Moses, God, and Me

The passage in Exodus 3 and 4, a conversation between Moses and God, is fascinating. There is enough here to write several books, and indeed, many have been written. As I read this portion, at least three things jump out at me.

We all know the scene, where God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, telling him that He has heard the cries of the Israelites, and that He is going to rescue them. And he tells Moses: 3:10 "Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt."

But Moses responds with a question: But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"

Good question: Who am I? I'm a nobody, and how is it that I am supposed to go out and tell people that I am here to save them, because God has spoken to me? Who am I, after all?

And God responded by not telling him who he was: And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."

Notice two things: First, who Moses was didn't matter, because God would be with him, and that's the deciding factor, no matter who Moses is. Or who we are. Second, the "sign" God gives is only going to happen after the fact. Moses has to step out in obedience first, and then God will show that he was in fact acting on God's instruction.

Then, Moses asks another perfectly logical question: "Who are you?" Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?"

And God's response, again, is very important--then and now: (v. 14) God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

Now this is one that generates reams of writing and discussion. But here's a good way we might understand it. The ancient world was not interested in gods as some abstract theological concept. They would have thought modern theologians, by and large, were crazy. A god--or God--was of value only as he acted in the lives of the people, protecting them, providing for them, meeting the needs of their daily lives. And he did this as an outworking of who he was: his character, personality, and power.

So we might understand this statement by God, instead of "I am who I am," rather "As who I am, I will be present for you in your circumstances, as who I am." A little awkward to get hold of, but probably closer to how Moses understood it. And it's equally important to us. Our God is not some abstract, distant theological concept.

4:10 Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue." (11) The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? (12) "Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say."

So then Moses raises another important issue: I am not equipped. I don't have the talent, gifts, intelligence, charisma, or whatever else, to go out in your name. Sound familiar? And God responded, "Who made your mouth?" If God made us, certainly he can work thorough us as we act in obedience to him.

These three questions are ones that we ask over and over when God wants us to step out and do things in his name. God wasn't impressed by Moses' objections, and He isn't any more impressed by ours.


About your "I am that I am" theory:

I believe God was communicating quite clearly when he said "I am". Meaning, I am everything and all, the source, the one. I don't believe he was trying to say "I will be present for you in all circumstances" in this particular verse. It's very clear that "he" wanted to convey his existence to Moses and that nothing else matters.

Hello Marisa,

Thanks for your thoughts. Interestingly, that one verse is among the most discussed in scripture, and the least certain in meaning. In English and the 21st century, perhaps your theory is valid. However, we need to understand it in the context of a culture far different from ours. In fact, belief in gods was universal in that time, and the issue in the God/Moses conversation was not God's existence, but God's actions into the lives of the people. So, given the situation of the time, I am inclined to stick with the position I outlined, which, by the way, was not mine, but that of an eminent biblical scholar.

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  • Larry Baden said:
      Hello Marisa, Thanks for your thoughts. Interestingly, that one verse...
  • Marisa said:
      About your "I am that I am" theory: I believe God was communicating q...

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