the BIG story: Exodus 3

image The God is a holy God.
At first, the burning bush was a curiosity but now the bush (or rather, God, who was present in the flames) becomes an object of fear and reverence and reminds me of the passage for this coming Sunday (Luke 12). God warned Moses not to come any closer because the ground on which he stood was “holy” (v 5). Moses hid his face, knowing that looking at God could cost him his life (Gen 32:30; Exod 33:20; Judg 6:22-23; 13:21-22). Like Moses, we should be deeply impressed with the holiness of God.

God’s holiness is the basis for Israel’s conduct, but also for the punishment of the sins of the Egyptians and the Canaanites, as we saw in our series from Joshua.

The God of the burning bush is the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not a new and different God. There is no new plan, but simply the outworking of the old plan, revealed to Abraham in Genesis 15:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” … On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kennizites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites” (Gen. 15:12b-16, 18-21).

The God is a compassionate God.
God’s intention to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage is not only motivated by His holiness, or by his covenant with Abraham and the patriarchs — God’s deliverance of His people is also based upon his compassion for them in the midst of their affliction:

“During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.  God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them (Exod 2:23-24) ….

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. 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 …” (Exod 3:7-8a).

The God is an imminent God.
For 400 years, God appeared to be distant. For the Israelites, God was more transcendent (distant, removed, uninvolved in the world), rather than imminent (directly concerned with and involved in the affairs of humans). But they were wrong. God had providentially preserved his people and prepared them for their release (Exod 1-2). God emphasises that He is taking a personal interest in the release of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

The God is a God who commissions people to participate in His purposes.
God is going to be directly involved in the deliverance of His people, but he will do so through humans. So, we find Moses commissioned by God to return to Egypt, to confront Pharaoh, and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Some of our best understanding of the character of God is found in verses 11-15: “Who are You?”  One’s name is a description of one’s character. If Moses’ authority is wrapped up in the God who has called and commissioned him to lead Israel out of Egypt, then he will need to be able to describe the character of this God to assure them of God’s willingness and ability to lead them into the land of

God’s answer to this question is the basis for great assurance and hope:

"I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘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, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation." Exod 3:14-15).

Here’s a quick summary of the character of the God who is the “I AM.”

The “I AM” is the God who exists.
There were many “no gods” in both Egypt and Canaan, which were worshipped, but in contrast to all of these “gods” was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God who is, the only true God.

The “I AM” is the God who exists independently.
God is the Creator, but has no creator. He exists apart from any dependence on anything or anyone. He is a God who does not need help, either to exist or to accomplish His will. Thus, there is nothing which can prevent God’s will from being accomplished.

The “I AM” is the God who exists independently and unchangeably.
As the “I AM,” God is not the God who was anything. Whatever He was, He continues to be, and He will be forever. Whatever God has begun to do He will bring to completion, because there are no changes which necessitate any alterations in His original plans and purposes.

In the Gospel of John, the watershed is “I AM”  in chapter 8. The issue, of course, is “who is Jesus?” Jesus is greater than Abraham, as is evident by the fact that He is the “I AM”:

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58).

While Moses was sent by “I AM,” Jesus was “I AM.”  Belief in the God who is the “I AM” is therefore the foundation for our hope of eternal life and of experiencing the blessings God has promised us, even though we die. Our eternal hope is wrapped up in the eternality of God. Let us believe it. Let us stake our earthly and our eternal destiny on it!

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