God’s name is revealed
- Main Text: Exodus 2:23-25; 3:1-15; 4:10-17
- Accompanying text: John 8:58
“God knew” — those are the last words of Exodus 2. God knew the plight of the people. And he still knows. The Burning Bush event is reminiscent of how the Word, which was in the beginning with God and was God, is for us, and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Just as God intervened in Israel’s history to rescue the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, so God, made flesh in Christ, intersects humanity’s history to save everyone from the slavery of sin. The miracle of the Burning Bush prefigures the miracle of the Incarnation in so many ways. Consider the verbs that are used when God speaks to Moses. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:7-8 ESVUK). It points to the story of our redemption — the Word, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, sees what has happened to us as result of our own and others’ wrongdoings and bad decisions, he hears the cries of our suffering, he is concerned, and he comes down, becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us (John 1:14).
The revelation of God’s name shows that the true God is unlike the false gods of Egypt and the surrounding nations. Those pagan gods were depicted as being distant and typically uninvolved and uncaring when it came to humanity — that is why you had to sacrifice to them and plead with them that they would intervene and help when you needed it. It was not something that the gods would volunteer to do. Was the true God, the God of Israel just like one of them? “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you — majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”, declared Moses as he led the Israelites in song after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:11). The God we worship inhabits eternity and, although he is mighty and transcendent, he also comes to save us. God is neither the god of our imagination nor is he confined to human concepts of deity — he is “I am”, the always present God who is. “But the God who is, the God who revealed himself to Moses, is both above us and among us” (1).
The Israelites had done nothing to merit deliverance and yet God in his grace was about to go into action on their behalf. In fact, things got worse after he delivered them — “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. But the more they were called, the more they went away from me” (Hosea 11:1-2). God, however, was concerned and he used Moses to challenge Pharoah and to lead the people out of Egypt. For us, who share in the heavenly calling, let’s fix our thoughts on the incarnate son of God: he “was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful…Jesus has been found worthy of greater honour than Moses” (Hebrew 2:2-3). Before he was stoned to death for his witness to Jesus, Stephen preached concerning the Burning Bush and how Moses was sent by God as both “ruler and deliverer” and yet Moses prophesied of how God would raise up another prophet like him, the “Righteous One”, Jesus, whom Stephen’s audience (representing all of humanity) had betrayed and murdered.
Thoughts re application today
“Have you ever noticed that sometimes, in the Bible, the word ‘Lord’ is capitalised? That capitalisation denotes that the word being translated is not the usual human word for lordship, but the Hebrew ‘tetragrammaton’: the four letters YHWH which stand for the name ‘God’ revealed in Exodus 3:1-8…‘I am who I am’. In rabbinic tradition, the word was not generally spoken aloud, and instead the reader would substitute an alternative word such as ‘God’ (Hebrew elohim), ‘the Name’ or ‘Lord’. In some translations, it is common practice to honour this tradition by writing not ‘YHWH’ but ‘the Lord’. This practice, though, gives many a reader the impression that God is almost always referred to by a word that is essentially masculine – the exact opposite of the revelation in Exodus of God as essentially nameless, Being itself. Try replacing every occurrence with the capitalised Lord with I am whenever you read the Bible and see how different it feels” (2).
Jesus identifies himself clearly as the “I AM” of Exodus 3 in John 8:58. His provocative statement to the scribes and Pharisees was, “before Abraham was born, I AM!”. This makes sense. After all he is the Word of John 1:1. Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). He is “the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Moses wondered about his competence to complete his God-given calling, and we might question ourselves similarly. God’s response was, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). It is the same today. God is with us and for us. As we follow Jesus and preach his Gospel in word and in deed, let’s remember how Moses explained his mission to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). When it comes to our calling in Jesus, “I AM” has sent us!
- Acts 7:30-53
- John 8:48-59
Footnotes and references
- Tim Chester, Exodus for You, published by the Good Book Company, UK, 2016:30.
- Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, How to eat Bread: 21 Nourishing Ways to Read the Bible published by Hodder & Stroughton, UK, 2021:122.