Preparing to make covenant with the Israelites, the Lord appeared to Moses in a burning bush and announced that he had come to deliver the nation from enslavement in Egypt.
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:15).
Where we read an impersonal title, “the LORD,” God revealed his personal Name—the Name no one today knows how to pronounce. The Jews considered that Name so sacred they would write only the consonants, transliterated JHVH. Instead of speaking the Name aloud, they would substitute Adonai (“my Lord”) or HaShem (“the Name”), or sometimes they would say the four consonants, “Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh” (pronounced yude-heh-vahv-heh), as we might say a person’s initials. Today, this inscrutable Name is sometimes rendered Jehovah or Yahweh. In most English Bible translations, it’s rendered “the LORD” (all caps). But it is not a title. It is the Name that most profoundly reveals who God is.
All God’s names reveal his nature. But this unpronounceable Name is the one by which God most emphatically seeks to be known. Again and again throughout the Old Testament, he repeats the refrain first introduced in Exodus (insert your pronunciation of choice): “Then you will know that I am JHVH” (Ex. 6:7). “The Egyptians will know that I am JHVH” (Ex. 7:5). “They will know that I am JHVH” (Ex. 29:46).
This is the Name God himself has linked in the strongest way possible to his covenant relationship with his people.
When Pharaoh at first would not let the Israelites go but instead made their work harder, Moses complained to the Lord. In answer, God identified himself three times by the Name: “I am JHVH.” “I am JHVH.” “I am JHVH” (Ex. 6:2, 6, 8). In the midst of that threefold proclamation, Adonai emphasized the connection between the Name, the covenant, deliverance from bondage and intimate relationship with him:
I have remembered my covenant [the one made hundreds of years earlier with Abraham]. Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God” (Ex. 6:5-7, emphasis added).
With our minds, we can only guess at how to pronounce this intimate, covenant Name of God. Yet in our inmost being we can know his Name.
Yahweh has determined to present himself so clearly that anyone from any nation can know his covenant nature:
And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD (Ezek. 38:23).
What’s more, HaShem stands ready to breathe his Name, Spirit to spirit, to those with whom he has entered covenant. He delights in showing his Bride aspects of his nature that he reveals to no one else. In Isaiah 52:6, he says,
Therefore My people shall know what My name is and what it means; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks; behold, I AM! (AMP).
From We Confess! The Civil War, the South and the Church, © 2011 by Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.