February 15, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
“In a Word, God: Who Are You?”
Dear God, thank You for bringing us all here to this place. Help us to open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts, and our spirits to better understand who You are and to know You more. Please be with us as we draw near to You and closer to one another. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Mountain-top experiences are those rare times when we cannot imagine being in a better place. “I’m on top of the world! Over the moon! In the clouds!”
We’ve all had such experiences – the day we got married – the day our baby was born – the day we got a raise, or moved into our first house, or graduated from high school, or the day we were born (I’ll bet if we could remember that day it would be near the top of the list), or the day we were born again (some of us can remember that day, others only know it happened). Those all describe some of my “mountain-top” experiences. Also, when I traveled to the Holy Land with my family; visiting the Greek city of Corinth with a very small group of Lidgerwoodians and a brand new band of friends from across this country. But maybe my most memorable mountain-top-travel experiences were visiting my grown-up daughter at her first grown-up work-site in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and six weeks ago visiting my other daughter at her first grown-up work-site in Shishmaref, AK.
You can think of your own mountain-top experiences and wonder in the awe of those moments.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday on the liturgical calendar – the day we commemorate Jesus’ mountain-top experience with James and John and Peter; oh, and Moses and Elijah, too. Our Children’s Message time was spent talking a little about that day.
We are looking at another mountain-top experience in the Bible. This one happened 1,400 years before Jesus, when Moses was still a young man before he became the great deliverer of his people from slavery in Egypt. You know the story: he was born at a time when the Pharaoh had declared that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed, but baby Moses was hidden for a few months, and then he was put in a basket and floated down the Nile River toward where the Pharaoh’s daughter would find him; she does, and hires Moses’ mother to be his nurse-maid, and Moses is brought up in the Pharaoh’s house as if he were a son of the king; when Moses discovers his true identity, he kills an Egyptian slave-master for beating a Hebrew slave; so Moses runs into the hills; and while there he works as a shepherd.
This brings us to today’s Bible passage, from Exodus 3:1-14 – let me start with the end of Exodus 2 …. —-
23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
3 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I-AM has sent me to you.’”
May God bless the reading, the hearing, the receiving of His Word which never fails.
Can you imagine that mountain-top experience? I don’t care if you’re a professing follower of Christ or not, a day on top of THAT mountain would go in your blog.
This is a desert-like wilderness area, so plants are often turned into dry tinder; and it’s an area known for lightning storms – so flaming flora are not all that infrequent.
But a burning bush that does not actually burn – that’s a miracle! And this miracle was God speaking to Moses! Now, we can guess that Moses was already a praying man. Wandering around the wilderness, fearing for his life, and all alone – “C’mon God… Seriously? Is this why I was pulled out from the Nile and raised in the Pharaoh’s house? To live as a foreigner, with no family, no home, no nuthin’? C’mon God.”
I’ll bet that’s what Moses was praying the day God brought him to Jethro’s house and gave him Ziporrah for a wife. But still – I’ll bet he never expected God actually speak to him, and not from a blazing bush!
What are some ways God speaks to His people in the Bible? Give me some shout outs …. Directly (Adam and Eve) – through a donkey (Balaam) – by the handwriting on the wall (Daniel) – in dreams (Daniel, Joseph, others) – through angels (Abraham, Mary, others) – a burning bush (Moses)!
What are some ways God speaks to His people today? Does God speak today? What are some ways? … the Bible – in sermons – through friends – books – sunsets –
Has God ever “spoken” to you? … How did you hear Him? … What did you hear? By the sequence of closed doors and open opportunities – by the invitation of people of authority – through biblical texts/themes grouped together from varieties of unrelated sources – by weird, temporary paralysis –through an actual body-less audible voice //// be calm, I am here with you – go to Spokane, and stay until I release/send you – go to TGH Room 324
I love this story in Exodus 3. Moses made it to this point in his life through miracle and opportunity. He was born in a place of oppression, in a time of desperation – he was supposed to die on his (actual) birthday! He was rescued by the daughter of the tyrant who ordered him dead! He was raised by his own mother, who got paid to raise him when she was supposed to be a slave! He grew up in privilege and prestige instead of dirt and destitution! But at this point in the story, Moses is a homeless fugitive, living in a foreign country with no kin or company – other than his boss/father-in-law, new wife and one baby boy.
And, not doing anything of any special religious nature – he wasn’t in the temple (there wasn’t a temple yet), he wasn’t even praying, not reading his Bible (again, there wasn’t one yet), he wasn’t feeding the hungry or clothing the naked or visiting the imprisoned – he was just doing his job!
He was washing a car, balancing a budget, making payroll, making a sale, teaching a child to read, taking someone’s temperature – and out of nowhere – God shows up and this particular day at the mill becomes a mountain-top holy moment of sacred and scared-spitless divine intervention!
A non-consumed inferno of vegetation – and a voice – “Take off your shoes and pay attention – this is the voice of God Almighty – you have no choice here, but to listen, so make sure you hear what I say!”
And Moses does just that – but before he is excused, he raises his hand to ask one question – “Who do I tell these people is sending me with this message of freedom? When they ask, ‘who is this God who can do this great thing?’, what do I say?” In a word, God: Who Are You?
I have here a poster filled with nothing but names for God from the Bible: Shout out a few names for God you can think of, What are some of the names for God that are in the Bible? Creator God – God Almighty – Adonai/Lord – God most high – then there’s a whole slew of Yahweh/Jehovah names; Jehova-Jireh, Provider-Lord – Jehovah-Rapha, Healer-Lord – Jehovah-Sabaoth, Lord of hosts; heavenly Father – Prince of peace – etc, etc, etc
What are some of the names you call God? Does that name mean something special to you?
Those are all great, powerful names! Now, what does God tell Moses His name is? “Tell them ‘some unpronounceable tetragrammaton’ that in English is spelled “YHWH”’ sends you. In a Word – THAT is my name!”
Most of our English language Bibles translate that as “I-AM-WHO-I-AM sends you.”
Why is this name for God so significant? What does it mean?
Let me illustrate this with a calendar and a map:
Last Thursday Kathy and Kathy and I went to Opportunity Presbyterian Church for an important Presbytery Meeting – then in the evening Kathy Samuel came here for Cantata Choir practice, Kathy Sandusky went to Manito Presbyterian Church for a function there, and I went to Sheridan Elementary School for a Spokane School District Mentor Training session – we were at those different places at those specific times.
Today Kathy and I are here at Lidgerwood and Kathy Sandusky is at Manito worshiping. We are at those places at these specific times.
On Wednesday this week, I will be going to Oakesdale as their church’s liaison from the Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry. I will be in Oakesdale.
But God? God’s name is I-AM! Where was God on Thursday? Last Thursday God IS at Opportunity Presbyterian Church! Last Thursday God IS at Cantata Choir practice! Last Thursday God IS at Manito Presbyterian Church!
And that’s where He IS today! And that’s where He IS next Wednesday! He IS there, present tense, in every past, present and future moment of time! And all at the same time!
And God IS also in Oakesdale, and in NYC, and in Bagdad, and in Kiev, and in West Africa, and in Chiang Mai, and in Shishmaref! His name is I-AM – I-AM – I-AM!
How does this affect my faith? For me, it encourages me when I am nervous – God is there; God is there in the fiery furnace! God is there in the lion’s den! God is there in the burning bush! Not just because we invite Him to be there, but because His name is I-AM!
On that other mountain, 1,400 years later, when Jesus took His three good friends to meet Moses and Elijah, the voice from Heaven announced, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased – listen to Him!”
God is right here in this very room. And, God still speaks. Are we listening to His voice? In prayer this morning, quiet Presbyterian prayer – let’s listen first – what might God be saying today?
Fuquay, Rob; The God we Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus; Upper Room Books; Nashville, TN; 2014; Pp. 4-10.