The God of Your Fathers
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?" ()
The burning bush marked a turning point in Moses’ life and in the course of history. God came down and directly and obviously intervened in the affairs of men. For the discerning mind, God’s continuous involvement in everything that concerns us is obvious. However, at the time of Moses, God’s involvement took on a visible directness as we see in the burning bush and, later, in the pillar of fire and cloud.
Moses was given a part in God’s plan. God told Moses directly:
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." ()
Moses immediately saw some problems with this. He raised some objections. The first objection is what we see in Exodus 3:13. It can be summoned up in the statement, “They will not believe me.” Moses says, “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?” His concern is that the people are not automatically going to trust him or believe what he is telling them. In God’s answer to Moses, we see three truths that teach us that we can trust God.
Jesus insisted that His disciples trust Him. In John 14:1, He says:
Questions and doubts are common to all of us. This is why the disciples needed to be encouraged by Jesus and why God took the time to answer Moses’ question. The truths of Exodus 3:13-22 lay the foundation for trust in God.
The first truth is God’s greatness.
Another way of saying this is, “We can trust God because of who He is.”
The first part of God’s response to Moses is recorded in Exodus 3:14.
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.'" ()
God is not giving His proper name here. He is saying, “I am what I am.”
While not being a proper name, this statement has significant meaning. I like the comment from Ellicott. He says:
It is generally assumed that this is given to Moses as the full name of God. But perhaps it is rather a deep and mysterious statement of His nature. "I am that which I am." My nature, i.e., cannot be declared in words, cannot be conceived of by human thought. I exist in such sort that my whole inscrutable nature is implied in my existence. I exist, as nothing else does--necessarily, eternally, really. If I am to give myself a name expressive of my nature, so far as language can be, let me be called "I AM."
The idea that God’s nature cannot be declared in words is consistent with what God reveals about Himself. When the Angel of the Lord told Samson’s father that he would have a son, Manoah asked for His name. The Angel of the Lord responded:
God is great and glorious beyond our ability to comprehend. For example, after Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and to the mountain of God, the Lord met with Moses on top of the mountain. There Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God said:
"I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name 'The Lord.' And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But, you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." ()
God is not being secretive or evasive. He is stating the truth. He is too great for us to understand. Therefore, His statement of “I am” is the best that our limited understanding can receive. For Moses, who was facing a challenge much greater than him, much greater than his ability or competence. This was the kind of reassurance he needed. If Moses had limitations, God did not, does not.
This is also important for us. If we have limitations, God does not. Whatever we face, God is greater. We can trust Him.
The second truth God reveals to Moses is that He identifies with His people.
We find this truth in verse 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.” ()
“This is my name forever.” While a name that captures His nature is not possible for us to understand, the name that God chooses to be known by is “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” This is astounding. As imperfect as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were God chooses to identify Himself with them, eternally.
This same God chose to identify Himself as the God of Israel, and He chooses to identify Himself with us. This has tremendous implications. In Zechariah 2:8, it says:
For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye. ()
To give us an idea of how closely the Lord holds His people, He compares us to the “apple of his eye.” This refers to the most sensitive part of the eye and is meant to convey how precious God’s people are to Him. Romans 8:32 says of Him:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? ()
This kind of affection for His people is reflected in the fact that God chooses to go by the name “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” When it came to the question of trust, God could give no greater assurance than His identification with His people. God basically said, “I am the same God who made the promise to Abraham.” Moses and we can trust God because of His identification with His people.
After giving Moses the assurance that He was big enough and that He was involved, God gives one more truth that engenders trust. God knows the future. In verses 18-22, God tells Moses exactly what is going to happen. He says:
And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.' But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians." ()
Here, God is telling Moses exactly what will happen. God does this for His people. This is how people knew to expect the coming of the Messiah. This is how we know to expect Jesus to return.
As we look at what God told Moses about what was to take place, we see a broad outline of the events. God told Moses that the elders of Israel would listen to him and believe him. Then they were to go to Pharaoh, but God told Moses that Pharaoh would not let them go. So, when Moses went and asked Pharaoh to let them go, Moses should have expected to meet with resistance. God had told him that Pharaoh would say no. God also told Moses that the king of Egypt would not let them go unless compelled by a mighty hand. Looking back, we know that this meant lots of trouble for the Israelites. When Moses went to Pharaoh to ask that the people be let go, things got a lot worse for the Israelites real fast. Pharaoh said, “You are lazy, that is why you are asking to go worship.” So, he ordered that they get their own straw for making bricks.
God’s word to Moses gave the outline and not the details, so the people thought they were going to die as a result of what Moses had done. Why did they not consider the rest of what God had said?
So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.
If they only would have taken God at His word, they would have saved themselves a lot of grief.
We are the same. We have the promise of God to deliver us from all evil. We pray, “Father, save me from my besetting sin.” And then, our whole world falls apart. So, we question where God is and why He let us down. We do not consider that in order to set us free, God may have to dismantle the systems we have in place to keep our habits alive.
Everything God did in Egypt worked to dismantle the institution of slavery, and part of that included making the Israelites miserable for a time.
God has told us what is going to happen, but many have decided they do not believe what God has said. As the details fill in on the outline, humanity begins to think the plan of God has failed. 2 Peter 3:4-9 says:
They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. ()
When things do not go according to our human understanding, we tend to dismiss and some even mock the word of God. But, as God has demonstrated over and over, His word never fails. Everything happened just as God had told Moses, and everything will happen just as He has told us.
Notice that God says that He would cause the Egyptians to look favorably upon the Hebrews and the Hebrews would end up plundering the Egyptians. When these events began to unfold, the Hebrews knew the time was near.
It is possible to know when the time is drawing near. Jesus encouraged us to be watching and waiting. At the time of Jesus’ birth, Simeon and Anna knew it was time. They were relying on the Holy Spirit and the word of God.
At the time of Moses, their trust would have grown as first one promise and then another was fulfilled. Presently, we have thousands of years and hundreds of promises that have been fulfilled. We have evidence upon evidence that God knows and tells us the future before it happens.
In the truths that God gives to Moses to encourage trust, we find truth that we too can see as reasons to trust God.
God is greater than any challenge.
God identifies with His people.
God knows the future, and tells us what is going to happen.
If God is telling you to go to Egypt, you need to stop doubting and just go. More likely, God is telling you to deal with some situation in your life that you have not wanted to face. It is time to trust God and deal with it - whatever “it” is.