Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Promised Land

Exodus 3:1-12

 

Moses and the Burning Bush

 

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 desert 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."

 

God calls out to Moses from the flames of the burning bush and declares;

"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob."

This declaration is not merely God telling Moses who he is; it is God declaring the kind of God that he is.  He is a God of promises, a God who keeps his promises.  He has made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and he proclaims in this statement that he has not forgotten that covenant or his people, the Israelites.  I believe that today God calls out to us declaring that he is this same God who spoke to Moses through the flames of the burning bush and he has not forgotten this nation or us.  He declares that he is this same God who has spoken through the Prophets.  He has a message for this nation.  He is this same God who has spoken to us through his Son Jesus Christ.  And what is it that God might be saying to us?

‘I have indeed seen the misery of the people of this nation.  I have heard them cry out because of their slave-drivers and I have seen their suffering!’ 

As God spoke to Moses saying that he had heard the misery and cries of the Israelites under the hands of the Egyptians, so God speaks to us today, telling us that he has heard the cries of the people of this nation.  The cries of a mother who mourns the loss of her son who has been stabbed to death.  The cries of a father who sees the remains of his daughter found in a garden after years of silence.  The cries of a girl who looks at herself in the mirror and despairs because she does not look like the girls in the magazines she reads.  The cries of a teenage boy, confused over his sexuality yet never able to talk about it for fear of rejection and abuse.  God has heard these cries, they have risen to him.  And what will he do?

‘I have come down to rescue them!’

He has come in Christ to rescue all people out of the hands of the slave drivers.  Those who kill and destroy, God will bring justice.  Those who see false beauty, God will bring his beauty.  Those who are confused over their own identity, God will shape them into the image and identity of his own Son.  At the Cross freedom rings out into our nation.  Freedom from slavery!  And, as Moses before us, we have been called by God to declare that freedom.  Yet what does this freedom look like?  God says:

‘I have come to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey’

God promises to bring the Israelites out of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey, the Promised Land and Moses is the one who God has called to lead these people to this Promised Land.  As Moses before us led the Israelites through the waters to the Promised Land, we have been called by God to go and invite the people of this nation to go through the waters of baptism and journey with us to the Promised Land, a land where God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.  A Land where God will live with us.  A Land where God’s justice, beauty and love will reign forever.  This is our Promised Land, with Jesus leading the way.    As we walk this journey, we may stumble and fall yet God, who said he would be with Moses, has said he will be with us.  As we walk this Journey we may grow weary, as did the Israelites, yet God has said he will lift us up.  As we walk this Journey we may hunger and thirst, yet God will feed us at the Table, giving us strength for the Journey.  And as we walk this Journey together, we can strengthen each other, carry each other, mourn and cry with each other, laugh with each other, with Jesus our light and our salvation leading the way.

Come, let us march humbly, yet boldly into the Promised Land, and as we march let us stretch out our hands and invite others to join us, announcing to them the Good News that the Saviour of the world has been born!  Has been crucified!  Has been raised to life!  And will come again!

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