What is in a name?

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By Bryan Marx

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.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘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, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” – Exodus 3:14-15

Names are important, and that was especially true in the ancient world, where a person’s name often conveyed something about the person who bore the name. For example, after God promised him many descendants, Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, meaning “Father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). Similarly, in the Old Testament God Himself was identified by different names, each of which communicated something about God Himself. For example, God identifies Himself as El Shaddai (meaning “God Almighty”) in connection with His promise to bless Abraham with a son in his old age – the name is a reminder that He is the God of the impossible.

In revealing Himself to Moses, however, God identifies Himself enigmatically as “I AM WHO I AM.” The Hebrew can also be translated “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”, and suggests that God’s identity and character would be revealed in what He was about to do. What followed was the exodus, when God stretched out His mighty hand to deliver His people from their slavery in Egypt. God’s identity and character are revealed in what He does, and His actions demonstrate that He is a God who saves in accordance with His promise. This was seen in the exodus, but is seen even more clearly in the coming of Christ, who brings about an even greater exodus, rescuing God’s people from their enslavement to sin and death. In the person of Jesus God is revealed to us, and is shown to be a God of salvation in accordance with His promise.

  • Marx is with the Grahamstown Baptist Church
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