The Great I Am
October 21, 2018
At the end of the book of Genesis, Jacob and his sons and his grandsons all went down to Egypt. There, God said that He would preserve them as a people and also protect them from the famine that was very severe. It tells us that when they went to Egypt, the number in their company was 70, there were 70 people. When you come to Exodus, that number has grown dramatically. It's 400 years later, and that 70 is now 2 million plus, and the favor that Pharaoh had originally poured out on them because of Joseph is no more because new Pharaohs have come into power 400 years later. They did not know Joseph, and they became very concerned. Because of the large number that Israel was becoming, they were afraid of them, afraid of the number, but also, at the same time, they were afraid of losing them.
They were afraid that they would rise up and maybe join with an enemy force and come against them and would leave them. They were using the Israelites for building many of the structures and monuments in Egypt. The Pharaoh that had come to power out of fear gave orders to enslave the Israelites, make life difficult for them, but it tells us that the more Israel suffered, the more they grew in number and in power. So, God hears their cry, and God's going to deliver them. Now that they've become that nation that God intended for them to come, God's going to save them from this slavery, this oppression, and He's going to use Moses. Now, we're going to meet Moses.
Moses, in many ways, was a miracle baby because the Pharaoh had given instruction that all the male babies were to be killed. Throw them into the Nile, feed them to the crocodiles. The female babies could survive. Moses was born in this environment, and his parents, fearing God and seeing he was beautiful, I think all babies are beautiful, decided to do something about it. So, they made this basket, covered it with tar and pitch and set the baby inside and set him into the reeds of the Nile, just entrusting him into the hand of God, just the mercy of God. It was there that God intervened. It's the plan of God.
Do you believe that God orders the circumstances of your life to carry about as well? I'm convinced He does. I've seen it over and over. I could write a book on the ways that God has revealed himself through the moving of circumstances and the moving of people. He brings it about that Pharaoh's daughter sees this basket in the reeds. She sends someone and, lo and behold, there's a baby, beautiful baby. She decides to keep this baby and raise this child as her own. Then, Moses' sister sees this and offers, "Should I find a nurse?" and, "Yes, please find a nurse," so, of course, that's the mother of Moses. When the baby is weaned, Moses is raised in the house of Pharaoh, and that's where it feels very interesting.
Here he is, raised in the house of Pharaoh, all the wealth, all the power, all the accouterments of prestige and prosperity, but inside he knew he was a Hebrew. The hard labor and the oppression of the Hebrews troubled him. One day, he saw an Egyptian slave master beating a Hebrew, and he couldn't take it. Something, anger, rose up in him, and he looked. He says he looked this way and that to see if anyone was looking, and when he was sure that no one could see, he struck the Egyptian, killed him, buried him in the sand. At least, he thought he had not been seen.
The next day, two Hebrews were mistreating and getting into a fight. He said to the aggressor, "Why do you do this? Why do you do this to your brother?" They said, "What? Who made you Lord over us? What, you're going to kill me like you did that Egyptian?" and then, immediately, Moses knew he was in deep trouble. It tells us that Pharaoh heard of it, he got wind of it, and he sent to have Moses killed. Moses escaped, ran, went out into the desert. He says, "Into the land of the Midianites," which would be even to the east of the Sinai Peninsula.
If you can picture in your mind the Middle East, you know that you have Egypt, and the Nile, and then, immediately, kind of a triangular shaped landmass which is the Sinai Peninsula. Then you have the Gulf of Aqaba dividing it, and then the Midianites will be next over there, quite a distance. He is in the Midianite area for 40 years, and he becomes a shepherd. He meets a Midianite priest named Reuel or Jethro, and he meets his daughter-- We'll study those when we look at it on Wednesdays. He marries her, Zipporah, and they have a boy, Gershom.
Forty years, he's a shepherd. What a dramatic change from all the wealth, prosperity, and all the power and prestige, and now, he's a shepherd in the desert. God was using this, God is preparing, God uses desert time, doesn't He? God uses desert times to prepare, and so when we get to Exodus 3, God is now ready to appear to Moses. He's going to have an encounter with God, but God's been working on him for more than 40 years. Here in chapter 3, we come to understand more of who God is, and thus, we understand who God desires to be in our lives.
Let's read the account of it. Exodus 3, we're going to begin in verse 1. Now, Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness, and he came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush. Now, he looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet the bush was not consumed. So, Moses said, "I must turn aside and see this marvelous sight. Why is this bush not burned up?"
Now, when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and He said, "Moses, Moses," and he said, "Here, here I am."
Then He said, "Do not come near here. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He also said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob," and Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters for I am aware of their suffering. So, I've come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to me. Furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. Therefore, come now, I will send you to Pharaoh so that you may bring my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt."
But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? Who am I? I'm nobody." It's 40 years. Remember, now, because we have a tendency to read through this, and we think, "He was just in the Pharaoh's house. He was just a powerful man." Forty years, that's a long time. "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt," and He said, "Certainly, I." God says, "I will be with you, and this will be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain, this very mountain."
Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now, they will say to me, 'What is his name?' What should I say to them?" God says to Moses, "I am who I am, Yahweh, Jehovah. Thus, you shall say to the sons of Israel, I am Jehovah. Yahweh has sent me to you." God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus, you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you,' and this is my name forever. This is my memorial name to all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and you say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has appeared to me, and He said, 'I am concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.'"
I. Let God be the Fire in Your Heart
All right, now, there's more verses, but these are the ones I want us to look at today because it really helps us to understand something about God. In the process of learning about God, we're going to learn something about ourselves. One of the things that, I think, is good for us to take hold of and apply out of these verses is this, to let God be the fire in your heart. The presence of God here is pictured as fire. In many, many places, you can see this, the presence of God is like a fire. I love this picture because the presence of God in us, therefore, is like a fire inside the soul. It's a good picture for us.
Sometimes, I see people who have no fire in their heart. They have no fire, and sometimes, you can see, they'll even tell you that they're bored, they're bored in life. Something's missing, and many people, they search and they search and they search, and there's something missing. They need a fire in their lives. In fact, Romans 12:11, "Never be lacking in zeal," He says, "but be fervent in spirit serving the Lord." The word "fervent" there is like hot, like there's something hot, there's a passion. An organization I knew once was about to hire this person, this leader, and asked if I would interview this person and give an opinion, which was a bit risky, but I said, "Okay."
A. God is a non-consuming fire
So, I talked to him, and, immediately, I sensed something. I called them back, and I said, "Here's my concern. There's no fire in the belly." God wants us to have fire in the belly, fire in the soul, you might say, because here's something interesting that we can read out of the story. God is a non-consuming fire. Listen to what I'm trying to say, God is a non-consuming fire. When Israel was being led to the desert after they left Egypt, we'll get to there, God used a pillar of fire to demonstrate and indicate His presence was among them.
This pillar of fire by day, God's presence in our lives can be pictured as that fire, right? That fire, the passion that burns within us.
Many people are filled with worldly passions, but when the Holy Spirit fills your heart, you get a new passion. It takes a passion to kill a passion. We need something burning in the soul. It's a fire that doesn't consume. God's presence adds passion, adds power, adds glory, adds honor of God but does not consume. It's a very interesting thing that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth where he said in 1 Corinthians 3:12-16, he said, "Everything is going to be touched by fire, but some things are consumed and some things are not consumed."
Let's read it because it's important, 1 Corinthians 3, "If any man builds on the foundation of Christ with gold or silver or precious stones, these are the things that fire can touch and does not consume."
Gold, silver, precious stones, fire can touch them, but not consume them, or they can build on that foundation with wood or hay or straw. These things, the fire will touch and consume them. Then it goes on to say, "For the day will show it or each man's work will become known for the day will show up because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he suffers loss, but he himself will be saved, yet as though through fire."
Then it says this insight, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" That's that fire, he's picturing the Holy Spirit is the fire that dwells inside of you. See the results of a person's life are either going to be burned up, consumed, or they will be eternal, glorious. When you think about your life, don't you want to leave something eternal? Don't you want to have something in your life that is the consequence of God? When you live by God's fire in your soul, then the blessing of God, the favor of God, the power of God is on what you do.
This is an interesting thing. This bush did God look at all the bushes on the mountain, and then say, "Now, there's an amazing bush. I couldn't find a better bush in all of the deserts of Arabia. It's perfect. I finally found the perfect bush for making my power known to Moses." Do you think God said that? I'd say, no, not at all. The bush had little to do with it. Frankly, any old bush would do. Well, isn't that true? It doesn't matter, any bush would have done fine. It was the fire of God's presence that made the bush glorious. See now, the same is true in our lives. Some people are convinced that God is only going to use special people with special gifts. They think of themselves as very plain and common, and thus, "because I'm plain and common, God cannot use me. God only uses special people with special gifts, I'm not that."
But that's not correct, that's not right. God will use anyone who will open his heart to the fire of God. Can I say this again? God will use anyone who will open his or her heart to the fire of God. It's not the bush that matters, it's the fire of God that matters. That's what makes all the difference in the world. By the way, sometimes people say, "I'm burned out." I suggest to you that being burned up are burned out is not what God wants either. God doesn't burn people out. What God does is He fires them up, He adds the fire of His presence. When the passion of God is in your soul, He's going to fill you up a tower again. If you're burned out, you need more fire. If you're burned up, you need more fire.
B. God is also a consuming fire
Now, having said that, God is a non-consuming fire, it's also important for us to recognize that God is a consuming fire. God's both. The same fire that will bring passion, power, glory, and honor is the same fire that will consume things that need, frankly, to be burned up. What am I referring to? Earthly things, worldly things, godly things, because they're not eternal, they're temporal. They need to be burned up. Those are the things I'm speaking to. Those things are consumed. Here's the thing, how are they consumed? They're consumed when the passion of God is ignited in our soul. The fire of God that burns within our soul are the things that would burn up those things which are of the world.
This is a key to spiritual victory and power. Many people do not experience the power because they've not understood the importance of the fire in their hearts, the passion that burns. We can say it's like desire. What is it you want? What is it you seek after? What is it you're desiring? That's a passion. But when you have a passion that's ignited by the Holy Spirit, it changes everything. Like this hymn, many of you remember this hymn, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." I love that hymn because there's a great truth in it. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, see the fire, the glory, and the things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." God is a consuming fire also.
C. Don’t light your own fire
Then, there's an interesting insight, by the way, interesting insight out of Isaiah where it says-- By the way, don't light your own fire. "Be careful, don't light your own fire," He says. Very important because when you light your own fire, the passions of the world will consume. Isaiah 9:18, "Wickedness burns like a fire," or how about John 10:10 where Jesus said, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. He wants to burn up things in your life." See, the enemy would love nothing more than to destroy. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He would love nothing more than to destroy your relationship, would love nothing more than to destroy your marriage, would love nothing more than to destroy your business or destroy your honor or destroy your integrity.
The enemy would love nothing more than to consume these things. He'll burn up your life by wasting your life. In the '60s, the hippies, the hippie movement of the '60s, I know all about this. I read all about it. The '60s was the drug culture of the day. When they would get high, there was a phrase, "they got wasted." That's a good word right there. That's an appropriate word, "they got wasted," because it wastes a life. Many of you know my story. My father, who was an alcoholic, abusive, and angry, at 75 years old, when he had moved away to another state, and my oldest brother had died, and so, we brought him up for the service. He was staying at my house. He would get up 5:00 in the morning, so I would get up, make him breakfast, and we'd sit and talk.
For the first time in my life, I could sit and talk man-to-man. He said- 75 years old, he said, "I look at my life, and I've come to realize, I've wasted almost all my life." I've wasted almost all my life. Can you imagine being 75 years old and finally coming to the realization that he's wasted almost all his life? But you know what? It's better to see it when you're old than did not see it at all. He said, "I don't have many years left, but what I have, I want to make something out of it. Would you help me?" In my heart, I was like, "I've been waiting to hear those words all my life. I'll help you."
He didn't even come to my wedding. He never even met my kids. But, of course, he lived with us for a few days. I said, "I'll help you." So, we moved him up, I put him in the same apartment complex that my mother was living in. He had divorced her, but she is a gracious woman, and she forgave him, became friends. We got him to church, and then we got him to church again, and then, at an invitation, with bold constitution, he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Amen.
I had the privilege of baptizing him with my own hands. But to waste your life? See, the enemy would love nothing more than to cause you to waste your life. When the prodigal son, Luke 15, this amazing picture of a young man who asked for his inheritance early, and he spent it on the world. Parties, women, you can imagine all the things you can find in the city. It says that, "His money was burned up, spent it all." Burned up, spent it all. The enemy will take whatever he can get. He'll take all your money if he can. Then, a famine hit the land, he couldn't even get a job. Finally, he found a job, and it was the worst possible job a Jew could ever take. It was feeding swine, feeding pigs.
He said, "Well, it can't get much worse than this." It got worse because he started becoming envious because the pigs had food and he didn't. Then, I love this phrase, it says, "He came to his senses." That's a glorious moment right there. He came to his senses and he says, "My father's servants are treated better than this. I'm going to go back to my father." Now, he's got something wrong here in his heart. Here's why, because he says, "I'm going to go back to my father, and I'm going to say to my father, 'I'm not worthy to be your son. I'm not asking to be your son. Can you just give me a job?'"
So, he goes and it says that the father saw him long way down the road, and the father ran down the road and fell upon his son and held him and kissed him. The son had a speech already, "Father, I've sinned against heaven and in your sight. I'm not worthy to be your son. I just need a job." The father responded, "Quick, get a robe and put it on my son. Get a ring and put it on the ring finger of my son, and put sandals on the feet of my son, for my son was dead and is now alive. My son was lost and has now been found, and kill the fatted calf, for we are going to celebrate today."
I love that story because it's a story of redemption. The enemy will steal and take and destroy. He'll love nothing more than destroy your life, but God is the one who restores. He will rebuild, He'll reignite. The prodigal son was lost because he thought that what he was searching for was out there somewhere, but what he was searching for was not out there, it's right here. This is what's wrong with many people today. Many people that they think, well, what they need is out there somewhere. It's not out there, it's in the soul. What good is it if a man would gain the whole world but forfeit his soul? This is a powerful point, isn't it here? Because Moses is convinced that he's nobody. "Who am I? I'm nothing. I'm no one."
II. Practice the Presence of God
Now, here's what we can gain from the story. Practice the presence of God, it changes everything. Practice the presence of God. Moses is fascinated by this bush, approaches it, hears God calling, and he has this amazing encounter. For the first time here, we learn the name of God. He asked, and Moses, "What do I tell them your name?" "I am. I am. That is my name. It's my memorial name forever. Jehovah, Yahweh, I am." I remember many years ago, we were in Russia, we were doing an outreach. We had brought a team, and we had an evening meeting where I was speaking and teaching and giving opportunity for people to respond.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye that this fellow came in from the outside, and it was snowing and icy outside, but he came in with bare feet and just wearing a white robe. He went to the back, and I took note, but continued and gave the invitation and prayed with people. Then one of the team members come, and he says, "That man, he wants to speak to you." I said, "Well, who is he?" He said, "He says, he's God." I thought to myself, "This will be interesting." So, I came up to him, I said, "Did you want to speak with me?" and he said, "Yes." I said, "Do I understand correctly that you believe you're God?" and he said, "This is correct, I'm God." I said, "What is your name?" He said, "My name is the action." I said, "No. See, that's not so because the name of God is 'I am,'" and he looked at me with a smile in the corner of his mouth which says, "That's good. I won't have to remember that."
A. All that God is, He is to you
His name is so personal because it's not simply "I am," but it's personal. "All that I am, I am to you." It's a personal name. All that God is, He is to you. It must be made personally. Yahweh is Y-H-W-H. Now, we don't actually know how to say that. The four letters, back in the days of this, Hebrew had no vowels. The four letters is called the Tetragrammaton. We pronounce it as Yahweh, or Jehovah sometimes, because we don't know how to say it. What someone did, they took the vowels from "Adonai" which means "Lord," and they inserted it into these four letters and out came "Yahweh" or "Jehovah."
Why do we not know how to say it? Because the Jews believed that the name of God was so holy that you should never say the name of God. It's too holy to say. Even today, modern Hebrews, when they spell "God," they don't add the vowel, they say, "G dash D," and then they won't pronounce his name. Interestingly, when Jesus came, he called God his daddy. "When you pray, you say, 'My Father,'" my daddy. The Jews were insulted at this idea. He calls God His Father. But Jesus showed us He's much more intimate. His name is personal. That's the point. It's His personal name. God is a title, but "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" is His name.
Like my name, see, my name is Rich. When someone says, "Rich," I could be in a crowd, I can be in a crowd of people, and I can hear, "Rich." All of the people can talk, and if someone says, "Rich," my ears instantly perk up. I could be in a store, and they could be calling for some employee named Rich, and I'll think that they're calling me. Or if I'm in a room of people and some child says, "Dad," all the dads in the room immediately turn, right? Because it's the name, and your name is personal. So, "I am" refers to the fact that it's personal, and it means also, it refers to the fact that He's an eternal God. There's no beginning, there's no end. He's outside of time.
Isaac Newton believed space and time were absolute. Of course, Einstein then came and brought this revolution of thought because he introduced the idea that time and space were actually relative. Of course, today, we know that the atomic clocks aboard the Space Shuttle actually run slower than the atomic clocks on Earth, less gravity. So, the Jews were shocked at the idea that Jesus would claim Himself to be outside of time. Remember, this is John 8:57-59, "And the Jews--" John 8, you got to read some time because it is an amazing chapter where the conflict between the Jews, the Pharisees, and Jesus are like sparks flying.
The Jews said to Him, "You are not yet 50 years old, and you have seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." That's an interesting phrase, "I am." "I say to you, before Abraham was even born, I am." They were so incensed at this. It says that they picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple. God's name is personal, and it reveals His nature. "All that I am, I am to you." It's His nature, His character, thus, is applied. See, when you pray, you pray according to the character. You're asking God to move according to His character, according to His nature. You pray consistent with that.
Here's a prayer you do not pray. Don't pray this prayer, "Lord, I am so angry with so and so, get him, Lord. Get him, just make him have a really bad day. In Jesus' name, Amen."
No. Don't pray that prayer because it's not consistent with His name, it's not consistent with His character, it's not who He is. Matthew 5:44, Jesus said who He was, "I say to you, love your enemies. I say to you, bless those who curse you." Now, we're understanding something about God's character. Now, He's expressing something of His nature. Do good to those who hate you, pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you. This is the same Jesus as He was crucified on the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." See, because Jesus, He expressed that phrase, "I am," that same phrase, "I am," many different times, many different ways, and expressed who He was. Jesus said, "I am the living water. Anyone who has thirst, come to me and drink. I am the bread of life. "
God gave manna through Moses to the people, but God gives the bread of life to you. "I am the light of the world." "I am the good shepherd." "I am the true vine." "I am the way, the truth, and the life." "I am."
B. It’s who God is that matters
See, it is who God is that really matters. Moses is then told by Yahweh that He has seen the affliction of Hebrews, He's heard their cry, He knows their suffering. God sees, God hears, God knows what's happening in our lives. He tells Moses He's going to send Moses to Pharaoh and lead the people from their bondage. "Who am I?" He says, "Who am I that I should do this thing? I'm nothing."
Who am I? What an interesting contrast. Moses appeals to God, "I'm nobody." God answers, "But I am everything, and I will be with you." God says the same to us, Matthew 28:20, "Lo," Jesus said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." That's the key. That's the key to faith. That's the key to walking by your faith. That's the key to growing your faith. That's the key to a relationship to God. He's not the great "I give," He's the great "I am." It's not something we need, it's someone. "Take the sandals from your feet, He said to Moses, "the place you're standing is holy ground."
Without shoes, we cannot go on. Without shoes, we're powerless, we're humbled, we're weak, we're incapable. A soldier can't fight without boots. A farmer can't plow without shoes. A traveler cannot travel far. "Take the sandals from your feet and put your feet on this ground." Take those off, they're dirty. Take them off, put your feet on this ground, completely humbled but completely thankful that God has invited you to meet Him here. This is holy ground. You're welcome, come nearer, draw near. Sometimes, people say, "This Christian thing is not working for me." To which I say, "Draw nearer, come closer to the fire because it'll bring fire and passion to your soul."