Introduction: Before proceeding to Exodus 3:18-20 and Moses’ demand of Pharaoh to let God’s people go, we focus on the name of God in Exodus 3:13-17, not only as it reveals God’s eternal, unchangeable character, but also as it is the anchor of the believing soul in all the stormy gales of life. May we rejoice this week to be reminded that all God does in our lives as His people is for the great purpose of making for Himself “a glorious name” (Isaiah 63:14).
Monday: read Exodus 3:13-14 and Matthew 22:31-32. In answer to Moses’ question, 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.” Moses must have been just as awestruck by this as he had been by the wonder of the bush which burned without being consumed! 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.
For example, 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.”
Meditate and Pray: “Thank you, unchanging Author of life, that you will never alter the relationship with us which your name implies. You refuse to abandon us to death, and instead raise us from the dead, simply so that you can keep your name as I AM, and so you can say of us, “I AM the God of….” 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.”
May we respond to the revelation of His great name with the devotion and faith expressed in hymn # 164 (vv. 2-3) of our hymnals:
My gracious Master and my God,
Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
Tuesday: read Exodus 3:7-14. God’s name is ever-glorious: not just when men experience its power and believe upon it. God’s name would still reveal His glory even if the world of mankind had never been created! As hymn # 27, verse 2, in our hymnal puts it:
Thy throne eternal ages stood,
Ere seas or stars were made:
Thou art the ever living God,
Were all the nations dead.
Yet, in Exodus 3:7-14, God chooses to reveal His name not with the glories of Heaven, but in the painful slavery of Egypt. It is while His people are suffering the trials of slavery that God “comes down” to reveal His name as the “I AM” God, in Exodus 3:8 & 14. Knowing the painful and lowly condition of His people, the Lord chooses to walk with them “in the midst of the fire,” signifying that He knew all about His peoples’ trials, as He reveals Himself at the burning bush by the very name which answers all their needs at such a time of testing!
Meditate and Pray: Can there be anything more comforting than Exodus 2:24, as it is translated in the ESV version? “God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.” Simply to know that God understands our every trial, from the inside out – and not just from a distance! Simply to know that He identifies Himself as our God, never ashamed to own us, no matter how marred our lives may be by mistreatment in this world! This is the unchangeable reality of the “I AM God” who, once He claims us, never fails to identify Himself as “The God of our fathers; our God and the God of our children.”
Wednesday: read Exodus 3:13-15. God makes clear that the burning bush is not the first place where He revealed His name. “From generation to generation”, (Ex. 3:15), God revealed Himself to Moses’ fathers in the faith, who also knew Him as “The LORD”. For example, Abraham built altars “to the LORD”, and “called upon the name of the LORD”, (Gen. 12:7,8). Nevertheless, that name was not revealed to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as it was in its fullness to Moses at the bush. They had to live in the light of what God promised to do in the distant future, content not to experience what Moses did in the fulfillment of all that the name “LORD” meant. God describes the comparative darkness of Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s days in Exodus 6:3; “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by My name the LORD I did not make Myself known to them.”
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to give you the contented faith of Moses’ ancestors, who had to live by faith, not sight, right until the day they died. As Hebrews 11:13 puts it, “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” How does hymn # 338 put it?
I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Thursday: read Exodus 34:6,7. When Moses asks for further revelation of the name “LORD,” God grants his request in Exodus 34:6-7 when He proclaims, “The LORD, The LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin….” Notice especially how God highlights His compassion, grace and forgiving love. What an important role, therefore, does God’s forgiving nature play in showing forth His unchanging character as the “The LORD.” As John Owen puts it “to be known by this name, ‘the God of forgiveness,’ is the great glory of God in this world.” No wonder the Psalmist celebrated forgiveness in the name of “The LORD” in Psalm 99:6-9: “Moses and Aaron were among God’s priests, Samuel was among those who called on His name; they called on the LORD and He answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept His statutes and the decrees He gave them. O LORD our God, You answered them; You were to Israel a forgiving God, though You punished their misdeeds. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.”
Meditate and Pray: Celebrate the great comfort and refreshment which comes from the name “LORD” as you sing of God’s forgiving grace in 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?
Friday: read Exodus 3:13-18 and Isaiah 63:8-14. One would expect that Israel would always listen to God and that Exodus 3:18 would always be the experience of God’s messengers, like Moses: “They will listen to you.” But sadly, though God had the right to expect such loyalty (Isaiah 63:8: “Surely they are My people, sons who will not be false to Me”); though He did everything in His power to show Israel compassion in every affliction (Isaiah 63:9: “In all their distress, He too was distressed…”), they proved false to Him again and again, “rebelling and grieving His Holy Spirit” (Isaiah 63:10). In the face of such exceedingly disappointing behavior on the part of His own, we might well ask, “How could God justly maintain His holy reputation when His own people were so unholy?” After all, the name “LORD” is underlined in Exodus 34:7 to describe God as one who “does not leave the guilty unpunished….” So we ask the question: How could God bear with His people for so long given His absolute hatred of their sin? How does He bear with us with all our sinful compromises and failures to be holy?
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the Cross, which casts a shadow of grace back into the Old Testament. As Romans 3:25-26 declares: “God in His forbearance left those sins committed beforehand unpunished,” so that, through His Son’s redeeming work, there might be both a just punishment of men’s sin and also forgiveness by His blood. No wonder God can afford to be so patient with His wayward people in the Old Testament! He knows the debt of Israel’s sin will be paid by His own Son! In the same way, let us vindicate God’s holiness in our lives, by pointing to the Cross where the just punishment of our sins was endured – and exhausted – by Christ!
Saturday/Sunday: Take some time to rejoice in the unchanging justice and mercy of God’s name, “The LORD.” God’s unchangeable, fiery holiness as “THE LORD”, with His burning consumption of all sin in order to remove it from His sight, remains intact. The glory of His justice is untarnished, and His honor preserved as His Son graciously exhausts the curse and punishment which justice demanded. When we, therefore, confess with the New Testament writer, that Christ offered Himself, “the just for the unjust,” may we always remember how we fall into that second category ourselves, and may we be constantly humbled by such a recollection. Let us give thanks this weekend for the “justice,” as well as the grace, of our salvation with the words of John Newton’s monumental hymn # 172 in our Trinity Hymnals:
Let us love and sing and wonder,
Let us wonder; grace and justice