Moses is on the verge of accepting the call. But he asks of God, “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘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?”
Although there was little resemblance of the integrity of Joseph left in the people, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would not have been completely lost from their memory. Therefore, asking by what name Moses should use to tell them who had sent him seemed like a foolish question. Or is it? The nature and power of the One who sent Moses would be expressed in that name. Since names meant much to the Semitic mind, it was important for Moses to reveal to the people the true nature of their God. A God who was now ready to deliver them from bondage.
God explained to Moses the name He had made Himself known to Abraham at the making of the covenant in Genesis 15:7. In Hebrew and English, this name is a form of the verb, “To Be.” “To Be” implies that its possessor is the eternal, self-existing One. In the book of John, the disciple John brings this idea out in John 8:58. This God, when compared to the Egyptian god’s “To Be,” was to be thought of by the Hebrew people as more powerful than all the Egyptian gods put together. In the Egyptians form of deities, they needed many gods to possess all the power that the “I AM” possessed. This is something that the Israelites should have remembered and understood. Therefore Moses was instructed to say, “I AM hath sent me” It was a way of saying, “I AM that I AM and I have sent Moses.”
From the Hebrew word translated as “I AM” comes the derived form of Yahweh. Yahweh is rather consistently rendered “LORD” by many translations with the whole word in capital letters. Interestingly the American Standard Version of 1901 transliterates Yahweh as “Jehovah,” This was done by trying to understand the Hebrew word, or letters, “YHWH” in which some ancient Hebrew manuscripts had the word “odini” under the letters “YHWH.” The Hebrews would not use the name of God, so they only used the constinents. But the translators tried to incorporate “YHWH and Odini” into a single word. They thus came up with something that became known as Jehovah.
Interestingly, throughout the Old Testament, Yahweh is used as the name for God the Father and God the pre-incarnate Christ. So a careful study of the context of the passage can reveal who is actually speaking or being referred to when we see the word LORD or Yahweh is used. Interestingly, the Old Testament uses LORD or Yahweh to reference the pre-incarnate Christ more often than it does God the Father.
I just used the phrase, “Now ready to deliver them from bondage.” It makes one think that God delays and does not hear us or act on our behalf until he is ready. Because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and able to be everywhere at once, we think he should be able to respond and act on our behalf immediately. But Isaiah 55:8 – 9 gives us tremendous insight into the workings of God. “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
Looking at the history of Abraham’s family, it seems clear they had not lived up to their potential. Therefore instead of being a blessing to the people of Canaan, God moved them to Egypt. In Egypt, they once again did not live up to their potential. They, like Moses, tried to do things their way. But now, through Moses and the mighty acts of God, he would teach Israel and Egypt just who the God’s of heaven is. He is the Great I AM, now looked down and said, now is the appointed time to rescue Abraham’s family. What I am about to do for them will show Egypt and the land of Canaanites what a mighty God I Am in comparison to their many gods. Therefore Moses, tell the people, I AM that I AM who will bring you out of Egypt to the land I promised to Abraham. It is time to put together that which was ripped apart at the flood and the tower of Babel. It is time to make all people one people again. Therefore Moses, lead them to Canaan, and I will go before you in both Egypt and Canaan and all along the way. For I AM that I AM.