In Exodus 3.13-14 we are introduced to God’s personal name. Moses is in a discussion with God at the burning bush, who has just commissioned him to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt, 3.10. Moses begins immediately to question his abilities. I believe this would be the natural reaction out of most humble people. Think about yourself and how you would respond. Moses’ first question is probably very similar to what mine would be: basically, “who am I to do this?” God’s reply in 3.12 is not something just to be passed over quickly because in it we learn about one of the great characteristics of God: I will be with you,… God is the ever-present one who is with His people. This is part of His identity. It’s who He is.
Next, Moses asks how he should answer if the people asked who sent him: What is his name? What shall I say to them? God answers: I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.” I AM is the personal name of God. It is commonly expressed with the consonants YHWH in the Hebrew language and is meant to describe the eternality, self-existence, and changelessness that belong to God alone.
In Exodus 3.17, we learn a little more about God. The verse begins with a promise: I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land …flowing with milk and honey. God is the ever-saving one who lives to redeem His people. Tying this back to 3.7-9, this is the exact message the people of Israel needed to hear from their God: i.e., He has heard their cries and will rescue them.
In Exodus 4, Moses returns to Egypt and along with Aaron explained to the people all that God had told them. Verse 31 marks a very crucial point in the Exodus story: And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. Then comes chapter 5. After moments of faith adversity always comes. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and demand he let the Hebrews leave Egypt. They are summarily dismissed and directed to get back to your burdens, 5.4. To this, Pharaoh made their burdens harder by withholding straw for brick making (5.10); not lessening their work quotas even though the people had to scatter to find straw (5.12-14); and issuing beatings/violence if tasks were not completed on time (5.16). The foreman met with Moses and Aaron and blamed them for the impossible workload that had been placed on the people. To this, Moses cries out to God: O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all, 5.22-23.
Chapter 6 opens with God’s reassurances to Moses and to the Hebrew people. First God directs His attention to Moses. He tells him that the time will come when Pharaoh will drive the people out with a strong hand, 6.1. Now notice 6.2-5. See the covenant language. Here He uses His personal name again: I AM the Lord. Then he points to his relationship with the patriarchs and the promises he made. He has seen the groaning of His people and has remembered His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.13-16. Notice how God was personally moved and involved with the problem: I have heard and I have remembered are statements that indicate God is going into action and enforce the covenant made long before. What the patriarchs trusted would one day happen was now underway, and God encouraged Moses here to believe that fact.
Now, notice 6.6-8. These are the words that God wants Moses to use to reassure the people. God uses His personal name again: I am the Lord. He promises freedom and deliverance. He will demonstrate His great power through the plagues, 6.6. He promises to make them His own possession: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God,” 6.7a. He is encouraging them to move in trust that He will fulfill the promises He’s making. This is all in fulfillment to the assurances He had previously given to the Patriarchs (Genesis 15.13-20; 35.12; 48.4). And when the Hebrews went to Canaan they would own it, not just live in it: I will give it to you for a possession, 6.8b. The verse concludes with the same statement that began in 6.2: I am the Lord. It’s covenant language. In the ancient Near East it was customary for the giver of a covenant to always identify himself. When God says, I am the Lord, it is as if He is saying, I am Yahweh, your covenant God. But wait, there’s more.
Now, let’s go back to God’s statement in 6.3. “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” God says previously that He didn’t reveal himself as the I AM to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but only as “God Almighty.” By revealing Himself as the El Shaddai to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they saw Him as “the mighty one,” “the all-powerful one,” and “the One who is eternal.” But now in Exodus, God is going to reveal Himself as the deliverer of His people. When God says I am the Lord in 6.2, 8, He is identifying Himself relationally. He was connected to His people, knowing them personally. Thus the people could say, “He is not just any god, He is my God.”
This is different than what the Patriarchs had previously seen. God is not only the ever-eternal one. He is not only the ever-present one. He is also the one who lives to draw near His people for the purpose of redeeming them. God is the god of deliverance! He is the one who establishes a relationship with His people. This is what makes Him special and unique from every human contrived deity. Our God, the God, lives to love and serve those who choose Him. It’s such a wondrous thing!
Now, reread Exodus 3.7-9 and make the application to your life. Think of God as your deliverer: He sees your affliction. He knows all about your taskmaster. He knows all about your sufferings. He hears the cries of those caught in sin. He knows how Satan oppresses. It is His intention to deliver you out of the hand of Satan and bring you into a place that is good and that flows with His eternal blessings.