God’s promises are good, but sometimes these promises are difficult because they demand that we obey God in faith. Faith can be like a sense that recognizes God’s faithfulness; yet, like a muscle, faith typically also requires some exercise to grow stronger.
The Lord promises that he will come down to bring Israel up into a good land large enough to hold them, a land providing milk and honey (3:8). But God also notes explicitly what they can expect there: the land currently belongs to somebody else, namely Canaanites and other peoples (3:8). That is, what lies ahead will be wonderful, but it will not be easy. Even when God has something good for us, sometimes he requires us to do something. He guarantees our success, but we still have to step out and take his gift by faith.
The first act of obedient faith here, however, must be Moses’s. God is going to send Moses to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (3:9). Moses, who has already failed abjectly as a deliverer once, rescuing at most a single Israelite (2:11-12), has different ideas. Who is he to stand up against the might of Pharaoh? Who is he even to go to Pharaoh, given that a recent Pharaoh wanted Moses dead (2:15; 4:19). But as Moses is soon to learn, defying the living God is far more serious and dangerous than defying Pharaoh. And God has more faith, or confidence, in what God will do through Moses than Moses does.
“Who am I,” a frightened Moses demands, “that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (3:11). Moses is asking, in effect, Who am I to do the very matters you have just commanded me? God does not answer Moses’s rhetorical protest regarding who Moses is, because that is irrelevant; what matters is that God will be with him (3:12). Moses asks, “Who am I?” (3:11), but God’s ultimate answer is “I am who I am” (3:14).
Someone once introduced Hudson Taylor, nineteenth-century founder of an effective ministry to China, as a very great man. When Hudson got up to speak, he countered that he was a very small man with a very great God. He understood the ministry principle that is also revealed in this passage.
God rarely calls us to do what we’re able to do in our own strength; we don’t need a calling for that. God instead often challenges us to go beyond our own resources. Doing that without God’s bidding can be presumption (cf. 2 Sam 2:18-23); indeed, even with his permission we sometimes have less faith than we think on our own initiative (cf. Matt 14:28-31). But when God truly summons us to faith, he is not asking us to imagine ourselves adequate for the task. Supposing that would be missing the point entirely. The point of Godward faith is not that we are adequate in ourselves. It is that God is more than adequate. He is truly worthy of our trust.
(For other posts on Exodus, see http://www.craigkeener.com/category/old-testament/exodus/.)