Exodus 3:1-15: “I AM”

The Supreme Architect of the universe isn’t remote or indifferent toward us.  No, He wants us to live in Him and love Him—this is the story of the Bible.  Go back to creation, and you will find a loving God, yearning for Adam and Eve to commune with Him.  After the fall, God did not conceal Himself when they attempted to hide.  No, He came seeking them. 

So, our Creator desires a death-defying union with us.  Later, the Almighty will visit Abraham, who became “a friend of God,” acknowledging and enjoying His presence (Isaiah 41:8).  For this reason, God sent prophet after prophet—authorizing them to proclaim His message to others.

More time passes.  A bush is ablaze but somehow remains unconsumed by the fire.  An inquisitive man, Moses, goes to investigate and finds himself encountering God.  On a mountain, God gives a life-altering, history-changing mission to this man.  To unshackle His people from bondage in Egypt, God selects a man named Moses.

So, how did Moses take this?  Perhaps, like many of us in similar circumstances.  To protect himself, out came a flurry of questions.  This man wants details, how he will carry out this proposal, a hair-brained scheme to him, and fallback contingencies.

From the start, Moses must realize this isn’t about him, or what he can do.  From sunrise to sunset, God will achieve His purposes, with Moses but being His instrument.  More connects to this emancipation of slaves than restoring the defeated hopes of this wanted man.  In the balance, teetered more than the return of an enslaved people.

In this historic meeting, God didn’t come to help Moses accomplish the impossible.  No, the intended rescue will come from God, through and through—Moses will only be participating.  The exodus of the Israelites will far surpass the mistreatment of people at the hands of Egyptian abusers. 

So, what is compelling God to act?  Let’s revisit the oath He made to Abraham, of an Offspring to come, who will be a blessing for all the people of the world.  Through Moses, God keeps the ember this promise glowing, redeeming His chosen, bringing them back as His own.  Soon, they will gather around His presence at the same place where Moses stood when God summoned him for this rescuing task.

“How can I go to Pharaoh and who am I to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” stutters Moses.  Ah, the two personal pronouns he uses tells us he misses the point.  “How am I going to pull off something so vast and complex?” is his real concern.

So, God answers back with His two pronouns, “I will be with you.  Here is the sign to you that I am the one who sent you.”  Not yet done, God unveils His greater plan, which will take place because He is present as His name declares, “you will worship God on this mountain.”

Oh, Moses understood the force required to do what God wanted.  Still, God pledged Himself to much more than a demonstration of authority against some king.  Through miraculous signs, Pharaoh will let God’s people go.  The miracles, however, aren’t the focus; no, God made a vow, “I will be with you.”

Anxious, Moses still worries, “I am going to the Israelites and will tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you.’  Now they may ask me, ‘What is his name?’  What should I tell them?” 

Yes, God assigns Moses to a menacing mission, fraught with peril at every turn.  Remember, he grew up as an Egyptian.  So, he realizes well he must provide some proof for this God, for whom he is claiming to speak.  The Egyptians believed names held magical powers and knowing one’s name transferred some of the namesake’s authority to the person.

No wonder Moses hungers to articulate God’s name, for soon he will tell the most formidable man in the world what to do.  To release their free labor, who supplied much of Egypt’s prosperity is crazy, sounding like a lunatic’s mad ravings, not God.

Earlier, despite being a prince, Moses killed a soldier for mistreating a Hebrew slave.  Still a wanted man, he stayed far away from Egypt since the day he fled for his life.  Now God tells him, not only to return but to demand the release of these slaves!

To command this, may cost Moses his life, heaping treason atop his status as a murderer.  Oh, this isn’t risky but downright dangerous.  In the desert as a shepherd, he is no recognized prince with many riches, but he still is living, safe and secure.  How can this undertaking stand any chance of success, Moses wonders?  So, if God’s going to direct Moses to go, he needs to reassure him. 

Now, Moses assumes, “If I can tap into some of God’s fire, I might survive this confrontation with Pharaoh.”  Don’t miss what is behind his request for God’s name and why he makes his many excuses.  These protests almost became a litany, “I am not respected, eloquent, or brave, and I can’t tell others who you are, I need your name!”  Yes, Moses is trying to finagle God to speak His name, to give him an edge.

Though self-serving, what Moses asks is valid, for he needed to answer both the Egyptians and Israelites.  How can they be sure God, and not someone else, talked to him?  So to each question, God replies, “I AM, and I’ll be with you.”

Listen to God’s response, “I am who I am.”  Many dig deep into our language, striving to convey its significance.  Consider, “I Am Who I Am,” “I Am What I Am,” “I Will Be What I Will Be,” and “I Am Because I Am.”  The common thought behind each of these is the Hebrew word, Yahweh, derived from the verb, hayah, meaning “to be.”

So, what’s in a name?  Some translate this, “I am who I am” but also, “I am with you.”  Why?  For if God “is,” this means He is never, “not is.”  So, God reveals He is eternal and omnipresent.

Some suggest the answer God verbalizes to Moses is too short to unpack its meaning, let alone communicate.  All the possible variations and implications in God’s name does show us He is Someone we cannot shove into a tidy, neat little box.  Some will say we can’t revel in the richness of God because we are limited, finite beings.  All this is true, yet incomplete, as well, missing the purpose of God’s actions.

Though our ability to think does limit our understanding of God, we are still to comprehend Him as best as we can—as God also expected of Moses.  To help in this, the Scriptures assign many human characteristics to God, allowing us to learn what He is like, to understand Him better.  The Father’s mighty hand protects us, His arm, strong and sturdy.  The heavens are the work of His fingers.  Underneath His watchful eye, we may rest secure.  Though He is our King, He is also our Heavenly Father.

These are God’s images of Himself, which are all valid, but they are still inadequate.

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  “For who can fathom the mind of the Lord or who can become his counselor?” [Romans 11:33-34]

The real majesty and might of God, to say nothing of His love, mercy, and grace, is beyond all language and contemplating intellect.  The One Who Is and Forever Will Be is an enigma the most learned minds will always fail to grasp.

The name of God reassures Moses, “I am with you.”  For God doesn’t pump up Moses with “I’ll make you important enough.  Your mouth will be eloquent; your heart, brave; your mind, knowledgeable.”  No, “I will be beside you wherever you go.”  Now the fear can flee, for only when one is frightened does bravery need to rise and fight.

More than any divine display of supremacy, Moses needs God.  Only God is.  All else in creation came to be and will one day fade away, not God whose name is forever.  So, Moses gets a glimpse of God’s power and presence, as he recognizes Who is in control.  Through a burning bush, God conveys some of the mystery of His name to Moses, in a way he can sense, experience, and share. 

In days to come, the ex-murderer Moses will be where God wishes him to go, and the I AM will be with him.  “Show up, for I’ll give you what you need, which is enough.”  So, to slaves and Pharaoh, Moses came, speaking for, and of, this everlasting Presence. 

Not Moses; no, the Lord will liberate the people of the Promise to freedom.  The all-powerful, ever-present God, who made things personal with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob now does so for Moses and His people.

In centuries to come, God will step away from using His prophets of old, choosing to send His Prophet from heaven, His only Son.  So, God descends to us in Jesus.  Why?  For the same reason—to find our life in Him and flourish in His love for us.

The incarnate Son, Jesus, is born, who will declare Himself as “I am,” identifying Him to be the God of Moses.  So, for us today, we can only understand God in Christ Jesus.  “Long ago, in many and various ways, God spoke to His people by the prophets, but in these last days, he spoke to us through his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Remember, God’s name is not “I Did” or “I Will Be” but “I Am,” always in the present tense.  Today, God is still working in real time, giving us what we need.  In the Person of Jesus, you find a personal God.  Only He unfetters us from sin’s bondage into the freedom of being His people, freeing us to fulfill the tasks He gives us to do.  All this is so because He is the “I AM,” still with us this day, to give us life and salvation.  Amen.

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