Think Biblically!

Ezra 1:1-11

The title of this message is: “God’s Name”

And our passage is from Exodus 34:1-7

David Frampton

Everyone has a name. You received your first, middle, and last names most likely at birth or perhaps when you were adopted or for a few who possibly changed their names. Regardless, there is some story about your names. For example, your parents might simply have liked the names they gave you, or it might have been a traditional family name, or you might have been named after someone famous, or there might have been other reasons. But there is a story behind your name. In our culture’s old traditions, when women marry they often take their husband’s last name to express their union with him, and so their new last name becomes part of their story. (By the way, the Bible says nothing about this practice.)

God’s name is part of his story. Our names help to identify us among billions and billions of humans. God’s names not only identify him in contrast to false gods, but his names also proclaim what he is and does. God’s story involves making known the significance of his name—of all that God is. Think of the baptismal formula: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). This name presents his tri-unity and is a must in understanding God’s story. Exodus, the second book of the Torah, tells us much about God’s name.

Before we get back into God’s story, I must say this. Each week I will not retell the previous part of the story, because even a brief review would soon become too lengthy. But I will tie in important ideas of God’s story, both back and forth, to help us profit better from the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ.

Let’s draw closer to our passage:

God’s progressive revelation of his name from Abraham to Moses. Progressive revelation is an important idea in God’s story. God did not tell everything in Genesis 1-11. God’s people from earliest times knew that God’s personal name was the LORD or Yahweh. This name means either “I am who I am” or “I will be what I will be”. Although they knew his name, God did not use that name to tell his story to them. Instead, he used other names.

God’s names to the Patriarchs (the fathers of the people of Israel)

Abraham knew God as God Most High (Genesis 14:17-22), as Lord (Adonai, the Ruler, Gen 18:27, 30-32), as God Almighty (Gen 17:1, able to do whatever he wills), and as the God of heaven and earth (Genesis 24:3). Each of these names contributes to God’s story when they are used.

Then there was Isaac who knew God as the God of Abraham, his father (Genesis 26:24) and as God Almighty (Genesis 28:3).

Jacob knew God as the God of Bethel (Genesis 31:3; it was the place where God had first spoken to him), as the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac (Genesis 31:42; 32:9; 46:3; 48:15), and as God Almighty (Genesis 35:11; 48:3).

The great idea here is that God wanted to be known as their God, as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The living God is willing to enter into a personal relationship with people. This is at the core of the covenant that God makes with his chosen people (Hebrews 8:10).

Questions: Is God your God? More importantly, would God agree that he is your God? There is only one way to know that God is your God—through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

God’s names in the events of the Exodus. God’s story at this point reached the time for him to tell his people more of the greatness of his name—of all that he is. He uses the name Yahweh to do this. When Israel seemed at the point of utter despair (Genesis 2:23-25), God remembered his covenant and began to show what it means for him to be Yahweh.

The next thing we want you to consider is, The announcement of this name at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14-17). God will do what he pleases to keep his promises and so take Israel into the Promised Land. The question of Pharaoh sets the stage for a war (Exodus 5:1-2). At first, it looks like Pharaoh will win. 

The reassertion of God’s plan (Exodus 6:6-8). Notice how God’s proclamation of his name brackets the core of the message.

The display of the Lord’s signs and wonders (Exodus 6:28-12:30; especially chapter 7 verse 5). This is the war against the Egyptians and their false gods.

The Lord’s triumph at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-15:21; especially 14:4, verses 17-18; and chapter 15:7 and verse 11).

The provision of manna (Exodus 16:12).

The giving of the law covenant at Sinai (Exodus 20:1, 7).

The story of Exodus shows the power of God’s name. It is fatal to get into a war with God. You will lose. But there is a way of peace (Romans 5:1-2). But you can’t find peace by fighting the true and living God, because he is in control of all things.

God’s name was declared after disastrous disobedience. (Exodus 32-34). In this event God’s name makes known the wonder of his grace.

God had made a covenant with Israel (Exodus chapters 19-24) about seven weeks previously. This covenant is called the law or the old or first covenant.

God made known his desire to be in a special relationship with Israel as his people. To pursue this desire, God gave a covenant so that he could live with them as his people and nation, but all would depend on their obedience (Exodus 19:1-6). Note the “if… then…” sequence. In Jesus Christ we have something that is much better (1 Pt 2:9-10). 

God publicly announced the central terms of this covenant, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). The people agreed to those commands and other laws associated with them (Exodus 24:3-8). God then allowed the leaders of the people to eat and to drink in his presence, which speaks of personal friendship (Exodus 24:9-12). Following that meal, Moses spent forty days with the Lord to receive instruction about a moveable temple, the tabernacle, through which God would live among the people (Exodus 25-31).

Comment: At this point, everything looks good from outward appearances. But Israel had an internal problem; they did not have a heart for God (Deuteronomy 5:28-29). We would do well to examine ourselves to know if we have a heart for God, or are our desires set on other things (cf. Matthew 13:22-23)?

Note that it was Israel that broke the covenant with God (Exodus 32:1-35).

Israel wanted other gods instead of the Lord, and Aaron attempted a foolish compromise, calling the worship of an idol a feast to the Lord. Thus, the first three commands of the covenant were broken. 

Moses interceded with the Lord to not destroy the people, and God relented from that judgment. Notice very carefully that Moses did not plead the law covenant, but God’s promises and oath (cf. Hebrews 6:13-18) in the holy covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God then sent Moses back down to the people. Moses saw the wild orgy and threw down the two tablets of the covenant, symbolically showing that they had broken the law covenant. The Levites rallied to the Lord’s side, and through swift judgment they restored order. Moses then risked everything as he prayed for forgiveness for his people.

After extended intercession by Moses, the Lord agreed to continue to be with Israel as their covenant God and to take them to the land promised to the Patriarchs (Exodus 33:1-17).

Point: The Lord shows that prayer for others is a significant part of his plan of salvation. We can pray for others on the basis of God’s covenant promises, because God will be faithful to his name.

Moses boldly asks to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18-34:7). Although he had experienced God’s shining brilliance a number of times, he wanted more. He had a heart for God.

God agrees to let Moses see a little of his glory, but he promises also to give him something more that will make his glory known in a richer way—the proclamation of his name (Exodus 33:18-23).

Up on Sinai. God tells Moses about his kindness and sternness (cf. Romans 11:22). The Lord tells his servant seven truths that show forth his glory, which can be summarized by the words salvation and judgment. The Lord emphasizes salvation. How can any sinner ever hope to live in the presence of God? He judges sinners! Yet, God is also compassionate, gracious, patient, overflowing with love and faithfulness, and forgiving. And so he renews the law covenant with Israel. (Exodus 34:8-28).

In this proclamation of his name, God increasingly reveals more of who he is. The rest of the Old Testament scripture draws from this revelation: 

From the Law – Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9-11; 7:9-10, 

From the Prophets – Isaiah 63:7.... Jeremiah 32:18....; Hosea 2:19-20....; Joel 2:13....; Jonah 4:2....; Micah 7:18....; Nahum 1:2-3...., 

And from the writings – Psalms 86:15....; 103:8....; 111:4....; 145:8....; Nehemiah 9:17....; 2 Chronicles 30:9.

A little more application. Since God’s name reveals his glory in his story, we need to know his names and to think of God as he has spoken of himself. For example, “Father in heaven, I come to you through the Lord Jesus Christ. You have revealed yourself as Yahweh, which means that your glory is revealed in your compassion. My heart and life are filled with sorrow, suffering, and misery. It is your glory to show compassion to someone like me. I desperately need it. I need you! Let me see the glory of your compassion. And then may my life radiate your compassion to others. Amen. 

Ideas to remember:

First, The only way to God is through Jesus Christ. He is God’s way of peace.

Second, Prayer is very significant in the plan of God.

Lastly, We need to worship God for his compassion.