Listen to Moses’ second objection to serving God by going back to Egypt:
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
Do You Have Authority?
Previously, we heard Moses object to the calling, the enormous calling of God, on his life, by asking “Who Am I?” But now, he turns the objections toward God. He asks, “Who Are You?”
Who are you that I should serve you?
Who are you that I should obey?
Who are you that I should believe in you?
Given the polytheistic background of his upbringing in Egypt, we can hear Moses asking God, “Do You Have Authority?”
There were lots of gods in Egypt. There were lots of gods among the people of Canaan, the place where God was taking them. So who was this god who was speaking to Moses? Was he as strong as the gods of Egypt? And where did he rank on the hierarchy of divine beings?
Moses needed to make sure that there wasn’t a higher authority to appeal to.
I think we can relate to this objection. When we consider our lives, and the lifestyle we’ve built for ourselves, who is this God who comes to us and tries to disturb what we’ve established in order to get us to serve him?
The people of Jesus’ day struggled with this issue of authority. They esteemed their scribes and rabbis and teachers of the law. But when Jesus came onto the scene, he taught them, not as their teachers of the law taught, but with authority!
See how the Sermon on the Mount ends:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
When people heard Jesus, they knew they were hearing for no mere man. He was God’s Son and as God’s son was speaking the words of God to them.
And Jesus’ teaching was backed up by miracles. He punctuated his teaching with Sings and Wonders and Miracles that proved he was God-sent and authoritative. In his ministry he exercised authority over nature, over disease and sickness, over the demons and over the lives of those he called to follow him.
When Jesus walked on the water, his disciples call out to him, and asked if it’s really him. Jesus called back to them and said, “I Am.” In the Greek, it was Ego Eimi. It was him, but through his use of words, he was showing who he was in his association with the God who revealed himself to Moses and spoke to Moses from the burning bush!
God Says, I Am, and I have authority to command and to send and to empower and to protect and all of the above.
Can I Trust You?
Besides asking if God is authoritative, we hear Moses asking in this objection, “Can I Trust You?”
Do you trust God? Responding to the calling of God, or entering into service with God, can be a dangerous thing.
We don’t know where the path will lead us.
We don’t know what we will face along the way.
We have to ask God, like Moses did, can I trust you?
Who are You that I can trust you?
The people of Israel knew what they were getting in their bargain with Pharaoh. They provided slave labor, and Pharaoh gave them a little sustenance.
They were slaves but they were safe.
Moses remained in Egypt as long as it was safe and comfortable. When it became unsafe to remain in Egypt he fled for the desert.
I think Moses is asking this question of God for himself and for the people. His objection to obeying God is going to be the people’s objection for not following God. They wanted to know if this God they were going to obey was trustworthy.
We ask the same question of God. Can I trust you? Can I trust you with my heart? Can I trust you with my family? Can I trust you with my safety? Can I trust you with my life?
Listen to what God says through Peter about trusting him:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7
God is trustworthy enough that he can carry the weight of our concerns. He’s trustworthy enough that we can place our anxieties on him and he will bear their weight. He’s trustworthy enough that he knows what we need exactly when we need it!
God Cares for us. We don’t have to rely on an earthly Pharaoh any longer. The safety of Egypt seems pitiful in comparison to God’s abundant goodness toward us!
Where Have You Been?
But I think there is still another concern that Moses expresses that will be an obstacle to the people of Israel in being able to follow God: Where Have You Been?
The people will have been in Egypt for generations by the time Moses leads them out. Enough time has passed that they have become unfamiliar with the God who brought them into Egypt in order to rescue them. Moses is saying,
“We are a little rusty at this religion thing. We’ve been immersed in polytheism far too long. We’ve been out of touch with you. We don’t even know your name right now. How can we follow you if we don’t know you?”
During all of this time, what has God been doing? For all these years, why have you not come to our rescue?
It helps to step back and see the history being created here.
- God brought them into Egypt to rescue them from famine during the time of Jacob, through Jacob’s son Joseph.
- When the Hebrews arrived in Egypt, they were allowed to make their home in the best grazing land of all of Egypt. God moved them to a home where they could expand and flourish. God promised them through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would be a great nation, but so far, at them time when they entered Egypt, there were only 70 people in all. That’s not much of a nation. God was going to have to do some work to get them to be a nation strong enough to enter the Promised Land.
- In all the years they were there, God prospered them. Even in times of difficulty, or maybe it’s better to say, through or because of times of difficulty! Exodus 1:12 says that they more the Egyptian oppressed the Hebrews, the more they grew in number!
- Even when Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill the sons of all the Hebrews, and they disobeyed, God was there to bless the midwives and the people grew numerically.
God was with them, preparing them to be a great nation. He was growing them numerically and socially. It takes a while to grow up a nation.
Sometimes we get so busy in our lives and in our tasks that we forget about God. Perhaps Moses had been spiritually inattentive. But he was going to come to see God’s great purpose in history being worked out even through the struggles and trials he and the rest of the Hebrews had to endure!
God works on his time, not ours. We don’t have the plans of God in mind, so God’s work might seem slow to us.
Peter reminds us:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
2 Peter 3:9
And the Psalmist tells us:
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
God brings his good plans to fruition in his good timing!