[Feb 05]--What's His Name?

Exodus 3:7-15

God appeared to Moses and gave him his assignment, but the problem was that Moses was extremely reluctant to heed the call. He proceeded to pull out every excuse he could think of, any reasons he could muster as to why he (Moses) should just stay in the desert and the Lord should send someone else. In answer to his first objection, God revealed his own name to him.

Some points should be considered here. First, this occasion is very important because of the incredible revelation here. God has many titles which have to do with his relationship with us: “Creator,” “Redeemer,” “Judge,” “Savior,” etc. In verse 14, however, he reveals his name, who he is, in and of himself.

There are two parts of his name in English: "I" and "am." These two halves actually reveals two truths in tension: his immanence and his transcendence. Let's take a look at the first aspect. Most of the time, when we use the term "immanence," or "immanent," we mean it in the sense of nearness of time. But according to Merriam, one of the definitions of "immanent" is "being within the limits of possible experience or knowledge." The fact that's he's "here," not just on a cosmic throne somewhere, is really important to us. I also mean he's "here" in the sense of nearness in Person. He has personality, he is not an “It.” Sorry, George Lucas, but he isn’t a “Force” like electricity or gravity. He has desires, likes and dislikes. He has a will, a memory, and emotions (in some sense of the word). Why is this important to us? Because if he had no personality, he couldn’t have any type of personal relationship with us. There would be no way that he could be "within the limits of possible experience or knowledge." You can't relate to--on any type of personal level--gravity or electricity. You can relate to this God on some level as a person. He surrounds and fills us, as close as the breath on our lips or the beating of our heart. Examine all the Eastern religions (like Buddhism or Hinduism) and sooner or later you’ll see that they don’t believe in a God who could ever say “I.”

The other half of his name--"am"--strongly hints at his transcendence, the fact that he's also "above" everything and everyone else. How so? Doesn't everyone and everything exist? Yes, but this Person who's meeting with Moses in this passage is utterly unique. There is absolutely no one else in the entire universe who could say “I am” in the same sense that God does. I’m not the same person I was a year ago, or even five minutes ago. We’re like waves in the ocean, keeping the same basic shape but continually changing on the inside which eventually displays on the outside: e.g., we get older. He, however, is immutable (meaning he never changes). Under any circumstances.The only way he could never change is if he's sovereign (in charge) over everything, since we change as outside forces come upon us; again, this hints at his omnipotence (meaning he's all-powerful). I put all this under the heading of “transcendence” which means he's Lord over all creation.

He's both immanent and transcendent. He's both "here" with us and at the same time utterly unlike us in so many ways. He desires both intimate communion with us and at the same time he demands unique worship. He's both incredibly "near" us and at the same time he's infinitely "above" us. He's both, and we need him to be both. 

I think that as a general rule American Christianity has a much easier time with immanence than with transcendence. We invite people into a “personal relationship with Jesus” which is, at best, half the story. We tend to talk about the Lord as if he's our buddy. He is our best friend. But he's also the Lord over all the universe, the One who will one day sit in judgment over every human who has ever existed. Look at the description of Jesus in the first chapter of Revelation and see if you’d be comfortable calling him your “bud.”

But I mean it when I say that we also need him to be transcendent with all that implies. We need him to be in charge of everything. We need to know that he knows what  he's doing. If he wasn't in charge of everything, how could we trust him to do everything he's promised? How could we trust him with everything?

Of course, the same God who revealed his name to Moses was ultimately revealed to us through the Person of Jesus Christ. One of my all-time favorite names for him is Immanuel, "God with us." He's God, with everything that implies, but he's God with us, God in the flesh. And he deserves both our awe-induced worship and intimate trust.

For a springboard to worship, I can't think of a better one than this. It's a masterpiece of capturing the immanence and transcendence of our Savior God. It starts with "I want to be close, close to your side..." but quickly transitions into a awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping contemplation of his Majesty:  


HallelujahHoly, HolyGod AlmightyThe Great I AmWho is worthy?None beside theeGod AlmightyThe Great I Am

The mountains shake before himThe demons run and fleeAt the mention of the nameKing Of MajestyThere is no power in HellOr any who can standBefore the power and the presence of the Great I Am!

Lord, you are the Boss, the Lord, the Master over everything. Yet you call me brother. You're so worthy of my worship and adoration.

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