“YAHWEH IS HIS NAME” – Exodus 15:3
A sermon by Jack Cottrell – CRA Bible Conference – Kissimmee FL – January 2018
A. In most Old Testament translations, when you see God referred to as “the LORD” (with LORD all capitals), in the original Hebrew this is actually the divine name YAHWEH (which used to be pronounced “Jehovah”). What does “Yahweh” mean? (It does NOT mean “Lord.”)
B. Where can we go to find the meaning of Yahweh? We find it in EXODUS 3:1-18. [READ]
C. But then a puzzling statement appears in Exod. 6:2-3 – “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am YAHWEH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YAHWEH, I did not make Myself known to them.’”
1. Why is this puzzling? Because in many places in Genesis, God is clearly known as Yahweh—including by Abraham (12:8; 15:2, 7), Isaac (26.25), and Jacob (28:21)!
2. How can we explain this? Like this: at this point in history (Exodus 3), GOD IS DOING TWO NEW THINGS THAT GO TOGETHER, and this explains the puzzle of Gen. 6:3.
I. FIRST NEW THING: A NEW REVELATION OF THE MEANING OF “YAHWEH.”
A. God used this name before Moses, but here for the first time he explains its meaning.
B. In Exodus 3:14-15 God equates YAHWEH with I AM.
1. The meaning of Yahweh is not obvious. Scholars have puzzled over it; here God reveals it.
2. “I AM” means “I EXIST.” Thus “Yahweh” simply means “I am the God who truly exists!”
3. Here God is revealing this meaning, telling us that He alone is the only true God.
4. His basic attribute is his existence – his IAMness. He alone possesses this attribute.
C. Why did he choose this point in time to reveal this about his name? Because it is connected with the OTHER NEW THING God is doing at this same time.
II. SECOND NEW THING: GOD’S FIRST GREAT WORK OF REDEMPTION: The EXODUS!
A. The occasion for God’s revealing the meaning of Yahweh to Moses is this: He is calling Moses to lead Israel out of bondage in Egypt—i.e., God’s first redemptive work. See Exodus 6:2-8, where God strongly affirms, “I am YAHWEH, and I will deliver and redeem you!”
B. Why is there so much emphasis here on YAHWEH (“I AM, I EXIST”)? Because in this new redemptive work Yahweh is about to perform, he is going to demonstrate in ways never before expressed that he alone is the one and only true and living God, and that all the so-called “gods” of the Egyptians (and of anyone else) are non-existent, fraudulent phonies!
1. How will he do this? Through the TEN PLAGUES to be sent upon Egypt!
2. What is the point of the plagues? To show the Egyptians and the Israelites the impotence and non-existence of the idols of Egypt, and so to show the sole existence of YAHWEH.
3. When Moses first declared, “Thus says Yahweh: Let my people go!” – what was Pharaoh’s reply? “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey him? I don’t know any Yahweh!”
4. In effect Yahweh replied to him through Moses, “I will show you who YAHWEH is! I will send plagues “so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth” (9:14).
5. This is why God kept hardening Pharaoh’s heart, even to the point of their destruction in the Red Sea – “And the Egyptians will know that I am YAHWEH” (14:4).
C. Through these demonstrations of his power God is impressing also on the Israelites his IAMness: “When Israel saw the great power which YAHWEH had used against the Egyptians, the people feared YAHWEH, and they believed in YAHWEH and in His servant Moses” (14:31). See the “Song of Moses” in Exodus 15.
III. IF THE NAME YAHWEH IS SO IMPORTANT, WHY DO WE NOT USE IT TODAY?
A. Because “history repeats itself”!
1. Remember at the beginning of the Mosaic era: TWO NEW THINGS?
2. So at the beginning of the Christian era: TO MORE NEW (SAME KIND OF) THINGS!
B. What are the new things beginning with Jesus?
1. A new work of redemption: salvation through the works of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
2. And – a new revelation of who God is, revealed in connection with these works!
C. What is the new revelation of God beginning with Jesus? God is a TRINITY! I.e, Yahweh is not just one person, but is THREE persons! He is ONE GOD—Yahweh; but he has three centers of personhood, three centers of consciousness, three centers of activity. He is three divine persons who are doing different things, performing different redemptive tasks!
1. Why is the Trinity not revealed before this? Because we did not need to know this about God until the time came for this new and decisive redemptive work to take place.
2. But now we see that our spiritual salvation requires different works, shared among the three persons of the Trinity. Especially:
a. One person (the Logos, the Son) must become a human being to die and rise for us.
b. Another person (the Spirit) must take the role of a spiritual presence within us.
3. God has always existed as three persons in unity, known collectively as YAHWEH. In OT times God’s people knew him in his Oneness as Yahweh.
4. In this NT age we people of God know him in his Threeness, and we address each person by his individual name: Father, Son (or Jesus), and Holy Spirit. See Matthew 28:18-20!
D. Each person of the Trinity is equally Yahweh, but we relate to them is different ways. E.g.,
1. We PRAY to Yahweh the Father.
2. We take the Lord’s Supper to honor Yahweh the Son for providing forgiveness for us.
3. We depend on the indwelling power of Yahweh the Spirit to make us holy.