“WHAT IS HIS NAME” David Caudery
We have now moved on to read about the dramatic life of Moses. Exodus Ch. 3 is about his challenging encounter with God at the burning bush. For 40 years he had been living as a shepherd in Midian after fleeing from Pharaoh after he killed an Egyptian and this became known. Now ‘the angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” [v.2]
We notice this is “the” specific angel that represents the Almighty; the rest of the chapter is written as if God himself is speaking. “Then the LORD (Yahweh) said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt … Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel out of Egypt.” [v.7,10]
What intrigued us is the question Moses puts to God. “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask me ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
Now why would Moses expect the people to ask the name of the God of their fathers? Well the word ‘name’ in certain contexts means reputation – such as when David ‘made himself a name’ (2 Samuel 8 v.13) and in some contexts in modern versions it is translated as ‘became famous’ and similar.
Moses anticipates his generation of Israelites, will know little about the God of their forefathers and will want to know what reputation he had. All their lives they had been surrounded by the religious attitudes of the Egyptians and the legends about the prowess of their Gods, Osiris, Mont, etc.
God answers Moses by saying, “I AM who I AM”. How is that an answer? We note the footnote in the ESV and RSV versions give the alternative of “I will be what I will be” This is better, it directly relates to YAHWEH, which as the ESV footnote, states ‘is here connected with the verb hayah “to be”. So God is saying, he is a God who becomes, he will establish his reputation by what he is going to do, not by legends of the past as with the gods of human imagination..
We will see, as we read the Old Testament, that this point is made quite frequently about Israel’s God, for example, Isaiah 63 v.14 “so you led your people (through Moses) to make for yourself a glorious name”
Those who follow the God of the Bible must aim to make for themselves a name, that is, a reputation that is pleasing to God – and in the climax of the ages, when his kingdom bears rule throughout the earth, God will give them a “new name” [Rev. 3 v.12]