But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” 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?” —Exodus 3:11–13
Moses: Who am I?
God: But I will be with you.
Moses: Ok. Not me. You. Got it. …Who are you?
God: I AM WHO I AM.
God has addressed Moses by name. Moses has not returned the favor. Was God’s name not known up to this point? No. The name of God is YHWH or Yahweh, represented every time we see the all caps “LORD” in the Old Testament. Knowing this, we see that Abraham knew this name (Genesis 12:8), as well as Isaac (Genesis 26:25), and Jacob (Genesis 28:16). We can go all the way back to the third generation of man (Genesis 4:26). God’s name was known.
Has Moses been baking in the wilderness too long? Or has the 400 year bondage caused him, along with all Israel, to forget? A better answer is found in a couple of verses that may initially cause us more puzzlement. “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD. 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 (Exodus 6:2-3).’” So was Genesis mistaken? Did the patriarchs not call upon YHWH? They knew the name YHWH, but YHWH wasn’t known by His name. God had appeared and made himself known as God Almighty, but His name YHWH was a mystery to them. Now, God is revealing Himself in His name to Moses so that he might give it to His people.
Biblically, names are revelatory. They’re meaningful. God’s name communicates His aseity, immutability, incomprehensibility, transcendence, simplicity, and holiness. But His name also represents His condescension. In giving this name, God is stooping and lisping to His children. To know God’s name isn’t just to know Him, but to know Him intimately. This is God’s covenant name that His people are to remember Him by (Exodus 3:15).
It’s a shame that we’ve forgotten it. We read that Abraham “called upon the name of the LORD,” and think of a title, “Lord,” instead of a personal name, “YHWH.” It’s a great shame that we don’t call upon this name. It’s a greater shame that we forget Who it is this name says we call upon. Pray to your Father, but do not forget that it is YHWH—the self-existent, transcendent, holy, immutable I AM come down in covenant love—that you call upon as Father.
By God’s grace we do better than we know. Anytime we call upon the name of Jesus, truly knowing Him as the supreme revelation of God, we are leaning upon the truth revealed in God’s name—the Holy one, come down in covenant love to redeem His people. “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Joshua” or “Yeshua” which means “YHWH is salvation.” The angel commanded Joseph “to call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” God told Moses that God would deliver His people (Exodus 3:8). Unlike Moses, with Jesus, God isn’t simply delivering His people through a man; Jesus is God come to deliver His people. He is YHWH, and so He says, “before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58).” Knowing the name of YHWH helps us to better understand the name of Jesus. May we never forget, throughout all our generations.