Knowing God: The Self-Existent God (Exodus 3:1-15)

He is purely, absolutely independently, all by Himself existing as who He is.  

KIDS WATCH FOR:  When was God born?  and Einstein

Have you ever been proven wrong in a big way?  It happens to everyone at some time.  Even the best and brightest.  It happened to Einstein.  In 1929 Einstein had perhaps the most traumatic experience of his life.  Pulling his eyes away from the now famous Hubble Telescope on Mount Wilson Observatory in California, he said to Edwin Hubble, whom the telescope was named after, and the crowd gathered around him, “I was wrong.  It has been the greatest blunder of my life.”  What was Einstein, arguably the greatest scientific mind in history, talking about?  

Fourteen years earlier, in 1915 he had developed his famous Theory of General Relativity.  The problem for Einstein, however, was that his science was pointing towards a universe that had a definite beginning.  Einstein had held to the historical presumption that the universe was eternal – that space, time and matter were the uncreated parts of reality that had always existed for eternity.  He found it “irritating” that his math was adding up to a universe that somewhere in the past had a birthday.  But why was that “irritating” to Einstein?  Because it had serious religious implications, which Einstein did not like.  The universe, according to his theory, was not actually one giant cause of all reality.  Instead, he was finding that the universe was one giant effect.  The question then became:  What was the cause?  What was the cause of this universe?

At this moment, at his desk writing his equation for General Relativity in 1915, Einstein committed what he later called “the greatest blunder” of his life.  You see, rather than following the science, and because he didn’t like the idea of a God creating the universe, Einstein intentionally inserted into his equation what has been called “a fudge factor”.  The fudge factor manipulated his theory to make it appear as though it supported a static, eternal universe – a universe that didn’t have a beginning.  A universe that didn’t need a God to create it.  And so Einstein went on, happily deluding himself.  

But as the Bible says, what is done in the dark will be brought into the light.  In this case it was literally and actually light.  Specifically it was the red shift of light.  In 1929 when the Hubble Space Telescope was created, Edwin Hubble looked out at all the galaxies in outer space and observed something called “red shift” in their light.  Red shift was scientific proof that the universe was expanding.  And if it was expanding, that means that it had been expanding from a definite point in time and in history.  In other words the universe used to not be here.  And then it was.  

After looking through the telescope for himself, and admitting he fudged his equation to hide this now indisputable fact of the universe, Einstein said, “I want to know how God created the world.  I want to know His thought, the rest are details.”  

As Christians we know His thoughts.  We have eyes to see back farther than that beginning point of all things.  We have eyes to see back to the One who is from before all time, before all worlds, before all things.  We see through our own telescope of faith in the written revelation of our God.  “By faith”, Hebrews 11:3 says, “we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”  When there was nothing there was God.  And then that God commanded with His God-voice and this massive universe with its diameter of 93 billion lightyears and all its contents sprung forth into existence.  

It is not the universe which has always been, but, it is God who has always been:  ““Before you brought forth the earth and the world” Psalm 90:2 preaches, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” 

It is not the universe that has brought us forth, but, it is God who has made us.  Acts 17 says “He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”  

Everything has an origin in something else that came before it.  And that something else came from something else that came before it.  And that lineage goes back all the way to God.  He is the Ultimate Source of everything.  But He has no Source that He came from.  Everything began, but God never began – He has always been.  He is the unmade Maker of all things, who is before and behind all things.  All things depend upon Him to exist, “He upholds all things by His powerful word” Hebrews 1 pronounces.  But He Himself depends on nothing.  “The God who made the world and everything in it” Paul declared to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17, “is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”

Our Sermon title today is not “The Self-Existent Universe”, but rather “The Self-Existent God”.  This summer we are doing a series on the attributes of God called “Knowing God”.  The first attribute we turn to is God’s self-existence.  God is.  He is there, He has always been there, and He will always be there.  Nothing put Him into existence, and nothing can remove Him from existence.  I’d say God is the brutest of brute facts.  Or as Revelation 4:11 says, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who Was, Who Is and Who is To Come!”  

Turn with me to perhaps the most appropriate place to go on this subject:  Exodus 3:1-15.  

It is roughly 1500BC at this point.  The Israelites have grown into an enormous population while living in Egypt.  Out of fear Pharaoh has enslaved them.  God now moves to deliver them – a promise he made long ago to their ancestor Abraham.  God’s first move is to choose a man named Moses to be His representative. In Exodus 3 we watch as God meets Moses for the first time and appoints him as his prophet.  

READ v 1-15

Now you may have noticed that Moses’ first concern was his own insufficiency.  Gideon responded the same way.  David. Isaiah.  Great men of God started out aware of how great they weren’t, only to do great things because they learned to see how great God is.   

Here’s how it played out with Moses.  In verse 11 Moses is nervous about his task and says, “Well, who am I?  Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should lead Israel out of Egypt?”  You see how Moses feels insecure and instantly feels beneath the task.  In other words, as Moses thinks about what he has to do as though he has only himself to rely on he has serious doubts about being able to do what God is telling him to.  

Notice that Moses is more overwhelmed by his own limitations than by this incredible God speaking to him.  Moses’ first reaction was to look at himself and his own littleness.  That is where we usually are too isn’t it?  More overwhelmed by our own smallness instead of being overwhelmed by the greatness of God?  Is this no

Application:  Like Moses, learn to be overwhelmed with God, not yourself.  Learn to be overwhelmed by the greatness of God, not your own limitations.  Is this not the point Jesus made?  “Apart from me you can do nothing?”  And then “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Too often we are living life from the first half of that verse “With me this is impossible” but we never get around to living with the last half of the verse, “But with God all things are possible.”  

Growth in the Christian life is going to come by developing our perspective to include this self-existent God who Himself entirely supplies me with all I need for life.  This growth as a Christian actually comes as I learn to welcome my own limitations because I’m learning God is my limitless God who is with me.  Let our growth come also by recognizing that God has created us dependent upon Him because He is a God whom we can depend on.  This touches on the point earlier that He is “personal”.  In other words, He made the creature-Creator relationship in such a way that we have to rely upon Him and He did it because He wants us to rely on Him.  He wants to be relied upon.  He has to be relied upon.  

Now that we see Moses only sees himself in this moment, and not God, we have to see how God responds to Him.  Read verse 12….

God does not respond to Moses by affirming Moses has what it takes.  Moses is like “God I’m not enough!  Who am I?!”  God doesn’t come back as his cheerleader, “You got this Moses.”  “I believe in you Moses.”  “Dig deep within yourself Moses I know you have what it takes.”  “You have latent potential Moses that just needs to be awakened.  Your star is rising Moses!”  

Nope.  God redirects Moses’ attention away from Moses and to Himself.  Verse 12, “And God said, ‘I will be with you.’”  Moses didn’t need to see himself.  Moses needed to see God.  Is there an application in that or what?

APPLICATION:  Live your life with your eyes wide open to God.  

  • Fix your minds on things above, not on earthly things – Col 3
  • Fix your thoughts on Jesus the Apostle and High Priest whom we confess Heb 3 or Heb 12, Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…See how it says to see Jesus, not yourself?
  • I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me – Php 4:13.  Eyes on Christ’s strength, not their weakness
  • But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” -2 Cor. 4:7.  Eyes on Christ’s power, not their weakness

Live with your eyes wide open to see God.

Moses starts doing that.  His next question is actually quite logical. He stops looking at himself and starts looking at God, and he asks, “Well, who are You?”  In verse 13 that is essentially what Moses is asking.  Moses asks God who he is as though he needs to have an answer in case the leaders of the Israelites ask.  But, I think Moses isn’t asking for the sake of the leaders of the Israelites so much as he is asking to know for himself, “

What does God say?  So God says He will be with Moses.  Then God reveals to Moses his name, “I Am Who I Am.”  That’s what you tell them.  Perhaps the two most important words from God are “I Am” and “I Will”.  God wants us to always connect who He is with what He does.  

This passage is legendary with the burning bush and all.  But, more significant is that God personally reveals His name.  Up to this point in the Bible God has been called “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, or one I really like:  “The Fear of Isaac”.  But here, when Moses asks who are you God says “I AM WHO I AM”.  It is an utterly majestic, profound, holy, powerful, and incomprehensible name.  “I AM WHO I AM!”  

You’ve no doubt heard the name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” for God. These are two pronunciations for the name God gave Moses in Exodus.  But since the proper pronunciation has been lost in history, they are simply guesses about the pronunciation.  Is there something symbolic in the fact that God’s name has been forgotten?  Nonetheless, we can ask:  What does this name mean?

  • I AM WHO I AM means God’s self-existence.  God is who He is by Himself.  Nothing has caused Him to be and nothing defines or makes Him what He is.  He is purely, absolutely independently, all by Himself existing as who He is.  
  • It goes even further though in conveying that what God is He has always been and will always be.  He is unchanging, or, immutable.  That is why the name in Hebrew here can also be translated “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE”  His name could maybe be:

It brings out the idea that God exists in Himself, that He depends on nothing to exist, that He is self-existent.  This is absolute ultimate independence.  We want to be independent in sense because that’s part of the image of God.  Teenagers want to be independant of parents.  Make their own decisions, driving a car…etc.  Elderly hate the loss of independence:  perhaps the loss of driving, or having to walk with a walker, or having to move into a nursing home.  We love independence.  

The first sin was sinful independence:  Adam and Eve’s seized on the chance to have independence from God’s authority.  In our sin nature we seek independence from God’s authority.  Independence is an instinct in all of us, and in a way it is a form of idolatry.  When we exercise that impulse to be independent of God, to resist Him and hat that creaturely dependence we have on Him, it is sin.  It is our own vain attempt to be more independent than a creature can be.  Really its trying to be like God in His independence, being gods unto ourselves.  

Heady stuff, right?  Isn’t it awesome to be drowning in such immense thoughts about God?  It’s good for us.

Becoming aware of this causes a lot of other Scriptures to take on a lot more vividity:

  • “In the beginning God…” (Gen 1:1)  When the beginning began, where God began to make everything, God was already there, because He is unmade, uncreated.  He is self-existent, existing all by Himself.  Everything else exists because of Him.  
  • Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things…”  He pre-exists everything created because He is not part of what has been created. 
  • Jesus prayed in John 17, “Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you BEFORE the world began.”

Get what is being said here.  Everything that is not God came from God.  Was made by God.  Is dependent on God.  “For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things” Paul says in Romans 11.  “Nothing that has been made was made without Him.  Through Him all things were made, though He Himself is not made” John declared in the first chapter of His Gospel.  Everything that is not God began at some point and began because God caused it to begin.  But nothing caused God to begin.  And God needs nothing to continue.

The theological term for this is God’s Aseity.  It’s a cool theological word to put in your pocket and pull out sometimes to really impress people.  Aseity comes from a latin word that means “of oneself”, which basically refers to God’s completely independent self-existence.  He exists entirely of Himself and nothing outside of Him helps Him to exist, contributes to His existence, or in any way enables Him to exist.  Remember what Paul said?  “He is not served by man as though He needed anything…”

Application:  This automatically points to God being an INFINITE, ETERNAL, PERSONAL SPIRIT (NON-MATERIAL).  He created time so He is not Himself limited by it (ETERNAL); He created space and matter so He is not Himself made of space and matter (INFINITE SPIRIT).  He preceded time, matter and space.  So He not only transcends those things, and not only is the cause of those things, but, He has never and will never be dependent upon those things for His existence.  He only needs Himself to exist.  

Now this, by the way rules out Pantheism:  the idea that the universe is identical with God.  God is not time, space and matter, but, eternal, infinite spirit.  Also ruled out is Panentheism:  the idea that the universe is just an extension or manifestation of God, or that the universe is contained “within” God.  But Biblically, scientifically, and philosophically none of those hold merit.  The universe of time, space and matter had a definite beginning.  The cause of the universe that came before the universe and made the universe exist cannot therefore be made of the same stuff as the universe.

Application #2:  This INFINITE, ETERNAL SPIRIT is Personal.  You’ll notice earlier I said that.  The reason is that because this universe has more than just time, space and matter.  It also has personal beings in it.  There are about 100 of them right here this morning.  This means that the God who caused us must also be personal.  Because just like information can only come from information, and life can only come from life, and consciousness can only come from consciousness, so also personality can only come from personality.  We are personal and we get that from the God who made us in His image.  Any idea that regards God as an impersonal force or impersonal energy is idolatry.  Energy is created and that would be to treat the creation as though it were the Creator.  Idolatry.

Application #3:  You can have a “personal” relationship with this personal Creator who made you.  I know that phrase has been wore out, but, lets not throw it out just yet.  It reflects the grand truth that we can know our God!  He, as a Divine Person, has chosen to reveal Himself to us so that we can know Him.  He has opened Himself up to us so we can live each day with Him, near to Him, trusting Him, learning Him, loving Him.  How much more personal can God seek to get than to make the greatest command about love?  “Love Me with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.”  This personal God wants His interaction with His personal creatures to be deeply, closely, personal.  What is more personal than love?

CONCLUSION:  TAKE AWAYS (silent reflection)

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