3 Now one day when Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, he guided the flock far away from its usual pastures to the other side of the desert and came to a place known as Horeb, where the mountain of God stood. 2 There, the Special Messenger of the Eternal appeared to Moses in a fiery blaze from within the bush. Moses looked again at the bush as it blazed; but to his amazement, the bush did not burn up in flames.
Burning bushes in the desert are not uncommon. Dry plants make good tinder, and lightning strikes quickly set them ablaze. What is unusual is the fact that this bush continues to burn: a curiosity for this seasoned shepherd. As Moses draws close, he sees more than he expects; he encounters the one True God and His Special Messenger. But the form of the encounter is not completely clear. Moses hears directly from God, but he sees only fire and God’s Special Messenger. The point here is not simply to amaze Moses with miracles but to call him to an important task. God’s people are suffering, and they need someone willing to go and rescue them. God has already decided the right person for the job, but he needs to be persuaded.
Moses (to himself): 3 Why is this bush not burning up? I need to move a little closer to get a better look at this amazing sight.
4 When the Eternal One saw Moses approach the burning bush to observe it more closely, He called out to him from within the bush.
Eternal One: Moses! Moses!
Moses: I’m right here.
Eternal One: 5 Don’t come any closer. Take off your sandals and stand barefoot on the ground in My presence, for this ground is holy ground.[a] 6 I am the True God, the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[b]
A feeling of dread and awe rushed over Moses; he hid his face because he was afraid he might catch a glimpse of the True God.
Eternal One: 7 I have seen how My people in Egypt are being mistreated. I have heard their groaning when the slave drivers torment and harass them; for I know well their suffering. 8 I have come to rescue them from the oppression of the Egyptians, to lead them from that land where they are slaves and to give them a good land—a wide, open space flowing with milk and honey. The land is currently inhabited by Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 9 The plea of Israel’s children has come before Me, and I have observed the cruel treatment they have suffered by Egyptian hands. 10 So go. I’m sending you back to Egypt as My messenger to the Pharaoh. I want you to gather My people—the children of Israel—and bring them out of Egypt.[c]
Moses (to God): 11 Who am I to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel’s children out of Egypt?
Eternal One: 12 Do not fear, Moses. I will be with you every step of the way, and this will be the sign to you that I am the One who has sent you: after you have led them out of Egypt, you will return to this mountain and worship God.
Moses: 13 Let’s say I go to the people of Israel and tell them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to rescue you,” and then they reply, “What is His name?” What should I tell them then?
Eternal One: 14 I AM WHO I AM.[d] This is what you should tell the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to rescue you.”
15 This is what you are to tell Israel’s people: “The Eternal, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is the One who has sent me to you.” This is My name forevermore, and this is the name by which all future generations shall remember Me.
16 Round up all the elders in Israel and tell them, “The Eternal, the God of your fathers and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has revealed Himself to me and said, ‘I have been watching over you, and I am deeply troubled by what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 So I will rescue you from the oppression you have suffered in Egypt, and lead you to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—a rich and productive land flowing with milk and honey.’” 18 They will listen to all that you tell them; you and the elders will then go to visit Egypt’s king and tell the king, “The Eternal, the Hebrews’ God, has appeared to us. We ask that you allow us to travel three days’ distance into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Eternal.”
19 But I already know that Egypt’s king will turn down your request. He will not allow you to go, unless he is compelled by a hand stronger than his own. 20 So I will stretch out My hand, display My power, and crush Egypt with a series of miracles I will perform. After that the king will send you out of Egypt. 21 I will make it so the Egyptians treat My people favorably; and when you leave Egypt, you will not leave empty-handed. 22 Every Hebrew woman will ask her Egyptian neighbor and any foreigner in her home for anything made of silver or gold or even fine clothing. You will give all the items you collect to your children to wear. In this way, you will strip these items from the Egyptians.