The Present One

Let’s say you were interviewing God for a job and it went something like this: “Okay, Yahweh, what we’re looking for here is a god who can turn this country around. I mean, this place is a mess; full of corruption and immorality. Women and children are abused; the poor are cheated; the weak are ignored. Many are told and have been convinced that they do not matter. Violence erupts in every corner on every day.  So, tell me Yahweh, what are your qualifications?” “I am always present” is God’s response. A little confused you respond, “Being present is good. But have you ever cleaned up a country before? Are you capable?” Again God responds with “I am always present.” Do you shout out, “Next god please!”?

In Exodus 3:13-22 God gives Moses his resume for the job at hand. Yahweh had already told Moses about being sent to Pharaoh and leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. But Moses has a concern. Imagine if he shows up and tells them that the God of their fathers sent him and they respond with, “What is his reputation?” The word “name” often stood for the person’s reputation; his glory and fame. It doesn’t seem likely that the Israelites forgot who God was. They know the stories. But none of those stories deal with a people who are slaves in a land protected by a pantheon of gods and a mighty Pharaoh who claims to be a god himself. This seems like more than a 100 year old man having a son with his 90 year old wife. Where is God’s resume? “What can I tell them about your reputation for freeing slave nations from mighty kingdoms?”

And God’s answer? “I am always present.” Or literally, “I am being”. This is his resume; his reputation. God is not “was” or the “has been”. He is not “will” or “someday”. He Is! Always Present! So, Moses, tell them that the Present One sent you; that the God of their fathers is Yahweh, the Existing One. This is his reputation forever. This is his remembrance. Some have suggested that the word “remembrance” implies that God wants them to use this name often; to say it out loud over and over again, which seems ironic since with the passing of time, the Jewish people came to believe it would be sacrilegious to say the name out loud at all. So much so, that most English translations refuse to translate the Hebrew word Yahweh and use the word LORD instead. This is done in an attempt to respect the Jewish people. Can we find a way to respect the Jewish people and still utter aloud that our God is the Present One? Our God’s reputation is his presence; he is present with his people. His message to the elders was, “in visiting I have visited you.” “In being present, I have been present with you.” This implies a concern or care for them. He is aware of their suffering at the hands of the Egyptians. Finally, after four hundred years, the Presence of God is going to bring them up out of misery and to the Promised Land; the land flowing with milk and honey.

God assures Moses that the elders will indeed hear his voice and that together they will go before Pharaoh with a message. The king of Egypt is going to hear about Yahweh, the Ruler of the Hebrews. He thinks that he is their ruler; their god. He is about to learn different. Their true God has requested that they be allowed to go on a three days’ journey and make sacrifices; to acknowledge Yahweh as their God. People who think they are gods don’t like it when a real God shows up. Yeah, Pharaoh is not going to cooperate at first. But God is going to do some extraordinary things; some things that are beyond human ability and comprehension. And God is going to do this in the very midst of Egypt; in the strong hold of all those Egyptian gods; in the presence of Pharaoh who is a god wannabe. And when it is all said in done, the Egyptians are going to send you off with gifts of silver, gold, and clothing. That sounds pretty good. But as is often the case, it is going to get worse before it gets better. The Presence of the Present One is often like that.

I don’t know what you are wrestling with. I don’t know if God will step in and change your circumstances. He might, but he might not. His resume makes no such promise. His glory is that he is the Present One! Right now! Right here! God is here. Yahweh is always Present. Isn’t that what Psalm 23 assures us with, “Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” You and I may have to walk through that valley of deep darkness, but the Present One is Present with us there. Does that fill you with comfort? I pray it does. Shalom, Walter