Knowing God Himself
by Titus Chu
Moses wrote, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psa. 90:1). The Lord has always been the dwelling place for His people. It makes no difference if we see good times or bad, if we are prevailing or discouraged, or if we can do a lot or can’t do a thing. Our Lord is always our dwelling place. As we dwell in Him, he leads us, like Moses, through three stages: first to be educated and trained, second to experience and substantiate what we have learned, and third to operate.
We all start out as new Christians in the education and training stage. Don’t belittle this part. In one sense education means everything. Without his education and training in Egypt, there would be no way for Moses to operate as he did when he led the children of Israel through the wilderness in the third stage of his life. The problem is that we too often skip the middle stage that Moses experienced while in the desert of Midian. As soon as we know something we begin to operate. We feel that since we have God and we know so much, we should do something. But the God who caused us to know so much also wants to substantiate this knowledge through many experiences before He eventually leads us into our operation. If we try to do too much too fast, we are in danger of replacing God’s lead with our own. We try to operate based simply on what we know.
When we are young we want to be successful, and as we grow older we begin to realize we have fewer and fewer years left to make something happen. But we dare not do a thing, no matter how spiritual we are. We cannot say, “Now I will operate.” We can only say, like Moses, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.” In this dwelling place God is doing many things through all kinds of people. Only what He does counts. We can only wait on Him.
Waiting on the Lord
Psalm 90 was written when Moses was close to eighty years old. Those who are that old know they are dying. Neither their bodies nor their minds work as good as they once did. Moses no doubt experienced this. When he was forty, he was a powerful man and a good leader. But the children of Israel rejected him and Pharaoh wanted to kill him, so he was forced to escape to the desert where he experienced a lot. By the time he wrote Palm 90, he had all but given up hope that God would use him.
Many Christians never learn this lesson. They may have had a great start, but instead of waiting on the Lord in the desert, they take what they learned in Egypt and use it to start building their own thing. If Moses had acted this way, he might have gathered together some nomadic tribes in the desert and used them to start his own nation. He certainly had the education, training, contacts, and resources to do so if he wanted. His new nation would not have been as big and strong as Egypt, but it would have been his. However Moses knew that the Lord did not want this. He learned to be content just shepherding some sheep.
We must ask if we are doing what God wants. If we are, then even if it seems to fail, it is the best. He is our dwelling place in all generations.
No Longer Ready
In Egypt, Moses was young, hopeful, and ready to act, but God was not ready for him to do anything. Then in Midian, Moses went through a hard time of unlearning until he was a weak old man with no hope. At this point God was ready to use him, but Moses no longer felt ready. He was living a comfortable old man’s life surrounded by peaceful sheep and fully expected to live that way until he died.
Once when I was visiting Inner Mongolia, I saw a shepherd. I never realized a shepherd’s life could be so enjoyable. If he wanted to move the sheep to a new grazing place, he simply held his staff in the air as a signal and all the sheep followed him wherever he went. If one sheep tried to get away, his sheepdog would chase it back. How comfortable! It is so much easier than serving the Lord.
From this I realized how the Lord is the real shepherd. We are the sheep. When we try to run away, God’s government sends us environmental discipline as His sheepdog to bring us where we aught to be. To be disciplined is a big blessing (Heb. 12:6). To be blessed is very close to being cursed.
The Burning Bush
As Moses enjoyed his comfortable life of shepherding,”The angel of The Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush” (Exo. 3:2). Burning bushes should have been common in such a hot, dry place, but this one was different. The bush was not burned up. Moses said, “I must turn aside and see this marvelous sight, why the bush was not consumed” (v. 3). The Hebrew word for “sight” used in this verse literally means “vision” (Strong, H4758). This is the only time the Bible says that Moses saw a vision. This vision was very inclusive. It showed Moses that, no matter how much he knew, how much he had experienced, or how honorable his background, he was still just a bush. But God was going to use this bush to accomplish what He wanted to do.
This old, hopeless, restful shepherd Moses was now to became a bush. God would use this bush as a place for His fire, and yet the bush would not be consumed. He would use Moses yet not use him. He would burn in Moses yet not consume him.
God told Moses that He wanted him to go to Pharaoh to deliver His people from their slavery in Egypt and bring them into the good land (vv. 7-10). Moses replied, “Who am I?” (v. 11). In a sense he was saying, “God, are you joking? Are you so poor that you can’t find someone else who is better?” Any who have passed through the experiences of Midian would respond the same. “God, are You so poor that You have to use me? There must be many more qualified ones out there.” But “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Co. 1:27). It is only those who lack the deeper experience of Midian who get excited and are always ready to act. I have been a Christian over sixty years and still do not know what to do. This forces me to The Lord.
I Am Who I Am
Considering how he was miraculously saved as a baby to be raised in Pharaoh’s household, we might think Moses knew God and what He was doing better than anyone, and in one sense he did. But now he asked God a question that showed he did not know God at all. He asked God to tell him His name (Exo. 3:13). God told Moses that His name was, “I am who I am” (v. 14). Only God could have a name like this, because only God is forever the same.
None of us can say we are “I am” because our “I am” is only for a particular moment. The next moment we become different. Many of our cells die and are replaced by new ones. Given enough time, our whole body is replaced. As we age, we first grow taller, then fatter, and eventually our hair turns white. Even psychologically, what we experience today will change us for tomorrow. We all change all the time. Only God can say “I am that I am.”
Eternal, and Unchangeable
As the “I am that I am,” God is self-existing, ever-existing, eternal, and unchangeable. There are times, however, that we try to change Him. We tell God, “You are not wise enough. Let’s do it a different way. In fact, let’s try something else altogether. My way is much better.” This is why the church has at times become wild and divided. Some say that local churches don’t work at all, that there is no practical way to work them out. But if we properly see the church as the desire of this unchangeable God, we will be brought into a higher realm to understand God’s economy.
Let me boast a little. Concerning my practice and faith, I don’t change. I don’t change because God has not changed. If God is after the church, then He is after the church. I have no choice. I never aim at a lesser vision, such as how many are in the meetings, or how big the church is. It’s the content of the church, not the size that matters.
The “I am who I am” is also omnipresent. He is with us both individually and corporately. When we are so godly He’s with us. When we are full of failure He’s still with us. We should be very happy. We can have boldness to come to the Lord’s presence and enjoy Him. Nothing we do is so bad that it chases Him away, because He is omnipresent. Even when we don’t come to Him, He’s there. When we are successful He’s there. When we are defeated He’s also there. We have to appreciate God’s omnipresence.
God is also omniscient, or all-knowing. He knows our thought before we form them, and our words before we say them. Some of us may have quick minds, but they are not quicker than God. He knows. We may not know what is in our heart or mind, but God knows all.
God is also omnipotent, or all-powerful. He can do everything. That is why He can cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). It is also why He can say, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). Nothing can stop Him.
Don’t think creation only happened at the beginning of time. Thanks to His omnipotence, creation happens every day. He creates exactly what we need when we need it. Actually He first creates the need in us, then He comes to meet that need. Those who have never experienced this must be very far from God. They should ask Him to create a love for Him in their hearts. Once He does, they will thank the Lord for His marvelous creating power.
We have to appreciate our God. He is self-existing, ever-existing, eternal, unchangeable, and omnipotent. All this is included in “I am who I am.”
Moses knew a lot about God already from his time in Egypt. He had heard a lot about what God had done in the past with the children of Israel. But now, after his time in the desert of Midian, and before being sent back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, he needed to have the reality. It was no longer enough to know how God delt with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was not enough to know that God had saved him from the river and placed him in Pharaoh’s house. Moses had to know God Himself.
For this reason God made Himself known to Moses first as his dwelling place, and then as “I am who I am.” This name includes so many wonderful divine attributes. He is self-existing and ever-existing, He is eternal and unchangeable, He is omnipresent, He is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He has great creating power, He is beyond time and space, and is the One who fills all and in all. From this point Moses began to know God as he had never known Him before.