Saturday, January 29, 2011

A God who needs no introduction: the source of our confidence and authority

     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.’”-Exodus 3:13-14 [NIV]

I've always found this passage of scripture interesting.  I may not have ever given it a second look except for the grammar issue presented when God says, "I AM has sent me to you."  It just sounds odd and I stumble over it every time I read it.  I'm grateful for that, though, because it addresses two issues so critical in my life, confidence and authority.

God has no issues with confidence.  He is who He is and it is regardless of anything we say or do as His created beings.  We can dream up all sorts of ideas about God, debate all sorts of theological questions about His nature and He never changes.  In fact, so unique is His nature as One who never changes, that He is able to simply refer to Himself as "I am" and we are to understand it is Him.  

God's confidence in who He is causes me to pause and reflect on my own confidence.  Most people confuse confidence and arrogance, and thus assume that we as Christians are not to show confidence since in their mind, that equates arrogance.  This is not at all true.  In fact, if our confidence is found in our closeness with the I AM, our confidence creates a humble attitude instead of an arrogant one.  If our confidence is found in He who made us, we too can stand up and say "I AM who I AM",  secure in knowing that we belong to Him and are His adopted sons and daughters.  And even more revelatory for me is the idea that if I cannot stand up and say, "I AM who I AM", then something is wrong with my relationship with Christ.  Either I am not trusting Him, or I am not finding my identity in Him or I know I have not submitted to His will. 

The second issue dealt with here is authority.  As a teacher and a leader, I get anxious about whether I have the authority to teach or lead whatever I may feel called to do.  Who am I to teach a bible study?  Who am I to guide new Christians?  Who am I to lead a prayer service?  Who am I to write a blog or a book?  Our modern society tells us that if we have a degree or if we've worked in a field for a certain amount of time that we have more "authority" for such things than others, but as I know more and more Christian leaders and teachers, it seems they all struggle with this question of "do I have the authority to be doing what I'm doing?", regardless of education or number of years of service.  And from the passage above, it looked like Moses struggled with whether he had the authority to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  In the verses just before the ones quoted above, Moses asks God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?"

God gives Moses, and us, the ultimate answer as to where our authority comes from.  "I AM has sent me to you."  Later God tells Moses to justify his authority to the Israelites by saying, "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."  He doesn't tell Moses to list his education, he doesn't tell Moses to talk about growing up amongst royalty, he doesn't tell Moses to justify himself by talking about his past experiences.  He simply tells him to justify his authority with saying, "God sent me." 

Even deeper, God has Moses talk to the Israelites about who God is and His authority, instead who Moses is.  Thus, authority comes down to a simple question...were you sent by God?  If so, you have authority.  If not, then you don't.  And it is up to us to draw close enough to God to have the wisdom and discernment to determine when we are being sent by God or not. 

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