Exodus 3:14 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
THE SELF-EXISTENCE AND IMMUTABILITY OF GOD
Exo 3:14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
IT is of great importance that Ministers should be considered as ambassadors of God. And that they should deliver nothing which they cannot enforce with, Thus saith the Lord. Without this, their word can have but little weight. But ministrations thus supported will produce the happiest effects. Moses was commissioned to offer deliverance to the oppressed Israelites. But he rightly judged that they would ask, from whence he had his authority. He therefore inquired of God, what answer he should return. And received from God the direction recorded in the text.
To understand the words aright, we must consider,
The title God assumed—
The Deity had hitherto revealed himself to man by the name of God Almighty. Though he had been called Jehovah, he was not fully known by that name, even to his most highly-favoured servants [Note: Exo 6:3.]. He now was pleased to assume a title similar to that; but, if possible, of still plainer import—
The name, I AM THAT I AM, represents him to be,
[Creatures have only a derived, and therefore a dependent, existence. They are now what they once were not, and may again cease to be. But God from all eternity was precisely what he now is. To him therefore this august title may be properly applied. Nor are there wanting other similar descriptions of him to confirm it [Note: Psa 102:27; Rev 1:4.].]
[Every creature in earth and heaven is liable to change. But “with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” He himself claims immutability as his own peculiar prerogative [Note: Mal 3:6.]. And in this view, the title assumed in the text must ever belong to him.]
[No words can convey, or imagination conceive, an adequate idea of God [Note: Job 11:7; 1Ti 6:16.]. Hence God does not endeavour to explain his nature to Moses. But, by declaring himself to be what he is, intimates, that he is what can neither be comprehended nor expressed. His answer, in effect, was similar to that which he afterwards gave to Manoah [Note: Jdg 13:17-18.].]
The title thus explained, it will be proper to consider,
For what end he assumed it—
The Israelites were extremely debased by means of their long bondage. It was necessary therefore to prepare their minds for the intended deliverance—
[Though they groaned under their oppression, they were too much reconciled to their yoke. They rather affected a mitigation of trouble, than the attainment of liberty. Though the promises made to their fathers were not wholly forgotten, the accomplishment of them was not cordially desired. Indeed, they scarcely conceived it possible that their emancipation should be effected. Hence it was necessary to stimulate their desires, renew their hopes, and confirm their expectations, of a better country.]
The title which God assumed was admirably adapted to this end—
[If God was so incomprehensible a Being, he could easily devise means of executing his own sovereign will and pleasure. If he was the one self-existent, independent Creator of the universe, all creatures must be wholly subject to his control. And if he were absolutely immutable, he could not recede from the covenant entered into with their fathers. He therefore could not want either inclination or power to deliver them. Yea, He could not but deliver them for his own great name’s sake. He could not be I AM, if his promised interposition should be either withheld or defeated. Thus the declaration of his name must inspire them with confidence, and induce them willingly to put themselves under the direction of Moses.]
What a solemn attention does the Gospel demand!
[The Gospel is a message of mercy to those who are in bondage to sin. And they who preach it are ambassadors from the great I AM. Jesus, who sends them forth, assumes to himself this very title [Note: Joh 8:58.]. To the same effect also his character is drawn in the Epistle to the Hebrews [Note: Heb 13:8.]. He has commissioned his servants to go forth into all the world [Note: Mar 16:15.] ; and promised (as God did to Moses) to be always with them [Note: Mat 28:20.]. Shall we then make light of the mercy which He offers to us; or doubt his power and willingness to fulfil his promises? Shall we thrust away his servants, saying, Why dost thou interfere with us [Note: Act 7:27.] ? Let us remember who it is that speaks to us in the Gospel [Note: Luk 10:16.]. Every faithful Minister may say, I AM hath sent me unto you. Nor, though miracles have ceased, shall signs be wanting to confirm the word: the deaf shall hear, the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers be cleansed. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended at the Redeemer’s voice [Note: Mat 11:5-6.].]
What encouragement is here afforded to those who are groaning under spiritual bondage!
[God brought out his people safely, notwithstanding all their difficulties; and in due time put them into possession of the promised land. Shall the spiritual redemption offered by him be less effectual? Are not his power and faithfulness the same as in former ages [Note: Isa 59:1.] ? Will he not remove our obstacles, supply our wants, and destroy our enemies? Surely there are none so weak but they shall be made to triumph [Note: Isa 49:24-25.]. Nor shall the Prince of Darkness oppose with more success than Pharaoh [Note: Rom 16:20.]. Behold, then, I AM hath sent me to proclaim these glad tidings. Let all arise, and cast off their yoke, and burst their bands asunder. Let not unbelief represent the obstacles as insurmountable; nor fear induce you to comply with the imperious dictates of the world [Note: Pharaoh, after many successive plagues, agreed first that they should sacrifice to God in the land, but not in the wilderness; then that they should go into the wilderness, but not far; then that the men should go, but without the women or children; then that the women and children, but not the flocks. Exo 8:25; Exo 8:28; Exo 10:11; Exo 10:24. Thus the world would prescribe limits to the service we shall pay to God.]. Behold! the Pillar and the Cloud are ready to conduct your path. The great I AM is for you: who then can be against you? Go forth; and universal nature shall applaud your steps [Note: Isa 55:12.].]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.