Changed by His Voice (Exodus 3:1-6)
Topic: One Truth: Your Word is Truth Passage: Exodus 3:1–6
Christmas Can Change Your Life
Changed by His Voice
(One Truth: Your Word is Truth)
December 3rd, 2017
I. The Big Picture of Christmas
Did you know...did you know Christmas can change your life?
No, I don't mean in a 'George Bailey', 'It's a Wonderful Life Kind' of way. His life was changed AT Christmastime, but not by Christmas.
How do I know Christmas can change your life? Because Christ can change your life....AND, because Christmas, the very first Christmas, changed many lives. When you turn to the New Testament and read the Christmas Story, you read there about the lives that were changed: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, Anna.
Now, as we enter into the Advent season, we could spend time with each of those individuals, studying each of the individual passages in which they appear. And we've done that very thing in years past. But this Christmas, I would like to do something slightly different: I'd like to step back and look at the big picture of the Christmas Story; that is, what do these stories have in common? What similar themes do they share?
As we explore those questions, we're going to see how Christmas radically changed the lives of these very real people. And it can still change lives.
Are you in need of change? Are you crying out, are you praying for change in your life? Some of you are here this morning, and you are hungry for change. Maybe right now, your focus is on other people or circumstances changing. But God is in the business of helping us understand the ways he wants to change us, that we would be agents of His change in the world.
But there are others of you who are happy with the status quo. You like things just the way they are. Maybe you feel you are doing just fine in your spiritual life. But God's word has a way of driving us forward spiritually; of helping us to discover areas in which we need change and to hunger for change, that we would be become more like Jesus.
So whether you know how much you need it, or are coming to understand how much you need it, Christmas can change your life? Let's find out how. Turn with me to Exodus 3.
II. The Passage: "God Called to Him" (3:1-6)
Exodus 3 is not a Christmas passage, is it. So why are we looking at it this morning? Because when you work through the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke (chapters 1-2), you see a common theme: so much of the action is driven by direct revelation from God.
Think about it: God, speaking (usually) through angels, communicates with Zechariah, with Joseph, with Mary, with shepherds outside Bethlehem, and even with the Magi mentioned in Matthew chapter 2 (although for them He used a star, for the most part). Sometimes this happened in the waking hours, sometimes through a dream.
But the common theme is that all of these lives were changed by Christmas, as these lives were changed by a message from above, by a heavenly announcement, by God's own word. That's what connects us to Exodus 3 this morning. This is a passage about revelation. Let me read these verses, and as I do, consider what they tell us about God's revelation.
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.  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.  And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”  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.”  Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
This is a very well-known passage. And just like the Christmas Story, this account stands at the beginning of a larger account of God's mighty work of redemption, an account of liberation from slavery, an account of atonement through the blood of a lamb. In regard to the Christmas Story, that work was God's work through Jesus. But for Exodus 3, that work was God's work through Moses.
And that is who we read about here: Moses. In this passage we learn how God first called Moses. And if we were to continue reading, we would learn about the mission to which God had called him; the mission to which he was set apart, even from his birth.
But this passage about God calling to Moses also has wonderful things to teach us about God's revelation. Did you see how verse 2 connects us to the Christmas Story? It is the “angel of Yahweh” who appeared to Moses. Just as an angel spoke to Zechariah, Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds, so too with Moses; an angel become God's mouthpiece. Of course, it could be argued that whenever we read about the “angel of Yahweh” in the OT, something more than an angel is meant; that the very presence of God is there in a special way.
Either way, we know this is God's revelation. And consider for a moment four things this passage teaches us about God's revelation. As we hunger for change, as those in need of change, this is so critical. What do we learn here about God's revelation? Well...
1. [God's revelation] Can be ordinary, but also extraordinary.
Isn't it interesting that God's means of getting Moses' attention, God's method of speaking to Moses is a bush...maybe a bush, or the kind of bush, that Moses (as a shepherd) was used to seeing every single day. But as we see here, there was something extra-ordinary about this usually ordinary sight.
The fire that, in the Bible, is often connected with either angels or God's presence, is surrounding this bush...but wonderfully, this heavenly fire is not consuming the bush. And that is precisely what gets Moses' attention: (v. 3) “why the bush is not burned”.
Have you ever thought about how this resembles God's revelation to you and me? There is a book that looks just like any other book. From all outward appearances, from its shape and size and fonts and the materials used to construct it, it is an ordinary book. But if and when someone takes a closer look at this book, in so many cases, they will see the fire of God.
The Bible, the Scriptures, are God's chief revelation to us today. The writings they contain are unlike any other writings, for the voice of God is in them. Like the fire Moses beheld, the supernatural light of God's word can grab your attention and inspire awe within you. And like that bush on Mount Horeb, the Scriptures endure, even though they contain the fire of God's presence.
Brothers and sisters, as was the case with Moses on this mountain, God's word should astound us. And through the mysterious fire of His word, God wants to change us.
But there's more. We are also reminded here that...
2. [God's revelation] Is ultimately directed to individuals like you.
Look at verse 4 again: 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.”
As we talked about before, this passage describes how God called Moses to the work He had planned for Him. Therefore, it's not unusual that God is calling Moses by name. But the details here and the nature of Moses' work can lead me to believe this passage has no real connection to my life.
Now, it's true: Moses had a unique part to play in the plan of God. But we don't want to miss the fact that this passage is not distinct in the sense that God's plan involves calling billions of individuals to the work He has planned for them.
Surely Zacchaeus understood that he was not Moses. And yet we read in Luke 19 that Jesus knew his name, knew he was up in that tree, and knew the plans He had for him. Zacchaeus was a despised, vertically challenged tax collector. He was a nobody. He was no prince of Egypt. But like Moses, God himself called to Zacchaeus.
God's word is full of stories like this. What does that mean for you? It means that when you sit down to read God's word, when the fire of Scripture grabs your attention, when you recognize there is something extra-ordinary about this book, you need to know that God is also calling you by name.
Since the Bible was written millenia ago to people other than me, it is very tempting to think of it as being more like Dickens' A Christmas Carol, rather than a Christmas card addressed to me personally. But the Bible is both. It is a work written long ago in a particular place with particular people in mind. But it is also the living word of God, written for you and me today.
As Paul wrote in Romans 15:4...whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
But combined that with Jesus' words in John 10:27...My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. What kind of shepherd is Jesus? According to Luke 15, He is the kind of shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine to go after the one who is lost. And that one sheep will know the shepherd's voice when he or she hears it.
Brothers and sisters, when you read the word of God, even as we have this morning, please hear God calling to you by name. “Bryce, Bryce”...”Robin, Robin”...”Lorraine, Lorraine (etc.). Please hear the heart of God reaching out to you specifically, that in that transaction you would see He wants to speak into your specific situation, in light of your specific needs.
May God help us remember this when we sit down and open His word. May that time be less like a classroom and more like a family room, where we sit in the Father's presence.
But there's more. We also see here in Exodus 3 that God's revelation...
3. Creates sacred space when given.
What did God tell Moses after He called to him? Interestingly, God's first message to him was, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Now at first, this seems at odds with what we just talked about. Is God calling to me personally, so that He can draw me in through his word? Yes. But why then is He now saying, “Do not come near”?
Well, notice why He tells Moses to “not come near”. It is because of God's holiness. Because of His presence. Because it is the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who is speaking to me. You see, the relevance of God's word for me, does not change the reverence He expects of me when I listen.
What does that mean when you sit down to read your Bible? It simply means, when you hear, with ears of faith God calling your name through the Scriptures, when you recognize that God wants you to see that His word is for your heart and your circumstances specifically, that you come with the seriousness, and respond with the worship that is appropriate. Two more verses to consider:
Isaiah 66:2b...But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
I Thessalonians 2:13...And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
May God help us see that we are in sacred space whenever we open His word. But look back at the passage. There's one more principle here. We also see here that, when it comes to God's revelation...
4. Is always ultimately the revelation of Himself.
Remember how God introduced himself to Moses in verse 6: And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
We know from the context, which includes the book of Genesis, that God wanted Moses to understand what was happening in light of the larger narrative of Hebrew history. But verse 6 is such an important reminder that that history was anchored in God himself. God didn't simply launch into the details of the mission He had for Moses. No, in verses 5 and 6, He wants Moses to understand who is speaking to him from the bush.
Why is this important for us today? Because when we read God's word, it can be tempting to look for specific answers to specific, practical questions; it can be tempting to focus on right conduct and curious or controversial content; it can be tempting to do all of this with God's word and yet miss the very God who is speaking. He is the answer. He is everything.
So when you sit down with God's word, be encouraged by what you find there. Let it comfort and guide you. Let it inform you. But let it do those things as the word of the God who loves you. Consider what his comfort and guidance reveal about Him. And give thanks to Him for the light and heat you find in the 'burning bush' of Scripture.
III. Are You Listening?
Christmas can change your life? Why? Well, as we've seen this morning, it can change your life because God's word can change your life. Isn't that what we see over and over again in the original Christmas Story? God's revelation breaking in to change the status quo?
I like what writer Jared C. Wilson said about God's word: The gift of the Scriptures is the enduring presence of God's voice. As long as we have this voice, He is never silent.
It may look like an ordinary book, but it isn't. It burns with the fire of God's presence. And when you look to His word, know he is calling to you specifically, in light of your specific circumstances and needs. But receive that word with reverence; come in humility and go in worship...knowing that you have met with God, the God who reveals himself in the word.
If you are hungry for change, the change only God can bring, then listen to His voice as you look to His word. That's how all real and lasting change begins, with the word of God.
So here's an idea: give yourself the gift of the word this Christmas. Commit yourself to daily reading, to a study with others, maybe to praying the word, maybe to memorization, maybe to journaling. Make this your goal for the New Year. I will try to get you some resources this week in light of that goal. Subsequently, you can then give this gift to your family and friends.
If we are to truly learn from the Christmas Story, then we must believe that God's revelation, that messages from above are the only path to real and lasting change takes place. That in fact is the basis for this whole study (and every study on every Sunday). Let's ask God for eyes to see His burning bush, and the ears to hear the word that can truly change us.