Exodus chapter 3 contains the famous story of Moses meeting God through the burning bush. Moses is 80 years old, and this is really the first recorded meeting of the two. Of course, God was always active in his life (read about his miraculous birth story in Exodus 1 & 2), but this is the first time we read about Moses’ direct encounter with his God.
And his first two questions to God are telling. The first question is, “Who am I?” (v. 11), and the second, “Who are you?” (v. 13).
Moses knows who he is. He’s a failure. He’s a fugitive. He’s an 80-year-old living in retirement. And so the rest of the chapter is about God trying to convince him that he is still capable of great things if God is with him.
But it’s the second question that really bothers Moses. Moses doesn’t really know who this God is. And for the next 40 years, through regular encounters, Moses will gain intimate knowledge of this God that saved him from the Nile River, and will use him to lead his people out of bondage and into the land of promise.
Growing up under his mother’s care, I’m certain Moses was told of the faith stories of old – of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob (as alluded by God in v.6). God was active among his people in the distant past. And his mother had to have told him about God’s rescue of his infant life. She may have even proclaimed, “God must have saved you for a reason!” And perhaps that’s why Moses jumped up at the chance to rescue his people when he killed an Egyptian. But those were stories of other people. What Moses needed was an encounter with God on a personal level.
And that’s what faith is. One can try to explain what faith is until they are blue in the face. One can even talk about how they encountered God. But in truth, faith is born out of a personal encounter. Do you remember the first time you encountered God? That was when faith was born in you.
I remember a time when I was perhaps 15 or 16. A group of us from tae-kwon-do decided to go ice skating at a nearby skating rink. David and I were the best of friends and he and I decided to play tag on ice. I know, not a good idea. At this particular time, I was being chased by David who was “it.” We were rounding the bend and I could feel him extending his arm to tag me when I heard a loud thud behind me. David had fallen backwards, and he landed on his head. Of course, everything stopped. We moved him out of the rink and sat him down on the bench. I would sit with him and see if he needed further help. I felt really bad about the whole thing. David kept asking me questions: What time is it? Why are we here at the rink? Where is his brother and sister? Where’s his mom and dad? And he repeated those questions every five minutes. I took him back home and told his mother the whole story. And as I walked to the bus stop to get home, I remember praying, “I don’t know if you are listening to me. I don’t know if you exist. But if you make David well, then I will believe in you. If you want me to believe in you, then heal my friend!” Pretty funny when I think about it, but I was a desperate teenager.
I went back to see him the next day, and he had forgotten the whole day’s events, but that was it. He was fine otherwise. And I still remember that young man sitting at the bus stop praying. And believing that God answered his prayer, my prayer. Faith was born out of that prayer, that encounter.
That’s Moses. His faith journey really began at the age of 80. With the personal encounter. And it was so with a multitude of people that came to Jesus in the Gospels.
And so, to people that want to know what faith is about? People that seek faith? Rather than reading another book, just jump right in and grab hold of God. Seek God’s face with desperation and see him respond back.
And that’s where American Christians really fail at faith. As first-world people, we have resources at our disposal. We don’t have to rely on God. We have insurance. We have our retirement fund. We are protected from any and all surprises. As such, we don’t really have to seek God’s face with any sense of desperation. And so we lack faith. It’s a simple admission.