Friday, March 27, 2015

Exodus 3: Two Big Questions

It always makes me chuckle how God delivers the news to Moses that he will be the one to lead the Hebrews out of slavery:
"I have observed the misery of my people...
I have heard their cry...
I know their sufferings...
I have come down to deliver them...
and to bring them a land flowing with milk and honey...
The cry of the Israelites has now come to me...
I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them...
So, come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt."
There at the burning bush, Moses receives a commission that will not only change his life but will alter the course of world history forever.  He is to be a deliverer, to bring his people out of bondage and slavery, and bring them into the promised land. 

He has a legitimate question as a response to this assignment, one that I think is asked by everyone who is called by God: "Who am I?"

Moses asks, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites up out of Egypt?"  (vs. 11)  Every good servant of the Lord begins with such a position of humility.  Are you sure you have the right person, God?  Do you really want me to do that?  Am I qualified for that task?

God answered Moses the way that He answers anyone He is calling: "I will be with you" (vs. 12).

That's really all that matters, isn't it?  No matter how big the assignment, it becomes possible if God is with us in the midst of it.  One person plus God makes a majority.  God is telling Moses it doesn't really matter who he is (it doesn't really matter who any of us is!), the important point is that God is with us, and when He is with us, it is enough.

Of course, for Moses hearing this for the first time, it was not enough.  He has a natural follow-up question for God: "Who are you?"

"If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" (vs. 13)

Moses doesn't know much about this God yet.  God has said that it doesn't matter who Moses is; the Lord will be with him.  Now Moses wants more information about this God calling him to do the impossible.  Just who is He?

Thus Moses receives the holy name of God, a name so revered that many pious Jews won't even speak it aloud or write it out yet today: "I AM WHO I AM" (vs. 14).

In this pivotal theophany (a physical appearance of God) at the burning bush, God reveals Himself as "I AM," from which we get the words Yahweh or Jehovah.  As the great "I AM," God establishes Himself as the fundamental, eternally existing, immutable fact that undergirds the universe.  He is primary, creation is secondary.  He is prime, we are derivative.  He is.  He was, and is, and is to come.

The Israelite people's adventure with God is just beginning.

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