In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, comes to an end with the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob established in Egypt in the finest part of the land (Gen. 47:5-6), weathering the storm of famine. Prospering there. Looking forward to the day when the Lord would visit them in Egypt and take them to the land He’d promised them. (Gen. 50:24-25) The Lord would visit them. That word "visit" (in Greek) is the same word that bishop comes from. The Lord would visit. He would intervene to save them. That’s what a bishop or pastor is supposed to do. Bring salvation. Whether they realize that is why the Lord would come or not, come He will to save them. The Lord had just saved them by sending Joseph ahead of them and bringing them to Egypt. (Gen. 45:4-7) But did they realize they would need saving again?
But silly Pharaoh, silly world in every age, persecute God’s people and they multiply all the more! (Exo. 1:12) It’s been that way through out all of history. But make life easy for us, tempt us with power, self-importance, and the good life, and we diminish and cease to be God’s people, tempted away from taking up our crosses for the sake of the world, by our own self-importance. And so the Lord, true to His word (Gen 12:3), blesses this family, and curses those who dishonour it. Still to this day, He does this. Suffering merely multiplies the Lord’s family. For the Lord of heaven and earth is not bound by logic. He supersedes the forces and laws of nature. But He is the Father from whom all true fatherhood is known. (Eph. 3:14-15) So count on Him to act like a Father. Hurt His family and just watches what happens. Try to do away with His family and see if He won’t swamp you in His family, sweeping you away in a great flood of his family members and washing you into this family that you once persecuted. (Acts 9:13-18)
So old Pharaoh’s anxiety and mania increase. So he tries something different. Let’s kill their baby boys. (Exo. 1:15-16) Which is a direct assault on God’s promise (Gen. 3:15) that through the Seed of this family, a boy of this family (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16), the Lord would save the world. Attacking this family is foolishness. Attacking the baby boys of this family is a direct assault on God’s own promises, thus, it is an assault on God Himself and His loving purpose for the whole world. So, God gives the mid-wives faith in His promise to save the world through the Seed of Abraham. (Exo. 1:17) They can’t do it. They won’t do it. They won’t drown the boys in the Nile’s waters. (Exo. 1:22) They won’t toss them to the crocodiles. And the Lord blesses these midwives. For the Lord blesses those who bless this family. (Gen. 12:3) And they are increased. They are given families of their own. (Exo. 1:20-21)
So Moses’ mom deposits him in his little ark in the river water. She “tosses” him in Nile just as Pharaoh had commanded. (Exo. 1:22) And mom sends Moses’ big sister, Miriam, to watch over him, (Exo. 2:4; Num. 26:59). Is it all just a God ordained coincidence or is mom a god-ordained genius? We don’t know. But what happens? The baby boy is found in the river by Pharaoh’s daughter and her maids. (Exo. 2:5-6) Pharaoh’s daughter knows it’s a Hebrew boy. Why? What happens to boys of this family on 8th day of life? Circumcision. (Gen. 17:10-12) So, Miriam, smart lass that she is, seeing the princess’s sympathy, jumps in, “I can go find a wetnurse for you.” (Exo. 2:7-8) So Pharaoh’s daughter pays Moses’ mom to nurse her son. And he is protected and sustained by Pharaoh’s own household. What a God is our Lord?
And when the boy is weaned he was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter. She names her adopted son “Moses” – which means “draw out” – “for I drew him out of the water.” (Exo. 2:10). Do you see how his name is an image of baptism? For in the 3rd month the Lord God saved him by drawing him out of the water. Saved him from death by an ark. He rose from the water to a new life as the prince of Egypt, like Joseph before him.
But his people won’t have any of it. “Who made you a prince over us?” (Exo. 2:13-15) Maybe he could have said, “Uh, Pharaoh’s daughter when she adopted me?” But the writing is on the wall. If these guys know it’ll get back to Pharaoh. So he hightails it out of there. He crosses the desert to his family’s cousins, the Midianites. (Gen. 25:1-2) They are a little more appreciative of his desire to be knight in shining armour. He saves some their shepherd girls from some bullies and finds a home and a wife in the deal. (Exo. 2:16-22) While he’s gone Pharaoh dies. Moses’ people groan because of their slavery. The time was ripe for God to act. He remembers His promises to this people. (Exo. 2:23-25) He knows who to make a call on: the unsuccessful liberator, Prince Moses, who is hiding out in the desert, fathering babies, and tending sheep, just like ancestors before him.
So the Lord comes to call and out in the wilderness he sees a sight. A bush burning. Now if you are tending sheep you probably want to steer away from possible wildfires. But while pasturing the sheep he must have seen the fire for hours as they grazed their way slowly forward. Yet it kept burning. And burning. It doesn’t burn up. This is the desert. Dry wood burns quick. A fire would burn out in minutes, unless there is other tinder nearby to set ablaze. But nothing else goes up. The fire keeps burning. And burning. And burning.
Did you catch that? Moses will know that God sent him to do this once he has done it. When it happens you’ll know I made it happen. It’s funny, yet it’s just like you and me. God calls you in your baptism. And years later He calls you to serve Him as a husband or wife, mom or dad. He calls you to speak His word to those He puts in our lives. And when they believe it, when they act on their faith, when it happens you know that He called you to do it. You may go through years of uncertainty, of praying for our loved ones, not sure what’s going on in their lives, “Do they believe, don’t they?” But when you see it, then you know He did it. That He called you to speak His word to them, to save them.
But remember Moses’ taking matters into own hands? Killing that guy? It’s what got him into the boat he’s in. And even in this boat the Lord has blessed him with a wife, and kids, and time to ponder. So before the Lord commissions and sends him, He seals it by telling him His name. “I am that I am.” It’s one simple word in Hebrew. Four letters. YHWH. (Yahweh.) I AM. The Living One. The One Who Exists. The One from Whom comes all existence. It’s what Jesus kept saying all throughout John’s Gospel. I AM the bread of life (John 6:35), I AM the light (John 8:12), I AM the gate (John 10:9), I AM the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), I AM the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26), I AM the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), I AM the vine (John 15:5). I am. I am. I am. That Hebrew word, YHWH, is on every page of the Old Testament, as the name of God. But it was considered so holy for believers of the Old Testament that they only spoke it out loud once a year. Christians carry that practice forward by not printing I AM or Yahweh, in our English Bibles, but rather “Lord” in small capitals. Every time you see that in the Old Testament it is word I AM. So when Peter preached that “God has made this Jesus both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) Peter was saying Jesus is the Angel of the Lord, the great I AM, the God the Hebrews worshipped, the God who sent Moses, who set them free from slavery, who gave them the 10 commandments and the Old Testament, who was Jehoshua – Joshua, Jesus – which means "I AM/Lord is salvation." Jesus was the Seed of Abraham, (Gen. 22:18) God who came to be with us, (Isa. 7:14) in our flesh to set us free from a bondage greater than that of slavery to Egypt. The bondage to sin, death, and the devil. The whole Old Testament is about Jesus. He is the I AM. Eve’s Son whose fleshy foot would crush Satan. (Gen. 3:15) That’s why Moses had to take his sandals off. (Exo. 3:5) He was in the presence of the foot that will crush Satan. It was holy ground for I AM was there. The Word of God. (John 1:1-3) That means where we are right now is holy ground. For wherever the Word of God is is holy. (Rom. 10:17) Wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is there is holiness. So your Jesus, is the all-powerful God of the Old Testament who acted on every page. The whole Bible drips with Him. His blood washes over the whole thing, beginning to end. Making it holy. Declaring you holy. Don’t let Satan or an evil conscience deceive you, for I AM has visited you, given you His own flesh and blood, drawn you out of the waters of baptism. You belong to Him. You are holy.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
--Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON