Hope in I AM: Reflections on Exodus 3:14-15

Israel spent 430 years in Egypt. Once a refuge, it had become a prison. Their struggle was relentless, their pain exponential.

…and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.
Exodus 2:23-25

So God calls out Moses, who is a lot less like Charlton Heston and more like me with a beard. God had to interrupt Moses’ daily routine through spontaneous combustion. Moses screamed and ran when God turned his staff into a snake. He had a nervous stutter and preferred his quiet shepherd’s life to a position of power and leadership. The very idea makes him beg off like a frightened teenager.

But [Moses] said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
Exodus 4:13

God is not surprised by Moses’ fear and skepticism. Just like His suffering people in Egypt, He has intimate knowledge of this fragile vessel He’s chosen. God comforts Moses with the strongest piece of assurance He can offer.

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you…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.”
Exodus 3:14-15

In Faerie stories, names have power. They reveal something deep and magical about the individual. Finding your name means connecting to your past, present, and future and unlocking the essence of who you are. Revealing your name to another is an act of vulnerability. It’s an expression of your deepest self.

When God wants to convince Moses of His sincerity, power, and compassion, He begins by revealing His name.

I AM. The LORD. YHWH. Jehovah. The God whom their forefathers left kin and country to follow. The God with whom Jacob wrestled. The God who spoke in dreams and visions and swore to be their protection and inheritance. The God who sees and knows.

Yes, God gives Moses the power to perform miraculous signs, and yes, God ultimately gives Moses his big brother’s hand to hold, but initially, it is His own hand that He extends. The same hand that He promises to stretch forth to Israel in mercy, He will use to strike down their oppressors. He will humiliate those who oppose His people. He will enrich the lives of those who take hold of His promise.

This is the message that Moses is to take to God’s waiting, hurting people. Jehovah sees. Jehovah knows.

And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. 
Exodus 4:31

But Pharaoh is unmoved. There is no humility here or even soft skepticism. Only stone. Pharaoh is god to these people. They are his possession to do with as he pleases. It is they who need humbling, a reminder of their place and purpose. Pharaoh will make them bow before the one true god of Israel.

Then the foremen of the people of Israel came and cried to Pharaoh, “Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us ‘Make bricks!’ And behold, your servants are beaten; but the fault is in your own people.” But Pharaoh said, “You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’”
Exodus 5:15-17

Israel turns to Moses, wrathful and broken. What hope is this? What future promise? You preach divine deliverance but only deliver suffering. They return to the plow, more exhausted than yesterday, with no hope of relief.

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O LORD, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”
Exodus 5:22-23

The broken spirit of the people falls on Moses. He turns to God in anguish and confusion. Why am I here? What use am I if preaching your name only brings suffering to those who believe? Where are you, God? Why do you tarry? Your people are waiting for redemption, for that land of promise you swore to us generations and generations ago. What is our future? What is our hope?

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.”
Exodus 6:2-3

Again He declares His name. A name He has not revealed until now. The intimacy here. The depth of mercy and grace in His tender revelation. I AM has seen, I AM knows, and I AM will show Pharaoh just how much power lies in I AM. I will proclaim I AM over the land of Egypt with signs and wonders and by the time I AM is finished at the sound of I AM every knee left standing in Egypt will bow with fear and trembling.

I am God Almighty. I AM your future. I AM your hope.

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