What's In A Name?
Passage: Exodus 3:13–22
Community Group Questions: Exodus 3:13-22 - "What's In A Name?"
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Read Exodus 3:13-22 aloud as a group, and then work through the following questions:
- In the ancient world, someone’s name was bound up with their story, their reputation, and their character (Note the example of Jacob, whose name meant “deceiver” [Gen. 25:26] until it was later changed to Israel, meaning “he strives with God” [Gen. 32:28]; note the example of Moses, whose name meant “to draw out,” and reflected his story [Exodus 2:10]). In light of this background, why do you think Moses was asking to know God’s name? Do you think it’s important for us to know God’s name today? Why or why not?
- God reveals his personal name to Moses in verses 14-15, and states it three times, in three different forms, each related to the Hebrew root word “to be.” First, God reveals his name in the longer, verbal form as “I am who I am” (vs. 14a). Then, God states his name in verbal form again, but abbreviates it in half to “I am” (vs. 14b). Finally, God states his name in the noun form, pronounced in Hebrew as “Yahweh” and translated in our English versions as “the Lord” (all caps). So, when we read God’s name “the Lord” in our Old Testaments (listed more than 5,000 times!), we know that behind this sacred name is the longer form “I am who I am.” In your opinion, how does this background help us when we encounter God’s name again and again in our Bibles?
- One meaning of God’s name, “I am who I am,” is that God is self-revealing. God does not say “I am who Moses says I am” or “I am who Pharaoh says I am” or “I am who public opinion says I am,” but rather, I am who I am.” In other words, God reveals himself, on his terms, as he is. God will not be reduced or controlled by human definitions. Man’s part is to humbly respond to God’s self-revelation. How does this aspect of God’s name compare to our modern culture’s ideas of God, where every man defines god for himself? Have you ever found yourself telling God what he is and is not allowed to be? How can we guard against arrogance in approaching God as he reveals himself in Scripture?
- A second implication of God’s name, “I am who I am,” is that God is self-existing. Notice, again, that God’s name is based on the Hebrew root word meaning “to be.” So, God’s name speaks to his ongoing reality, existence, and being. By saying “I am who I am,” God is saying that he exists in and of himself, and therefore, God is eternal, unchanging, and completely independent. He always has been, and he always will be. He never changes, grows tired, weary, or cranky. He’s completely self-satisfied and self-sufficient (needing no one other than himself), and therefore, he has endless reserves of love and goodness which he can freely pour out on his creation. Take a moment to ponder these attributes of God. How do they affect our relationship with him each and every day?
- A third implication of God’s name, “I am who I am” is that God is self-giving. The Hebrew is flexible enough that some have translated God’s name as “I will be who I will be” (see 3:12 where God says “I will be with you” using the same verb). This way of translating God’s name communicates the idea that God’s name continues to grow in meaning as he demonstrates his saving power. God comes to rescue Israel, giving them his power, his mercy, his help, and his very self. As they watch him save, they will understand his name more and more. Just as anyone’s name grows in significance as you continue getting to know them, God’s name grows in significance as we watch his saving power during the Exodus events. In light of this, why is it significant that Jesus claimed the name “I am” for himself (see John 8:48-59)? How does Jesus show us the full meaning of God’s name as the self-giving Savior?
- In his book, Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” If Tozer is right, how does knowing God’s name change everything for our lives?
Prayer suggestion: Spend time praising God for who he is! Praise him for his attributes. Praise Jesus for fully revealing God’s name to us. Pray that God would make us worthy of his name.