Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 July 31, 2016
“I AM Has Called You”
Text: Exodus 3:1-4:17
In today’s (admittedly lengthy) Scripture portion, we have a text, and an event, both over three thousand years old. Yet God by the Holy Spirit speaks powerfully to our souls in it. Let us hear the Word of God from Moses’ Spirit-led pen, and let us note how God applies this text to our souls’ best use.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We have before us today the call of God upon Moses’ life. Moses is now eighty years old, having spent his first forty years growing up in the house of Pharaoh and the subsequent forty years as a shepherd under his father-in-law Jethro. He was glad forty years ago to get out of Egypt—for he slew an Egyptian who was oppressing Moses’ fellow Hebrew. Likely Moses had no desire to return to Egypt. Yet it was God’s desire for Moses to return—and to return for a momentous purpose, as we see presently.
Moses tends the flocks in the region of Midian (in today’s Sinai Peninsula), and this day he shepherds on Mount Horeb—later known better as Mount Sinai. There God appears to Moses in a burning bush—a bush that, though burning, is not consumed. When the curious Moses approaches, God speaks.
God calls Moses’ Name, and Moses answers, “Here I am.” Then, before coming to the heart of the matter, God tells Moses to remove his shoes, for the place where he stands is holy ground. Then God commissions Moses to lead His people out of the house of bondage (Egypt) into the goodly land promised to Abraham’s seed hundreds of years earlier (Canaan)—a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses replies, and in the ongoing dialogue we find our lessons today.
Moses, after his call, first asks, in essence, “Who am I?” He may have at least two senses in mind as he asks his question. First, Moses may wonder, in effect, “Who am I to stand before such an exalted figure as Pharaoh?” Second, he may wonder, “Who am I to lead the great host of God’s people out of Egypt into Canaan?” God’s reply is quite a comforting one in any circumstance: “I will be with you.” God further confirms this with a sign to be revealed and performed in due time: After coming out of Egypt, the throng of Israelites will worship Him on this very mountain. Indeed, Moses own Spirit-led record indicates that this very thing comes to pass.
Moses then asks a second question, to wit, “Who are You?” Even though, in this call of God, Moses receives God’s self-introduction as the God of his father, of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, he wants God to give him a personal name—that he may declare it to God’s people in Egypt. God replies, giving him that Name. He says, “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God has revealed Himself by other names earlier in the Old Testament canon: such as God (Elohim), God Almighty (El Shaddai), and God Most High (El Elyon). Yet this Name, I AM WHO I AM, is God’s essential Name, unrevealed until now. The one true God, Who appears to Moses in the burning bush in today’s text, is the One Who always was, is, and evermore shall be—and He is the One from Whom all else in creation derives. This is powerful. The Maker and Sustainer of the universe calls Moses and promises His presence. This surely must suffice to propel Moses on his way.
Alas, it does not—and we begin now to sense that something may be amiss in Moses. After all, in this call Moses does not cry out as does Isaiah seven hundred years later, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Rather, Moses asks God a third question, “What if they don’t believe me?” The children of Israel, may fail to believe Moses himself (for he apparently deems himself unimpressive), or they may fail to believe God’s goodness itself (for their lives have been only miserable servitude for generations).
God replies with the promises that he will give Moses signs to display—in order that the people of Israel may see that Moses is no ordinary personage thanks to God’s supernatural endowment. First, the staff that God gives Moses becomes a snake and then again a staff by turns. Also by turns Moses’ hand becomes leprous and clean as he inserts it inside his cloak. Third, if needful, Moses shall take some water from the Nile and it will become blood. Surely these shall make the Israelites inclined to believe God’s word through Moses. Surely all the foregoing has assured Moses of God’s favor.
Moses speaks again, and this reveals explicitly his perceived inability to perform what God calls him to do. He says, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” This is Moses’s view now, and likely it has been his view of himself throughout his life. God’s reply, shorter now, involves a rhetorical question: “Who has made man’s mouth?” Certainly He Who makes and gives our body parts and their functions can heighten their efficacy. God can work through Moses’ perceived weakness; in fact, this is a common way that God gains glory for Himself.
Even after all of God’s replies, Moses finally utters, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” The next words we read tell us that the anger of the Lord kindled against Moses—hardly the ideal place for a creature to be before its Creator. Yet, in God’s abudant mercy, He supplies Moses’ perceived lack. Aaron, Moses’ elder brother by three years, apparently can fill Moses’ need. Moses will speak to Aaron, and Aaron will speak often in Moses’ stead—though it become apparent as the narrative proceeds that Moses himself grows in this ability. Moses finally lays no more objections before God and goes to his momentous task—a task that will last the final forty years of Moses’ life.
Today’s text is no mere word to Moses—though it certainly was that. Nor does today’s text apply merely in the fifteenth century B. C. It applies powerfully this day to us who wear the Name of Jesus Christ. After all, God calls us each and all: both generally to follow Christ, Who rightly called Himself I AM and Who Himself performs miracles to a purpose, and specially to God-given callings—both stations and tasks. As we discharge our callings in Christ, let us remember some things that God taught Moses so long ago.
First, the triune God will be with us. Jesus’ last recorded words in Matthew are these, “And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The Lord said, both to Joshua (Joshua 1:5) and to His Church (Hebrews 13:5), that he will never leave us nor forsake us. We can trust this. God in Christ is with us—and this made real by the Holy Spirit—both generally and particularly as we live out the call He gives us. Second, it is the Maker and Ruler of the universe Who calls us. It is neither peer nor ordinary person who calls us, but it is the One Who calls everything that is into being that calls us. Moreover, the One Who calls us is He in Whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). Third, He will empower us to fulfill His call upon us. He will empower our speech and our deeds to accomplish His will through us. Fourth, He will give us helpers. Just as God supplied Aaron to assist Moses in a certain way, so He will give us helpers—and He well may make us a helper to others as they fulfill their callings. Therefore, let us not shrink from His loving calls to service, but let us go forward in humble confidence—trusting the Lord to bear fruit through our service in His time and in His way.
 The sacred Name also may be translated I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.