Called to Action
Topic: Biblical Verse: Exodus 3:1–3:15
Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost[i]
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Called to Action”
There come days in your life where you’ll find yourself asking questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Moses was having one of those days.
There he was, minding his own business, tending his father-in-law Jethro’s sheep, when God comes down to call him to action. Jesus referred to this as “the passage about the bush” in today’s Gospel reading (Luke 20:37). This encounter with God at the burning bush is a central turning point in Moses’ life. And by extension, it is a turning point in the life of the Hebrew nation and our history, as well. So at this momentous meeting, this divine interruption of ordinary life, after he’s hidden his face and taken the sandals off his feet to stand on the ground God has made holy with His presence, how does Moses respond to God’s call?
“Who am I?” When called by God to serve, this is what Moses has to say. It’s almost like Moses is thinking that God has confused him with someone else. “Why do you want me?” He has a hard time understanding why God would want him to go back to Egypt – the land from which he fled after murdering an Egyptian – to represent Him and bring the Hebrew people out from slavery? Moses doesn’t want to do it. For most of this chapter and the next, he brings up one excuse after another to try to convince God that He’s got the wrong guy here. And just how is Moses supposed to accomplish what God’s called him to do? But before you think of Moses too harshly, put yourself in his sandals.
You and I, we’re no so different from Moses. It’s exciting to see God, right? “Burning bush – whoa!” That’s something, sure. But today, you and I get to hear God’s Word and encounter Him in the gifts that He’s giving us. He’s here, according to His promise. Are your sandals still on your feet? Because you’re in the presence of the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob! And it’s exciting to be called by God out of the world, to be made to be His people and given a new identity in Christ. We enjoy a community, a family of faith that surrounds us and supports us. But, like Moses, we’re not all that excited to do God’s work.
“Who am I?” “God, I think you’re actually looking for someone else. Why do you want me? I can’t do what you’re asking. It’s out of my realm of experience; I’m not qualified to get that done. I’m too busy with everything else I have going on in my life. I’m afraid!” Yup. You and me and Moses? Not so different at all.
Here’s the thing about “the passage about the bush,” as Jesus called it. It’s not really about Moses. It’s about the One who’s calling him.
Moses questions God’s call to action, asking, “Who am I?” But instead of answering that question, God gives the better response: “Here’s who I am.”
God sends Moses to Egypt with His Name, the personal, divine Name most English versions of the Bible replace with “Lord” in small caps. In the original Hebrew, it’s YHWH, pronounced “Yahweh.” Yahweh is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Yahweh is the creator of the universe. And His Name means something.
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.’” (Exodus 3:14) Yahweh is a Name of action. It doesn’t simply mean “I am who I am,” because the word there also means “has been” and “will be.” Yahweh is the “being, doing, is’ing” God. God’s Name speaks to His character: He is the one, true God, and He is in action.
Listen to some other verbs from right before this “passage about the bush” that tell us about God’s response to the plight of His people in Egypt: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Exo. 2:24-25) And how does Yahweh, the “being, doing, is’ing” God, respond? “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land…” (Exo. 3:8) God has come to save.
God knew exactly who Moses was. He knew Moses long before He called to him out of the burning bush. Before his Hebrew mother put her baby boy in a basket in the river to save him from death. Before he was drawn up from the river and raised in the house of the pharaoh as a prince of Egypt. Before he spent decades learning to be a shepherd after running away from Egypt. When Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God could have said, “You are the one I’ve been preparing for this moment since the day you were born.” But really, it’s not important in that moment who Moses was. What’s most important is the fact at “I am who I am” is sending Moses with His name.
God promised to be with Moses. Yahweh says, “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.” (Exo. 3:12) Before anything else, the Lord gives Moses His promise. “I am” also means “I will be.” When God called Moses to action, He wasn’t sending him out alone. Yahweh will go with him. And the Lord God gives you that same promise in His Son.
“Who am I?” You are a redeemed child of Yahweh through Jesus. It doesn’t matter who you were before. Back then, there was no way you could serve God. You had nothing to offer. But through the working of the Holy Spirit, who draws you up and gives you new life in the water of Baptism, you have a new identity in Christ. He’s washed away the sin of the past, something that you can remember and experience in each new day. You bear his name.
Yahweh calls you to action as His child, and He sends you with His Name. He might be calling you to work that is seemingly impossible. If you’re following Jesus as his disciple, that’s something none of us could accomplish on our own. But as He did with Moses, God promises to be with you. The name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” And “Joshua” means, “Yahweh saves.”
You don’t need to worry or question who you are. You belong to Christ Jesus. And it is who He is that makes all the difference.
[i] Passage for memory:
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.’” – Exodus 3:14