I am who I am
19th May 2022
Today we’re reflecting on this encounter between Moses and God…
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
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. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. 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.”
Moses said to God, “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?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Moses is not in a good place. He has realised that for his fellow Israelites, who unlike him were not given the privilege of growing up in Pharoah’s palace, life is incredibly hard. He makes a rash attempt to intervene when one of the Egyptian taskmasters beats one of his countrymen. He kills the Egyptian and hides his body – but the truth gets out, and he has to run away. He ends up in Midian and has a family there but he feels alienated from his own people and far from home – ‘I am a foreigner in a foreign land’ he says – which is a feeling that those arriving in Cheltenham from Ukraine at the moment, and those who have been arriving seeking asylum from many other countries, know all too well.
But then Moses has this strange experience – and learns a lot about God.
Firstly, he learns that God is present. Even in this strange country – even in the times when we feel like a foreigner in a foreign country – God is still there. And the God who is present reaches out. Not in the most obvious way – a burning bush which doesn’t burn is a strange thing. But it is a way of getting Moses’ attention – of making contact.
He learns that God is aware of the suffering of his people – he has heard them crying and seen their misery, and he is concerned – he cares.
God then makes a promise – he will rescue them – he will bring them into a better place – a land famously flowing with milk and honey. He tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to bring his people out of Egypt. God trusts Moses – a man who has killed someone and then run away. He will use this very imperfect man to bring his people to freedom.
God then promises that he will be with Moses – this is something that they will do together.
And at the end of this part of the story, we hear God’s name. His name is ‘I am’ – which is mysterious, saying nothing and everything. It’s as if God is saying, all of this that I have shown you, this is who I am. This is the way I always am – for Moses, for us, for everyone.
What part does Moses play in this encounter? He makes it possible, because he notices something – the bush – and he stops and really takes notice – and that is when God calls to him. Maybe he has learnt how to stop and notice in his time in Midian – looking after the sheep, instead of being in a royal palace. Rob Bell says, ‘The bush doesn’t suddenly catch fire – it’s been burning the whole time. Moses is simply moving slowly enough to see it.’
Moses then listens to God, and responds. He doesn’t run away – he is also ‘present’, being himself – ‘Here I am.’
And his response is honest. ‘Who am I that I should go?’ ‘What shall I tell them?’ Moses is revered by Jews and Christians because he had this capacity to stand before God as he was, often frightened and unsure, and know God as God was. There was a true meeting between them.
In the end we know that Moses trusts God, and does what he asks – although he continues to be unsure and get it wrong some times. he takes people on the road to freedom, although isn’t short or straightforward.
I am who I am. God’s promise is just to be who he is – present, caring, concerned, ready to reach out. He uses fallible people who he trusts, and he promises to be with them. Our part is to go slowly, and be on the look out, and notice where God may be reaching out – even if it seems strange. And then we try to listen. We don’t need to be any different from who we are – God wants us to be true to ourselves. And as the story goes on, we have the promise that like Moses, God can and will lead us to walk with him, one small faltering step at a time, on the road to freedom.
Lord, as we stop now, may we know your presence with us…
What do you want to say to us?
You know all that is happening in our lives, and you are always concerned for us. That isn’t easy to accept. Help us to believe it – about everything…
You want us to be honest and to be ourselves with you. What is it that you want us to share more with you?
You call us to be people who go with you for others who need rescuing – and people who others come to with you because we need rescuing. Help us to trust that this is who you are, and you will be there.