Then Moses asked 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?' What should I tell them?"
I. HOW IT WAS THAT THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH A QUESTION WAS SUGGESTED TO HIS MIND. All the deities of the other nations had names, and doubtless the gods of Egypt were well known by name to the Israelites. Part of the glory of each nation came from the fact that it was under the protection and favour of so renowned a being as its God. The feeling of Moses in asking this question may be illustrated from the clamour of the Ephesian mob against Paul. The Ephesians felt that it was a great deal to be able to say that Diana had a special interest in them. And so it seemed to Moses a reversal of the proper order of things to go to his brethren with no more indication of the Being who had sent him, than that he had been historically connected with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses could not believe that his own people would rest contented with such a representation as this; indeed, we may very reasonably go further, and assume that he himself was anxious to know the name of this unnamed God. He was not yet filled with the light and power of the pure monotheistic conception. Certainly he had just felt what real might there was with the God of his fathers, and probably there was no shadow of doubt in his mind that this God was powerful far beyond any of the rest; but he had yet to learn that he was God alone, and that all other deities, however imposing, were nothing more than the fictions of degraded and wayward imagination. When we bear in mind that Moses was only at the beginning of his personal acquaintance with God, then we shall see that there was nothing wonderful or unreasonable, from the point of his attainments at the time, in asking such a question. Observe also that the very question is a revelation of how ignorant the Israelites were of God. How clear the proof is that the thought of God, as Jehovah, came down from above, and did not rise out of the corrupted hearts of men. When we have much to do with persons, it is a matter of necessity to have names for them, and if they give us none, we must make them for ourselves. But the Israelites had no transactions with God, save as he came down and pressed his presence upon them; and even then all that they could see was such power as became manifest to the senses. It is very certain that if God had not revealed this name, there was no faculty among the Israelites to invent it.
II. THE GIVING OF THE NAME. We must bear in mind the purpose for which the name was given. The question at once suggests itself - Would God have given this name, if he had not been asked? To this perhaps the best answer is that the difficulty out of which the question rose was sure to be felt, even if the question itself was not asked. Some name of the kind assuredly became needed for distinguishing purposes. It was a name as helpful to the people of idolatrous nations as to Israel itself. An Egyptian or a Philistine could say, "The Hebrews call their God Jehovah." What the Israelite understood by the name in itself, is, we may fairly say, a point impossible to settle. The wisdom of God is certainly evident in giving a name which, while it so well served a temporary purpose, remains still to suggest matters which no lapse of time can ever render indifferent. It is vain to discuss the form of the expression, with the aim of tying it down to mean some particular aspect of the Divine nature, to the exclusion of others. Far better is it for Christians to take it - and thus, surely, devout Israelites would take it - as suggesting all that it is fitted to suggest. There is the name; some will put into it more, and some less, but no one can pretend that he has filled it with the fulness of its import. It would be very helpful for the Israelites always to bear in mind the occurrence of the first person in this great distinguishing name. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is one who can say "I." He is not represented by some dumb idol, voiceless save through the traditions of those who worship it. He who says "I am" thus registers in Holy Writ an expression which will have meaning and suggestiveness in every language under heaven. What an intimation is given to us of the permanent value of the expression when we come upon it so suddenly in the discussion between Jesus and the Jews! They had spoken haughtily concerning great names in the past - the dead Abraham and the dead prophets; when straightway, as by the breath of his mouth, Jesus shrivels up the glories of all mere mundane history by his declaration, "Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58.) Abraham and all the rest of us have come into existence. But Jesus is one who, even here below, with the knowledge of what happened at Bethlehem, has that in him whereby he can say, "I am."
III. THE GIVING OF THIS NAME MADE IT NEEDFUL TO REITERATE AND EMPHASISE THE NAME ALREADY GIVEN. There is nothing to indicate that the name for which Moses asked was to be mentioned to the Israelites unless they applied for it. The real necessity and value of it belonged to the future rather than the present. The name already given was the name of urgent importance for the present need. It could not for a moment sink into the background even before the name "I am." The one thing needful for Israel, at this time, was to get them into the past, and to bring before their minds with all possible freshness and impressiveness, the actions, the purposes and the claims of the God who had dealt with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of what avail is it to know that there is an eternal immutable God, unless we, in our mutability, in our melancholy experiences of time, are brought into helpful connection with him? We may ponder over the name Jehovah without coming to any knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; but if we only begin by a devout consideration of the narrative concerning these men, then assuredly we shall come at last to a profitable and comforting knowledge of God. There are many good purposes to be served by studying the differences between created and uncreated existence, and by making ourselves acquainted with those subtle speculations concerning the Divine nature which have fascinated and too often tantalised the greatest intellects among men; and yet all these are as nothing unless from our acquaintance with them we advance, still searching and seeking, to a personal knowledge of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is well to have our minds lifted up to lofty conceptions; it is better still, coming to the Father through Christ, to have our hearts nourished, gladdened and consoled. - Y.
1. It is good for a minister to know on whose business he is going.
1. Not to instruct his ignorance. He had not forgotten God in Egypt.
What shall I say unto them?I. MINISTERS MUST ANTICIPATE DIFFICULTIES IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR LIFE-MISSION.
1. Arising from prejudice in reference to the man.
2. Arising from scepticism in reference to the truth.
3. Arising from lethargy in reference to the mission.
II. TO OVERCOME THESE DIFFICULTIES MINISTERS MUST SEEK DIRECTION FROM GOD.
1. Divine recognition of ministerial difficulty. He will not reject any who seek His aid.
2. Divine sympathy with ministerial difficulty.
(1) (2) (3) (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(2) (3) (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(3) (J. S. Exell, M. A.)
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
2. Not to gratify his curiosity.
3. But to satisfy Israel.Error has many gods, he therefore wanted to know how he might prove to the enslaved nation that he came in the name of the True One.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
2. God's answer to one objection oftentimes begets another in His servants.
3. Dissatisfaction of men about God's instruments is very probable.
4. God's servants very reasonably expect that He will clear up all doubt as to His name, and their duty.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
II. SHALL I GIVE THEM AN ARGUMENTATIVE DISCOURSE? It would be necessary for Moses to convince the Israelites that he was divinely commissioned — and the chief use that a minister can make of logic is to prove the divinity of his call to the ministry.
III. SHALL I GIVE THEM A SENSATIONAL DISCOURSE? Had Moses done this he might have aroused a wave of feeling, but it would soon have subsided into calm. The freedom of the nation would not have been achieved in this way. The sensational preachers of the world are not doing the most towards the moral freedom of the race.
IV. SHALL I SAY UNTO THEM HOW CLEVER I AM? Moses had humbled himself before God. And men humble before God are generally so before their fellows. Ministers should not make a display of their learning-such conduct will never accomplish the freedom of souls.
V. SHALL I TELL THEM ABOUT THE CROSS OF JESUS? "Yes," replies the penitent sinner; "that is what I want." "Yes," replies the aged believer; "that is the charm of my soul." Preach the Cross as the emancipation of the world. Not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord.
(J. S. Exell, M. A.)
Christian Herald.I remember being asked by the late Dr. McLeod, who was head physician in one of the Government asylums, if I would preach to some of the inmates. "What kind of men are they?" I inquired. "Oh, mostly sailors; and if you accept the invitation to preach to them, you must make up your mind to stand a good knock or two, perhaps even a blow in the face; but if you wish to make friends with them, you must take no notice of it." "I am not a bit afraid of them," I replied; "if they be sailors I shall speak to them as sailors, and I am sure they will not teach me.". I went and spoke to them. There was no attempt to molest me, but many of the poor fellows came up to me afterwards and thanked me for what I said. Some declared that what they liked about me was that I spoke to them as sailors. No one who had ever spoken to them before had done so. Their former visitors had seemed to believe all that they were told, that they were kings, dukes, and earls, but I had spoken to them as sailors, to their true selves, and though insane, they felt that I was speaking the truth. Similarly we must speak to sinners as being just what they are.
Christian Herald.A man in America died, who had long been renowned for wickedness. His intellectual abilities were of no mean order; his property was considerable, and he had belonged to a family of good position. By the practice of every kind of dissipation he had achieved an evil notoriety, and gloried in being considered the most fascinating and dangerous roue in the country. This being so, his associates resolved upon giving him a funeral worthy of his reputation. As one means of ensuring this, they invited one of the most eminent Presbyterian ministers in the region to deliver the funeral discourse. To the surprise of many, after some little hesitation, he consented. On the day and at the hour appointed the country church was crowded to overflowing by an assembly composed of the relatives, friends, and companions of the deceased, together with a mixed multitude drawn from far and near by curiosity to hear what such a minister could find to say of such a man. Punctual to the moment, the tall form of the clergyman ascended the pulpit, and the service began. There was first the reading of the Scriptures. Then followed a prayer, subdued and tender, for the family and relatives of the deceased. But the announcement of the text fell upon the assembly like a clap of thunder. It was from Luke 16:23: "And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." The sermon was a most pungent and powerful exhibition of the character, course, and end of a wicked man. It held the assembly spellbound to the very last word; but there was in it not a single direct allusion to the person whose obsequies they had come there to celebrate. In silence and in deep solemnity the congregation dispersed after the service was finished. Some were indignant, but any attempt to excite odium against the preacher was a failure. It was generally thought that in what he had done he was governed by a sense of duty. He was said to have stated afterwards that when he was invited to preach on that occasion he had determined to decline, but, in answer to prayer, received a message which he believed to be from God — "Go — and preach the preaching that I bid thee."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Prof. Gaussen.)who has sent us, and what is the business on which we proceed. Inquiries of this kind will lead to a true apprehension of our position, and in not a few cases to a reversion of our daily course. What are you living for? You are hurrying and whirling forward at a tremendous rate, your brain teems upon conceptions, your hand hardly knows a moment's rest, you pursue the bubble, you jostle and compete and envy, you flatter and are flattered, you hoard and you dispense. What does it all mean? Who sketched the map by which yon regulate your pilgrimage? What account can you give of yourself to those who ask the name of your guiding spirit? Take the subject in the light of every-day affairs, and the singular absurdity of not knowing on whose business you are engaged will instantly appear. You meet a .traveller who is professedly engaged in business; you ask him what is his business, and he cannot answer; you ask him whose interests he represents, and no reply is forthcoming; you ask him whither he is bound, and he returns the inquiry with a look of vacancy; — to what conclusion can you come respecting such a person? You instantly feel that the man is a child, and that the child has gone astray. The same thing holds true in the deeper and vaster concerns of life; and he who is wisely and profoundly anxious to know on what basis he is proceeding in commercial transactions, should look beyond the mere detail, and face the great question — upon what principle is my intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual life proceeding? Oh man, be persuaded for a moment to tarry in thy impetuous course, and cross-examine thine own heart! Don't be deluded by the whirl and thunder and tempest of an outer life; mistake not commotion for progress, enthusiasm for regeneration, self-applause for the benediction of heaven!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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