The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 10, 2017
I AM the LORD
God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.'” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I once read an anecdote about a man who decided to try and get all of his brothers and sisters and their families to come together at a quiet summer resort for a mini family reunion. The last time all of them had been together at the same time and in the same place was three years ago at their mother’s funeral. Before that the last time they all got together was at their father’s funeral which was just eight month’s prior to their mother’s funeral. Much to his delight everyone agreed to meet!
One evening as they all gathered together someone came up with the idea of turning on a tape recorder so that they could all share some memories about their parents. Two hours later when they turned the tape recorder off, they all responded in the very same way: “I never heard that story before!” Since each of them had had their own personal encounters with their parents each of them had their own personalized memories of their parents. The end result was that they were not only comforted by reliving the memories of their parents, but they were also amazed at how clearly they could now see that God had been actively working in each of their lives through their parents.
You and I, of course, know that the good Lord is indeed involved in each and every one of our lives. Sometimes His involvement in our lives is rather obvious. Sometimes His involvement in our lives is quite subtle. And then there are the times when we need to be reminded. There are the times when we need to be reminded that God is indeed actively and personally involved in our lives. There are even the times when we need to be reminded of whom our God is and what our God has done for us.
Today, my friends, is one of those times. Today as we focus our attention on an incident that took place in the life of Moses our goal will be to hear God Himself say to us: Remember— I Am the LORD.
When Moses was 80 years old the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush and told Moses that he was the one who was going to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. You may recall that Moses did not want the job. In fact, Moses turned down the job! In the end, however, Moses learned that you do not say “No” when God asks you to do something for Him. So Moses went back to Egypt and said to Pharaoh, the most powerful human being on the face of the earth, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go…’” (Exodus 5:1). Do you remember how Pharaoh responded? Basically he laughed and said, “Yeah, right!” Then he made the lives of the Israelites even more difficult than they already were! And when the Israelites learned of Pharaoh’s reaction to Moses’ request and how Pharaoh was going to make their lives even more difficult, well let’s just say that they were not overly happy with Moses.
Now strive to put yourself into Moses’ sandals, my friends. Reluctantly— very reluctantly— you come back to Egypt after being away for forty years and you do exactly what the Lord told you to do. And when you do what the Lord Himself told you to do you immediately find yourself in the crosshairs of both the Egyptians and the Israelites! So what did Moses do? He complained to God— again. God’s response to Moses’ complaint is very simply this: Remember— I Am the LORD! While that response could sound rather stern in reality it is the sweetest response that Moses’ could have possibly hoped to hear!
There are a number of different names for God revealed to us on the pages of holy Scripture— the “Lord of Hosts,” “God Almighty,” “Creator” just to name a few. Each name emphasizes a unique aspect of the one and only true God. The name “LORD” emphasizes the covenant aspect of God’s relationship with His people. The LORD God is the great “I AM WHO I AM” of Exodus chapter three. The LORD God is the eternal living God of absolute independence. The LORD God is the God of both perfect justice as well as the God of infinite grace. The LORD God is the God who not only makes promises to His people but He is the God who always — always! — keeps the promises that He makes. So when Moses begins to complain about the treatment he receives when doing what God told him to do God responds to Moses’ complaint by saying: “Remember— I Am the LORD! I am the God who willingly entered into a covenant with Abraham and his descendants. I am the God who controls the destiny of all nations including both Egypt and Israel.” And as the Lord Himself reminds Moses here in our text, “I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” Did Moses have a reason to complain? Did Moses have a right to be upset? I don’t think so!
It probably is not difficult for most of us to relate to what Moses was going through at this point in his life. Have any of you ever been faced with a situation that seems so overwhelming that you become completely frustrated by your inability to do anything about it? Have you ever encountered something at work that is so stressful that before you even realize it the muscles in your neck, your shoulders and your back are so tied up in knots that it is literally painful to be touched? Are there situations at home— whether it be with your spouse or your children, your parents or your siblings— that make you want to just throw your hands up in the air and say, “Why do I even try!”? Have you ever spent days walking around on pins and needles as you waited for the results of your medical tests to come back? Have you ever lived in the suspended animation of grief that so often follows the death of a loved one? If anything like this has ever happened to you then you can understand how Moses felt here in our text. Then you can understand why the best answer that Moses could have possibly received to his complaint was to have God say to him: Remember— I Am the LORD!
Guess what! Satan knows all about those kinds of situations, my friends. And whenever we are in a situation that simply overwhelms us, whenever we are in a situation that makes us feel helpless and frustrated Satan will do his very best to muffle God’s voice in our hearts, in our ears and even in our memories. Satan wants us to drown in the whirlpools of doubt that so often seem to engulf us. Satan wants us to think that there is no hope, there is no help, there is no way out of the situation we find ourselves in. But if we stop and listen very closely as the God of heaven speaks to us through His holy inspired Word then even in the most difficult of situations we will hear the voice of our God gently saying to us: “Remember— I Am the LORD! I am the God who has willingly entered into a covenant relationship with you right there at the Baptismal font. I am the God who has both the power and the desire to fulfill all of my promises to you. I am the God you can always count on in any and every situation. I am the LORD!”
The comfort that you and I receive from knowing that our God is the LORD is a comfort that goes far beyond my ability to describe. Sometimes, however, in our weak and sinful condition we want more than just words. Sometimes we want a sign. We want some kind of action to hang on to. In His grace God gave to Moses just such a sign. We hear Him say to Moses, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.”
No matter how difficult the situation might get for Moses, no matter how deep the doubts might become in his heart and mind the Lord was going to give Moses a very powerful sign. The Lord was going to carry out an action the likes of which this world had never seen. With an “outstretched arm” the Lord was going to redeem His people from slavery and bring them into the Promised Land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. For generations to come the exodus of God’s people from Egypt would serve as both a powerful reminder and a powerful proclamation to the fact that the LORD is God!
As you know, I like to “connect the dots” between various portions of Scripture— especially between the Old Testament and the New Testament. So before we move on to see how this portion of Scripture applies to you let’s take a moment to make sure we understand that the very same God who said to Moses, “Remember— I AM the LORD!” is the very same God who speaks those very same words to you and to me. Very simply I want to help you “connect the dots” in such a way that you have absolutely no doubt in your heart that the God who spoke to Moses here in our text so many centuries ago is the same God who lived and died and rose again for you! (Pointing to the cross)
In Luke chapter two we hear the beloved words that the Christmas angel spoke to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). This is the 20th time that Luke uses the name “the Lord” in his Gospel account. All of the previous 19 times that Luke uses this name there is no question and there is no doubt that he is referring to the one true God— the Lord God of heaven and earth, “Jehovah,” the great “I AM.” Now fast-forward thirty-some years. The Child of Bethlehem, Jesus of Nazareth, is having a “discussion” with some of the children of Abraham who rejected Jesus as the Promised Messiah. At one point they ask Jesus, “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” Part of Jesus’ reply was this, “’Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.’ ‘You are not yet fifty years old,’ the Jews said to him, ‘and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’” Was Jesus actually claiming to be “Jehovah,” the great “I AM,” who spoke to Moses here in our text? Absolutely! How do we know for sure? Because of the reaction of Jesus’ enemies! In the very next verse we are told, “At this, they picked up stones to stone him (they considered Jesus to be guilty of blasphemy), but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:48-59; See also John 10:22-33). Once we understand that Jesus is “the Lord,” “Jehovah,” the great “I AM” then we can see how this Old Testament text applies to our lives as the New Testament children of God.
On more than one occasion people have asked me the question, “If God is so good and if God is so powerful then why doesn’t He do something about all the evil in this world?” On more than one occasion people have expressed to me the heartfelt desire that God would give them some kind of “sign” that everything is going to be alright— even though they are going through a very difficult time in their life. Whenever I encounter such questions, whenever I encounter such desires I always respond by pointing people to the cross of Jesus Christ. Because “the Lord” our God is good and because “the Lord” our God is powerful He not only did something about all the evil that exists in this world, but He also did something about all the evil that exists inside of us. He poured out His holy precious blood to completely pay for all the sins of all mankind— including all of your sins, including all of my sins. Yes, my friends, in His grace and in His mercy “the Lord” God has given to you a “sign” that everything will be alright. Every time you walk into this church and lift up your eyes to this cross (Pointing to the cross) you are assured of how “the Lord” your God, the great “I AM” willingly stretched out His arms and died in order to redeem you from your slavery to sin, death and the power of the devil. Every time you walk into this church and lift up your eyes to this cross (Pointing to the cross) you are assured that one day “the Lord” your God, your risen Lord and Savior, the great “I AM” will fulfill His promise to come back and take you to the Promised Land, His heavenly Father’s home. So if ever, my friends, if ever you begin to doubt what “the Lord” your God has done for you, if ever you begin to doubt what “the Lord” your God can do for you, if ever you begin to doubt what “the Lord” your God will do for you kneel at the foot of the cross on Calvary’s hill and listen! Listen as your God gently says to you: Remember— I Am the LORD!
Like Moses here in our text there are going to be times when we feel overwhelmed by the situations we are in. Sometimes like Moses we may even bring our complaints to God. If ever that happens to you — or perhaps I should say whenever that happens to you— I pray that you will quickly get to the point where you take a deep breath, lift up your eyes and humbly listen as your God says to you: My dearest child, remember— I Am the LORD!
To God be the glory!