Exodus 3:14
Moses feels that when he goes among his brethren, one of their first questions will be as to the name of this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Consider -

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.







I AM hath sent me unto you.
I. Moses on entering upon a great mission naturally inquires the CONDITIONS upon which he proceeds.

II. In the REVELATION made to Moses, "I AM hath sent me unto you," we have being distinguished from manifestation. "I AM" is the summary of Being.

III. The ANSWER which Moses received from Almighty God was an immutable authority for the greatest of missions. Only let us be sure that we are doing God's errand, and Pharaoh and Caesar, and all names of material power, will fall before us, never again to rise.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. God is the INCOMPREHENSIBLE One, and yet is revealed in His intercourse with men. The conviction of His unsearchableness lies at the root of all reverence and awe. Before the "I AM that I AM" our spirits lie in deepest adoration, and rise into loftiest aspiration. But we need equally the other side. We need a God revealed in the essential features of His character; and it is in His dealings with men who feared and loved Him that He has made Himself known.

II. God is the INDEPENDENT AND ABSOLUTE. One, and yet He enters into covenant and most definite relationships with men. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

III. God is the ETERNAL One, and yet the God of dying men. Every moment that we have of fellowship with the Eternal God assures us that for us there is no death.

IV. God is the UNCHANGEABLE One, yet the God of men of all different types and temperaments. The same Lord over all. Take these three patriarchs, so closely related in blood — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. How different they were! Yet God was the God of all three, for they all agreed in being seekers of God.

(J. Leckie, D. D.)

The first thought, perhaps, of all which lies wrapped in these two grand comprehensive words, "I AM," is mystery. Our best worship is in silence, and our truest wisdom when we confess without confession. "It is too high for me, I cannot attain unto it." The utmost conception of the most exalted intellect of the most heaven-taught man is only a faint approximation thereto. "I AM." It still lies in the future of a far-off beatitude — "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." But where do these glimpses lie of the great I AM; and how can we now know Him at all? I believe, first, in nature. The wonderful organization and marvellous system of nature, in the world I live in. Next I look for it in the Holy Word which He has given to me with the impress of His mind and being. But more in that Spirit which dwells in me and which is the reflection of the nature and a very part of the life and the essence of God. Thirdly, and better still in Him, His own dear Son, "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person," and who claims to Himself that very name (John 8:58). No created thing could ever say with truth, "I am." God alone has no other origin but Himself. He depends upon nothing; His life is essential life; all life, from all eternity past to all eternity yet to come. He is "I AM." Therefore because He is the I AM, all is present time with God. It is the present tense ever. The consequences are tremendous. All our past sins, all our past mercies, all our past promises and vows, all our past life, and all the life that is yet to come, it is all the present moment with God, in all its freshness and clearness and distinctness at this moment — "I AM." Hence the absolute and perfect unchangeableness! Or take another instance in that great name "I AM." All life, which is life indeed, must emanate from Him. He is the life. And there is another view which we may take of these two grand words, "I AM." God does not say what He is. He leaves that to us. We must fill in the blank. "I am whatever you make Me. If you disbelieve Me, if you think little of Me, I am a just God, a holy God, a jealous God, an avenging God, a strict God, a punishing God; I shall by no means spare the guilty, I am a consuming fire. If you are a penitent sinner, if you have left Me and are coming back to Me, if you are sorry for what you have done, if you have grieved Me, and now wish to please Me, I am a forgiving God, full of mercy and compassion, of great pity, passing by transgression and sin more than any one asketh. I am love. If you are really My child, poor, weak, unworthy, sinful though you are, yet still My child, striving to please Me, earnest to serve Me, desiring more and more to see Me and be with Me, telling Me everything in your little heart, trusting Me, loving Me, I am your own dear loving faithful Father; I am yours and you are Mine to the very end. I have loved you and chosen you from all eternity, and I never change. Though I do sometimes hide Myself, yet behind the cloud I AM, I AM, I AM. I am thine, and thou art Mine, for ever and ever!"(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. AS ONLY REVEALED BY THE DIVINE BEING HIMSELF.

II. AS ONLY PARTIALLY UNDERSTOOD BY THE GRANDEST INTELLECTS.

III. AS SUFFICIENTLY COMPREHENDED FOR THE PRACTICAL SERVICE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. We know enough of God to give strength, responsibility, hope, to our Christian work and life.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

The answer is twofold. It repeats the idea that He is the God of their father; but it connects that with the idea that He is Jehovah.

I. THE ETERNAL NAME. "God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. Say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." The word is that from which Jehovah comes. It expresses the idea of existence. In announcing Himself by this name the Divine Being excludes all notion of any commencement or termination of His existence, or that He is indebted for it to any other. It is self-existence, necessary existence; His non-existence is an impossibility and cannot be entertained. Jesus Christ "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." "The Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last." "He who was, and is, and is to come." Perhaps the most helpful conception we have of permanence is given by the spectacle of the lofty mountains which stand unmoved and unchanged for centuries and millenniums. We call them the everlasting hills. But He was before the mountains, and will continue His undying existence when they have disappeared in the final dissolution.

II. THE ABIDING RELATIONSHIP. "The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." The two names are closely connected, because He could not be the one God of successive generations if He were not Jehovah — the Everlasting.

1. You will mark that He is not only Jehovah, God in Himself, as He cannot but be; He is the God of the persons here men. tioned. Think what a great thing it is that He should be the God of any one! Think what a blessedness and a glory it is to have His almightiness on your side; His love your resting-place; His throne your refuge in distress; His unchanging faithfulness your abiding confidence.

2. Next, observe that He was the God of each of the persons named. God knows how to be the God of all His people however they differ from each other in those subtle shades of character which, like the features of the face, distinguish one man from another.

3. Then observe, further, He was the God of their successive generations. This thought is valuable in connection with the idea that God still has a people. The spiritual seed of Abraham. Also that the children of godly parents should value the blessing of having their father's God. Fear to forfeit it.

4. Nor must we overlook the important use the Great Teacher made of the statement in our text. Argument for resurrection and immortality in Matthew 22:24-32.

III. THE PERMANENT NAME. God's eternity contrasts with our brief life

; warrants our confidence in Him

; suggests the blessedness of those who are interested in Him.

(John Rawlinson.)

Homilist.
I. PERSONALITY — "I."

1. We attach three ideas to personality.

(1)Essential distinctness.

(2)Individual consciousness.

(3)Spontaneity.

2. God's personality —

(1)Explains the unity of the universe.

(2)Meets the aspirations of human nature.

II. SELF-EXISTENCE — "I AM."

1. The independent amidst dependent beings.

2. The Unchangeable amidst a changing universe.

III. Un-searchableness — "I AM that I AM."

1. Mystery is essential to Deity.

2. Mystery is a want of human nature. Stirs intellect, wakes wonder, inspires reverent awe of souls.

(Homilist.)

Homilist.
I. THE HIGHEST INQUIRY OF MAN AS A MORAL AGENT.

1. This inquiry is most reasonable.

2. This inquiry is most urgent.

II. THE HIGHEST REVELATION TO MAN AS A MORAL STUDENT. "I AM — "what? The Fountain of all life, the Foundation of all virtue, the Source of all blessedness, the Cause, the Means, and the End of all things in the universe but sin.

1. This is the revelation that man as a thinker craves for.

2. This is the revelation which the gospel gives.

III. THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY OF MAN AS A MORAL WORKER. Lessons:

1. God is. The grandest fact in the universe.

2. God is an absolute personality.

3. God deals with individual men. "Hath sent me."

4. God makes man His messenger to men.

(Homilist.)

I. THE DIVINE EXISTENCE. "I AM." He who is, and who will be what He is.

II. THY MINISTRY A DIVINE INSTITUTION. "I AM hath sent me unto you." This creates the relation of pastor and people.

III. MUTUAL DUTIES OF PASTOR AND PEOPLE.

1. The duty of the pastor.

(1)He must preach the gospel in its purity and simplicity.

(2)He must administer the ordinances.

(3)He must maintain a wholesome discipline in the Church.

2. The duty of the people.

(1)Sympathy;

(2)Love;

(3)Obedience;

(4)Co-operation;

(5)Prayer for their minister.

(J. W. Ray.)

I. THAT JEHOVAH IS UNCHANGEABLE IS PROVED FROM WHAT WE KNOW OF HIS OTHER ATTRIBUTES. We are assured, for example, that He is infinite in goodness, infinite in knowledge, infinite in power. The simple inquiry before us is, Are these attributes subject to change? Now, change in any being implies increase, or diminution, or entire removal of certain properties. To suppose any attribute of God to cease entirely, is to suppose that He ceases to be God. Change, then, if it occurs at all, must imply either increase or diminution of His perfections. On this principle, it is easy to see that the least change in the degree of His power, for example, must make Him more than almighty, or less than almighty; the least change in His knowledge must make Him more than omniscient, or less than omniscient; in other words, the least change in a perfect and infinite being is inconceivable.

II. THAT JEHOVAH IS UNCHANGEABLE IS PROVED FROM EXPLICIT AND REPEATED DECLARATIONS OF THE BIBLE. (See Malachi 3:6; Titus 1:2; James 1:17; Psalm 102:27). The inferences resulting from the truth thus established are so important as to demand the remaining time that can be allotted to this discourse.

1. All conceptions of God which apply time and succession to His existence, are erroneous, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." He is no older than He was from eternity. Age is a relative term: it implies beginning; but God is eternal. It implies change; but God is unchangeable. Time is the measure of created existence; but God is uncreated. Hence, the diversity of views which we have of the same thing at different times, results from the imperfection of our knowledge. Change of opinion implies liability to mistake. Increase of knowledge implies past ignorance; decrease of knowledge implies present ignorance. But neither of these can apply to Him whose "understanding is infinite."

2. God has no new purposes. This follows, by unquestionable inference, from His immutability. Whatever was His purpose from eternity is His purpose now: and whatever is His purpose now, was His purpose from eternity. Two things then are certain.(1) That God is unchangeable.(2) That God has purposes. The inference is perfectly conclusive that these purposes arc eternal. This argument cannot be evaded. It has the clearness of demonstration.

3. The certainty of final salvation to true believers is a reasonable doctrine, grounded on the immutable truth of God, as implied in the promises of the new covenant. These promises of the unchanging God must be fulfilled.

4. When God is said to repent, it implies no change in His character or purpose.

5. The immutability of God is no discouragement to prayer, but the best ground of encouragement. If Jehovah were fickle, like earthly monarchs, then, indeed, it would be vain to pray. The answer of prayer implies no change in the mind of God.

6. The unchangeable perfection of God is a doctrine full of comfort to His people. This world, with all its concerns, bears the stamp of mutability. Amid these scenes of fluctuation, is there no object then in heaven or earth that is unchanging? Yes, one; God is unchanging. Here is stability.

7. The immutability of God is a doctrine full of terror to His enemies.

(E. Potter, D. D.)

If I say "I am," I say what is not true of me. I must say "I am something — I am a man, I am bad, or I am good, or I am an Englishman, I am a soldier, I am a sailor, I am a clergyman." — and then I shall say what is true of me. But God alone can say "I AM" without saying anything more. And why? Because God alone is. Everybody and everything else in the world becomes: but God is. We are all becoming something from our birth to our death — changing continually and becoming something different from what we were a minute before; first of all we were created and made, and so became men; and since that we have been every moment changing, becoming older, becoming wiser, or alas! foolisher; becoming stronger or weaker; becoming better or worse. Even our bodies arc changing and becoming different day by day. But God never changes or becomes anything different from what He is now. What He is, that He was, and ever will be. Many heathen men have known that there was one eternal God, and that God is. But they did not know that God Himself had said so; and that made them anxious, puzzled, almost desperate, so that the wiser they were, the unhappier they were. For what use is it merely knowing that God is? The question for poor human creatures is, "But what sort of a being is God?' Is He far off? Does He care nothing about us? Does He let the world go its own way, right or wrong? Is He proud and careless? A Self-glorifying Deity whose mercy is not over all His works, or even over any of them? And the glory of the Bible, the power of God revealed in the Bible, is, that it answers the question, and says, "God does care for men, God does see men, God is not far off from any one of us. Ay, God speaks to men — God spoke to Moses and said, not "God is," but "I AM." God in sundry times and divers .manners spoke to our fathers by the prophets and said, "I AM." But more Moses said, "I AM hath sent me." God does not merely love us, and yet leave us to ourselves. He sends after us. He sends to us. But again: "I AM hath sent me unto you." Unto whom? Who was Moses sent to? To the Children of Israel in Egypt. And what sort of people were they? Were they wise and learned? On the contrary, they were stupid, ignorant, and brutish. Were they pious and godly? On the contrary, they were worshipping the foolish idols of the Egyptians — so fond of idolatry that they must needs make a golden calf and worship it. Then why did God take such trouble for them? Why did God care for them, and help them, and work wonders for them? Why? Exactly because they were so bad. Just because they were so bad, His goodness yearned over them all the more, and longed to make them good. Just because they were so unclean and brutish, His holiness longed all the more to cleanse them. Because they were so stupid and ignorant, His wisdom longed to make them wise. Because they were so miserable, His pity yearned over them, as a father over a child fallen into danger. Because they were sick, they had all the more need of a physician. Because they were lost, there was all the more reason for seeking and saving them. Because they were utterly weak, God desired all the more to put His strength into them, that His strength might be made perfect in weakness.

(C. Kingsley, M. A.)

I. In this memorial name of God WE ARE TAUGHT HIS LOFTY EXISTENCE. "I AM that I AM " is a name synonymous in meaning with Jehovah. This name includes within its vast extent of signification all past, present and future existence and duration.

1. Self-existence is a Divine attribute.

2. Eternity necessarily follows from His self-existence.

3. His proprietorship springs from the fact of His existence.

II. THE REVELATION OF THIS MEMORIAL NAME TO MOSES HAD PURPOSE, It was a crisis in the history of Moses, and also of that of Israel in Egypt.

1. One purpose it served was to strengthen Moses in executing his work.

2. Another purpose was to check idolatrous practices.

3. It taught Moses the safety of the people.

4. The revelation of this name in connection with the people's ancestry shows that they were the heirs of immortality.

5. The revelation of this name indicated victory.

(J. H. Hill.)

The creature is nothing in comparison with God; all the glory, perfection, and excellency of the whole world do not amount to the value of a unit in regard of God's attributes; join ever so many of them together, they cannot make one in number; they are nothing in His regard, and less than nothing. All created beings must utterly vanish out of sight when we think of God. As the sun does not annihilate the stars, and make them nothing, yet it annihilates their appearances to our sight; some are of the first magnitude, some of the second, some of the third, but in the daytime all are alike, all are darkened by the sun's glory: so it is here, there are degrees of perfection and excellency, if we compare one creature with another, but let once the glorious brightness of God shine upon the soul, and in that light all their differences are unobserved. Angels, men, worms, they are all nothing, less than nothing, to be set up against God. This magnificent title "I AM," darkens all, as if nothing elsewhere.

( T. Manton, D. D..)

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