Summary: God is the one who is the seeker and reveals Himself to us.
I AM that I AM
It was business as usual in all the rest of the world. The world was entirely ignorant of an event that was to take place in a remote desert. Yet it is what happened here that has changed the world and not whatever decrees might have come that day from the throne of Pharaoh or the talk in the street about politics, the economy, or some other subject. This often is the way that God works. Yet when He speaks to a fugitive in the middle of nowhere, His word comes to pass.
Moses was a miracle child, a type of the miracle child who would later be born in a mange in Bethlehem. The decree had gone forth from Pharaoh that all the Israelite male children were to be cast into the river (Exodus 1:22). His mother hid him for three months but eventually complied with the order. But Moses instead of being cast out into the river to drown was placed in a little boat and left to the mercy of God.
We read that this child floating in a boat was caused to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter whom God put pity in her heart. She knew this child was a Hebrew, yet had her raided in her house as her son. So Moses was raided as the Scripture says in all the learning and wisdom of Egypt. He would have learned about Egypt’s gods and his standing as part of Pharaoh’s family his being enrolled among them.
Moses who had to be nursed was providentially nursed by his own mother. From this he seems to have learned his true identity as an Israelite. When he was older, he saw a Egyptian taskmaster mistreating a fellow Hebrew and killed the man and hid his body. But he was found out and betrayed by one of his own countrymen and had to escape for his life. This was the occasion for his removal to the backside of the desert. Thus ended the first forty years of the life.
Moses would spend the next forty years of his life as a shepherd guiding sheep through the wilderness. It seems like quite a demotion in life. But in forty years, Moses knew where to find forage for his sheep and to know good water from bad. In order to survive, he had to be an expert.
Moses had probably seen dry bushes erupt into flames before in the dry hot desert, but today was different. The bush he saw on fire did not disintegrate into ashes. The fire kept on burning. God used Moses’ curiosity to attract him to this place.
What we see here is a magnificent encounter between the Lord and Moses. Moses was in no need of some sort of argument about the existence of God. He did not chance upon the ontological argument or teleological argument. Rather He was personal encountered by God Himself. What we learn here is that God is self-authenticating. Moses did not find God through his advanced learning and wisdom, not even the truths that his mother had shared about God. Rather God allowed Himself to be found.
God is not in any way bound by human wisdom and expectation. He cannot be found by such means. He only can be known by His revelation and only to the extent that He wishes to be revealed. The Lord did not reveal Himself to the world that day but just one person. And He did so to reveal to Moses that he was chosen by the Lord as His instrument to deliver them from the cruel bondage of Egypt and lead them out.
We as fallen human beings always seem to demand more. God has to prove Himself God on our terms or we will not believe. Show us miracles and we will believe, the world says. Yet even when God revealed Himself to all of Israel by signs and wonders, they still did not believe. When He revealed Himself to the world as Jesus Christ, they did not believe Him either despite signs, wonders, and teaching. Instead, we crucified Him.
Even when we look at nature, we should see and admire the handiwork of God. He is revealed in nature as well as Scripture. Yet people do not believe but suppress the truth. Such is the wisdom of the world. The Scripture records that man in his wisdom did not find God. Why man for all his wisdom cannot even find himself!
So how does God reveal Himself? Well Moses asks for a name for God. In a sense a name becomes the means of power and influence. But God instead gives a cryptic reply. “Why do you ask me for a name when it is secret?” Instead, tell them I AM sent you. I am is the shortest sentence imaginable a simple subject and a verb of being. It queues us to ask more. We see this in a document like the Westminster Confession where it states: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, etc.” We want to supply some sort of descriptive adjective in the predicate.