Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Just the other day, I found myself in a situation where my ability to accomplish a task was in question. I responded by saying – this will get done because I am who I am. As soon as I said it, a wave of emotion rushed over me that I couldn’t fully explain. At first, I wondered if it was blasphemy. Afterall, I had just used the exact phrase that God used when speaking with Moses at the burning bush – and I’m not God. The Holy Spirit, however, provided me with some much-needed understanding. In that situation, it was the make-up of my character that guaranteed a successful outcome. When Christ is abiding within me, I am who I am (the good in me) because God is who He is. Nevertheless, I wondered if God was giving Moses that same message – so I decided to reread Exodus 3.
The Burning Bush
To understand Exodus 3, we have to start with Exodus 2. In this chapter, we learn of the birth of Moses, of his life being saved, an act of murder, and an escape to Midian. By the time we arrive at Exodus 3, we find Moses at another pivotal point in his journey – although he doesn’t know it quite yet. He encounters a burning bush, which he finds quite fascinating because while the bush is on fire, it’s not being consumed. God then calls out to Moses and eventually introduces Himself in verse 6 by saying: “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In that moment God ties His identity to His previous works, as known and experienced by the Israelites.
God then expresses compassion for His people – the Israelites – and their current bondage in Egypt. He wants to free them and bring them to the promised land. To do this, God commands Moses in verse 10: “Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Moses responds in verse 11 by saying to God: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” We should pause here for a moment to reflect on the humanness of Moses’ response. More than likely, he’s scared and concerned about the viability of this plan. Moses knows he is no match for Pharoah – but with God, he doesn’t need to be.
God tries to comfort Moses by telling him that He will be with Him, but Moses still has concerns. How many of us find ourselves in the same predicament? Where God is seeking to comfort us, but we tie ourselves to the logic of this world instead of resting in the divinity of God’s presence. If we go back to Moses, we find him worried about how the Israelites will receive his message. In verse 13 we read, Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
Tell Me Your Name
Moses poses an interesting question – he wants to know God’s name. It reminds of me of when Jacob wrestled with God. After God asked Jacob his name and then renamed him as Israel, we read in Genesis 32:29: Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” It’s a fair question considering God asked Jacob first for his name. Nevertheless, we must also consider the times in which Jacob lived. Pagan gods had (and still have) names. It should come as no surprise that Jacob and Moses wanted to know what name to attribute to their God. Yet God responded to Jacob with a question. He said: “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. Notice that there is no recorded answer to Jacob’s question.
So, when we see this same question a short time later in Exodus 3, how does God respond to Moses? Well, in verse 14, God starts off by saying: “I AM WHO I AM.” This is also not a direct answer to the question. God’s answer has commonly being explained as God indicating He will be whatever we need. For example, God is our provider, our comforter, our savior, or our place of peace. This is true, but that’s still not a name. Instead, these are descriptors. So then why doesn’t God give Moses a name? Well, at the most basic level, by not giving a name, God was signaling that He would not be placed in the same category as the false gods that the Israelites had encountered.
To understand this phrase further, let’s take a quick detour to Isaiah 55:9. We read: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” The Israelites wanted to give God a name, but God wanted them, and us, to acknowledge who He is. Consider Hebrews 11:6 which states: But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Faith is required to believe that “God is” before we can even believe that He is a rewarder or any other description we want to attach to Him.
Moses was focused on the wrong thing. He wanted to know how to respond to the Israelites in case they doubted his message. God, on the other hand, wanted Moses to have enough confidence and faith in Him to carry the message and trust that somehow – it would all work out. Nevertheless, God understands that sometimes we need more help, and so gave Moses some additional verbiage in verses 14 &15:
And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.
God repeats the description He gave to Moses earlier in the chapter with one adjustment. He refers to Himself as “Lord God”. By doing this, God literally takes control of the entire “god” category to show that He reigns supreme. His record is spotless. He cannot be limited or constrained.
I AM WHO I AM
If Moses could believe in all that had happened previously with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then he would have to accept the reality that God is. Initially, he didn’t fully embrace this concept, which is why he expressed some doubt. Even today, you and I can experience that same lack of trust. Conceptually, we believe in the idea of a god, but sometimes we don’t trust that the living God is who He says He is. If we did, then we’d spend less timing worrying about the conventions of this world, and more time setting our minds on the things above.
When we allow Christ to abide in us, Christ tells us in John 15 that we will bear fruit. We will witness the manifestation of God in our lives and in the outputs of our circumstances. In addition, we’ll see Him move in ways most people think are impossible. The key, however, is that we don’t think it’s impossible. And if we do – that we’re open to the idea of entering into a dialogue with God. Like with Moses, God is willing to provide us with comfort, compassion, and reassurance. We just have to be ready to meet Him in a space of honesty and submission as we answer His call.
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