Moses – and The Great I AM

Moses is on the verge of accepting the call. But he asks of God, “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

Although there was little resemblance of the integrity of Joseph left in the people, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would not have been completely lost from their memory.  Therefore, asking by what name Moses should use to tell them who had sent him seemed like a foolish question.  Or is it? The nature and power of the One who sent Moses would be expressed in that name. Since names meant much to the Semitic mind, it was important for Moses to reveal to the people the true nature of their God. A God who was now ready to deliver them from bondage.

God explained to Moses the name He had made Himself known to Abraham at the making of the covenant in Genesis 15:7.  In Hebrew and English, this name is a form of the verb, “To Be.” “To Be” implies that its possessor is the eternal, self-existing One. In the book of John, the disciple John brings this idea out in John 8:58.  This God, when compared to the Egyptian god’s “To Be,” was to be thought of by the Hebrew people as more powerful than all the Egyptian gods put together.  In the Egyptians form of deities, they needed many gods to possess all the power that the “I AM” possessed.  This is something that the Israelites should have remembered and understood. Therefore Moses was instructed to say, “I AM hath sent me”  It was a way of saying, “I AM that I AM and I have sent Moses.”

From the Hebrew word translated as “I AM” comes the derived form of Yahweh. Yahweh is rather consistently rendered “LORD” by many translations with the whole word in capital letters.  Interestingly the American Standard Version of 1901 transliterates Yahweh as “Jehovah,” This was done by trying to understand the Hebrew word, or letters, “YHWH” in which some ancient Hebrew manuscripts had the word “odini” under the letters “YHWH.”  The Hebrews would not use the name of God, so they only used the constinents. But the translators tried to incorporate “YHWH and Odini” into a single word. They thus came up with something that became known as Jehovah.

Interestingly, throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh is used as the name for God the Father and God the pre-incarnate Christ.  So a careful study of the context of the passage can reveal who is actually speaking or being referred to when we see the word LORD or Yahweh is used.  Interestingly, the Old Testament uses LORD or Yahweh to reference the pre-incarnate Christ more often than it does God the Father.

I just used the phrase, “Now ready to deliver them from bondage.”  It makes one think that God delays and does not hear us or act on our behalf until he is ready. Because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and able to be everywhere at once, we think he should be able to respond and act on our behalf immediately.  But Isaiah 55:8 – 9 gives us tremendous insight into the workings of God.  “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Looking at the history of Abraham’s family, it seems clear they had not lived up to their potential. Therefore instead of being a blessing to the people of Canaan, God moved them to Egypt. In Egypt, they once again did not live up to their potential.  They, like Moses, tried to do things their way.  But now, through Moses and the mighty acts of God, he would teach Israel and Egypt just who the God’s of heaven is.  He is the Great I AM, now looked down and said, now is the appointed time to rescue Abraham’s family.  What I am about to do for them will show Egypt and the land of Canaanites what a mighty God I Am in comparison to their many gods.  Therefore Moses, tell the people, I AM that I AM who will bring you out of Egypt to the land I promised to Abraham.  It is time to put together that which was ripped apart at the flood and the tower of Babel.  It is time to make all people one people again.  Therefore Moses, lead them to Canaan, and I will go before you in both Egypt and Canaan and all along the way. For I AM that I AM.

Sheep of His Pasture

This is a longer post than normal. It is not part of the Exodus story that I have been working on. Instead it is my sermon for this coming Sabbath. I hope you will read and be blessed.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 100:1-5

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!

2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.

3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving. And into His courts with praise, Be thankful to Him, and bless His name

5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

Please turn with me in your Bibles to John 9.  We will begin reading in verse 35.

Jesus heard that they had cast him out:

We need to fill in the back story.  It was Sabbath, and as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.

His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus was quick to point out that neither this man nor his parent’s sin that caused him to be blind.  He was blind to bring glory to God so that God could be revealed to this man and others. 

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4, 5

Jesus spat on the ground and mixed his spital with the clay. Then he anointed his eyes with this mixture of clay and spit. Next, he gives the blind man the command to wash in the pool of Siloam.

The act of sending this man to wash in the pool was not that there were any healing properties in that pool of water. And it was also not a test of faith as many have believed. But Christ had associated himself with water, living water, so the pool represented the healing power of the living water that Christ supplies.

It also served the purpose of taking away the spectacle of healing on the Sabbath. An act that would have created much hatred toward Jesus and this man by the Jewish leaders.  And as we see, it did create this hatred.

Yet strangely through it all, this formally blind man did not understand who had healed him.  He had no clue who Jesus was. Yet upon learning what had happened, the Pharisees excommunicated this man for washing on the Sabbath.

Near the close of the Chapter, Christ revealed himself to the formally blind man.  The response by the man was that he believed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

After the man professed his belief, Jesus makes an interesting statement, which starts in verse 39. 

“For judgment, I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.

40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words and said to him, “are we blind also?”

41 Jesus said to them, “if you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, “we see therefore your sin remains.”

What was Jesus trying to say; “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘we see therefore your sin remains.’”

Jesus uses a story to illustrate his point.  Perhaps we, like the pharisee’s of old, have missed the point of what Jesus is attempting to say. 

As we saw in our Scripture Reading from Psalm 100, Israel was privileged to be the “Flock of the Lord.” Jerusalem and Judah are the fold.

Isaiah 59:9-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Jeremiah 25:32-38; Ezekiel 34; and Zechariah 11 all use this illustration of Israel being the flock or sheep of God.

Therefore, every listener that Jesus was speaking to should have understood.

John 10:1,

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

Walled cities, such a Jerusalem, would have an enclosure made of rocks piled up against the outside of the city wall.  The size of the sheepfold depended upon the number of people within the city that owned sheep.  At night, the sheep would return to the fold,  and a Shepherd or (porter) would guard the flock or flocks by lying across the opening.

There may have been several families within the city that owned sheep, and all these sheep would reside within this fold. 

This describes Israel of old and Judah of the time of Christ.

Anyone attempting to steal the sheep would either have to kill the guard or climb the wall to gain access to the sheep. Only the shepherds of each flock entered by way of the door or gate.  To the Shepherd, the guard or gatekeeper would recognize the Shepherd and open the door allowing the Shepherd to enter or call his sheep. In turn, the sheep would hear the Shepherd’s voice and respond by following the Shepherd to whom the sheep belong. 

Vs. 4: And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

Vs. 5: Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him. For they do not know the voice of strangers. 

Vs. 6: Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them.

The reason for this parable was the ex-communication of the blind beggar from the Synagogue, which we saw in John 9:34. 

The false Shepherds (the Pharisees) did not care for this man. Therefore, they mistreated him and threw him out.  But Jesus the true Shepherd came to him and took him in (John 9:35-38). 

As soon as Jesus introduced himself as the Son of Man and explained who he was, this man readily accepted him and began to follow him. 

When we quote this passage from John 10, we state the fold is heaven, and those who try and get in other than Christ are destined to fail.

While there is a measure of truth to this (Acts 4:12), it is not based on this verse.  Jesus made it clear that the fold is the nation of Israel, as we see in John 10:16. The Gentile are the “other sheep” that are not of the fold of Israel.

When Jesus came to the nation of Israel, He came in the appointed way, just as the Scriptures promised. Every true Shepherd must be called of God and sent by God. This Jesus had done. If He truly speaks God’s Word, the sheep will “hear his voice” and not be afraid to follow him. The true Shepherd will love the sheep and care for them.

But those listening to Jesus failed to understand, and how many times have we also failed to understand.  Therefore, Jesus continued to teach them in verse 7.

Before we get into verse 7, what did the Pharisees do with the man that was blind and now could see? 

They threw him out of the Synagogue, which was a symbol of the fold of Israel.

Jesus came to him, talked with him, and explained that He was the Son of Man and the man believed and followed. 

So, Jesus continued, “By saying to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’”

The formerly blind man had been tossed over the wall.  The thieves had gone in and tossed this man out.  Jesus made it clear that no one entered and no one left except through the gatekeeper and oh, by the way, “I am the door.” I am the keeper of the door or the guard, if you will.  No one gets in and out except by me. 

Vs. 8: All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.

Again for the second time in this passage, Jesus states that He is the door. I am the door, If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Notice the way the passage is written.  “If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

The formerly blind man had been kicked out of the fold.  Jesus finds him and says, “Follow Me.”  The man responds and follows Jesus.” Remember, this formally blind man had not seen Jesus, for he was healed only after washing himself in the pool. But he knew the voice of the one who healed him. Therefore he followed the voice.

Jesus gives the former blind now excommunicated Jew the chance to enter HIS God’s true flock.  The Pharisees threw the formally blind beggar out of the Synagogue, but Jesus led him out of Judaism and into the flock of God! Because he was a beggar begging to become a member of the flock. But the Pharisees had tossed him out of the flock. Jesus invites him to become a member of the true flock.

Remember, the call of Abraham was for them to be a blessing to the entire world, to all peoples. Their call was to put back together what the flood and the tower of Babel had torn apart.

The leaders of Israel had failed, even to the point of kicking this former blind person out.  Jesus invites him into His fold, the true fold, to become part of the “One Flock,” which is His true church. 

Those who trust Him enter into the Lord’s flock and fold, and they have the incredible privilege of going “in and out” and finding pasture. When you keep in mind that the Shepherd actually was the door of the fold, this image becomes very real.

As the door, Jesus delivers sinners from bondage and leads them into freedom.  They have salvation! The word “saved” means delivered safe and sound.” It was used to say that a person had recovered from severe illness, come through a bad storm, survived a war, or was acquitted at court.  Some modern preachers want to do way with an “old-fashioned” word like “saved,” but Jesus used it!.

It is clear in the Gospel record that the religious rulers of Israel were interested only in providing for themselves and protecting themselves. The Pharisees were covetous (Luke 16:14) and even took advantage of the poor widows (Mark 12:40). They turned God’s temple into a den of thieves (Matt. 21:13), and they plotted to kill Jesus so that Rome would not take away their privileges (John 11:49–53).

The True Shepherd came to save the sheep, but the false shepherds take advantage of the sheep and exploit them. Behind these false shepherds is “the thief” (John 10:10), is a reference to Satan and the religious leaders of Christ’s day. The thief wants to steal the sheep from the fold, slaughter them, and destroy them. This the Pharisees did by excommunicating the formally blind beggar from the Synagogue. We shall see later that the sheep are safe in the hands of the Shepherd and the Father (John 10:27–29).

Jesus not only gave His life for us, but He gives His life to us right now! When you go through “the Door,” you receive life, and you are saved. As you go “in and out,” you enjoy abundant life in the rich pastures of the Lord. His sheep enjoy fullness and freedom.

Here is what Jesus was telling those listening to Him about himself 

  1. Twice He stated that He was the door, the Shepherd that was at the door of the fold allowing sheep in and out.
  2. For he said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
  3. What made him good, “that he was willing to lay down his life for the sheep.”
  4. I know my sheep and true sheep know me.
  5. He knows the Father, and the Father knows Him as the True Shepherd.
  6. The True Shepherd creates one flock out of many.
  7. My Father loves me because I lay down My life that I may retake it. (a reference to Shepherd’s death, burial, and resurrection).
  8. No one forced Me to do this. I did it of My own free will. The Father gave me the authority to do all this.

Therefore, is it any wonder Why Paul makes such a big issue in Galatians of the fact that the Gentiles are heirs of Abraham’s Seed?  Because through that Seed, what had been deconstructed at the flood and the tower of Babel was put back together again, making one flock out of many all those that follow Him.

The blind man that was thrown out of the Synagogue was symbolic of leaving the fold of Israel to become part of the one flock made up of all nations in which Christ is the Shepherd. 

The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 was now fulfilled and Christ, who is the good Shepherd who willingly laid down His life for the sheep, and by his death, burial, and resurrection created one fold, and all who hear his voice and follow are part of His flock part of this one fold.

Here I Am, Don’t Send Me

“God heard the groaning, and God remembers His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” (Exodus 2:24, 25).

Let’s be clear.  God never forgets. It is just that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  God does not always work as we would wish He would or in the time frame that we would like.  We might as why?  As a sovereign God, God is all-knowing and all-powerful.  Therefore how can you, me, or anyone comprehend all that must go into the decisions that God makes?  By divine inspiration, when the author stated that “God remembers and acknowledges,” it is a way of saying, “The time is right for Israel to inherit the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” 

Moses, having understood his rescue by the Pharoah’s daughter and that Salvation came through the Ark of bulrushes, had tried to take matters into his own hand. He had failed. Now an eighty-year-old sheepherder stands before the burning bush.  A fire burned brightly amid the bush, but the bush was not consumed.  From within the fire, a voice is heard. “Moses, Moses!”  Moses responded and said, “Here I am.”

From the midst of the burning fire, God responds by saying, “Do not draw near this place, ‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’ Moreover 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 upon God.”

After acquainting Moses with His presence, God introduced Himself as the God of his fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In this way, God reminded him of the promises made to the patriarchs. The oath which He was about to fulfill with the children of Israel. In the expression “thy father,” the three patriarchs are classed together. Why? Because of the personal relations enjoyed by each with God and the promises each received directly from God.

For Moses, the swagger of youth was softened by the years of toil and isolation as a lowly sheepherder. The desire to lead men into battle has been damped by chasing after sheep. Moses had replaced the school of Egypt with a deep relationship with the things of nature around him. Therefore when Moses hears the words of verses nine through eleven, Moses is stunned.   “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharoah 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’” (Exodus 3:9-11a).

 Hey God, remember me.  I am the man who fled Egypt after killing a man. I was told, and the Ark symbolized that I was to save the people of Israel from the oppression of the Pharoah.  I tried, I failed! I ran! I tend sheep and have a family.  And, I am no longer 40, I’m an old man, I am 80 years old. “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:11).

From Exodus 3:11 – Exodus 4:17, Moses objects to this call in five different ways.  “Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11-12). “Who are You? (Exodus 3:13-16). “What if they don’t believe me?” (Exodus 4:1-9). “I am not eloquent” (Exodus 4:10-12). And finally, “Send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13-17).

God’s response is, “I will be with you.” “I will reveal my name to you,” which we will look at further in a moment. “I will give you three divine signs” (rod, leprosy, blood). I will reveal to you and them who I am.  “I will teach you.” And finally, God appears to be angry with Moses but says, I anticipated your reluctance; therefore, I have already sent Aaron, your brother.”

There was no guarantee this new Pharoah would be any friendlier to him than the one who placed a bounty on the head of Moses for killing an Egyptian. Therefore, I can understand Moses’s reluctance.  But to ask, who are you, after God had already reviewed before Moses, his relationship to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shows a fundamental distrust on the part of Moses.  God responded, “I AM WHO I AM.”

Let’s not forget that this is the pre-incarnate Christ that is speaking with Moses.  When we finally get to the new testament, we see that Christ on several occasions said, I AM, and qualified it with living, water, the bread of life, light to the world, the God of your Salvation, and the list goes on.  Therefore, what God is doing is revealing to Moses how God can provide for him and the children of Israel.  Over the forty years that Israel wandered through the desert, the pre-incarnate Christ was all these things. He was their refuge. He supplied their physical and spiritual food and water.  He protected them and blessed them in ways they could not comprehend.

But Moses, the reluctant war hero turned shepherd, could not wrap his head around the fact that God was once again asking that he lead, guide, and direct Israel out of Egypt and to the promised land.

God tried to reassure Moses, and so in Exodus 3:20, He says to Moses, “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. And I will give the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house. Articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters so you shall plunder the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:20-22).

When Abraham was told that his descendants would be afflicted for 430 years, God had said, “When they leave Egypt, they shall take with them the riches of Egypt.” God was reminding Moses of the promise given to Abraham to reassure Moses that God was with him and all of Israel. 

Moses continues to object, and so God becomes angry.  I wonder if there are times when God asks us to do things, and we mount up the arguments against as Moses did, and God becomes frustrated with us. 

In closing this post, I want to draw our attention to Exodus 3:22. This text uses an interesting word. That word is “plunder.”  Plunder is a military word indicating terminology used in war.  Why? Why the use of a military word in this passage.  Because it sets us up the conflict between two powers present within the exodus story, we have been introduced to the first power in Exodus chapters 1 and 2. This power is the power that enslaved and oppressed the Israelite people.  Its earthly representative was Pharoah, but as we will see later in the story, the entity behind that earthly power is non-other but the same entity that deceived The Woman in the garden.   The second entity is God, who in chapters 3 and 4 talked with Moses, convincing Moses to rescue God’s people from the hands of their oppressors.   

The author wants us to know that there is a war going on, a war involving God and the entity behind the world’s powers.  God is about to win a major conflict in this war using a reluctant earthly leader named Moses.

“So Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said to him, ‘Please let me go and return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see whether they are still alive.’ And Jethro said to Moses, ‘Go in peace.’  Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, ‘Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead’ ” (Exodus 4:18, 19).

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