“And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” ” – Exodus 3:14 (NASB)
Our verse today is from a conversation God had with Moses. Moses, divinely protected from death when he was born had an amazing upbringing being trained up in the house of Pharaoh’s daughter in Egypt. The best education and training possible in the day. But he had fled from Egypt after defending one of his own people and killing an Egyptian oppressor. After 40 years in the wilderness Moses thinks he is safe but God comes and tells him to return to Egypt. You are to confront Pharaoh and lead the people out of Egypt and slavery. Moses is reluctant for several reasons and asks who he should tell his people has sent him. God reveals His name to Moses. A name that declares that He is eternally present. He has always been, He is now and He will always be. This is also a promise of God’s eternal presence with His people. He is present to help us, comfort us, guide us, and so much more. His presence never leaves us, and He will always be with us. That is the greatest comfort we can ever find, and we learn it from the very name of God: I AM.
“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”” – Exodus 20:20 (NASB)
Like the promise of ‘hope’ that does not disappoint, we are more used to a ‘hope’ that lets us down. Our hope more of a wish than a sure hope in God’s promises. There is a fear that we know and think of it as a terrible and unwanted emotion. The people of Israel, at the base of Mount Sinai are receiving the Law of God, specifically the Ten Commandments. Having seen the thunder and lightning and the sounds of the trumpet and fire from the mountain top, they are deathly afraid of God and fear He is going to kill them. Moses instructs them to not respond to the phenomena with fear, they were also told to have proper fear, it’s healthy, it’s being in awe and reverence of God. Such fear deterrers sin. God’s intention is that his power and holiness stimulate fear in us, not to drive us from Him, but to drive us to Him. Fearing God means, first, fearing to abandon him as our great security and satisfaction. Romans 11:20 instructs us to stand strong through faith so that we will avoid pride and fear falling to unbelief instead.
“And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Exodus 33:14 (NIV)
Does it make a difference for us to know that God is with us through difficult hours? I believe it certainly does, just as it did in the time of Moses when God gave him this promise. God had just reviewed His instructions to Moses, telling him to lead the people of Israel from Sinai to the Promised Land. Typical of Moses, he was again in a self-made quandary. Even though God had led the new nation of Israel out of Egypt with marvelous manifestations of His loving care and provision, and even though God had relented and provided whatever Moses and the people complained for, Moses was frequently disturbed by challenges God put in their path. In spite of God’s promise “I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites…” Moses asked who was going with him. The Lord assured him that He Himself would go with him. Then He added that He would give them rest by bringing them to the land after their wanderings. We, too, can have confidence when we remember that God is with us. It’s a rest we can experience when we trust Him.
“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.