Title: Names of God: YHVH, part 2. I am that I am
We noted in part 1 that of the many names God gives Himself, YHVH (Jehovah, Yaweh, Yavah pronunciations) - used where relationships of God and man are involved, especially in man's redemption.
All divine attributes that share in redemption are given with YHVH - holiness, justice, and love for the sinner. The covenants are largely given under this name.
In Exo 34 the Lord passed in front of Moses and said Yavah Yavah El, and then He gave meaning to this title:
YHVH - compassion, grace, patient, merciful (slow to anger), abounding in steadfast love, abounding in truth, not discriminating (to thousands), forgiving, and justice.
The pagan gods are never found having names that point to compassion, only power. Great power with compassion and grace always leads to disaster. Baal means lord or master. Ashteroth is the queen of heaven. Chemosh is the god of fire. Molech means king and Dagon is derived from the word for fish.
YHVH had been known since the beginning.
GEN 4:1 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord [YHVH]."
GEN 15:7 And He said to him, "I am the Lord [YHVH] who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it."
We first looked at God's revelation of His name to Moses at Mt. Sinai during the Exodus. Now we go back to the first meeting of God and Moses on the same holy mountain and we gain wonderful insight into this name.
So when Moses asked God for His name in order to tell the Israelites in Egypt who had sent him, God actually describes the name.
This shows us that there is more to His name than just a name. He is to be more than a name to each of us.
When Moses was called by God in the wilderness of Midian, and he was told to go to Egypt in order to free Israel from bondage, Moses asked God what name he should use if Israel asks it of him. Interestingly, God’s response was not YHVH but the essence of the word, which is actually the essence of God.
In other words, God describes His essence and gives that as His name to Moses.
EXO 3:13 Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?"
EXO 3:14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
hyha rva hyha - ehyeh asher ehyeh = I am that I am; derived from the qal imperfect, first person of the verb hayah = to become, occur, come to pass, be. The name is more than simply stating pure existence, though that is included.
The imperfect use of the verb is also interesting. An imperfect is a tense that means an incomplete action that has begun in the past. For instance, "Jesus was walking on the water," is an imperfect. So the imperfect of hayah is God being and continuing to be, but until what? There is no what or event that will bring the action to an end.
Imperfect tense: an incomplete action… "I keep on being in the past, now, and onward that which I keep on being." It's not just existence but also purpose.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
This sounds like a name of eternal existence, and in one aspect it is, but we then have to ask ourselves the purpose of His existence. Jesus was walking on the water is the imperfect tense. There was a purpose in doing that and in God there is always a purpose to His existence.
A man may exist with no purpose. Man has to choose a purpose and pursue it. However, everything that God does has a purpose. His essence is purpose.
When we look at the attributes of God we are confronted with purpose in all that we see. Righteousness, justice, love, immutability, veracity, eternal life, sovereignty, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence. Each of these has a function and in the realm of fallen creatures who have rebelled against God, His attributes shine forth with purpose.
These attributes have been under attack since the fall of Satan and the attacks continue through the fall of man. Therefore, each of these attributes has been expressed, and we will see them expressed in His name.
He keeps on being what He keeps on being, from the past and continuing onward. In this we have the attributes of righteousness, love, and immutability.
He will not ever be anything but righteous and gracious and merciful. He is the covenant keeper.
The fact that He is the covenant keep is revealed in another name that He gives just after this one, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To each of these men the eternal and unconditional covenant was made, what we call the Abrahamic Covenant.
The call of Abraham is a response to a polytheistic world that began at the Tower of Babel. It is a call of grace, mercy, salvation, and also justice.
Concerning the issue presented to Moses, He is the One who keeps on freeing Israel from the bondage of Egypt. As we know, this is a type for the freeing of all mankind from the bondage of sin and death.
Therefore, hayah, which is one letter away from Yavah, would refer, among other things, perfect transcendence, the source and foundation of all things good and wonderful (grace), and beyond all predictions and definite descriptions.
We have used the phrase "beyond all description" in our definition of God. In reverence of His name we are careful not to go too far. On holy ground we remove our intellect as Moses was commanded to remove his shoes. Intellect and reason, and in a certain way, even language are no good to us here. The great I AM is beyond human language and human definitions.
No one ever pondered his way to God. No one ever reasoned a path to the Almighty. What we know of Him is all in His revelation and in that alone we look for His name.
The Greek philosophers, among others, thought they could think their way to God and to heaven. How wrong they were. God called Abraham and Moses and Paul and you and me. God seeks us out, and never the other way around.
EXO 3:15 And God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The Lord [YHVH], the God [Elohim] 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 this is My memorial-name to all generations.
The One who was and is and is to come is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob = the eternal covenant keeper. He is fulfilling the covenant when He rescues Israel from Egypt.
EXO 3:16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying," I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.
EXO 3:17 So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey."'
No educated Jew during Jesus' time would have missed the implication of His naming Himself the "I am."
JOH 8:48 The Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?"
JOH 8:49 Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.
JOH 8:50 "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.
JOH 8:51 "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."
JOH 8:52 The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word, he shall never taste of death.'
JOH 8:53 "Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?"
JOH 8:54 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';
JOH 8:55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you, but I do know Him, and keep His word.
JOH 8:56 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."
JOH 8:57 The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"
JOH 8:58 Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."
JOH 8:59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.
The great discipline of God upon the kingdom of Judah in the captivity had finally removed idol worship from them. When they returned to Jerusalem, under the instruction of Ezra, the first scribe, they returned to the knowledge of God’s word. Yet over just a few generations they distorted the word, but they didn’t return to idols, rather, they began to worship themselves. The subtle way they did this was to come to the believe that a man could be saved by keeping the Mosaic Law. In order to ensure that men would not break the Law, the rabbis made more rules and commands that they saw as a fence around the Law. If a man didn’t break the fence then he couldn’t break the Law. That was the idea, but the false premise of salvation by law or by works also distorted the revelations of the Messiah. By elevating the ability of man the Messiah became in their minds only a great man who could bring back the glory of Solomon’s kingdom. He would be regal. The revelations concerning His deity, so clear to us, faded away from them. The revelations concerning His humiliation and death, so wonderfully shown from the OT by Jesus Himself to the disciples after His resurrection, had become quiet and hidden.
The Great I AM, YHVH, became a man and invited all mankind, Jew and Gentile, into a covenant with Him; a new covenant in His blood.