Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 7 2011 - E100.17b – Exodus 3:13-21, The God who is with his people

The Israelites in Egypt have forgotten their God, but their God has not forgotten them. Moses asks what he is to say to the leaders of the Israelites when they ask him who this God is who has sent him to rescue them from Egypt; what is this God's name? God declares that his name is "I am who I am" (or, "I will be what I will be"). He gives himself the name Yahweh (traditionally, but incorrectly, transcribed as Jehovah). What does this enigmatic name mean?

Many in the past have suggested that God is declaring that he is self-existent; he alone is uncreated; he exists by his own power, has always existed and will always exist; he is unchangeable. All of these things are true, but unlikely to be the meaning of God's name revealed here. The Hebrews were not interested in abstract philosophies of being. Rather, God declares his character in terms of his relationship with his people. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the God of the promises; God of the covenant. This is his name forever – he is the covenant keeping God. He will be with his people and will fulfil all that he has promised to them. He will bring them out of slavery in Egypt into the land he has promised them. God's revealed name is his declaration that he will be all that he has promised he will be in relation to his people. Pharaoh may be determined to keep hold of his slave-labour, but the mighty hand of God will compel him to let them go. And as they go, they will take with them some of the riches of Egypt; they will plunder the Egyptians.

The Jews thought that Yahweh, the name of God, was too holy to pronounce. When reading the Scriptures, they therefore substituted the title Lord for the divine name. This practice has been perpetuated in many English translations which represent the name Yahweh as LORD (all in capital letters). It seems ironical that God, in his grace, revealed the meaning of his name to Moses, and that we have obscured and forgotten it. He is the God of the covenant, the God who will be all that he has promised he will be in relation to his people.

Yahweh God, faithful God, thank you that you are a covenant making and covenant keeping God. Thank you for the Lord Jesus in whom all your promises find their focus. Thank you that in him you have redeemed us from slavery and have set us free to serve you, the living God. Help me to be all that you would have me to be.

Peter Misselbrook