would take good care of him. It turned out Pharaoh’s daughter found the baby floating down the river. She named him Moses, a name that means “draw out” because she had drawn him out of the water. She raised Moses as her own son.

Talk about being out of place – Moses the child of slaves, a Hebrew baby boy, someone Pharaoh was afraid of and wanted dead, being raised in Pharaoh’s own household – Moses didn’t fit in  with the Egyptians.

Moses didn’t fit in with his own people either.

You remember how Moses killed that Egyptian, who was abusing the Hebrew slave?

The next day Moses went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”

The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” 

Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian … (Exodus 2.13-14 NIV)

Moses ran away.

He didn’t have a place. He didn’t have a home. He was an outsider … a foreigner in a foreign land.

One day, Moses saw something strange and he turned aside to get a closer look.

As he turned aside, God spoke to him. God told Moses to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. Ancient people would remove their shoes when they were in holy places; they also would remove their shoes when they came into a home (Olsen, workingpreacher.org). I’m curious if there could be a connection here. God met Moses. God called Moses … God gave Moses a purpose … a place … a connection. God promised to be with Moses. Moses found a home in God’s presence.

God also told Moses to “Go!”

The home Moses found was more like a RV or a backpack and hiking boots. Moses’ relationship with God set him out on a journey that was bigger than he was … it was bigger than he could have ever imagined.

Moses was on the move, trusting God was with him and taking risks to join the mission to lead God’s people out of misery.

It started when Moses turned aside … when he was curious … when he took a moment to investigate something that caught his attention.


Jesus invites his disciples to participate in a journey that is a lot like Moses’ – maybe even a journey that continues Moses’ calling to lead people to life and freedom.

Are you taking any time to turn aside … Maybe taking a moment to read the Bible, or turning aside to spend some extra time in prayer … to talk to someone new … to investigate a need you notice – something that catches your attention and seems kind of strange … are you turning aside to help someone in a way you never imagined you could … or maybe taking time to learn about something that seems unusual … Maybe God will use that moment to reveal more of himself to you … to draw you more into God’s purposes … more into God’s mission.

Jesus calls us to follow him … he connects us to God … he gives us a place … he offers us a home in God’s presence and he calls us to a mission that is bigger than we are … he invites us to participate in God’s purposes of bringing life and hope, wholeness and peace to the world.

Just like with Moses, God promises to be with us on this journey.

This journey with Christ will change us and it will change the world.