The Hebrew name for God as ‘Yahweh’ is translated in English Biblical text, as LORD. This is distinct and different to Adonay which appears as ‘Lord’ and is used in the context of ‘Lord or Master.’ The name for God as Yahweh LORD, is not a title, but a sacred, personal, divine name. This aspect of God’s character was revealed to Moses at His call and commission to lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses wanted to know how to identify God to the elders of Israel. He wanted to know who God was, as more than the God of his ancestors. God answered Moses’ question with an intriguing self-description.
Where in the Bible did God Reveal His Name to Moses?
The revelation of God’s name as Yahweh LORD is interwoven with Moses’ story, which starts early in Israel’s history when the people were living in Egypt. They had moved there to escape famine in Canaan. Egypt was to be a temporary home, but they settled there and stayed for over four hundred years!
During that time there were many changes in the administration of Egypt. Israel also, grew from a tribe into a nation – and they were no longer so welcome. Pharaoh began to oppress the Israelites and they were treated as slave labour. Their numbers continued to increase, threatening the stability of Egypt. Pharaoh’s solution was to issue an order that all new-born Hebrew baby boys should be killed at birth.
Moses was born during this time and his mother secretly hid him in a basket, among the reeds on the banks of the river Nile. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses and adopted him as her own son. He was cared for initially by his mother and then brought up in the palace of the king of Egypt.
As an adult Moses witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and in defending one of his own people, he killed the Egyptian. Moses hid the body in the sand, hoping that no-one had seen. But what he had done became known and he had to flee for his life. He took refuge in Midian, which was a, dry and desolate, wilderness land. A stark contrast to the life at court that he had left behind.
Moses in Midian
Moses settled in Midian and married into the family of Reuel, a priest – whose name means ‘friend of God’. He started a family of his own and worked as a shepherd for his father-in-law. During this time conditions for his own people back in Egypt got considerably worse.
God heard the cries of the Israelites and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was concerned for them.
The knowledge of God’s concern for His people can bring comfort to our spirits when we are struggling. He cares for us. In Christ Jesus, we too are God’s children, adopted into His family and He hears the cries of our hearts. God is working for our good – even when we are not aware of it.
In Exodus chapter 3:1-17 we read that in the wilderness Moses had a divine encounter with God. It is here that God reveals His name to Moses as Yahweh, LORD.
The Call of Moses
Moses, working as a shepherd, had led the sheep through the wilderness to Horeb, the mountain of God. It was here that the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. This was a supernatural fire, because the bush itself was not burning.
Moses was intrigued and went to look closer at this sight. He heard a voice calling him by name from within the bush. Moses was in the presence of God who spoke to him, and said:
I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.Exodus 3:6
But Moses was afraid to look at God and hid his face. God spoke to Moses about the plight of the Israelites, that He had seen their misery, and heard their cries. God was concerned about their suffering and had come down to rescue them. He would bring the Israelites, to the promised land, to Canaan. Then Moses received a clear call and commission from God:
I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.Exodus 3:11
Moses responded to God’s call by asking why he had been chosen to go to Pharaoh. God answered indirectly, by saying He would be with Moses. The action is not so much about Moses, and what he can do, but all about God. The sign, the confirmation, of God’s presence will be that Moses will return to this mountain, with the people of Israel, to worship God.
Moses is still reluctant, and asks, if he goes back to the Israelites, who should he say has sent him:
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you. God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.Exodus 3:14-15 NIV
Yahweh, LORD, is the name of God who responds to the cries of His people. The God who reaches out to us, the loving God who promises to never leave us, and who will always be with us. A relational God who wants to be known and worshipped by His people.
“I AM that I AM” Spiritual Meaning
Yahweh, LORD –‘ I AM WHO I AM’ (NKJV, MSG, NIV, HCSB), ‘I AM THAT I AM’ (KJV), Or ‘I WILL BE, WHAT I WILL BE’ (NIV alternate)
As God revealed this aspect of His character to Moses, there is a hint of God reaching out and instigating a new depth to His relationship with His people. Perhaps, an insight of what was to come with the covenant at Mount Sinai. Yahweh is the personal name of God, and relationships are built by being present to, and for, one another. As God revealed this aspect of His character, Moses grew in knowledge and experience of God’s faithfulness.
Moses would move from being fearful of seeing God’s face, to pressing on in and asking God to reveal His glory. The timid fearful Moses, scuffing about in the wilderness, would become a mighty man of God. The Moses who hid his face from God in fear, would one day radiate God’s presence. He would meet with God, like no other man, face to face.
The name Yahweh, LORD, became associated with God’s redeeming acts as He delivered His people from Egypt. The God who intervened and demonstrated His authority and power on behalf of His people. The name by which God wants His people to know and worship Him, the covenant name.
How Does God Identify Himself to Moses?
Moses as an infant had been cared for by his mother, and then as a child and into adulthood he had been brought up in Pharoah’s palace. He knew his identity as a Hebrew, but how much did he know about God? When he was forty years old, because of his own anger and impetuosity, he had to flee his life of luxury and comfort in the palace. He had killed a man, an Egyptian, and his own position and even his life, was under threat.
God identifies Himself to Moses, firstly, as the God of his ancestors. Moses was probably aware of other gods, Egyptian and Midianite. God made it clear that He was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. This reminded Moses of his origins and identity, that he was a Hebrew, for by now he had lived for forty years, as a foreigner in Midian.
Then God revealed His ‘personal name’ – Yahweh, LORD. The dependable, faithful God, who desires His people to know and trust in Him. Moses would begin a relationship with God and come to know Him personally, as Yahweh LORD.
Moses’ Calling and Character
The infant Moses had been saved from certain death by the brave action of his mother. Consequently, the first season of his life was spent in the royal household. He grew up in the court of the king of Egypt, but he was a Hebrew and different from all those around him. In the royal palace he would have learnt about leadership by absolute authority, where the king was served by the people.
Due to his own actions, the second season of his life was spent as a fugitive in a foreign land. He lived with his father-in-law, Jethro, and Moses worked for him as a shepherd. There he would have learnt about leadership with care and responsibility, where the shepherd was the servant of the sheep.
Two different seasons, with contrasting lifestyles, learning about leadership. Unbeknown to Moses, God was preparing him for what lay ahead. Nothing is by chance, and nothing is wasted, in God’s kingdom. There is always the opportunity for God to redeem the hard and difficult seasons of our lives. There is no situation that is too dark or too difficult for Him. God is the One who can speak into darkness and create light and life, as we reach out to Him.
God is the One who can speak into darkness and create light and life – there is no situation that is too difficult for Him.Tweet
Five times God ‘calls’ Moses to the task of leading Israel, and five times he tries to refuse. Moses had no confidence in his own leadership or oratory skills. He was not confident that the Israelite leaders would believe or accept him. More importantly, Moses was not confident in God.
But God was gracious to Moses, and provided him with all that he needed for the task.
“God does not depend on us for His word to be fulfilled, but we depend on Him that His plans and purposes always prevail.” Related Post: the promises of God are yes and amen
Moses took a step of faith, accepted his commission, and started on his journey.
What Did God Promise Moses?
Rescue and Deliverance from Oppression
God revealed to Moses His concern for the Israelites, for His people. He had seen their misery, their suffering, at the hands of the Egyptians and was about to act on their behalf. God was going to rescue His people. He would deliver them from Egypt, a place of oppression, and bring them to the ‘promised land,’ to Canaan. Yahweh would be with His people and perform wonders on their behalf. Moses would receive supernatural authority to carry out God’s commands.
Yahweh, LORD, rescued His people from oppression and delivered them from slavery in Egypt. God does not change, what He promised Moses, He promises to us. Yahweh is the same LORD who draws near to rescue and deliver us from the bondage of sin. The LORD who is able to redeem our hard and difficult circumstances. Yahweh, LORD, who works all things together for our good.
Freedom To Come and Worship God
What God promises, He is always able to fulfil. His word never fails. Deliverance from fear and oppression, brings gratitude for the deliverer. The response to rescue and deliverance from slavery, is appreciation of freedom. The fulfilment of God’s promise to rescue and deliver, would be evidenced in worship – the response of thankful and grateful hearts. God promised Moses that the nation of Israel would come to worship Him at the mountain where Moses received his commission.
Yahweh, LORD, brought release and freedom for His people. The freedom to choose to enter into a covenant relationship with Him. Jesus, as I AM, has brought freedom and release from the fear of death to all who choose to believe in Him. He is worthy of all our worship.
Blessing of Peace, Security and Prosperity
God promised not only to rescue and deliver Israel, but also to bless them. They would be blessed as they left Egypt with wealth, with clothing, silver, and gold. They would be blessed as they entered the promised land. This would be a good and spacious place. The land would be productive and prosperous, a promise indicating peace and stability.
Yahweh, LORD, is ever-present with us and promises to provide for all our needs!
The Secret of Relationship with Yahweh LORD
Moses started as a reluctant leader but he became a passionate intercessor for Israel. He stood in the gap to plead for God’s mercy, for His judgement on Israel’s disobedience to be averted. Moses’ desire to know Yahweh grew on his journey from Egypt to the promised land.
If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so that I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.Exodus 33:13
Over forty years later, having led the Israelites through the wilderness to the border of Canaan, Moses made his final address to the people. They are about to enter the promised land, and he would no longer be with them. As Moses passed the leadership of Israel to Joshua, he reiterated the Ten Commandments. He reminded the people of God’s moral law. Then Moses shared the secret of relationship with Yahweh LORD – what has become known as ‘the greatest commandment’:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.Deuteronomy 6:4-5
You May Like to Watch Shema Word Study Video: Bible Project (3-4 minutes long) on the history of the name YAHWEH.