Introduction: In their wilderness wanderings, Israel was tempted not only to question God, but even to level accusations of evil intent against Him. Just a few months after the Exodus, they want to “drag God into court” to accuse Him of abusing His people. Their accusations climax in Exodus 17:7, where they dare to utter the question, “Is the LORD among us or not?” How insulted would we be at such treatment were we the Savior of Israel from slavery? But the LORD is up to the task of graciously responding to such ingratitude. May His name “LORD” and the mercy that this name stands for shine all the more brightly against the backdrop of Israel’s rebellion in this week’s notes.
Mon/Tues: read Exodus 3:14-15; 17:1-7 and Matthew 22:23-33. The slur which Israel casts against God’s loving presence among His people is refuted by the definition of the name “LORD”, (capitalized for emphasis in most of our English versions). Moses defines it in Exodus 3:14, emphasizing its utter reliability as God declares Himself to be the “I AM”: a name translated throughout the Old Testament as “The LORD.” Another translation could be “I AM WHO I AM.”
Think of it! There has never been any other being who could speak of himself as perpetually, unchangeably the same, from all eternity to all eternity! This reveals God as in a category all by Himself: self-existent, eternal and alone the giver of all life. Every other being must speak about past (“I was”); present (“I am today…”) and future (“I will”). But the LORD simply IS.
What does such an unchanging character mean for us? Since God IS, He never changes in His covenant relationship to His people. The God who told Abraham, “I AM your God,” continues to be Abraham’s God and actually gives Abraham resurrection life so that it can be eternally said, “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. – STILL!” This is Jesus’ point when, in Matthew 22:32, He quotes the LORD’s description of His relationship to the long-since dead Abraham: “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Because God doesn’t change, we as His people are kept in continual relationship with the LORD even after we die!
Meditate and Pray: Thank you, LORD, that you are able to identify yourself in relation to your covenant people in whatever trials they face – even death itself. As Jesus says about the unchangeable nature of His Father: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” Give us courage through this name to dwell securely and without fear as “aliens” in this hostile world. May we be persuaded that the very same God who preserved the faith of our fathers and mothers will also carry us through life, and even through death, as our “I AM” God! Amen.
Wednesday: read Exodus 3:14-15 and 17:1-2. Exodus 17 opens with Israel literally, “contending or bringing a case against Moses”, followed by Moses’ objection again in Exodus 17:2: “Why do you bring a case against me and test the LORD?” Thus with great hostility and a desire to punish God, Israel puts the “LORD” in the dock in order to blame Him for all their ills. This is all the more remarkable when we remember for a moment what this name “LORD” stands for. Rooted in the present continuous tense of the Hebrew verb “to be”, it is a name which commands us to rest on God’s unchanging faithfulness. He will not deceive us by giving us a false name on which to call, but will perform for us all that His name has promised! He has staked His reputation on being unchangeably true and trustworthy, especially when it comes to saving and preserving the lives of His own. This is why the name “LORD” could be translated as: “I will be who I will be”: always the same, unchangeable Savior of His people.
Meditate and Pray: Thank you LORD, that you never alter the relationship with us which your name implies. You refuse to abandon us to death, and instead raise us from the dead, so that you can keep your name as I AM, and so you can say of us, “I AM your God…”. Thank you that you care about every word of Scripture, and even every verb tense! Thank you that your name as Savior in our lives is unchangeably eternal. Do not let us question your name or place in our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who is the same “yesterday, today and forever”. Amen.
Thursday: read Exodus 17:1-7 and 33:13-19. Though Israel scorns God’s name, and refuses to trust the unchanging Divine character which it represents, Moses treasures this name “LORD”, and wants to learn more. We see Moses ask for an expanded view of this name in Exodus 33:13-19, where he asks God to “show him His glory”. God indicates in Exodus 33:19 that He will grant this request by revealing His name as full of compassion and mercy. In this way His Name “LORD” will be proclaimed in Moses’ very presence.
Notice, especially how intimate the LORD is with Moses in verse 19, literally translated: “I will cause all my goodness to pass before your face, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, before your face. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Nothing could be more direct: Moses “face” is going to directly encounter God as God gives him a revelation of Himself in a life-giving and personal way: Not, as the LORD says in verse 20, with a deadly view of the white hot holiness of God, but with a view full of God’s compassion and mercy.
Meditate and Pray: Give the LORD the joyful thanks of your heart as you see Him magnify His goodness directly revealed to sinners such as Moses and we ourselves, using hymn # 82:
Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Crimes of such horror to forgive,
Who is a pardoning God like Thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Or who has grace so rich and free?
Fri/Sat/Sun: read Exodus 33:19-20 and 34:5-8. When Moses asks to see the glory of the LORD, it is the twin attributes of mercy and compassion which are emphasized in Exodus 33:19: “I will cause all my goodness to pass before your face, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, before your face. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”
Each of these words describe the deep loving character of God. The first word “mercy” in verse 19, is the undeserved favor of a superior to a lowly, afflicted, humbled soul. Moses, as the “meekest man on the face of the earth at that time” (Numbers 12:3), has in our passage already pleaded for this “favor” to continue with him and with wicked Israel in Exodus 13:13: If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.
What astounding faith from the Spirit of God to prompt Moses to pray for this “favor” to be shown to Israel after the golden calf!
“Compassion”, the second word for God’s goodness in verse 19, comes from the idea of tenderness, or softness, and is used of the tender affection of a mother or father for their child, and also is the word for a mother’s womb. This is how God the Father shows that He is continually mindful of the plight of His own. With His compassionate eye upon us, even when we sin, He is ready at any moment to mercifully cover over our sins as His promise of compassion moves us to confess our them according to, Proverbs 28:13.
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God for the way in which His love for us endures as long and unchangeably as His name: There is a limitless depth of Divine compassion coming from the springs of of the LORD’s tenderest heart affections! Sing about such deep compassion from Psalm 103:13, found in hymn # 131:
Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.
God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.
Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.
Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.