And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you…
This is my name for ever, etc. - (Exodus 3:15.) This incident of the burning bush teems with subjects susceptible of homiletic treatment. We name a few of the more important, which we ourselves do not linger to treat.
1. THE INDESTRUCTIBILITY OF THE CHURCH ver. 2.
2. THE DOCTRINE OF THE ANGEL-GOD. Note in vers. 2-4 that "The Angel of Jehovah," "Jehovah," and "God," are one and the same.
3. THE RESTRICTION OF JUDAISM CONTRASTED WITH THE FREEDOM OF THE GOSPEL: ver. 5. For valuable hints on this, see 'Moses the Lawgiver,' by Dr. Taylor of New York, pp. 46, 47.
4. THE DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT: ver. 6, comp. with Matthew 22:31, 32.
5. SHRINKING AT THE DIVINE CALL. The reluctance of Moses; his four reasons - incompetence, ver. 11; ignorance of the proper name of God, ver. 13; incredulity of the people, Exodus 4:1; want of speaking power, 4:10 - and how they were severally overcome.
6. OUR LIFE WORK - Preparation for it and possible late discovery of it: ver. 10. It is in connection with the second disability of Moses that the Deity gives his proper name. Note, that whilst Elohim and other names are generic, this name "Jahveh," or more commonly "Jehovah." is the distinctive proper name of God. See Isaiah 42:8, in Hebrews As a foundation it will be needful to exhibit, in a popular way, the connection between the Hebrew form for "I am" and "Jehovah." See exegesis of vers. 14, 15 above, and also the valuable Dissertation on the Divine Name, by Russell Martineau, M.A., in Ewald's 'History of Israel,' Eng. ed. vol. 2:433. The writer of the hymn, "The God of Abraham praise!" speaking of "Jehovah, great I Am," showed that he had perceived the etymological relation. The fundamental idea in the name is that of "Being," but around that idea plays many a prismatic light, something of which will now be exhibited. There are associated with "I am," "I am what I am," "Jahveh," the following ideas: -
I. EXISTENCE. How calm and solemn is this Divine affirmation in the silence of the desert, as in it God protests against being confounded with -
1. Idols. Material or intellectual. Over against the teaching of the atheist positivist, pantheist agnostic, polytheist, God places his "I am.
2. Mere phenomena. Who can separate always surely in nature between reality and appearance; or within the realm of mind, between certainty and illusion or delusion? But behind all phenomena is the Existence - God.
II. ETERNITY. The Existence is absolute, without any limit of time; so much so, that many are anxious to translate Jahveh," or "Jehovah," everywhere by "The Eternal" See same idea of God in Revelation 1:4-8. In opening out the eternity and consequent immutability of God, we expound it, not metaphysically, but experimentally, that is, in relation to the actual experience of men, who need beyond everything the assurance of an unchanging Saviour and Father to trust, and love, and serve - "the same yesterday, to-day," etc.
III. CAUSATIVE ENERGY. "Jahveh," or "Jehovah," is from Hiphil, the causative form of the verb. Carries, then, in itself, not only the meaning "To be," but "To cause to be." The idea is not however merely, having once for all caused existence, but that of constantly creating. Note this mighty causative force operating -
1. In nature, which is the momentary work of the ever-present God.
2. In creating a people for his praise, as now about to do in the desert of Sinai.
IV. PERSONALITY. The transcendently sublime egoism, "I am!" It is not necessary that we should be able to answer the question, What is a person? to know what personality is, or to be sure that there is personality in God. On this point see Wace's Boyle Lectures on "Christianity and Morality," p. 62, and, indeed, the whole of lecture
4. on "The Personality of God." "The question of immediate practical importance is, not what God's nature is, but how we may feel towards him, and how we may suppose him to feel towards us. The simple and perfectly intelligible answer given to these questions by the Jews was, that they could feel towards God in a manner similar to that in which they felt towards other beings whom they considered persons, and that he felt similarly towards them." Our true knowledge of personality is quite independent of our ability to define it in words. This meeting of the personality in Moses with the personality in God constituted for Moses a crisis in his history. So is it ever - the confronting of my spirit by the Spirit of God is the supreme moment of existence.
V. FIDELITY. The words in ver. 14 may be read: "I shall be what I shall be." From future to future the same; not like the gods of the heathen, fitful, capricious. What God was to the fathers, that he will be to children's children; not a promise broken or a purpose unfulfilled.
VI. COVENANTAL GRACE. Evidence that "Jahveh," or "Jehovah," is the covenantal name of God is accumulated in abundance in Smith's 'Bib. Dict.' under word "Jehovah," (sect. 5.) p. 957. To the many striking illustrations there, add, that Jesus is equivalent to Joshua - Jehovah that saves.
VII. MYSTERY. God we may apprehend, never comprehend; touch, as with the finger, never grasp or embrace. "I am what I am." Job 11:7-9; Psalm 77:19; Habakkuk 3:4. - R. Observe generally on the name:
1. It was then new: Exodus 6:3. Not absolutely new, but practically so.
2. It became sacred. The Jew never pronounced it. This savoured of superstition, and its ill effect is to be seen in the suppression of the name Jehovah, even in our English Bibles, and in the substitution for it of LORD in small capitals. We will enter into their reverence without showing their superstition. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty."
3. The name is a root-designation in the revelation of God. Assumed universally in Judaism and Christianity, see Maurice's 'Patriarchs and Lawgivers,' pp. 165, 166.
4. The name sets forth objective truth. "This is my name for ever." It is the sign-manual of the Almighty across nature, in providence, on the cross. The name gives us a true idea of the Deity.
5. The name should be subjectively cherished. "This is my memorial to all generations," God's forget-me-not in the believer's heart. The name by which he would be remembered. - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?