11 Mar I will be with you
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “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.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of 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 place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
13 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?” 14 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.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.” Who says it? Martin Luther King Junior. He had a dream. A big dream. A dream that affected millions of people today. And because of his dream, because of this beautiful, wonderful and powerful speech, he was killed. People thought it was over. This was surely the end of his dream. Yet his dream never died. His dream is still alive and changing nations today. I remember talking to a friend once about Martin Luther. We were talking about our admiration for Martin Luther and he told me how he admired Luther for his courage that changed the course of Christian’s history with his statement “justification by faith alone.” And after 20 minutes of talking to me about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, I said, “His speech “I have a dream” is really powerful.” And he looked at me with this weird expression that say, “Are you an idiot?” FYI, Martin Luther King Junior and Martin Luther are two different person. One is black and one is white. One lived in 1950’s, and the other in 1500’s. One said “I have a dream” the other said “Justification by faith alone.” I only found out after the conversation. I really thought they were the same person.
I’m pretty sure all of us had a dream once. I don’t know what your dream was. Maybe some of you dream to be a pilot. Some to be a doctor. Some to be a policeman. Some to be a teacher. Some to be a rich and successful person. Some to be a princess. Or maybe some of you don’t dream big. All you dream about is to be married to a wonderful man or wife and have a loving family. Maybe for some of you all you dream about today is for you to be able to graduate from a University and find a job. I don’t know what your dream is but I do know one thing. For many of us, dream is nothing but a dream. What happened was that reality hit you in the face and shattered your dream. The world is not a kind place where all your dreams come true. Then you heard about this place where dreams really do come true. So you went to Disneyland. You thought all your dreams will come true if you go there only to find out that dreams were expensive. I don’t get the logic of paying $100 to see adults wearing costumes and pay another $20 for hotdog and coke. But I still went anyway. Because my parents paid for it. Moral of the story: Unless you are a parent, don’t go to Disney Land without your parents. You get broke really quick. But even Disney cannot make your dream come true.
In our passage today, we are talking about a man who had a dream. A man who had everything going for him. He seemed to be destined for greatness and he knew it. His life was on the uphill and he was ready to fulfil his destiny. Then life hit him straight in the face and he lost everything. His dream was shattered. His life was forever changed. From the prince of Egypt, he turned into an enemy of Egypt. From a glorious palace to a wilderness. From a ruler to a shepherd. From commanding people to commanding sheep. He lost everything. He was somebody and he became nobody. He was ready to live out all of his life as a nobody till one day he met the Great Somebody. And once again, his life took another 180 degrees turn. A new dream came to him. A new vision, a new purpose, a new life. But this time, there was nothing that can stop him. Because it was not his dream. It was God’s dream for him. This is the life of Moses. Our passage today is about the encounter Moses had with the LORD that changed the trajectory of his life. But before we go there, let me give you some contextual background.
Few hundred years before Moses, God made a promise to a man by the name of Abraham that God will make of Abraham a great nation. God also promised that he will lead Abraham’s descendants to a land filled with milk and honey. Abraham never see this promise come to past. But pretty soon, Abraham’s family became very large and they migrated to Egypt, which was the greatest kingdom in the ancient time. At first, there was a good relationship between the Egyptians and the Israelites because of Joseph, the great grandson of Abraham, who was Egypt’s prime minister. But not long after Joseph’s death, there arose a new king in Egypt who did not know Joseph. And this new king did not like the Israelites. So he oppressed them and made them slaves. He hoped by doing that the Israelites would stop growing in numbers. But weird things happened. The more Israelites were oppressed, the more they made babies. The king of Egypt was furious and he made a decree to throw every Hebrews’ sons into Nile River. This was an insane decree. This was an act of Genocide. Without a doubt, there were tears and cries throughout the Israelites community. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands of newborn males were thrown into the Nile River. But out of those thousand deaths, there was one baby who survived. It just happened that one of the Pharaoh’s daughter was taking a bath in the river when she saw a basket with a baby in it. Inexplicably, she took pity on the baby and decided to adopt him against her Father’s decree. And she named the baby, Moses. For more detail on the story, you can read Exodus chapter 1 and 2 or you can watch “The prince of Egypt.” One of the best cartoon ever.
Few things that we need to understand about Moses. Moses was special. Out of thousand babies who died, he survived. Not only that, he was adopted into a royal family. Moses was educated as a prince of the greatest kingdom of his era. He lived in the luxury of Egypt. He had the best of clothes, foods, pleasures and anything desirable. Yet despite all of this, Moses was aware that he does not belong to Egypt. Maybe his adopted mom told him or maybe he found out on his own but he knew that he was a Hebrew. And to some degree, he knew that the LORD had a purpose for his people. And you cannot blame Moses for thinking that he had a part in accomplishing God’s purpose. So one day, Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, and he decided to take matter into his own hand. Moses was ready to play his role in the salvation of the Hebrews. He’s been waiting for many years for this moment. After all, this is the reason why he was saved as a baby. The LORD had a special purpose for Moses and Moses was ready. He looked to right and left, made sure no one was around, and he killed the Egyptian. The story of Moses, the saviour of Israel, had begun. But the very next day, life hit him in the face. He saw two Hebrews fighting and he tried to be their peacemaker, only to find out that they knew that Moses killed an Egyptian the day before. The news broke out and Pharaoh heard of it and sought to kill Moses. Moses was powerless against Pharaoh and he ran for his life and settled in the land of Midian, where he married his wife. In just a single day, Moses’ dream burned to ashes. He lost everything in a single day. The prince of Egypt who was destined to lead Israel out of Egypt had become a shepherd of his father in law’s flock. It was not even his own flock. It was his father in law. A man who had everything now own nothing.
Now we come to our text for today. Exodus chapter three. 40 years had passed since that life-altering, dream-shattering moment that Moses experienced. Little that he knows that he was about to experience another life-altering moment. But this time there was no dream to be shattered. He had no dream. He managed to convince himself that he was nobody. But then he met Somebody. And that Somebody will give Moses a new dream and a new story to live by.
Few things that we can learn from this passage. God is the God of the detour; God is present; God has a mission; God has a name.
God is the God of detour
Exodus 3:1-6 – Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “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.
So now we find Moses keeping the flock of his father in law. I don’t know about you but if I were Moses, I don’t think life could get much worse. He was once a prince and now he is a shepherd. From one of the highest position to one of the lowest. From having everything to having nothing. If Moses was special, if God had a plan to use Moses to save Israelites, it is long gone now. Moses is just an ordinary 80 years old man who lost everything. Moses is just another old man, waiting for his time to enter the coffin. The best part of his life is long gone. The glory-days are no more. But here is what is interesting. When Moses thinks this is the end of his life, God says, “Okay Moses, now you are ready!” Eh?
We need to understand that God is the God of detour. Why? Because God cannot used anyone who is full of himself. God only works with useless people. And yes you are hearing me right. God only works with useless people. Until you come to the end of yourself, you are no good for the LORD. And this is the reason why God led Moses through a long detour. As long as Moses is still in Egypt, as long as Moses still think that he is special, God will not use him. It is only when Moses find himself in the middle of nowhere, it is only when everything works against him, Moses encounters God. Do you know what it means? It means this. Everything that happened in his life for the past 80 years, every loss he experienced, every pain he suffered, every detour he made, it is all for this very purpose – for him to encounter the burning bush.
It was just another ordinary day in the life of Moses the shepherd. He was tending the flock in Horeb or another name of Horeb is Mount Sinai. Then suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a form of a flame in the midst of a bush. A burning bush is a normal experience in the wilderness. We are not even in the wilderness and we experience many bush fire in the summer. But something is different about this burning bush. The bush is burning but it is not burned. Moses is intrigued. I love it. You know what does it say about God? God knows exactly how to get your attention. Every Christian without fail will have their burning bush experience. Where something is strange. Where you can’t make sense of it. Where you are forced to make another detour. This is what happened to Moses. Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight.” It means that this is not his original direction. He was heading to another direction but the sight in front of him is just so great that he needs to check it out. This is how God lures us to himself. And when the LORD sees that he has Moses’ attention, suddenly the LORD calls out of the bush, “Moses, Moses.” The LORD calls Moses by name. Moses might feel forgotten after all those years. He might be nobody. But the Lord knows his name and the Lord calls his name. My friend, you might think you are forgotten and no one knows you but the good news today is the LORD knows you and he calls you by name. And where does this all happen? In a detour. God is the God of detour.
God commands Moses to take off his sandals because he is standing on a holy ground. Now hear me on this. There is nothing sacred about the place. There is nothing special about Mount Horeb. It is called the mountain of God because it is where God revealed himself to Moses. The land is holy not because the land is in itself sacred. The land is holy because the holy Lord is there. The holiness of the Lord overwhelms Moses to the point that he is afraid to look at the LORD. No one can experience the holy presence of God and be cool about it. The holy presence of the LORD always terrifies people. But at the same time it is attractive. I think this is one of the reason why God reveals himself as a fire. Fire is both terrifying and attractive. It is scary and beautiful at the same time. Just think about what a fire can do to you. It can kill you easily. If you don’t believe me, just put your hand over the fire for few seconds. It will burn you. Not just you, a fire can burn a whole building in a matter of minutes. You don’t want to mess with fire. That’s why we tell kids not to play around with fire right? But they are attractive at same time. Back in the days, I used to live in a house with a chimney in it. One of the things that my family liked to do during winter was to build a fireplace. We loved looking at the fire and the burning woods. It warmed us. Just the sight of it was beautiful. It is attractive. But it is absolutely dangerous. My parents put a fence around the fire so that I won’t get burned. And that’s the presence of the holy God. God is both dangerous and attractive. He is both holy and loving. The burning bush attracts Moses’ attention but when he is in the presence of God, he is afraid to look at God. But the wonder of the burning bush is this. Every fire needs a fuel. Correct? Yet this fire keeps on burning without a fuel. This is strange. The bush is on fire but the fire does not burn the bush and it does not need any fuel. A mystery. We’ll get to it later. There are few things that we need to talk about before it.
God is present
Exodus 3:7 – 7 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings,
Don’t miss it. This is simple point but it is crucial. For 400 years, the Israelites were under the oppression of Egypt. 400 years. That’s a long time. If everyone had kids at the age of 40, that’s 10 generations long. And for all those times, they were oppressed, beat up, treated unjustly, and removed of their rights. They were treated as slaves. They cried out to God for 400 years and there was no answer. It seems like God was not listening. It seems that God did not care. It seems like God was not present. But then the LORD shows up to Moses and say, “Oh I have always been present. I have seen their afflictions. I have heard their cry. I know their sufferings. And I am going to do something about it.”
God is a present God. He is not absence. The theological word for it is immanent, where we have the word Immanuel, God with us. The God of the Bible is not a far God. He is the God who is near. He is near us in all our afflictions and sufferings. He sees. He hears. He knows. But that’s not all that he does. He is also the God who is on the move. He does not remain silent about the suffering of his people. The God who sees, hears and knows the suffering of his people is also the God who saves them.
God has a mission
Exodus 3:8-12 – 8 and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of 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 place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
This is really cool. So God said to Moses, “I have seen, heard and know about the suffering of my people. I’ll take care of it. I have come down to do something about it. I will deliver them out of Egypt. You think Pharaoh is powerful? I’ll show you my power. I will set them free. I will bring them to the Promised Land. I will do all of this Moses. I will not fail. I will bring Israel to the land of the “ites” and I will give their land to Israel.” I mean, you can almost hear a drum roll playing in the background. God is on the move. The God of heaven and earth, the God of the Universe is coming. It’s the feeling you get when you watch the Chronicles of Narnia and hear the whisper, “Aslan is coming. Aslan is on the move. The great and mighty lion is on his way to save Narnia.” There is a feeling of excitement, joy, and anticipation of what God will do. The Egyptians and the Israelites are finally about to see the omnipotent power of Yahweh. When suddenly God disturbs the drumroll and says, “Okay, now you go for me.” To which Moses must have think, “Is he talking to me? Is there any other person in here? Who is he talking to? Who is the ‘you’? Wait. What? God, you mean me? The 80 years old Moses who is a nobody?” To which God replies, “Yes, you. Moses, the prince of Egypt who became a nobody. I am sending you to go to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.”
Can you see what is happening? This is the way God always works. First, he uses all the first person pronouns to let Moses and all of us know that he is the one who will do it. Not Moses, not anyone else but God. He keeps saying, “I, I, I, I….” But then he turns around and say, “Now, you go.” God is able to do it on his own. He is able to accomplish his mission on his own. He is the all-powerful God. But yet he did not do it. Instead, he invites Moses to join his mission. Moses’ dream might be over. Moses probably thought that he is at dead end. There is nothing else ahead of him but coffin. The somebody has become a nobody. But only when somebody has become nobody, he receives the invitation to play part in the greatest story. Let me push it one step further. Everything that happened in the previous 80 years of Moses’ life, it is all for this very purpose. Moses has to become a nobody so that the Greatest Somebody can invite him to take part in the greatest story.
So Moses replies, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses is not having an identity crisis. He is not having amnesia. He knows exactly who he is. He was a prince of Egypt who becomes a shepherd of his father in law’s flock. Moses knows exactly who he is. And because he is aware of who he is, he realized that he is not qualified for the job. He probably thinks, “Well, if only you ask me to go 40 years ago… if only I am still the prince of Egypt… if only I still have all the resources that I used to have… but now, it is too late. I am an old man who have nothing. Who am I that I should go? God, you come to a wrong person. I am no longer qualified for the job.” And do you know how God replies? God does not say, “Well Moses, you need to think more highly of yourself. You need to build your self-esteem. Close your eyes and just think about it. You were once a Prince of Egypt. You had all the education you need. You know how the Egyptians think. I can use people like you in my team. Beside Moses, one day people will talk about you. They will make movie about you. Your name will be known throughout the entire world. C’mon Moses. You are better than you think. You have what it takes. I believe in you. You can do it Momo. So repeat after me. “I am good. I am capable. I can do it”…” No, a thousand no. God knows exactly that Moses cannot do it. In fact, God waited till Moses is fully aware that he cannot do it. God does not need Moses to have a high self-esteem. The whole wilderness experience is designed by God to destroy Moses’ self-esteem.
So, how did God reply to Moses’ objection? “But I will be with you.” Don’t miss this church. I want you to get it. I want these words to be embedded in your heart, brain, mind, head, body, and everything in you. God is saying to Moses, “I know you are a nobody Moses. I know you cannot do it. I know you are not qualified. But that’s okay. Because I will be with you. You cannot but I can. I will be the one who do it. I don’t need you to be powerful. All you need to know is that I am with you.” With another words, God is clearly saying to Moses, “It does not matter who you are. What matters is who I am. So stop looking at yourself and start looking at me!” And then God continues, “I will give you a sign. You will know that I am with you because you will certainly return to this mountain with Israel and you will worship me. That is how you know that I am with you.” Moses has to step out in faith first and trust God’s word before he will see the sign that God’s presence is with him. Which lead Moses to his next question and also my next point.
God has a name
Exodus 3:13-15 – 13 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?” 14 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.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
“God, if you are that powerful, then who are you? What is your name?” This is Moses’s question. “The people of Israel will want to know who send me. I need to know who you are and what is your name.” And God replies majestically, “I AM WHO I AM.” In Hebrew the word “I AM” is Hayah (sounds like Karate expression). In English, it can also translate into the verb to be, “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” John Piper has an article describing the 10 implications of the name “I AM” in desiring God website. You can read it for yourself. But we are given the hint of the meaning of the name “I AM” through the burning bush. How can the fire keep burning without any fuel? The meaning behind the name “I AM” is that God is self-existent. He does not need anyone or anything else beside himself. He is cool on his own. To be self-existent also mean that He is self-sufficient. He is the inexhaustible fountain that will never run dry. It also means that He is eternal and unchangeable. There will not be a time where He ceases to exist. There was not a time where He is not. Yesterday, today and forever, God’s name is still “I AM.” He will never go weary. He does not need fuel. His flame is eternal and will never burn out. He was God, He is God and He forever will be God. Nothing can change him and nothing can move him. This is “I AM WHO I AM.” And this God says that he will be with Moses. The Great I AM is with Moses. That’s settle it.
What does this passage teaches us? Quiet a lot actually. First, embrace the detour of God. For many of us, we may find our lives in a long detour right now. You had a plan. You had a dream. You had a vision. But none of them works out according to your plan. You thought you would be somebody but right now you find yourself in the middle of nowhere being a nobody. And the story of Moses teaches us that God is the God of detour. Do not despise God’s detour. You might think you are in a detour while you are actually in God’s highway. Moses thought he was at the end of his life while he was actually at the beginning of something amazing with God. Wilderness seems like a detour to human’s eyes. But Wilderness was always God’s plan for Moses. Because it is only when Moses find himself in the middle of nowhere, he sees the burning bush. You do not encounter God when everything works according to your plan. You tend to encounter God when nothing working according to your plan. God is the God of detour. You are where you are not by accident. God has you exactly where he wants you to be. And at his time, he will reveals himself to you and call out your name. God always know your name but it is in detour of life that you get to know God’s name. So do not despise season of detour but listen to him calling out your name. And when you do hear him calling you, then it is time to make another detour toward him. Do not harden your heart.
The second thing that we can learn from this passage is that God is never absent. In a season of detour, it might seems that God is far. It might seems that God is not paying attention. Maybe he is taking a nap or maybe he is busy with other people’s lives but he does not care about yours. But that’s not true. Even in 400 years of silence, God sees, God hears and God knows what Israel is going through. He sees, he hears and he knows what you and I are going through. Moses might feel abandoned by God for the 40 years experiences in the wilderness but God is actually preparing Moses for what’s ahead. God is the God who cares. He is never absent. But God’s plan is not our plan and God’s time is not our time. God always has his eyes on his people. He never abandon you. He has a plan for you. But hear me out. God has a plan for you but his plan is never about you. God has a plan for Moses but his plan for Moses is not about Moses; it is about the people of God. God wants to use Moses to save his people. Which lead me to the third application.
God is on a mission and he wants you to play part in his mission. Often time our vision of the works of God in our life is too small. Yes God does love you. Yes he cares about you. Yes he knows you by name. Yes he saves you. But that’s not the end of our story. That is only the beginning of a greater story. God wants you to join his mission in saving his people. The Israelites lived under the slavery of Egypt. But today, we live in a world under the slavery of sin. The cry of the people have come to God and God said he will do something about it. He will take care of it. He will set people free from the bondage of sin. He will do all the heavy lifting. God will do it himself. And he did. The cross of Christ is the answer. But he wants you to go for him. He wants you to be his mouthpiece to the world. Moses did not have to do anything. All he need to do is to tell Pharaoh and the people of Israel, “Thus say the LORD.” And we have been called to do the same. We can’t set people free from sin. We can’t help anyone. We can’t save anyone. But we can tell them, “There is one who can and he has come to save you. I am here to tell you his word.” That’s what I am doing every time I stand on this pulpit and preached the gospel. There is one who can save you and I am here to deliver to you his words.
God is on a mission and we are invited to join his mission. We are invited to play part in his story. Every Christian, without exception, is a missionary. Every time God calls someone, he always sends them out. Always. You are called to be a missionary to your family, your workplace, your school, your neighbourhood, wherever you are. If one day mankind can live in planet Mars and you go to Mars, you are called to be a missionary to Mars. You are called to go for God. The number one objection I get on this subject is, “I am not sure if I have what it takes.” Well, isn’t that the point Moses tried to make to God. “God, I don’t have what it take to do what you asked me to do.” And God replies, “That’s great! You do not but I do.” That’s the point. You cannot do it but God can and his presence is with you. God is not looking for qualified people. He is looking for unqualified people who knows that he is with them. Phillip Ryken says it beautifully, “The exodus did not depend on the competence of Moses but on the presence of God.” One of the lie of the world that we hear every day is that if we want to do something significance, we have to be extraordinary. Let me tell you a secret. You are not extraordinary. You are just average. Breathe. You are not special and you don’t have to be one. All you have to know is that God is with you. God is specialized in using average people. You don’t have to get HD to play part on God’s mission. God can used you even if you get an F.
Another question I get is, “How do I know that God is with me in his mission?” Great question. The answer is, you won’t until you go. You will not experience the presence of God with you until you step out in faith and go for God. The sign that God gives Moses that he is with Moses is that he will return to Mount Horeb with the people of Israel to serve God. Which mean that Moses won’t know until he go. Now hear me out on this. The reason many of us are bored as Christians is because we do not go. We are too busy playing in this little huddle called comfort zone that we neglect the mission of God. We are too busy protecting the safety of our lives and our families that we closed our ears to God’s invitation to play part in his mission. There is one illustration from Francis Chan that sticks with me. It’s like the movie Madagascar. You guys watched it right? If not, then spoiler alert. Sometime the church can feel like a zoo. Where you get to see wild animals performing and attracting crowds. If you remember the story, one day the zebra has an epiphany while he was running on a treadmill watching a documentary on the wild. “I was made for so much more than the zoo. I was made for the wild.” So the Zebra has a council meeting with the lion, the hippo and the giraffe. And when the zebra expresses his feeling, miss hippo asks, “Why would you want to do that? It is nice being here. It is comfortable. We don’t have to hunt for food, they bring the food to us. All we have to do is perform for the kids. The people loves us. Why would you want to go out to the wild?” That’s how the church looks like a lot of time. We know how to perform. We know how to make people happy. We are safe and comfortable inside our cage. But we are not made to be in the zoo. We are made to be in the wild. Long story short, they break out of the zoo, with the help of penguins, and they make it to the wild. And do you know what happen in the wild? It is in the wild that the lion finally able to roar like a lion. It is in the wild that they find their true nature. Christians, you are not designed to play safe in the zoo; you are designed to roar in the wild.
“It’s too risky.” Of course it is! What is not risky about being in the wild with all the wild animals? What is not risky about telling the most powerful man in the world, “Thus says the LORD, let my people go!”? Moses could be killed in a matter of seconds. But until you go, until you take that step of faith, until you take that risk, you will not experience the presence of the all-powerful God with you. It is in those moments of uncertainty that God proves himself faithful to you. You will only experience “I will be with you” when you go. The power and presence of God are given for the purpose of God. No Christians should ever be bored. None.
Let me share with you a quick story. At the end of January, when it finally daunts on me that my co-pastor left to Melbourne, anxiety hits. I woke up one morning and I could feel a tremendous weight on my shoulder. I thought it was just a momentary panic attack and it will soon go away on its own. But it doesn’t. In fact it gets worse. You should be aware that we are currently in the season of transition. We decided to change RYI from being a Youth service to a full fledge International service. We believe that God is on a mission and we believe that God calls us to go and saves many of his people in this city. He does not only want to save the Indonesian in this city but nations. I believe that with all my heart. Here is the problem though. Let me be very honest with you. I don’t think I have what it takes to do it. I am extremely scared. Is that okay for me to confess that to you? As your pastor, I do not think I have what it takes to go where God wants me to go and I am very scared. All these years, I’ve travelled to different places to preach the gospel but they are predominantly in Indonesia. That is why my Indonesian improved a lot in the last few years. But reaching out to non-Indonesian is a whole different game. And not only that, but I am also responsible to lead you in this direction. I don’t even think I have what it takes to do it but now I also need to take all of you with me in this journey. I was extremely scared to the point that I thought this was a mistake. I was on my knee and I said to God, “I don’t think I can do it. I don’t have what it takes to do it.”
But you know what the funny thing was? In the midst of all my anxiety, I had to prepare for this sermon. Yes, this very sermon that you hear from my mouth today. The monthly theme for 2018 was decided on November 2017. I had no idea back then that we would go through all this transition. Everything happened so fast and now we find ourselves changing. And I certainly had no idea that I would experience what Moses experienced. If anything, I was a very confident man. I remember the very first time I was invited to take part in a large Pastors meeting. I was a rookie and the youngest person in the room but I was given few minutes to say few words. You know what I did? I was tired of hearing many non-sense in that meeting so I stood and preached the gospel to all those senior pastors. I was bold. Too confident for my own good. But this time it was different. I was on my knee confessing that I do not what it takes to do it. I was scared. I was frightened. I was Moses. And as I prepared for this message last month, a fire burned in my heart. I heard God telling me, “I’ve got this.” I had this sense that he was saying, “Now we can dance. I’ve been waiting for this moment. I know you cannot do it but I can. I know you don’t know what to do but that’s okay. This is my mission and not yours. I’ll take the lead and you just follow. All you need to know is that “I AM” with you.” And I believe God is saying the same thing to many of us today. “But I’ll be with you.” Do not be afraid.
Last, you have to know God’s name. God has a name. He revealed his name as “I AM WHO I AM” in this encounter with Moses. But, there is another character in this encounter. He only appears for a little while then he seems to disappear. I have read this story countless times but I never notice it until Keller point it out. Exodus 3:2 – And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. There was the angel of the Lord in the story. And the flame of the burning bush was his appearance. And then when the burning bush caught Moses’ attention and Moses turned toward the bush, a voice called Moses out of the bush. But then Exodus tells us that is not the voice of the angel that called Moses but it is God himself who speaks. Somehow, the angel of the Lord becomes the Lord. And notice, it is not AN angel of the Lord but it is THE angel of the Lord. And the presence of this angel makes the land holy. And the wonder of all wonder is, how can a sinful man encounter God and live? And if you read the rest of Moses’ conversation with the Lord, Moses keep doubting God. How can Moses stay alive in the presence of the burning bush? Why the fire of God did not consume Moses when he keeps doubting the great “I AM”? Who is this “the angel of the Lord”?
Thousand years later there was an argument between a young Rabbi and groups of scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees and the scribes keep defending themselves that they are children of Abraham. “Who are you to tell us that we are wrong? We are children of Abraham. Are you telling us that you are greater than Abraham? You are not even 50 years old and you said you have seen Abraham? You are crazy!” So this young Rabbi looked at all the scribes and the Pharisees and he says the craziest and the most amazing thing. John 8:58 – Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Now, this is crazy and it is grammatically wrong at the same time. The right grammatical answer is, “Before Abraham was, I was,” which makes Jesus a very old man. But this is not what Jesus is saying. If Jesus said “I was” then the Pharisees and scribes would have leave him alone. But the Pharisees and scribes were furious at Jesus. They immediately tried to kill Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is saying that “the name of God that you adore, the name of God that you treat absolutely with fear and tremble, the name of God that has no beginning and no end, the self-sufficient eternal God, I AM. I AM HE. I AM GOD.” Jesus is “I AM WHO I AM.”
This is the reason why Moses can encounter the holy presence of God and live. The angel of the Lord which is also the Lord himself is the mediator between God and Moses. God is absolutely holy. He is terrifying. No sinner can be in his presence and live. God is a consuming fire. Yet the fire of God does not consume the bush and Moses. It is terrifying but it is attractive. It is scary but it is beautiful. Because the angel of the Lord is none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. Jesus is the reason the fire of God does not killed Moses. God is so holy that he cannot withstand a sight of sin but God is so loving that he makes a way for him to be with his people. God sends his one and only Son to take the wrath of God against sin so that we can have relationship with God. The Son of God became sin so that the sinful man can become son of God. This is the gospel. God has made a way for sinners to be reconciled with God. God is on a mission to save his people. And we are invited to join God in his mission. We are to declare to the world the name of God. The only name that can save. Acts 4:12 – And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. There is only one name that can save. And we need to know that name. Our mission is to declare that name. He is the “I AM WHO I AM.” He has died for our sins so that we can be made right with God. There is salvation in no one else but the name of Jesus. Jesus completed the works of salvation. He has made a way for sinners to reconcile with God and now he is sending us to go and declare the message of salvation.
Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. Church, it is time for us to go. Go. Go. Go. You have been saved by the grace of God. The detour of life is designed so that you may encounter the God of detour. He called you by name. He saved you from the slavery of sin. He redeemed you and make you his. He tells you his name. And now he is sending you to go and declare the message of salvation to the ends of the world. We are not made to be in the zoo. We are made to roar in the wild. You will never experience the reality of Jesus’s words that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” until you go and make disciples of all nations. Christians are called to play part in God’s mission. And it is exciting. It is where you see the impossible made possible, the sick gets heal, the captive sets free, the lost are saved. “And behold, “I AM” with you always, to the end of the age.” The king’s presence is with you so let’s go church. GO and proclaim the message of the gospel wherever you are. And you will see that he is with you always.
- Why did God made Moses wait for 80 years before God reveal himself to Moses? What does it teach us about the way God works?
- “God is the God of detour.” Explain the implication of this in your daily life.
- What is the burning bush experience? Explain its significance.
- Moses asked the Lord, “who am I that I should go…” Does Moses have a correct evaluation of himself? Why or why not?
- “I will be with you.” This is God’s response to Moses’ question. Is God’s answer enough for modern mindset? Explain your answer.
- “I am who I am.” What does God’s name reveal about God’s nature?
- Are we invited to take part in God’s mission? How do we know that God’s presence is with us?
- What can I do to play my role in the mission of God?