DIG: What reassurances did ADONAI give Moses? How does I AM uniquely designate God? How does Jesus take on that name for Himself and with what implication (John 8:58-59)? Who is responsible for carrying out God’s plan?
REFLECT: Do you think YHVH will come through for you as He promised to Moses? Why or why not? God is Ehyeh, the Becoming One. What is He becoming to you? Is He becoming your savior? Is He becoming your best friend? Is He becoming the One on whom you trust and rely upon?
Moses thought that the Israelites would not believe him because they would want to know the name of the God who sent him. He said to the LORD, “Suppose 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?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (3:13) This would have been a natural question in ancient times because the name of a person expressed that person’s character, nature and qualities, since a name in Biblical days was much more than simply a label; for example, the name Able means a vapor or fleeting, and it reflects his life. Jesus’ name means He is the one who brings salvation.
Then God responded to Moses and said: Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be]. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: Ehyeh [I am or will be] has sent me to you (3:14). ADONAI identified Himself to Isra'el with the covenant name YHVH (Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay) known as the Tetragrammaton, or the Name (see Ac – The Book of Exodus From a Jewish Perspective for a further explanation of the use of ADONAI). The Name is related to the Hebrew verb meaning I AM and refers to God’s self-existence. There are two different interpretations of this name in Hebrew and both are accurate and true. One translation is: I am who I am. The other translation is: I am the Becoming One. The words I am translate a first person form of the Hebrew verb to be. The meaning is that ADONAI is the self-existent One. His existence depends on nothing or no one except His own will. Therefore, when God said I am, He was referring to His active, life-giving existence.
So there is no mistake on the part of Moses regarding who is speaking to him, God adds more detail. Then he also said to Moses His prophet: Say to the Israelites, “ADONAI, 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, the name by which I AM to be remembered from generation to generation”, or eternity (3:15).
Therefore, I AM and ADONAI are different forms of the same Hebrew verb and make up the most intimate and personal names of God in Scripture. We can easily understand why the Jews of Jesus’ day thought He was blaspheming when He said to the Pharisees: Before Abraham was I AM! (John 8:58). Today there are cults that claim Christ is not God. However, there was no such confusion with those confronting Jesus in His day; their reaction was to pick up rocks in order to stone Him (John 8:59). However, our reaction should be to fall at His feet to worship Him.51
Then in 13:16-22, God spells out the program of redemption. The LORD, the covenant keeper, talking to Moses, said to His prophet: Go, assemble the elders of Isra'el and say to them, ‘ADONAI, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - appeared to me as said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. This would no longer be a revolution of his own initiative. Moses would have to get the elders of Isra'el on board. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the Land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey’ (3:16-17). When ADONAI appeared first to Abraham, and later also to Isaac and Jacob, He promised in each instance that He would give them the land of Canaan. Now He appeared to Moses with the same promise. This proved that Moses was a true prophet.52
The elders of Isra'el will listen to you. After speaking to the elders, or bearded ones, of Israel, he was to go with a message to Pharaoh. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him: ADONAI, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us (He was to say the God of the Hebrews instead of ADONAI because these words were spoken to Pharaoh, who would not know the Name, ADONAI). Then, Moses would say: Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to ADONAI our God (3:18).
This three-day journey was not the ultimate purpose of God. The ultimate purpose was to bring Israel permanently out of Egypt. But ADONAI wanted Moses to keep the request at the minimum. Because if Pharaoh wouldn’t allow even this minimum departure, then that would show that he was worthy of all the judgments of God that would come upon Egypt.
But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a Mighty hand compels him (3:19). So I will stretch out My hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will send you out (3:20). There is a play on words here where the phrase: I will stretch out My hand, literally means I will send out My hand, using the same verb as the later statement that he will send you out. The idea is that God will stretch out His hand so that Pharaoh will stretch out his hand. The first action is the cause of the second.95 God warned Moses not to be discouraged in his mission by Pharaoh’s refusal to agree to his request. He would let Israel go only under pressure from God.
When the exodus did come, Israel would not leave empty-handed. And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed (3:21). Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians (3:22). This plunder was used later in Exodus for both good and evil. Some of it became part of the materials for the Tabernacle (25:3-8), while some of it was used to make the golden calf (32:2-3).
This is the fulfillment of a promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 15:14 (also see Psalm 105:37). And speaking of the nation of Israel, God said to Abraham His servant: I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out of Egypt with great possessions. But Moses is still not satisfied and raises a third objection.
In the middle of the eighteenth century in America, a certain young man was attending Yale University as a full-time divinity student. His desire was to be trained to be a pastor. He was an excellent student and after a few years of hard study he was close to completing his work. However, one day something bad happened. He was talking to some friends and gossiped about one of his teachers. He said, “That man is about as spiritual as the chair I’m sitting in.” The student was expelled from Yale, never to be readmitted. No doubt it was a sinful remark, and the student later repented and asked for forgiveness from the teacher. But afterwards, he began the lowest, most depressing and discouraging period in the life of David Brainerd.
But the Scriptures call us to understand that God uses even our most wicked acts to bring about His good purposes. For example, in the story of Joseph, when the patriarch confronts his brothers about the wickedness they had done to him, he says: You intended it to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).
And so, in the same way, God worked His good pleasure in the life of David Brainerd. After his expulsion from Yale, Brainerd agonized over his calling. But the LORD opened up a service for him on the mission field to the American Indians. That had not been the ministry that Brainerd had chosen, but ADONAI gave him the desire for those people and God blessed his ministry with great revivals among the native American tribes.
The life of Moses provides a good illustration of this Biblical principle: ADONAI even uses our misdeeds to bring about His purposes. So, even though Moses’ sin caused him to flee Egypt, God made use of it in His redemptive plans for His people.54
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017