Thursday, September 8, 2011

Exodus 3:13-15 Who Is Speaking, Please?

"Moses said to God,
'Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
"The God of your fathers has sent me to you,"
and they ask me, "What is his name?"
Then what shall I tell them?'

God said to Moses,
This is what you are to say to the Israelites:
'I AM' has sent me to you."

God also said to Moses,
'Say to the Israelites,
"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,
the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.' "

Exodus 3:13-15 (NIV)

Moses is considering this task which God has assigned him.  However, he knows that the Hebrews may be somewhat skeptical if he just shows up in Egypt after a forty-year absence, claiming to have a message from God for them.  Especially since when he left Egypt, he had been fleeing for his life.

Moses asks God's name.  Why?  Does he not know it already? Or is this a test to see if it is truly the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is speaking with him?  His attitude reminds me of how I might react if an unidentified stranger calls on the phone:  "May I ask who is calling?"

God's reply seems somewhat enigmatic:  "I AM WHO I AM."  His reply is written in all capital letters in the Bible, but they didn't have the Internet at that time, so, no, God is not shouting.  His name expresses His character as the faithful, dependable God -- One who is self-existent and needed nothing from others himself, yet was all things to those who were in a covenant relationship with Him.

God also called Himself 'The LORD' in verse 15.  This is not an additional name.  In Hebrew, it is 'Yahweh'.  This word means 'He is' or 'He will be'.  The NIV Study Bible note on this verse says that it is "...the third-person form of the verb translated 'I will be' in verse 12 and 'I AM' in verse 14.  When God speaks of himself, he says, 'I AM,' and when we speak of him, we say, 'He is'."  Same word, different tense.

[On an interesting side note, when Jesus applied this title to himself in John 8:58-59, he was making a clear claim for his own divinity, and the bystanders understood this as well, for they took up stones to stone him for what they considered to be blasphemy.]

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