“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” – Ex 3:14. (ESV)
Moses was confused. He was tending the sheep and goats in the wilderness for his father-in-law. It had been 40 years since he fled from Egypt and his favored position. On Mt. Horeb he comes across a bush on fire but not consumed by the fire. He approaches to investigate. God calls out his name, “Moses, Moses”. So much to learn here but our promise today is one God made his Name. He is sending Moses back to Egypt with a massive job to do. Moses lacks confidence. He knows names are important so he asks God who he is to say sent him on this mission. Who he will tell the Israelites, has sent him to lead them out of Egypt when they ask what God’s name is. Moses asks “They’ll want to know under what authority I have come back.” God tells Moses His name. “Say…I AM who I AM has sent me to you.” It is the verb “to be” and spelled out in Hebrew as “Yahweh.” It is a name that is a promise. God is and always has been. In English Bibles we use ‘The LORD.’ Older versions use Jehovah.*
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*The making of the name Jehovah.
There was no name ‘Yehowah’ or ‘Jehovah’ at the time God met with Moses in the wilderness. His name was I AM which in Hebrew becomes the four consonant name YHWH and when pronounced, it needed vowel sounds to voice it as Yahweh. Hebrew often did not use vowels for certain words but had pronunciations and when written out vowels were used. When God gave the Children of Israel the Ten Commandments, the third commandment was “You shall not take the name of YHWH your God in vain for YHWH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” The Jews over time were so concerned with possibly slipping up and accidently saying the name YHWH in vain they refused to ever say it or even write it. It was overly cautious because infractions of the law required so much in sacrifices and vows to wipe their slate clean. Forgiveness for sins required proper and fitting sacrifices as well as behaviors.
The Masoretes were a group of Jewish scribes who were guardians of the written law and helped preserve the text of the Old Testament Scriptures. They eventually developed notes on the text based on Jewish traditions. The word Masorete comes from the ancient Hebrew word for “bond,” used to refer to the Jews’ obligation to keep covenant with God. Masoretes, who from about the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible, replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of the Hebrew words Adonai translated “Lord” or Elohim translated “God”. Thus, the artificial name Jehovah (YeHoWaH) came into being. Although Christian scholars after the Renaissance and Reformation periods used the term Jehovah for YHWH, in the 19th and 20th centuries biblical scholars again began to use the form Yahweh. Early Christian writers, such as Clement of Alexandria in the 2nd century, had used a form like Yahweh, and this pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton was never really lost. Other Greek transcriptions also indicated that YHWH should be pronounced Yahweh.