In Exodus 3, we find Moses tending his flocks near Mt. Horeb. The once prince of Egypt now wilderness shepherd approaches the mountain of God and encounters a divine anomaly, a bush that burns but is not consumed by the fire. It is on this holy ground that the Living God is present and speaks to Moses. God has seen and heard the cry of His people, the Israelites, who are slaves in Egypt, and charges Moses with the task of leading them out of slavery.
Standing barefoot on sacred soil with his face covered, Moses replies to God’s call with two questions.
But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’
Rather than answering Moses’ apparent question, God speaks to his hidden fear, How am I going to accomplish this?
God responds simply.
I will be with you.
God expounds on His answer as Moses speaks his second question, What should I tell them your name is?
In a moment, God’s answer explodes with meaning beyond Moses’ comprehension. God’s name breaks time and space; it rings throughout eternity. By His very name, God declares His supreme lordship over the past (I am the God of your fathers), the future (I will be with you), and the present: I AM WHO I AM.
I was. I am. and I will be.
Today and forever.
Moses longs to know what lies ahead. How does God expect him to accomplish this enormous task, not only of leading thousands of people out of slavery, but of standing against Pharaoh’s authority?
In chapter 4, more questions spill out. What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you”? (v. 1)
God addresses Moses’ fears by pointing to His presence in the past – I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He responds to Moses’ doubts by reminding him of His presence in the future – ‘Who gave human beings their mouths? … Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’ (v. 11,12)
Though separated by centuries, we too find ourselves often paralyzed by fear and overcome with worry. Tomorrow carries unknowns and questions, and like Moses, we often raise our voices with excuses as we imagine tomorrow’s troubles clashing with our inadequacy.
But then God speaks His name to us as He did to Moses. Our worries, our fears, fade in the presence of the One who IS today and who WILL BE forever. For God’s most holy name is expressed both I AM WHO I AM and I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.
To God, there is no tomorrow to worry about. His very name proclaims His presence and His present-ness. As He spoke to Moses, so He speaks to us: I will be with you. To fear tomorrow is to abide where God has not yet called us.
A.W. Tozer writes in The Knowledge of the Holy,
God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as He has lived all our yesterdays.
God’s very presence is with us, today and forever; and His provision is sufficient for every day’s demands. Even in the face of global calamity, the Psalmist reminds us of God’s present-ness.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the seas, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46:1)
We arrive in the New Testament and encounter the Eternal God who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. God Incarnate, Jesus Christ, broke through the barrier of time.
The One who dwells in eternity came to dwell in time.
With revelation and wonder anew, the eternal I AM came to dwell among us – God with us!
During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus addresses our worries over tomorrow. (Matthew 6:25-34) He directs us to look at the birds of the air and to consider the lilies of the field. They abide fully in today with the joy and obedience their Creator intended.
And the beautiful thing is, they know no other way of living. The birds, the flowers know Who is caring for them, today and forever. They need not fear tomorrow.
Jesus invites to abide in this same obedient trust and joyful living.
On this side of Heaven, we will wrestle with the tension of time and eternity. As image bearers of the Eternal God, the unknown wonder of eternity beats in our hearts. The longing to be released from the limits and heartache of time is sometimes overwhelming.
To be made for eternity and forced to dwell in time is for mankind a tragedy of human proportions. All within us cries for life and permanence, and everything around us reminds us of mortality and change. Yet that God has made us of the stuff of eternity is both a glory yet to be realized and a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. (Tozer)
The writer of Ecclesiastes describes the tension in this way: He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (3:11)
Our finite minds cannot comprehend the eternity of God; we stagger at the thought of the Living God being Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. And yet, He has placed this baffling reality into the deepest part of who we are.
He created us to long for eternity. He created us to long for Him.
God Eternal, the Great I AM, knows our longing; He has experienced it firsthand. In the midst of our longing and in the face of our fear, He speaks His name to us again. I AM WHO I AM and I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. In His Name, we are sure of His presence and His provision. Tomorrow’s troubles do not grip us, for I AM is with us today and He WILL BE forever.