Introduction to Exodus 3
Moses lived as a prince of Egypt for his first 40 years. He has seen an Egyptian taskmaster abuse a Hebrew slave. He decided to take justice into his own hands and killed the abuser, the Egyptian. But the Hebrew people rejected his leadership.
So, Moses fled 200-300 miles across the desert to a place in the Arabian Peninsula called Midian. There, he met Zipporah, the daughter of a priest named Jethro. He married Zipporah and started a family. And Moses was a shepherd for another 40 years.
Exodus chapters 1-2 cover a total of 80 years. Moses is 80! So, God had set in motion a plan to deliver His people (who had been in bondage for hundreds of years prior). A deliver was born but does not start delivering for 80 years. Clearly, God is a Hero who is not always in a hurry.
80 years. All that time, God’s people remain abused, oppressed, enslaved. Hundreds of years before Moses was even born, generation after generation was born and died suffering injustice their whole lives. Even after Moses was born, year after year person after person suffered hardship without being rescued in this life. The people wait and wait and wait. And it seems as though God does not see or hear or care.
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”Exodus 3:14
I am who I am – in Hebrew haya ‘aser haya – forms of the verb “to be.” You could translate this name in past, present, and future tenses. “I was who I was.” “I am who I am.” “I will be who I will be.” We don’t have time to unpack all that’s in this name. But let’s hit some high points.
When God introduces Himself this way, He is saying “I Am…
The theologian R.C. Sproul said, “Nobody made God. Everything else is dependent, derived, contingent. Everything owes its existence to something other than itself. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my parents; they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their parents. We are derived.” But God is the Uncaused Cause. Of everything.
We are finite. We are fragile. Take away our food; take away our water; take away our shelter and we won’t live for very long. We’ll die. But God doesn’t need food. God doesn’t need water. God doesn’t need oxygen. God is not dependent. He exists in and of Himself.
God says, “I am the same yesterday, today and forever.” Anselm of Canterbury said, “All that God is He has always been, and all that He has been and is He will ever be.”
Time began when creation began. But God never began to exist. Time is nothing to Him. God lives in an everlasting now. A.W. Tozer said, “God has already lived all our tomorrows as He lived all our yesterdays… For Him, everything that will happen has already happened” (A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, pp. 39-40). “From everlasting to everlasting” the LORD is God (Psalm 90:2).
Tozer says, “Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him to where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can and some measure control” (A. W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, p. 8). But an infinite God cannot be fully known by finite creatures. We will always live with a mystery about the greatness and goodness of God.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes in the Old Testament, the word LORD is in all all capital letters. Pay attention to that. The word LORD, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the Divine name YHWH (in Hebrew יְהוָה), pronounced Yahweh. This name comes from the Hebrew verb haya – “to be.” And we’re meant to connects the dots back to God’s name that He reveals in verse 14. LORD – Yahweh – is short for “I am that I am.”
The LORD said to Abraham: “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them… So shall your descendants be… To your descendants I have given this land…” (Genesis 15:4-6)
The LORD said to Isaac: “Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands… And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven… and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” (Genesis 26:3-5).
The LORD said to Jacob: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land” (Genesis 35:11-12).
Our response to the Hero…
- Go see.
- Listen up.
- Show reverence.
- Say yes.
- Get going.
Christophany. The word is made up of two Greek words: Christos, which means “Christ,” and phaino, which means “to appear.”
A Christophany is an appearance of Christ – the Second Person of the Godhead – in the Old Testament in a pre-incarnate form.
In Exodus 3:5, the LORD told Moses, “Do not come near.” Keep your distance from this holy LORD. But when Jesus – the holy Lord Himself – died on the cross and shed His blood for the forgiveness of our sins and took the dirt from our sandals away, the curtain in the Temple that kept people away from the holy LORD was torn in two. And now, Hebrews 4:16 tells that we can draw near with confidence to the throne of grace.
Think about it. The living “I am” became the dying Lamb. He rose from the dead. He’s in heaven praying for you to come close. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus provides the way for you to have a relationship, a closeness with God. You’re forgiven.