Read Exodus 3:13-15
13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”
14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
This is my eternal name,
my name to remember for all generations. (NLT)
The Bible is full of puzzling answers to seemingly straight questions. Here, Moses is asking God what name he goes by. After all, this God had just given Moses a big job to do: take the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. So just who is in charge here?
God’s reply is not exactly crystal clear. But it is not as obscure as we might think. First, we have to clarify that ‘name’ in the Scriptures refers to character or nature. Much as we might refer to someone’s ‘good name’. Moses is asking God to tell him what sort of God he is.
When God says “I am who I am”, he is not being evasive. The words in their original meaning mean something along the lines of “I will show you the sort of God I am by what I do.” I am who I will show myself to be. Keep watching. And furthermore, he reminds Moses that he is no new invention. He is the same God who has looked after the treasured ancestors of Moses and the Hebrews. He isn’t some recent invention.
We need to remember that ‘God’ cannot be defined by a mere set of words. God does reveal himself in the written word, but even these are testimonies to his actions. He is defined by his actions, just like love is defined by its actions. And above all, he is defined by Jesus, who is ultimately God in action.
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