|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from Israel|
Meditation No. 6
Meditation Title: The Eternal One
Ex 3:13 -15 Moses said to 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?" 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.
In the Israelite culture, names were important. Moses is in questioning mode. His first question was “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (v.11) and God's answer was simply, “I will be with you.” (v.12). Essentially God was saying, it doesn't matter who you are; the big question is who I am, to which Moses then asks the question in verse 13 which is a very cultural question. Names in their culture so often had meaning and that meaning often conveyed things about that person's background or their destiny. Thus it is, that when Moses wants to know about God, about what he can say to the Israelites back in Egypt if he returns (for he clearly isn't sold on the idea yet!), he asks about God's name. We would be more likely to ask for a description but for him the name was all important.
Now we often talk about the enigmatic way Jesus spoke, the puzzling way he gave answers, and in that way, he was very much his Father's Son. God often speaks in ways that require the listener to really think about what He has said. So now the Lord names Himself as, “I AM WHO I AM” or as your footnote with tell you, “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” Now if someone said that to you today your first thought might be that they were refusing to tell you who they are. The shortened version that follows, makes it more specific: “you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Now again that sounds rather enigmatic but when God says, “I Am” it's like He is stepping outside of time – there is no time connotation to that statement. It's like He's saying, whenever , in all of history (long-time past, present or long-time future), you look for me, “I Am” or I will be there. It's like He is saying I am timeless or I am eternal. To claim to be the “I Am”, therefore, is to claim to be the Eternal One, the only one. This sets the mind spinning and this takes Moses' understanding into a different dimension.
But the moment the Lord does this, He pulls Moses' mind right back into history: “ 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.” There is it again the references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as we saw in a previous meditation. God is both the God of the eternal who exists outside of time, AND the God who steps into time-space history and interacts with us who do live in time.
But just a minute; there is a reference at the beginning of those verses which has a note next to it that you will find at the bottom of the page in your Bible which reads, “The Hebrew for LORD sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for I AM in verse 14”. From now on in your Bible whenever you see the word ‘LORD' in capital letters you can take it to mean, “the I AM” or the Eternal One. From now on that will almost be the only way that God is identified. It is a continual reminder that the God we are talking about is utterly unique, there is no other like Him; He is the Eternal One, the One who exists for ever with no beginning and no ending, the One who is utterly unchanging. Everything else in the world may change, but He won't! That is the extent of the revelation here that is being given to Moses. The One he is now communicating with is One outside of time who never changes, who is utterly unlike us in that respect and is therefore scary (hence ‘fear of the Lord').
So let's recap what we have learnt so far about God from this early chapter in Exodus. God is the One who initiates interaction with mankind, He steps into history, He sees all and feels for us, and comes to help us, but actively involves us with Him in that deliverance, and yet He is still the One who is outside of time and space, One who is completely unchanging. That may be quite a lot, but it still leaves us with lots and lots of questions about God. Hopefully as we progress through these meditations in the life of Israel, many of those questions will be answered. The Bible will not give us answers to every question there is about God because the truth of it is that, as today's verses show, it take us outside of human understanding.
Yes, it is true! We have described God as the Eternal One, One who is outside of time and space, but really that description defies our imagination. We can grasp a little of what it means perhaps but the reality is that we will never grasp the enormity of it until we see Him face to face in eternity. However, because He is also the God who interacts with us in history, He does give us sufficient for faith to be built. That which I understand of God, helps me cope with that which I don't understand.