Summary: God sends Moses to Pharaoh to show his “I AM” power in saving Israel.
In our last study we read about when Christ appeared to Moses from the burning bush and told him to demand Israel’s freedom from Pharaoh so that God could bring them to the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. Now we’ll pick back up in that story with Moses’ response:
11And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
Moses knew that Israel would be in bondage 400 years (Gen. 15:12-16), and he knew he was the one who would set them free. His trouble came when he assumed everyone else would also know, and he tried to get things going before it was time. As a result he spent 40 years tending sheep in the wilderness, and now that God’s ready, Moses isn’t. Maybe he just doesn’t want to do it any more or maybe walking up to Pharaoh wasn’t what he had in mind, so he’s reluctant. “Who am I?”
He’s 80 years old, wanted for murder, and he’s spent four decades as an outcast. He can’t just march into Egypt and demand an audience with the king. Maybe if God had been with him 40 years earlier things would be different, but now it’s too late, and Moses doesn’t want to go.
But we know that weakness is attractive to God because it’s there that his power is made perfect. Now that he has no influence, now that he’s past his prime, Moses won’t be so tempted to overthrow Pharaoh on his own, and that’s right where God wants him:
12And he said, Certainly I will be with thee;
This is encouragement to Moses, but it’s also a rebuttal. Moses claims that he’s not able to carry this through, and God doesn’t argue with him. What difference does it make if Moses is fit or not? God will be with him! If God’s there and this is what he wants, then there’s no chance of failure and no degree of danger. Everything that’s about to happen is part of the plan that was set forth before Adam and Eve took the first bite. And so, Moses is going.
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.
The sign confirms the mission: once Israel is free, they’ll come to Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments. But it comes after everything is done, so it’s not meant to convince Moses to go to Pharaoh; the burning bush and this direct conversation serve that purpose. This sign will confirm that God did indeed send Moses and that this adventure through the desert and into the Promised Land is his doing and will.
When those Israelites see the smoke and feel the tremblings of the mountain, they’ll know for sure that Moses is God’s prophet and that God is the one leading them to the place he promised Abraham. It should remove all doubt, and thus, it becomes accountability for those who reject. When Korah leads his rebellion, he’s destroyed without pity because he knew that God had picked Moses. When the people complained and tempted God, they fell in the desert because their unbelief was inexcusable.
Likewise, when Caleb and Joshua obeyed, it was said to be an act of faith because of this sign; God confirmed his part in the exodus when Israel came to Sinai.
13And Moses said unto God, 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?
I don’t know why he thought they might ask this, but the answer is important because there’s one name under heaven whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12), and every knee will eventually bow at the name of Jesus (Phil. 4:10). But God won’t reveal “Jesus” just yet, so he gives him another name:
14And 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.
You have to remember that we’re still early on in history. The Ten Commandments haven’t been given yet, and no one knows his name (Ex. 6:3). He’s met with a few people and revealed a little about himself, but there’s a lot that hasn’t been told. What he’s giving here is a sort of anchor or foundation; it’s a place to start for the Israelites who want to know who’s leading them, and the answer is simple but profound: “the one who exists has sent me.” How will they overcome Pharaoh and the superpower of Egypt? How can a bunch of lifelong slaves defeat a world class military? “Certainly I will be with thee.” The one who exists without cause is on their side. The one who has life and power within himself is fighting for them, so who can be against them?