by Pauline Simonsen
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I know you by name (Exodus 33:17b).
Have you ever felt way out of your depth? That you’ve been called to do something that you feel hopelessly inadequate for, and that frankly scares you silly? Me too.
Here is Moses, instructed by God to lead the Israelites from Sinai to the Promised Land. But they’ve just messed their nest badly with the idolatry of the golden calf, bringing God’s judgement on them as ‘a stiff-necked people’. Not a good beginning!
Moses pleads with God: ‘You’re sending me to lead these people, saying you know my name and favour me. Well, this doesn’t feel like a favour! I don’t want to go anywhere unless You come with us, showing me the way!’
God’s answer? ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then God tells Moses again, ‘I know you by name’. God knows him: knows Moses’ weaknesses and strengths, knows his capabilities and inadequacies. Reassuringly, the mission ahead doesn’t rely on Moses’ ‘name’ and capacity, though – only on God’s. ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Moses can rest in God’s presence and capacity.
To seal this deal, God does something extraordinary. He speaks his holy name to Moses (again, remember the burning bush). ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.’ God reveals his personal self to Moses so that Moses remembers again the God who goes with him. He knows, even as he is known.
And God has done this for us, too. God caused all his goodness to pass before us and told us his name in his incarnate Son. ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).
You and I are known personally by God, our Creator. But we also personally know our God, in Christ the Son. And this God, who has spoken his personal name to us at our baptism, goes with us wherever he sends us. Whatever scary, big, impossible task you face with him – however inadequate you feel – know that because of Christ, you stand in God’s favour. You are known. And his presence goes with you, and he will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).
Remind us, gracious God, that you know us personally and that we can know you personally in Jesus. May this intimate sharing in your presence give us rest, whatever challenge we are facing today. Amen.