The following post is not a full manuscript but some notes suggestive of the message from Exodus Chapter Three in a series called Trusting God.
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Exodus 3.1 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 2 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 3 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 4 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 5
Hebrews 1.1-2 (ESV)
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, Hebrews 1.1
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1.2
In Secrets in the Dark, Frederick Buechner tells about his brother who died and how he missed him so. So he picked up the telephone and called his brother’s apartment, knowing full well that no one was going to answer. And of course he didn’t.
There are some who go through the motions of acting like they are worshipping, acting like Christians, carrying the burdens of life, but they know full well in their skeptical hearts that no one will answer. The phone to heaven will just keep ringing.
We all may have moments like that. But I am here to tell you that I believe that God still speaks. And to listen is to trust Him in a greater way than ever before.
In the story of the burning bush Moses hears from God in the wilderness and his life and history itself was never the same.
But here is the question: If God still speaks to us today and we can trust Him to come to us, how is this so? How does God speak?
Well, let’s set a few things straight first. (1) Moses heard an audible voice. He heard the Angel of the Lord we are told by Moses himself. We must not imagine that he heard anything less than this audible voice. But should we? Well God is perfectly free to do anything He likes. But He is also not a liar. And He tells us in Hebrews 1.1 that in times past He spoke by the prophets but has now spoken by His Son. He has also told us that He sent His Holy Spirit to testify about Him to us. And we are told that we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us. Therefore, (2) we hold that the Spirit moves over His own Word and brings this Word to us and through promptings and urgings we come to know God’s voice in our lives. Audible voices are easier. Our work is now, as O. Palmer Robertson says in The Final Word, is the harder work of seeking God in Scripture and prayer.
But let me say this again: God still speaks. And we can learn something about that from the way God called Moses in Exodus Chapter Three. Let me give you six ways that God speaks to us based on this text.
1. God speaks to us in unlikely places
The Angel of the Lord came to Moses while he was in his exile, far beyond the wilderness, in a most unlikely place. In the Hebrew it means the other side of the sunrise, which is why the ESV renders it “the west side of the wilderness.”
There, in that place, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush.
The point of this for us is that He speaks to in unlikely places in our own lives. I think of how God spoke to John at Patmos, an island prison, a rock with hardly anything to speak of what we might call inspirational surroundings. But God doesn’t need stained glass windows. In fact, we ought to realize that in the wilderness he often speaks the loudest. I think of John Wesley, though, who did hear of God’s grace deep in his soul at a Bible study near St. Paul’s and how on Aldersgate Stree he fell down and knew that Christ had saved even him and the rest was history. I think of a man I shared Jesus Christ with at 35,000 feet in the air, who bowed his head to received Jesus Christ as His Savior. God is not bound. And there is no place where He cannot go. And the most unlikely place to you, my dear friend, is a perfect place for the Lord to speak.
My question for you this morning is not “Will you listen?” But you are in the wilderness? You are sick, you are going through a divorce, you are struggling with the meaning of life. I quote Buechner again:
“You are never more alive to life than when it hurts…”
For I assure you that you will never forget the moving of God upon your soul stirring you and convicting you of your sin and your need to repent and turn to Him, or the call upon your soul to leave all and follow Him to preach, or to minister Christ to others in some other way. No my friend, the great question is this: “Why do you continue to drown Him out?” For we rush through life and fill our days with sounds and people and busyness, so that there is no time left to be alone with ourselves or with God. But to be sure: God will one day speak to you even in the midst of that. It may be the cry to leave this world. But how much better is the still, quiet solitude of soul that says, “Come Lord Jesus…your servant awaits your Word.”
2. God speaks to unlikely people
If you were to place an ad in the local paper for a leader to lead a nation out of slavery and across a wilderness and into a Promised land you might want to list some of these qualifications:
- A demonstrated leader of men, but in Moses you have a leader of sheep;
- A skilled negotiator, but in Moses you get a guy who flunked out in speech class;
- A self confident hero, but in Moses you get a man with obvious identity issues;
- A self made man, but in Moses you get a failure;
- A great model of morality, but in Moses you get a murderer.
This doesn’t look good…to us. Actually, he was just the kind of man God can use.
Have you ever thought about most of the leaders in Biblical history? Abraham, David, Peter and Paul all had serious blemishes, but yet they all are mentioned as heroes in Hebrews chapter 11. And why? One word. Faith. Faith in the God who would provide what he requires, and looking to the One they could not see, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is at this point that I would turn to 1 Timothy chapter 1 and the story of Paul. What do mentors tell disciples about themselves? Maybe for some they tell stories of themselves the way I tell stories to my son about how I used to play football. My abilities on the field only get better with age. But Paul tells Timothy about his personal and spiritual failures. In fact, he says that he was chosen by God in spite of the fact that he was a blasphemer and a violent man. He writes:
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. 1-Timothy 1.15
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 1-Timothy 1.16
Paul presents, not a shining resume, but a sin stained life. He saw himself as one who was chosen by God because if God could use him God could use anyone.
And God can use you, save you, love you, comfort you, and send you.
3. God speaks in uncommon ways
You have to admit that a burning bush is a bit uncommon. Look at this bush:
– It was on fire but did not consume the fire
– It was an instrument to present the Angel of the Lord and his message
– The ground around it was holy, separated by the iridescent heat and light and beauty and magnificence of the vision.
And this my beloved is like unto the Word of God. It is common. It is in your library at home. It may be on the back-seat of your car. It may be collecting dust. It may be in your hand now. It is being proclaimed to you now by a sinner saved by grace. But my beloved the Word of God is most uncommon. It is the God breathed Word from heaven according to Paul in 2 Timothy 3.16 and is useful for faith and living. It is also living, according to the writer to the Hebrews. and is able to cut through to the very marrow of your soul, to reveal sin, to reveal the righteousness of Jesus, to open your heart to repent and believe and fall in love with Jesus.
There is a popular New Age book entitled “Everyday Grace.” But I would submit another title, “Everyday Glory.” The words to this contemporary song put it like this:
Every day people; Everyday shame; Everyday promise shot down in flames; Everyday sunrise; Another everyday story; Rise from the ashes and blaze; In everyday glory
Because I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ I believe in everyday glory, right here in this room.
4. God speaks through a compelling figure
The angel of the Lord is here engulfed in the everlasting fire. The Angel of the Lord gets your attention! 65 times in the Bible there is a reference to the angel of the Lord. Calvin sees the Almighty condescending to Moses through this figure, clothing himself with a human form. Some have seen this figure as the leader of the heavenly host. Some of the early fathers saw this as the pre-incarnate Christ. But one thing is for sure: We interpret harder verses with less obscure ones. One place that might lend us help is from 1 Corinthians where we read:
and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 1-Corinthians 10.4
Christ was the ever present power with Israel, with Moses, in the wilderness. And Christ called Moses. He is the compelling figure of all time who calls, sends and sustains.
And it is true that our Lord Jesus is how God speaks today. His Word and Spirit draw us to Jesus and to no one else. Jesus is:
- altogether lovely
- altogether holy
- altogether pure
- altogether human
- altogether God
- altogether available to us in the Incarnation. The Angel of the Lord might be the leader of the angelic hosts or could be a pre-incarnate Christ, but Jesus most certainly is God in the flesh.
- altogether approved of by the Father who said, “This is my Son. Listen to Him.”
Not long ago an argument ensured in our chaplain section. A member of a cult group had come in to argue about this or that doctrine. Just as I was walking out, my chaplain assistant said, “But just tell me this: what will you do of the Jesus of the Bible?” I sat back down because he didn’t need my help. That is the question.
That is the question for you. What will you do, today, with Jesus?
5. God speaks to us personally
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.”
Clearly, this vision and this Word was meant specifically for Moses. He called Moses’ name. There is power and comfort in that. In Isaiah we are told that God knows us by name.
But now, this is what the LORD says — he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43.1
In Ephesians we are told that God predestined us to be before the foundation of the world.
Sometimes after the service, I will hear someone say that God spoke to them personally as if I had fashioned the message just for them. Of course, I never sit down and say, “Let me now prepare a message to deal with Jim’s sin, or Betty’s grief, or Andy’s joy. I just seek to prepare a message that opens up the timeless truth of the Word of God for people here and now. I want to bring the Word of God to you that I find on these pages. But the Holy Spirit takes His Word and does, indeed, personalize it.
Recently, Mae and I had to deal with a question. We prayed that God would speak to us about it. He has never failed us. And I believe with all of my heart that God is going to answer us. He will come to us and speak our name. And that may be in one of these sermons, or a message we hear from someone else. But I am certain of this: it will come through His Word personalized by the Spirit to our lives. And what I know of God is that when that time comes God will confirm it and seal it and we will know it.
God will come to you in the same way.
6. When God speaks to us, our hard ground is transformed into holy ground.
The place where Moses lived was hard ground. It was a place or exile, a place of shame, a place we must remember from the text that was “far beyond the wilderness.” Yet in this unlikely place God speaks to Moses personally. And when God spoke, God called Moses to see that He was in the presence of the Holy. That place used to be a cell. It was now a sanctuary.
When God comes into your life, the place of your pain becomes a holy place. It doesn’t matter what that place looked like before.
We call this room a sanctuary. And that is a perfect name, in my understanding. For this is the place where God meets with his people. it is the place of common worship. It is dedicated to Him. We don’t want to miss that. But we see here that wherever God appears, then things change.
So if you are a young person and you hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and hear of His love and purpose for life, then the place of your pain and your struggle, maybe your own room at home, becomes holy ground.
So if God comes to your work where you have been having problems, then you are standing on holy ground.
So if God comes into a troubled marriage and He speaks of forgiveness and mercy like He showed on the cross, then that place is holy ground.
So if God comes into a soul that is barren and dry like that Sinai desert, then that soul is holy ground.
There was this dear Christian woman in Savannah, a Mrs. Aiken. She was the widow of a prominent minister. She didn’t speak much for fifty years for he did all of the speaking. But after he died, God allowed the community of believers to see just how powerful she was. We began to see that He was talking to that woman. He was in her life in a powerful way because she was in His Word in a constant way. Once I visited her in the hospital, and she told me that her room had been transformed into holy ground. She told me that God was there. And she told me the reason He was there was to prepare the heart of a teenage girl in the same room with her. She told me that God was preparing that girl to receive Jesus. Sure enough, after a day or so, I returned to see her and I learned that the girl had received Jesus Christ. She had been discharged. Mrs. Aiken was still in there. I tell you, I felt like I needed to take my shoes off!
Have you ever been around someone like that? It is the anointing of the Spirit that comes from living your life before the face of God in prayer, and in the Word. My friend, you cannot be a man or woman or prayer and the Word without the coming of the Holy Spirit and the sanctifying of your life.
My friend, if you are an unbeliever and you have a believing relative or friend, I would get close to them just to get the blessing that will come to them. Maybe you will get some of the gleanings of blessing in your face by being around them. But why just live off of the gleanings? Come into the full harvest of blessing by repenting of your sin, your pride, your resistance to God, and admit His presence. Fall before Him in your heart and receive Jesus Christ. Let the everlasting fire of love and grace, that came to us on the cross, consume your life.
My beloved, God comes to you in a most unlikely place, in this church; and He speaks your name, and your life can never be the same?
Will you worship Him? Will you say, “Here I am.”
1. He speaks to you in unlikely places
2. He speaks to unlikely people
3. He speaks in uncommon ways
4. He speaks through His compelling Christ
5. He speaks personally
6. He speaks and hard ground becomes holy ground
This past week at D. James Kennedy’s funeral, Dr. James Dobson, reminded us that God still speaks. He told of how God spoke to his own father, who desired to be an art student, how his father resisted that call to his own unhappiness. When he saw that his own plans were bringing him more and more grief, he knew the truth: he had to bow before the God who spoke to him. And through his father, Dobson said that tens of thousands of people were in heaven. He said that Ann Kennedy told of how a young Jim Kennedy resisted God’s call. He had the world on a leash. He was making big money, had a beautiful fiance, and a growing reputation as a manager of a dance studio. But he began to see that the ground of his calling was holy ground. And he listened to God. And Dobson said that EE has documented 6 million professions of faith. Dobson said Jim Kennedy could have walked past the burning bush in his life, had a nice life, retired comfortably…but then we would not have been sitting there. And 6 million souls…
There is a burning bush today: it is God’s Word. And the Spirit of the Living God is here, presenting you with Jesus. He calls you to follow Him by trusting in Him alone for eternal life. He calls you to follow Him to the cross to die to yourself and to live for him. But for those who do He promises life and life eternal.
 Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, 1st ed. (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006).