God's first action upon acknowledging the groans of Israel is to call Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt, a call to which Moses objects, but God persists.
The call of Moses, delayed by his flight from Egypt, is God's first act after noticing Israel's plight. The narration of the call follows a pattern that is typical of call narratives. Moses is doing what he does on most days now that he has settled into life away from Egypt. He is tending the flock of his father-in-law when God disrupts his routine with a burning bush. Two connections are forged with prior narratives. First, a connection to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is made. Second, the plight of Israel enslaved in Egypt is reiterated. Then, two moves are announced. First, God intents to deliver Israel from its plight and, second, will bring these liberated slaves into a good land flowing with milk and honey. The second move once again loops the action in the book of Exodus back to promises made in Genesis.
Moses is commissioned to carry out these intentions of God. In the classic pattern of call narratives, Moses objects. God does not back off from the commissioning. God commits to accompany the chosen leader, but does not alter the assignment given to Moses. In subsequent narratives, Moses raises repeated objections to his commissioning, and in each case God responds to the objections without relenting on the intention for which Moses is commissioned. The net effect of Moses' objections is the portrait of a leader that is not a mere puppet of God; Moses can speak back. On the other hand, the repeated objections show that the idea of delivering Israel was not Moses' idea in any way. The commission does not grow out of any inner quest for a vocation; it is not a matter of Moses being true to himself. The call is disruptive; God is the initiator and God will be the sustainer.
3Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up. 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here I am. 5Then he said, Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. 6He said further, 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.
7 Then the Lord said, I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011