WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Rev. S. D. Spencer – Pastor Messiah Lutheran Church
Exodus 3:1-15 & John 8:48-59
Grace, peace and mercy from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, Amen!
What’s in a name? Actually, quite a bit! Corporations spend months if not years trying to come up with just the right name for that product or a business. Their goal is to brand it. Let me give you an example of that. When I was growing up if you were at a restaurant the waitress would ask, “Do you like a coke with that?” Of course our response was, “What type do you have?” And so often they would reply, “We’ve got Pepsi, 7-Up, Root Beer and Orange Soda.” No Coke! Instead of asking do want a soda pop, they’d ask do you want a Coke? That’s branding. Therefore, Coke must be the real thing, and all others are mere imitations.
Here’s another one, if you need to blow your nose do you ask for a nasal tissue? No you ask for a Kleenex. That’s branding!
What’s in a name? Parents often spend days, weeks or even months deliberating over what to name their baby when it’s born. Certain names are desirable while others are avoided. For instance if you name your son Spike you might as well plan on spending a great deal of time in Parent-Teacher Conferences or the Principal’s office. It’s just not the type of name that leads to a peaceful upbringing. If you name your daughter Trixy or Bambi, well those might bring a whole bunch of other problems.
What’s in a name, evidently a lot! And that brings us to our Old Testament text and a name that is above all other names. A name branded on the hearts and minds of all Old Testament believers, God’s name.
II. GOD’S NAME IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Moses was in a field shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro. As Moses led the flock into the high country to fresh pastures he came into the wilderness region of Mount Horeb. You might recall this area because later he’ll come back to it because in the midst of this mountain range is Mt. Sinai, the mountain on which God gave Moses the tablets of the Law. As Moses was busy taking care of the flock The Angel of the Lord appears and calls out of the burning bush. What a sight, a bush burning but not being consumed. And voice says, “Moses remove your sandals for you stand on Holy ground.” I sometimes think we miss out on the magnitude of what was happening. If we saw a burning bush with a voice calling out of it we’d probably think, “You can do anything with technology these days.” But there wasn’t such technology back then. And we need to avoid discounting or minimizing God’s actions by applying 21st century context. This was a huge event for Moses and for the Jewish people. For this event begins the deliverance of Israel from bondage.
Moses removes his sandals and approaches the burning bush. And as if anticipating the question the voice in the bush says, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:6). This is no mere angel this is the Lord God almighty, this is Yahweh! What does He want from Moses? You know! He tells us in verses 7, 8 & 9. “Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cries because of their slave drivers. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. The Lord God almighty, Yahweh is sending Moses to deliver His people. To redeem them from slavery and from oppression, to set the captives, free.
Every year in the spring, Orthodox Jews gather to observe a week long festival called Passover. In the midst of that celebration is the Seder Dinner, the Passover meal. And during that meal is a rite called the Hagaddah. The Hagaddah is the oral account of God’s redemption of His people from captivity. And it starts right here with God telling Moses about how the people have cried out and He has heard their pleas for mercy. The burning bush episode is seared into the mind of every faithful child of Israel. For this account is where God writes Himself into their lives, He will be their God and they shall be His people. The emphasis is upon God redeeming them, upon God’s work of salvation and not His servant Moses.
Moses is a humble man and knows what God wants of him, but doesn’t feel up to the task. But God assures Moses that he will not be alone, God will be with him every step of the way. One hurdle is left for Moses, listen to verse 13:“Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" The foreign gods had names, like Baal and Isis. The Egyptians had over 114 gods and all of them had names. But what was the name of the true God, the God of Israel? Who was Moses suppose to say sent him? “So God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'The LORD, 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, and thus I Am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:14-15). I AM, which means I have always been. Not like the false gods who came into being. But the God who, was, is and shall ever be, the God without beginning or end, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last the eternal God.
The Lord God Almighty tells us His name and it’s I AM! Not only is this His name but it is His name in perpetuity, forever. This account of Moses and God is written so that all people, of all times may know the name of the God that delivers people from oppression and affliction to freedom and deliverance from slavery. This is the name that God gave Himself. And this account, this Word of God is meditated upon each and every year during the Passover Festival in the Hagaddah. The people of Israel know God’s Memorial Name, I AM. What’s in a name? I guess it depends on whose name it is!
II. GOD’S NAME IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The Second Commandment says: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The children of Israel were so concerned about committing blasphemy that they purposely made God’s name unpronounceable. That’s why in some Bibles you have the name Yahweh while others have Jehovah. They are the Anglicizing of the Hebraic name for Lord. When God said His name was ‘I AM’ every good Jewish boy and girl would avoid putting those 2 words together. But did you notice what Jesus says in our Gospel today. “Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' But you have not known Him. I know Him. If I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and I keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." So they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:54-59).
Jesus says to them, “You haven’t known my Father, but I know Him.” By the way that word to know in the Greek or Hebrew is the same word used to denote marital knowledge. It is to know someone intimately. You may know about God, but I know Him personally and intimately, you see we are one.
As for Abraham he looked forward to the day the day of the seed of salvation the day of the Messiah, and He wasn’t disappointed in seeing my day. But they don’t quite understand yet what Jesus is saying. So they comment, “You’re not even 50 years old how could you have seen Abraham”. So Jesus makes sure they understand what He’s saying, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." No more guessing, no more games. He is it, out in the open and they know what He’s saying. Jesus has just claimed ownership to the eternal name of God.
Before I go any further there are some who will point out what Jesus said in the Greek “ego eimi” the I AM was also said by others in the New Testament. And that’s absolutely true. The Bible was written in the Greek language. And others did say ego eimi. But when God spoke to Moses from the Burning Bush in the Old Testament the language was Hebrew. Jesus and His disciples normally talked in Aramaic. But when Jesus dialoged with the Pharisees, Scribes and Chief Priest, especially in the temple, He spoke in the religious tongue of the church, Hebrew. Others may have said I AM but never in the Hebrew tongue for that would have been blasphemy. And that’s why in verse 59 the Scribes and Pharisees picked up stones to stone Him.
God’s name in the New Testament is still I AM. The only person allowed to use it is God anyone else would have been committing blasphemy. Jesus very clearly is identifying Himself as God and not just any God but as the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.
Jesus is the God who has heard the cries of His people and has come to redeem His people from slavery and oppression and to the set the captives free. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the great I AM who has always been.
So dear brothers and sisters rejoice on this Trinity Sunday for Lord Jesus has heard your cries and has come to save you. For by His perfect and holy life, by His precious death and burial and by His glorious resurrection and ascension all your sins are forgiven in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, for Jesus is the Great I AM - Jesus is God.
So what’s in a name? Everything when that name is Jesus. And may His name always be branded upon your hearts as Lord and Savior today and forevermore, in Jesus name, amen and amen!
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. AMEN