MOSES SHOWS US AN ESSENTIAL FOR SERVICE
The Difference Between God And Man
Moses said to God, “Who am I?” … God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:11 NASB
Embedded in the awesome story of Moses and the burning bush, recorded in Exodus 3, is the basic controversy every human being must grapple with and resolve in some way. At issue is establishing who God is and who man is. The questions, “Who is God?” “Who am I?” “How do I know the difference?” and “What is our relationship?” are all addressed in the passage of Exodus where Moses received his commission to lead God’s people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
The confrontation was between One who had no doubt about His identity and one who was doubtful about his identity. In the course of the exchange between God and Moses, both identities were revealed, and the relationship between them established. The difference between God and man, and the relationship between them are all represented in Moses’ question “Who am I?” and God’s answer “I am who I am.”
God’s first revelation was familial: He said, “I am the God of your father.” (v. 6). Then He identified Himself in the context of Moses’ legacy as the “God of Abraham … Isaac and … Jacob.” This apparently scared Moses a great deal because “he hid his face” (v. 6). What would your reaction be if God said to you that He was the God of your father? What images would that bring to mind? For many of us, the image of our fathers and the image of God could be quite problematical. The same could be said of our family legacy, which may present God in any number of present or absent, distorted or idiosyncratic ways. But once God had Moses’ attention, He then revealed His character directly as a God who sees: “I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt” (v. 7); hears: “I have heard their cry” (v. 7); cares: “l am concerned about their suffering” (v. 7); helps: “I have come down to deliver them” (v. 8); provides resources: “I will send you” (v. 10); sustains and supports: “I will certainly be with you” (v. 12).
Contrast the identity of God with that of Moses, whose first response to God’s identity and commission was, “Who am I that I should go?” (v. 11). Moses was no different than we are. The basic task or motivation, intrinsic to every human being, is to answer the question, “Who am I?” throughout life, from birth to death. In the course of that quest, we get many answers, but we never get the answer. We accumulate knowledge about ourselves that produces a self, but that self is continually in the process of becoming, no matter what stage of life we are in.
Babies, from the time they realize they are separate from their mothers, begin the process of establishing their autonomy and engaging in initiatives which continually form their personhood. Adolescents strive to define and establish their own identities, and young adults expend much energy in differentiating their identity from that of their families. Middle-aged adults revisit their choices and re-ask the “Who am l?” question, and aging adults not only ask the question, but evaluate who they have been to get a sense of whether the struggle of life was worth it or not, producing either a sense of integrity or despair.
Why is the “Who am I?” question so important? In terms of human development, it motivates us toward maturity and the fulfillment of our human potential and pushes us toward self-actualization. Human maturity is measured in terms of independence, which produces the basis for controlling and defining our lives and making our own choices relative to relationships and life experiences. It moves us from a position of dependence at birth, to independence, and then interdependence by choice.
In contrast, spiritual maturity operates on a parallel course but with dynamics that are the inverse of human maturity. At birth, we are born in sin and, therefore, separate from or independent of God. As we realize our sinful condition through the working of the Holy Spirit, and seek to rectify it by accepting Christ as our personal Savior, we manifest our dependence on God. That dependence is further refined when we turn ourselves over to Christ, making Him not only Savior, but Lord of our lives. Consequently, spiritual maturity is marked by dependence on God, rather than autonomy, or independence, which relies on self.
From a spiritual perspective, the “Who am l?” question is also extremely important because if we have no “self” we have nothing to turn over to God in faith. Moses had an idea of who he was, which in his mind did not measure up to what God wanted him to do, so he resisted and questioned God. It was only in turning his self, as he knew it, completely over to God, in dependence, that he had the power and strength to do what God wanted him to do. He kept discovering that reality throughout his life, as he led the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Wilderness. Whenever he relied on his own self, he got into trouble.
The Apostle Paul fully comprehended the importance of turning a well-defined self over to God, which he described in detail in Philippians 3:7-10. After establishing his human credentials and identity, he states: “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”
Certainly Moses discovered, and we will discover, that whatever our answer to the “Who am l?” question – whether negative or positive, full of doubt or confidence, tempered by pain or contentment – God will transform and use who we are to His glory, and for our benefit, when we turn ourselves over to the “Great I am.” So like Moses, we need to ask the “Who am I?” question in the presence of the burning bush and on the holy ground of God in our lives. And, like Moses, we will find the “Who am I?” question will lead us to the “Who I am!” answer.
By James Trotzer
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA.