It had to be the most unexpected encounter ever.
Moses, engaged in the family business, led his father-in-law’s flock to pasture. The destination: Horeb—the mountain of God. The very name means “to destroy, to kill.” Little did Moses know that his own dreams would be brought to an end that day. Perhaps he dreamed of inheriting the family business. He would be the most successful herdsman in Midian. God had different plans. And he went to great lengths to get Moses’ attention.
God Himself showed up! In the most extraordinary way, God turned Moses’ head. A bush, ever burning, never consumed. Moses looked again. As if that weren’t enough, the inextinguishable bush spoke! And it (He) called Moses name.
“Here I am,” Moses replied. He was off to a good start. God wants that kind of response. Availability.
“Don’t come near. Take off your sandals. The ground on which you are standing is holy!”
Moses must have passed that same spot several times. Had he even sat under that bush to get a little relief from the punishing Mediterranean sun? Holy?
God needs no special place to reveal himself. As a matter of fact, he often reveals himself in the most ordinary circumstances. He shows up when life is ebbing along as usual. His timing is perfect—though often unexpected.
And wherever he shows up—it becomes a holy place. He needs no entourage, no fanfare. A bush. A desert. A fugitive prince turned shepherd—about to become leader of a nation.
God identified himself. Moses hid himself. Perhaps he thought of the murder. Was God ready to settle with him? Or maybe God’s radiance blinded him. He couldn’t bear to look into the bush. Whatever the reason, Moses was afraid to look at God. God continued speaking.
“I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have given heed to their cry. I am aware of their suffering. I am ready to deliver them, to bring them to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”
So far so good. Moses must have wondered why God was telling him. God continues.
“Again, the cry of the Israelites has come up to me. I have seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, I am sending you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring my people out of Egypt.”
Not good. Moses liked the story until he heard his role. He could go along with everything God was saying. After all, he lost his position as prince because he couldn’t stand to see his brothers treated so harshly. God was on target until he got personal. No, he couldn’t do it.
“Who am I?” Moses asked, “that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”
Moses saw himself as a murderer. God saw a messenger. Moses remembered his failures. God revealed his future.
Moses, a displaced prince was destined to become an undaunted leader. Jochebed’s fateful trip to the Nile now held meaning. Miriam’s chance rescue of her baby brother was no accident. God makes no mistakes. Moses, a former “insider” would return to Egypt. He still hesitated.
God answered. “I will be with you. This will be your sign. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship at this mountain.”
A sign? Moses could hardly consider that to be a sign. The sign would come after the fact. Once Moses completed God’s request, God would affirm that he had indeed done the right thing. In other words, “Moses, I’m expecting you to step out on faith.”
Moses carried the conversation one step further. “Suppose I go. Who will I tell them sent me? If they ask me your name, what will I say?”
Moses waited. God answered.
“I Am Who I Am. Tell them I Am has sent me to you. The Lord, the 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-name to all generations.”
I am who I am. God, through a bush, looked at Moses and said, “I am the self-existing God. I simply am. Before time began, I was. In the here and now, I am. In the future, I will be. Nothing will ever alter me, change me, shape me. I am who I have always been. Remember Abraham? I was Jehovah to him. Isaac? I was still Jehovah. Jacob? Though he constantly dealt in lies, I remained true. I’m Jehovah.”
Jehovah, God’s name. Consider with me a newborn child. To the hospital, he is just another child, one of many born on that particular day. To you, the parents, he is your son, your child. You choose a name. From that moment on he is not “a baby” but “Justin.” When you talk of him, you talk of Justin. His characteristics, the way he does what he does, how he eats, talks, and sleeps are all bound up in his name. The mention of his name elicits certain emotions. He is Justin. He will always be Justin. He’s never been anything else but Justin.
God looked at Moses and said, “I Am Who I Am.” Everything in my character is bound up in the name, “Jehovah.” I am not just another god, I am God. I am Jehovah.
Looking past Moses, God saw Pharaoh’s hardened heart. I Am Who I Am. He heard the complaints of Moses’ people as Pharaoh increased their workload. I Am Who I Am. He witnessed the magicians performing the same miracles Moses performed. I Am Who I Am. He heard the cries of Egyptian mothers who lost their firstborn children. I Am Who I Am. He saw the Red Sea become walls of water enveloping an expanse of dry land large enough for an entire nation to cross. I Am Who I Am. He pictured hundreds of thousands of people worshipping Him at the very place where Moses now stood. I Am Who I Am. He looked at Moses, the family businessman, and saw Moses, the deliverer of his people. I Am Who I Am.
How about you? You stand on the backside of the desert of your own life. Looking back you see a track record that leaves you finishing last. Past failures cast a shadow over any hope of a bright future. Like Moses, you feel the past is best forgotten. Yet your past haunts every step you take. And now the future is riddled with its own questions. As a doctor or nurse, you wonder what you will encounter today. As a teacher, you’re learning to teach in a way that you never studied in school.
Where you see failure, He sees future. When you cry “I can’t!” He responds, “I will.” For your excuses, he gives reasons. You can’t possibly see how he could use you. And He insists that you are the one he has especially called for the task.
He is Jehovah—the I Am.
And He Is.
When you fail, He Is faithful. When you are broken, He Is the balm for the wounded soul. When you are alone, He Is always present. For your hurt, He Is the healer. He Is hope for the hopeless, unlimited opportunity for the useless, and boldness for the backward. He Is.
You will never cross a river He has not already forded, never go through a valley where He is not the lily. He Is. Fill in the blank. He is Jehovah, the self-sufficient One. Whatever your need, He is able to meet it. He simply Is.
God has brought us to this place. Our comfort, security, status quo are gone. The future is more uncertain than it has ever been.
In all of this, He Is.