God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
A two-season fascination with The Tudors spurred me to pick up Alison Weir’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Although I’ve only got through Katherine of Aragon, I’m dumbfounded at how many random events across Europe shaped Henry’s destiny as Britain’s greatest sovereign. Gripping as this is, I put the book down yesterday to watch the webcast from my former church in LA. The guest preacher, Charles Stith, previously the pastor of Boston’s Union Methodist Church and US ambassador to Tanzania, spoke from Isaiah 43.18: “Behold, I will do a new thing.” Destiny also figured prominently in his message. In a riveting recital of Barack Obama’s rise from obscure state legislator to leader of the free world, Dr. Stith cited a pattern of occurrences—sickness, scandals, and misfires—that cleared formidable opponents from the candidate’s path. He should have lost every race he entered. Yet Providence willed otherwise. A new thing was in the works. Past precedents and predictors were pointless. The circumspect “community organizer” had a destiny to fulfill.
Like Henry, Obama, and numerous other legendary figures, Moses too is cut from destiny’s pattern. He’s born in Egypt to Hebrew slaves at the height of a baby boom. To control the surging slave population, Pharaoh kills every male Hebrew infant. Moses’s mother tries to protect her son by hiding him in a thicket of reeds along the Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter finds him, adopts him, and enlists his mother as his nurse. He’s raised as an Egyptian prince, yet through his mother’s guidance he also retains his ethnic identity. When he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, he kills and buries the taskmaster, thinking he’s concealed his deed. He learns otherwise, though. He flees Pharaoh’s wrath to live in exile as a shepherd, a man without a country, equally suspect to Hebrews and Egyptians with no viable future. But God endows Moses with great promise. Despite every indicator of his insignificance, destiny’s pattern emerges.
“Who Am I?”
While tending sheep, Moses is oblivious that the Hebrews’ suffering has reached crisis level. He moves his flock to the foot of Mt. Horeb, “the mountain of God.” A nearby bush bursts into flames—unusual though not inexplicable, since the pasture abuts a hot desert. But after the fire blazes without consuming the bush, Moses thinks, “I will go over and see this strange sight.” (Exodus 3.3) A voice inside the bush calls him by name. He answers, only to be told to keep his distance and remove his sandals “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (v5) The voice identifies itself as the God of his ancestors, explaining He intends to send Moses back to Pharaoh to bring His people out of Egypt. “Who am I, that I should do this?” Moses asks. God assures him, “I will be with you.” Next, Moses asks, “Suppose I tell the Israelites You’ve sent me and they ask for Your name? What do I say?” God replies with the most conclusive declaration of His supremacy on record: “I am Who I am. Tell them I AM sent you.”
Destiny calls, Moses answers, and he’s transformed from a frightened loner hiding in self-imposed exile into the fearless deliverer of an enslaved nation. The pattern falls into place. Nothing God does with Moses meets past precedents or predictors. Seas part. Bread falls from the sky. Water gushes from rock. Hovering clouds guide through dry desert days and billowing flames light night travels. Enemy tribes are decimated. Lifeless tablets are emblazoned with living truth. At every turn, God accomplishes the completely unexpected, the impossible to explain, and the altogether new.
God is. When we know that, no further explanation is needed. All we want, need, or expect Him to be exists in the truth that He is Who He is. This truth is timeless because He’s timeless. It’s inescapable because He exceeds all boundaries. It’s incontrovertible because He defies logical proof. In Revelation 1.8, He declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” No earth-shattering event, scientific breakthrough, natural cataclysm, or manmade phenomenon can alter the reality of His existence or the nature of His being. “I the LORD do not change,” He tells us in Malachi 3.6. And the same God Who held Moses’s destiny—Who called a displaced, frightened shepherd to lead His people to freedom—holds our destinies. “I AM,” He says to us. Not “I WAS.” Not “I WILL BE.” “I AM.”
God isn’t merely present. He is the present. He is this moment. He is this place. He is where we are right now. And when what’s next becomes what’s now He’s there. Acts 17.28 states, “In him we live and move and have our being.” Our destiny isn’t a final destination set at a future date. It’s a living thing already underway, taking shape in us. Precedents and predictors are meaningless. Future worries and wishes waste present minutes. Destiny calls us day by day. Its pattern emerges minute by minute as God does new things. We live in Him now, move in Him now, and have our being in Him now. “Who am I, that God should use me?” we ask. “Who’ll believe He sent me?” We are and they will because I AM is.
Destiny happens now, minute by minute, day by day.
(Tomorrow: All of Me)