Who is God? How do we know his attributes? In this message on Exodus 3, Pastor David Platt reminds Christians to find their rest in the sovereign God of the universe. The Bible tells us that God is holy, merciful, faithful, and immutable.
- Put your faith and hope in him.
- Find your rest and refuge in him.
- Give your adoration and affection to him.
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, I’m going to invite you to open with me to Exodus 3. Anybody else glad to be done with the book of Job? Friends, we’ve had enough of you and all your advice to Job. We saw how the story ended in Job 42, and now we will move on into Exodus, a story in the Old Testament that may be the clearest picture of redemption and salvation that becomes a reality in the New Testament; God’s deliverance of His people from slavery in Egypt. It’s going to give us a very clear picture of salvation. What we’re going to do is focus on a text that gives us the clearest picture, clearest demonstration, and explanation of the name of God in Exodus 3. Then, we’re going to spend a little time in Exodus 6, looking at what it means for God to be Yahweh, the great I AM.
A.W. Tozer lamented, “It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us who live in land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote the Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God.” He said, “So few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM. And for this, we are paying a heavy price in the secularization of our religion and the decay of our inner lives.”
I think that in a world of superficial pleasures and all of the games we play, it is good that God would pull us aside and remind us of the grand reality of who He is and show us that supreme pleasure and supreme delight are found only in deep knowledge of God. So, in response to Tozer’s quote, I pray that it would not be said of anyone of us after today that we have not paused to gaze in wonder at the I AM.
Exodus 3 Gives Us a Historical Look at the people of Israel
So, what we’re going to do is look, starting in Exodus 3. Exodus 1 and 2 give us 400 years of history in two chapters; For 400 years, the people of Israel were slaves suffering in Egypt; that’s Exodus 1 and 2. We see Moses and how God is sovereignly directing Moses to the point, where at the end of Exodus 2, this is what happens.
Exodus 2:23, it’s a little bit before Exodus 3:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
I love that phrase, “He knew.”
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. 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.” 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 in which you are standing is holy ground.” 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.
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, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 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. 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?” 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.”
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?” 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, 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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you out up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.
Exodus 3 Depicts Moses as a Mediator Between God and His People
So, here’s the deal: Moses is minding his own business one day. He is working as a shepherd, and he’s on a mountain and sees a bush on fire but not consumed, and the bush wants to have a conversation with him. Naturally, his attention is drawn, and he begins to walk toward the bush. As an angel of the Lord, who really speaks more as God than for God, the bush confronts him. God is manifesting Himself in this picture, and He says, “Stop, do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” There, Moses hides his face before God and listens to Him speak, and God tells him that He has heard the cries of His people, and He is going to deliver them from Egypt. The way He is going to deliver them is through Moses. Moses is a mediator between God and His people.
So, Moses immediately asks two questions. First, “Who am I? Out of all the Israelites, and there’s a lot of Israelites, why are you talking to me?” Then, the second question is pretty important, “Who in the world are you? When I go to these people and say, ‘I was having a conversation with a bush the other day,’ what am I supposed to tell them?” There’s so much in this passage; we could spend months here, but what I want to focus on is God’s revelation to Moses and to His people.
Go over to Exodus 6 real quick, because I want to read one passage there that will help us understand this picture before we dive into it. What happens, and we haven’t read this in our Bible readings, but in Exodus 4 and 5, Moses goes to Egypt and does what God has said, and things get worse not better. Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever taken a step of obedience in your relationship with God and found that things were harder, not easier, as a result, and you wonder, “What happened? I thought I was doing this in obedience, why is this happening?” That’s exactly where Moses is.
Look at the end of Exodus 5 in verse 22, “Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.” So, listen to how God responds in Exodus 6:1, “[But] The LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.’ God spoke to Moses and said to him…” Now, listen for the similarities of what we just read in Exodus 3,
I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.”
I want you to notice that God is saying over and over again, “I am the Lord. This is my name. This is my name that I am to be remembered by throughout all generations, my covenant name with you, the Lord.”
Now, go back to Exodus 3:14, where God responds to Moses’ question, “Who are you?” He says, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell them I AM has sent me to you.” What does that mean? Underline it there, “I AM WHO I AM.” It’s mentioned twice, “I AM, I AM,” and then a third time later in the verse, “I AM has sent me to you.” Now, all three of those pictures of I AM is the Hebrew verb that means “to be,” something that is.
Then, when you get to verse 15, and He says, “God said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “The LORD, the God of your fathers…”’” underline “the LORD” there. That’s, basically, a variation on this verb “to be,” and it literally means “someone who is.” It’s four consonants that, when you transliterate them, it’s “YHWH.” When you see the name, “Yahweh,” those consonants are the name of God. We see this over 6,000 times in the Old Testament. Just to show how significant that is, that’s three times as many times as we see “Elohim,” which is more of a generic name, so to speak, for God. It’s clear that God has chosen to reveal Himself, not just as some generic deity; He has chosen to reveal himself in the context of relationship and covenant with His people. He is the Lord, remembered as the Lord throughout all generations, which means He desires to be made known as Lord, Yahweh, among us today.
Exodus 3 Shows Us that God was Revealing His Power Through His Name
What does it mean, then, for Him to be the I AM, Yahweh, and what does it mean for us to be a people who gaze in wonder at Him and stand awestruck by the greatness of His name? These early Jews, Israelites, they would not even write this out. They had such reverence and respect, that they would write “Adonai” instead, which means “Lord.” We talk about “Jehovah” which is another way to say YHWH there. There’s reverence and respect for the name of the Lord. So, what does this mean? What is God revealing about Himself and His name, and then, how do we respond to the great I AM?
What I want to do is walk through the whole passage here and kind of bring it to bear on what it means for God to be the Lord. There’s a lot of mystery around what this name, Yahweh, means. Even in these passages, it can be a little confusing because God says, “I revealed myself as God Almighty to Abraham and Isaac and these others, now I’m revealing myself as the Lord.” That doesn’t mean this is the first time we see the Lord mentioned in Scripture; we see the Lord all the way back in the opening chapters of the Bible, but we are seeing here a deeper revelation of who God is in the context of His relationship with His people. What does it mean for God to say, “I AM.” I want us to look at the whole passage and bring it to bear on what that means. When God says He is Yahweh, the great I AM, He is saying, “I am holy.”
The burning bush in and of itself is a picture of the purifying presence of God. As Moses approaches the bush and he is commanded to take his sandals off because the place where he’s standing is holy, it’s not the ground in and of itself that’s holy; it is holy because it is in the presence of God. What does it mean for God to be holy? When we think of holiness, we think of things like sinlessness or righteousness, and that’s part of it, we’ll get to that, but we need to realize holiness is much deeper and much grander than even that. To be holy means that He is perfectly unique. He is holy, something other, something different. We are made in His image, and yet, God is radically different than us.
1 Samuel 2:2, “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” He is other. He is distinct. He is unique apart from us. He is perfectly unique. He is completely separate. This is why God stopped Moses barefooted in his tracks, because there is an infinite gap and separation that exists between sinful man and holy God. He’s separate from us because He is absolutely pure. He is indeed sinless and righteous, untouched by sin and altogether intolerable of sin. This is the problem here in this passage; it’s the problem with man. We were created to enjoy and gaze upon the holiness of God.
What we see in Genesis 1 and 2 that we’ve read is Adam walking and talking with God and enjoying His presence. Then, sin comes in and ruins everything. Don’t you hate sin? Don’t you long to see God in all of His beauty and His majestic holiness? When you do, then you hate even the slightest sin, and your life keeps you from seeing that. You want nothing to do with it because you know, Hebrews 12 says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Even this passage points us to our need for a mediator greater than Moses. As great as Moses is in this story, he is stopped in the presence of God because he is not holy. We need a mediator who can bring us into the presence of God, and praise God, there is one who is greater than Moses: Christ the sinless, righteous one, who gives us His righteousness and His holiness by which we can stand before God.
Exodus 3 Reminds Us that We will All Stand Before God One Day
Here’s the reality and let this soak in: every single man, woman, boy, and girl will one day stand before the Holy God and Judge. If you stand before Him in your sin, with your sin, you will be cast out of His presence for eternity. It’s not a game. This is the reality before the I AM. However, the beauty of it is, if you stand before God on that day clothed in the righteousness of Christ, because you have trusted in what He has bought for you on the cross, then you will gaze upon His beauty; you will see Him as He is and spend eternity with a holy God. We need Christ our mediator.
So, God says, “I am holy.” Second, “I am merciful.” Praise God, the holy Lord is the merciful Lord. Look at His mercy in verse 7. I love these verses. Listen to the words of God, “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 so on. What an incredible picture; don’t miss it here: the God who is majestic in holiness and awesome in glory, stoops to save His people. He sees our affliction. We have a God who sees us in the furnace of affliction.
Brothers and sisters, I remind you, as the people of God today, that your pain is never outside of the purview of God. He sees our affliction. He hears our cries. For God to be Yahweh means that He hears the cries of His people. People of God, when you cry out to Him, your cries never, ever fall on deaf ears. Take heart in this and hope in this. God sees our affliction, and He hears our cries. He knows our sufferings. “I know their sufferings,” He said. “I’m intimately aware of their sufferings.” God knows this. Don’t we think sometimes, “God, do you know? Do you realize what is happening in my life?” He does. In fact, in Christ we have one who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, who has identified with us in suffering. What a glorious truth. He sees our affliction, hears our cries, knows our suffering, and He remembers His covenant.
Now, it’s important when we hear “remember.” This doesn’t mean that God had forgotten about them for 400 years. God knew. In fact, remember back in Genesis 15 when He told Abraham, “Your descendents will be sojourners in a land not their own for 400 years”? He had said this is what is going to happen. He said, “But I will hear their cry, and I will deliver them out of that land.” That’s exactly what’s happening here. God never forgets His love toward His people. Yahweh is the merciful one.
“I am holy. I am merciful. I am ever present.” This is what God says to Moses in verse 12. Isn’t this what we saw all throughout Genesis? When we were reading the Patriarchs, we saw God saying, “I will be with you,” over and over again. Now, He comes to Moses. Now, let’s put ourselves in Moses’ bare feet here for a moment. You’re talking to a bush, and God says to you, a slave, a commoner, a shepherd, a common person, “You’re going to go to the ruler of all the land, Pharaoh, and you’re going to tell him to let all of his slaves go.” Moses immediately starts saying what you and I would probably say, “Why me? What do you mean I’m going to do this?” I love how God responds to this. Notice what God doesn’t say. What you don’t see God say is, “Well, listen, like, you’re the best shot we’ve got in this deal. You grew up in Pharaoh’s court. You know the Egyptians. You know the Hebrews pretty well, too. So, you are the best prospect we have. So, we’re going to pull you out, and you can do this, man.” No, thankfully.
God is working behind the scenes for our glory.
Now, some of those things are true about Moses. God had, no question, sovereignly directed every step toward this end. Isn’t it good to know there’s a God who is working behind the scenes and who’s bringing and orchestrating all of this together for our good and His glory? Certainly, all those things were true, but God doesn’t say, “Moses, here’s why I chose you. Here’s this qualification and this qualification.” He says, “I will be with you.” In other words, “Moses, it doesn’t matter who you are, I am with you. This is not about you as much as it is about me.”
What if God actually chooses to call us to things in our lives, not because of our qualifications and our abilities, but in order to lead us to a place where we are radically dependent on His presence? This is what we see all throughout Scripture, isn’t it? All these heroes of the faith in the Old Testament? Joshua 1:5, “Joshua, I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Judges 6, “Gideon, I will be with you.” Jeremiah 1:8, “Jeremiah, I will be with you.” Don’t miss it: the call to God’s service is always accompanied by the promise of God’s presence.
Mom or dad, are you feeling overwhelmed? Man or woman, are you feeling overwhelmed? Is the situation that God has put you in difficult? Know this: God is Yahweh, the ever-present one who does not leave His people alone. He is ever present, and He is all-powerful. His presence brings power. God says to Moses, “You go to Pharaoh and here’s three signs that I’m going to give you that are a demonstration of my power.” Those three signs, when you think about it, are God intentionally showing His power.
You have the first sign, the staff and the snake, which, I’ll be honest, this is where I check out if I’m Moses. I don’t want my staff becoming a snake. I’m not a big fan of snakes and don’t do well with snakes. If I throw my staff down, and it turns to a snake, I’m out of here, and especially if you tell me to grab the snake. Now, I know there are some people who like snakes and think they’re cool, but I’m thinking if there’s a snake, I’m grabbing a shovel not a snake. Even if you are one of those weird people who likes to touch snakes, you don’t do that with a serpent; you crush them; you don’t play with them. Even if you are one of those people that likes to touch snakes, you know you don’t grab it by the tail; it’s like recipe for disaster. If you are bold enough to touch a snake, you grab it near the head and neck and make sure that you know where those fangs are. So, God says to Moses, “Grab it by the tail.” Is this a sense of humor, like, the tail? Why?
Well, the picture here, and you see historians talk about it often. The cobra was a symbol of Egyptian power. When you see Pharaoh’s crown and other adornment, it’s always associated with a serpent. It’s a picture of idolatry. God is saying very clearly, “I am LORD.” In a picture of a hand that turns leprous and then is healed, “I am LORD. I have power over disease.” Even the picture of the Nile turning to blood, this is stuff that’s in Exodus 4, and we’ll see it in the plagues even more so, but the Nile was God-like in Egypt. The Nile was the reason Egypt had prosperity and fertility. It was the source of life. God says, “I’m the one who has authority over life and death.” So, the picture here is God’s saying, “I’m all-powerful.” It’s why, after the Exodus, Moses sings out to God and says, “Yahweh is a warrior. He is my strength. Yahweh is. He’s the one who has all power. He is ever-present and all-powerful.”
Now, we’ll get even deeper. Now, He says, “I’m going to give you these signs,” but then, get to this word, this verb, “I AM WHO I AM.” “I AM; tell them I AM sent you.” What does that mean in and of itself? Well, thinking about it, God is saying, “I am self-existent. I AM,” pointing to the fact that He is, always has been, and always will be. He does not owe His existence to anyone or anything else. He was not created. He was not brought into being. He has always been. He has no origin. If you were to ask me how I came into being, how I came who I am, I would, obviously, first, point you to my parents and then to other people in my life that have influenced who I am.
Exodus 3 Illustrates that God is Self-Existent and the Creator of All Things
If you were to ask God, “Who made you who you are?”, there would be no answer because He was not made. He is. It’s the point. He is self-existent with no origin, and not just self-existent but self-sufficient. God’s saying, “I am self-sufficient. I exist in and of myself, and I depend on no one or nothing else for my existence.” He is totally independent. We’re not this way. Think about it; at this very moment, we are dependent people. We are dependent on oxygen at this moment to breathe. We’re dependent on food and water today to live or even, in a sense, we are dependent on relationships with other people. God saying and revealing Himself as the I AM is the reality that He is dependent on no one or nothing else. He is in every way self-sustaining and self-sufficient.
I love Psalm 50. Remember what it says there? God’s speaking, and He says, “For every animal the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine and all that is in it. “If you ever thought I needed some food, I’m not knocking on your door. I sustain myself.” He has no origin. He is self-existent, and He has no needs. He is self-sufficient and has no needs.
Now, we hear that, and we say, “Okay, yes,” but we need realize there creeps into the back of our minds, even our Christian minds, the idea that God needs us. People say, “Why did God create us?” “He created us because He needed companionship.” No. God was not lonely in such a way that He said, “I need to make man in His very essence as Trinity.” He exists in perfect fellowship. He had no need for companionship. God has no need for our worship.
I love what Tozer says here. He says,
Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away.
God has no needs, but he loves us regardless.
He doesn’t need our companionship. He doesn’t need our worship. As much as we talk about it around here, He doesn’t need our discipleship either. The reality is God does not need us to make His glory known around the world. He involves us in His mission, not because He needs us, but because He loves us and because He invites us to join in Him the thrilling joy of knowing and spreading His glory to the ends of the earth. God has no needs.
Now, keep going here. “I AM,” He is saying, “I’m eternal.” This relates to His self-existence, but even more particularly with regard to time. God has no beginning; God has no end. God has no past; He has no future. He is eternally present. He has always been what He always is, and He always will be what He always is. Did you get that? Why, that’s a headache in the making. He has always been what He always is, and He will always be what He always is. “I AM,” eternal. Psalm 90, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout generations, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” Like the burning bush, our God never runs out of fuel. His glory never dims. I love this: His glory never dims, and His beauty never fades.
Do you know what this means? Just think of the wonder of this right here, for all of eternity, because God is infinite in beauty and infinite in glory, that means for all of eternity we will be discovering more and more of His glory. Like, we think about heaven, and we think, “Well, I know it’s going to be perfect, but isn’t it just going to be perfectly boring? What are we going to do for, like, ever?” We are going to know and experience the glory of a God who never fades.
Stephen Charnock wrote a discourse on the eternity of God. It’s a thick quote, but I want to share it with you. He said,
When we enjoy God, we enjoy Him in His eternity. After many ages, the joys of God will be as savory and satisfying as if they had been but that moment first tasted by our hungry appetites. When the glory of the Lord shall rise upon you, it shall be so far from ever setting, that after millions of years are expired, as numerous as the sands on the seashore, the sun, in the light of whose countenance you shall live, will be as bright as at the first appearance; He will be so far from ceasing to flow, that He will flow as strong, as full, as at the first communication of Himself in glory to you. God is always vigorous and flourishing; a pure act of life, sparkling new and fresh rays of life and light to His creatures, flourishing with a perpetual spring, and contenting the most capacious desire; forming your interest, pleasure, and satisfaction; with an infinite variety, without any change or succession; He will have variety to increase your delights, and eternity to perpetuate them; this will be the fruit of the enjoyment of an infinite and eternal God.
Exodus 3 is a Reminder that God has Always been Infinitely Good
I wish I could write that. I can’t wait to experience that. I want to know more and more every day. “I am eternal. I am immutable.” Immutable means unchangeable. “No variation or shadow,” James says. Malachi 3:6, “I, Yahweh, do not change.” This is really good news that God does not change. His perfections never change. I want to tell you why this is really good news, because, obviously, if God were to become worse, that would be a bad thing, but it would also be a bad thing if God were to become better. If God were to change for the better that would not be good. Why? Because at the moment He changes for the better, then it is clear that He was not infinitely good in the first place, and He is. When you are infinitely good, it is not possible to change for the worse or the better. “I AM; I do not change.” Now, that’s His perfections; they never change. Now, think about His promises.
Next, “I am faithful.” Go to Exodus 6 with me. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to go over here to Exodus 6:6-8. I want you to do this; I want you to take a pencil or pen, and I want you to underline every time you see God make a promise and start the promise with the words “I will.” So, look for “I will,” and just underline it every time you see it. Look at Exodus 6:6 and count them up.
“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and…’” first one, number one, “‘…I will…’” underline it there, “‘…bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and…’” number two, “‘…I will deliver you from slavery to them…’” and, number three, “‘I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.’” Number four, “‘I will take you to be my people, and…’” number five, “‘I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.’” Number six, “‘I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’” Number seven, “‘I will give it to you for possessions. I am the LORD.’” In three short, compact verses, you’ve got seven bedrock promises from God.
Now, could you underline one more phrase. You see it at the very beginning, the middle, and the end. Did you notice it? “I am the LORD,” the name of God, Yahweh. “I am Yahweh.” So, underline it there at the beginning of verse 6, “I am the LORD.” In verse 7, midway through, “I am the LORD your God,” and then at the very end, the last words He says. He said at the beginning, in the middle, and now at the end. Into verse 8, “I am the LORD.” Don’t miss it. God is saying, “Here is my name; I am Yahweh,” and He is showing the greatness of His name in the context of His promises toward His people. They go together here. He’s saying, “I will be faithful. I’m faithful to my promises. The promises I gave to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even farther back than that. I am bringing this whole picture about, and I’m faithful to what I have said I will do.”
What is He promising here? What are those “I will” statements? Well, He promises liberation. “I will bring you out.” “I will deliver you.” This is a promise of freedom and liberation. “You are going to be free, people of God, you’re going to be free,” He says. Second, He promises redemption. “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm with great acts of judgment.” This is freedom at a redemption price. Redemption is a demonstration of power with outstretched arms. “I will liberate you and redeem you.” Third, He promises adoption. “I will take you to be my people.” Literally, “You will belong to me; I as your Father.”
I don’t know if you saw this story from Haiti after the earthquake. On a side note, praise God that some of our members, who have been serving in Haiti from a sports ministry here in our city, have come back safe. I’ll just read this story to you.
God Works in Great Ways and Uses Tragedy to Create Joy
Arno was inseparable from Mr. Penguin. The little Haitian boy was almost three years old. And the plush penguin with the word “love” inscribed upon it was his most treasured object. Arno was an orphan and his penguin was always with him. He had been given the penguin just after his birth. A Dutch couple, who was in the process of adopting him almost from the start of his life, had been matched to him when he was only two months old. And the penguin represented a promise that they were coming to get him. The process of adoption took two years, the length of time considered adequate to determine that no living relatives might claim him. So, Richard and Rowena Pet, the young Dutch couple, wanted badly to be Arno’s mother and father. And they had struggled with infertility for years before deciding to adopt. As they awaited the adoption of Arno, Rowena became pregnant.
Last August, she gave birth to Jim, who was left in the care of relatives as Richard and Rowena flew to Haiti in January to claim Arno and complete the adoption process. Arno was shy at their first meeting, but within 30 minutes of meeting his adoptive parents, he reached for Rowena’s hand and took the Dutch couple on a tour of the orphanage in Port-au-Prince, where he had spent most of his short life. He began to call them mommy and daddy.
Richard had shared their joy with a friend in an e-mail. He wrote, “We got to the orphanage feeling a bit strange. We went around a corner and immediately saw Arno walking towards us. He was okay until he was about a half a meter away, but then he panicked. The woman from the orphanage helped out, and half-an-hour later, he took Rowena’s hand for the first time. I’m sorry, but I can’t help crying at the moment as I type this. Arno has been showing us everything in the orphanage. He showed us an old car they have for the children to play on. He was holding a birthday card we sent for his second birthday.”
Adoptive parents often stay at the hotel villa in one particular district of Port-au-Prince; that is where Richard and Rowena took Arno. That is where they were when they were when the earthquake came and that is where they died together. Dutch TV cameras were on hand during the frantic search by an international rescue team. Lying there amid the rubble was the unmistakable blue and yellow toy bird, Mr. Penguin, marked with the word “love” that went everywhere with Arno. That toy helped him to make their first contact with the little boy. What the cameras did not show were the three of them found intertwined together, as if Rowena and Richard had tried to put protective arms around Arno as the masonry began to fall. The disaster cruelly destroyed the new family, creating its own orphan back in the Netherlands.
The bodies of Richard and Rowena and Arno Pet were taken to the Netherlands together just as they had been found together in the rubble of that hotel. They had been a family for a few hours, but a family all the same. Arno had a tragically short life, but he ended that life in the arms of a mother and a father.
As I read that story, I could not help but to fall on my knees in awe at the reality that Yahweh has sought you. He has pursued you, and He has pursued you at great cost. Redemption has a price that makes adoption possible, and He has sent His only Son that you might be His sons and daughters. The promise of adoption is, “You will be my people; I will be your God.” Praise Yahweh for the promise of adoption, and then He promises possession, possession of the land that He’s promised for years and generations. God is saying, “I am going to be faithful.”
Now, here’s the question: how do you know this is going to happen? How do you know that God is going to be faithful to His promises? Have you ever made a promise before that you fully intended on keeping, and you tried your best to keep? You thought you could, but something happened along the way that made it impossible for you to keep it? Has that ever happened? How do you know that doesn’t happen with God? Sure, He means well, He makes promises, but how do we know it’s definitely going to happen?
Exodus 3 Cements the Idea that God’s Purpose is Always Accomplished
The next part, Yahweh says, “I am sovereign.” You go back to Exodus 3 here, and you see that Moses is facing resistance, and you see what God says. Look at Exodus 3:19 real quick. God says, “I know the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.” Listen to verse 20, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that, he will let you go.” This is not God just making wishful, hopeful promises. This is God saying, “This is what is going to happen.” He says that because His plans and His purposes are always accomplished. He is sovereign.
Now, we’ve talked about this already in Genesis, just to remind you again and again throughout this, the sovereignty of God does preclude the responsibility of man. As you’re reading this week, and you see talk about Pharaoh’s hard heart, underline every time you see that. What you’ll find is ten of those times, the Bible says, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Ten times it says, “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” It’s a both/and, together. How does that come together? Remember, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are unexplainable friends. It is a mystery, but it is there. God is sovereign, and He keeps His promises, and He accomplishes His plans. “I am sovereign. I am just.”
At the end of Exodus 3, God says to the Israelites, “You’re going to plunder the Egyptians,” which I want to bring that in to remind us the picture here. They had been unfairly, unjustly treated as slaves for all this time, for 400 years. “God, where is the justice in this?” This reminds us: be very cautious when you start to measure the justice of God based on short-term outcomes because the reality Scripture teaches us is that God is just, and He will reign and justice will reign from the hand of God in the end.
“I am holy; I am merciful; I am ever-present, all-powerful, self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, sovereign, and just,” and all of that is coming together in this last one, “I am God.” This is the key, and this may be the main theme of Exodus, if not one of the main themes. In the midst of polytheism and pantheism in Egyptian culture throughout the land, God is going to make very clear that He is God. You will see over and over again in this story, “The Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh. I am God, the LORD, not all of these other gods.”
Now, what we’re going to see in the days to come, as we’re reading this week, we’re going to see how the Egyptians respond, how Moses responds, and how the Israelites respond. The question for us is, “How shall we respond to Yahweh?” I want to put before you three simple but significant responses. One, put your faith and hope in Him. I want to say to every single person that there is no one or nothing in this world worthy of your faith and hope. There’s no one else. He is the Lord. This is the Old Testament confession of faith that we’ll see in a few weeks in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the “Shema.” The steadfast confession of the Old Testament: God is the Lord. There is no one like Him. There is only one God, and God is the Lord.
Then, the stunning realization in the New Testament Christ Jesus is the Lord! Christ is the Lord! You’re going to get to John 8, and He’s going to be having a conversation with some religious leaders, and they’re going to be talking with Him about Abraham. He’s going to say, “Abraham saw me.” They’ll say, “What?” He’ll look at them, and He’ll say, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” He’ll use the exact same word that’s in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14.
Now, if I were to come to you and look at you and say, “I AM,” you would think, “You are weird.” However, when Jesus says it, they want to stone Him because they know He’s equating Himself with Yahweh, God. “I am the bread of life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the door, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am the way, the truth.” “I am Yahweh.” That’s why Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
So, this is the invitation for every single person: confess Christ as Lord! This is how we’re saved! Confess Christ as Lord! Confess Jesus as Yahweh who came, who stooped to save, who came to us, who took our sins upon Himself on a cross, rose from the grave in victory, and has ascended to the right hand of the Father. Christ is Lord! Then, when you confess that in your heart and your mouth, you will be saved. Put your faith and hope in Him.
Once you do, people of God, find your rest and refuge in Him! Find your rest in the immutable, eternal, and infinitely good God. Find your refuge in Him in the middle of difficult times represented, I know, in many of your lives. There are confusing things going on in your life and difficult things that are going on in your life. Find rest and refuge in Him. Come inside and see how these truths have mammoth implications for your life. Do not put your focus on the difficult circumstances around you. Don’t put your focus on, “This is what Moses, now what am I going to do? What about me? How could I do this?” The Israelites said, generation after generation of slavery, “What is the deal?” The reality is what God is calling him to do. Do not focus on the circumstances, put your focus on the character of the one who has called you and know that He sees your affliction, and He hears your cries, and He knows your suffering. He is immutable, eternal, self-sufficient, self-existent, holy, merciful, just, and sovereign, and He is working all things together for your good.
Exodus 3 Calls Us to Trust in God’s Character
Trust in His character when you don’t know why this is happening in your life. This is what we see over and over again. God says, “I am the LORD.” When you don’t know why this is happening, just come aside and trust He is Lord. He is Yahweh. Rest and take refuge in this, and then, give your adoration and affection to Him. Let this soak in: the same God who is worshiped and served and followed by Moses on this mountain is the same God whose presence is with us at this moment.
“I AM.” He is. He’s with us. So, give Him adoration and affection. When you know Yahweh, routine religion is no longer tolerable. We don’t play games with Yahweh. Casual worship is no longer possible. Now, when we gather together, we cannot fix our minds and our hearts and our voices on Yahweh and be bored in the process. So, before Yahweh, when we gather together, let’s fall on our faces, on our knees and lift our hands up! I want to be careful here because there’s no question that outward expression and emotional expressions, even at worship, can be dangerously deceptive. However, at the same time, when we know Yahweh truly, we will love Him passionately, and we will experience an exalting in our affections toward Him that conquers and supersedes everything else in this world. If our affections are gripped by other things, then let’s repent of that and give Him all of our affection, all of our adoration. May our hearts be tuned to Him and Him alone.
Casual worship is no longer possible. Total surrender is no longer optional. This is the battle in Moses’ heart and life that we are seeing take place. “Moses, this is not the time to review your resume before God and look at the qualifications. The reality is you’ve been given a direct command, and when Yahweh speaks, you obey.” Oh, people of God, when Yahweh speaks, make us a people who obey God. No matter what, we obey.
Finally, when we know Yahweh and His adoration and affection is on our hearts, then the global mission is no longer negotiable. If He is the Lord and there are millions of people in the world that do not know he is the Lord, then we will spend our lives making Him known among the nations.