Yahweh - My Lord

Everyone is a theologian. Everyone thinks thoughts about God.

The word theology comes from two Greek words – theos, which means ‘God’, and logos, which means ‘word’. So in its most basic sense, theology is simply words about God. Now, unlike scripture, in which God has revealed himself as He truly is, the words we think and say about God are not completely accurate. Some of the things we think about God are true, but others are not. That is, we all have understandings of God that are more or less accurate. Our tendency is to create God in our image rather than embrace Him for who He is in His person and what He is in essence.

Even though our ideas about God might be somewhat distorted, they are still important. The pastor A. W. Tozer said that ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us’. If we think wrong things about God, it influences our relationship with God. God invites us to know him, but knowing him involves knowing him as he is, not the way we wish him to be. To know him as he is means that we have to know him according to the way he has revealed himself to us.

In our scripture lesson (Exodus 3.1-15) we see how God revealed himself to Moses, describing not only what He does but who he is.

1. Long-term Parking: God is always on time

v. 1: Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Moses was born a Hebrew but adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter as an infant and so grew up in the palace as a prince of Egypt. When he was forty, he went out to check on his people and killed an Egyptian who was mistreating Hebrew slaves. He fled and ended up in Midian, on the far side of the Sinai peninsula. For forty he watched sheep.

Moses spent the first forty years of his life thinking he was somebody, the second forty years of his life finding out he was nobody, and the third forty years of his life finding out what God could with somebody who knows they’re nobody.

Here’s the point: God hasn’t forgotten you. It may seem that God has left you in the sands of insignificance, watching sheep on the back of a mountain. But at the right time the Lord shows. Your job is to be faithful doing what is in your hand to do; faithfulness now prepares you for the next step.

2. Seeing the Signs: making room for God

v v. 2-3: And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

Often when the Old Testament speaks of ‘The Angel of The Lord’, this refers to God himself. We call this a theophany – an instance when God appears to people in a way that He can be perceived by human senses. It becomes clear later in the text that this isn’t just an angel; this is the Lord.

Note that there is fire and there is a bush. At this time, pagan divinities were often associated with notable trees; the humbleness of the bush separates God from those false gods.
But note that God gave Moses a sign, and it worked; it got his attention. In the book The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis, one of the Chronicles of Narnia,  Aslan gives signs to Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb. They forget the signs and don’t recognise them when they come. How do you think the Lord might be trying to get your attention?

3. Scandalous Sandals: The tension of God’s call

vv. 4-5: When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

FIRST, notice that God calls Moses but then warns him away. What’s up with that? There is a tension all through Exodus about God’s desire to have a people that would draw near to him and the danger involved in drawing near to God. God is holy – symbolised by the fire – he is completely pure – and God’s holiness is deadly to sinful human beings. One of the big tensions in scripture is how sinful humans can come close to a holy God. This tension isn’t solved until we get to JESUS.

SECOND, notice that God says ‘the place on which you are standing is holy ground’.
This was an ordinary piece of land; the thing that made it holy was God’s presence. God is holy – and any people or place he calls holy is holy. In other words, holiness is only true of something in its relation to God.

Is there anything you need to get rid of so you can get close to God?

4. Name check: God’s covenantal credentials

vv. 6: And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob aren’t just guys who happened to get their names in the Bible; these were men with whom God established an everlasting covenant. God reveals himself to be a God of covenant. He is engaging with Moses because Moses is part of God’s covenant people. God is deeply committed to his covenant and is going to work through Moses to bring it to pass.

5. More than words: God knows and God acts

vv. 7-9: Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings,  and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey … And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.

God doesn’t merely say nice things; he acts. And notice what he does: he sees affliction, he hears cries, he knows sufferings, he comes down to deliver. In chapter 2, verse 25 it says ‘God saw the people of Israel – and God knew’.  This is good news! God sees the human situation. God knows the human situation. God acts to deliver us. So here’s the point:

God  is loving enough to care; God is powerful enough to act.

6. You’ve got the wrong guy! When God involves us

vv. 10-11: Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

When God announces to Moses that he is being sent back to Egypt, to Pharaoh, Moses tells the Lord he has the wrong guy: ‘Who am I?’ Moses had every reason to feel inadequate for the call. He was an outlaw, an exile, and a mere shepherd.

Have you ever felt too small to do the too big thing God has for you? That’s how it is supposed to feel; if you could do the thing, you wouldn’t need God.

7. Hand-holding Heroes: When God partners with us

v v. 12: He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

God doesn’t leave us alone, he holds our hands and walks with us into the adventure he calls us to. His answer to Moses question, ‘Who am I?’ is simply ‘But I will be with you …’ For God to be with means that God’s enabling presence would empower Moses to do everything he needs to do. God himself is the answer to the call he gives. The point: It doesn’t matter who we are, it matters who God is.

8. By the way …who are you?

v  . 13: Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”

The cultures amongst which the Israelites lives were polytheistic; it was important to know the identity of the God who was acting on their behalf. Further, in ancient cultures, to know the name of someone is to know something essential about them, something about their character. More than God’s name, Moses wanted to know – how does your identity helps us in the middle of our problems?

9. I Am Who I Am: God’s Self-Existence

v v. 14-15: 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.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD [YHWH], 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 for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations”.

First, a language lesson. Anywhere in the Old Testament you see LORD in all caps, this is the word Adonai in Hebrew, written in place of YHWH. The Jews did this to ensure they didn’t take the Lord’s name (YHWH) in vain.  

So this is where God tells us his name! Yahweh (YHWH), ‘I am’. The phrase I am who I am can also be translated I am that I am or I am what I am. What does this mean?

It means that God is eternal – he has always been and will always be. God is self-existent and not dependent on anything else for his own existence. It means that  God is creator and sustainer of all that exists. God is unchanging in his being and character and thus not in the process of becoming something different from what he is. It means that God is perfect and cannot be improved. And it means that God is the standard of all truth, goodness and beauty.

God is the God is the God of relationship, the God of compassion, the God of power, the God who reveals himself to us.

In closing, let me identify three key lessons:
1. A Personal Message: God hasn’t forgotten you. Like with Moses, he knows your name.

2. A Missional Message: God has a purpose for you that is bigger than you, but He promises to be with you.

3. A Theological Message: God is self-existent: He is greater than you can understand and more personal than you realise.

The Lord is Yahweh, our Awesome God!

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