First Reading:  Exodus 3:1-8a


The Call of Moses


1 Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the back of the wilderness, and came to God’s mountain, to Horeb. 2 The angel of YHWH appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 Moses said, “I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.”


4 When YHWH saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses! Moses!”


He said, “Here I am.”


5 He said, “Don’t come close. Take your sandals off of your feet, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.” 3:6 Moreover he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”


Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God.


7 YHWH said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.


World English Bible


Obviously, we can measure faith by the trust we have in God's will for us in the midst of change. But, change itself can be painful; for God's change can be found in the call to reform and the call to action.


In the first reading, Moses had escaped from the Egyptians and had settled down in the quiet life of a shepherd. Then, Moses saw a strange sight and decided to investigate [2-3]. Moses witnessed the "burning bush" on Mt. Horeb [2], the same mount as Mt. Sinai. According to some traditions, Mt. Sinai meant the"mountain with the burning bush."


The following dialogue had ritual overtones; God initiated while Moses reacted. As Moses approached, God called out and Moses responded [4]. God gave instruction (do not enter beyond the perimeter, remove shoes as a ritual cleansing, hear the name of the divine) and Moses hid his face (to avoid the terror of experiencing God directly) [5-6]. God witnessed to the people's plight and promised rescue (with Moses as leader in verse 10); Moses questioned his own ability [7-11]. God reassured him with his personal presence while Moses asked for the divine's name [12-13].


The dialogue stopped at this point; God now revealed his own name and it was an enigma. God said "YHWH" (which we translate "I am who am"). Original Hebrew script did not have vowels; they were added in the Middle Ages. In order to respect for the divine name, it was spoken only at worship. Slowly over time, the name was spoken only by the priest, then only by the high priest, and was finally lost. All that remained were the consonants "YHWH." In many translations, the word "Lord" replaced the consonants. (As an aside, a monk or scribe from the Middle Ages took vowels for the Hebrew "Adonai," meaning "Lord" and placed them between the consonants "YHWH"; the result was the word "Jehovah!")


Hebrews believed that the name of something or someone revealed the power of the thing or individual; to know one's source of power meant power over that person. So, when Moses asks for God's name, he not only asks for a revelation into God, he seeks power over God. However, when he received God's name, he changed. The dialogue between God and Moses ended, and the mission of Moses began. God changed Moses through the power of the name, but Moses did not change God.


Many times when we try to change God's will through prayer, we become frustrated. No wonder! Like Moses we seek God's power, only to find we are not in charge. God changes us, we do not and cannot change him. Like Moses, God changes us by calling us to do his will.


How has God changed you? How did he use prayer to change you?