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Evan Earwicker: Hallowed Be Your Name, Exodus 3:3-15

June 18, 2024

Audio Recording

God reveals His divine name “I Am,” to Moses at the burning bush, signifying His eternal and unchanging nature. Pastor Evan encourages us to recognize God’s presence in our everyday lives and accept our part in His epic story.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Evan Earwicker: Hallowed Be Your Name, Exodus 3:3-15
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Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

If we only knew God as God. That's a pretty generic title, right? There's religions all over the world that worship God, that worship a deity and call that God by that general name, God. And so what we do is we actually need more specificity. We need to be more clear about who we worship when we come into a place like this, or we say, I want to follow after a certain faith or religion, we are speaking of a specific God. Right.

If you have a common name, like, how many johns do we have in the room?

Okay. Yeah, we got johns all over the room. How many? Let's see.

What's a common woman's name?

Mary. How many marys do we have in the room?

None.

That was great. Okay, so if I said, hey, John, John, come up here, you would say, well, which John? Right? Which one? And I think when we talk about God, if we just say, well, I worship God. Well, there's a lot of religions that worship God. And so what we do in the Bible, actually, is we go to this as our source to understand which specifically, which God are we speaking of?

What is his name?

What is his story that we can understand more? And so without a story and without a more specific name, a last name, a more defining characteristic, we worship a God that we don't know.

And what is so evident, as we'll see today, is that God intends to reveal himself to you.

This is the nature of God is one who is constantly saying, this is who I am. If you feel like you don't know God, if you feel like you're far away from God, God comes to us, as he will today, to Moses, and says, this is who I am. And one day in the story, we get to the gospels, where God, through the coming of Jesus, says, ultimately for all time, this is who I am.

And we have in Jesus the perfect picture of who God is.

But long before that moment, we come to Exodus, chapter three, where God, for the very first time, is going to reveal his name, not just as a general deity, but a specific name. Who is this God who the people are looking for and crying out to for deliverance? Background of this story, long before 400 years, actually, before this story picks up today, the patriarch Joseph settles in Egypt.

He rises in the ranks of the Egyptian hierarchy, becoming second in command to the pharaoh at the time he finds favor there. A famine sweeps across the land. And so Pharaoh says, JOSeph, bring all your family, bring your father, bring your brothers. Bring all of your livestock and everybody and settle here. There's food here, resources here. And so THEY DO this. 70 people come from the land of Canaan, and they settle in the land of Egypt. Well, 400 years go by, JOSEPH and his entire generation die off. That pharaoh dies off, and the pharaohs that come after him begin to see this growing group of hebrew people in this nation and get very nervous about the power that is represented in this growing population. And so they enslave the hebrew people. And so, 400 years later, the people of ISrael are crying out for deliverance to God, but they don't know specifically the name of this God.

Meanwhile, a hebrew baby named Moses is born.

If you were here last week, we heard that story. He is raised in the house of Pharaoh as a son of Egypt. Once he comes of age, he is aware of his ethnicity and his lineage, and so he feels this deeply. We find this in acts chapter seven, that Moses feels this calling, this purpose to be a deliverer for his people, the hebrew people, even though he's a son of Egypt.

And so he sees this slave master, this taskmaster beating a hebrew slave, and he rises up in anger and he kills the egyptian. And in Moses mind, this is the beginning of Moses becoming the deliverer of his people.

But those around him that see him do this don't see it that way. In acts chapter seven, Stephen in the New Testament, is retelling the story. It says Moses thought his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

They did not see Moses as this great deliverer. They saw him as an angry young man.

And so Moses, now a fugitive from his egyptian house and unwelcome by his own hebrew people, he flees out into the desert, into hiding. And there he spends 40 more years tending flocks for his father in law, Jethro, in the land of Midian.

And so it's out here in hiding that Moses grows old.

He was 40 when he left Egypt, and now he is 80 years old. And certainly his dreams of being a deliverer for his people are by now dead and gone.

But isn't it true that God does some of his best work with washed up people in wilderness places?

Isn't that good news that when we think our best days maybe are behind us, when we assume that the failures of our past have written us a certain future that looks like our purpose is missing and our failures are too great to overcome?

Isn't it a beautiful thing to think that maybe God comes to us to re spark and restart purpose in our lives.

Exodus, chapter three. And we're going to see as this happens for Moses. One day, Moses was tending the flock of his father in law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock far into the wilderness, and he came to Sinai, the mountain of God. If you know the story of Moses, you'll know that Sinai is a place where Moses will return. This is a place in the desert where Moses will lead his people out of Egypt. And as they wander in the wilderness, they're going to come to this very same patch of ground, Sinai. This is where Moses is going to receive the ten commandments. This is where Moses is going to encounter God again.

There, the angel of the Lord, verse two, appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of the bush, and Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn't burn up. This is amazing. Moses said to himself, why isn't that bush burning up? I must go and see it. And when the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush. Moses. Moses. Here I am, Moses replied. Like, what else do you say when a bush is talking to you? Like, is there another Moses? No, it's you. Yes, I'm here.

Do not come any closer. The Lord warned. Take off your sandals, for you were standing on holy ground.

You're standing on holy ground.

You know, it's interesting for God to say that the ground where Moses is, is holy. Would have been an interesting thing for Moses to hear, because as someone raised in the royal household of Egypt, Moses would have been well acquainted with sacred spaces.

Moses would have been so familiar with the rituals and ceremonies that would have happened in the egyptian temples, the sacrifices made to egyptian gods, all of the pomp and circumstance that came with sacred spaces in Egypt.

And yet, here he is in the dirt and the dust of the wilderness. And another voice, a new voice comes out of this bush, and it says, moses, take off those filthy sandals, because you are in a place that is unlike any other place you've ever been.

And in the ordinary setting of the wilderness, amongst the goats and the sheep, in the heat of the desert and the absolutely forgettable landscape that Moses is walking in, God shows up and encounters Moses. And when God shows up, oftentimes I believe this, it's not in spaces like this that are curated for a spiritual experience. Oftentimes, God encounters us in the ordinary spaces of our everyday lives.

And what makes it holy is not the trappings and the environment and the music. What makes it holy is that God has desired to encounter and to meet with you if you have eyes to see it when he shows up.

And I think oftentimes we make the mistake of assuming that God is uninterested in meeting with us or that God only comes to places like this. And I have this sneaking suspicion that God would encounter us every single day in the most ordinary of places if we had eyes to see it. It makes me wonder how many bushes had been burning in that wilderness. How many shepherds had walked by and not noticed before Moses took the time to realize that something special was happening. How oftentimes do we miss the moments where God would encounter us in the everyday and ordinary places of our lives?

We continue on in verse six, God says, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And when Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God. I love that. In this moment, Moses realized.

He realizes that his hiding hasn't worked with whoever's in that bush.

Moses has been hiding his identity. He's been hiding his past. He's been hiding his criminal activity. He's been hiding his lineage. He's tried to start over, like, fugitive style, right? And so far, it's worked really well. And he gets to this moment, and out of the bush, the word of the Lord comes to him and says, moses, I'm the God of your father and of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He's saying, moses, you can't hide from. From me.

I see you, and I know you, and I know you've been on the run. But the running is over because I know who you are. Moses.

And Moses hides his face.

I think, oftentimes, we hide.

We hide in plain sight. Oftentimes, we hide from our past. We hide from our failures.

We hide from each other, from relationship and intimacy. We hide from accountability. We hide from being willing to fully put ourselves in a place of vulnerability with one another. We hide.

And oftentimes, God comes and he says, listen, I know why and where you've been, and I see you, and I know you. And that would be enough, probably, if God just said, moses, I know everything about you, and laid out Moses life plan and then went away. But what happens next is powerful, because God has an intention towards Moses not only to express to Moses that he knows Moses, but also to say, now, Moses, you have an opportunity to know me.

Do you know what it is? Someone who knows everything about you, but you don't know anything about them? That's a stalker, my friends. Right, like, as a stalker. That's illegal in most states.

And here we have God, and God is no stalker. Maybe that should be the title of the message. God is no stalker.

He actually wants to be in a relationship where he not only knows you, but he is known by you.

And this is how. When Jesus sits on the mountain with his disciples and they say, teach us how to pray, he starts his prayer with the words, our father, who art in heaven, hallowed, holy, sacred be your name. One, he's a father. He is close, and he is intimate with his children. And number two, he has a name that we can know.

God has been revealed to us even as we are known by him.

Verse nine. Look, the cry of the people of Israel has reached me. And I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abused them. Now go. For I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people, Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses protested to God, who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people out of Egypt? Do you ever feel that? Who am I? Response, come on. It's Father's day. I know some of you dads. You're like, man, when I knew that first kid was coming, that was the who am I? Moment. I feel, like a lot of pressure.

Who am I? Who am I to do anything of significance in my life? Who am I to find purpose? That is something that God has called me to. Who am I? With my mistakes and my failures? Who am I? I don't have the talent. I don't have the skill set. I don't have the experience. Who am I?

And here's what God says.

It doesn't really matter who you are, because I'm gonna be with you.

And I wanna tell you that if you are in a who am I? Moment, maybe you have a big decision coming, or a life change or a new chapter is starting and you feel like you are inadequate for the task that lies ahead of you. I want you to hear this loud and clear, that it's less important about what you don't have, and it's more important about who goes with you.

That the who am I? Is met with. Who are you? God.

And the answer to that who are you? Will give you the confidence you need to do what God is calling you to.

Who am I?

God answered, I will be with you.

I will be with you.

Moses protested again. If I go to the people, this is verse 13 of Israel. And I tell them, the God of your ancestors has sent me to you. They will ask, well, what's his name? And then what should I tell them? And God replied to Moses, I am who I am.

That's a weird name.

Say this to the people of Israel. I am has sent me to you. So this is really fascinating, that God, who has up to this point, been only known as God. This general term for a deity, Elohim, in the book of Genesis.

Now he says, you want to know my name? Here's my name. I am.

This speaks to the nature of God that what he was, he currently is, and what he currently is, he will always be. It speaks to the nature of God's faithfulness, steadfastness, and unwillingness to be thrown to and fro by his mood or his circumstances. And we know this in human relationships, right, that we are not always what we are.

Some of you, you got married and you realize you married somebody different than you thought you were getting when you started that relationship, right? Because we have good days and bad days.

We sometimes are this and sometimes are that. God baked into his name is this idea that what he was, he is, and what he is, he will be forever, completely steadfast, completely faithful to his word and his promise and his covenant.

And so when he says, I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and my name is I am, he's saying, what I was then, I am now. And the way I came through for them is the same way I'm going to come through now for the people that are crying out for deliverance.

And then God also said to Moses in verse 15, say this to the people of Israel, Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has sent me to you. And if you're reading that and thinking, well, that's a second name, that's odd.

This is a grammar thing, right? So I am is something that God calls himself, but he's saying, Moses, when you talk about me, you need to use the name he is and what is he is. In Hebrew, it's Yahweh. So it's the same name I am, and Yahweh is the exact same name. It's just in the third person. So Moses is instructed, when you go there, don't say I am. They'll get confused.

Right? You need to say he is. Who is this God that has sent you to deliver us? He told me his name, the divine name of God. He is. He is what he is everything he ever was, and he is everything he ever will be. He is faithful to his promise, and he's come to deliver us.

God reveals his divine name in this moment to Moses.

And it's this moment that Jesus is going to reference some thousand years later when we get to the book of John, if you remember, Jesus throughout his ministry is slowly revealing more about himself and his mission.

He is slowly revealing that maybe, just maybe for the disciples, that he is the messiah, the promised one. And we get to John chapter eight, and Jesus is in the temple and he's surrounded by the religious leaders and they're trying to catch him in saying something incriminating. And in John 858, Jesus turns to them. And this is what Jesus says. And Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am.

And if you want to know how to make religious leaders in Jesus day really mad, just start referencing yourself with the divine name of the eternal God.

This is what Jesus does. And in one phrase, one sentence, he equates himself with the divine presence Yahweh.

And why this is important is because we have to draw the line between the revelation of who God was and the burning bush in Moses moment to this moment where Jesus shows up on the scene and says, I am the picture of who God fully is.

Jesus would sit with his disciples and the disciple Thomas would turn to him, or Philip would turn to him and Philip would say, jesus, can you please show us God? Show us the Father. I don't think we've seen him.

And Jesus turns and he says, philip, have you been with me so long and yet you don't see that if you've seen me, you've seen the father.

That if you're looking for the. I am the ancient God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If you're looking to see him, look at me.

I am the picture of who God is. And why is this so important? It's because we can look to the Jesus of the gospels and if we want to know how God acts and thinks and feels in the world, we have a perfect picture in Jesus himself, how Jesus treats people who are on the margins of society. It's in the gospels that tells us how God feels about people in the margins, how Jesus is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of salvation and love for hurting people. That's exactly how God feels, because Jesus is the perfect picture of who God is.

Eugene Peterson talking about this moment of the burning bush. He said, the burning bush is an invitation to listen and to pay attention to God's presence in our lives. It's called to recognize the holy ground in our daily existence.

I think there are burning bushes all around us, where we experience not just the knowledge of who God is, but the presence, the presence of Jesus, who is the perfect picture of God.

I think oftentimes we can feel like the only way that the gospel gets through to people is through a very clear evangelical presentation of logic and scripture and an explanation and a convincing explanation why people should come to Jesus. But what I've found is this, that wherever we go, if we have the Holy spirit with us, if God is truly with us, wherever we go, the gospel is being preached.

And I was struck by this. Just this past Friday, we were at my son's kindergarten class, and they were doing their end of year concert.

Just stunning musical skills there.

That was really sweet. And after the concert, everyone was kind of just hanging out in the common area. And one of our westsiders came up to me, and maybe you're here today. If you are, I'm so glad you're here. But she said, hey, you're Evan, right? And I was wearing a hat. My most recognizable feature is my head, of course. So people are like, is that. I don't know. That's. Yeah, it was me. And so said hello, and we started talking, and I was just so struck by this young woman who is working at my son's public school. And I had this thought as I'm speaking with her, that me as the pastor, as the spiritual leader of this community, I don't need to go to my son's school. And at the end of the last song, stand up on a chair and say, excuse me, I have some things to say, too.

It's a good way to get kicked out of a school, but I don't have to do that. And the gospel will actually be present. Why?

Because she's there.

Because she's doing what she does every single day in loving kids and being an expression of the heart of Jesus for children.

And I could go on and on about the different ways. And I know it's not exclusive to our community, but just members of our community. You are out in our city and out and around being an expression, a tangible expression of the presence of God.

And I thought, how cool is it that people might experience a burning bush moment because they had a conversation with you?

We were, Alyssa and I were heading up to St. Charles. We're doing a time to pray with one of our Westside families at St. Charles a few weeks ago. And on the way in, Janelle, one of our Westside folks, was coming out, and she was saying, oh, I just had lunch with Noah. Her husband.

And we didn't realize Noah's a chaplain, and we didn't realize he had shifts at St. Charles. He said, yeah, he's loving just the way that he's able to minister as a chaplain to people in really, really difficult moments of their lives. And we're walking in, you know, to be the spiritual representation of west side. Right. And that's all good and fine, but what's so beautiful is already present was Noah doing his job that he does every day, expressing how much God loves hurting people and even at the end of their lives, that God sees them and knows them and hears them. Wow, I don't even need to be there. That's amazing.

And on and on the stories go, we've got people, you know, just speaking at the hospital. We've got people in the ER, we've got people in the OR, we've got people in the behavioral health ward. Thank God. Praise the Lord.

We've got people in the tech industry.

We've got folks all across working in grocery stores and trader Joe's. And on and on the list goes being an expression of the presence of God that people can encourage.

I was remembering back to just a few weeks ago, we celebrated Pentecost Sunday, which is a christian holiday across the world. And it's a moment to look back on acts chapter two, where Jesus had promised his Holy Spirit. And there are the followers of Jesus waiting for what, they don't know, but they're up in this upper room praying for whatever God would send. Whatever Jesus was sending, they were ready for it. And on the day of Pentecost, when in fully come, acts chapter two says, the Holy Spirit was poured out. And it was like a wind rushing through the room. But also, you know what it was? It was like little tongues of fire, little fires on each and every one of them. You know what that fire was?

It was the same fire that we saw in Exodus chapter three.

The same fire of God's presence that caused Moses to turn aside. The same fire that from within it spoke. I'm the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I am what I've always been, and I will be what I always will be. It's that same fire that comes now to everyone who will believe and ask, Holy Spirit, come, fill me that in this place, we have hundreds of burning bushes that will go out from this place and be places of encounter and holy ground for a world so desperately needs an encounter with the living God.

This is our calling. And if we hear this and we say, but who am I? We're in good company.

We're in good company because God would tell us it's not so much about what you are or what you are not. It's about who goes with you. So this should be our response as we get ready to wrap up today, our response to these burning bush moments in our lives. Number one, turn aside and see that God is present.

Turn aside and see that God is present in ordinary moments. Moments when normally we want to tune out and shut off. Maybe God is meeting us there in conversations, in quiet moments on our commute, that we would find God's presence all around us. Number two, take off. What is keeping you from holy ground? You know, it's interesting that the first thing God does is he says, Moses, you can't come any closer unless you're willing to lay some things aside.

Those sandals, which are very much a necessity in this climate. You wouldn't want to go barefoot in this desert. I get it, Moses. But to come any closer, you're going to have to take off some things. Even those things which are necessary and good and right. Sometimes we have to take off some things to allow ourselves to encounter the presence of a living God.

Take off what is keeping you from holy ground.

And then, third and last, accept your part in God's story.

Except that sometimes the person that God is calling is not somebody else. It's not somebody more talented. It's not somebody more righteous. It's not somebody more moral. Sometimes the person that God is calling to follow him is you.

It's you.

And sometimes that is a fearful thing. Sometimes that is full of uncertainty. And we look at the future and we say, not me, God. Not today.

And God says, listen, it's less important about what you lack. And it's actually all important that I go with.