I can’t stop listening to Walter Brueggemann. What he says is so compelling. Just a brief comment from him got me thinking. I’ll have more in the next post about the Exodus story.
I’m listening to him talk about the Exodus – the emancipation of the Hebrew people from Egypt. A significant part of the story is in Exodus chapter 3, where Moses has a life changing experience, encountering God in the burning bush. He asks God ‘What is your name ?’
God does not answer the question directly, but says, essentially, ‘I am who I am’
Is it a name, or not ? Perhaps not in the regular understanding of a name.
Hebrew names have a meaning that says something about who you are. So my name – Jonathan – means gift of God.
I remember visiting a family who were soon to have a child baptised. One of the first things I asked was the child’s name. This particular family had chosen a name that was a combination of the football team they followed and a sporting hero. I’m guessing that this name is unique – and I won’t include the actual name here, because you could google it and find this person straightaway.
The point is, names say something – maybe about us, or about our parents’ hopes and dreams for us. So when God sidesteps Moses’ question, it may be that God isn’t quite ready to reveal their name.
Another aspect of this encounter, is that once you know someone’s name, you have knowledge about them. They have revealed something very personal, and made themselves vulnerable to a degree. When you know someone’s name you have a degree of power over them. You call their name and they turn round to see who it is that wants them. In not revealing a name, maybe God is exercising freedom. I’m not ready for you to know that about me – yet.
As the Old Testament progresses, we hear numerous names for God – because God cannot be contained by one name. Similar to the 99 names for God in Islam. Sometimes, we might want to claim ownership of God. We want to say that we know all there is to know – at least the most important things. But maybe sometimes the most important thing to say is that we don’t know God.
Grace and Peace