10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. 11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? 12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. 13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (Exodus 3:10–15)
Exodus tells us the true story of how God called Israel out of bondage in Egypt.
Thus far in Exodus we learned of the misery that Israel faced in Egypt. They were slaves who built some of the giant monuments and buildings ancient Egypt was known for.
Yet Pharaoh wanted them eliminated, and so ordered their male babies to be killed.
One baby boy who miraculously escaped death was Moses. His escape was unusual in that he was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and grew up in Pharaoh’s house.
One day the injustice happening to his people finally hit home to Moses. He tried to help, but ended up murdering an Egyptian foreman. The murder infuriated the Pharaoh, and so Moses had to flee Egypt.
The forty-year old Moses found a new home among the Midianites. There he became a shepherd and found a wife. He was content for his next forty years.
Then one day, he encountered a burning bush that was unusual because it did not burn up…it just kept burning and burning. When he investigated, God spoke to him out of the bush.
After telling him to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground, God told him that he had seen the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt, and he had heard their cry for help, and he knew their sorrows.
Now came the shocking news to Moses: God was sending him to free them from one of the mightiest nations on the face of the Earth. Moses would be so shocked that all he could say was…
I. WHO AM I? — SERVANT OF GOD
A. God Says, “You Will Go”
Exodus 3:10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
“I will send thee…that thou mayest bring forth my people”
Note that God promised Israel two things: deliverance from Egypt and a new land. But here he says that Moses will only do the first. He would only bring Israel out of Egypt.
God knew that Moses would not enter the Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 32:48-52). Indeed, Moses died on the outskirts of the Promised Land.
It was Joshua who was chosen to lead Israel into the land flowing with milk and honey.
Did God need Moses? No. He could have used anyone, or no one, or an angel, to accomplish his purposes.
But God, in his sovereignty, chooses to use human beings to accomplish his purposes. In this case, he chose to use Moses.
The Bible tells us that, while God can do anything simply by willing it to happen, he has chosen to use human beings as his instruments to accomplish his purposes.
Take the Great Commission that Jesus has given us as an example:
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18)
Wow! You would think that after saying that, he would say something like, “All power is given to me so I will cause everyone to hear the gospel spoken from the heavens in their own language.”
I mean, if that happened, lots of people would turn to Christ, right?
But that’s not what Jesus says. Instead, he says, “All power is given unto me…”
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)
So as God told Moses, he also tells us: “I am sending you; you will go.”
Of course, our response is often like the response Moses gave:
B. Moses Says, “I Am Not Qualified”
Exodus 3:11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
(1) The Doubts Of Moses
Moses is shocked that God would tell him to deliver Israel out of Egypt, so he objects. “Who am I”? As in, “Who am I to do such a great task?”
It’s understandable that Moses would be worried about his qualifications. He had much going against him.
1. He had failed to lead Israel forty years previous when he stepped and tried to help his people. At that time, they rejected him as a leader.
2. He was a murderer, perhaps still wanted in Egypt for the murder of a Egyptian foreman that he killed while trying to defend a fellow Israelite.
3. Egypt was a powerful nation. In fact, it was probably the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth at that time. How could one man face the most powerful nation on Earth?
4. Israel was a large nation also. Estimates put their population at around two million men, women, and children. It would take a leader with a lot of organizational ability to gather and lead that many people.
(2) The Doubts Of Christians
We also have doubts about our qualifications when God calls us to service. It may be nervousness about leading a Sunday School class, or witnessing to someone, or even praying in public.
We may doubt that we have the skills, or the speaking voice—or the singing voice.
Let me tell you something that I learned a long time ago: God does not call the qualified; he qualifies those that he calls.
I really don’t have a good speaking voice for being a preacher. I’ve always had trouble pronouncing words. It took me years before I could say democracy right—it was always Demo-Cra-cee.
In college, a classmate noticed that I slurred the word “six” so badly that it sounded like “sits.”
He took me aside and said, “Say the word ‘sick’.” I did so.
Then he said, “Now add an “s” and make it plural.”
So I said, “sicks,” and it sounded like “six” was supposed to.
One professor in college told me that I had better get speech therapy for my voice if I were to be a good preacher.
Another professor was wiser: he told me that most people would appreciate a pastor who couldn’t pronounce the words they couldn’t pronounce either.
You, like Moses, may have a background that God has used to train you for the mission. You just may not realize it.
You, like me, may have weaknesses that God uses as a strength.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)
Whether it is Moses, Paul, you, or me, we need to remember: God does not call the qualified; he qualifies those that he calls.
This is true with salvation also. We can’t make ourselves good enough for God to accept us. When God calls you to salvation, he will make you good by giving you the righteousness of Jesus.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Has God called you to salvation? Have you responded?
Is God calling you to salvation? Won’t you respond today?
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matthew 11:28–29)
How did God respond to the objection of Moses?
C. God Says, “ I Will Be With You”
Exodus 3:12a And he said, Certainly I will be with thee;
Now, God could have pointed out Moses’ qualifications. He could have reminded Moses that:
1. He had been trained in Pharaoh’s court.
2. He had been trained in the wilderness.
3. He was Egyptian enough to confront the Egyptians.
4. He was a Hebrew who could love the Hebrews.
5. He had an innate hatred of oppression and injustice.
Instead, what does God say? “I will be with thee.” “Ye shall serve [worship] God upon this mountain.”
God makes it all about himself, not Moses. If God had just convinced Moses that he well-suited for the job, where would Moses have put his trust? Not in God, but in himself.
It’s almost like when a parent encourages a child to do something, they might say, “Sure you can, I’ll be right here to help you.”
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
The success of the Exodus was not dependent on the ability of Moses; it was on the presence of God.
Whenever we do something for the Lord, we first remember that he is there to help us. We referred to the Great Commission earlier, Jesus told us that all power was given to him, therefore go and teach all nations.
But he says something else—something to encourage us to do the Great Commission:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)
Whatever we do, if it is God’s will, then he will be right there to help. Psalm 46 even says, “God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalm 46:5).
God promised Moses that he would help him, but the Lord also gave him a sign to encourage him.
D. God Says, “This Will Be A Sign”
Exodus 3:12b and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve [worship] God upon this mountain.
Now this is a strange sign, because it is something that will happen after Moses leads Israel from Egypt.
I think an encouraging sign would have been something like, “and to prove that I will be with you, I’ll turn the sky pink in 3,2,1 now!”
But the sign God gives Moses is future: “after you leave Egypt, you’ll worship me on this mountain.” How does this sign help?
It is a sign that must be taken by faith.
You see, we are always eager to have God just spell everything out and make everything visible so that we don’t have to have faith. But the Bible says that we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
The Lord was saying to Moses: “you must have faith in me, and in a little while, that faith will be vindicated when you bring Israel back to this mountain to worship me.”
The technical name for this kind of sign is a “fulfillment sign.” It’s a sign to a prophet or leader that they have fulfilled a task or part of a task given to them by God.
A fulfillment sign encourages faith by saying, “If you have faith, this will happen.” Sure enough, three months after leaving Egypt, Moses and Israel worshipped God at Mount Sinai.
Please don’t expect God to give you a clear, indisputable sign before you go and do something for him. He wants you to walk by faith.
II. WHO ARE YOU? — AUTHORITY
Moses wasn’t ready to follow the Lord in faith. His “I am not qualified” excuse didn’t work, so he tried a different tack.
Exodus 3:13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
A. They Will Demand A Name
He asks for God’s name to give to the Israelites. Why would having a name be so important to them?
In ancient times, a name was more important than now. Names would tell people something about someone’s character or destiny.
Even today, if you want someone to know who you are, the first step is “Hello, my name is Levi…and you are?”
Moses was looking for a way to identify the Lord to his people so that they would obey him. In a word, Moses was looking for authority.
He imagined going back to his people (who had rejected him as a leader earlier and who probably thought of him as a man who had a cushy life and then had ran away like a coward) and trying to explain to them that he saw a burning bush, but it didn’t burn, and a voice told him that he should lead you out of Egypt. Yeah, right.
So Moses was looking for authority. He felt that he needed something convincing to tell the Israelites.
The people we talk to about the Lord will also demand an authority, even if they do so by denying that any one true authority exists.
We can explain a lot to a person. Why is there suffering if God is good? Could God have created the world in only six days?
We can show love to a person. Visit them in the hospital. Bring them groceries. Listen to them in their discouragement.
But ultimately, everything boils down to this: “The Bible says.” The Bible, God’s word is our authority. No other book; no other person. It’s the Bible.
And if they reject that, they aren’t rejecting only you—they are rejecting the God who stands behind his word.
So Moses asks for God’s name—he asks for authority. Before we look at how God gives Moses his name, I want to look at how God’s name appears in our Bibles.
B. The Use Of LORD In The Bible
Have you ever wondered why LORD is in all caps in your Bibles? It’s not just to show respect unto God by capitalizing his name, like sometimes we do.
When you see LORD in all caps in the Bible it’s showing that it’s a translation of God’s special name, given here in verse 15.
In Hebrew, it’s Y-H-W-H. Early Hebrew had no vowels, the pronunciation of the words was passed down from generation to generation. But the Jews did not dare speak the personal name of God, so we really don’t know how it actually sounded.
In the Middle Ages, people pronounced the divine name as ”Jehovah” (Those scholars took the Hebrew “Y” as a “J” and the Hebrew “W” as a “V”). These days it’s pronounced “Yahweh,” so if you hear me say that, I am referring to the divine name that is translated “LORD” in your Bibles.
C. When Did Yahweh First Give His Name?
It’s natural to assume that here in Exodus 3 was the first time that God gave his personal name. But that’s probably not the case.
Yahweh, the LORD in all caps, is used many times before this event. It’s used 165 times in Genesis, for example:
26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Genesis 4:26)
Now it is possible that Moses simply tossed in the name of the LORD when he wrote the Genesis history and that Enos didn’t actually know that name.
See Exodus 6:3 — does it conflict?
2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: 3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them (Exodus 6:2-3)
Scofield has several answers:
(1) The statement, “by my name the Lord [Jehovah] I did not make myself known to them” can also be translated as a rhetorical question, “By my name the Lord [Jehovah] was I not known to them?”
(2) In the O.T. the verb “to know” generally means far more than to have an intellectual knowledge. There are many instances of this, such as Hos. 6:3: “Let us acknowledge the Lord.”
(3) The patriarchs were familiar with the name Jehovah, but their experience of God was largely that of Him as El-Shaddai (compare Ge. 17:1, note, the One who provided for all their needs. Here in Ex. 6:3 God tells Moses that He is now about to be revealed in that aspect of His character signified by Jehovah—that is, His covenant-relation to Israel as the One who redeems her from sin and delivers her from Egypt (compare vv. 6–8)…
But if you look at how Moses uses the name Yahweh in Genesis, there’s an interesting pattern. As he records the lives of the patriarchs—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob—the name of Yahweh is often used.
But around chapter 30 of Genesis the use of Yahweh tapers off. It appears 150 times in the first thirty chapters (averaging 5 times per chapter). In the last twenty chapters, it appears only 15 times (averaging .75 times per chapter).
And in Exodus, it doesn’t appear until chapter 3.
So one commentator observed:
…it appears that Moses…intended that we realize that the generation after Jacob and all subsequent generations up to his own had lost at least a measure—and probably, over time, a greater and greater measure—of the knowledge of the true God and therefore, presumably, of the practice of praying to him and worshiping him regularly and properly, by his name. (Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, vol. 2, The New American Commentary [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006], 120.)
So now here, in Exodus 3, God is about to re-reveal his name to Moses, and he does so in a very precise and careful way. He connects meaning to his name.
C. Connecting Meaning To The Name
Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
Exodus 3:15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
In response to Moses’ request, God tells Moses three things about himself. He begins with his being, who he is, and works down to his name, Yahweh. He carefully connects the meaning of his being to his name.
1. “I AM THAT I AM”—This isn’t actually God’s name. More likely it was a rebuke to Moses.
What the Lord was saying was this, “Name…you want my name? I am that I am! Don’t line me up with the gods of Egypt or Assyria. I am not just another God. I am!”
In other words, God was describing his being to Moses.
2. Moses was to say to the Israelites that “I AM hath sent me.” This still isn’t God’s name, but it is building a bridge between his being and his name.
3. Then, in verse 15, he gives his name: “The LORD God of your fathers…hath sent me.”
See the progression: “I AM THAT I AM” to “I AM hath sent me” to “The LORD [in all caps] God…hath sent me.” I AM is the LORD [in all caps].
I AM THAT I AM is not directly the name of God, but it describes the being or the meaning behind the name, Yahweh. That’s why God linked his name to I AM.
Maybe we could say that the definition of Yahweh is “I AM THAT I AM.”
III. What Is In A Name?
Now, we said that the Israelites would want to know the Lord’s name because it would tell them something about himself. So what does the name LORD—Yahweh—Jehovah tell us about God?
1) God Has No Beginning
“I AM” is unique because it isn’t “I was.” God never says, “I was born in such and such place.” He didn’t have a birth place or birthday. He just has always been: I AM.
Jesus, in an encounter with the Jewish leaders, makes an incredible statement that baffles them and tells us that he is the eternal God.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:56–58)
In the Old Testament, God gave the name Yahweh or Jehovah for people to call “I AM.” In the New Testament, the name that we call “I AM” is Jesus.
“I AM” also tells us that…
2) God Has No End
God will have no end. He will always be. He is “I AM,” not “I was”, not “I will be”.
Again Jesus, who isn’t just a human teacher, but who is fully God, picks this up in the book of Revelation. He says…
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8)
So again, Jesus is the name that we call “I AM” in the New Testament.
3) God Is Totally Self-Sufficient
God does not say “‘I AM’ because I get my existence and my energy from the Big Bang or from a hidden power source at the center of the universe.” He says simply, “I AM” period.
As the Puritan Matthew Henry observed:
…the greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am; but God says absolutely—and it is more than any creature, man or angel, can say—I am that I am.
(Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994])
We are dependent, only God is completely and truly independent. Not only that, everything around us—the Earth, the Sun, the stars, the entire universe—is also dependent on God.
4) God Is The Only Unchanging Constant
“I AM” implies steadiness and unchangingness. We say of ourselves, “I was able to do that in my younger days” or “I will be able to drive a car when I am sixteen.” Not so with God, he is always “I AM.”
For most people, especially as we get older, change is a hard thing. Even children like to have things remain the same.
But the simple fact is, things can’t and won’t and maybe even shouldn’t stay the same.
The good news is that we can always depend on God—on Jesus—to be the “same yesterday, to day, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
5) God Is The Absolute And Final Standard
President Harry Truman was famous for the sign on his desk that said: “The Buck Stops Here.” Why was that true (at least in a human sense)? Because he was President of the United States.
But that pales in comparison to God. He is the eternal, self-sufficient, and unchanging “I AM.” There isn’t anything or anyone outside him, so when he says something is right or beautiful—it is because he said so.
He doesn’t have to consult a law book or a committee of angels. What he says is and it won’t be wrong. Truly, because he is “I AM,” the buck stops with him.
6) God Is The Most Important Person
You know what V.I.P. stands for? Very Important Person. God is not a V.I.P. He is the M.I.P. The Most Important Person.
Some might take that to be arrogant—they want a god who is on their level—but really it is the best thing for us that God is the M.I.P.
Why? Because there can be no better God to worship. There can be no more valuable person to admire and to enjoy than God himself.
It’s not that God was an important person. It’s not that God will be an important person. It’s that God—the God whom we call Jesus—is “I AM.”
God met the objections of Moses—his supposed lack of qualifications and his request for an authoritative name to give the Israelites—with the mightiest name in the universe: Yahweh, whom we call by a new name, Jesus, the great “I AM.”
The mighty “I AM” is sufficient to meet all our objections. He is strong enough to cover all our weaknesses.