The Way God Shows His Ability
The Way God Shows His Ability
1) A Promise
2) A Sign
3) His Name
Exodus 3:10-15 "Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." 11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" 12 So He said, "I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain." 13 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?" 14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.'" 15 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.'
It’s quite common for people to associate someone’s ability with their title. Simply knowing who a person is doesn’t guarantee that you know their qualifications. For example, you may know who I am, Mark Tiefel, but that doesn’t tell what I can do, or what my job is. That information comes in my title, Pastor. Think also of doctor, professor, even the difference between Mrs. and Ms. as other examples. There are two parts to making determinations about people. Identification and Description. A name identifies someone. A title describes what they can do. But even then, there a few guarantees in life. Just because someone has the title doesn’t guarantee they can do what they’re supposed to do.
For example, centuries ago people believed that Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, was correct when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time. He’s still viewed as the father of western culture. For many, there was no way he could be wrong, because of his name and title. It wasn’t until two-thousand years after Aristotle’s death, that his assumption was challenged by the great Galileo. It’s said that Galileo assembled a group of learned professors to the base of a tower in 1589. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. By a simple experiment, Aristotle’s assumption, which had endured for two millennia, was shown to be false. In this instance, Aristotle’s title didn’t guarantee accuracy.
Of course, the same could be said about Galileo, and all other people. No matter what our names or titles are, we are never 100% accurate. We never fully live up to expectations. But God does. Just like the ways we use names and titles, God also reveals Himself in the same way through His Word. We learn, from early on in our catechism, that God’s name is everything that identifies who He is and describes what He has done. Therefore, we know that each time God speaks of Himself, He is not telling you who He is, but also what He has done and what He stands for. People often overlook how much we can learn just from the names of God in the Bible, before we even learn the stories.
In our text God taught the same lesson to Moses, as He prepared Moses to be the servant to lead His people out of Egypt. But for Moses, learning the name of God was only one part. God also gave Moses even more proof of His ability to lead and guide people, and in a personal way, shaped Moses into the servant that he wanted him to be. And today, God still speaks to us in the same way. Not by calling us to lead an exodus out of Egypt. But showing us the very same principles in our Servant, Jesus, who went to the cross for our sins. We ask God to bless our study today as we consider:
The Way He Shows His Ability
1) A Promise
2) A Sign
3) His Name
As God sends Moses along his way toward Egypt, He gives him some very significant promises. V. 10, God says, “I will send you to Pharaoh…”; a reminder that He is in control of Moses’ mission. As soon as Moses questions that promise God replies with another, v. 12: “I will certainly be with you.” Literally, God says, “Because I will be with you.” Why could Moses hope that his calling would be successful? Immediately, God takes control as He answers. It’s because God is with him. This was really all Moses needed to know. God promised to be with him. And yet, he seeks more and asks more, because he’s still not sure yet. Before Moses even gets to the awesome explanation of God’s very name, he already has everything he needs.
The same is true in our lives. We don’t have to have every aspect of God figured out before we can follow Him; we couldn’t even if we wanted to. We have his promise and that’s enough. Yes, there are several promises from God. But they all come back to one, His promise of salvation. To the human ear and mind, there is an element of uncertainty in a promise, even from God. Unless I can put God right before you and let Him speak directly to you, I can only give you promises in His name. But faith changes the uncertainty. To the ears and mind of faith, the promise is an immediate guarantee. That’s the way God wants it to be when we hear His Word. He wants us to believe it as soon as it reaches our ears, even if it comes through one of His representatives.
To give Moses even more hope, God gives also gives him a sign to go along with His promise. He says in verse 12: “And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” One of the unique things about Moses was that he was qualified to lead God’s people on this journey because of his experience. Remember, Moses was born in Egypt. He was raised in the royal family. He knew the Egyptian life. But, he also knew what is was to be an exile. He knew how God’s people felt as foreigners and outcasts. He made the exodus journey early on in his life, as he fled Egypt after he committed murder. He lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian, cast out of the home he grew up in like an exile. And, as God’s sign testifies to, Moses knew this mountain. Yes, the very mountain that the LORD was presently revealing Himself to Moses was the same mountain where He would soon receive the Ten Commandments. God’s sign to Moses is this: You are ready because you’ve walked this path before. I am not only with you, I have prepared you for this.
Can we say the same about ourselves? So often we are thrust into new and unfamiliar situations. We are tempted by different sins. We regularly feel inadequate to the task of following God. Where is our sign? How come God hasn’t prepared us as He did Moses? He has, you just have to look in the right place. Go back to His promise and trust it. The promise of the gospel shows us how we have been prepared by God; not on our own, but through our Mediator. Jesus walked the path for us. Jesus endured the trials in our place. Jesus experienced the ultimate pain and hardship of sin so we wouldn’t have to in our bodies. He has gone before us. Faith now attaches us to everything that Jesus did. His steps become ours. His sacrifice is in place of our record of iniquities. We share in His triumph. Jesus is the sign that God gives us, the greatest sign for the entire world.
Finally, as a culmination to all of Moses’ questions and doubts, God drops of the hammer; He gives Moses His righteous and holy name. Verse 14: And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.'" Remember what it means when God uses His name. It identifies who He is and it describes what He has done and continues to do. When Moses asks God, “Who am I to say sent me?,” he is not just requested the title of God. He’s not just looking for a simple name in the way we so often use it. He’s asking more. He’s searching deeper. Moses is asking a question about God’s ability. “Who is able to bring a message of such authority? What does God stand for?” Moses is sure that without proof of God’s ability, no one will follow him. What Moses didn’t understand was that he should have trusted this as soon as God promised him, actually, as soon as God called him to his mission.
God’s answer gives Moses both a title and a description of God’s authority. If we had to summarize God down to one word, to one name, it would be “existence.” God simply is. He is the one who exists. It is false to say that God is not. God is the being. That’s the simplest way to describe who God is. He is the I AM; the God who exists, who is. Obviously, this makes us think first of the great contrast between God’s name and all of the other false gods. He is, they are not. He is real, they are not. But God’s name tells us even more. Thankfully, we have the rest of His revelation in the Bible to help us understand Him better. We see God is the being, the existence, because He is the Creator. He made life out of nothing. He, who exists, created the existence of everything else. His creative ability is also included in His name, the I AM.
We also see the eternal nature of God in His name. He had no beginning. He has no end. He simply is. He always has existed, always has been. He is the ever present I AM; continuing unchanged year after year; as mortal creatures come and go. God added to this thought by reminding Moses of His eternal nature: 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.' Jesus declared His divinity as God by citing this very eternal quality, as John quoted Him in the final book of the Bible: Revelation 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End," says the Lord, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." What Jesus is saying there is, I am Jehovah. I am the I AM God who revealed Himself to Moses.
But most important of all, we see in God’s name a description of our salvation. Just as God is the creator of heaven and earth, because He is the God who exists, so too He is the Author of our salvation because He alone exists as Redeemer. Think of your life before faith as an empty canvas, as nothingness, just as the before creation. God still exists. He had to breathe life into you before you came alive. He created you as the masterpiece you now are by faith. You live because He made you, not only physically, but spiritually. Through the promise and now fulfillment of Jesus’ redemptive work, God calls you forth from the dead as Paul says, “you God made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins.” So as you learn His name, don’t just think of Moses at the burning bush, don’t just think of God’s existence or eternity, don’t just think of His creative ability. Think of your salvation, your eternal inheritance with Him in heaven. His name is meant to remind of that.
As we grow in our knowledge of God from His Word we get a clearer picture of who He is, especially when it comes to His name. We’ve seen this in Sunday morning Bible class this year as we’ve studied John’s Gospel. One of the features that John picks up on was how Jesus connected Himself as God by taking this I AM name. It’s the very same thing we saw in Revelation 1:8, which also happened to be written by John. Jesus uses a very particular phrase, often seemingly insignificant to our English words. But what it is is an actual quotation of God’s name from Exodus: I AM. I know you’ve all heard it before. It comes up in some of the most familiar passages in John’s Gospel. Think of when Jesus said,
“I am the bread of life.”
“I am the light of the world.”
“I am the Good Shepherd.”
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” And many more… each time revealing His status as the existing God, as Jehovah.
This is the key, you see, that we understand more about than the basics facts that He’s almighty and eternal. The most important thing we can learn about Him is that He is our Savior, but we only see that in Jesus. There are multiple connections between God’s discourse here in Exodus with Moses and Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. But if you don’t use what God has given us, His Word, that connection will never be made in your heart.
What can never be mistaken is that everyone has the same question Moses did, just in different ways.
- Who is God?
- How do I know that I have Him?
- With what authority do I speak?
- How can I be sure that I’m saved?
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.