Exodus 3:14 (ESV) … “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Moses was in the wilderness—barefoot at the burning bush—cowering in the presence of a holy God. He had led his flocks to Horeb, the mountain of God. There he saw a strange sight: a bush that kept burning without ever getting scorched. When he went over to look at it, Moses had a close encounter with the glory of the eternal God. He heard the voice of God speaking to him from the bush, explaining that he had seen the misery of his people Israel and had heard their cry to be delivered out of Egypt. The God of the burning bush told Moses that he remembered his covenant with Abraham and that now he was coming down to save his people.
At this point the conversation took a surprising turn. God had spoken of his compassion for the sufferings of his beloved people. He had promised to come and rescue them, entering personally into a saving relationship with them. But here was the surprise: God would accomplish his salvation through the person and work of Moses. God said, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10, emphasis added). One might have expected God to explain how he was going to liberate his people from bondage, but instead he sent Moses to be the liberator.
Here we encounter one of the paradoxes of God’s sovereign grace: God uses human beings—sinful human beings—to carry out his saving purpose. Moses had tried to save the Israelites once before, all by himself. The attempt was such a complete disaster that Moses had to leave the country. But God used the events of Moses’ life to prepare him for ministry. Now the time of preparation was over, and God was commissioning Moses to lead his people out of slavery. In the end, of course, God was the one who delivered his people. But God raised up his servant Moses to be the human agent of that deliverance.
We have seen before how God can accomplish his saving work through ordinary people. It was Moses’ mother who had the faith to put her baby in a basket, Pharaoh’s daughter who drew the child out of the river, and Moses’ sister who arranged for him to be weaned by his own mother; but it was the hand of God that led Moses to Pharaoh’s palace. God rescued Moses—as he would later rescue all his people—through the uncommon faithfulness of common individuals. This is the way God (almost) always operates. His divine sovereignty involves human activity. God does his work through the work of his people, accomplishing his will through the willing obedience of his faithful servants.