Moses and “I Am”

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

. . . This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

Exodus 3:14, 15

I AM THAT I AM, this is a most profound and glorious name. 

It is to this name that the heart of every man aspires. NO desire is more dear to man than to be able to say, “I am that which I have determined myself to be.” Was not this the dream that filled the heart of Eve when she rejected the word of God for the promise of the devil, “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil”? It is a deep-set urge, to be self-sufficient, to be self-determining, self-providing, and, could it be, self-existent. But, in spite of all this longing and even trying, it can not be. Man is what he is made to be, by his heredity and by his environment, by the constant flow of influences which press in upon his life, by his friends and foes, by riches and poverty, by prosperity and adversity, by wars and peace. Pride tells man he should be self-made. Reality is that countless determining factors mold him from without. If he is honest, man must say, “I am what God has determined that I should be.” 

He before whom Moses stood said, “I AM THAT I AM,” and He said it in truth. He was Jehovah God, and He is the same even now. He is the source of His own being, His own life, His own existence. There is nothing that forms or molds or influences Him from without. He has determined what He shall be, and even so He is. There is none over Him; there is none next to Him; there is no one to whom He must adapt. Nothing can change Him; nothing can degrade Him or raise Him up; nothing can make Him be different. This is even more wonderful when we consider that within His being there is a counsel concerning all things that take place in time. He does not exist alone, in isolation from all of the vicissitudes of time. His being stands in immediate contact with them all. But still He remains the “I AM THAT I AM.” He influences all the circumstances of time; but Himself is influenced by none. He determines all things; but Himself is determined by none. He sustains all things; but Himself is sustained by none. He creates all things; but Himself is created by none. He is the greatest of all, the only “I AM THAT I AM”; He is Jehovah God.

“The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” spoke unto Moses applying unto Himself that name. This made His presence so eminently important. The same who called Himself I AM identified Himself as the God of the covenant. He had given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the promises: that He would be a God unto them, that He would bless them, that He would give to them the land of Canaan and to their seed forever. His very name implied faithfulness to these promises. He would no; change; no one could force Him to change; He was able to bring it to pass. Israel would be saved from the bondage of Egypt unto the land of covenant promise. This would be His memorial unto all generations, God’s people would surely be saved. 

In the presence of God Moses trembled and quaked. He was so very small. For forty years in the wilderness he had been pondering this fact. He had learned to recognize and acknowledge the folly of his youth when he had thought to do something for God. He had learned the wickedness of his impatience when he had not waited for a calling and an authoritative name in which he could act. He had learned to know his sin. Through the years of wandering in the wilderness he had become ever smaller in his own esteem. But now he stood in the presence of God and he was not yet small enough. Quickly he shed his shoes, but the dust and sin of the ways he had trod still seemed to cleave to his feet. He covered his face for shame, but still the uncleanness of his face and lips seemed openly exposed. He was afraid, and at the sound of that voice he trembled. He was so very small, and he stood in the presence of God. 

Then God spoke, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people . . . Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” 

Moses heard these words with amazement. At this moment he felt his own nothingness as never before, and at the same moment God was telling him that he must go to deliver Israel from Egypt. This was to his mind impossible. Forty years before he would have welcomed the opportunity; but not now. He had learned to know himself too well. He was not the man to do a work like that. “Who am I,” he answered back, “that I should go unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.” 

God spoke again “Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” Moses need not fear his own inability. God would be with him. That he was nothing in himself did not matter. God would be there to supply all that he lacked. God would even give to him a token of his calling, a promise that they would come to worship at the very mountain where he now stood. 

But Moses was not afraid just of himself. He feared the people. What would they say? Would they receive him as a leader? He remembered so well those taunting jeers from the past, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us?” How could he possibly make them understand? How could he convince them that this time it was different? What would be the proof of his authority? To Moses it appeared to be hopeless, and he feared even to try. He dared not return to those who had rejected him before. “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them ?” 

It was then that God answered, “I AM THAT I AM: Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” With that name Moses could go forth in boldness to speak to anyone, it mattered not who. He could speak to the people of Israel; he could speak to the elders of Israel; he could speak to Pharaoh himself. That which he would announce in the name of the I AM did not depend upon their response. Moses need not go trying to convince or persuade those to whom he spoke as though the desire of God depended upon them. He is self-determining and able to perform His own will. This was of utmost importance for Moses to understand. Because he was going in the name of I AM, he need have no fear for what the outcome would be. He could be confident that, regardless of what men might do, God’s purpose and promise would be realized. God told him beforehand- what he should say to Pharaoh: “Say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.” Even more, God warned him beforehand that, although that command of Pharaoh would be minimal, Pharaoh would not listen. “And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.” But this mattered not; God would tell Moses beforehand what the end result would be. “And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptian: and it shall come to pass that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty.” God’s will would surely be performed. 

Still Moses hesitated. He feared the people, for he knew how obstinate they could be. Mere words would not be enough for them even though they were the people of God. “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.” 

“And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand.” The rod had served to identify Moses as a shepherd in the land of Midian. Henceforth it would serve to, identify him as the shepherd of God’s chosen people. Through that rod marvelous works would be performed. The power of Moses’ calling would be made clearly manifest. Even now as he cast the rod to the ground it was changed into a serpent. Moses knew the significance of a serpent. As a child upon his parents knee he had been told of the use to which the serpent had been subjected in the garden of Eden. He remembered the word of God to the serpent as it had been passed down for many generations, “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” The serpent was a symbol of Satan and his wicked power. In revulsion and fear Moses drew back. But according to the command of God he reached forth his hand to grasp the serpent by the tail, and it was transformed to a rod again. It meant that Moses’ rod would have complete control over the power of Satan to release it and control it according to the power of God. 

Again God spoke unto him. “Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.” This reflected upon Moses himself. Leprosy is a horrible disease with which the body very literally rots away. In the old dispensation this disease was considered a symbol of the corruption of sin. Of those who had this disease it could be seen that their bodies were literally dying, even as sin is always killing the soul. Now suddenly Moses found himself to have contracted that terrible disease. It was as though all at once the sin which he knew was within him had come to the surface. To Moses it was as though he was being exposed and condemned before the justice of God. But again God spoke, “Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.” Here again was the power of the I AM symbolically presented, a power able even to wash away the corruption of sin. 

Still there was more. God continued to speak. “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.” This was to be the first of the ten great plagues that would come in judgment upon Egypt. Each in its own way would demonstrate the power of the I AM whose will none can resist. 

Moses did not want to go back to Egypt. He was afraid, afraid of Pharaoh, afraid of the children of Israel, afraid of himself. Almost as a move of desperation he presented one more excuse. “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Through the years of lonely wandering in the desert his tongue had grown thick, his words were slow and halting. But what was this before the Lord. “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?” In fact when Moses continued to object, the Lord told him with a tone of anger that preparations already had been made. “Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.” 

Moses himself was the first to learn that it was impossible to resist the I AM. “And Moses went . . .” 

—B.W.