When God Promises His Presence

Moses’ call is one of the most striking in the Bible. A miracle, dialogue (with God!), promises—it’s all there.

The whole story—from big plot points to small details—is fascinating. At the center, we see a man questioning his call. We have a lot to learn from God’s response.

The Background

The beginning of Exodus 3 finds Moses in Midian, the country to which he ran when Egypt was no longer safe. He has a wife and family, and he works for his father-in-law as a shepherd.

While carrying out his shepherdly duties, Moses is confronted not only with the famous burning bush but also with God himself (Ex. 3:6). God announces his compassionate intention to free his people and take them to a good land, and he plans to send Moses to do this enormous work. Moses isn’t exactly ready for this.

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11)

The Question

Moses might deserve some criticism for his later excuses (recorded in Exodus 4), but this seems like an honest, natural response. Who am I to do this? Consider some of the reasons behind his question.

Moses doesn’t have a great history with Pharoahs. Though he grew up in a previous king’s home, that same man tried to kill him (Ex. 2:15).

Moses has been away from Egypt for about 40 years. The Hebrew people last saw him as nosy and scared (Ex. 2:14). Will they remember him? Will they follow him?

Not being a military or political leader, Moses wasn’t an obvious choice for this job. He was just a shepherd in the wilderness. He didn’t seem prepared or qualified.

Finally, Moses tried to stand up to Egyptian oppression once before, and it did not end well. Moses killed an Egyptian he saw beating a Hebrew (Ex. 2:12). But instead of being grateful, the Hebrews resented Moses putting himself in the place of “prince and judge” (Ex. 2:14). What would they say if he tried to take charge, give orders, and lead the nation?

God’s Answer

On a first reading, it doesn’t seem like God answers Moses’ question.

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.” (Exodus 3:12)

God gives Moses a personal promise and an outward sign. The promise is simply I will be with you. Is this answer supposed to be reassuring?

Yes! If we consider how God has revealed himself to Moses, we’ll see why this promise is comforting.

God is sovereign and mighty. He began to call Moses with a miracle (the burning bush). He makes the very place where he appears holy (Ex. 3:5). He is the covenant-keeping, faithful God of Moses’ ancestors (Ex. 3:6).

But God is also tender and compassionate. He has seen the hardships of his people, he has heard their cries. He knows their sufferings and has come down to deliver them. (See Exodus 3:7–9.)

God wasn’t concerned about Moses being lonely. His presence isn’t that of a stuffed animal, a guard dog, or even a best friend.

God promises his holy, fiery, powerful, loving presence. With his own background and qualifications, Moses didn’t know where to start. But with God’s presence, he would be unstoppable.

God Qualifies Us

There’s at least one lesson for us to learn here. By God’s presence, he qualifies us for our callings.

The Bible frequently uses Moses and the Exodus to point to Jesus and the cross, and this is no exception. The calling of Moses corresponds to Jesus’ baptism. God anointed Jesus for his saving task by sending the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:9–11).

God makes the same promise to each Christian that he made to Moses. By his Spirit, he will be with us. (See John 14:15–17 and Hebrews 13:5.) God calls us to himself and then to particular roles and tasks. His ongoing, holy presence with us qualifies us for our calling.

This doesn’t make our calling easy or even something we’re supposed to face on our own. But God’s abiding presence means we can face even the scariest challenges with confidence.

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Links for the Weekend (5/1/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

The Subversive Habit of Boastful Prayer

Trevin Wax has written before about subversive habits, by which he means habits which help keep the story of the Bible as the central story governing our lives. In this article he talks about the sort of prayer that boasts in the Lord and not in ourselves.

Boasting takes it up a notch, and in prayer it becomes subversive precisely because our natural inclination is to turn our praise toward ourselves, to speak highly of our treasures, our strengths, and our accomplishments. When we turn our focus away from ourselves and we look for reasons to boast in God, we push aside what is lesser and we grow in our love for the God we now adore specifically.

Zoomed Out: Freedom from Consuming All the Resources During Quarantine

R.D. McClenagan is exhausted by all of the content available for him to consume during the Coronavirus lockdown. He writes to remind us that the measure of how you’re doing as a Christian is not how much you are consuming or producing, but the quality of the life of your soul.

I want to give you the freedom to seek Christ and his kingdom first in this time—the freedom to be Mary in an online Martha world (Luke 10:38-42). There are many tasks to accomplish and there are many resources out there to accomplish them, but the most important task is to set your heart unto the Lord in this time. You don’t have to make your life group the most dynamic it has ever been, or figure out how to live generously like never before by the time stay-at-home orders are fully lifted, or feel the pressure to continue to project a greater spirituality to online masses than you actually have in your soul.

The Case for Donating Your Stimulus Check

Many people have seen or will soon see some money from the federal government make its way into their bank account. How should we use this money as faithful citizens of the kingdom of God? David Ingold suggests that for some people, a faithful response might be to give some or all of the money away. Whether or not you agree with his conclusion, the questions he asks (as well as the resources he provides) in this article are valuable.

The Kingdom of God is like the Shepherd who goes out into the wilderness to find the one lost sheep. It’s when prisoners go free, and the lame walk. It’s the age of Jesus, our crucified King who left his glory and riches behind to be born of a poor, virgin girl, a girl who sang out: “He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” It’s the widow who gives her last dollar into the offering.

Was Moses Really the Author of the Pentateuch?

There is both internal and external evidence in the Bible for Moses writing the first five books of the Old Testament. Here is a short video (just 3.5 minutes) from William Wood of Reformed Theological Seminary laying out the arguments.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

The Incarnation of Aaron

It was a rough mom day: Toddler up early, breakfast residue on the table, cold coffee, quick tempers all around. By about 9:30 a.m., I needed a hug. So much so that I scooped up my unruly child and asked for one. 

She peed on me. 

I should have turned to God, should have been like Susanna Wesley (mother of John and Charles) and thrown my apron over my head to pray. But what I wanted was clean clothes and, still, a hug.

Prayer is effective, and the Holy Spirit’s presence is real. But some days you just need something to touch.

God wants us to turn to him in all circumstances, whether crisis or joy. He genuinely cares for us! He also knows that we are physical beings—he made our bodies with their needs and limits. Even Jesus, when he took his most fervent prayer to God in the Garden of Gethsemane, brought friends. 

A Physical Brother

Before Moses was a patriarch, leader of Israel, and Scripture author, he was a shepherd offering three separate objections to God. Out of excuses, he finally asked God: “Please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). 

God’s response is equal parts comforting and humbling: “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart’” (Exodus 4:14, emphasis added).

Aaron, led by God, was already on his way to Moses, probably before the bush began to burn. If Moses had trusted God and accepted his mission, Aaron still would have come to aid him. God knew that tangible, personal support is important for physical beings. God himself declared: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). 

We are certainly to seek comfort, wisdom, and solutions from God through prayer and Scripture as a first resort. God often responds to those prayers through people: friends, the local church, spouses, doctors, and therapists. Sometimes he uses dogs, warm blankets, or coffee. Much like Aaron, our help may be on its way before we think to ask. 

A Physical God

Aaron appears in the desert as an incarnate demonstration of God’s presence and provision. In that way, he is a type of Christ. 

God knows our need for physical connection so intimately that he made himself incarnate, in a body that sleeps and cries and eats, in the form of his son Jesus: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). 

Jesus knows our weakness, sympathizes with our suffering, and stands with us in temptation, because he has physically experienced it all as we have. Ours is not an abstract God out of touch with our lives, or a haughty God who refuses to interact with our menial existence. Ours is a loving God who humbled himself to experience life in the world he himself created. God became physical, so we can trust that he understands our physical needs and desires.

A Physical Savior

Aaron was later appointed the first high priest of Israel (Hebrews 5:4), the intercessor between the people and God. But he, like all his successors, was an imperfect high priest: he had to sacrifice for his own sins, in addition to those of the people (Hebrews 5:3). 

As our perfect high priest, Jesus lived through the range of human experiences but was without sin. He then offered up his own body as the physical sacrifice, the shedding of blood, that was necessary to forgive our sin and fully restore our relationship with God (Hebrews 9:22). 

Because Jesus physically lived and physically died (and physically resurrected and ascended!), we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). 

The weather is turning crisp. It’s the season for warm drinks and cozy sweaters. Thank God for these tactile comforts! Call out to God in your struggles—but also maybe call or text someone. Man wasn’t meant to be alone. The help God sends may be a spiritual peace, a miraculous intervention, or simply a friend to hug.

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