Have you ever noticed how long-winded God can get when He introduces Himself? Take for example the time He introduces Himself to Moses from the burning bush:
“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Exodus 3: 6a ESV
What’s with the names? What’s wrong with YHWH, or just plain “God”. What’s with the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob stuff? It might help to remember that in the bible, names are not just labels for identification. If that be the case, short memorable names would be preferred. But names in the bible do more than that. They reveal something of the person who carries the name.
When God reminds Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is reminding him that He is the very same God who has already had dealings with these people. The names provide a historical context to remind Moses what kind of God He is.
For example, from His interactions with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we learn that:
He can give children to post-menopausal women. He is not tied down by His own scientific laws if He chooses to bless. He is a God who responds to faith. He blesses those who trusts in Him. He will broach no competitor for our worship. He calls us to sacrifice what is most dear and meaningful to us if he/she/it threatens to take His place in our lives. He can find us the perfect partner – meet the deepest needs of our hearts. He is a God of grace. Instead of punishing sinners He pursues them and gives them every chance to realize their sinfulness and to turn to Him. He is a God who keeps His promises.
So, when God introduces Himself to Moses, and to us, as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is reminding us that He is all of the above, and more. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not just a ‘name’. It is a divine curriculum vitae.
In a era that is obsessed with speed, it seems such a waste of time for God to introduce Himself in this ‘long-winded’ way. But it could just be that God’s agenda is different. God is concerned that we never forget what kind of God He is. Maybe it is not God that is long-winded. It is we who constantly, fatally, forget what God is like.
Those of us from the Christian tradition use the words ‘God’, and ‘Lord’ all the time. Just count the number of times these words are uttered in any given Sunday morning worship service. But if we really understood who this God is, would we live the way we do? Our lives cluttered with idols, our hearts filled with guilt and despair, our very beings shaped more by the world than by the word?
What are the Isaacs we need to sacrifice? What hope do we need to rediscover? What faith do we need to exercise?
So, when God introduces Himself to us as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is calling out to us to remember who He is. He is in fact saying:
“Hey, take a long good look at Me. This is who I truly am. Respond to me appropriately. I am a God of overwhelming grace. Get rid of sin in your life. Trust me with your deepest needs. I will come through for you. I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, remember?”
May we remember and find fresh focus, hope and joy for our lives.