YHWH: The God Who Acts and Intervenes
Exodus 3 and Exodus 5
Samuel Lesson #148
September 25, 2018
“Father, Scripture tells us that You have said to us ‘Be holy for I am holy.’
“That emphasizes the importance of sanctification, being set apart to Your service. This is why we take the time to confess sin, to focus on how we have rebelled against You, and how we have gone our own way.
“How we have distorted the truth, and how we have let our own fallen nature dictate to our souls what we should do.
“And You have forgiven us because of Christ’s work on the Cross, because of His death, because the certificate of our debt was nailed to the Cross in AD 33 .
“Father, we pray that we might not take this lightly. We pray that as we are to be sanctified that we may walk with You, we are able to be filled by the Spirit, and we are to abide in Your Word.
“We pray that as we study Your Word that not only will we abide in Your Word, but Your Word will abide in us. And that we may come to an ever-greater appreciation of all that You are, and all that You have done for us. In Christ’s name. Amen.”
As we continue our study on worship, part of worship is prayer. We have seen a few prayers and talked a little bit about intercession. Over the last few weeks we saw how Abraham interceded for Lot and his family; how he interceded at other times for the Philistine king.
Intercession is our prayer for others. I thought I would read some sections here from a prayer of intercession from the prayer book that I have been reading from, The Private Prayers of Lancelot Andrewes.
As I said before, he is one of the chief translators of the King James Version. As we have been reading through 1st & 2nd Samuel, he translated that in the King James. So much of what we read—the language, the meter, the rhythm—of 1st & 2nd Samuel is due to his great scholarship.
This is a prayer of intercession. It’s interesting how this is broken down. These were not written to be read to anybody, they were his private prayers that he wrote to focus his thinking on God.
I know that there are those of you who have done this, and maybe written hymns, because I have been sent copies. That is a great exercise for people to do. It focuses your attention on the subject at hand, which is your prayer and your praise for God.
This prayer of his is called The Second Form of Morning Prayer and there are about five sections to it. It covers about 10 pages of really-fine print; I almost have to get a magnifying glass out to read it.
I’m going to read part of this prayer of intercession,
“For the Catholic Church,”
He doesn’t mean Roman Catholic. This is not long after the Reformation and he’s using the term in its original intent—the universal church, the body of Christ.
“For the Catholic Church:
for the churches throughout the world:
their truth, unity ...”
Notice he puts truth first. That’s very biblical.
“their truth, unity, and stability to wit:
in all let charity thrive, truth live:
for our own church:
that the things that are wanting therein be supplied,
that are not right be set in order,
that all heresies, schisms, scandals,
as well public as private, be put out of the way:
correct the erring,
convert the unbelieving,
increase the faith of thy church,
expose crafty enemies
crush violent enemies.
“For the Clergy:
that they rightly divide,
that they walk upright,
that while teaching others themselves may learn.
“For the People:
that they think not of themselves more highly than they ought,
but be persuaded by reason and yield to the authority of superiors.
their stability and peace.
“For the Kingdom,
that they speed well and happily,
and be delivered from all peril and inconvenience.”
By speeding well he doesn’t mean speeding down the highway. That is a term for how one lives in the Elizabethan English.
“For the King:
help him now, o Lord:
O Lord, send him now prosperity:
defend him with truth and favourable kindness as with a shield:
speak comfortably good things unto him
on behalf of the Church and thy People.
“For the prudence of counsellors,
equity, integrity of judges,
courage of the army,
temperance and holy simplicity of the people.
“For the rising generations,
whether in universities
or in schools,
that as in age so they may increase withal
both in wisdom and favor
with God and men.
“For them that make themselves beneficent
towards things sacred and the poor and needy:
reward Thou them sevenfold into their bosom:
let their souls dwell at ease,
and their seed inherit the land:
let them be blessed that consider the poor.
“1. That it may please Thee to reward all our benefactors with eternal good things:
for the benefits which they have bestowed upon us on earth,
let them win eternal rewards in heaven.
“2. That Thou vouchsafe to look upon and to relieve the miseries of the poor and of captives.
“3. That is may please Thee to remember with benign compassion the frail lapses of the flesh, and to support the falling.
“4. That it may please Thee to hold accepted the reasonable service of our obedience.
“5. That it may please Thee to raise up our minds to heavenly desires.
“6. That it may please Thee to turn back upon us the eyes of mercy.
“7. That it may please Thee to deliver the souls of us and of our kinsfolk from eternal damnation.
“8. That together with them, for whom I have prayed
or for whom I am in any sort bound to pray
and with all the people of God,
it be granted me to be brought into Thy kingdom,
there to appear in righteousness
and to be satisfied with glory:
We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord.”
There are a lot of good ideas and verbiage in there to include in our prayers. We have such a trend toward informality and colloquialism in our language, and even in our prayer.
And when we think about the Scripture, even when we look at the Greek, the Koine Greek, there were not too many common people who were talking about the words like HILASTERION, the propitiation, the mercy seat. Not too many were talking about DIKAIOSUNE—righteousness.
Not too many were talking about these virtues that are included in the Christian life in the words that the apostle Paul uses. It’s in the everyday language of people, but it’s an elevated language.
The same is true of the Hebrew in the Old Testament. It’s an elevated language. It was a language that all of the people spoke, but it was elevated.
It’s just like in the time of Elizabeth and King James when Elizabethan English was spoken. And we read the language as it’s coming together in Shakespeare at the same time that the King James Bible is being translated.
We know that the people didn’t talk like that on the street. They understood it—it was clearly understandable, everyday language.
But Shakespeare is elevated language. The Bible is elevated language. When the Bible is translated into elevated language it is to honor the God Who is being revealed in the Scripture.
It is to recognize a principle that we are seeing again and again as we go through worship—when we come to worship God it is a time that is holy.
What does holiness mean? It’s not some mystical, magical thing. So often within our tradition you’ve heard people sort of denigrate the idea, for example, of calling an auditorium a sanctuary. Well, it’s not a pure place, it’s not a mystical place, but that’s not what sanctuary means.
Sanctuary comes from the Hebrew root of qadosh and HAGGIOS in the New Testament. It refers to a place that is set apart for something distinct and unique, and that is the worship of the Creator God.
It’s not setting it aside as some kind of other worldly location, or someplace mystical and elevated in that sense, but recognizing that its purpose is distinct in focusing our attention upon God.
Thus, what goes on in church, what goes on in Bible class, what goes on when we worship God, is to have something different about it that is not like everything else in life. That’s what we see all the way through Scripture. We will see an example of that as we get into the Word tonight.
One of the things that we have seen as we’ve walked our way through Genesis, and now we’re going to start in Exodus, one of the things that we have observed is that worship began in a sanctuary.
It began in the Garden of Eden—a place that was distinct in all the earth. It was set apart for that place where man dwelt and where God met with him.
Sin corrupted that situation and so that man is excluded from that sanctuary. But God has a remedy for what sin has corrupted and it’s through sacrifice.
We see the development of sacrifice as we go through the Old Testament. We see that worship can be perverted by ignorance. That’s one of the points that was brought out.
We see that worship also is defined by God, not by man. That worship is based on certain actions taking place that are the response to God’s direction and God’s commandment.
It is not man saying, “Oh, I want to feel good about my relationship to God, so isn’t it a good idea that I kill an animal.”
It doesn’t come from man up. It is God Who is saying there is a blot on our relationship that is so severe that it brings death into the world.
And to emphasize the horror of that death, and the fact that a death must occur in order to cover the sin, we are going to institute animal sacrifice.
So we go through the Old Testament and we get to Abraham. And we realize more fully that something that started at the end of Genesis 4, at the time of Enosh, that at that time, men began “to call upon the name of the Lord.”
What exactly does that mean? We saw that God, in Exodus 24–25, calls upon the name of the Lord. He is speaking about Himself. What He does, in context, is to talk about His attributes, His character, Who He is as a God of forgiveness and a God of lovingkindness.
So that worship now not only involves sacrifice, it involves the proclamation of Who God is and what He is doing.
Then in the last couple of lessons we looked at what happened in Genesis 14. Worship involves giving. There is a giving to God, and sometimes this too is sacrificial. And so giving is brought into the scenario.
We saw the illustration of that last time when God appeared to Jacob and reconfirmed the covenant. As a response, because worship is always a response to revelation, that is what we have seen, Jacob set up a rock called a standing stone—that’s how we refer to these now—a pillar to represent that something had happened there—that God had appeared to him there, thus making that holy ground.
It wasn’t holy ground because there was something special about that dirt. That dirt was the same all around except right there. That’s where this Theophany had occurred and a reconfirmation of the covenant.
So he sets up this standing stone as a representative of the staircase that was in his dream of the angels ascending and descending and God making this promise.
Then he gives a gift of the only thing he has of value with him, and that is oil that he poured on the top of that standing stone as his sacrifice, and as his free will offering to God for the blessing that God has promised him.
That’s where we ended last time. What I want to do tonight is go into the next book of the Old Testament. The second book of the Pentateuch (the first five books), Genesis, Exodus we’ll go there.
I want you open your Bibles to Genesis 3. We’re going to see what happens when Moses is confronted with God as the burning bush.
Slide 3 (skipped)
What we are focusing on here is that God is the One that we learn about here. We learn a new aspect of His character, that He is the One Who intervenes and the One Who acts.
So, turn to Exodus 3. Now here’s the circumstance, it’s been over four hundred years since Jacob brought approximately seventy people with him from the promised land, during a time of great famine, down to a place that God had providentially worked to secure for the safety and perpetuation and preservation of the Jewish people in Egypt.
They came down while Joseph was the second highest authority in the land. The only authority above him was the pharaoh.
During that time of famine he brought his family and all of those associated with him into Egypt. They lived there for over four hundred years.
But a pharaoh arose who had no gratitude for what Joseph had done, we’re told in Exodus 1, and he turned the Israelites into slaves.
For probably three hundred or maybe three hundred and fifty years they had been enslaved by the Egyptians who had isolated them into an area of Goshen. But they were in slavery.
We learn that all through this time they have been praying to God. We don’t know anything else about their worship.
We know that because they were praying to God and crying out to the Lord to deliver them that they were continuing the tradition of the patriarchs, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
At the end of Exodus 2:23 we read, “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.”
They are praying, not unlike any of us in this room who have gone through adversity. We have faced hard times.
It may be disease, it may be finances, maybe the death or loss of a loved one. There are innumerable causes of grief in our lives and we too have cried out to God.
So they cry out to God from their misery. And God hears. He listens and He is going to act. But He will act on His timetable because there are lessons to be learned here.
In Exodus 2:24 we add to this. We have seen that God is a living God. We’ve seen that God is a God Who appears, He is the God Who speaks. And here we see that God is a God Who hears our prayers, Who listens.
Then we have an anthropomorphism, God remembered.
God didn’t forget. But from a human perspective, if someone hasn’t done something that you thought should’ve been done already, we think that they forgot.
God doesn’t forget. It is a figure of speech. For now, God has determined that He is going to enact His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
Now I want you to notice, this is kind of fun. This has been a fun day for me. I spent almost all day studying and discovered a lot of stuff late in the afternoon, so we are going to try to pull all this together.
This is important to understand what’s going to happen. When we get down to Exodus 3:14 there is a scene we are all familiar with.
We’ve all talked about and you’ve heard it taught many, many times from me and from others. I don’t think we did a good job with it and we are going to correct some thinking tonight.
It’s the situation when Moses says, “Well, when I go to the Jews and tell them that You sent me, who am I going to say sent me?”
Then God tells him, and the way it is translated in the English, “Tell them that I Am sent you. I am Who I Am.”
He is speaking to Moses about that and so we have to understand what this name of God means—this name that is pronounced Yahweh.
That’s the sacred tetragrammaton, or the sacred four letters YHWH. What in the world does that mean?
In discerning word meanings context is important. And one of the first clues to the context here is Exodus 2:24, God, remembering His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
It is indicating that God is going to act and intervene in history. That is important, we will come back to that thought.
We go into Exodus 3 and we are told a little bit about Moses. He spent forty years as a prince of Egypt and then learns that he’s a Jew.
He sees an Egyptian taskmaster just whipping up on a Jew and he kills him. Then he has to flee because he’s exposed as a Jew and the Egyptians despise the Jews.
He flees to Midian where he meets his wife and works as an under shepherd for his father-in-law Jethro.
That’s where we meet him in Exodus 3:1, “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian.”
He is a Gentile priest, that’s in the background here, just to remember.
“And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.”
This is somewhere on the Sinai Peninsula.
In Exodus 3:2 we read, “And the Angel of Yahweh—this is the Second Person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ—appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.”
As he looks at this fiery bush he decides that he needs to investigate this and decide what is going on here, that it is not burning.
Exodus 3:3, “Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ ”
Exodus 3:4–5, “So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ ”
That probably rattled Moses because the voice of God is self- authenticating. He knew in his bones, just as Romans 1:18 and following teaches, that every one of us knows the existence of God. Moses knew that was God’s voice.
And so he responds, “Here I am.”
Then God says to him, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
It’s holy because God is there. That dirt in Sinai wasn’t any more special than the dirt five feet away.
But that dirt right there had been sanctified or set apart by the presence of God. Therefore, it had to be treated with respect. It had to be treated with honor because this was where God was present.
This is important for us to understand, that when we are worshiping a holy God, there is something about our comportment, there is something about our preparation, there is something about our mental attitude, that should be distinct.
When we are going to church on Sunday morning, when we are going to have corporate worship, it’s not something we start thinking about as we turn off of I-10 onto the Beltway, or as we see Aunt Pookie’s B-B-Q appear on the horizon.
It should be something we begin to think about from the very beginning because we are doing something distinctive on that Sunday morning. We are worshiping a holy God, the unique Creator God of the universe.
And because of that, our time of worship is always holy. It is set apart to the study of God, and to the focus of God, and to, hopefully, the obedience of God.
We shouldn’t treat it like any other time. The things that we do during that time should not be like things we do at other times. It is a distinctive time of worship.
We see that God then identifies himself to Moses. Exodus 3:6, “He said, ‘I am the God of your father—by that He doesn’t mean his immediate father, but of the patriarchs of the fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ ”
Starting at this point we see that as the emphasis. Again and again you’re going to see God refer to Himself in this way, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
That is what makes a Jew a Jew. That’s the line of the covenant. God made the covenant with Abraham. He confirmed it with Isaac, and He reconfirmed it with Jacob.
All of the Jews descend from the twelve sons of Jacob, this is the line. He identifies Himself by doing this, as the covenant God.
And what does Moses do? “Oh, it’s so wonderful to see Jesus. It’s so wonderful to see God.”
That’s how the silly little choruses today are. “Oh, I want to see Jesus.”
He hides his face because he is coming face-to-face with God as Jacob did at Peniel.
“Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.”
This would have involved Moses falling down on his face. He would have taken a posture not unlike that of anyone coming into the presence of any ancient near-eastern king.
It’s a position that expresses obedience and submission to authority. That’s part of how we get our word for worship. In both Hebrew and Greek it relates to taking this posture of kneeling.
Moses would go down on his knees and he would fall down on his face with his forehead to the ground and probably with his arms outstretched.
The point is, to the Creator of the universe we are nothing better than the dust from which we have come. That which makes us better is the image of God.
Again we recognize we cannot treat God in a familiar, trivial, or common way.
The Lord then says to him that He’s heard the prayers, He is going to answer the prayers.
What we saw at the end of Exodus 2 is that God heard their groaning and He remembered the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Now we see that He states that He has seen this. He’s heard their cry, He’s heard their prayers, and He knows and understands their sorrows.
He says in Exodus 3:8, “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.”
What He is saying is “I’ve come to fulfill the promise I made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fulfill My Word to them.”
Then we read in Exodus 3:9–10, “ ‘Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ ”
There’s the commission. “You are going to be the deliverer that they have been looking for and they have been praying for.”
Skip down a couple of verses and you see the statement. After Moses asked a question he starts coming up with all these objections, saying, “Well, who am I? I’m a nobody. Why are You using me?”
And God says, Exodus 3:12–13, “So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you.’ ”
Does that sound familiar? As I pointed out last week, that is not just omnipresence. This goes back to the same kind of statement God made to Jacob, “I will be with you.”
It is a statement of the covenant promise that, “I am going to fulfill the promise I made to you. And I’m going to be with you in a special sense of power and protection to accomplish that which I have intended.”
We traced this through last time through the Old Testament leading up to the statement that Jesus made to the disciples in the Great Commission, Matthew 28:20, “And I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This is part of God’s promise in His relationship now to the Jewish people. He says, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on the mountain.’ ”
Notice, they are going to do what? Serve God. That’s foreshadowing. It’s talking about serving God. That’s the role of a priest.
We saw that word, abad, to work, back in Genesis 2:15. God put Adam in the Garden to guard and to serve, or usually it’s translated to work and to tend, but it has to do with serving God.
Exodus 3:13, “Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them,—this is the second objection—“The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” What shall I say to them?’ ”
This is where it starts getting really interesting, because what we understand here is that they already knew who this God was. They already knew who He was. They knew His name.
When Eve gets pregnant in Genesis 4:1, she calls her firstborn Cain because “Yahweh has given me a son”.
So the name Yahweh has been known since the fall, and before the fall. You see it all the way through.
Abraham called on the name of the LORD, and we see others following. Several times Abraham called on the name of Yahweh. So this isn’t something new in terms of the name.
But what is coming out that is new is something that is distinct about what that name means, what it indicates.
“And they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”
Exodus 3:14–15, “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” ’ ”
He is saying the first part to Moses. He says, “I’m going to tell you Who I am. I AM WHO I AM.” Except that’s not a good translation.
I want to point out a couple of things about this. What does this name Yahweh mean? It is translated this way not only in the New King James, which I have on the top of the slide.
But the translation on the bottom of the slide is a rather recent one called the NET Bible which was produced mostly by the Old Testament Department at Dallas Theological Seminary.
I don’t know who translated Exodus, but they translate it that same way.
Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM that I AM.’ And He said, ‘You must say this to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.” ’ ”
So this introduces this idea, and it’s picked up again in Exodus 6:2–3 where it is repeated, “And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.’ ”
One commentator paraphrases or translates it this way, which I think explains it,
“And God spoke to Moses, and said to him, ‘I am Yahweh. And I showed myself to Abraham, (remember, He’s the God Who appears) to Isaac, and to Jacob in the character of El Shaddai, but in the character expressed by my name Yahweh I did not make myself known to them …” ~Motyer
There is a lot of discussion about what this means, what the name of God actually describes and what it relates to.
I was digging around today and one of the books that I’ve been looking at, as I’ve been going through this worship series, is Enthroned on Our Praise: An Old Testament Theology of Worship. It is written by Timothy Pierce, a teacher in the Old Testament Department at Southwestern Baptist Seminary.
It’s not bad. I would not run out and get it, but it’s not bad. He brings out some good points.
One of the things he brings up here is that most people interpret the phrase along the lines of God’s actions, rendering God’s response as either, “I will be who I will be” or “I am who I will be.”
Do you notice a difference in what he said and “I am who I am?” That’s what you’ve heard most the time, that’s what I’ve heard most the time.
But he points out that a vast number of people do not understand it or translate it that way. So that’s just to clue you in that I’m not just pulling this out of the hat.
He says, “Others attempt to understand the meaning along the lines of the traditional rendering ‘I am that I am.’ In this perspective, the meaning is usually related to God’s self-determination and complete freedom.”
It’s also usually related to saying that God is always in existence, He’s eternal. And that’s brought into the idea here.
That is and was a common position. Maimonides, who was probably the foremost medieval Jewish philosopher and commentator on Aristotle, believed that.
And it came over into Christian philosophy a lot, because of this influence, especially talking about metaphysics.
Remember, metaphysics is that branch of philosophy that talks about ultimate reality, and is there a higher being? Is there a God? The arguments for God’s existence. All these things are part of metaphysics.
I took a course in metaphysics back in the mid-eighties when I was working on my degree in philosophy at the University of St. Thomas.
We spent a lot of time talking about this in this traditional understanding—that what this is emphasizing is God as eternal being.
That’s not right. That’s how most of us have understood this. I don’t think that’s right. I’m going to show you why don’t think that’s right.
That’s called the ontological view. Ontological is one of those words a lot of people use just about every day, right? Ontology is basically the same thing as metaphysics, if you break down the etymology.
It refers to the study of being. ONTOS is the Greek participle for being, for is, to be. So that’s called the ontological view. He’s going to use that word.
He says, “What is clear is that the phrase is not ontological in nature. That is, it doesn’t mean I am He who exists as if God were disclosing His eternality.”
That is how many of us have understood this. He goes on and analyzes it a little later, but I just wanted to read that section out of his book to introduce this to you.
Then this last week I got one of these little jewels that I pick up every now and then.
Back when I started getting really hungry to study the Word and really interested in the Word, and I say this because I want young men who think they have the gift of pastor-teacher and old men who are pastors to listen, because I find this to be rare today.
There are some out there—that’s one of the purposes of Chafer Seminary, to create this kind of knowledge in many pastors as to how to study.
What I did was I picked up the first Framework pamphlet which Charlie Clough wrote, and I read it and I thought it was great. He had a bibliography in the back and so I bought every book in the bibliography and I read every book in the bibliography. Framework Two came out and I did the same thing.
I would read other books and I would notice, I would always read the footnotes. I hate end notes. It’s better if they are at the end of the chapter. But they’re just terribly inconvenient when they’re at the end of the book.
I always had three or four bookmarks at the back so that I could go back and forth. Many times, if they are good authors, doing good scholarship, they will have a footnote that’s not just saying, “Okay, I did my due diligence, I read all the commentaries.”
But if it’s a good book, a well-researched book, he’s going to have a paragraph in the footnote. And there’s better information in that footnote, but it’s more technical, which is why they don’t put it into the main text.
I’ve got a book by Daniel Dreisbach called, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers. I don’t want to read the text, I just want to read his footnotes.
His footnotes are long paragraphs, and they’re the most informative paragraphs. I spend most my time just thumbing to the back and reading the six-point print in the footnotes.
But that’s what I do and so I was reading in one book about worship and the names of God, and I noticed that there was a book, a commentary on Exodus, that was quoted frequently.
Since the person I was reading is quite a respected Hebrew scholar I paid attention to that, especially his comments and quotes that were included in the footnotes.
I traced it down and had to buy an extremely expensive used version because it’s out of print, called The Second Book of the Bible: Exodus, that was written, probably in Hebrew, by Benno Jacob.
It says it’s translated with an introduction by Walter Jacob. So, this was originally written in Hebrew by a Jewish scholar, not a Christian scholar.
He just absolutely blew me away. He’s got five or six pages just on understanding the name of God and what it means. What’s significant is that he makes observations that I only know of one of my Hebrew professors who understood this and I didn’t catch it when I had him.
What is typical is this footnote that you find in the NET Bible. Remember I said that most of that represents the Old Testament scholars at Dallas Seminary and a few others. So I don’t know who wrote this.
It says, “The verb form used here is ehyeh,”
When God says I am that’s the Hebrew form ehyeh it’s not Yahweh as its first person singular. Yahweh is third person.
He says that it’s the Qal imperfect “to be”. It forms an excellent paronomasia (that is a word play). The verb forms a paronomasia with the name of God.
“So when God used the verb to express his name, he used this form saying ‘I AM.’ When his people refer to him as Yahweh, which is the third person masculine singular form of the same verb, they say ‘he is.’
“Some commentators argue for a future tense translation, ‘I will be who I will be,’ because the verb has an active quality about it, and the Israelites lived in the light of the promises for the future.”
Now they don’t agree with that, but I think that’s exactly what’s going on in the text.
“They argue that ‘I AM’ would be of little help to the Israelites in bondage.”
“But a translation of ‘I will be’ does not effectively do much more except restrict it to the future.”
See, they’re not thinking deeply enough. That ignores the context. What is it that’s happening? They are enslaved by the Egyptians.
What is God saying? “I’m going to act.” It’s not putting it in some indefinite form of the future. After almost four hundred years of silence God is saying, “Okay, I’m here. I’m going to take care of the problem.”
This is what this guy Benno Jacob says.
“First of all, the verb haya (that’s the verb that is the root of the name Yahweh), does not refer to existence or reality. Nor can it be understood to refer to a being which remains unchanging.”
He’s not denying immutability when he says that. That is not what he is talking about. He then says,
“Rather, it means ‘to be present, to appear, to manifest itself, and basically to be an intervening force in the world.’ ”
That is a much more powerful statement. God is saying “I’m going to intervene and I’m going to act.” This is not something passive. It’s not this twaddle that they put in the NET Bible. I’ve never liked it. I’ve never said a good thing about it. And I continue, after almost 20 years, to be consistent.
Then he says,
“Secondly this form ehyeh (which is what God said in the first person) is in the future tense.”
So He is saying, “I will be. I will act.”
It’s a promise He is sending Moses. “Moses, you want a confirmatory message? Here’s the message, ‘I will act. I will intervene. I’m going to fulfill the promise.’ ”
That’s exactly what the context has been showing as I’ve been pointing out. God heard their groaning in Exodus 2:24 and God remembered His covenant with Moses.
And then he says this again in Exodus 3:7, “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.”
Now in the midst of this when Moses says, “Who do I tell them sent me?” God says in Exodus 3:15–16, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.”
“Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;” ’ ”
It’s all about answering their prayer. And that’s the whole context of everything around that surrounds and frames this statement that is translated, “I am that I am” when it should be, “I will be what I will be”, indicating that “I am going to now fulfill the patriarchal promises.” And that name will really mean something.
The conclusion is that the ontological meaning is deeply flawed based on grammar and context. It’s a future tense. It’s not “I am”—present tense, it is “I will be”—future tense.
And context which reiterates that He is hearing the prayer and is going to act in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant
It’s first person—“I am”, and future—“I will be. I will act.”
The meaning is that He is the God Who will now act to deliver them and fulfill the patriarchal promises.
In an article in the Dallas Theological Seminary Journal, Bibliotheca Sacra,—in the good old days before it totally went down the tubes, which is just recently—someone named Charles Giannotti wrote an article on, “The Meaning of the Divine Name YHWH.”
His conclusion is it means “What God says, He will do. His Name promises that. And He will act on behalf of His people. But YHWH does not ultimately limit the significance of His name to the children of Israel. As Eichrodt succinctly states, ‘it is in the person of Jesus that the function of the Name of Yahweh as a form of the divine self-manifestation (and I would add intervention) finds its fulfillment.’ ”
“Truly Jesus is the par excellence manifestation of God’s active effectiveness in the history of the world!”
What that means for us is the same thing—God intervenes and He acts. No matter what the situation is, what the problems are, God intervenes and God acts.
The other thing to say about this is that in the Hebrew, because there were no vowels originally, the name of God is spelled with four letters YHWH.
And because of the way Ys and Ws are pronounced going across different languages, often a “ya” sound represents a J, and “va”, a V sound, represents a W.
A lot of scholarship was done in German. There were Protestant Germans who learned Hebrew, but they learned it from German Jews who spoke German.
They pronounced and transliterated the Y as a J because that’s how it was written in German.
A V was written as a W, so it became written as JHVH.
Then in the Middle Ages there were a couple of monks who came along who really did not know Hebrew very well.
What had happened in the development of the Hebrew Bible was that they didn’t want to pronounce the name of God. They had this mystical, superstitious idea, you don’t pronounce the name of God.
So when they saw JHVH they would either say hashem, “the name,” or Adonai. In English the vowels of Adonai are a, o, a, i.
But in Hebrew that first “a” is really an e vowel so that’s why they would put the vowels of Adonai in Hebrew, e, o, and a.
There is no i. We put an i there in English, but in Hebrew it’s actually a consonant, y.
So those vowels are inserted between those letters and you have the word Jehovah. It’s not a real word. No Jew would ever know what that word meant.
It was just manufactured by Christians who didn’t know how to read Hebrew. What the Jews had done is, when they ran across the consonants, they put the vowels underneath to remind the reader to read Adonai, instead of saying the name YHWH. That’s where the name Jehovah came from.
So, in Exodus 3:14–15, which I’ve already stated, “And God said to Moses, ‘I will be Who I will be.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I Will Be has sent me to you.” ’ ”
And in the next verse He emphasizes that this is because He is fulfilling the promises made to Abraham.
In Exodus 3:16–17 we read another command to go tell the elders of Israel this and what this means is, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;… and I will bring you out of the affliction of Egypt.” I’m going to answer your prayer.
Let’s turn over a chapter to Exodus 5.
In Exodus 4 what happens is preparation for the conflict with Pharaoh and in Exodus 5:1 we talk about the first encounter with Pharaoh leading up to the first plague. “Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Yahweh Elohim of Israel: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.” ’ ”
You really have to spend some time thinking about this verse. At first it just seems like a reasonable request. We want to go worship our God.
But that is a statement of rebellion. That is a statement of being a traitor. That is a statement of hostility towards Pharaoh.
In Egypt Pharaoh was a god. He was the manifestation of one of the Egyptian gods. And since he is the god that is to be worshiped by all of the Egyptians, he owns all of the Egyptians.
And since the time of Joseph he had owned all the real estate. He owns everything. He is the manifestation of one of the Egyptian gods and he owns all the slaves.
Now his slaves are coming to him and saying they want to leave Egypt to go worship a God that isn’t him.
It reminds me a lot of what happens when Herod the Great gets that knock on the door and these magi who are Parthian kingmakers are knocking on the door and say we’re looking for the king of the Jews and it is not Herod.
So here’s the same kind of thing. They want to go out in the wilderness and worship God and it’s not him. So he’s taking this very personally.
They are saying that “God has commanded us. We obey Him. We don’t listen to you. God is the higher authority.”
We might even say this is also an example of civil disobedience. It is a very strong challenge to the claim of the Egyptian state to have total authority to define reality, to define all morality, to define all reality.
Everything is defined by the Egyptian Pharaoh. And what they understand is something that we don’t understand anymore. It’s that who you worship is your ultimate authority.
We have so many people today who worship themselves. They are their ultimate authority. It’s the problem of the time of the judges. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes.
They made themselves to be the ultimate determiner of right and wrong. They made themselves to be a god.
Who you worship says who your ultimate authority is. And if the Jews are going to go out into the wilderness to worship God, they are saying, “Pharaoh you don’t matter. You have nothing to say to us. Our loyalty is not to you. Our loyalty is to our God and we are going to go and worship Him.”
They are saying that Pharaoh is nothing, they owe him nothing. He’s not their God, he’s not their king. Basically, they are saying, “You are not the boss of me. We are going out to the wilderness.”
This is why down through history we see this clash between Christians and Jews with totalitarian governments. In the Middle Ages Christianity merged with the state, claiming total power and authority over its citizens.
Jews were not going to allow the king to have that level of exclusive authority. They were going to worship their God.
When the Reformation occurred, and Christianity was still united with the state, for a Christian to get baptized a second time—we talked about this in the last couple of weeks, the Anabaptists—this was viewed as an act of treason. They were being a traitor because the ultimate authority over the church was the state. And the religion of the state was combined together.
And so when you are going to worship God and set God over the state, and declare that the rules of the state are subservient to the authority of God, then you’re viewed as an enemy of the state.
That’s where we are headed in Western Civilization.
This is what Daniel faced. Daniel is not going to rub their nose in it, he’s not going to poke them in the eye with it.
But when Darius signs the order that no one can pray or ask anybody anything unless they ask him, Daniel doesn’t say, “Well, I’m going to go pray. I don’t care what you say.”
He just goes home and very quietly goes about what he does every single day, and that is to pray to God.
His actions are saying “I have a higher authority and it’s not Darius.” As a result, he faced consequences and God delivered him.
Now remember, Daniel is always pictured as being rather young. This happens about 537–538 BC. Daniel had been taken as a captive in 605 BC. That’s sixty-seven years. Daniel was probably fifteen years old or so when he was taken captive. He is eighty-two. He’s not a young man anymore, and he just calmly handles the situation.
This is the circumstance and Pharaoh says to him, Exodus 5:2, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”
He just is as demeaning as he can be toward God. And so they respond.
Exodus 5:3–4, “So they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.’
“Then the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.’ ”
What this sets up is that the worship of God is going to set itself over against the authorities of the state. A principle you probably never heard before is that the worship of God exhibits your greatest authority in life.
When we worship God, we are making a statement that God is the highest authority in our life.
Next time we are going to come back to one of the key passages in Exodus on worship and that’s in Exodus 19. We will look at the section from chapters 19 to 24 when the corporate nation comes face to face with God at Mount Sinai.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to be reminded that You are the God Who acts and Who intervenes in our lives.
“You are the God Who delivers us from all of the pressures and all of the hostility, all of the horrible things that take place in our lives that we have to go through living in this corrupt world.
“We need to learn to walk with You and relax, to let You handle things in Your time as the Israelites did. And that we need to rest in You.
“And Father, we pray that You will challenge us with what we learned today, that the importance of worshiping You is centered upon the fact that You are the sovereign God Who controls the affairs of men. And that we are to rest in Your wisdom as to when to act, and Your power as to how to act. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”