A number of years ago, I would sometimes play “special music” in worship. One week, I played a song called “I Will.” I will walk the darkest valleys. I will leave the world behind. I will. It isn’t a bad song; it is full of biblical ideas and earnest longing to please God: I will. As in, me, I will follow Jesus. I will carry my cross. I will obey. I will love him, and others. This is a biblical cart of ideas. But, it is also a cart that can crush you, if you put it before the biblical horse.
The I will of true Christian-Gospel-hope is not our I will. It is God’s. When God gives Moses a word to deliver to the people of Israel in the shackles of Egyptian slavery, he preaches the Gospel of freedom:
Exodus 6:6-8—God’s good news of freedom to Israelite slavery through Moses—is stuffed full of seven I wills, all from God, indicating what he will do:
1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
2. I will deliver you from slavery to them.
3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment.
4. I will take you to be my people.
5. I will be your God.
6. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
7. I will give it to you for a possession.
These promises are framed within an identical opening and closing statement: I am the LORD, Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. God had just told Moses a couple verses earlier that he would reveal himself as LORD, Yahweh, like never before. This all means that these seven I wills indicate what it means for God to be the LORD.
In the mix of these seven, there is one—count it—one expectation of the people of Israel: “You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out…” The expectation, the response, the imperative, the result comes from the overpowering, overwhelming, maverick, pioneering, self-determined work of God.
When Moses brings this word to the people, “they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”
But God does everything he says he will do anyway. Their response– their You shall – again, will be a response to God’s action – his I will – for them.
This is grace. This is Gospel-tidings 1500 years before the fullness of God’s work was accomplished in Jesus. In Jesus we see the I will beyond all others, more than these seven in Exodus: here especially, the New Testament pattern is more like seventy times seven.
And that is an I will worth singing about.