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“Moses: I Know the Plans That I Have For You”
Life Lessons from the Old Testament Sermon Series
Exodus 3:1-15



Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost—July 26, 2009

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The theme verse for our Summer Sermon Series on Life Lessons from the Old Testament is actually from the New Testament book of Romans.  St. Paul writes, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”  From both the positive and negative examples of these believers of old we learn many valuable life lessons for our lives today.

This week’s message is based on today’s Old Testament Reading from Exodus, the story of Moses receiving the Lord’s calling from the burning bush.  The theme verse for today’s message is actually from Jeremiah, and is printed in the bulletin: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

At the time the events of our text took place, Moses didn’t’ seem to have much of a future.  He was eighty years old, working as a shepherd for his father-in-law, Jethro.  On this particular day, he brought his flock to graze on a mountain that would later become quite famous: Mt. Horeb, which is another name for Mt. Sinai.  “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.”

In the first place, we need to understand who it is, exactly, speaking to Moses from the burning bush.  The Hebrew term used is “Mal’ach Yahweh”, the “Angel” or “Messenger” of Yahweh.  But he certainly is no ordinary angel, for it says it was GOD who called to Moses from within the bush.  Moses asks point blank, “What is your name?” and God replies, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Does that sounds a little familiar?  You may recall in the New Testament Gospel of John, we hear someone identifying himself precisely the same way: “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘before Abraham was born, I AM!’”  Like many other places in the Old Testament, the “Angel of the Lord” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush is actually the second Person of the Trinity, in his divine nature, before he became a man.  It is actually the Son of God speaking to Moses.  Long before the shepherds of Bethlehem stood before Christ at the manger, the shepherd Moses stood before him at the burning bush.  What Moses really sees in the burning bush is a portrait in flames of Christ himself.

Before this miracle took place, Moses was probably a little skeptical about God’s promises.  As a young man, the Lord had promised him that he would be a mighty leader who would deliver the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt.  But an awful long time had passed, and where was Moses now?  For the last forty years, he had worked for his father-in-law as a lowly shepherd.  Half his life wasted herding sheep!  Has the Lord forgotten him?  Has God reneged on his promise to deliver his chosen people out of Egypt?  Most importantly, is the promise of the Messiah who will save the whole world, so often repeated to Moses’ ancestors, just so many empty words?

At the burning bush, God gives all these questions a blazing answer: “I have not forgotten!  The promise of redemption is real!”  God the Son himself appears in the flaming bush to announce it: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. . .  I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out . . . So I have come down to rescue them.”

Christ is telling Moses that every single promise he ever made to the patriarchs will be fulfilled, to the letter.  As King Solomon would later say, “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.”

“Yes, I will deliver my people from slavery!  Yes, I will raise you up, Moses, to be a mighty leader!  Yes, the Messianic line will continue unbroken until I myself appear in the flesh to redeem the world!”

In the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, an eternal flame burns over the grave of President John F. Kennedy.  At least, it’s called an eternal flame.  But, actually, the small propane fire has gone out several times in the 34 years since the President was slain.  They just light it again, and nobody worries too much about it; it’s the thought that counts.

But, there is one flame that truly is eternal, a flame which was kindled after humanity first fell into sin and has never gone out since: The eternal flame of God’s promise to redeem us.  A promise that was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Today, the “I AM” is speaking to YOU, just as he did to Moses.  Not from a burning bush, but through his Word and Sacraments.  “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.  He who believes in me shall live, even if he dies.”  “I AM the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  “I AM the Door; whoever enters through me will be saved.”  “I AM the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  “I AM the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.”  “I AM the Living Bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”  “I AM the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.”

Like Moses, are you sometimes a little skeptical about God’s promises? Does it sometimes seem that the Lord has forgotten you?  Today, you and I stand with Moses at the burning bush, and with him we see in it God’s blazing answer: “I have not forgotten!  The promise of redemption is real!  My promises to you will be fulfilled.  Through it all, trust in me.”  “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

Amen.

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