January Reading from The Message
A new year can usher in new beginnings and a return to unfinished business. Here in Exodus 3, Moses has started a new family and left Egypt with all its baggage behind. But God meets Moses in the wilderness to reveal His true name and the big plans He has for His people…
Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.
3 Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”
4 God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
He said, “Yes? I’m right here!”
5 God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.”
6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
Moses hid his face, afraid to look at God.
7-8 God said, “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip of Egypt, get them out of that country and bring them to a good land with wide-open spaces, a land lush with milk and honey, the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite.
9-10 “The Israelite cry for help has come to me, and I’ve seen for myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for you to go back: I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the People of Israel, out of Egypt.”
11 Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 “I’ll be with you,” God said. “And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent you: When you have brought my people out of Egypt, you will worship God right here at this very mountain.”
13 Then Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’”
15 God continued with Moses: “This is what you’re to say to the Israelites: ‘God, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob sent me to you.’ This has always been my name, and this is how I always will be known.
The Self-Revealing God of Israel
“I-am-who-I-am” is God’s answer to Moses’ request for an identifying name (Exodus 3:13-14). I-AM-WHO-I-AM—God’s name for himself—tells Moses that God is alive, present to him, and ready to enact salvation. The Name would later be shortened to a verbal noun of four letters, YHWH, probably pronounced “Yahweh” and usually translated as “Lord” in English. It would become the primary term among the Hebrews for addressing and referring to the self-revealing God of Israel. It’s used some 6,700 times in the Old Testament, as compared with the roughly 2,500 occurrences of the generic Semitic term for divinity, Elohim (translated into English simply as “God”).
The name I-AM-WHO-I-AM has been studied by an endless succession of scholars in an attempt to define it. The most conspicuous result of this extensive effort is that it is inconclusive.
Is the Name purposely enigmatic? Disclosing intimacy and personal presence, but preserving mystery, forbidding possession and control?
I think so.
The bush and the Name stand in contrast to everything that was going on in Egypt at this time. Egypt represented the ultimate in control. The Egyptians controlled a large slave population, controlled a world empire, and even controlled a huge stable of gods and goddesses—as if by reducing them to stone, gigantic and magnificent as the stones were, they could, through their elaborate priestly machinations, control history. But the Name from the bush marked the deconstruction of every kind of impersonal, magical, manipulative, abstract, coercive way of understanding God. It’s important to note that the Name wasn’t invoked or conjured. Moses was minding his own business, remote from the so-called action, far from Egyptian wealth and power and religion.
How do you react to God’s name for himself, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM”? Do you find it satisfying? Confusing? What is reassuring about God identifying himself as “the God of your fathers”?
Slow Down and Connect with God…
Here in the Message Prayerful Reading Bible the Bible in contemporary language is placed alongside the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading. This Bible (and two portions) provides guided reflection and ample space for journaling and reflection. Take a look below…
Learn more about the Prayerful Reading Bible and the six steps of the Lection Divina here – What is Lectio Divina?