22nd Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 27 – C)
November 6, 2022
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament reading, which was read a few minutes ago.
Some parents put a lot of thought into their unborn children’s names. I’m Donald Peterson III, so, well, my parents didn’t, but my name still means something to us. In most of the world you can name your child as you like, although there are restrictions. In the US you can’t name your child King, Jesus Christ, or Santa Claus. While in Iceland you can’t use Harriet, Tom in illegal in Portugal, or sadly for my mom, Linda is banned in Saudi Arabia. Names are chosen because they mean something to the parents, or maybe the parents just like the name. If people get older and don’t like their name, they’re free to change it. Today we listen in as God reveals His name to Moses, but unlike you and me who can change our names, God’s name can’t be changed. His name is more than an identifier, it’s a description of who God is and what He does for His people.
For all the years leading up His encounter with Moses, God had referred to Himself almost exclusively as God Almighty. That name focused on His power as the Creator who has power over everyone and everything, and as the one who made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The name He shares with Moses is His personal name, and the name by which He wants to be known by His people. His revealed name is Yahweh, which means, I AM WHO I AM. Whenever you see LORD in small capitals in the Bible, Yahweh is being used.
But what difference does all this make? God is almighty, right? That’s true, but now He is about to fulfill the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He says, “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.” Four hundred and thirty years of slavery will come to an end as God leads them out of Egypt.
In essence, God’s name I AM WHO I AM means that, “I AM faithful. I’ve made a promise I’m about to fulfill.” He says, “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.” It’s as if He was saying, “I AM aware.” And because He is aware, He says, “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.” He is telling Moses, “I AM their rescuer.”
Moses occasionally comes across as a whiner and he tried talking God out of picking him so many times that God finally got angry with him. The problem was that Moses was focusing on himself. He said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He’s right, he wasn’t anyone who should go to Pharaoh and rescue Israel, but God was! God promised Moses, “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.” God will enable Moses to lead the people out of Egypt and they’ll return to this very spot to worship and to hear from God again. When the Israelites followed God, He ensured their success, when they wandered from the path He laid out before them, they failed miserably.
Too often we wonder how we can survive hard times. We worry and stress over things outside of our control. “Who am I to handle all this?” We try to fix our own situations or rely on inner fortitude. We focus on ourselves instead of on God, and by doing so, we’re looking at ourselves as “I am”. We have to be reminded that we don’t have the power, God does. God is that great AM WHO I AM, not us puny little humans.
This might sound good, but what does it really mean for you right here and right now? Do you want to know what the name means? It means that like in the days of Moses when God observed what was happening in Egypt, God looks down upon you. He sees your afflictions. He hears your cries for help. He knows all that you’re suffering. Our God isn’t ambivalent toward you. He doesn’t have anything better to do than to look down at your misery and sorrow and execute the plan He has for you.
To you He says, “I AM faithful”. He remembers the promises that He has made to you. He remembers His promise to lead you as the Good Shepherd. He remembers His promise to never forsake you. He remembers His promise, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1) He made special promises to you in your baptism, and He keeps every one of them. In those Baptismal waters, you’re made His child. When that water is combined with God’s Word, you’re freed from slavery to Satan.
Now you know as well as I do that when God hears our cries and when He sees our sufferings, He sees the way out that we probably don’t. God led the Israelites out of Egypt, but most of them never entered the Promised Land. They got sick and died. They were hurt in accidents. Mothers died in childbirth and fathers were bit by poisonous snakes. There is no avoiding earthly suffering. But because God knows your suffering, because He hears your cries, you can trust that when you walk through the fires of pain and disease, you will not burn. When you’re struggling in the deep waters of a chaotic and sorrow filled life, they will not overcome you. He will preserve your faith until He gathers you into His compassionate arms.
Moses writes that “the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” The angel of the Lord isn’t just any angel, He’s not an angel at all! He’s the Son of God. Moses heard the voice of the Son of God who later would come down to save us from our sins. He led the Israelites to the Promised Land in the form of a cloud and a pillar of fire. God told Moses that He would come down to deliver His people. He has promised you that He will come down to deliver you as well, and He did.
The great I AM, the Son of God, came down and became a man all so that He could rescue you from all that oppresses and enslaves you. I AM ensures that your sins no longer condemn you; they’re forgiven by His bloody death. Your sins have been washed away by the forgiving I AM and now you’re white as snow. All the events and happenings in your life that cause you to cry bitter tears have been conquered by the eternal I AM. God promised Moses that He would lead them to victory over “the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” He will lead you also to victory over whatever enemies cross your path in this life. He has led you out of slavery, He leads you now, and He fights for you until the day He leads you into the Promised Land. The Lord fights for you, and if He is for you, who or what can possibly stand against you? Nothing, right? In our struggles and hard times, we may think “Who am I?”. But that’s wrong. The real question is “Who is He?” And the answer is simple, He is the Lord, the I AM WHO I AM, who looks down us, hears our cries, and has come down to rescue us.
Most parents won’t mind that they can’t name their sons Robocop, Monkey, or 007. It doesn’t bother them if their daughters can’t bear the name Metallica, Cyanide, or Bridge. Instead they choose names that mean something, and the names they choose are important because that child matters. God’s Name also very much matters! His name describes who He is and what He has done for us. We can see Him for what He really is: I AM faithful to you, I AM your rescuer, I AM your redeemer, I AM your Savior, and I AM your loving and eternal Lord.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen