Last week we talked about Jacob and wrestling with God and being a little roughed up after the experience. Things did work out between Jacob and his brother Esau and Jacob went on to found the nation of Israel. Now, this week one of Jacob’s sons, Joseph sets the stage for our story.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/312498-what-in-god-s-name.mp3]
He does that because Joseph’s older siblings, he was the youngest child, really hated him because he was their father’s favorite. They couldn’t bring themselves to kill their brother but instead they sold him into slavery. In Egypt. You can guess where this is headed.
Joseph does well as an Egyptian slave and is pretty much running the show on Pharoah’s behalf. So when the nations of Israel that Jacob started up run into an extended famine they head to Egypt to find something to eat. They don’t recognize him for who he is but Joseph was in a position to help out and he does. Eventually all the nations of Israel move to Egypt.
They are welcomed by Pharaoh and live there comfortably for a long time, ever increasing their number. It would be a lives happily ever after kind of story.
Except there was a new Pharaoh in town and he had no history with Joseph and the people of Israel. Lacking that kind of connection he became fearful of the people of Israel. Remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about being ‘Created to Connect’? This is what happens when we’re not connected with people. Fear comes into the picture. Pharoah was afraid they were getting too big and too powerful so he started doing bad things to them to hold them down.
One of the things Pharaoh did was to make slaves out of the nation of Israel. Iconic Ten Commandments) After being welcomed into Egypt by an earlier Pharoah, the current pharaoh is acting out of fear and wants to oppress the people of Israel by making and keeping them as slaves.
This went on for about 400 years or so. That’s a long time to live under the yoke of slavery. God decides to send Moses to get it all sorted out with Pharaoh. They had kind of a fun meeting, God and Moses did.
Moses is out and about, cruising around with his father in law’s sheep, tending the flock and all. When out of nowhere appears a bush that was on fire but not being burned up. That’s kind of a curious thing so Moses decides to investigate. I mean really, how often do you run into a burning bush much less one that isn’t being burned up?
Oh, I see what you did there, God! You wanted to get Moses attention, didn’t you? You wanted to get Moses to pay attention, didn’t you? It worked, God. Well played, God! Well played!
God generates Moses’ curiosity with the burning bush. God wants to talk to Moses and I suppose God could have swooped down from the heavens in some flashy show of God stuff but Moses probably would have had an infarction if that happened. Rather than bludgeoning Moses with the hammer of God approach which likely wouldn’t have ended well, God piques Moses’ curiosity. God draws Moses in on his own volition rather than any kind of force.
God tries to get our attention with interesting things as well. God could use the hammer of God approach to get our attention but like Moses, that probably wouldn’t end well. We don’t like being hammered on, do we? So one of the things that God seems to do is to use things like a burning bush to get our attention. What is it that gets your attention when it comes to God? What draws your attention TO God?
Sunrise? Sunset? Rainbows? Cute puppies and kittens?
These are all very good things but the curious things aren’t God in and of themselves. Instead they try to point us to God. They are reminders to us that God is real and God is very present in our lives.
These are the kind of things that try to remind us that an empirically unprovable God is with us. We are a thinking people and we run into trouble when we think we can prove that God is real. We want proof in some fashion or another.
God doesn’t desire that we believe in God because God can be proven. God desires that we have faith because we trust in God.
That’s why God doesn’t give us a name. If God wanted us to have faith in a provable God we wouldn’t get the ambiguous name of ‘I am’. God would have answered Moses’ question in v13, “13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” with the rather cryptic response in v14, “14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Instead, God would have said something like, “Oh, my name is Bob” and that would have been the end of that.
God isn’t trying to hide from us but God doesn’t want us relying on reason and logic to believe and have faith based on our own understanding. God is giving us a way to keep our faith even in the face of things that can’t be explained.
It is our safety net for all the things that can’t be explained. When bad things happen to good people, that’s kind of unexplainable. God is still there comforting the people who are hurting. When someone shoots up a school, that’s kind of unexplainable. God is still there, ever present with the fallen. When the storms of life roll over us, that’s kind of unexplainable. God is still there, ever sheltering us.
When all else fails and we throw our hands up in frustration, shouting “What in God’s Name!”, God tells us. I am.