CAN you imagine having a conversation with God? The very thought inspires awe—the Sovereign of the universe speaking to you! You hesitate at first, but then you manage to reply. He listens, he responds, and he even makes you feel free to ask any question you want. Now, what question would you ask?
Long ago, there was a man who was in just such a position. His name was Moses. The question he chose to ask God, though, might surprise you. He did not ask about himself, his future, or even the plight of mankind. Rather, he asked God’s name. You might find that odd, for Moses already knew God’s personal name. His question, then, must have had deeper meaning. In fact, it was the most significant question Moses could have asked. The answer touches us all. It can help you take a vital step in drawing close to God. How so? Let us take a look at that remarkable conversation.
Moses was 80 years old. He had spent four decades exiled from his people, the Israelites, who were slaves in Egypt. One day, while tending his father-in-law’s flocks, he saw a strange phenomenon. A thornbush was on fire, but it was not being consumed. It just kept burning, shining like a beacon on the mountainside. Moses approached to inspect. How startled he must have been when a voice spoke to him from the midst of the fire! By means of an angelic spokesman, God and Moses then conversed at length. And, as you may know, God there commissioned a hesitant Moses to leave his peaceful life and return to Egypt to deliver the Israelites from slavery. —Exodus 23-5.
Now, Moses could have asked God any question whatsoever. Note, though, the question he chose to ask: “Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel and I do say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers has sent me to you,’ and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them.
That question teaches us first of all that God has a name. We must not take this simple truth for granted. Yet, many do. God’s personal name has been removed from countless Bible translations and replaced with titles, such as “Lord” and “God.” This is one of the saddest and most reprehensible things that has been done in the name of religion. After all, what is the first thing you do when you meet someone? Do you not ask his name? It is similar with getting to know God. He is not a nameless, distant entity, beyond knowing or understanding. Although invisible, he is a person, and he has a name—Jehovah
Furthermore, when God reveals his personal name, something great and thrilling is in the offing. He is inviting us to come to know him. He wants us to make the best choice we can make in life—to draw close to him. But Jehovah has done more than tell us his name. He has also taught us about the person it represents.
The Meaning of God’s Name
Jehovah chose his own name, one rich in meaning. “Jehovah” is understood to mean “He Causes to Become.” He is unique in all the universe, for he brought all things into existence, and he causes all his purposes to be fulfilled. That is an awe-inspiring thought. But is there another facet to the meaning of God’s name? Moses evidently wanted to learn more. You see, he knew that Jehovah is the Creator, and he knew God’s name. The divine name was not new. People had been using it for centuries. Really, in asking God’s name, Moses was asking about the person represented by the name. In effect, he was saying: ‘What can I tell your people Israel about you that will build their faith in you, that will convince them that you really will deliver them.
In response Jehovah revealed a thrilling aspect of his personality, something that is related to the meaning of his name. He said to Moses: “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Exodus 3:14) Many Bible translations here read: “I am that I am.” But careful renderings show that God was not merely affirming his own existence. Rather, Jehovah was teaching Moses—and by extension all of us—that He would “prove to be,” or choose to become, whatever was needed in order to fulfill His promises. J. B. Rotherham’s translation pointedly renders this verse: “I Will Become whatsoever I please.” One authority on Biblical Hebrew explains the phrase this way: “Whatever the situation or need . . . , God will ‘become’ the solution to that need.”
What did that mean to the Israelites? No matter what obstacle loomed before them, no matter how difficult the predicament in which they might find themselves, Jehovah would become whatever was needed in order to deliver them from slavery and bring them into the Promised Land. Surely that name inspired confidence in God. It can do the same for us today. (Psalm 9:10) Why?.
To illustrate: Parents know how versatile and adaptable they must be in caring for their children. In the course of a single day, a parent may be called upon to act as a nurse, a cook, a teacher, a disciplinarian, a judge, and much more. Many feel overwhelmed by the wide range of roles they are expected to fill. They remark upon the absolute faith put in them by their little ones, who never doubt that Daddy or Mommy can make the hurt better, settle all disputes, fix any broken toy, and answer whatever question pops into their endlessly inquisitive minds. Some parents are humbled and occasionally frustrated by their own limitations. They feel woefully inadequate to fill many of these roles.
Jehovah too is a loving parent. Yet, within the framework of his own perfect standards, there is nothing he cannot become in order to care for his earthly children in the best possible way. So his name, Jehovah, invites us to think of him as the best Father imaginable. (James 1:17) Moses and all other faithful Israelites soon learned that Jehovah is true to his name. They watched in awe as he caused himself to become an unbeatable Military Commander, the Master of all natural elements, a peerless Lawgiver, Judge, Architect, Provider of food and water, Preserver of clothing and footgear—and more.