What is God’s name?

The God Who Makes Himself Known
Exodus 3:14-15

Exodus 3 starts the process of God making Himself known to Israel and to Egypt. From the burning bush, God calls Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. Moses said, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?’” (Exodus 3:13).

God’s response? “I am what I am.” What does that mean?

For one thing, it points us back to the statement God made to Moses in verse 12 – “I will be with you.” In Hebrew, God says the same thing – “I am.” The verb can mean both, depending on the context.

This statement – “I am who I am” – is related to God’s promise of success for Moses. God will be with Moses and will help him, help Israel, carry out God’s will. Secondly, the statement’s ambiguity also suggests something. It opens up the possibility of future definition, future clarification. “Who I am” will be made clearer as God makes Himself known while He rescues Israel from Egypt.

Speaking of the future orientation, it begs the question – “I am…” what?

Notice 5:2 where Moses stands before Pharaoh for the first time. Pharaoh arrogantly asked, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

Pharaoh acts like He doesn’t know God. So, Jehovah is going to give him a crash course in theology! The purpose of the plagues is to answer Pharaoh’s question. Notice 9:14-16: “For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”

The liberation of Israel is not the controlling motive for God’s behavior. It is the context in which God acts but the controlling motive is God making Himself known to Israel and Egypt that guides the pouring out of the plagues.

Today, our salvation is not the main issue. It is God’s nature and His glory. Paul does not say, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all for the salvation of souls” (1 Cor. 10:31). No, he says, “do all to the glory of God.” That’s the controlling motive for our life and work as Christians and as the church – making known the glory [nature] of God.

–Paul Holland

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