|“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says |
the Lord God, “who is, and who was,
and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Whether or not you’ve spent a lifetime in church, or just walked through life immersed in cultural references, you’ve likely heard of the phrase “the burning bush.” In case you’re not familiar with this incident in the life of the Patriarch Moses, let me share it with you from Exodus 3:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’
“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
“And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”
One of the most interesting aspects of this incident in Moses’ life—at least interesting to me—occurs when Moses asks God what God’s name is. That’s a reasonable thing to do. We are known by our name. Think about it. Even the people who know us the very best identify us by our names. In fact, our names are a short-form abbreviation for our reputation. If people know us by our name, they also associate our reputations with those names.
So, if God is sending Moses to make an almost unbelievable request of the Egyptians, to whom the people of Israel are enslaved, it is quite understandable that Moses wants to identify the One sending him on this scary assignment. By reporting the name of the One who has sent him, Moses can somewhat insulate himself from at least part of the wrath that will surely result from this request.
God’s answer to Moses is equally fascinating to me. God says, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).
Ponder God’s answer for just a moment. God identifies Himself as “I am who I am.” In other words, “I am the person I have always been, the person that I am at this present moment, and the person I always will be for all eternity.” In these few short words, God declares His eternal existence. As difficult as it may be for our poor finite minds to comprehend, God has always been who He is. And, He will always be who He is, as time reaches out toward eternity.
Throughout Scripture, God affirms His name: “I am who I am.” In speaking to the Apostle John, God makes this statement found in Revelation 1:8:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
You probably realize that the letters Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the New Testament Greek alphabet. Just as young pre-school children learn to say, “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…” So young children in the first century A.D. learned to say, “Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu…” all the way to Omega.” By identifying Himself with the beginning and ending of the New Testament Greek alphabet, God is illustrating, in a very concrete way, that He is both the beginning and ending of all things.
Then, God seals this description by repeating a phrase similar to the phrase He used with Moses: “…who is, and was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
“Let there be no confusion,” God says to John. “I am the one and only true God. I created all things and by my hand all things exist. When I speak to you in the moments that lie ahead, you can count on the truthfulness and accuracy of what I have to say.”
As we continue to move forward into another year on the calendar, let’s remain conscious of the fact that in this time of transition—and in every moment of every day of our lives, both now and in the life to come—God is still the same. He has always been, He is now, and He ever will be. He created us. He sustains us. He loves us. He extends His grace to us. He grants us His mercy. That reality should become the anchor point of our lives.