by Skip Heitzig | December 15, 2020
I remember the night I met the woman who would become my wife. I was at a friend’s apartment in Southern California, and I saw her from across the room. She confidently walked up to me, put out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Lenya.” On our first date, she told me about her background, her hopes, and her dreams. Thus started a long, lasting, and very satisfying relationship.
The best way to get acquainted with someone is to get firsthand knowledge from them about who they are. Essentially, that is what Moses did to God in Exodus 34. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God answered his request not with an appearance, but with a list of attributes. In this foundational passage about who God is, we see two aspects of His personality: His designation, or who He says He is, and His description, what He says about Himself.
First is His designation: God began by naming Himself. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God'” (v. 6)—or Yahweh, Yahweh El in Hebrew. El is the generic term for God, but Yahweh is specific, and it means I am. This is the name God used when He introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3: “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). The repetition here was to emphasize to Moses that this was the same God who spoke to him back then.
What does the name I am tell us about God? It means He is the self-existent one, the only noncontingent being in the universe—that is, He doesn’t depend on anybody else for His existence. It also refers to his eternal nature. God is not the great I was or I used to be; He is the great I am. And it highlights His active existence—that He is involved with humanity, not detached or aloof.
In the Bible, a person’s name was far more than just an identity tag. The Hebrew people believed there was a connection between a person’s name and a person’s nature. Whatever they were named was often brought to bear with their character. So this is God’s character, reputation, and authority—His designation: Yahweh, Yahweh El.
That brings us to God’s description of who He is: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (vv. 6-7). What a description, isn’t it?
Here’s how Moses responded: he “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped” (v. 8). God introduced Himself to Moses—”Hi, I’m God. Here’s what I’m like”—and Moses worshiped. All teaching of the Scriptures should lead to this; good theology is the foundation and impetus for true worship. That’s why I tell worship leaders every chance I get, “Make sure your songs are filled with good theology.”
Do you, like Moses, make haste to worship the Lord every time you learn more about Him? It’s the fitting response, and it’s one of the keys to a long, lasting, and satisfying relationship with Him.