Read Exodus 3:13-15
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 MESSAGE)
At first reading,this dialogue doesn’t make a lot of sense. God seems to be playing games with Moses and not giving a straight answer to a straight question. But once we get behind the curious language,we get great insight into the character of God.
In the Old Testament,the ‘name’ of someone meant their nature or character. Not just an identifying title. So Moses is asking God what sort of God he is. When God replies he is in effect saying “I will show you what I am like by my actions”. The words God uses might not indicate this is so,but scholarly consensus tells us this is the meaning behind the words.
So God is actually declining to describe himself in abstract definition. “You want to know what sort of God I am? Watch and listen and you will find out.” This is true for us as well as Moses. We know God not by reading books about him or by consulting dictionaries,but by noting what he does and what he says. And of course we note what Jesus does and says as the clearest revelation of God.
Our God is not some distant deity to be defined in philosophical terms. He is vitally involved in our lives and in the life of our world. He doesn’t command academic essays to be written about him so as to have us grasp who he is. We know him through his acts in history. We know him through Jesus. Our God is not an ideology or a creed. He is the one who speaks,the one who acts.