Exodus 3:7-15 (ESV)
Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
The people are used to hearing about lots of Gods, each one with a name, so they’ll want to know this God’s name too. But the one true God isn’t thrilled with the idea of being lumped in with all those phonies.
So, God distinguishes Himself as the great I AM. This sounds like He’s poking fun at the Egyptian Gods, who aren’t real.
But He’s also doing something more important; He’s distinguishing His existence from ours. When we create someone (not beget, create) that someone is a fictional character. The difference between creators and their creations is a level of reality. God “is” in a different way than a person “is,” just as Shakespeare “is” in a different way than Romeo “is.” This is pretty tricky stuff, and we’re never going to fully understand it (in this life anyway), but it’s important.
Meanwhile, yes, God does have a name and He tells Moses to use it. That name is spelled YHVH in Hebrew. There are lots of ways to pronounce it (e.g., Yahweh, Jehovah – the pronunciation rules in Hebrew aren’t like English.) Since the third commandment is to not misuse God’s name, YHVH is typically translated as “the LORD.” That prevents people from even knowing how to take God’s name in vain.
This section displays the underpinnings of the first three commandments.
The more I think about God’s existence, the more I wonder why He would bother to listen to my prayers. Anything I might say has to be totally boring.
And yet, we are commanded to bring our prayers before Him. That’s amazing.
The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here: