Now, the meaning behind names change over time. ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ may no longer be present in your life, which means that you lost some experienced wisdom. ‘Policeman’ or ‘Firefighter’ may be tainted by poor examples, or maybe they do not offer the protection you desire. ‘George Washington’ and ‘Abraham Lincoln’ can be forgotten and with them, their behaviors. Time changes meanings behind names. That can leave you frightened and anxious. These people you relied on are no longer present.
This morning, your God reveals his special name. A name that never changes over time. A name that never disappoints you. The LORD is A Name You Can Trust to rescue you from oppressive slavery and to deliver you into new life forever.
We get to focus on Exodus, chapter 3. [It starts:] Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian… What’s Moses doing out there? Midian lies about 300-miles east of Egypt (that’s about the distance from Clare to Chicago). We primarily associate Moses with leading millions of Israelites out of Egypt. Yet, you do not find him in Egypt now.
About 40-years earlier, Moses did live in Egypt. While there, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite. He never forgot the sight. He found this Egyptian. He stalked this Egyptian. He killed this Egyptian in a fit of rage. Word about this murder spread quickly— and when the Egyptian Pharaoh heard it, he demanded Moses dead (2:11-15). So, Moses panics; he runs away and lives in the remote Midian desert.
On one occasion, [Moses] led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” Wouldn’t you do the same? You watch fire engulfing a bush— flickering, crackling flames— but the leaves remain green. The twigs stay moist and brown. The bush is not destroyed. I mean, what a strange sight! Yet, that’s the point. This eye-catching miracle is not to figure out how the bush survives, but to see the who behind it all.
When the Lord saw that [Moses] had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. How could he not hide? God is holy. To ‘be holy’ means to ‘be set apart.’ Your God is ‘set apart’ from every thought, every word, every action that goes against his commands. Not only is God ‘set apart’ from wrong, he keeps wrong ‘set apart’ from him. At a manufacturing plant you have both parts and inspectors. A car part comes down the line. The inspector picks up this part and examines it. If he finds cracks or holes or missing pieces, he tosses that part into the reject pile. Understand, the part does not decide if it will be accepted. (If you have ever worked in a factory, you know this is true.) The inspector sees if the part meets the high standard of quality. God expects Moses to be as equally holy, ‘set apart’ from the moral filth of the world. Yet, Moses has revenge in his heart. He has lies on his lips. He has blood on his hands. He buries his face into the dust because his union with God lies broken.
When God holds you (and me) up to his high standard of holiness, he finds people who fail to match up (Romans 3:23). That is terrifying. I mean, this broken union between us and God produces terror. All people— Christian and non-Christian alike— can sense it. When a tower in Siloam crushes eighteen bystanders, the automatic response was: “Well, they must have really made God angry.” When the blood of Jews is used for sacrifice, many whisper: “God must be getting even with them” (Luke 13:1-9). A guilty conscience testifies to the fact that all is not well between humanity and God. That guilty conscience recognizes there is accountability for wrong actions. There is punishment. The terror comes from knowing there is punishment, but not knowing how to remove it.
So, we wonder, we fear if bad things in life happen because of something we have done. You wonder if your spouse died because you did not love enough. You fear cancer arrives because you do not get along with your siblings. You wonder if your injury happened because of a 20-year-old regret. You believe today is a bad day because you were bad yesterday. Those nagging fears come because you (and I) realize everything is not well between us and God. We fail to be ‘set apart’ from the filth of the world like we should be. That leaves us broken. This brokenness drives us into fear.
Yet, God does not incinerate Moses. He does not leave him trembling on the ground. Your God is merciful. He says: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” Remember those three men? Abraham marries two women because he doubts God will send him a son. Isaac favors one son over the other, creating family rivalry. Jacob marries many women and favors one child over the other. Still, this God remains their God. This God keeps the promises made to them. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” God will deliver his people from physical slavery. No more broken bodies or raw flesh. They would be free and rest. Compared to their slavery, this new land would be a little slice of heaven. Yet, God has more concern than just physical freedom; God is concerned about spiritual freedom.
Guilt may hang around your neck. You may fear that your current troubles come because of something you have done. Yet, God lifts off that burden. He shackles our sin to Jesus. He drives his Son into the dust of the earth. God forces Jesus’ head down into death. Then, God the Father turns his back on Jesus and just walks away. On that cross, God broke his union with Jesus.
Yet, God remembers his promise. He remembers his mercy. He keeps his Word. He raises Jesus to life. When Jesus leaves that tomb, he walks out without any shackle. Picture this: Your guilt was shackled to him on the cross; at that time it was removed from you. On Easter Sunday Jesus walks out of the tomb still without that shackle. Your Lord rescued you from oppressive slavery and has delivered you into new life.
Jesus has restored that relationship between you and God. He has scrubbed your heart pure and has dressed you in his holy life. How can you be sure? 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.’ ” At first sight, that name seems strange. ‘I AM?’ Yet, God binds three promises to that name. (1) I AM. God is a personal Being. He is not a generic life-force dreamt up by ancient people. One God exists— a God who has emotions and feelings, a God who can think and react, a God who keeps his Word. A God engaged with his world, with you. (2) I AM. Present tense verb. The action continues. Your God does not change with age. He does not become so old that he can no longer relate to your current struggles. He does not change his mind about forgiveness through Jesus. His mind does not drift off onto other matters about the universe. Your God remains the same always. (3) I AM. Your God rules independently. He does not consult your world leaders for advice. Your God is in heaven, he does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3).
God has taken these three key points and tied them all together in one name: the LORD [all capitals]. The spelling is not a typo; the capitalization is intentional. That name tells you: God is serious to punish and even more serious to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7). Because you stand forgiven, he stands with 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 by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” That name— the ‘LORD’— is a name Moses could trust. He stood before that bush cleansed from murder. He stood forgiven for impatience. He stood as God’s child. Before, Moses lived hidden away in Midian. Now, he received strength from God to stand before the most powerful man in the world and march God’s people out of Egypt. The LORD— with his kept promise of forgiveness-- delivered Moses into new life.
The LORD delivers you into new life. A life set free from guilt. A life that does not fear God seeks revenge on you. A life certain of forgiveness. This is a name you can trust. The meaning behind names change over time, but the name ‘LORD’ and the promises with it will never change. The LORD is A Name You Can Trust to rescue you from oppressive slavery and to deliver you into new life forever.