Exodus 3

1 After forty years in Midian, Moses was still tending Jethro's flocks. After his failure in Egypt, it appears that Moses lost all ambition. After marrying his wife he never did anything spectacular or stood out in the crowd. He was a broken man for forty years.
2 God will sometimes use curiosities to catch people's attention. Here He appears as an angel of fire in a bush. This is one of the most enduring symbols in the Old Testament. Fire is destructive and while God often appears as a fire, He does not delight in destruction.
4 Once God got Moses' attention He calls out. God calls Moses by name. He was not waiting for just anyone -- He was specifically waiting and calling for Moses.

Moses is undoubtedly surprised by the voice, but he does not run away. Instead, he makes himself available for communication. He certainly must have felt something mysterious and divine in this situation. He was curious, but not threatened by what he saw and heard.

5 Here we see the meeting of the pure God with a sinful man. There is a conflict here, and this is an interesting example of what happens when the two meet. First, God is approachable, but sinful humans can not get "too close" to a theophany. Secondly, God's theophany purifies the surrounding area. As such, it is improper for man to desecrate it with something he has made.

Removal of the shoes is common in many cultures. It shows respect for another's house in that one does not want to track in dirt from the outside.

6 God introduces Himself. Up to this point, it is possible that Moses did not know much of anything about God. His mother may have taught him for the one year (or possibly more) that she had him, but most of those memories were likely forgotten. The Egyptians focused on their own gods, not the God of Israel, so it is unlikely that Moses learned anything meaningful about God in his Egyptian education. Finally, it is likely that Jethro was a priest of some other god. Despite all this, Moses does have enough sense to hide his face from the theophany of God.

God uses the present tense of "I am" to indicate His relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus later uses this as a proof text for the resurrection (Mat 22:31-32). These men are dead at this point in time, but God already sees them as resurrected.

"Father," here is in the singular form, but in Acts 7:32 it is translated as a plural. The context of this verse points to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the "father," so this is not a case of mistranslation.

7 Suffering may go on a long time before God intervenes. We do not know why this is, but we do know that God always does what is best and He always acts at the appropriate time. During tough times godly people may suffer and die along with the ungodly. This does not mean that God is indifferent or uncaring. It also does not negate the fact that the godly person has a comfort and hope that the ungodly do not have. Whether life seems easy or a hard, trusting in God has advantages that last long after this life is over. God's caring about His people does not stop with empathy. He would bear their sufferings when Jesus died on the cross.
8 God's plan was not just to stop the suffering of the Israelites, but to give them something even better -- freedom. He also promises to provide them with a good land to live in, which is the same land that God promised Abraham that his descendents would receive.
10 God sometimes comes up with plans that seem very odd. Moses had fled from the previous Pharaoh 40 years earlier to avoid punishment as a murderer. God is now asking him to go back and confront the new Pharaoh (possibly a man he was raised with) about a different issue. Moses was to ask Pharaoh to give up his entire labor force and expect nothing in return.
11 Furthermore, Moses had little success the last time he tried to help his people. Why would they follow him now? He had been raised like a prince, escaped justice (perhaps via statute of limitations?), and had not spent one day as a slave. Would the people be able to follow a man that could not possibly know the tragedy they have suffered?

Moses is also an old man now at the age of 80. Why would God choose him for such an enormous task? Moses thought his life was over, but the most important work of his life was about to begin.

12 Usually when we look for a "sign," we mean some confirmation that we should go ahead with a certain plan. God proposes an "after the fact" sign. God promises Moses that he will bring the Israelites to this same place. When it happens, then Moses can be assured that God was with him and sent him since such a thing would be impossible without God.
13 Moses is afraid and reluctant. This short series of questions may sound legitimate, but it eventually reveals that Moses does not want to do what God asked.

Moses' first question reveals that he is afraid of being asked questions he does not know how to answer. This problem keeps many people afraid to witness to others about what God has done for them. Others may object, or believe that they have evidence to prove that God does not exist. However, when we have met God, we do not need to have further evidence to convince us. Being a witness means conveying and event that you experienced, but others did not. Even if they think you are lying or crazy, their doubt can not take away what you experienced. Further, the hope of witnessing is that some will believe and then have their own experience with God.

The term "god" is generic. The other pagan gods all had specific names. Since the Israelites had been born and raised in a land where many gods were worshiped, they would be curious to know which of these gods would be saving them.

14 None of the Egyptian gods would save the Israelites because they did not really exist. From the very beginning people have ignored the one true God, pretended He did not exist, or substituted other things for Him. God simply wants the world to acknowledge that He exists.
15 However, God does give His formal name to Moses: Jehovah (Yehovah). This word is derived from the same word "to be" that is translated "I Am" in the previous verse. Thus, He is "God-Who-Is." In other words, His name connotes the only and eternal God. Furthermore, He is the same God that appeared to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It would not be surprising if these men had been relegated to folklore after 400 years. Perhaps the Israelites had cried out to this "folklore" God out of desperation, but God wanted His people to realize that His promises were still real and valid.

We can see that God really cares about people and He is not ashamed to be associated with them. People can address Him as the "God of Abraham," "God of Isaac," etc. If you follow and obey Him, He would be honored to be called the "God of [insert your name here]."

16 Because of the structure of the Hebrew society, it was easier to rally all the people to a cause by convincing the patriarchal leaders.
17 Even if the people felt like God has forgotten them (or worse that He did not exist), He wanted to assure them that He does exist and He does care. He also wanted to assure them that He does keep His promises.
18 God assured Moses that he would convince the elders to approach Pharaoh with him. They were to approach Pharaoh with a preliminary request. It is obvious from the previous verse that God intends to extract them from Egypt, but they are to say they are only going for a three-day journey. How can the God of Truth direct all this without contradicting Himself?

I believe the proposal was real, but Pharaoh changed it as time went on. God knew that Pharaoh would not accept the three-day proposal, which is obviously more reasonable than simply freeing all the slaves. Pharaoh refused to obey this direct command from God on several occasions and as punishment (and persuasion); He sent plagues upon the land of Egypt. By the end of the plagues, Pharaoh demands that the Hebrews leave instead of just taking a three-day journey.

19 After all the dreadful plagues, Pharaoh would demand that the Israelites leave but would then ride out to recapture them. God knew from the beginning that Pharaoh would not change. He would not acknowledge God, nor would he bend his will for the Israelites, the Egyptians, or even his own sake.
20 God tells Moses that He intends to attack Pharaoh's stubborn pride and make a spectacle of him for the entire world to see.
21 The Israelites will find favor with the Egyptians because of their great God.
22 Because of their newfound respect for the people of God (and their fear of them), the Egyptians will gladly and excessively give the Israelites anything they ask for. Thus, while it is plunder, it is not stealing since the Egyptians are giving the items away.