On the 2002 album, “Woven and Spun”, Nichole Nordeman sings a song where she is grasping for things to call God. She is trying to see God as everything she needed Him to be throughout her life and everything that she needed him to be in her present and her future. In the song, as a young girl, she called God “Elbow Healer” and “Superhero.” As she got older, she called him, “Heartache Healer” and “Secret Keeper.” After she was married and had kids, she called him, “Shepherd”, “Savior” and “Pasture-Maker.” As she thinks about her life as an older woman getting up in years, she calls God, “Creator”, “Maker”, “Life Sustainer”, “Comforter”, “Healer”, “my Redeemer”, “Lord and King”, and the “Beginning and the End.” Some other names of God that might be familiar to us are El Shaddai which means “God Almighty” and Immanuel which means “God with us.” And some other names that we’ve seen in our study of Genesis are El Elyon which means “God most High” and El Roi which means “the God who sees.”
Throughout my life, there have been a few names of God that have meant a lot to me such as Shepherd, Creator, Savior, Healer, Provider and Abba which means “father.” When you think about the names of God that have meant a lot to you throughout your lives, what names come to mind? Go ahead and shout them out. As Nichole Nordeman is calling on God using these various names, God spoke to her and said that the “I AM” was all she needed. She realized that there is only one name that meets her every need – “I AM” and it encompassed all the other names for God. “I AM” is God’s calling card to us, so to speak, when we are in need. This morning, we continue the narrative of Moses and his encounter with God. Last week, we saw that God arrested Moses on the mountain of Horeb from within the burning bush. He told Moses that he was the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He told Moses that he had seen the oppression and heard the cries of his people in Egypt, and he had come down to rescue them and lead them to a spacious land, flowing with milk and honey. He then tells Moses that he is the one he is sending to bring his people out of Egypt.
What we are going to see this morning is Moses’ reaction to God sending him to bring his people out of slavery. Moses is going to pose two questions to God and God is going to give him his calling card that will not only give him the confidence and power that he needs to fulfill his calling but to also convince the Israelites of who has sent Moses to rescue them. This calling card will be a witness to the people that Moses has had a personal interaction with the God of their fathers and that God has the power to do what he says he will do. It will not be Moses who will rescue the Israelites because he is inadequate and weak, it will be God because he is the great “I AM”, the almighty, all-knowing and all-seeing God who will rescue his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them into the Promised Land. I like this quote from Jon Bloom: “God does not need you to be strong. He wants to be your strength.” God did not need Moses to be strong. God wanted to be his strength. That brings us to the big idea this morning which is “In our weakness God is strong.”
Let’s pray: Lord God, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning. Open our hearts and minds to your Word. Let it be a lamp for our feet and a light on our paths as we live our daily lives on this earth. May it feed us, heal and cleanse us from sin and give us the strength to overcome the tests and trials and difficult circumstances in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
This morning we continue our study in Exodus chapter three looking at verses 11-22. The first point is called the Credentials of Moses found in verses 11-12. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
God has just told Moses that he is sending him to Pharaoh, so he can bring his people out of Egypt. The first word we see in our scripture is the word, “but.” If your parents told you to clean your room or your boss told you they needed this or that by the end of the day and your response started with the word “but,” what would that signify? It would signify reluctance on your part probably followed by an objection. “But I cleaned my room last week” or “but I am too busy to do that.” Moses responds to this call from God to rescue his people with reluctance and a series of objections. This morning we are going to talk about two of those objections. The first is “but, Who am I?” Some commentators say that this was humility on Moses’ part because he didn’t think he had the credentials to go to Pharaoh and bring God’s people out of Egypt. Others believe it was simply a lack of self-confidence or unwillingness to obey. No matter which is true, Moses felt he was inadequate to do the job that God was calling him to do. “But” I am just a shepherd. “But” I had to run away from Egypt. “But” I am the wrong person for the job. “But” they won’t believe me. “But” I am not capable. Have you ever been reluctant to do something that the Bible commands us as Christians to do? One area I think about is evangelism. Have you ever used the excuse “I can’t do that” or “I’ll let someone who has that gift do that” or “What if they make fun of me” or “I’m not the person for the job.” So did Moses.
God’s answer to Moses’ question of “Who am I?” was it didn’t matter who Moses was or if he was capable or not of doing the job. Notice that God didn’t deny that Moses was inadequate for the job. What mattered was that God had called him and would equip him with what he needed to get the job done. God did not need Moses to be strong. God would be his strength. (BIG IDEA). In the NASB it says that God would “assuredly” be with him. God promised his presence would be with him as he went to his people and to Pharaoh. “I am with you” is found throughout the Bible as the way God encouraged his people as he called them to his work in the world. We see this with Jacob in Genesis 31:3, with Joshua in Deuteronomy 31:23 at his commissioning, with Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:8 and Jesus with his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 when he gave the Great Commission. He promises his presence to us as well.
God then gave Moses a sign that he was the one sending him to bring his people out of Egypt and would confirm his divine calling. The sign would be that Moses, when he had brought the people out of Egypt, would worship God on this same mountain. There are some curious things about this sign: One, it was a sign that wouldn’t be fulfilled for quite a while and, two, it was meant to build up Moses’ faith. Moses was going to have to exercise faith in God that he was going to be with him and give him the power to do what he was calling him to do. When the people would arrive on this mountain to worship God then Moses and the people of Israel would truly know that it was God who had called him and that his presence and power had been with him as he had promised. Three, this mountain was not in a direct route from Egypt to the Promised Land. Since this mountain was out of the way, it would make God’s promise more miraculous when he led them back to it. Moses and the people would have to exercise their faith to believe in God’s sign and when they arrived back at this mountain, their faith would be strengthened. This exercising and strengthening of their faith in God would help them as they later traveled in the wilderness.
In 2 Corinthians 5:7, God’s people are called to live by faith and not by sight. Where in your life do you need to exercise faith this morning? If you will exercise faith in God, as he fulfills his promises in your life, your faith will also be strengthened. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Exercise faith in the Lord as I wait on him to fulfill his promises in my life. By coming to the mountain and worshiping God, it would signify that the Israelites were no longer under the Pharoah’s control. They would now be under the care of the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He would be their covenant God and their deliverer and worship would become a major part of their future as God’s chosen people. Delivering his people out of slavery in Egypt was the beginning of bringing them into a living, personal relationship with himself.
Moses didn’t have the credentials to carry out this calling from God, but God did, which brings us to our second point this morning which is the Credentials of God found in verses 13-15. This is what God’s Word says, “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
Here we see the second objection from Moses. The first objection was, but “Who am I?” The second is essentially, but “Who are you?” Moses was concerned that when he went to the Israelites and said that God appeared to him, they would want to know who this God is that sent him. What is his name? This was actually a pretty good question on Moses’ part for a couple of reasons: One, the Israelites had been living in Egypt for a long time with their plethora of gods. Second, they had not had a new revelation from the God of their fathers in a long time. Joseph, Jacob and his other sons had been dead for generations by this time. It is possible that many Israelites had forgotten the God of their fathers and had started to worship the gods that influenced the culture around them. Third, in the ancient world, the names of gods were important. They provided information about the nature, reputation or character of the god they worshiped. To be able to truly worship and pray to the gods, you needed to call on his name and to do that you needed to know his name. Since there had been generations of divine silence the people would naturally wonder exactly who is this God that Moses says sent him?
God graciously responds to Moses’ question giving him his calling card, which would be a witness to Moses’ personal interaction with him. God says four very important things in this section. First, he is speaking specifically to Moses when he said, “I AM WHO I AM” which could also be translated “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” or “I WILL BE GOD.” What did God mean by this? It spoke to his character and reputation. He was saying that he is the self-existent creator and sustainer, the unchanging and eternal One. He is the sovereign Lord and without equal. He is the active, personal presence and covenant God of their fathers. Williams notes, “Contextually, the name “I AM WHO I AM” may well be taken as ‘I will be to you as I was to them.’ This would encourage Moses that God would be with him and for him just as he had been with and for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Second, he told Moses to tell the Israelites that “I AM” has sent him to them. “I AM WHAT I AM” told Moses about his character and reputation, “I AM” was his name which spoke to what he was going to do now and in the future. “I AM” has been translated “Yahweh”, which was the name of God that was known to their Israelite ancestors. Enns says, “This name would verify to Moses and the people that the God of their fathers is now going to rescue them as he promised long ago.” Third, he told Moses to also tell the Israelites that ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—has sent me to you.’ The LORD was the equivalent of Yahweh and “I AM” which connected the God who was sending Moses to free his people from slavery as the same God of their forefathers. By using this name God was calling the Israelites back to the faith of their fathers.
“I AM” was going to be for the Israelite people whatever they needed or lacked. This reminds us of the Nicole Nordeman song from the opening. She had all these names for God throughout her life but the only one she truly needed was “I AM.” When we need a deliverer, “I AM” is all we need. When we need grace, mercy and forgiveness, “I AM” is all we need. When we need guidance, “I AM” is all we need. When we are worried about what is happening in the world, “I AM” is all we need. When we are weak, “I AM” is strong. (BIG IDEA). What do you need God to be for you, today? You can call on the “Great I AM” for whatever you need. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is “Call on the “Great I Am” to __________________. How would you finish that sentence this morning? What do you need “I AM” to be or to do for you today?
Fourth, God told Moses that this name, LORD, was to be his name forever, and was the name that the Israelites were to call him from generation to generation. The covenant God, the LORD, Yahweh, I AM was the name they were to call God for eternity. Later, Jesus would identify himself as one and the same as God by calling himself “I AM” which clearly identified him as the God of the burning bush. In John 8:28, it says, “Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am [He], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.” And in John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” And in John 8:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I Am [He], you will die in your sins.” Jesus Christ is God. He is the God who saves, and if you do not believe in him today, you have no hope of salvation. A Christian is a person who believes that Jesus and God are one and the same, the “Great I AM.” Jesus wants us to put his faith in him, going where he sends us, trusting in his promise of everlasting presence and believing that he is the God who saves. John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” If you have never put your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then the third next step is for you and today will be the day of your salvation. My next step is to “declare Jesus is Lord, believe that God raised him from the dead and accept his free gift of salvation.” If you take that next step, please mark your communication card so we can be in touch with you to talk with you about that decision.
So far, the questions and answers had been from Moses for Moses. Now that God had given Moses his “calling card” to prove that he had been sent by him, he gave him the content he was to relay to the Israelite people. Which brings us to our third point this morning which is Content found in verses 16-22. This is what God’s Word says, “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’ “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”
Moses was to go the elders of Israel and talk with them first. Why? The elders were the older men of the Israelite community who through age and experience were looked up to. The word originally meant “bearded ones” and were leaders in the community, promoting the standards of right living and arbitrating disputes. Also, it would have been impossible for all the Israelites to gather around and hear what Moses had to say. So, God commanded Moses to go before the elders and be the divine spokesman of what God wanted his people to know. The elders would then disseminate that to all the people. Referring to God as the LORD, the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, meant that the message to follow came from the covenant God who had committed himself to and made promises to their forefathers. Moses was to tell them that God had been watching over them and had seen their oppression. Stuart says, “God had noticed, seen . . . paid attention to . . . his people and was not merely aware but was going to do something about it.” It would not happen by human means but through God’s power. “Watched over” is the same verb as “come to your aid” in Genesis 50:24 where Joseph told his brothers that “God will surely come to your aid.” God had always cared for his people and had always been aware of what was happening to them. He was now going to keep the promise he made to their fathers that he would bring them out of their misery in Egypt and into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.
Next, we see the all-knowing omniscience of God. He gives encouragement to Moses by telling him that the elders will listen to him, and that he is to take them along with him to confront Pharaoh. God also gave Moses the words to say to Pharaoh. He was to tell Pharaoh that the LORD, the God of the Hebrews met with them. We can notice a couple things here. One, they are to refer to the LORD as the God of the Hebrews because Pharaoh would not have known or cared about their fathers – but he would understand that they were talking about their God. Second, they told Pharaoh that the LORD “met with them.” “Met with us” would indicate that this request was a divine obligation. They were to request that Pharaoh allow them to take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD their God. Now we know that what God had in mind was not just a three-day journey but a full-blown, permanent leaving of Egypt. Was Moses trying to deceive Pharaoh? No, this was actually the way that bargaining took place in the Near East at that time. Stuart says, “Those in the Near East preferred to use suggestive, gentle, restrained, and limited ways of making requests as opposed to simply coming right out and asking for what they wanted.” This made me think of a few things we say today that don’t really say what we mean. Like “Would you please hand me the remote?” is actually a way of saying, “I’m going to control what we watch, if you don’t mind.” Or, “Dad, can I have the keys to the car?” usually means, “Dad, may I use the car for the next several hours, with no one else being able to use it?” Or, “Have you got a second?” is not literal at all but really is a way of saying, “I’d like to take an indefinite amount of your time,” and “He’ll be with you in a moment” is not literally true but can mean “Keep waiting; he’ll be free whenever he’s free.” Pharaoh knew and understood full well what Moses and the elders were asking. But what was more important was the purpose for their leaving. They wanted to go to offer sacrifices to their God in order to worship him. In Egyptian culture Pharaoh was considered “god” therefore this would have been a blasphemous request on the part of the Israelites. Pharaoh could have allowed them to worship in Egypt but letting them leave Egypt to worship would have challenged Pharoah’s claims to be god and ultimately who had control over the people of Israel.
God displayed his sovereignty by knowing the future and the future going exactly according to his plan. God knew that Pharaoh would not want to lose the slave labor force of the Israelites much less give in to their request for the freedom to worship their God. He knew that Pharaoh would not let the Israelites leave Egypt unless a “mighty hand” compelled him. The “mighty hand” refers to God and what he will do to bring his people out of slavery. Pharaoh was known as “one who destroys his enemies with his strong arm” so this deliberately pitted Yahweh against Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s arm would be no match for God’s mighty hand as God would show his superiority over Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt.
God goes on to tell Moses how he will compel Pharoah to let his people go. He will “stretch” out his hand and “strike” the Egyptians with “wonders” that he will perform among them. The word “strike” means “to beat” and is translated “destroy” in describing the impact of the flood in Genesis 8:21. God would strike the Egyptians with “wonders” which would be extraordinary acts done by God’s supernatural power. We know these as the ten plagues. After these “wonders” Pharoah will let God’s people go. In fact the Hebrew phrase “let them go” means that Pharoah will “expel” them from Egypt. He will kick the Israelites out because of the “wonders” God’s mighty hand will do. God will make the Egyptians “favorably disposed” toward the Israelites and they would not leave Egypt empty-handed. Just as God would compel Pharaoh to let his people go, he would also compel the Egyptian people to give their valuables to them on the way out the door. This would fulfill the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:14 that his people would come out of captivity “with great possessions.” God goes on to explain how this would be done which would show God’s power. “Favorably disposed” means that it would be in the Egyptian women’s best interest to give their valuables to the Israelite women. Remember the “angel of the Lord” would pass over killing all the firstborn sons. The women would be willing to give anything they could to get them to leave.
The Israelite women were to “ask” the Egyptian women living in Goshen and the Egyptian women they worked for as domestic servants for silver, gold and clothing. The verb for “ask” actually means “to demand.” Most commentators say this was the equivalent of asking for wages they should have received for the slave labor they were forced to do. The gold and silver would be used in and for the tabernacle in the wilderness. The clothing was not ordinary clothing but valuable ones that were to be put on their sons and daughters. God knew that their generation would grow up in the wilderness, so this was to prepare them for the future. This is the first mention of the second generation of wilderness Israelites in the narrative. The emphasis is on women for two reasons. One, the Israelite women would have had direct contact with the Egyptian women in contrast to the Israelite men who would not have had contact with the Egyptian men because they were doing the slave labor. Two, the power of God would be displayed in it was women who plundered the Egyptians. The word plundered conveyed “conflict” and “war.” Imagine the stigma of the mighty warriors of Egypt being plundered and conquered by women. This would be a complete and decisive triumph of Israel over Egypt in the most peaceful way imaginable. All orchestrated and led by the “Great I AM.”
A house servant had two large pots. One hung on each end of a pole that he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. The other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. For two years the servant delivered each day only one-and-a-half pots full of water to his master's house. The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, but the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable over accomplishing only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the servant one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "What are you ashamed of?" asked the bearer. "For these past two years I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you don't get full value from your work." The servant said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path." As they went up the hill, the cracked pot noticed the beautiful wildflowers on the side of the path. When they reached the house, the servant said to the pot, "Did you notice the flowers grew only on your side of the path, not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walked back from the stream, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table." Each one of us has flaws and I would add weaknesses. But if we allow it, the Lord will use our flaws and our weaknesses to grace his Father's table. God doesn’t need us to be perfect, only obedient to what he is calling us to do. So like Moses, let us embrace our flaws and weaknesses, acknowledging that in our weakness he is strong and become obedient to what he is calling each one of us to do. That brings us to our last next step, which is to Acknowledge that I am weak, but God is strong and be obedient to what God is calling me to do.
As the ushers prepare to collect the offering and comm. Cards and as the praises team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we know that in our weakness you are strong. Give us your power to be able to exercise our faith as we wait on your promises. Give us your strength to call on you, the “Great I AM” in our time of need. Fill us daily with your Holy Spirit, so we can be obedient to what your are calling us to do in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.