January 22 – Exodus 3:13-15
Main focus: God comes to us and introduces himself so that we can know about him but also know him.
We’ve made quite a jump in time from Genesis 1 to Exodus 3, but there’s a common thread: revelation. In Genesis 1, God begins to reveal himself to mankind, and here at Mt. Horeb he takes it a step further with Moses by giving his name, which even the patriarchs never received (Exo 6:3). This passage will help us stress God’s otherness as well as the need we have for God to reveal himself to us—we never would’ve known God’s name had he not given it to us, and similarly we wouldn’t have known the nature of the Trinity had God not chosen to reveal it.
And just like the doctrine of the Trinity, this scene is otherworldly, even kinda weird. In our discussion we’ll back up to Exodus 2:23 to get the whole context. While Israel is languishing in Egypt under brutal slavery, God comes to Moses out in the wilderness. There Moses witnesses an unearthly sight, a solitary bush engulfed in flames, the leaves still green and the branches still healthy within the blaze, and there he hears an unearthly voice commissioning him for the work of the exodus. This is the background necessary to understanding Moses’ encounter with the God of his fathers—God takes this opportunity to reveal himself to Israel in name, promise, and deed. By this name, by this promise of liberation, and by this redemption from slavery, Israel’s God would be “remembered throughout all generations.”
This is particularly evident given the name by which God revealed himself to Moses. When Moses asks for God’s name, God responds quite mysteriously, “I am who I am.” The name by which he will be known, Yahweh, is taken from the Hebrew word for the verb “to be.” It is, in one sense, a reference to his otherness, his self-existence as Creator—he simply is. In Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Moses will explain to Israel that God revealed himself this way and rescued Israel out of Egypt so that this truth could sink down deep into their hearts, “that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deut 4:39).
But the verb “I am” can also be translated in the future tense—“I will be what I will be”—which is perhaps the stress on it given the amount of times that God promises a future event in the rest of Exodus 3 (ex. “I will bring you up;” “he will let you go”). Thankfully these two meanings are not at odds with one another; the Bible will develop both strands of thought to show that God simply is who he is and he is a God who reveals himself through promises. In discussion we’ll look at this latter aspect of the passage to see that God reveals himself to Moses, and to Israel through Moses, through the promise of liberation from Egypt. And when Moses falters, saying, “Who am I that I should go?”, it is God’s character and nature alone that provides the assurance, “But I will be with you.”
Now at this point you might be wondering, what does all this have to do with the Trinity? To that I’d pose you another question: who is named Yahweh? The Divine Name gets loaded with intense significance throughout the Old Testament, so much so that devout Jews would never speak it aloud, would even swap out the vowels to produce the alternate name Jehovah in order to protect themselves from its holiness.
But then the New Testament will take up all this significance in order to make an ostentatious point by associating the Divine Name with the man Jesus (cf. John 8:58; Acts 2:36; Phil 2:9). In John 8:58, for instance, Jesus says to an audience “before Abraham was, I am,” after which they all picked up stones to execute him for his blasphemous insinuation that he could be called by the Name. The New Testament will also refer to the Spirit as Yahweh (cf. 2 Cor 3:17), to ensure that we understand all three are equally God—all three are YHWH.
But to return to where we started, for us to know anything about God and be in relationship with him, God himself will have to close the gap, as he did with Moses in the bush, and as he has done for us in both his written word and the incarnate Word. Remembering this puts us in an appropriate position of humility, which the doctrine of the Trinity requires, and prepares us to receive from the Lord what he says about himself. And remembering that God himself has “come down” (Exo 3:8), revealing himself to us that we might know him, gives us an opportunity to respond in praise, to find our own place in the grand story of redemption, and to be in awe that this God would come to us.
• Could someone read Exodus 2:23-3:15 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• The name Yahweh comes from the Hebrew word for “I am”—what can that tell us about God?
• Why do you think God revealed himself to Moses and the Israelites this way? (cf. Deut 4:32-40)
• What promises and assurance does God make in this passage?
• What can all of this tell us about God’s nature and character?
• How can this passage help us understand how God relates to us?
• How does all of this stir your heart to worship God?