Reflections on the Old Testament God (01): Exodus 3

Moses meets God

Exodus 3:1-6, 13-15

[Published in Mennonite Weekly Review, 8/23/10]


If we want to learn about the Bible’s view of God, we do well to turn to the Book of Exodus. Our passage from Exodus 3 tells of Moses’ momentous introduction to God.

Wanted by the Egyptian empire for killing an abusive straw boss, Moses went into hiding in the wilderness. We may assume he did not expect to find God there. But God found Moses — the first in a line of sheepherders who encounter God (for example, David and the shepherds at Jesus’ birth).

What can we say about this God? We should hold the various pieces of information about God together. Yes, God is holy; God is also the God of Abraham who joins with humanity to bring blessing to all (Gen. 12:3).

Yes, God is transcendent, answerable to no one (the great “I Am”); God is also one who seeks justice and wholeness for the vulnerable and oppressed.

The God Moses meets in the wilderness must not be seen as “transcendent” or “holy” in ways that separate God from the on the ground misery of God’s people — and the oppressive acts of those causing the misery.

Why God’s self-revelation?

Why does God reveal Godself to Moses here? We read about God here because the Hebrew people are in crisis. The Egyptian empire grinds them down, exploits them, treats them as cogs in the economic machine that generates wealth for the few based on the labor of the many.

The people cry out in their pain, and God remembers God’s covenant with Abraham (Ex. 2:24). God’s very identity is linked with God’s faithfulness to the promises to bless all the families of the Earth through this people God has called together. When they suffer, God suffers. When they cry out, God responds.

Verses 7-12 of chapter 3 are crucial for understanding Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush (3:1-6) and God’s enigmatic naming of himself as “I Am who I Am” (3:14). God has observed the Hebrews’ misery (3:7) and is sending Moses to do something about it (3:10).

As is the case throughout the Bible, God shows Godself to human beings in order to call them to a task — the task of resisting injustice, of making peace, of blessing all the families of the Earth.

1 thought on “Reflections on the Old Testament God (01): Exodus 3

  1. Pingback: Bible Studies on the Old Testament God « Peace Theology

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