Why do there always have to be so many “ites” in life? Did you hear what God said to Moses? He was telling him that he was going to do something absolutely magnificent and marvelous – taking the people of enslaved Israel out of the land of oppressive Egypt – but he would be taking them into a land that was “the home,” he says, “of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.” All those ites did not want the Israelites to come into their land, and they ended up causing all kinds of trouble for them. Isn’t that the way life is? There is a time when something is good, but it’s never all good, or never stays good. There never is a time when everything is just plain good all the time. There are always lots of ites – lots of hassles – lots of difficulties – lots of sadnesses along the way. And, yet, that is something for which we can say, “Thank you, God. Thank you for the ites.” Today I hope we can see why we can always say, “Thank you, God.” Thank you for letting me know “There Will Always Be Lots of Ites!”
Moses was just minding his own business – actually his father-in-law’s business. Here was this man Moses, once upon a time, after as a baby being placed into a basket in a river, adopted into the family of the king – the pharaoh – of Egypt – brought up to enjoy the finest of fare, but now far away out in the lonely wilderness watching over sheep, all because he had killed a man who had been beating up one of his fellow Israelites, and he had needed to run away. He was living in exile far from where he had once enjoyed a lavish life, now married and a father, but about to experience something that would change his life in a far greater way than everything else that had already happened to him.
“Here I am,” Moses said to a bush in the desert. You almost think he would have been looking around, don’t you, wondering if any of the sheep were looking at him funny for talking to a piece of wood and a bunch of leaves? But that bush was being used by God to host God. From within the burning bush came the call, “Moses, Moses… Moses, take off your sandals. You are standing on holy ground.” This isn’t just a place where sheep hoof around. This is the place where I am going to personally introduce myself to you, just as I made myself known five hundred years ago to Abraham and then his son Isaac then his son Jacob. So Moses not only took off his sandals, “but Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.”
But this holy God on holy ground is not only a God who can make people afraid, which he can do and does do, if we think we can stand in his presence the way we are as people filled with sin, but he is also a holy God who so much cares about his people when they are filled with fear. “The Lord said, ‘I have seen the misery of my people Israel, and I am concerned about their suffering, so I have come down to rescue them.’” You can almost imagine Moses thinking, “Can this all be real? This is the God I worship talking to me out loud right now. And he is telling me about keeping promises that he made to those men who are the forefathers of our nation of Israel – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – when he spoke to them, just like he is speaking to me. And he says he is going to finally deliver the people of Israel I left back in Egypt from all the horrible things those Egyptians have been doing to them. Thank you, God.”
But guess who God was going to use to do it? A shepherd. A shepherd named Moses. “Who am I?” Moses said. God, who am I that I could possibly go to Pharaoh and tell him I have come to take the Israelites out of Egypt.” “I will be with you,” God said from within that bush. “And this is the sign that you will know that all is going according to plan. I am going to bring you and all those people you are rescuing back to this very mountain in the wilderness, the mountain some call Horeb — the mountain some call Sinai” – the very thing that happened not all that much later, when the Lord thundered not from within a bush below Sinai, but from the mount on top of Sinai, and gave his people the Ten Commandments and sent them on their way. “But wait, God. What if they want to know who I am claiming to be speaking for? I can’t tell them that a burning bush told me to rescue them from the king of Egypt.” “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ This is what you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me you.’” You will be speaking for the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth – The Great I AM.
That’s what God told Moses to tell the Pharaoh the king and to tell the Israelites, who were his slaves. But what about those other ites — those ites who would be living in the Promised Land, people who didn’t care one bit about a promise given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, those ites who fought fierce battles against the people of Israel, those ites who tried, often horribly successfully, to get the Israelites to worship their idols of wood and stone? Those ites were no different from the ites around us today. There will always be lots of ites – people with ideas and beliefs that simply are not true and lifestyles that simply are not proper, ideas and beliefs that we can also be tempted to think they aren’t so bad or that make sense or that don’t seem worth worrying about all that much, just like the Israelites of old.
We do not want to fall victim to these kinds of ites, but we do want to feel sorry for them. Because these ites are also people who, just like us, get afraid of some things that happen in their lives – people who, just like us, often have trouble making sense of some of the things that are happening in their lives – people who, just like us, are wandering about in a wilderness just doing their jobs that to them may seem as boring as shepherding sheep and thinking there must be more to life than this – people who, just like us, feel the tears run down their cheeks when someone close to them dies, when something they so deeply hoped for or worked for just does not happen, when they come to the end and wonder whether their life was a total waste. In other words, all the ites in the world around us, are people, just like us, who need the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They need the God who spoke to Moses from a burning bush that wouldn’t burn up. Just like us, they need Jesus – but at this moment they don’t have him. But who am I? How can I help them? And if I do try to help them, whom shall I say sent me? What is his name? “I AM WHO I AM.” “This is my name forever,” God said, “the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”
This is a comfort for all of us as we live for Christ in our individual ministries in what is more and more a Christ-less world, but one of the emphases of today’s worship is that of the public ministry – the preaching and teaching of God’s Word by people called by another group of people to preach and teach as pastors and teachers in order to help God’s people grow in their faith and live their faith and share their faith in a world that is really filled with all kinds of ites opposed to God, but many of whom are yearning for something more — and some of whom will be led to believe and cherish what we say. It is a humbling thing for us as your pastors and teachers to stand before you in our church and our classrooms, because we know our own weaknesses, our own fears, our own sins – our own ites that rest in our hearts. We need your prayers, and we need your encouragements, just as we know you need our prayers and our encouragements. But the answer to all those prayers and the basis for all those encouragements is the God who from within that burning bush said he is the “I AM” God. He is the only God there is. He is the God who demands holiness from us that we cannot give him, and he is the God who gives holiness to us by getting the holiness he demands of us from his Son. And just as the great I AM said to Moses, “I will be… I will be with you,” so he says to you and to me, “I AM, and I will be. I will be with you,” as you go about your life coming to church and learning more about me in study and working at your jobs and going to your schools and talking with your families. I will put you in situations that you will be able to handle, because I AM WHO I AM, and I will be. I will be with you.
That’s also something I pray all of our younger members and our children will always remember, when you deal with the ites of life. Your Lord is your Savior, and he is with you. But it is also something I pray a number of you might consider doing as your work – as your calling – as a pastor or a teacher, who has the honor of being asked by other believers to fill yourselves with God’s Word and God’s love so much that you can preach it and teach it to others. It would be great to maybe have one of you preach sermons to me someday or someday visit me in a hospital. It would be great to maybe have one of you someday teach my grandchildren in grade school or high school — just as it would be great to have one of you be a younger associate of someone like Pastor Casmer or Pastor Free or on the faculty of someone like Mr. Schramm. And it would be great, everyone else, to encourage someone and to pray for someone to do just that.
There will always be lots of ites. And we really can thank God for that realization, because it forces us to look for the holy ground of God, where we can know that, as we all work together as God’s people, there will also always be the Great I AM. And the great I AM will always be the wonderful I will be. May the Great I AM be with all of you — always. Amen.