At the burning bush, God told Moses that he had heard and seen the suffering of the Israelite people, and that He was going to send Moses to Pharaoh to tell him to let the people go free.
The first words out of Moses’ mouth are,
Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?
People have read these words for thousands of years, and some of them have heard two questions here. First the obvious one,
Who am I?
But, there is a subtler question: Who am I that I should go and bring the Israelites out? In short,
Who are they?
Who are they that they should deserve this great thing? What have they done to earn the favor of God? Why would God want to redeem them?
And, if you remember that Moses is himself an Israelite, the question could really be,
Who are we?
And then, of course, Moses’ next question is,
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?
Moses wants to know this God’s name. There were lots of gods in the ancient imagination. If Moses just stammered out “Well, there was this bush, and it was on fire, but the fire was weird, and, uhhh, I took my sandals off, and, ummm, the bush started talking…
That wouldn’t go so well.
He needed a name. And God gave Moses a Name—and the Name is amazing and is worth studying and wondering about. But, what I find interesting here is that Moses’ question can really be boiled down to,
Who are You?
So, “Who am I,” “Who are we,” and “Who are You,” are great questions. Incredible questions. Questions that deserve an answer.
But, they aren’t the kind of answers that you just figure out and hastily scratch down on a yellow pad. They aren’t static answers that you give once and they never change. They are dynamic questions with dynamic answers that arise again and again, and get answered in the hard and wonderful work that we call life.
God doesn’t give simple answers to Moses. But, over the course of the next forty years as Moses goes to Pharaoh, as he sees the Israelites free, as he walks with them through the Red Sea, and as he journeys with them through the wilderness on their long sojourn to a new home — well, eventually he does learn who he is. He does learn who the people are, with all their shortcomings and gifts.
And, he learns who God is. This God who frees His people, and remains with us always.