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The Names of God
If we read into the first of these two verses 'Jehovah' for 'Lord,' we shall get the exact balance and contrast of what was here said to Moses. A name is just the utterance of character. That is its first and proper meaning. It is the putting out of a character in a human word, and that is just what God meant when He gave Himself these various names. They were intended to be such utterances as men and women could easily understand and apply by understanding them to their varied experience. The text gives us two reveal ings of names from God, and God Himself is careful to tell Moses that there was a progression from the one to the other, that the first was the preliminary of the second, and the second was raised, as it were, on the meaning of the first. Now the conditions of the people to whom the name was given determined these various self-revealings.
I. The Progressive Revealing of the Names of God. In general the occasions of revealing different names of God correspond in the history of Israel to special epochs in that history, or, in the broader area of the human race, they correspond with great needs of that race, and gradually, by the successive names, God tried to show mankind what He really was. All the revealings of the name of God in the Bible have crowned and culminated in one name that you find in the New Testament from the lips of Christ, the name that carried to Him most of the meaning of the Godhead and the name that He meant should carry most of the meaning of the Godhead to you, for in His last prayer to the Father He speaks in this wise: 'O, righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee, but I have known Thee,' and that name of 'Righteous Father' is the last utterance of the Godhead as to what God is and as to how you are to name God to your own hearts and consciences. Now all down the Bible it would be an easy matter to trace historically this development of the name of God, and you must not wonder that at the beginning the name was a very primitive one, carrying rather ideas of power and might and august majesty than tenderness and gentleness and love, for the full revealing of God at the first would have been utterly useless, and indeed impossible. God has always revealed the knowledge of Himself and all other knowledge in one way. It has been through consecrated souls and gifted minds who, as a rule, in religious revelation, have not been the official representatives of religion, have not been the priests, have not been the leaders of the religious life of their time, and have not been popular, as a rule, certainly have not had a large popular following. Abraham, Moses, as in my text, all the Hebrew prophets, the Apostles of the Lord, and Christ Himself, they were all antagonists of the official religion of their times, and God passed by officialism, and chose out lowly hearts and gracious minds, and through them revealed the sequence of the names of God from lower to higher and from simple to more wondrous. And God acts on the same principle in His revealing to souls. That has been God's way, a progressive revealing of His name.
II. The Meaning of the Names. Apply it to what you have in my text. Here you have two names, 'God Almighty' and 'Jehovah'. Now the first one, 'God Almighty,' is said here to be suitable to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but not suitable to the slaves in Egypt that Moses was to enfranchise. The other name was fit for them, namely, that great name of 'Jehovah, the Lord'. This second is an advance on the first. An inferior idea of God was given to the great saints; a superior idea of God was given to the slaves in Egypt. What do these two names mean? The first means simply 'divine almightiness,' the idea of organized power, God Almighty; the second one is an altogether more involved name, and in general you may understand it in this way. It means 'The Unchanging, the Eternal, Trustworthy One'. The name Jehovah carries in it the idea of a covenant-keeping God. By the first, the idea of power, almightiness, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were specially blessed and strengthened, and it was just what they wanted, it was just the name suitable to their condition. Round the other name of the trustworthy, covenant-keeping God, a nation of slaves was rallied and concentrated and led on to liberty and national life. Men in sorrow need more of God, the revealing of more of God's tenderness, than men in prosperity and health and strength and happiness.
III. The Greater the Need the Greater the Revelation. The deeper the sorrow, the more the unfolding of the heart of God. The more poignant the grief, the more tender the revelation of the name of God. And that has always been God's way. The deeper the sin, the more bitter the sorrow of man, the more tenderly God has revealed Himself. The thought ought to nerve us to know that God has given us that last name because the needs of an age like this are greater than the needs of an age like that of Abraham; more of His love has been revealed to this age than to the Apostles' age.
References. VI. 3. J. H. Rushbrooke, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 69. VI. 6-8. H. W. Webb-Peploe, The Life of Privilege, p. 44.
It is possible to be so disheartened by earth as to be deadened towards heaven.
C. G. Rossetti.
The Heart's Obstruction to the Hearer
I. It is not always the fault of a preacher that his message does not go home. 'They hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.' There never was a better preacher, there never was a more joyous message; but there was a weight at the heart of the hearer. There was a stone at the door of the sepulchre which prevented the voice from penetrating inside.
II. Observe, there were two impediments in the heart a positive and a negative barrier a sense of anguish and a sense of bondage. These often exist separately. There are some who are the victims of a definite sorrow; they have a special cause of grief which blocks the door of the heart and will let no message of comfort enter in. There are others, again, who, without being able to point to a special sorrow, are simply conscious of a chain about the spirit; they have an oppression all round, a nameless weight which will not let them soar. I know not which is more deterrent to a message the anguish or the bondage the poignant grief in a single spot or the dull pain all over. Either is incompatible with the hearing of a Sermon on the Mount.
III. How, then, shall I lift the stone from the door of the sepulchre, that the angel of peace may enter in! Can I say it is summer when it is winter! No, my Father, Thou wouldst not have me say that. But Thou wouldst have me forget, not the winter, but my winter. Thou wouldst have me remember that there are thousands like me, thousands feeling the same anguish, thousands bearing the same bondage. Thou wouldst not have me ignore the night, but Thou wouldst have me remember that I watch not there alone. Is Peter weighted in the Garden; Thou wouldst have him call to mind that James and John are also there. Thou wouldst have him watch for one hour by the burden of James and John. Thou wouldst have him bury his own beneath the soil till he has returned from his mission of sympathy. Then after the night watches Thou wouldst have him go back to disinter his burden. Thou wouldst have him turn up the soil to uncover the spot of the burial. He will cry, 'My burden has been stolen in the night; the place where I laid it is vacant; I left it here, and it is here no more; come, see the place where my grief lay!' So, my Father, shall he find rest rest in Thy love.
G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 46.
References. VI. 9. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2026.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 6". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany