Summary: A look at God’s most personal and proper name - Jehovah/Yahweh.
In college at the ripe old age of 20 I started losing my hair. I used to have long curly hair and I found every time I showered I’d get a significant collection of hair giving up. Then I found that not only was I losing it – but some of it was escaping out of my back! I really took it okay, but my mom and sister were so concerned they went and bought me hair thickening shampoo.
People have long fought change. Today there is a huge market in “age defying” creams, botox, makeovers, and cosmetic surgeries.
When people travel they get so tired of change that they long for something “home cooked.” Thus Cracker Barrel successfully made a business from providing home-style meals along the interstates.
People strive for some form of regularity because it gives them safety. When all the world is in flux we long for some things to just remain the same.
One ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, wrote “Nothing endures, but change.” And he used the illustration of trying to step into the same river twice – it’s impossible to do.
Even scripture seems to confirm this world of flux in Ecclesiastes
A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
So for those of us looking for security in this world? Where do we go to find it? We find it in Jehovah – the great I AM.
Last week we discussed Elohim as God’s name. Where Elohim is also a general term for gods we talked about the distinction made in Genesis chapter one as the Elohim – the one that existed before all creation and before all time.
Historically we all received our last names often based on our ancestors’ role in their community. If I came into a town and I needed my horse’s shoes fixed I’d find the guy named “Bob the Smith” and if I needed a barrel for all of my pickles I’d look for “David the Cooper.” In some sense Elohim serves as God’s last name in that it defines His role – granted he is not like any other Elohim that ever existed.
This week we learn about God’s most intimate name. It could be described as his first and most personal name – Jehovah or Yahweh.
We are first introduced to this name of God in Genesis 2:4. It shows up in the Old Testament 6,823 times. The exact pronunciation and spelling of Jehovah has been lost.
The name was considered so holy that scribes and teachers would not even pronounce it or completely write it out. So instead, in Hebrew letters, the name was written in the English equivalent of YHWH. Eventually the name Yahweh was formed by putting the vowels from the name Adonai into the YHWH. Through a German path of translation we have received the word Jehovah for our English language. But it’s true pronunciation as spoken by God to Moses remains a mystery.
The name derives from a word meaning “to be” and literally means, I AM. That sounds quite simple, but its implications are enormous – far greater than I could do justice in an entire series of sermons – so I pray this one will be somewhat effective.
Go with me to Exodus chapter 3, we will look at verses 1-15, particularly verses 11-15. Here Moses is spending forty years with his wife and in-laws laboring for his father-in-law. Finally God finds Moses is ready for his divine purpose – to pull his people away from their tyrannical ruler – Egypt. God tells Moses the plan and Moses is alarmed and a bit squirrely. He responds with “why me? What makes you think I can pull this off?” God responds “I will be with you.”
Let’s stop right there. Moses’ question at this point is simply irrelevant and irreverent. Moses asks “Who am I?” and it is irrelevant because God already promised that he himself would deliver the people out of Egypt. The questions is irreverent because it calls into question God’s judgment in His choice of a servant.
Though Moses asks such irrelevant and irreverent questions God goes on and responds to Moses in much the same way we saw him respond to Job last week – He takes this opportunity not so much to chastise, but to reveal himself.
Moses’ next question, in verse 13, was proper. What is your name?
God responds and tells him, “I AM WHO I AM. Tell the people of Israel, ‘I AM sent me to you.’” “"This is what you’re to say to the Israelites: ’GOD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob sent me to you.’ This has always been my name, and this is how I always will be known.”