Joel Elliott Mooneyhan
You Will Know
"Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”
When Moses is first approached by God to go and rescue Israel from Egypt, Moses asks who he should say sent him. God’s response is translated, “I am who I am,” or more accurately, “I will be who I will be.” It’s the first person, singular, future tense of the verb, “To be.” From that point on, God’s proper name is known as “Yahweh.” Just about anytime when you read the Old Testament and see “THE LORD,” written in all-caps, it is this name that is being translated.
The name of God is a deep and nuanced subject. The significance of the name, how it is correctly pronounced, what it actually means, is so rich with meaning that you could study it your whole life, and never run out of things to read about it or theories to explain it.
One of these explanations stands out to me above the others, and that is that the significance of God choosing to identity Himself in this way is God’s way of tying His identity to his actions. This is God’s way of saying, “You will know who I am when you see what I can do.”
It’s that whole idea of actions speaking louder than words. Which brings us to the text for this discussion. In the passage above, Yahweh is speaking to Moses, explaining what His plan is for Israel. God begins it by telling Moses to tell the people of Israel who has sent him: “I am the LORD; I am Yahweh.”
Subtext: “Pay attention to what I am about to do; it will tell you everything you need to know about me.”
It is at this point that Yahweh lays out His grand plan, centered on action:
“I will bring you out,”
“I will deliver you,”
“I will redeem you,”
“I will take you as mine,”
“I will be yours,”
“You will know who I am,”
“I will bring you somewhere new,”
“I will give you a place to call home,”
This riff is concluded by Yahweh reiterating: “I am the LORD.”
Now then. This passage opens and closes with God giving His name, and in between, he tells what he is about to do. That alone emphasizes once again that God’s identity is tied to God’s action. But what actions is God taking?
Every single one of these declarations is in some way a promise of salvation, of rescue, of freedom. This is God saying, “I am the God who sets people free.”
And this is the point.
Lent is the season in the Christian year where we are asked to focus intently on the things that hold us captive, things that we allow to run our lives, things that we allow to claim us as their own. It is the time where we turn away from those things and turn towards the God who says, “I will come to you, I will save you, I will make you mine and I will be yours, and you will be safe.”
We’re not far into Lent. By this time in the story of the Exodus, Israel hadn’t even left Egypt yet. But now, just as then, God reveals His character, God reveals His plan to redeem us, God lets us know who He is.
Already, God is making a way.