God Knows Your Name—Be Sure You Know His
The life and legacy of Moses
Dr. Jim Denison
There is a story about the Methodists in Indiana holding their Annual Conference in 1870. At one point in the proceedings, the president of the college where they were meeting said, “I think we are living in a very exciting age.” The presiding bishop asked him, “What do you see for the future?”
The college president responded, “I believe we are coming into a time of great inventions. I believe, for example, that men will fly through the air like birds.” The bishop said, “That’s heresy! The Bible says that flight is reserved for the angels. We’ll have no more such talk here.” When the Annual Conference was over, Bishop Wright went home to his two small sons, Wilbur and Orville.
God’s plan for our lives is greater than any we can imagine for ourselves. But we must choose to obey his will before we can know it fully. In Moses’ struggles with finding and following God’s purpose, we see our own. God intends to call you by name. How you respond to his invitation will determine the significance of your life and service.
Where do you need to know his will for a decision or problem in your life? At that very place, a bush may well be aflame with the presence of your holy Lord. Will you pass by the voice of God, or will you stop to listen?
Honor God (3:1-6)
One of the most pivotal events in human history occurred in one of the most mundane settings imaginable. The region was known as “Horeb,” a semitic word meaning “desolation” or “desert.” The area was located in the southeast region of the Sinai peninsula. Some identify this mountain with Sinai, though others see them as two separate places. The tradition site is called Gebel Musa, “Moses’ mountain,” an elevation of 7,467 feet.
Note that Abram’s call came on foreign soil, as did Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. So it was with Moses’ first encounter with the living God. He was “tending” the flock of his father-in-law; the Hebrew indicates that this was his habitual occupation, not a unique event in his life. Then he heard the voice of the Lord.
The “bush” in the story was a kind of thorny acacia common in the region. But what happened to it was anything but ordinary. The bush was on fire, not unusual in that arid climate, but it was not being consumed by the flames. The veteran shepherd had not seen such a phenomenon. So he drew closer. And then God drew close to him.
The Lord was in the flame (cf. Exodus 19:18, where he descends to Sinai in fire, and Exodus 13:21, where he led his people through a “pillar of fire”). Fire is emblematic both of divine power and purifying holiness.
And from within the flames, God called Moses by name (v. 4). It is an astounding thing to realize that the Lord of the universe knows your name and mine. He is watching as you read these words. He knows your thoughts and heart. And he loves and accepts you anyway.
He called Moses to venerate his holiness by removing his sandals. Slaves were typically barefoot; here Moses humbled himself to the lowest level of social importance. And he bowed before this holy God in the reverence which is his due.
Relationship precedes service. God has a purpose and plan for your life and work, but that purpose begins with your personal commitment to his Lordship. The King of creation will not share his glory. Only when we exalt him as our Master can we know his will as his servants.
Too many of us wish to know God’s plan for our lives, so we can consider it. But Almighty God will not trifle with us. He does not intend his divine purpose to be an option for our contemplation, but an obligation for our commitment.
Where do you need to hear his voice and know his purpose? Begin by honoring him as your Lord and surrendering to his will, whatever it is. Only when he has our obedience can he give us his direction.
Trust God (3:7-14)
The next paragraphs revealed the character of God in greater detail than any human had yet known them. This Lord knows our problems and pain (v. 7). He is no Zeus atop an apathetic Mt. Olympus, or deistic clock maker who now watches his universe run down. He knows our names and our needs.
What’s more, he intends to do something about them (v. 8). He intervenes in human affairs according to his sovereign plan and purpose. We could not reach him, so he has come down into our fallen condition. Religion is our attempt to climb up to God; the Bible reveals a God who climbs down to us.
Typically the Lord uses humans to accomplish his will in human history. So it was with the call of Moses (v. 10). God knows, he cares, and he calls. For every problem there is a person whom God intends to send as his presence in the world.
Now Moses’ excuses began. First he protested: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v. 11). What abilities or credentials did he possess to stand before the mightiest man on earth? If you were to sense the Lord sending you to the American president in response to some need in our nation, your response would likely be no less incredulous than Moses’ here.
It is noteworthy that God’s answer did not validate the messenger but his Master: “I will be with you” (v. 12). Moses’ identity did not matter, only his obedience. It is the same with us. God needs nothing from us but our availability, our willingness to go where he sends us. He is looking for surrendered spirits through whom he can do his eternal work.