What’s In a Name?
“In the beginning God,” and so the Bible begins with these four words.
With these four words, we learn that the Hebrews accepted the existence of God. There is no debate. With these words, there is no questioning whether God is real. Even though this writer accepts that God is real, it does not mean that he entirely understands God. There is no claim to that.
God was not always looked to direct the lives of the people. The Bible tells the truth about our relationship with God.
Adam and Eve never questioned God’s existence. They just rebelled against God.
Rebelling against God remains the fundamental problem of most people.
Most people, when pressed, will still acknowledge the existence of God. While we cannot prove the existence of God, to not acknowledge the existence of God leaves more questions unanswered than answered.
If there is no God, the universe, and everything in it, is all here by chance. The probabilities of all of us and everything in this world being here by chance is so high that we get into the miracle zone.
We ARE here because of a miracle but how can you have a miracle without a God?
How can matter be derived from nothing without a God?
Since that’s not possible, most people will still acknowledge the existence of God, but many are still not sure what role God plays in their lives or in the world.
If there is one thing the scientific community will agree on is that there was a beginning.
There isn’t a credible scientist or religion that claims that the universe and all that is in it always existed. Every credible scientist and religion says that there was a beginning.
The only debate is about the fourth word in the Book of Genesis, which is God.
Was God present in the beginning?
If God was present, some people want to know what God was doing before there was a beginning.
This brings us to one of the ironic things about God.
By definition, God is that spiritual being that cannot be completely understood, defined, or known by human beings.
It doesn’t take but a few questions before we realize that when it comes to God, we can ask questions that are not knowable, which makes us uncomfortable.
When we enter into a relationship with a person, we want to know as much about that person as we can. Usually, the more we know, the more comfortable we are with that person.
What do you think is the first thing most people want to know about another person?
Is it their eye color? Age? Religion? Education level? Marital status?
The first thing you want to know about someone is his or her name?
Until you know someone’s name, you can’t even talk about that person as if you know him/her. You might know the person’s age, ethnicity, and even a lot of medical information, but until you know a name, their identity remains hidden and you remain unconnected.
These are some of the reasons Moses wanted to know God’s name?
In the book of Exodus, as in the book of Genesis, the existence of God is not in question.
Moses never questioned whether God existed. The question Moses had was, “Who are you, God?”
Most people that come to church are also struggling with that question, “Who is God?” as opposed to, “Is there a God?”
Most of you have settled whether you believe in God. You want to know what difference God makes in your life. Does God know you? Does God care about you?
If there were no God, we would all be heading to a grave where our fate is same as the worms and the vegetation, which leaves most of us to embrace the concept of God but to struggle with the purpose God wants to play in our lives.
Once we acknowledge that God is real, the next logical question is to ask, “Who is God and what difference does God make in my life?”
These are the questions Moses had.
1. But before Moses could ask God anything, Moses discovered that God knew him by name.
Verse four says that God called to Moses out of the bush, “Moses, Moses.”
Some of you are saying, “If God called my name from out of a burning bush, I would never doubt his existence again. That would settle it for me.” Wrong.
You would question whether you were crazy. You would question whether you ever heard such a voice, especially after your friends questioned your sanity. Even if you were sure it occurred, you would still have to figure out, “Who is this God?”
Moses discovered that God knew him by name.
God reaches out to us in all kinds of ways to remind us that He knows who we are. God knows each of us by name.
The Psalmist wrote that he knows the number of hairs on our heads.
Isaiah the Prophet said, “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)
2. The second thing Moses learned about God was that He is holy. After God had Moses’ attention, he told him to take off his shoes because the place where he was standing was holy ground. (verse 5)
The Hebrew word for holy is “qodesh” and it means “apartness, or to set apart.”
God is a separate entity from us. God is to be honored and worshiped.
Since the Bible teaches us that God is a Spirit, we refer to the Spirit of Jesus, who was God in the flesh, as the Holy Spirit.
The way that the holiness of God becomes a part of us is not by our goodness; nor by good works. It comes by God’s grace through the Holy Spirit of God.
3. Moses learned that God was concerned about the suffering of the Hebrews. He learned that God hears us when we cry out to Him.
Moses was living a life of a nomadic shepherd, quite content with his life. He’d been there forty years after fleeing Egypt.
He killed an Egyptian after coming to the defense of fellow Hebrew and hid the dead man in the sand. When he discovered that someone had witnessed the crime, he disappeared into the desert and made a new life there.
That’s where the voice of God spoke from within the bush forty years later.
All this time, Moses’ people, the people of Israel, continued to be enslaved by Pharoah. They cried out to God for help. God heard them.
Now God was reaching out to rescue them through Moses.
Throughout the Bible, God identifies with the oppressed, the underdog, the weak, broken-hearted, and shows compassion for people.
The Psalmist said, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
In another place he wrote, “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm 9:9
4. Moses learned that God calls flawed people and empowers them to do his work.
Moses was a flawed man. He had made a mistake 40 years earlier in his life, but God was forgiving and redemptive.
What have you done in your life that you think disqualifies you from being used by God?
Moses had lots of objections, but God had answers for all of them, and in the end, Moses agreed to follow God’s call on his life.
When God calls us to a task, when God asks us to speak on his behalf, our excuses have no value. God has an answer for every one of them. When God calls us, God will also equip us and empower us. God asks us to have a willing heart and to take each step on faith and watch him provide for our needs.
5. Moses learned that God would go with him. God said, “I will go with you.” This is one of the most important things Moses learned about God.
That burning bush wasn’t moving. God’s voice was coming from something he was going to walk away from. But God told Moses He would go with him. Moses didn’t know how God would do that, but he had faith that God would honor his word.
Later God was present in a pillow of fire by night and a pillow of cloud by day leading the people toward the Sea. God was with them as they crossed the sea on dry ground. God was with them even when they were disobedient and refused to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, providing manna which sustained them in the desert.
Moses learned that God knew his name, that God is holy, that God was concerned about the suffering of the Hebrew people, that God would call a flawed person to do God’s work, that God would be with him, but Moses still had an important question.
“13 Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
Have you ever tried to introduce someone to another person and you could not remember that person’s name? It’s embarrassing, isn’t it?
Would do you do? You just fake, it? But ultimately the person realizes, you don’t know his or her name, and they bail you out and introduce themselves.
Moses knew if he was going to convince his people that God had come to free them, he had better know God’s name.
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Notice in your Bible that these words are in all capital letters. The reason for that is that is in Hebrew, this phrase is actually a proper name. The best transliteration we can give this Hebrew phrase “I Am Who I Am.” When we transliterate the Hebrew, our best English pronunciation is Yahweh.
This is the name that God gave himself. It is used over 5,000 times in the Old Testament.
Any time you see the word “LORD” in all capital letters, this is the name God gave himself, Yahweh.
When you hear “Yah,” at the end of “Hallelujah,” we are singing, “I praise Yahweh.”
This name is important because God is saying of himself, that his name has no beginning, no ending and is not dependent on anyone or anything.
God simply is, always was, and always will be.
All of this is communicated in a single name. So when Moses says to the people, “Yahweh,” has sent me, can you imagine the hope that that was released within them that this God knew about their plight, knew Moses by name, and had sent him to win their release from Pharaoh?
Fifteen hundred years later, the Jews were subject to Roman rule. Their prophets were predicting that God was going to send a Messiah because he cared about their condition.
In the fullness of time, Jesus was born. An angel appeared to a virgin named Mary and told her that she was going to have a child and that she should name her son Jesus.
The name of her son was significant because Jesus means, “Yahweh saves.”
Through Jesus’ life and ministry, through his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Jesus demonstrated that he was God in the flesh.
The way that the Apostle John made the connection between Jesus and God was by saying that Jesus “was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:2-3)
This is the reason Jesus is holy. It is the reason Jesus shares this divine attribute with God because, like God, Jesus always was. He is Yahweh. He was not created, but as John 3:16 says, he was begotten.
Thus, Jesus is holy and deserves our reverence and our worship, because He is God in the flesh.
In reading the New Testament, we discover that Jesus also has all the other attributes of God that Moses discovered that day when he met God in the burning bush.
Jesus knows us by name. He knew Zacchaeus the day he met him in Jericho. He knew everything about the woman at the well. He knew immediately when a sick woman touched his robe. He knew the thoughts of the Pharisee as Jesus allowed the sinful woman to anoint him with oil. Jesus knows you and me by name. He knows our sins and our good deeds.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:14-15)
Because he knows us and hears us in our times of need, Jesus has compassion for us.
It’s one reason Jesus left heaven to enter into this world of struggles with us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)
Just as God used Moses and called Moses, God wants to use you and call you, to a life of Christian service. Notice, I didn’t just say to a belief in God, I said to a life of Christian service.
The Hebrews followed Moses out of Egypt, but then they spent 40 years in a wilderness.
Today, there are a lot of people that believe in God but are in a wilderness because they are not fully committed to Jesus?
In John’s gospel, Jesus left no doubt who he was when he said, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Do you hear those words, “I Am!” Have you heard them somewhere before?”
When you look back at Exodus 3:1, it is clear that Jesus is saying that he is the same “I Am” as the God who revealed himself to Moses.
This morning, that same Great I Am wants to be your Lord and Savior.
He wants you to know that he knows you by name. He wants you to know the joy of His Spirit being with you all the time.
The same God that spoke with Moses through the burning bush can speak with you. The same Savior that called Zacchaeus down from the tree and shared new life with the Woman at the Well can be with you.
What do you need to do?
Romans 10:9 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
In Revelation, it says the Lord is standing at the door of your heart. He is knocking. He wants to come into your life.
The Bible says that the demons believe in God and shudder. This is not about whether you believe in God, it’s about whether you will give God the seat of authority in your life. Will you allow God to lead you and to be your Savior?
During this invitation, will you come and confess that you have given your life to Jesus?
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