God's Name: To Know and Love Him, part 7


What's in a Name?

Names in the Bible often represent a person's character or calling in life. One of the ways God teaches us about His character is through His names. At the top of God's list of names is the name He reveals to Moses before rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt. But the blessing for Israel is not merely that they now know God's name and, therefore, something about God's character. It is more than that. The blessing is that the God who tells His name to Moses also promises to "be with" Moses. After all, what good would it be to know God's name but not be under His care and protection?

In the verse prior to God telling His name to Moses, the Bible says this: 

He said, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain" (Exodus 3:12).

Shortly after, God says:

"Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak" (Exodus 4:12).

I want to know God's name, but I want more than anything for God to be with me. I want you to know God's name, but I want more than anything for God to be with you. How is God with us today? The Bible's final answer is simple. God is with us through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)" (Matthew 1:23).

The Name of God, Exodus 3:13-15

[13] Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 

[14] God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" 

[15] God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

1. "God" (verse 13)

God comes from the Hebrew word, Elohim. It is the word used for God in the first phrase of the Bible in Genesis 1:1. It is the common way the Old Testament refers to the almighty Creator-King of the universe. But what is God like? What is His character? Who is God and how should we think about Him? To teach us these things, God reveals Himself through, among other things, names. I say "among other things" because God also reveals Himself through His works, promises, and covenants. Even here, this aspect of God's revelation is brought out. It is not just God, but, "the God of your fathers."

2. "The God of your fathers" (verse 13)

Who are Moses' fathers? Moses' fathers are his ancestors that received God's promise of redemption. They are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God made a covenant-bond between Himself and them. That means He entered into a special relationship with them that included two basic elements. First, God promised to send a Savior for the world through their descendants, and He promised to be with them and care for for them until that Savior came. Second, the fathers and their descendants are committed to love, obey, and worship God alone as their Creator and Redeemer. In short, the God who reveals Himself to Moses is the God who has promised redemption to and through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is everything! Because that means God has promised redemption to and through Moses and the people of Israel. This is GOOD NEWS for Moses!

3. "I AM WHO I AM" and "I AM" (verse 14)

God answers Moses' question about His name with a statement about Himself, in Hebrew, Ehyeh asher Ehyeh. The point is, it is not a simple name as you and I think of a name. Rather, it is a statement that summarize the essence of God's nature. God's statement-name has been translated, "I am who I am," and also, "I will be what I will be." At the end of the verse, God shortens His statement-name from "I AM WHO I AM" to "I AM." 

The basic meaning is simple. Unlike you, me, Moses, or any other being, God is an independent, self-sufficient being. He needs nothing. He is that He is. He will be what He will be. Nothing can add to Him, change Him, or detract from Him. 

Think about the other part of God's revelation to Moses: 

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. [3] And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." [4] When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am" (Exodus 3:2-4).

The revelation is a fire, but the fire does not need fuel to burn. This flame does not need the bush to burn. This flame does not depend on wood. The bush only provides the context for God making Himself known and accomplishing His purpose on earth. This flame is unique. It says something about God and helps us understand the significance of His name and character. The flame is unique and supernatural because it manifests the personal presence of the unique and supernatural Creator. Moses was right to be stunned. Only an incredible being of awesome power can create a fire that does not need fuel to burn. 

It is good for the bush because it survives. This would have encouraged Moses. Just as God spoke supernaturally and manifested Himself powerfully though a bush to Moses, He will soon speak supernaturally and manifest Himself powerfully through Moses to Pharaoh and Israel. God will be WITH HIM, but will not CONSUME HIM. 

God is who He is. He will be what He will be. He will never change, and he will never need anything outside Himself. Unlike us, God did not need outside help to come into existence. He is eternal. Unlike us, God does not need outside help to sustain His life and energy. He is self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Unlike us, God does not need outside help to get wiser, stronger, or better. He is holy and perfect in all His ways. He is independent and does not need supplemental counsel or insight about the world or anything in the world. 

The flame is what the flame is: it is present in the bush but does not need the bush. God is who God is: He is present with His people but does not need His people. He is with us, but will not harm us. 

"For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29), "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

4. "The LORD" (verse 15)

Then God takes one more step. First, He shortened "I AM WHO I AM" to "I AM." Now, He changes "I AM" to a unique form that will be uniquely used in human language as the Name of God among His people. The letters in Hebrew would be YHWH. This has been formulated in English as Yahweh, which is preferable, or Jehovah. These are both different ways of supplying vowels and possible pronunications for YHWH. In your Bible, YHWH is translated as LORD and is printed in small capitals (LORD), instead of the normal capital with lowercase (Lord). 

Who revealed Himself to Moses? 

The LORD who will forever be present with His covenant people. He created the world and rules over it. He promised a redeemer and established a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He will save His people according to His promise and purpose. 

The LORD of infinite power and absolute independence is gracious to make Himself known and merciful to save, but make no mistake, He does not need us. We need God; God does not need us. We need outside help; God does not. God is the fountain source of life itself; He does not draw from any well, He is the well. 

In the New Testament, Jesus is the LORD. He is I AM. He is with us. He saves us. He enters into a covenant with His people. The full and climactic revelation of God is in the person and redemptive work of the LORD Jesus Christ. That is why we will sing His praises forevermore and into eternity. He is worthy. 

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).