Sermon: What's In A Name? - Exodus 3

God revealed his name in the context of his care for his hurting people. God's response came to them in four significant verbs.

The Power of Praying in God's Name

  1. Calling on God's Name
  2. Make a Name for Yourself
  3. What's in a Name?
  4. For His Name's Sake
  5. Praise His Name
  6. He Is Lord
  7. He Is Personal
  8. The Definitive God
  9. Misusing God's Name
  10. The God We Call Father
  11. In the Name of Jesus
  12. My Favorite Name

Scripture Passage: Exodus 3:13-15

God revealed his divine name to Moses in rather dramatic fashion. Moses, a fugitive, was tending sheep in Sinai. One day, all of a sudden he sees a bush burning that does not consume itself. He goes to check it out only to hear a voice asking him to remove his sandals, for the ground he is standing on is holy ground. From that bush Moses hears the word of God and revelation of his holy name.

God revealed his name in the context of his care for his hurting people. God's response came to them in four significant verbs:

  1. God hears
  2. He remembers
  3. He sees, and
  4. He is concerned

"So God heard their groaning, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the Israelites, and He took notice." (Exodus 2:24-25 HCSB).

Then God adds two new dimensions to his relatedness. He says, "I have come down to rescue them ..." (3:8).

And his promise to Moses is, "I will certainly be with you" (3:12).

Each of these verbs sets the context for the revelation of the divine name. God hears the pleas of his people; he remembers his covenant with his people; he sees the distress of his people; he is concerned about his people; he rescues his people; he promises to be with his people.

Then he gives his name in response to Moses' question: "If 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?" (3:13). In good Hebrew style, for emphasis and clarity, God reveals his name in two parts.

First, God says, "I AM WHO I AM" (3:14). Arguably these words may be the most difficult to translate in the Bible. Those five words in English come from the older form of the Hebrew verb "to be." In other words, God's name - "I AM WHO I AM" - speaks of his essential being. That God is! is essential to the meaning of deity.

In the second part of the revelation in verse 15, God moves from the first person "I AM," to the third person "He is." The Hebrew is Yahweh, translated "The LORD." Notice what God says, "Say this 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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation" (3:15).

While several designations for deity are recorded in the Bible, essentially there is only one name - Yahweh. The English Bible traditionally translates this as The LORD, with all capital letters. This name is abundant with meaning. God's name is not simple; it is profound. God's name is not trivial; it is exquisite.

The name Yahweh and its short form Yah occurs over 6,800 times in the Old Testament - more than any other word. Yahweh is God's self revelation. Debates over its meaning have gone on for centuries. Some have suggested that it means absolute being, creation, and benevolent presence are all suggested. But God is revealed as One who cannot be fully comprehended in a word.

From the bush, a symbol of his hiding, and fire, a mark of his holiness, comes the word of his name, a symbol of his dynamic presence - "I AM WHO I AM."

What's in a name? When that name is Yahweh, everything is in that name: life, reality, and relationship to the living God. Hence, to know the name of God is to know God as he has revealed himself.

Rick Ezell is the pastor of First Baptist Greer, South Carolina. Rick has earned a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology in preaching from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rick is a consultant, conference leader, communicator, and coach.