Exodus 3:11-14 (NKJV): “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ So He said, ‘I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to 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, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’’”
1) Moses needed answers
The passage in focus from Exodus 3 is when Moses encounters God in the burning bush. The first point I want to address is concerning Moses and his own identity. In Exodus 3:11, after God has just appointed Moses the task of going to Egypt and freeing the Hebrews from Pharaoh, Moses feels ill-equipped and unworthy to fulfill such an assignment. Moses shirks away from the responsibility, and does not feel qualified to do such a thing. But Moses is not wrong concerning himself; he is unable to carry out such a feat--that is, without God. Maybe Moses spent too long in Midian looking after sheep and became content with the life he was living, thus prompting him to question God’s will for his life. Maybe it was fear of failure and the consequences that would follow if he failed such a task, forgetting to consider the Being who was assigning it to him.
In whatever case, Moses simply did not think he was fit to carry out the assignment that God gave him. Moses, the one who would eventually split the red sea and deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh (by the power of God, of course), had his doubts. And it isn’t hard to see why, considering Moses was to go to the most powerful nation and demand they relinquish their main--if not only--source of labor. I believe we all have a part within our souls that has trouble believing the promises of God--at one point or another. Can it be that God wants to work His mighty wonders in our lives? That He can use simple, ordinary human beings like you and me to change the world? We see this all throughout the Bible--literally all the people that God worked through were broken humans. The only difference maker was that they believed in a perfect God.
And it’s in God that Moses found the answer to his doubts. Moses questions God in his feeling of unworthiness, asking Him, “why me?” God’s simple answer: “Because I am with you.” God doesn’t try and build Moses up and say all these positive, fluttering things about him as a person--all of that pales in comparison to knowing the Living God. Instead, God simply reassures Moses that He is with him. God truly gave Moses the best answer to his question and concerns, the answer being Himself. Let us reap confidence and boldness in our faith from this as well, knowing that our God is with us. We can rest in the assurance that Christ has given us, through His shed blood: we are sons and daughters of the Most High because of His sacrifice. It is then that, once we are founded on the Truth, God will say to us, “follow Me, and I will have you worshipping on the very mountains you thought were impossible to overcome”--just as God gave Moses the sign that he would worship Him on the same mountain from which his journey began.
2) God gives Moses His Name
When we know God is with us and we rest on that truth, we will naturally walk in a deeper intimacy with Him. We see this in Moses, who, having just brought his doubts to the Lord, received and believed the answer that God gave him. In response to God’s answer, Moses first says “Indeed,” agreeing that he will do as God says and trust Him at His word that He is with him. And while this does not mean Moses won’t have his share of doubts or lapses in faith down the road, I believe it is important for us to realize that Moses affirms God’s words to him, and goes even deeper by asking for God’s personal name. Moses brought his questions and laid them before the Lord--and in doing so, Moses was given one of the most powerful answers written in the Bible.
God is His own highest standard, and the only authority He has by which to measure Himself is Himself. There is no higher name than the Lord’s. It makes sense, then, that Moses wants to know the name of this Being that is the God of his ancestors and the One who is sending him. The true pronunciation of “The Name”--God’s own personal name that He gives in Exodus 3 (not considering it a cop-out by God from answering Moses’ question)--has been lost over time, due to the ancient Jewish tradition that revered “The Name” so much, that they stopped speaking it, and over time, replaced it with different designations (Lord…). What we do know is the name that God gives to Moses in Hebrew is Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (“I am who I am”, or “I will be what I will be,” etc.), and Ehyeh (I AM; אֶהְיֶה - first person; “I AM has sent me to you.”), which both speak on the eternality of God; He is the One who absolutely exists.
The first person Ehyeh (אֶהְיֶה) and the Hebrew verb contained within it (הְיֶה - H Y H) is related to the third person YHWH (יהוה; yod, hey, vav, hey) and the Hebrew verb contained within it (הוה - H W H)--the meanings of the verbs within both are practically identical. The meaning for H Y H is: I exist (first person; eh-yeh), you exist (second; tih-yeh), he exists (third; yih-yeh), or to be. For H W H, it is: I exist (first person; eh-weh), you exist (second; tih-weh), he exists (third; yih-weh). And although the pronunciation of The Name is unknown (silent Hebrew consonants--Tetragrammaton), there are some powerful connections we can make that I believe God is wanting us to see.
In the beginning of Genesis (1:1-2:4) when God is creating all things, His name is written as Elohim (God)--implying power, might, and the authority of rulership (appearing 2750 times in the Old Testament). The name God uses for Himself in this way is one of strength, justice, and order, illustrating a Being that is superior to all others and one that fashioned all that is. Moreover, it is fascinating that God does not continue to use only this name for Himself throughout the rest of the Bible. On the contrary, God adds many more names attributed to Himself, particularly the one that we have addressed: YHWH (Yahweh, or Yih’weh). It is in Genesis 2:4 (NKJV) we see the first usage of Yahweh (translated as LORD in most English Bibles; will use Yahweh from now on for the sake of clarity): “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” It is once God has made all things that He assumes the name of Yahweh (He is), and it is also the name that is used when He breathes life into man (Exodus 2:7). Where Elohim represented God’s absolute authoritative and powerful nature, Yahweh represents God’s nature of personal relationship to His creation.
3) Jesus is LORD
Essentially, every time the Bible has Yahweh’s name written (LORD/He is--connected to Ehyeh/I AM), it is God trying to send us a message: He is the One who is, and that He is our I AM. Let us remember that, when Moses asked for God’s name at the burning bush, Moses received the answer of “I am who I am,” or “I will be what I will be.” God’s answer to us is that He will be what He will be--that He will be whatever we need Him to be. Not in the sense of us using Him or some kind of prosperity gospel that disregards suffering, but in the context of His personal will for each of us. As we have ascertained, God’s name of He IS/I AM is a personal one, and also one that is past, present, and future. God’s will for each of us that He has always had, and always will have, is that we would know Him.
God gave His name as the great I AM in the Old Testament, and it’s no surprise that He also gave it in the New Testament. There are many times that God makes I AM statements in the Gospels. Here are seven: I Am the Bread of Life (John 6), I Am the Light of the World (John 8), I Am the Gate of the Sheepfold (John 10), I Am the Good Shepherd (John 10), I Am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11), I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14), and I Am the True Vine (John 15). Another very significant I AM passage is in John 8:57-59: “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see My day. He saw it and was glad.’ So the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”
The Greek used in this “I AM” instance of John 8:58, ego eimi, along with the context of the passage, is conveying an absolute message. Jesus is making a claim that only God Himself can make--hence why the Jews around Jesus wanted to stone Him after He said it; they knew their Scriptures, and they knew exactly what kind of statement Jesus was making. Jesus made a claim of Divinity. Thus, it is in Jesus that we see God’s answer to Moses, because they are One and the same--that Christ is who He says He is, and He will be what He will be.
God is a personal God, and He has told us that He alone is our savior, and that He is with us. Evidently, God has placed great weight upon the names He has given us. It is no surprise, then, that God speaks through “the Name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10 CSB). The name of Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew and Aramaic) means “Yahweh saves.” The Name above every name is Jesus; “Yahweh is salvation.” Jesus is LORD, because Jesus is YHWH. Altogether God, yet also altogether man. The Son of God and the Son of Man. The Elohim, yet also the personal I AM. And it is this incomprehensible God that wants us to experience a living relationship with Him. He is sending the same message that He was giving to Moses: “I will certainly be with you.” The very name of the great I AM demonstrates His love for us, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23 NKJV).
God is with us, and He wanted to make that point so badly and so clearly that He sent His one and only Son to die for us that we may be saved--just so we could know Him intimately. We have His name, and His name is Jesus Christ. The triune God of the Bible is beyond our understanding, but He is not beyond our hearts. By the Blood of the Lamb, we can be forgiven and made right with God. And then by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in new life, and out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). When we walk with Christ, we declare His name: God is the great “I AM (first person Ehyeh)”--our provider, defender, salvation, banner, healer, sanctifier… and those who love Him resound with a shout of affirmation (third person Yih-Weh), “He is!”