Exodus 3:1-6. Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Exodus 3:11-14. 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Moses has spent the last 40 years minding his own business. He gave up his identity as an Egyptian when he fled and landed in Midian. And after 40 years Moses still doesn’t know who he is.
And that’s OK.
Because soon he will know who God is.
The God who created all things, the galaxy weaver, the star breather, the cosmos ruling God is now present in a burning bush in front of Moses on a mountain. Here we will learn two of the most important things ever said about our God. His name. His holiness.
God is the I Am. And because he is the I Am he is holy.
Often we think of holiness, especially God’s holiness, as just his separateness. His uniqueness. His perfection which makes him unable to be around us. But that is actually not what we see in Exodus 3. We see the holiness of God coming to Moses. Inhabiting the common bush and the common ground. God’s holiness is BOTH his transcendence and his imminence. His farness and his nearness. God is holy not when he separates from us, but when he in his compassion moves himself toward us. Yes, God’s holiness is perfection. But it is perfection made accessible.
And we see this same amazing truth in God’s name. Moses first asks “Who am I?” After 40 years he still has no idea who he really is. And that causes much anxiety, just as it does for us today. But then wisely Moses asks God, “Who are you?” A question he needed an answer to. Every deity in Egypt had a name, and to know that name meant you had access to that god’s power. Moses can’t go to Pharaoh with a nameless god.
God’s name is Ehyeh. I am. Or I will be. Or I will be who I will be. God is constant. Unchanging. And yet self-determining. He is self-defined. He is not influenced by you or me. He is transcendent beyond all time and space and creation. And yet God is defined by what he does. And what he does is come to us. I will be with you he said to Moses (3:12).
He is imminent. He is beyond us. He is with us. He is holy.
Of course the bush is just a shadow. A picture of God’s truest expression of his holiness, Jesus Christ the God-Man. Jesus called himself the I Am while on earth and it got him killed. Why? Because he was claiming to be God himself. In statements like these:
John 8:12. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:24. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
John 8:28. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.
John 8:58. “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
Jews would never even say the word I and am together. Like “I am hungry.” They would say “I hungry.” This was so that they would never say the holy name of God out loud even in their every day talk. But Jesus said “I am” left and right. How? Because he is Ehyeh. He is the bush. He is the holy ground. He is the God of the Exodus.
And he is living in us. The great I Am. The I will be who I will be now exists in us. His transcendence and his imminence meet inside of the those who claim the name of Jesus.
Who are you Jesus?
Have you asked that question just as Moses asked it at the burning bush?
Jesus is the holy one. The God of creation. The one who rescued Israel from slavery and that was just a warm up. He is the God who saves. The God who gives his life. The God who shares his presence with us and in us.
Who am I? Have you asked this question as Moses did at the burning bush?
We ARE God’s holy ground. We are the dwelling place of God. We are his temple. His body. In Christ we live in God’s presence face to face with him. No more doubts of who we are. It has been made clear for all time. He is our God and we are his people. His children. His servants. His love.
“To live is Christ” is to have the Great I Am burning inside of us. We are the meeting of God’s transcendence and his imminence. We are his holiness burning bright in the world.