One day in his old age Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep and came across a burning bush. God called out to Moses from the bush and said “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors and I know about their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…Therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 2:7)
God told Moses to return to the place where he grew up, the place from where he had shamefully fled as a murderer. God wanted to use Moses to fulfill his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, that they would be a nation in the promised land of Canaan, and that all the nations would be blessed through them (Genesis 9:25,15:5,15:18). To accomplish such an amazing task, God chose to use Moses.
Moses, feeling the immensity of the events God was describing, questions God, “but Moses said to God, ‘who am I that I should go to Pharaoah and bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt?’”
I absolutely love God’s response to Moses asking “Who am I?”
God says, “I will be with you.”
In one sense God is not answering Moses’ question at all. He seems to be ignoring it. Showing that it is far more important who goes with Moses, then who Moses is.
In another sense God is absolutely answering his question. Moses asks “who am I?”, and the implication is: Moses, you are one who has me with you.
Moses surely feels inadequate for the task, having spent the majority of his life as a fugitive. Furthermore, he’s old, and he doesn’t even speak well. But God wasn’t worried about Moses’ speaking ability. God fully knew Moses abilities or lack thereof, and even made him exactly the way he was! Moses appeals to God to use someone else because of his lack of speech skills, to which God responds:
"Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:11-12)
Once again we have another example that it matters less about Moses’ speaking ability and more about who is with him as he speaks! After obeying God, going to Pharaoh numerous times, seeing plague after plague, miracle after miracle, being led through the Red Sea on dry ground, being guided by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, being led atop mount Sinai in the presence of the Lord, Moses learns an important lesson in being used by God:
Having God with you is the most important thing in the world.
The next plan on God’s agenda was even more daunting then leading the Israelites out of Egypt: leading them into the promised land which was occupied by fierce warrior clans. To take the promised land meant conquest over Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.
Faced with such a task and having learned his lesson before, Moses begged God “If your presence does not go with us…don’t make us go up from here. How will it be known that I and your people have found favor in your sight unless you go with us? I and your people will be distinguished by this from all other people on the face of the earth.” (Exodus 33:15)
Moses knew that God’s presence with him was the most important thing in the world, again he would reiterate later “My Lord, if I have indeed found favor in your sight, my Lord, please go with us. Even though this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wrongdoing and sin, and accept us as your own possession.” (Exodus 34:9)
Why is having God's presence so important?
Having God’s presence means having God’s power.
God’s presence guaranteed the power of God to give protection, sustenance, strength, and success to his people. Whether it was turning a staff into a snake (Exodus 4:3), walking through the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus 14:22), or drowning Pharaoh’s army, (Exodus 14:28) Moses knew that having God with him meant having God’s power. In response to such an awesome display of God’s power Israel and Moses sang, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him…Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy…You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.” (Exodus 15:1-2,6,13)
Having God’s presence means having God’s approval.
God’s presence guaranteed the approval of God demonstrated in his patience, graciousness, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance of a stiff-necked and sinful people as his own possession. After all the miracles that God had done for the Israelites in delivering them from Egypt, they grumbled, complained, and even worshipped a golden calf saying, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4) Yet, even after this event God in his mercy and grace offered an opportunity for the men to repent, and if they did, he overlooked their sin and established his covenant with them, allowing them to become his very own possession.
Moses knew God’s presence meant his power and approval. And knew that if he was empowered and accepted by God, then there need not be anything to fear. With God’s power and approval Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt. With God’s power and approval he prepared the Israelites to enter take the Promised Land by faith.
With God’s power and approval Jesus Christ prepares people from every nation to enter Heaven by Faith.
When Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples he gave them his final instructions: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Just as God wanted to use Moses to fulfill his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and that all the nations would be blessed through them (Genesis 9:25,15:5,15:18), God wants to use us to fulfill his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and that all the nations would be blessed through them.
The Apostle Paul says, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:27-29)
By preaching the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and teaching obedience to all that he commanded, men and women believe and become Abraham’s offspring. They receive the promised blessing of God: God will go with us! As Jesus says “I will be with you”. God’s presence is promised to those who repent from their sins and believe by faith in Jesus Christ. God’s presence means God’s approval (forgiveness of sins) and God’s power (empowerment for ministry). This is the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit given to those who believe. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be witnesses for God (Acts 1:8), and assures us that our sins are forgiven and that we are accepted by God (2 Cor. 1:22). If the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, then we have the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead at work in us! (Romans 8:11) If we have the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead at work in us, what do we need to fear?
In response to such an awesome display of God’s power in us who believe the gospel, we can sing like Moses! We will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously! The devil will be thrown into the lake of fire! The Lord is our strength and our song, and he has become our salvation; this is our God, and we will praise him, our father’s God, and we will exalt him…Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters Sin and Satan! …You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode!
So when it comes to living for God let us not be timid! Let us not ask “who am I?” Rather, let us remember: It’s not who I am, but who goes with me. And if the God of the universe is with me, then he has approved of me and his power is at work in and through me. And if I have his approval and his power, then he is able to use me to accomplish his promise of blessing the world through the life and teaching of his Son Jesus Christ. The only thing I need is to trust that he is with me, and open my mouth and speak.
May we trust in you God, may we open our mouths and speak, and may you be with us always, because of your Son Jesus. Amen.