Sunday, November 10, 2019

Exodus 3:1-15; 22nd Sunday after Pentecost; November 10, 2019;

Exodus 3:1-15; 22nd Sunday after Pentecost; November 10, 2019;
Life in Christ Lutheran Church, Grand Marais, MN;
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. 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. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 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.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 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. Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and 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, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 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.” 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?” 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.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:1–15, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Moses was doing what he always did, watching sheep for his father-in-law. When the sight caught his eye. A flaming bush, that wasn’t consumed by the fire, up on the mountain. He went to see what it was about. “The Angel of YHWH appeared to him.” But this was no ordinary messenger. It was YHWH himself in the bush. God present with him at that very time in that very place. “Moses, Moses!” called YHWH. “You are in the presence of God. Take off your sandals it is holy ground, for wherever I AM present, it is holy ground. I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt. And I have come down to rescue them, to be present with them and deliver them from Egypt.” God called Moses to go to Pharaoh. Moses was the reluctant prophet. “Who am I, that I should do this?” YHWH answered, “But, there is no need to fear, I will be present with you the whole time. When you deliver the people, you will bring them into my presence here at this mountain. When you have accomplished that, it will be a sign to you.” “But”, Moses answered, “when I say the God of your fathers has sent me, they will want to know your name.” And God answered. “I AM WHO I AM. Say to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”
I AM WHO I AM. It seems simple enough. But there’s more to it than God saying that he exists.
אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה[1]
“ehyeh ashar ehyeh”
I am who I am. It is a simple translation. But there’s more to it than that. “I am, I exist, I will be”. All of these contained in the language that Moses used to pen these important words of God, but most importantly, in this context, “I will be present as I am present”. The Angel of YHWH is present in the burning bush. God says his presence makes holy ground. He says he has come down to be present to rescue his people. And that he will be present with Moses the whole time. From Jeremiah:
“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?” (Jeremiah 23:23, ESV)
God “at hand”, “near”, “present”. His name is his promise. His promised presence. God, YHWH, present with his people in their deliverance from slavery. And the account goes on; YHWH present with Moses and Aaron as they confront Pharaoh. YHWH present over and above Satan’s presence with Pharaoh’s magicians. YHWH terrifyingly present in the nine plagues, and ultimately in the 10th plague and the Passover where every firstborn who was not protected by the blood of the Lamb on the doorpost was killed by YHWH. YHWH present in the pillar of fire and cloud that led the people through the wilderness. YHWH present as the waters of the Red Sea covered the soldiers of Egypt. YHWH present when they crossed the Jordan River into the promised land. YHWH present when the walls of Jericho fell. YHWH present when they occupied the land. When the children of Israel looked back on the Exodus, they saw the defining moment of God’s name, YHWH. They saw YHWH present with them just as he promised. God says אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה (ehyaw) “I AM present”, his name. The people call him YHWH, “He is present”. When God’s people look for salvation, they look for it through his presence.
On a quiet night in Bethlehem, in a stable, YHWH is present again. Emmanuel is born. Emmanuel means “God with us.”
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23, ESV)
[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21, ESV)
The name Jesus means “YHWH saves”, Immanuel saves from sin by being present with us. YHWH present in the person of Jesus Christ. YHWH present as Jesus confounds the priests in the temple at 12 years of age. YHWH present as Jesus is baptized in the Jordan river by John. YHWH present in all his miracles. YHWH present as he stands condemned before Pilate. YHWH present as he allows nails to be spiked through his hands and feet. YHWH present as he dies on the cross, that bloody and brutal death. YHWH present, dead in the tomb. YHWH present on the first Easter, when he rises from death to life. This is YHWH present for you. As Luther said, the most important words in all of scripture are “for you”. YHWH is present for you, to save you from your sin.
And your story goes on. YHWH is present with you in your Baptism. In Holy Baptism, God, YHWH puts his name on you. Where God’s name is all his promises are present. In that blessed flood, that water mixed with the name of God, he promises to be with you always. In baptism you are adopted into God’s family. Joined with him. YHWH is forever present with you.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:27–29, ESV)
It is just as Jesus said,
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:19–20, ESV)
And there is more. In his Holy Supper he is present for your forgiveness, also. Jesus Christ, YHWH himself, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. There is no way to be closer to Jesus than to open your mouth and take in what he offers, his body and blood and forgiveness of sins.
Every time we hear his word read to you, or open the Scriptures for yourself and read, YHWH is with you. Especially when you read about Jesus and his promised presence.
In these ways specifically, God is working to comfort and encourage you. Just as he says:
He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5b–6, ESV)
So, when you face loneliness, illness or death:
He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
When you struggle with doubt, trouble, or sharing your faith with a friend:
He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Your God, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, to rescue his people from slavery in Egypt, the God who appeared in the flesh in Jesus Christ, who hung on the cross for your sins, and defeated your death with his resurrection, that God, YHWH is with you always. He has come down to you and is present with you forever. Amen.
The Peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (2001). (electronic ed., Ex 3:14). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

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