The Timeless Redeemer
I can still see the image in my mind. It was late and there isn’t a lot of light pollution out in good ‘ole Nectar, Alabama so I could see this faint glow off in the distance. Something was on fire, I just knew it. The orange hues painted against the darkness made it too obvious. And sure enough, I turned a corner and this house was engulfed in flames.
Now, I want you to put yourself in my shoes. You’re driving up to this house and it’s on fire. You smell the smoke. You feel the heat coming off of the flames. You’re yelling because you don’t know if someone is inside. You’re running around, trying to find an entry point to help anyone who may be trapped. But suddenly you realize the house isn’t actually burning. There is fire all over it but isn’t burning (yes, the house was burnt to the ground but we’re pretending now, ok? Ok.).
You’d probably be a little freaked out right? Maybe curious as to how that was happening? Well, now you know how Moses must have felt when he came across the burning bush.
Maybe you know the story: Moses is out watching his father-in-law’s sheep when he notices this bush on fire but not actually burning. And then it starts talking to him. It’s the Lord calling to him from the bush. He identifies Himself as the God of Moses’ father, of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob – the fathers of the Hebrew people. He goes on to tell Moses that He has heard the cry of His people (see Exodus 2:23-25). He is going to bring His people out of slavery in Egypt. He is going to redeem them.
But Moses has some questions. After asking God “who am I to do this”, he asks God: “what do I say when they ask who you are”? Let’s pick up there with Exodus 3:13-14:
“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers 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.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
When Moses anticipates the question “what is his name” in V. 13, he is anticipating the question “what is he like” instead of a literal name. It is more of: what about this God of our Fathers should give us any confidence that He can deliver us from Egypt? We’ve been in slavery for 400 years and it’s been awful. The Egyptians have hundreds upon hundreds of gods! Why should we believe this One can beat them and deliver us when we’ve suffered for so long?
So, what does God say back? He says: “I AM WHO I AM”. And this isn’t just some regular name like what all the Egyptian deities had. No, God is speaking about His nature, His essence, who He is. Consider that He has already identified Himself as the God of their fathers – the Fathers of the nation of Israel. He was with them. Now, He is going to be with their offspring.
He is declaring Himself to be ever-present, timeless. He doesn’t change. He isn’t “I WAS” nor is He “I WILL BE”. No, HE IS. And He was coming to redeem His people – to bring them out of slavery, to establish them as His own, to teach them how to worship Him, and to set them apart as a light to all the nations.
And if He identified Himself to Israel as I AM – the ever-present, timeless, unchanging God, should we view Him any differently now? Has His nature change? Have His plans and purposes changed?
No – He is still God, the One True God, who is redeeming for Himself a people. We too have been in spiritual bondage to sin but we don’t cry out for deliverance. We reject Him. And yet He sent His Son, God in the flesh, into the world to die for our sins. He redeems us through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus who lived the life we cannot, died the death we deserve, and rose from the dead to secure life for those who trust in Him.
That’s something we know we can hold on to when times are hard, right? When parenting seems impossible, when your job has you stressed beyond stress, when there are difficulties in your marriage or with friends, being able to remind ourselves that “God is good! He hasn’t changed! He is for His people! He is redeemer!” can be a great comfort.
But how much do we think about those things when seemingly nothing could go wrong? You have great favor with your boss, your marriage is the picture of perfection, your kids are excelling in all they touch; the world is at your fingertips! But what happens when we let our guard down and the temptation to trust in ourselves, our intellect and our abilities, slips in the back door? Frankly, it all becomes about us, doesn’t it? The line between what is holy and pleasing to God can get blurred, can it not? School, relationships, career, all of it can take center stage in our lives. And when it does, it’s all too easy to start justifying our sin, acting or really believing its okay because God wants me to be happy and fulfilled above all else. When we do that, we’ve forgotten that He is timeless. He is unchanging. Yes, He does want you to be happy and fulfilled – but in Him and in His ways. That’s what He does in us when He redeems us through Jesus. He gives us new desires that are centered on Him because it is for our good. He alone is timeless, everything else is fleeting. Our great hope is the salvation promised in Jesus, nothing else.
I hope Moses’ encounter with the living God in Exodus 3 is an encouragement to you. He Is. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. May we all devote ourselves in service to the One True God.