I’m reading through the book of Exodus and I am struck by how many self-revelations of God are in this book, as well as how hard He has to hammer the point to get it across. It’s strange to think that there was a point in time where people didn’t take this stuff for granted. For instance, if I walked up to you right now and said, “God is Yahweh,” you would reply, “Yeah, that’s right… and your point is…?”
However, when God told that to Moses, it was news. Big news. “I am the LORD [Yahweh]. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by My name LORD [Yahweh] I was not known to them” (Ex. 6:2). Do we realize how earth-shattering this is? God was revealing His name to Moses… a name nobody knew existed. Talk about getting your theology rattled.
But God had been working on getting the point through to Moses long before that.
In chapter 3, Moses sees the burning bush — we all know the story (kind of). Moses sees the bush, Moses goes to investigate, God tells Moses to take off his shoes. But now, rather than going straight to the point of business of liberating the Hebrew slaves, God first declares His own name: “I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6). Before the plan was unfolded, Moses needed to be clear about who was orchestrating it.
God had seen the groaning and oppression of His people. He was moved to act on their behalf. He was sending Moses to confront Pharaoh and bring Israel out.
Understandably, Moses was a bit overwhelmed by this prospect. But the tug-of-war of the following conversation is immediately obvious and almost comical:
Moses: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (3:11)
God: “I [the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you…” (3:12)
Moses is panicking because he can’t do it. God is reminding him that that’s not the point. The miracle of Egypt is not primarily the cool prophet, but the astonishing God. Moses asks who he should say sent him, and God thunders back with “I AM WHO I AM” (3:14). Again, the driving force behind this whole deliverance is the nature and character of God.
Moses asks for a sign to prove that God really did send him. The Lord gives him two.
Moses then finds a new reason to say no. “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, niether before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (4:11). Moses’ argument once again is that he is not qualified, not able, not willing. God should go find someone better suited to the job.
Notice that when God corrects Moses, He doesn’t say, “Oh, sure you are! Don’t be so hard on yourself. You just need to believe in yourself a little and think positive thoughts.” Not by a long shot. God doesn’t even talk about Moses. “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say” (4:12).
To venture my own interpretation of this statement: Moses, get a clue already. This is not about who you are and what you can do. This is about who I am and what I can do. I don’t really care if you don’t think you know how to use your mouth; I made your mouth and I am well aware of how that thing works.
For the sake of space, I’m skipping some (but read it anyway!). The super condensed version is that Moses argues a little more, almost gets himself killed for it, but the Lord never lets up on His call and successfully sends Moses and his brother Aaron to Egypt.
Once there, they go before Pharaoh and faithfully command him to let God’s people go. Notice that Pharaoh’s response is not about the practicality of such a feature. He doesn’t start by negotiating terms or considering his budget. He fires right back with the question of the hour: “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go” (5:2)?
Oh, Pharaoh. Them’s fightin’ words to a really big God who is setting out to convince people who He is and what He’s like.
And as if that weren’t enough, Pharaoh also orders increased oppression upon the people of Israel. It sure seems for all the world like he is going out of his way to dig his own grave.
Israel is not happy about this turn of events. Moses is really rattled by it. God is pretty unfazed.
He assures Moses of Pharaoh’s involuntary obedience (6:1), and immediately backs it up by reminding him of who He is, even going so far as to reveal the previously unknown name of YHWH (6:2). He prophesies the ultimate fulfillment of the promises to Israel, pausing twice more to reiterate that “I am the LORD” (6:3-8). There is also a great purpose in the way He sets it all up: “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God…” (6:7, emphasis added).
In other words, His chosen method of leadership was specifically to convince His people of who He is.
And the children of Israel weren’t the only ones getting the lesson. The Egyptians would learn it, too — ten whole plagues of learning the hard way (see 7:5,17; 8:10,22; 9:14,29; 10:1), with the Red Sea sealing the deal (14:4,18). Although it’s true that God cares intensely about justice, He is not just on a freedom crusade with these plagues. He is making a point in the strongest of terms: “I AM THE LORD.”
I wish time permitted me to point out how thoroughly the Passover reveals who God is and what His Son is like, but hopefully you’re pretty familiar with the concept already. That’s a part of Exodus that I was prepared to run across. What I hadn’t seen before was towards the end of chapter 15, where Israel is being led out into the wilderness and they’re commencing their infamous grumbling against the Lord.
The first serious roadblock the nation runs into (aside from the Red Sea) are the springs of Marah. The water there is bitter and undrinkable, which is admittedly a significant problem if it’s your only water for who knows how long in the desert. The people complain, Moses cries out to God (you’re going to see that pattern a lot in the book), and the Lord responds by showing Moses how to detoxify the waters.
Look at what God says, right on the heels of this incident. “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (15:26).
That’s a great name of God. We sing about it. We pray it. We appeal to it. As we should. But have you seen this context? This is a reason to fear the Lord. This is a reason to become super motivated to keep His commands. He is the God who can send or heal plagues, and He’s the one making the rules. God used those bitter springs to, once again, convince Israel who He is.
I haven’t even gotten to Sinai yet, but I’m loving the journey. I may post more on this in the future, but for now, it’s exciting to stop and see how God introduces Himself to a (rather thick-headed) world in ways we never could have imagined.