Exodus 6:2–8; 15:1–3, 11–13comment (0)
November 29, 2012
By Michael Wilson
Related Scripture: Exodus 6:2–8; 15:1–3, 11–13
Bible Studies for Life
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University
YAHWEH — OUR GOD
Exodus 6:2–8; 15:1–3, 11–13
Anticipating the birth of our first child, my wife and I used “baby name” books to help us think about a name. It took several weeks for us to choose one for a boy and one for a girl.
“What’s in a name?” is an important question most expectant parents ask. Choosing a name that somehow fits the character of one’s child is important.
Our lessons this month invite us to consider names used in Scripture to describe God and Jesus. We learn about their character by the names used to identify them.
Yahweh Makes Promises (6:2–8)
God’s name is first revealed in Scripture in the story of Moses and an extraordinary sight. Drawing near the bush that blazed but did not burn up, he must have been startled to hear the voice of the Lord calling to him.
No wonder Moses hid his face when he realized he was in God’s presence. “Yahweh” was the name identifying the Holy One Moses heard in the voice from the flames (Ex. 3:1–14).
“I am who I am.” The name Yahweh occurs more than 6,000 times in the Old Testament. Considered too holy to speak or write, Jewish scribes substituted the name Adonai or “Lord” in place of Yahweh. The Hebrew language does not use vowels and the exact pronunciation has been lost to history.
The name is based on the Hebrew verb “to be” and some translators use “I will be what I will be.” Others prefer “ ‘I Am’ is who I am,” which emphasizes God’s eternal nature. The meaning of the name continues to evoke wonder and a sense of mystery. This is appropriate: God is transcendent. Our capacity to understand the Holy One is limited.
God heard the groaning of the Israelites living in bondage. God remembered the covenant God made with the Hebrew people. Yahweh would be true to the promise of deliverance from slavery to a good land, a land verdant and rich. When Moses asked God the question, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (3:11), God’s answer, “[I am] will be with you,” indicates Yahweh’s personal involvement with Moses on the mission.
Yahweh Keeps Promises (15:1–3)
Caught between the sea and Pharaoh’s approaching army, the Hebrew people panicked. Their loss of faith led to intense fear (Ex. 14:10–13). We know this scenario happened again and again in the years that followed. Yet at this moment in their journey, once safely delivered from the Egyptians, the people were fully aware that God alone had redeemed them from their oppressors. Fear was exchanged for joy. Awareness that their future was open before them gave them hopeful anticipation. They again believed in Yahweh. Their future truly was as bright as the promises of God. What else could they do but sing a song of worship and praise to the God of their deliverance … the God of promises kept?
Yahweh Stands Alone (15:11–13)
“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?” (vs. 11). The Hebrew people spent generations in Egyptian bondage. They were acquainted with the deities worshipped in Egyptian culture. It is likely many of the newly freed Hebrews regarded Yahweh as but another god among many gods. For these, the formation of their faith in Yahweh as the one true God was at an early stage. The later incident of making and worshipping the golden calf reinforces this understanding.
Yet after experiencing firsthand Yahweh acting in convincing, supernatural ways to bring about their deliverance, at that moment they considered Yahweh alone above all gods. The Hebrew people repeatedly failed to honor their covenant with God. Thankfully God’s “steadfast love” continued even during times of faithfulness and times of unfaithfulness.