watch above/read below
This Week's Teaching: "Understanding God as the 'I AM' & Yahweh"
Lots of people say they believe in God and that they love God, but what if they don't love the same God? Like what if our understanding about who God is is different? Does that mean that we're worshiping a different God? Are all versions of God, really just a pursuit of God himself? Or is it possible to know a God who isn't the real God? To worship the wrong God? Is it possible to love God who isn't the true God?
In Exodus 34, the Lord revealed himself to Moses, and he did it in a way that described who he is. Now, I've heard it said -- and I understand the sentiment of this -- I've heard it said that God doesn't want us to know about him, he wants us to know him.
Anything I say in this is all about us knowing Him. It's about the relationship. And yet in the same way that if I know my wife, I will know about her, and if I don't know about her, I don't really know her -- in that same way, I think it's important that we also discuss who God is, what he's like and learn about him. But not just so that we can learn a theology and pass a quiz. It's so that we can know who he is and know him personally.
In Exodus 34, the Lord goes to Moses and he describes himself. It says in verse five that "the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed his name, the LORD (Yahweh)." And it says he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming:
"The LORD. The LORD." -- "Yahweh. Yahweh." -- "The LORD. The LORD. The compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger , abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin yet..." as God reveals himself, as God proclaims himself, he says, "yet, he does..." talking about himself, "he does not leave the guilty unpunished. He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation."
Now to complete this, for those of you who are followers of Christ, as I am, Hebrews 1:3 says, "The son [Jesus]..." And this is what I believe. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word."
I believe that about Jesus.
And so back to the question. Does everyone who says they know God really know him? So I would challenge you if the God that you're worshiping would not be described as, "Yahweh! Yahweh! The compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. And yet does not leave the guilty unpunished" -- if that doesn't describe your God, it might be that you're pursuing the correct God, "Yahweh! Yahweh!" but you have fallen short in your understanding of who he is. And so he proclaims himself to you today.
Now I think this is an important message and my intent right now is to spend the next several teachings on this, so that we can unite around God's self proclamation, his self revelation. To make sure that we are all knowing God by knowing about God.
Today I just wanna deal with the first two words there: "The Lord. The Lord." "Yahweh, Yahweh."
In Exodus 3, God reveals himself to Moses for the first time. Now, Moses was born a Hebrew. All the Hebrews were slaves, at the time, of the Egyptians. And Pharaoh had told all the Hebrews to throw out the little boys; put them in the river. But Moses got rescued by none other than Pharaoh's daughter, and was raised in Pharaoh's house. And then Moses, when he grew up, he went and defended a Hebrew by killing an Egyptian, and then he went to defend a Hebrew against a Hebrew, and they called him out, so he fled for his life and he was gone for 40 years. He was 40 years old when he left. He was gone another 40 years. He was 80 years old, and then God went to him out in the middle of nowhere, in a burning bush. You've heard the story.
Moses goes up to it to see what it is. And there it says, verse four, " God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!' And Moses said, 'Here I am.' And God said, 'Don't come any closer. Take off your sandals. It's holy ground.' And then he said, 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' And at this, Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God."
God went on and talked to him and told him: I want you to go rescue my people. He says: I will be with you and you'll be successful.
But then Moses says to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and I say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' And they ask me, 'Well, what's his name?' what should I tell him?"
And God said to Moses -- and here is his self revelation of his name -- 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."
Now another way to interpret that is "I will be who I will be." Tell them 'I will be who I will be' has sent you."
Another way to interpret it is "I have been who I have been." "'I have been who I have been' is sending you."
In the Hebrew, the "I am" doesn't really even have a present tense. It has more of a past tense and a future tense. And so like in English, we will say, "I am hungry." In Hebrew, you say, "I hungry." You can say, "I have been hungry" and "I will be hungry," but you don't say, "I am hungry." You just say, "I hungry."
And so God here is saying, "I am who I always have been. I am who I always will be. I." I. It's a statement of his essence that he is who he always has been, he is who he always will be, he is. He.
Now the Hebrew word for "I am," and I don't speak Hebrew, I'm just looking at these letters that, transliterated into English, is E-H-Y-E-H. Eh yeh. And that means this statement of being. Now some would say that it's more than just a statement of his being, but it encompasses his creative being, his generative being, that he is responsible for all this, that he is the origin of all this, that he is who he always has been. He will be who he always will be. He.
" I am who I am. Tell them eh yeh has sent me to you."
Then it says verse 15, God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'the LORD...'" again, this is Yahweh. Now, some of your Bibles or your traditions would say Jehovah. Jehovah was a poor transliteration of Y H W H. In Hebrew they didn't write out the vowels. They wrote out the consonants. But they pronounced the vowels. It's somewhat of a lost pronunciation, but when it was being translated from Hebrew into Latin, there was no Y' for Y H W H. And so they transliterated that with a J and they came out with Jehovah.
So it's a Latinized transliteration from Hebrew to Latin to English. But if you go straight from Hebrew, transliterated into English, you get Yahweh. Y H W H, Yahweh.
God says, "Tell them I AM has sent me to you." And then he says, "Say to the Israelites, 'Yahweh, 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 you shall call me from generation to generation.'"
Now this name, Yahweh, can be thought of as his formal name. It's his name. And it sounds as if it's from the same root word as eh yeh. Yahweh.
So you've probably heard it as I've heard it, that Yahweh just means "I am." But it doesn't really mean that. It's not that God just said, "Yahweh, Yahweh. Tell them Yahweh has sent me to you. I am Yahweh." It's not. He said, "Eh yeh, eh yeh. Tell them eh yeh has sent you. I am Yahweh."
And so it's not the same word. It probably has a same root, but it's not the same word. And so let's recognize that there is a connection to it. "I am" and God's formal name. "I am who I always have been," "I am who I always will be." (And as we read later in Revelation, the God who was, who is and is to come: I am.) But let's not think that "I am" and Yahweh are the same thing. Let's just recognize that they're a similar thing.
It's not the same word with different meanings, like "Roger that. Tell them Roger sent you." Same word, different meaning. Or, "I'll be frank with you. Tell them Frank has sent me." Like same word , different meaning. It's not that. Nor is it a word that sounds the same, but just has different spellings like, "Surely you can count on me. I am Shirley." It's not that. It's more like a near rhyme. Now it's not truly this, because there is some connection at the root, but it's more like they would've heard it as "I make all things new. Tell them Mike sent me." Or, "It is done. Tell them Don sent you." Or, "I am. Tell them Liam..." or "Diane..." some-- you know, that's kind of strange, but it's more like a near rhyme. And yet in their sense there would've been a common root that would've connected back to the "I AM."
So when Moses asks God, "Who should I tell them is sending me?" He says, "I am who I am. Tell them I AM has sent me to you. I am also, my name is, Yahweh, the LORD. The LORD. And I am not just the LORD. I am the God -- Elohim -- I am the God of your fathers. I am the LORD who has been the God of you and your ancestors. That's who I am."
And so in that he speaks his essence, he speaks his name and he speaks his relationship. "I am who I am. My name is Yahweh. And I am your God." My essence, my name, my relationship to you.
And so if we go back to Exodus 34, where Moses has already rescued the Israelites out of Egypt, and they're at Mount Sinai and he's bringing down the 10 Commandments. He's bringing down the tablets. He's up on the mountain and God passes in front of him and proclaims his name: " Yahweh. Yahweh."
There are so many different gods. I recently watched a political thing where one of the candidates starts out by saying, "I believe in God," or "I love God," or whatever it is, and you just go, but which God? Which God is it? Like it could be any number of Gods, right?
The one that we worship is Yahweh.
Now, I say this with respect. The Jews won't say Yahweh. I get it. Like I actually respect this. They treat it as such a holy name that they will say Hashem: the Name. Or if they're writing out God, they'll write it as G-d. If they're reading scripture and it says Yahweh, they say Adonai. The LORD. And so that's translated into our English versions where it says "the LORD." I respect that. And I believe that we should have a certain healthy fear about accidentally misusing his name.
On the other hand, the Lord said, out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. And when we call out to Yahweh with a heart that just says, "Lord, I'm not worthy of you, but I seek you and I desire you, and I desire your honor;" when we come to him bowed, not just at our head, but bowed at the shoulder. When we come to him like that and say the name Yahweh, we are declaring that he is the LORD. He is who he always has been, he is who He is, and he is who he will always be. And all things exist by his powerful word.
In fact, as we already read in Hebrews 1, it says of Jesus, " The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being sustaining all things by his powerful word."
He is who he is. He sustains all things. He is Yahweh. And he is the God of all who have come before us in this beautiful faith.
So this is the God that we worship. I'll leave it at this. Next week we're gonna go to the next statement: the compassionate and gracious God.
Mission Update & Prayer