Thursday, July 03, 2008

What’s My Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – William Shakespeare

“Not if you called it ‘stinkweed’” – Bart Simpson

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.’” – Exodus 3:14

Amy Storms posted on her blog about God’s name, from Exodus 33-34. This reminded me of the earlier bit where God first tells Moses his name. Sometimes we miss what a big deal this is; we tend just call Him God or Lord (or Father) like they did before Moses. But there’s a kind of personal thing in knowing someone by name rather than just by title, and that’s what God gave Moses (and gives us).

In biblical times, a name wasn’t just a label, it told you something important about the person. Hence Jesus – “God Saves”. So what kind of name can God give himself? In the context, Moses wants a name which identifies God differently from all the other gods of the time. Hence the answer that God gives him: "I Am". The God who IS, who exists, and always has, and always will (I gather the tense is vague in the original). That’s what makes Him different from other gods, and even today, that’s probably the most important most important think we need to understand about him. But far from the only thing, as Amy explains in her post.

At the same time, asking God his name feels to me a bit like trying to limit him – to label him, to box him in. Fortunately for us God is graceful and does sometimes limit himself in order to help us to understand him. Like in becoming a man; like by or by trying to explain in words, which are imperfect, human tools, what a perfect and infinite God he is. But then God’s words here speak to me of the ultimate futility of trying to capture God in words. “I am who I am.” As if you say, how can you even try to describe God by reference to anything less than himself? Kind of like when he says “I swear by myself” – because it would be silly for him to swear by anything less than himself, and there is nothing greater.

“I Am.” I love the simplicity of it and also the power. If it weren't God speaking it would be pretty arrogant :)


Blogger Natasha said...

That is so true, the name "I AM" really just means that. "HE IS" everything and anything we need Him to be, like provider, love, avenger, peace maker etc.
Great post!

1:59 PM  

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