Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exodus 3 - Not "Who am I?" but "I AM"

LINK: Exodus 3

BACKGROUND

Moses fled to Midian (the land flanking the Gulf of Aqaba on both sides) at the age of 40. The Midianites were the descendants of the son of Keturah, wife of Abraham after Sarah died. In Genesis 25:1-6, Keturah sent them to the "land of the east." Moses also married a Midianite and settled down for forty years as a shepherd. In Exodus 2, his father-in-law is named Reuel (meaning "Friend of God") and in Exodus 3, he is called Jethro (meaning "his excellency"). We don't know why, other than Reuel might be his actual name but Jethro might be his title.

Moses saw a burning bush at Mount Horeb, which is actually Mount Sinai (Compare Genesis 19:10-11 with Deuteronomy 4:10) and in the future, Mount Sinai will play a significant role in the life of Israel and Moses as this will be the place where he is given the Law. An angel of the Lord was in a burning bush. Fire is a symbol of the presence of God, and we will see this in Exodus 19:18. God called and Moses said "Here I am." We saw that response from Abraham (Genesis 22:11) and Jacob (Genesis 46:2). When God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses was afraid and tried to hide his face, but God spoke only words of care for His people. Note the progression of verbs in 3:7-10:

I have seen the affliction (and oppression)
I have given heed to their cries
I am aware of their sufferings
I am indeed concerned (3:16)
I have come down to deliver and
-------bring them back to the good land
I will send you (Moses) to bring my people out of Egypt

We see a picture of a caring God who has all the power to deliver, but notice the last action verb is "send." Again, God can do ANYTHING, but he calls people to join Him in His work of doing amazing things! This time it is Moses, and Moses has some doubts about his abilities when he says, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"

God's response reveals something that we should all be aware of in the abiding life we lead. In essence, God says, "Moses, the question is not 'Who am I?' the reality is "I AM." It was not about Moses and his ability. It was all about God and His ability! We have to let that stick in the very depths of our souls!

The Meaning of "I AM"

I had to dig out my seminary notes on this one because it is so important! The Hebrew word for "I AM" in 3:14 is 'ehyeh. The Hebrew word for "LORD" in 3:15 is Yahweh. Both are forms of the Hebrew verb "to be." So, Yahweh means "HE IS." Another equally faithful rendering of these words is "I WILL BE/HE WILL BE." The terms "I AM/Yahweh" both speak of his self-existence; but more importantly, they speak of his relationship to His people. His relationship to His people is beautifully expressed in all those verbs above. He is the self-existent one who is not "up there" but is dynamically and powerfully "with us"! Yahweh is His memorial-name and one that is His name forever (3:15).

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

Oh, this is where it gets so yummy! The relationship between the name "Jesus" and the name "Yahweh" is so crucial to our understanding of the Scarlet Thread. The name "Jesus" is a compound term of the name of God, Yahweh, and the Hebrew verb "to save." I don't know about you, but when I read Exodus 3:8 and that the LORD had "come down to deliver," I immediately thought of Someone else who "came down to deliver." Jesus' name is the ultimate explanation of that verse! In the person of Jesus we see Yahweh coming to deliver us in His final act of redemption! We can say a resounding Hallelujah that "Jesus saves"!

Also, on more than one occasion, Jesus was challenged about His authority in the book of John. In one of those challenges, Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM" (John 8:58).

Jesus was basically applying this Exodus 3 name of God to HIMSELF. Thus, He was asserting His deity! How great is that? (There are other "I AM" statements in John, but many translations add "He".  Only the New American Standard Version puts the "He" in italics. This indicates that the "He" is not there in the original Greek but is added for understanding, yet it takes away from the powerful "I AM" statement He was making!)

REFLECTION

This time it was Moses, but next time it could be YOU!

I always marvel at how God continues to invite people to come and join Him in His work just because He is a relational God! He could have swept down and delivered those Israelites from the Egyptians all on His own, but He chose to work through a person and invited Moses to be part of it all. I LOVE that about God!

Moses had his doubts, and we may have doubts about God's ability to use us too, but God does not look at our inability to accomplish a task, He just looks at Himself and says: "I AM." 

And all we need to know is "HE IS"! In those two words (either in the first or third person) are all the power and might and ability we need to do anything for His glory.

I used to have a plaque in college, long lost in numerous moves since then, that said, "God never asks about our ability or our inability--just our availability." (This was given to me by a person who did not follow Jesus, by the way.)  God did not ask Moses if he thought he was up for the job, he just promised to be "with" him (3:12).

How about you? Are you available to Him?

I have been involved in equipping women to disciple other women.  I have heard many "Moses" responses: 
Who am I that I could disciple another person?  
I don't have the Bible knowledge.  
I can't teach like you do.  
How can I disciple another person if I have never been discipled myself?  
I've heard it all, but it is not about what you do not have. It is all about what God has.

But sometimes, there are people like my friend, Rebekah. She had a woman in the Mark Bible study she was attending who had just bought her Bible an hour before she came and knew nothing about it. Rebekah said to me, "I think I would like to meet with her and help her, but what if I don't know the answers to her questions?" 

I said, "Then tell her you don't know. How about if you just read through it with her and just start there?" 

Rebekah said, "I think I can do that!

She was on her way!

When we just open up the Bible and do not try to have all the answers, God is right there "with us." He will use us simply because HE IS! We just need to be available.

A few years ago, I asked a lovely women in my church to consider discipling one of the college women, and she said, "Oh, I've done that before, and I am not very good at it." With some gentle encouragement and a bit of a nudge, she stepped out in faith to help a younger woman in the Lord grow. 

I had not followed up to see how it was going (I left right after that to be with my dying mother), and I asked her how it was going, and she got this funny look on her face, and I thought, "OH NO, it was a disaster!" I misread her look, and she said, "Carol, it is amazing! She is even a dancer, and my daughter is a dancer. I feel like she is my daughter! We have been meeting every two weeks, faithfully." 

YEAH!  I cried because GOD IS! He shows up! Yes, you might get in His way now and then, but that is OK! (I am still amazed that the first girl I discipled in 1980 is still walking with God. I get to see her at my church every Sunday morning as a reminder that God can work through incomplete, inadequate vessels like me!)

One of the hallmarks of the explosive church growth throughout the world is "obedience-based discipleship." Seekers are challenged from DAY ONE of their spiritual journey to begin sharing their faith and helping young believer grow instead of going to the foreign worker for all the answers. Yes, the foreign worker is there to mentor the young disciplers and guide them toward looking at the Word for all the answers, but he takes an invisible role so that a disciple making movement is rooted in the local culture. 

One of my mentors is a man who was in an African country for four years. He had raised up local people and worked himself out of a job! There are currently 7,000 churches planted from his four year investment! (2017 update: Now it is 38,000.) This man knew that God is the great, "I AM"!

APPLICATION

What is God telling you to do? What thing is too big for you but not too big for the great I AM?

Seek God, and I guarantee He will show up. Maybe it will not be a burning bush that is not consumed, but He will show up. Remove your shoes and worship. In the midst of that worship, open your hands up to Him and make yourself available to Him.

I promise you that you will not get burned!

PRAYER

LORD, we praise You as the great I AM. You are the God who is there forever. Thank You for coming down to save! Thank You that You are with us, and You want us to join You in great things for You! Show us and make us available to You in whatever You would call us to do. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
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