SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 19 February 2023
Sermon Text: Exodus 3:10-22
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#5)
I. The Great I AM comes down to meet us
II. “I AM WHO I AM”
III. The Great I AM calls us and sends us
IV. The Great I AM is always with us
In various places, the Bible teaches us who God is. Isa. 31:4 compares God to a lion; Dt. 32:11 does to an eagle. Isa. 53 compares Him to a lamb and Mt. 23 describes Him as a hen. Heb. 12:29 portrays God as a fire, whereas Ps. 84 defines Him as a shield. He is our Maker and Shepherd as well as Physician.
While these descriptions are all correct, each one displays only a part, not a full picture of God’s nature and character. For example, addressing God as King is accurate but it does not fully reflect His being the Father of all saints or, simply, believers. God is truly the Judge of the world but He is also our Physician.
But this passage in Ex. 3 that we’ve just read displays God both accurately and perfectly. While God speaks to Moses, He introduces Himself fully to all God-fearers who are also God-worshipers of all generations. In a word, this section is God’s brief and amazing self-introduction.
In addition, through what He says to Moses in this section, He gives us a further hint of God’s nature and character. So, I’d like you to focus on what He says here, and have a better picture of God and His nature. Then, knowing Him more and deeper, you may trust Him wholly and worship Him with all your might.
I. THE GREAT I AM COMES DOWN TO MEET US
The very first point in God’s self-introduction is that God comes to us, like the way He appeared to Moses. Never has any man initiated his encounter with God. It is always God who reaches out to man and meets him. This is truly important and amazing truth about God. He grabs our attention and draws us to Himself, not the other way around. This divine initiative is, as Ex. 3:8 explains, God’s ‘coming down’ to us.
Some people might regard this unimportant or negligible. But that’s not just an awful mistake but a dire sin, because this is the very beginning point in human understanding of God’s nature. God is not one of us; He is unlike us; He is above and beyond us; He does not live in the sphere of the finite beings. He has to come down to meet us. The Bible describes this differentness of God from all creatures as His ‘holiness’; God is holy. As the Creator, He is different, separate, from men as creatures, and He is good and righteous, thus, separate from sin also. He is above all else, beyond all else.
This is what happened to Moses at Mt. Horeb. God came down and appeared to him. Otherwise, Moses would’ve never met the Lord of hosts. Unless God came down to meet, Israel would’ve never known the God of their fathers. Unless God came down to meet you and me, we would’ve never been able to hear His name or believe in His Son, Jesus Christ! God reaches out to us, and that is the only way for any human being to meet the God of the universe or have any interaction with Him, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
II. “I AM WHO I AM”
Having said, it is truly interesting to hear Moses asking God His name. By his inquiry, we hear the name of the holy and great God, ‘Jehovah’ – or following the original Hebrew pronunciation, ‘Ehvah.’ Most literal English translations render this name as ‘LORD,’ starting with a capital L then ORD in small sized capitals. When you find LORD in the Bible written in this way, you’re reading ‘Jehovah.’ But if the word ‘Lord’ is with a capital L and small ord, that means a different Hebrew word, ‘adonai,’ meaning ‘my Lord’ or ‘Master.’
Interestingly, when God answered to Moses, He didn’t start with ‘Ehvah’ or ‘Jehovah.’ Instead, He said His name is, in Hebrew, ‘Ehyeh asher Ehyeh.’ Although no one fully understand this name, ‘Ehyeh asher Ehyeh,’ it is generally known to mean ‘I AM WHO I AM’ or ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ It doesn’t really matter whether His name is ‘I AM WHO I AM’ or ‘I AM THAT I AM’ because this name tells us one truth, that is, God is ‘eternal’ and ‘unchangeable’ in His divine being – or God is ‘immutable.’
Putting it in a simpler word, God is self-existent or independent. This is what ‘I AM WHO I AM’ means. Nothing other than Himself can describe who He is; nothing other than Himself can display His being. He does not depend on anything other than Himself – this is what His name ‘I AM WHO I AM’ means.
Let me explain it this way. All things and beings in the created world depend on other things. For example, we human beings depend on so many things. Take oxygen, for instance. We depend on it heavily and critically. In fact, our independence from it could be just a few minutes long – that’s all. Plants depend on sunlight and rain and essential nutrients. Weather is an outcome of interdependence of various factors such as earth rotation, the Sun’s angle, terrains, and so forth. Every planet and star in the universe are the same. Nothing exists by itself; no one exists by himself/herself.
The only exception is God! He alone is independent; He alone is self-existent and self-sufficient. This is the meaning of His name ‘I AM WHO I AM’ or, in short, ‘Jehovah.’ A great exposition of this name of God is made by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:24 and following. Paul says this: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
In fact, this is why God said in v. 15 of Ex. 3 – our text passage for today – that this name ‘Jehovah’ is His name forever and to be remembered throughout all generations. Not because this name is fancier than others, nor does it carry any special power, but because this name best describes who God is! He is to be remembered forever by all generations as the only self-existent, only self-sufficient, holy and unchangeable God who is all-knowing and all-powerful!
Now, this is what I meant earlier by saying that disregarding or making little account of God’s coming down to us to meet us was not just an awful mistake but a dire sin. Disregarding God’s self-existent nature is to disregard God Himself; neglecting His reaching out to mankind is to reject His gracious hand, thus, missing out on God’s blessing of salvation! This is why we’re not allowed to make God’s image in the likeness of anything of the created world! This is why we’re required of worshiping God in spirit and truth – in other words, worshiping Him in repentance and faith.
This God is the Great I AM, the Great Jehovah. By the way, some of you might wonder and think, ‘If this is the name to be remembered throughout all generations, whey don’t we call Him Jehovah?’ A simple answer is that this name Jehovah requires of us to remember God as the only self-existent, self-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing God from whom we have our being and all things their existence. Either God or Father or Lord as we call Him, we must know that He alone is God. By the way, Jesus Himself called His Father ‘God’ in the NT.
III. THE GREAT I AM CALLS US AND SENDS US
In today’s passage, we have another point to contemplate. Once God comes down to us and meets us, He tells us His name by which we know that He is the Great I AM. This God who is the Great I AM reveals to us more about His character.
First of all, the Great I AM calls His beloved for a blessed task. Hear God’s call for Moses in v. 10, “Come, I will send you.” God means that He’ll send Moses to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, for the task of delivering God’s people from their slavery. That’s the task assigned to Moses and it surely was a blessed one. Likewise, God calls each of us and sends us out to various people for their delivery from sin.
This is an exciting truth of God revealed to us. I say this exciting because God’s sending us to the people who are under the power of sin reveals to us what delights God’s divine heart. In a word, God delights in carrying His purpose through us humans; He delights in cooperating with us in fulfilling His will, that is, delivering sinners from the curse of sin. We’re the working hands and feet of God. Isn’t it an exciting privilege? If I had an opportunity to work with a man of God like John Calvin or Martin Luther or even the late Dr R. C. Sproul who died about 5 years ago, it would’ve been my great honour and privilege. But, what is considered here is that I work with the Great I AM! You too work with the Great Jehovah! What is revealed to us in this calling of Moses in Ex. 3 is that each of us work with the Great I AM! He delights in working with you and through you! This is not simply a joyful fact; it’s much more – it is an exciting revelation!
The Great I AM sends you and me for delivering people from sin. Those assigned for us could be our family members or friends or anyone we encounter on the streets or marketplaces. This is His character; despite He does not need anyone’s help, He works not alone but calls you and me to work with Him. He carries out His saving purpose through the lives of sinful human beings – what a gracious God, and what a deep joy of knowing and working together with Him!
IV. THE GREAT I AM IS ALWAYS WITH US
Hearing this, Moses responds in today’s passage and says this, “Who am I that I should go?” Isn’t it strikingly true? You and I would’ve said the same to God, ‘Who am I that you send me?’ Or you have already asked the same. ‘How could I deliver anyone, this my brother/sister who is so strongly against the faith in Jesus?’ I have. When I was called to serve God as an ordained minister, ‘How could I?’ was my first and immediate response. So did Moses, saying, ‘What am I that I should go?’ He means, ‘What am I that I should carry out God’s work? I’m only man and cannot carry out the works of God!’
While this is a natural, automatic response from human side, God’s answer reveals His fascinating character to our ears. Hear what He says in v. 12, “But I will be with you.” What He means is that ‘Yes, I know who you are, Moses (Yes, I know who each of you are), but I Myself will be with you!’ The Great I AM will be with Moses, and likewise, He’ll be with you and me! This reminds us of the words of the risen Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Mt. 28:20, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Notice the tense, as He says, ‘I am with you,’ and not ‘I will be with you.’ He IS with us!
In this way, the Great I AM is with us, His beloved. The God who is self-existent, self-sufficient, all-knowing and all-powerful is with us. Do we deserve this? Absolutely not. So, it is God’s grace – something we don’t deserve is given to us as a gift. So, the question is not who is Moses, but who is with Moses! The question is not who you are or what you can, but who is with you! It is the Great I AM and He is with you and me, as was with Moses!
So, this story we’ve read and contemplated today is all about God and His nature. He is the Great I AM who is holy, yet, comes down to meet us. This name is a reminder that God is always present with us and active with us.
Once we understand what this name, the Great I AM, means, once we realise His coming down to us and presence with us, we must respond in joyful confidence, respond in delightful obedience, respond in heartfelt thanksgiving.
The question you and I must always remind ourselves is not who we are, but who is with us! The Great I AM, He is with us. ***