Is God Your Fill-in-the-Blank?

April 19, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: In Exodus 3:13-14 Moses asked God to tell him the name that he should tell the people when they asked Moses who sent him. God told Moses that He was “I AM THAT I AM,” and that he should tell them “I AM” sent him. Did God leave a blank at the end of His revealed name so that people could fill in the blank with whatever they needed Him to be? In other words, the people in Egypt needed to be delivered from bondage, so they could finish God’s statement by imputing to Him the name, “I AM… your Deliverer.” When they got hungry or thirsty later on, they could think of Him as “I AM… your Provider.” When they got sick, they could could call Him “I AM… your Healer.” If they were attacked, they could pray to “I AM… your Shield.” And so forth. Does that make sense – the idea that God would be whatever you need Him to be?

Answer: God used the name “I AM” which sounds abbreviated to us, but which actually points to His supreme holiness. In other words, Moses was looking for a way to describe what manner of God this was Who had spoken to Him, and God could not point to anything outside of Himself for comparison. He had to stop at simply “I AM” because there is no thing and no one in this universe to which He can be properly compared, since everything is “creaTION” except for God Himself, Who is “CreaTOR.” He used the name “I AM” in the singular sense of “I AM it, I’m all there is when it comes to ‘gods.’ I’m the only one that’s real.” (This was a real deal-breaker for Pharaoh and the Egyptians who had gods for everything from frogs to houseflies.) I think this interpretation is reinforced by the First Commandment, where God declared that He is one God (I AM the LORD your GOD), and that no one is allowed to make up any other little g gods “before Him.”

Perhaps people will think of the name “I AM THAT I AM” in whichever sense they find more comforting. I know that people like to think of God as being whatever they need Him to be during difficult times. Personally, I take greater comfort in knowing that whatever He reveals Himself to be in the Bible is ultimately what is best. When I swing out into eternity and leave this world behind I’m depending on the God that is “real” to hold me in His everlasting arms, regardless of whatever personal ideas I might have ascribed to Him.

How God Prepares Leaders

July 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Posted in Exodus, Hebrews | 9 Comments
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The Old Testament of the Bible contains true historical accounts, and it is accurate, but it also contains numerous types and shadows of what God would do in Christ to save His people. Joseph is one example. He was used to rescue God’s people from famine, and they wound up in Egypt in the Land of Goshen. Joseph became second in command in Egypt, answering only to Pharaoh. But eventually Joseph died, and that particular pharaoh died. Other pharaohs came along that didn’t remember Joseph, and God’s people wound up as slaves. God, through Moses, subsequently delivered them out of bondage, parting the Red Sea and giving them His law. We may discern from this true historical account the following types and foreshadowing:

Deliverance from Egypt = salvation
Red Sea = baptism
Leviticus and Deuteronomy = sanctification

And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.

Exodus 2:23-25 (emphasis added)

They were sighing, crying, and groaning – maybe in their prayers to God – maybe just because of the oppression they were experiencing.

And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.

Exodus 3:7-9

God hears the cries of the oppressed. He delivers the oppressed and He deals with the oppressors. When we feel oppressed we have a tendency to think of ourselves, but we need to remember that God is orchestrating circumstances. He has not left us nor forsaken us.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

Hebrews 11:23-24

Moses chose to side with the slaves rather than the oppressors.

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Hebrews 11:25-26

Moses did not have all the information about Christ that New Testament Christians have had since the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but he did look forward by faith to the promise of a coming Redeemer, and he had a much different value system than the Egyptians among whom he lived.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

Hebrews 11:27

He feared Pharaoh, but he feared God more, and he endured in the desert by faith. Real faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and does the impossible.

Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

Hebrews 11:28-29

God uses times of separation – times of loneliness and soul-searching – to prepare leaders. He is not looking for the mightiest of the worldly. He is looking for outcasts who have gotten to know God. We can be thankful that God does not require us to be strong first before He uses us. He prepares us for victory in times of distress.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 3)

December 29, 2010 at 10:11 am | Posted in John, The Bookends of Faith | 7 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time, we looked at what our response should be to Jesus’s proclamation that, “I AM the Bread of Life.” That was His first “I AM” statement in the Book of John. Now we move on to His last.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life. The two words that John 6:35 and John 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – “unending” and “unbeginning”). He was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 1:4; 1:8; 4:8) I once heard a catchy song on the radio with the lyric:
He’s not the God who one time did,
He’s the God Who does.
That’s why they call Him the Great I AM,
And not the great I was.

When I say that God is “uncommon,” I mean that He is truly unique.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

John 15:1

This is an illustration – the vine and the branches – which is not as familiar to us as it was to those who first heard it. Vineyards were almost as common to Jesus’s audience as gas stations are to us in the 21st Century. (Hey, maybe there’s a lesson there: He is the Gas Pump – we are the car – we won’t work unless He fills us up!)

If you have actually been in a vineyard or around grapevines, you may have a mental picture of the vines and branches being thin and easily broken, but those in Israel back in Jesus’s day were thick and strong. The image of the vineyard or the grapevine is common in Scripture. God had provided for and chastened Judah and Jerusalem throughout the Old Testament. If there ever should have been a vineyard to the glory of God, it should have been that nation. However:

What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

Isaiah 5:4

The Jewish people were God’s vineyard, but there is also a worldly vineyard in Scripture.

And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

Revelation 14:18-20

The grapes in this worldly vineyard are ripening for God’s judgment. Those are two of the vines found in Scripture. Then there is Jesus – the True Vine. Whenever there are “types” of Christ in the Bible, Christ fulfills those types, and is a “better than” those types. He is the Vine from which all other vines are copies or imitations.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

John 15:1-2

He is the Vine. We are the branches. God is the husbandman (vine-dresser). Branches can be strong when they are fed from the vine, but if something closes off the flow of sap from the vine, the branches become brittle and weak – and fruitless. Can these fruitless branches be used for some other purpose, such as for building? They can’t be used for building when they are strong because they are connected to the vine. They can’t be used for building when broken off because then they are weak. Abiding – connected – branches are good for one thing: bearing fruit. Broken – disconnected – branches are also good for one thing: burning. (Actually two things if you count hiding places for serpents.)

The branches of the “copy” – of an actual grapevine – have little choice but to abide. They they have no consciousness or responsibility. But believers on the True Vine must abide in order to bear fruit. There is responsibility involved. “Abide” means to take up residence – to “remain.” Abiding is not intending to make a temporary home. People don’t normally go to a hotel or make an encampment with the intention of “abiding.”

Next time, we will try to learn how to be good abiders.

The Bookends of Faith (Part 1)

November 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Posted in Exodus, John, The Bookends of Faith | 31 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Here are the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John:

1. I AM the Bread of Life (6:35)

2. I AM the Light of the World (8:12)

3. I AM the Door (10:9)

4. I AM the Good Shepherd (10:11)

5. I AM the Resurrection, and the Life (11:25)

6. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6)

7. I AM the True Vine (15:1)

I AM the Bread of Life and I AM the True Vine: these two principles are the “bookends of faith” in the deity of Christ.

For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 6:38

The Bread of Life came down from Heaven. Only God could come down from Heaven.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

John 15:4

The True Vine provides life to the branches, and, because the branches are “in” the Vine, they are secure. Only God can give and preserve life.

The two words that John 6:35 and 15:1 have in common are “I AM.”

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

God told Moses, “I AM THAT I AM.” God is unexplainable. God is unending (eternal and infinite – unending and unbeginning). God is uncommon (truly unique). In John Chapter 6 Jesus had performed a miracle. He had made five loaves into enough bread to feed a whole multitude. Many were grateful for this miracle, but few were grateful because of what it taught or what it pronounced: It pronounced that Jesus was God.

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

John 6:26

Most were grateful because of what it provided.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

John 6:41-42

Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would duplicate the miracle of the manna, but Jesus didn’t call down bread from Heaven – He was the Bread from Heaven. The manna was a type and Christ was the reality, but like every “type” that Christ fulfilled, He not only fulfilled it, He also turned out to be a “better-than” the type.

Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

John 6:49

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

John 6:51

How Jesus was like the manna:

1. The manna was a mystery. It’s name meant “what is it.”

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

Exodus 16:15

Jesus seemed mysterious to those who saw Him.

But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

John 6:36

2. The manna came when it was dark.

And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.

Exodus 16:21

Jesus came into a (spiritually) dark world.

3. The manna was small and round.

And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.

Exodus 16:14

Jesus was not physically significant or socially “important.” Like a round object, which has no beginning and no end, Jesus, being God, is eternal.

4. The manna was white and sweet.

And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

Exodus 16:31

White represents purity and sinlessness – Jesus was pure inside and out. Although the manna was sweet, Jesus is even sweeter.

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Psalm 34:8

5. Manna was given to a rebellious people.

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Exodus 16:3

Jesus came to seek and save rebellious sinners.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

John 6:41

6. The manna had to be either picked up (received) or trampled.

Jesus must be received or rejected (despised.) Make no mistake, when you reject Christ, you are doing far worse than stepping on Him.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3

Jesus was treated as utterly vile and was completely forsaken by men. He experienced the kinds of feelings associated with rejection that make you physically sick.

7. Manna sustained life. Jesus gave life – eternal life.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:35

Next time, we will ask, “Are you more grateful for what the I AM proves or for what it provides?”

Don’t Beat around the Bush

May 24, 2010 at 11:57 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Common Expressions, Exodus | 11 Comments
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The origin of the expression “beating around the bush” is thought to be from when hunters would employee folks known as “beaters.” These beaters (sort of the bird-hunting equivalent of golf caddies maybe) would beat the bushes to scare up birds. They would “beat around the bush” until the hunter would raise his shotgun and “get to the point.”

The common expression, “stop beating around the bush,” reminds us of Exodus Chapter 3:

Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

Exodus 3:1-3

Moses had killed an Egyptian and fled from Pharaoh. God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and gave him a clear specific order. But instead of obeying right away, Moses started “beating around the bush.”

Sometimes we tend to do the same thing when God tells us to do something we don’t want to do. We don’t usually just say “No, God, I am in rebellion against You. Therefore, I flat-out refuse to do what You say.” Instead, we “rationalize.” The sin of rationalization, along with pride, may be our most frequent sin. I remember, as a kid, seeing a movie called The Big Chill. One of the characters, played by Jeff Goldblum, was explaining to his friends how frequently we rely on rationalizations. I’m sure this is a paraphrase after all this time, but he said something like, “Rationalizations are more important to us than anything. Try to get through a whole day without at least one big juicy rationalization.”

Here are Moses’s excuses or rationalizations – his “bush-beating:”

1. Who am I?

And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

Exodus 3:11

Moses says, “I’m not worthy, I’m a nobody,” and God basically says, “You’re right, but I will be with you.”

And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.

Exodus 3:12

2. Who are You?

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13–14

Moses didn’t have a Bible, but today we can know if we’re really hearing from God by comparing what we hear to God’s Word.

3. How will I keep them from thinking I’m crazy at best, or lying at worst?

And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

Exodus 4:1

God told Moses that He would give him what he needed to do the job. Moses yielded his rod to God. When he thought of it as his, it was just a crutch. But when he thought of it as God’s, God used it to do His work.

4. What if I can’t say it the right way?

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

Exodus 4:10-12

When we realize that our rod isn’t really our rod, and our tongue isn’t really our tongue – when we yield them to God, He can use them.

5. How about somebody else?

And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.

Exodus 4:13-16

This fifth rationalization seemed to make God mad. However, He told Moses to take Aaron along with him, reminding him that he would be accountable for him.

Let’s not rationalize and beat around the bush with God. When it’s time to serve Him, let’s trust Him, believe His Word, bring along a friend, and work together for God.

What Is God Like?

December 18, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Exodus | 33 Comments
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And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

Was Moses really concerned about what name he would give to God before the people? He told God, “They shall say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say unto them?” But God had already told him in Exodus 3:6: “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy 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 upon God.”

Moses had several questions – and several excuses – but what he was really asking is revealed partially by what he asked about himself in Exodus 3:11: “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses wanted to know, “Who am I? What am I like?” So, when he asked God, “What shall I tell them when they ask me Your name?” what he was really asking God was, “What are You like? How can I describe You? To what can I compare You? What are You really like?”

The Bible has many names for God: Elohim, El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Olam, Yahweh (YHWH), Yahweh Jireh, Yahweh Nissi, Yahweh Shalom, Yahweh Sabbaoth, Yahweh Maccaddeshcem, Yahweh Ro’I, Yahweh Tsidken, Yahweh Shammah, Yahweh Elohim Israel, Adonai, Theos, Kurios, Despotes, Father, just to name a few. God cannot be fully described by men as to Who He is, so we are given to know Him by what He does. There are many names that describe a part of what God is, but what people throughout Scripture have asked is, “God, what are You really like?”

Micah, Micaiah, Michal, Michael are all Bible names that ask the rhetorical question: “Who is like God?” This question points out the real problem with explaining what God is really like; as several well-known theologians and preachers have pointed out: There is no one and no thing to which to compare Him. I know we’ve all been told, as privileged people, that we’re “special,” but the fact is, as human beings, there are many, many ways in which we are all similar to each other. But God had to say “I AM” because He could point to no one outside of Himself and say, “He is like Me” or “She is like Me,” or “I am like that.” The truth is: He is like nothing else at all.

When we speak of the problem of making a comparison concerning God, we begin to understand the true concept of God’s holiness. Of all the attributes which make up the glory of God, His holiness may be the most significant – especially when it comes to trying to grasp at His true nature – what He is like. The angels near the throne of God do not cry out love, love, love, or righteous, righteous, righteous, or grace, grace, grace, or even mighty, mighty, mighty, although all of these would be true. What they cry out is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3). The name for God’s Spirit is not the Peace Spirit, or the Joy Spirit, or even the Faith Spirit, although He is a Spirit of peace, joy, and faith. His name is the Holy Spirit.

There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

I Samuel 2:2

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Isaiah 43:3

God is holy because of His complete uniqueness, and because in Him is no sin. One of the reasons that, throughout Scripture, the holiness of God is so tied into the idea of sinlessness or freedom from sin, is that a sinful world’s most obvious difference between us and God is that we sin, and He does not.

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

God has no beginning and no end. He is all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, timeless, providential. As one well-known preacher says, God is not like us, only wiser, or more powerful, or more righteous – He is not LIKE us at all!

God told Moses to tell the people that God is “I AM THAT I AM,” and for something like 1500 years people asked, “Who is like God?” Then, Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene – a sinless humble obeyer of God’s Word. Jesus is our best look at what God is really like. It was as if God answered and said, “You want to know who is like Me? He is like Me – now learn His ways, and follow Him – He will show you what I am really like” (Matthew 11:27).

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 1:17-18 (See John 14:7-10.)

Learning what God is really like will be an eternal undertaking – but while we are here on earth we must learn about the Father by walking with, talking with, emulating, worshiping, and magnifying His Son.


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