Exodus 3:1-15 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up." When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "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 at God.
Then the LORD said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send 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?" He said, "I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain."
But Moses said to God, "If I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM Who I AM." He said further, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever and this my title for all generations."
Reflection Last week we met Jesus asking the disciples and us, “But who do you say that I am?” This week we wander back in history some twelve hundred years and find Moses asking God, “Who shall I tell the Israelite people You, God, are? What is your name?” God’s answer, “I AM who I AM,” must have rattled around in Mose’s mind. “This is not going to be easy!”
Imagine a philosopher pondering on Moses’ behalf, “I AM who I AM; derived from the verb ‘to be’ that must mean, I exist. How can it be enough to say “I exist?” How can it be sufficient simply to exist without a definable and recognizable image? How can it be enough to claim existance with neither subject nor predicate? It reminds me of Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet moaning as he ponders suicide, “To be, or not to be…?” To exist or not to exist. That is the question. And God’s answer is, I exist. I AM.
God chose not to identify God’s self as either subject or predicate, which is to say, God refused to be confined to either object or essence. Rather, God chose to identify God’s self as the linking word, the copola, relationship. God identified God’s self as that which connects, a bridge, I AM.
And God continued, “Moses, Moses, “I will be with you….”” In other words, I, your God, AM in relationship with you, I coexist with you. I Am “the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” I Am joined with or coupled with you and your ancestors. We are intimately linked and have been through time.
Unequivocal as God’s response to Moses may sound, I don’t suppose it much comforted Moses. What are the people going to think when I say,” I AM sent me?” Is that not the question with which we all wrestle? How can I tell the people with whom I work or go to the gym about my God whom I cannot see or touch or frankly find any words sufficient to describe? What shall I say to my children when they ask, “Where is God?” How shall I defend God when critics query, “If there really is God why do such terrible things as the brutality in the Middle East, ravaging disease in Africa, senseless killing in Misssouri happen?”
In the course of God’s conversation with Moses God attested, “I have been, I AM, and I will be” in relationship with you. And finally Moses received the answer to his original question, “God, what is your name?” “My name is forever I AM.” Finding his courage in forever I AM and trusting I AM forever with him, Moses was emboldened to go and confront the king of Egypt, the oppressor of God’s people. Would that we all remember forever I AM and do likewise.
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