Exodus 3 – Watch this space

Yesterday we read of how Moses asked God for his name – he wanted a name for this God who was going to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. More than a label, Moses wanted to know the character of God, and whether he could be trusted. God’s answer was enigmatic:

14- 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.'” 

Rather than being evasive, the whole “I am who I am” answer tells Moses and Israel to “watch this space.” You’ll see what kind of god I am by what I’m about to do.

Now we’ll have to read the rest of Exodus – and indeed, the rest of the Bible – if we want to know it all. But already in chapter 3 we get some previews of how God is going to reveal himself in the near future. Here’s a lightning-quick summary (courtesy of Alan Cole’s commentary on Exodus):

The God who speaks

3:4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.”
3:14 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 is not a silent, distant God. In the past he revealed himself to Abraham. In this story, he appears to Moses, in the burning bush, and then proceeds to identify himself as Yahweh. Later in Exodus God spoke on Mt Sinai, to reveal his requirements of the Israelites, in giving the Law and the 10 commandments. In the New Testament, God has spoken through his Son, Jesus. God loves to speak to us and reveal himself to us,

The God who is holy

3:5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

God here reveals himself as holy – as being “other” than us, as being perfectly pure. Later in Exodus, the 10 commandments reveal the requirements of a people who are to be God’s “holy” people – to reflect his holiness in the world.

The God who is personal

3:6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
3:16 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.
3:18 “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.’

Notice how God first explained who he was to Moses – not “I am God who created the world, including you…”, but the God of Moses’ ancestors. He is a God who had a personal relationship with  Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. He is a God who wants a personal relationship with us. He’s the God who’s happy to call himself “the God of the Hebrews,” and “Yahweh our God.”

Although he is holy – other, transcendent – he is also a God who dwells among us. Later in Exodus we see God’s appearance amongst them as a pillar of cloud and of fire; his presence is the ark of the covenant; he dwells in a tabernacle among them. The ultimate example of this is, of course, Immanuel, God with us – the sending of Jesus, God himself, to tabernacle among us as it says in John 1:14; and the sending of the Spirit, God himself, to live within us. (As salvation-history unfolds, we see the continuity of God’s character.)

The God who remembers/hears

3:7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
2:23b-25 The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

God heard their cry and “remembered his covenant.” Remembering is a common word used about God being faithful to his promises. For example, God “remembered Noah” after the ark was floating for 40 days. Not in the sense of, “oh no, the ark! I like totally forgot, what with all the stuff I’ve got going on running the universe at the moment…” . Rather, “remembering” has to do with keeping in mind, with being faithful to his word. In Hebrew thought, it is more tied up with actions rather than memory. He is a God who hears our cries, and responds; a God who is faithful to his promises.

The God who acts in salvation

3:8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

This image of “coming down” to rescue, “coming down” to save is the main theme of Exodus. It is what Israel remembers of God throughout their history – in their Psalms, in their historical writings. Even today, as Jews celebrate the Passover, they remember this act of salvation.

As Christians, the importance of the Exodus has been superseded by an even more important act of salvation – the cross.

That’s why connection of the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are so strong – that’s why Jesus’ crucifixion at the time of the Passover was symbolically so important. We’ll see this in detail when we look at Ex 11-12 on Friday, in preparation for our Easter series. Throughout history, culminating in Jesus, God acts in salvation.

The God who controls history

3:19-21 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 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. 21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.

We see here that it is God who controls history, not humans. It is God who made the Egyptians let the Israelites go. As we see throughout Exodus, God is actively controlling events so that the Israelites are delivered from Egypt, across the Red Sea, to the edge of the Promised Land. God was then, and is now, in control of his world.

That’s what God meant by “I am who I am.” In answer to the question who are you, he replied watch this space – and then proceeded to fill that space with actions that revealed his character, actions recorded in the book of Exodus.

To think about

Yesterday you were encouraged to make a list of all the things God has done in your life, personally, that have revealed his character.

Today, use the reading above to make a list of all the things God has done for humanity that have revealed his character. And again, spend some time in thankful prayer.

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