Devotional for September 29, 2013 : God’s Name

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background

After the first week of 6th grade, I came home in a huff.  I slammed doors, threw my backpack down and proceeded to sigh heavily as a pre teen can tend to do.  Finally, my mom asked me what was wrong (obviously what I wanted).  After a long, deep sigh, I said that I was upset that my history teacher did NOT know my name.  It has been an entire week after all!  Shouldn’t he already know my name? I knew his name!  In my pre teen brain, I thought it was essential that each teacher should know each student’s name. I had even given him an entire week to learn it.  My parents tried to explain that different brains work differently and he would get there. I needed to give him more slack.

I didn’t fully realize this lesson until I was called to a profession where the expectation is learning and retaining names. It is an important part of being a pastor.  People respond if you know their name.  It creates relationship if you at least remember someone’s name.  I try extremely hard to learn people’s names right away.

Today we see the first time God reveals some sort of name. Up until Exodus God is not mentioned in name mainly because God was too holy and sacred to even mention.  Names are extremely important throughout the Bible. Names give us a glimpse into the kind of character we are encountering.  For example, the name Moses means “pulled out” because as a baby he was pulled out of the river. Later on he would pull the people out of Egypt.  The name Joshua means “savior” which is no accident that the root of the name Jesus is a Joshua base.

Moses identifies himself and then he asks God to name Godself.  This is huge.  Will God really assign a name to the sacred?  Moses isn’t asking to get a calling card either. By asking for a name, he is asking for certain power over it.  He is wiley! But God is even more so.  God response, “I AM WHO I AM.” If we look at the translation it would be more like, “I will be who I will be.” Basically, God is telling us that even though God is named, God’s name can’t be boxed in.  God becomes what we experience of God.  You have to sign on for God’s mission in order to name God.  Moses signs on after this. In turn, through Moses’ faults (speaking poorly as claimed in chapter 4), God has Moses’ back.  This has implications for the rest of our story as people of God.

Are we ready to sign onto God’s mission in order to experience God’s name?  We now have the freedom to relate to God in so many ways…male, female, Creator, loving parent, friend, burning bush, etc.

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                  “The precision of naming takes away from the uniqueness of seeing.” –Pierre Bonnard

You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion.   –Meister Eckhart

Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there, within us, waiting to give us good on this earth.” –George Washington Carver

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” ― Anne Lamott

I wish my name was Brian because maybe sometimes people would misspell my name and call me Brain. That’s like a free compliment and you don’t even gotta be smart to notice it.”     –Mitch Hedberg

Exodus 2:23-25; 3:10-15; 4:10-17 (NRSV)                                                                                           2:23-25 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

3:10-15 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.

4:10-17 But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.”13 But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17 Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”

Questions for the Week

What do you call God?

How does God’s name change how you see God?

Do you feel as though you can talk to God?

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About pastorcourt

Courtney McHill is the pastor at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Northeast Portland where they love compassionately and inclusively!
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