When the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob said to Moses, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt,”[1] Moses-the-Rescuer jumped for joy at the realization that his rescuing skills were going to be utilized by God for such an important task. Or maybe he didn’t! In fact, what we’re going to see introduced to us this morning is a different side of Moses, a hesitant Moses, a Moses who understands and appreciates the enormity of what God is asking of him. This is a Moses who shares his questions and concerns with God—we would do well to follow his example in this. And we’ll see how despite Moses’s concerns about God’s plans, God commissioned him nonetheless.

As we pick up where we left off in this historical account, verse 11 records Moses’ first concern as he said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” At first glance, this appears to be a reasonable question to ask for Moses was now 80 years old and, although he was a Hebrew, he hadn’t been living with the Israelites. As we’ve seen, the first forty years of his life were spent being raised in Pharaoh’s household; the second forty were spent in Midian with his wife, Zipporah, and her family. For the entirety of his life, Moses hadn’t been living in and among the people with whom he identified. Therefore in posing his question to God, Moses may have been expressing a legitimate concern about the basis upon which he could exert the authority needed to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.

At the same time, in considering Moses’ objection, I couldn’t help but think: “Moses! You’re the perfect person to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt. For one, having been raised in a previous Pharaoh’s household, you know well the Egyptians’ protocol and customs. Too, as an Israelite yourself, you demonstrated your heart for your fellow Hebrews in confronting the Egyptian man beating the Hebrew as well as the fellow Hebrew beating another Hebrew. And, finally, with your finely-developed ‘justice gene’ that is unable to tolerate any kind of inequity or cruelty, you additionally stepped in to rescue seven daughters—one of whom is now your wife—when the shepherds wouldn’t allow them to water their father’s flock. Therefore, you know the importance of rescuing others. How perfect that God who desires to rescue all of his people from evil, sin, and suffering would choose you to rescue his suffering and oppressed people from Pharaoh and the Egyptian slave masters!”

Yet in making these observations, how evident it is that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts nor are my ways his ways[2] for God didn’t reassure Moses with any of these things. No, rather than focus upon Moses’ resumé, who he was and the God-given abilities he had, God answered Moses by reminding him about who he is. For the most important factor in God’s choosing Moses to rescue his people is found at the beginning of verse 12: “And God said, ‘I will be with you’” (emphasis added). “I will be with you.” Full stop. This is all that would matter in the events that would transpire down the road: that God would be with Moses. This is the only thing that continues to matter in the lives of all who know, love, and serve God in Christ: knowing that he is with us; knowing that he is for us; knowing that he is on our side. As the angel of the Lord centuries later disclosed to Joseph who was betrothed to Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus, Joseph was to name this baby Jesus because he would save his people from their sins—Jesus means “the LORD saves.” Consequently, he is called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.”[3] Jesus is called “Immanuel” because he, too, is God with us even as God promised to be with Moses.

God next promised to confirm his being with Moses. After telling him that he would be with him, he went on to state in the remainder of verse 12, “And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” Your Bibles may note that the “you” in “you will worship” is plural therefore God was telling Moses that he, along with God’s people, would worship God. And they would do so on Mount Horeb which, as we noted last week, is also referred to as Mount Sinai.

Once God responded and reassured Moses after being asked why he should be the one to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses next asked God how he was to respond to the people if they asked him a particular question. “Moses said to God,” as stated in verse 13, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” Once again, this was a reasonable question for Moses had been raised among Egyptians who didn’t worship the Hebrew God and this was a polytheistic society. Therefore, to ask Moses the name of the God who had sent him was a plausible question for it might not be enough for the Israelites to know that this was the God of their fathers. By way of response, God provided a three-fold answer for Moses to give concerning his name:

  1. “I AM WHO I AM”—“I AM has sent me to you” (verse 14);
  2. “The LORD has sent me to you.” As we’ve noted before, when the LORD is written with all capital letters in English, it indicates Yahweh[4] in the Hebrew (verse 15). Yahweh is the personal name for God;
  3. This eternal “I AM” who is Yahweh, the LORD, is none other than God who first called Abraham, promising to make of him a nation. Yahweh, the LORD, is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—he is the one who has sent Moses to them (verse 15).

Concerning all of these self-revelations by God, provided by him in response to Moses asking what he should say if the Israelites ask him God’s name, one scholar notes,

[God’s] name in all its forms proclaims His eternal, self-sustaining, self-determining, sovereign reality—the supernatural mode of existence that the sign of the burning bush had signified (Ex. 3:2). The bush that was not consumed was God’s illustration of His own inexhaustible life. In designating “Yahweh” as “my name forever” (Ex. 3:15), God indicated that His people should always think of Him as the living, reigning, powerful King that the burning bush showed Him to be.[5]

God further had Moses tell the people what he had told Moses himself when he initially disclosed himself to him. After stating, verse 16, “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said…,’” the content of what Moses was to tell them was essentially what God had already disclosed.[6] Verse 16 and following record what God wanted Moses to say to the Israelite elders, or leaders: “I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.” Again, God wanted his people to know that their suffering over all of these years hadn’t escaped his notice. He wanted Moses to let them know this and that he was planning on rescuing them, on delivering them, on returning them to the land he had promised their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Next God provided Moses three important pieces of information: 1) The elders would listen to him and work with him; 2) the king of Egypt would not listen to him—at least not initially; and 3) in the end, the Egyptians would be happy to see Moses go! Starting with the elders, verse 18 states, “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’” Moses was to go to Pharaoh not as one who had been raised in his household, but as one leading the Israelites whom this and the previous Pharaoh had oppressed. And Moses would be accompanied by some of the elders of Israel as together they requested of Egypt’s king that he might let them “take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God” who had met with them.

However, beginning with verse 19, God told Moses what the king’s reaction would be: “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him.” We’ll see in the coming weeks how God proved his mighty hand. He went on to tell Moses, verse 20, “So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.” Now on the one hand, one scholar observes, “Entries in extant logs of Egyptian supervisors show that such a request was not exceptional.”[7] On the other hand, another suggests, “To someone as powerful as the king of Egypt, Moses making a request in the name of the LORD, the God of the Hebrews would look ridiculous. What god would choose to be identified with a nation of slaves and then also presume to make a request from the king of the nation that has enslaved them?”[8] Both observations display merit for conquered nations may have been permitted to make such requests but the king was under no obligation to grant them given his great power he held over them.

Last, beginning with verse 21, we see God tell Moses that he “will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.” This was such an extraordinary promise for plundering other nations was the purview of the powerful not the poor. Yet God promised Moses that one day he would take the rags of his people’s slavery and transform them into riches. This was nothing other than a confirmation of what God had told Abraham when he made his covenant with him hundreds of years earlier, saying “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”[9] We’ll see in the coming weeks how all of these statements made by God to Moses eventually came to pass. But for now, as last week we saw Jesus comment on the burning bush passage, this week we’re going to see him do something even more striking. For Jesus, again, whose name means “the LORD saves” discloses that he, too, is the “I AM,” the very name God disclosed to Moses.

Now prior to the portion from John 8 that we’re going to be focusing on, Jesus was trying to convince his audience, religious leaders called Pharisees,[10] about the truth of who he is. As stated in verse 42 he told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.” Jesus is the one sent by God. Therefore, they should know and love him—but they didn’t. He then pointed out concerning those who didn’t believe him, verse 44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Those who deny Jesus are not on the side of God, but of Satan. Jesus then challenged them to point out any sin of which he was guilty,[11] concluding in verse 47, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

His audience responded by saying he was the one possessed by a demon. What is more, they called him a Samaritan. The Samaritans were a Jewish sect that had broken off from Judaism and become watered down due to intermarrying with non-Jewish, or Gentile, faiths. Consequently, as noted by one scholar, Samaritans “….were disdained by both Jews and non-Jews alike.”[12] They were viewed as “worldly” Jews with whom “real” Jews had no dealings.[13] Jesus ignored this intended slight but denied being possessed, noting that whereas he honored his Father, these Jewish believers dishonored Jesus.[14] He then indicated that though he wasn’t seeking glory for himself, there was one who was and he was the judge[15]—in other words, God. And then Jesus made the astonishing statement recorded in verse 51: “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death” (emphasis added). Whoever obeys Jesus’ word will never experience eternal separation from God. In stating this, Jesus was indicating that he is the way of eternal life—which, of course, he is and which he later taught his disciples.[16] As one commentator observes, “In extending the promise beyond this life, Jesus lays claim to a divine prerogative.”[17]

To this, the Jews again responded by exclaiming, verses 52–53, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” In other words: message received. These Pharisees understood that if Jesus was offering eternal life to those who obey his word, then he was claiming to be God. Therefore, he must be demon-possessed for even Abraham, father of all Jewish people, died as did all of the prophets who followed him. Who did Jesus think he was, indeed?!

By way of response, Jesus returned to the theme of glory and God. As stated in verse 54, he began by replying, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” Now keep in mind that by this point, the Father had already glorified Jesus at his baptism. As John the Baptist who baptized Jesus—and therefore was eyewitness to this event—testified, “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”[18] John the Baptist, along with all who were present, were eyewitnesses to God glorifying his Son.

But God didn’t only glorify Jesus at his baptism. He also glorified him at his Transfiguration. As we also noted last week, this is when Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus. And we’re told that as Peter who witnessed the Transfiguration interrupted their discussion, “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’”[19] Therefore, the Father was in agreement with Jesus that he was to be obeyed even as God was to be obeyed—because Jesus is God. These events were confirmations, while Jesus was still living on earth, of his Father in heaven glorifying him.[20]

Therefore, when Jesus went on to state that he knew God, he was speaking the truth. As stated in verse 55, he further replied, “Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word.” In claiming to know God and obey his word, Jesus was again equating himself with God just as earlier he had promised that anyone who obeyed his, Jesus’ word, would never see death. As we saw last week, this is also true of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is God of the living, not the dead. As such, all who know, love, and obey him are united to him not only during the time of their earthly lives but for all eternity.

If all of this weren’t enough to convince his audience that he was God, Jesus then noted concerning Abraham, verse 56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”[21] In saying this, Jesus the Christ, that is, Jesus the Messiah, was indicating that he knew Abraham. He knew him personally. He knew what Abraham thought of his coming to earth. He knew how Abraham felt. Abraham saw Jesus’ day “and was glad”!

The Jews listening to Jesus understood exactly what he was saying for they responded, verse 57, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham!” In other words, they found what he was saying to be impossible and utterly ridiculous. And it would be impossible and utterly ridiculous—if Jesus was only human. But he wasn’t only human; he was also God. As he went on to make crystal clear, verse 58, “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!” (emphasis added.) In stating this Jesus was claiming to have existed over 2000 years earlier; in stating this Jesus was claiming that he wasn’t merely a man—but also God.

And to say such a thing was blasphemy for any Jewish believer worth his salt would have immediately recognized that in saying these words Jesus was equating himself with God’s self-declaration to Moses as “I AM” from our passage in Exodus 3. This is why verse 59 states, “At this, they picked up stones to stone him….” They picked up stones because the penalty for such blasphemy was death. As recorded in Leviticus 24,

13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.

Again, they picked up stones to put Jesus to death by stoning for the blasphemous utterance of equating himself with God.

But Jesus wasn’t blaspheming. No, Jesus whose name means “The LORD saves” was simply disclosing how it is that he saves. For Jesus himself is the LORD; Jesus himself is God in the flesh. The eternal Christ who took on human flesh in the person of Jesus is a personal God; he is Yahweh in the flesh. He is the personal name of God revealed in a living, breathing, and loving—and suffering, dying, and resurrecting Savior, LORD, and God.

Dear sisters and brothers, this Jesus is none other than the Inexhaustible God! Like the fire burning in the bush, he cannot be used up. His love is inexhaustible; his joy is inexhaustible; his peace is inexhaustible; his patience is inexhaustible; his kindness is inexhaustible; his goodness is inexhaustible; his faithfulness is inexhaustible; his gentleness is inexhaustible; his self-control is inexhaustible. [22] All of these traits exist in him, unlike in us, in abundance;

This Jesus, this inexhaustible God, is with those who turn to and believe in him; he is for those who turn to and believe him; he is on the side of those who turn to and believe in him;

And those who turn to and believe in Jesus, the inexhaustible God, and obey his word will never see death. For he is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”[23]

Therefore let us not throw stones at him, seeking in vain to kill him, as the foolish, unbelieving Pharisees did. No, let us turn from and repent of our foolish ways and embrace and love and obey him “as the living, reigning, powerful King that the burning bush showed Him to be;”[24]

Let us ever humbly bow down before our dear Lord Jesus knowing that he loves us—and cares for us—and will never let go of those who believe in him; not now; not for all eternity.

Let us pray.

Benediction: 1 Timothy 1:17: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

 

[1] Exodus 3:10.

[2] Isaiah 55:8–9: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

[3] As the angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph and said to him as recorded in Matthew 1:20b–23: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). [This is in fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

 

[4] This corresponds to the four Hebrew consonants YHWH.

[5] Reformation ESV Study Bible article, “This is My Name”: God’s Self-disclosure, p. 98.

[6] Exodus 3:7–9: The Lord said, “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—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.”

[7] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Exodus 3:18.

[8] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 3:18.

[9] Genesis 15:13–14. Emphasis added. See also Psalm 105:37: He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered.

[10] As stated in John 8:13, “The Pharisees challenged him….”

[11] John 8:46: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?” As the author of Hebrews teaches, Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

[12] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on John 4:4.

[13] This is the reason even the Samaritan woman Jesus spoke with was surprised. See John 4:9: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

[14] John 8:49: “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me.

[15] John 8:50: I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.

[16] John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

[17] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on John 8:51.

[18] John 1:32–34. See also Matthew 3:16–17: 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”; Mark 1:9–11: :At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”; Luke 3:21–23a: 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

[19] Emphasis added. Matthew 17:5–6. See also Mark 9:7: Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!;” Luke 9:34–35: 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Although John doesn’t record the Transfiguration in his Gospel, he notes a third event during which the Father glorified Jesus in John 12:27–32:27 Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

[20] Jesus’ ultimate glorification, of course, was that he rose from the dead!

[21] As the Reformation ESV Study Bible note on John 8:56 states, “Jesus probably was not referring to any one occasion but to Abraham’s general joy in the fulfilling of the purposes of God in the Messiah, by which all nations on earth would receive blessing.”

[22] Galatians 5:22–23: 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience[, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

[23] Luke 20:38.

[24] Reformation ESV Study Bible article, “This is My Name”: God’s Self-disclosure, p. 98.