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Delivered By
Pastor Ed Dinkins
Delivered On
February 27, 2016
Central Passage
Exodus 3:7-18
Fourth Sunday Service

Brief Commentary - Data Source: Exodus 3:7-15: The Unfolding Name of God in Exodus - by Dennis Olson 

     "God calls Moses to go back to Pharaoh, lead the Israelites out of their miserable slavery in Egypt and travel to the promised land of Canaan (3:7-10). As in some other call stories in the Bible (Jeremiah 1:1-10), Moses resists the call and raises a number of objections to which God responds. Moses first pleads his own lack of skills and qualifications. Who am I? he asks. (3:11). God responds. None of that matters; "I will be with you" (3:12). The people will ask Moses, what is this God's name? (3:13). God responds with a long explication of the divine name, "I AM WHO I AM" (3:14). Perhaps a better translation of the name from the Hebrew (ehyeh asher ehyeh) is "I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE."

     This divine name is built on the Hebrew verb "to be" and is related to the divine name used frequently throughout the Old Testament, "Yahweh," or YHWH (the transliterated Hebrew consonants without the vowels). In the Jewish tradition, this special name of God is considered so holy that it is not to be pronounced in prayer or worship (hence, the absence of vowels). The NRSV translation represents this special divine name with the circumlocution "the LORD." This is the convention used by the ancient Greek and the Septuagint translation of the original Hebrew.

     As with the burning bush, this special divine name serves both to reveal and to hide. The mysterious name invites us, as readers, to read on and discern how a series of God's self-declarations of God's own name ("I am the LORD/YHWH...") at key points in the Exodus story explicate and fill out the character and identity of Israel's God.

     Thus, in Exodus 20:2-6, God expands the divine name at the beginning of the Ten Commandments by recalling God's actions and character, "I am the LORD your God...who brought you out of the land of Egypt...I am a jealous God, punishing...but showing steadfast love." In Exodus 29:46, God's self-declaration of the name expands another step in the tabernacle cycle, revealing the core of God's nature as a desire to be present with God's people: "I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell with them."

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