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Thought for Thursdays: The Name of the God who Calls Us

Scripture: Exodus 3:13-22

May I speak in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

If I was to ask you, who are you, what would you say? Its always an interesting question because often it’s a question that people find really difficult to answer. A lot of the time, people will say for example, “I’m a retired teacher.” Well, that’s fine, that tells us what you did for a living but it hardly tells us who you are. Or sometimes people will respond with their name, which is also inadequate because our names nowadays really have nothing to do with who we are either, particularly in recent history, with celebrities being the worst. Think of Chris Martin and Gweneth Paltrow naming their child Apple. Call me old fashioned but naming your child after a type of fruit says rather more about the parents than it does about the child. This ‘who are you?’ question is rather more complicated isn’t it, and dare I say, it is something we spend our whole lives exploring.



Back in the time of exodus of course, they still used names properly and a name in the Old Testament always told you something about the person who carried it. Take the name Adam, for example, it is simply the word for ‘Man’. Eve means ‘to give life’, as she was the mother of all. The name Abraham means ‘the father of many nations’ while here in our reading we see Moses whose Egyptian name means ‘Son’ but sounds like the Hebrew for ‘deliver’. We have lost that in our culture now, but for our ancient ancestor’s names were descriptive. But even names when used properly don’t tell us everything, except perhaps in one case.

Here in our reading, we hear Moses talking to God at the burning bush. God is giving Moses his mission, his calling, and Moses asks this reasonable question of God. He asks, ‘what is your name?’ and God gives an answer that tells you everything you need to know. He calls Himself YHWH, I AM WHO I AM. What I didn’t realise until we looked at this passage at our Tuesday morning home group, was that every time you read in your Bible ‘the LORD’ but the word LORD is in capital letters, the author is using God’s name I AM. It is as simple as it sounds coming from the verb ‘to be’ the most basic verb in most languages and the one you learn first as a student. If you create everything, if you know everything, if you are everywhere, what better name than that simple name ‘I AM’? This is an entirely appropriate name for the author of creation, who made the universe in all its vastness and complexity that frankly no one can really grasp. We may spend our lives working out who we are but the great I AM knows exactly who He is. When you glimpse, for it can only be a glimpse I think of something so big for us small humans, everything God is saying about Himself in this simple name, isn’t it amazing that someone so big could care for us who are so small? In psalm 8, the psalmist gets it absolutely right when they wrote:

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?


Yet here is this God who is so vast that He claims the name ‘I AM’, calling Moses to fulfil his name, to deliver the people from slavery to freedom. That same God, who is gentle, and loving, to whom we are in comparison nothing, cares for us, loves us, sent His Son to die for us, uses us, calls us, holds us and will bring us home. He is the same God who lowered Himself to earth so that we could be raised to Him so we could be called His children, the children of the Living God. If that doesn’t blow your mind, my friends you aren’t thinking it through. The only reasonable response to such a great God is worship it seems to me; for His greatness is beyond our knowledge and His love beyond our capacity to understand, and yet He cares for each one of us.

Who are you? You are called, by the great I AM, who loved you so much that He became a human to die for you so you may live. You are called by the one who was crucified because He claimed that name in front of the high priest who tore his clothes in outrage. Who are you? Perhaps the only really good way we can answer that is to say ‘I am a child of God a child of the great I AM’, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ There is no greater title that I can think of having, and we need to let everyone know, invite them in, so they come to know our Great God.

Amen

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