Revive Our Hearts Podcast

What Is God’s Name?

Episode Resources

Watch Nancy teach this series.

Leslie Basham: Do you know the story behind your name? Here’s one woman’s story.

Michelle: My name is Michelle. My name was chosen because my mom had me in high school in the 60s as a single woman. My biological father is Michael, so “Michelle” is the feminine name of “Michael.”

They told me my story when I was sixteen. Then when I learned name meanings, I learned my name means “godly woman.” So as I came to Christ in 1989, I really wanted to aspire to be a godly woman because I felt God had His hand on me even from that point until the trajectory of 1989 when I heard the gospel for the first time. So name meanings have always been so priceless to me ever since.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of Seeking Him, for Thursday, January 31, 2019.

Nancy’s in a series called “The Great I AM,” and will continue with this question: What does your name mean?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Let me tell you a little bit about my name. Nancy is my first name. I was the firstborn to my parents, born nine months and four days after they got married. My mother’s name is Nancy, so when I was born they decided to name me after my mother.

My next sister is named Charlotte, which is where my mother was from—Charlotte, North Carolina. My dad really wanted to honor my mom, so that’s where “Nancy” came from. “Leigh” is also my mother’s middle name, except that she spells hers “Lee.” So, again, her middle name.

I was often “Nancy Leigh” growing up, because we had two Nancys. Iit was “little Nancy,” or “Nancy Junior,” or “Nancy Leigh.” That’s where that came from. “DeMoss” is the name that I got from my dad, Art DeMoss, who married my mom, Nancy Lee Sossomon, back in 1957. I’m thankful for all three of those names!

I thought that was all the names I would ever have . . . until, just over three years ago, a man named Robert David Wolgemuth . . . well . . . the rest is history! He came into my life and added “Wolgemuth” to my name as my new last name. I’m so thankful for that name, for the heritage of godly generations that it represents. So Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is what I go by now.

Names are important. Names matter. They tell us something about your history or about what was intended. Often in the Scripture, they say something about a person’s character or their aspirations or their parents’ aspirations.

We’re looking for a couple of days here at Exodus chapter 3, and we’re wanting to answer the question: What is God’s name? We’re going to look at that today: What is God’s name? What does it mean? And what difference does that make in your life and in mine today?

So let’s go back to Exodus chapter 3, verse 1. I want to just read the passage we read yesterday, and then we’ll pick it up and continue with an answer to this question. This is the Word of the Lord.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb [it means “desert” or “desolation”], the mountain of God.

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “[Here!] Here I am.”

Then [God] said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (vv. 1–6).

Now, let me just interrupt the passage here for just a moment.

Remember that Moses had lived (he’s now eighty years old) in three different cultures. He had lived the first two or three years of his life as a Hebrew, born to Hebrews. Then he had been raised in the Egyptian palace as the adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter. And then he had spent the last forty years as a fugitive out here in the wilderness of Midian.

So here’s a guy who could have some pretty serious identity issues. Was he a Hebrew? Was he an Egyptian? Was he a Midianite? Let me just suggest that you won’t really know who you are until you learn who God is. And that’s what Moses is about to learn here.

I gave this message recently at a women’s conference and the husband of one of the musicians was in the audience listening. He’s a man in his fifties. I heard from a friend later whom he had talked to after this message, that this man is adopted, and he’s been processing some deep relational issues with his adoptive dad.

He shared afterwards with a friend how deeply this verse, this concept, spoke to him. He realized that his God is also the God of his father and his fathers. He realized that God was wanting to do a restoring, reuniting, reconciling work in his life to bring together the pieces of his history—the pieces of his story—and that God is the One who is able to do that.

Well, God introduces Himself to Moses, telling him, “I’m the God of the past, the God of your forefathers.”

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . . And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come [Moses], I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, [and here we have this first objection] “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh . . .” (vv. 6–11).

He was saying, “I’m just a Midianite shepherd, an obscure man living in the wilderness here. Who am I that I should go to the seat of power?” The greatest power in the world, Pharaoh, thought himself to be God, and the people—the Egyptians—worshiped Pharaoh as God.

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” . . . And [God] says to him, “But I will be with you. . . .” Moses said to God, “[But] if I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (vv. 10–13).

Moses said, “I’m not just concerned about who I am; I’m concerned about who You are! What is Your name? What am I going to tell these people to make them believe that You have sent me?” So then we come to the last couple of verses of this passage, verse 14 of Exodus chapter 3.

"God said to Moses . . .” Moses says, “What is your name?” You expect that God is going to say, “My name is ____.” We’re all waiting . . . drum roll!

God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.” [That’s an unusual name to say the least!] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to you” (v. 14).

Now, we’ve heard a lot about the great I Am in the rest of Scripture, so this doesn’t strike us—probably—in the same way that it would have struck Moses: “I am has sent me to you.”

Now, God had revealed this name previously, but it may have been forgotten during the years of slavery in Egypt. Certainly the Israelite—-and certainly Moses—didn’t fully understand the meaning of this name. Verse 15:

God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel: '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.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

Now . . . what’s God’s name? What is He saying here? Well, in verse 15 He says, “Tell the people, ‘The Lord has sent me.’” The Lord. This is a name of God that is based on a verb used in verse 14 when God says, “I AM.” That’s a verb; that verb means “to be,” “to exist.” God says, “I AM the existing One.” “The LORD” is based on that verb, “I AM.”

This is the most important name for God in the Bible! It’s used nearly seven-thousand times in the Old Testament! It actually consists of four Hebrew consonants: Y-H-W-H . . . and we don’t know how it’s pronounced. Sometimes it’s pronounced, “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.”

It’s so revered by the Jews, and particularly in the Old Testament era, that they were not allowed to write it or to say it out loud. Now, most English translations render this name, “LORD.” But notice in your Bible how it’s spelled. It’s capital “L,” then small caps: “O, R, D.”

When you see capital “L,” lower case “o, r, d” that’s a different Name: “Adonai.” But when you see capital “L,” then small caps: “O, R, D”—seven-thousand times in the Old Testament, that’s the most common one. It’s actually this name “Yahweh,” “Jehovah,” “the One Who Is,” “I AM,” “the Lord.” This is the proper, personal name of God: “I AM.” And it tells us a number of important things about God.

It tells us, first of all, that God is a Person: “I AM.” He’s not a figment of our imagination. He’s not a cosmic force. He’s a personal God who reveals Himself and makes Himself known. And three things about this I AM God that are important—you see it unfolding throughout the Scripture—first of all, that He is self-existent. He is self-reliant, He is self-sufficient.

He is the uncreated Creator; He is the Sustainer of everything that exists. He exists by Himself and for Himself; He is utterly independent: He is not dependent on anything or anyone else. He is self-existing. He is! And He matters supremely! He’s self-sufficient, He’s self-reliant. He’s all-sufficient.

Whatever you need, whatever you lack, He is! Fill in the blank. That’s the great fill-in-the-blank name of God. “I AM____. What do you need? I am that! I AM your sufficiency.” God doesn’t need us . . . we need Him! Self-existent, self-reliant.

And secondly, we see that this self-sufficient God is unchanging and unchangeable! The word that theologians use for that is, He is “immutable”—He doesn’t change. In Malachi 3:6, He says, “I the LORD [Yahweh] do not change.” He is not altered by circumstances outside Himself.

Nothing ever comes up in this world that God is in charge of that He didn’t think of, that He didn’t plan for. He is never caught off-guard! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. The God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament.

Some people say, “Oh, the God of the Old Testament, He’s this and that. He’s holy; He’s awesome! But the God of the New Testament, He’s merciful and loving.” No, the God of the Old Testament is merciful and loving as well, and the God of the New Testament is awesome and holy. He doesn’t change. He’s unchangeable and unchanging.

This is so unlike us as creatures. We are continually changing, becoming. This is why God is often called “the Rock” in Scripture. He’s faithful. He’s constant. He’s God. He keeps His promises. He can be trusted. We can depend on Him. He’s the covenant-keeping God. He never changes!

And then this great I AM is eternal. He had no beginning—there was never a time when He wasn’t—and He will have no ending. He always was. He always will be. God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” That includes the past, the present, and the future tense of the verb “to be.” “I was, I AM, I always will be!” I AM!

Some of your Bibles will note in the margin that this phrase could also be translated, “I will be what I will be.” He is the eternal I AM. God is saying is, “Who I am today is who I always have been and who I always will be.”

That’s really important for us as we live in this world where everything is shifting, everything is changing—values and views and perspectives. We change. Everything changes. But God is the eternal I AM. We are needy; He is self-sufficient. We change; He doesn’t. We are born and we die; God is ever-living—always was and always will be.

This personal, self-sufficient, unchanging, eternal God made Himself known to Moses and to His people. He promised to be with them. That’s who would be with them, the great eternal I AM. He promised to deliver them from their oppression, from their slavery. He promised to take them to a good land, and the One who made the promise could be counted on to fulfill that promise because He is I AM, the LORD, Jehovah.

When Jesus came to this earth, was born in Bethlehem as a baby. He grew up. He became a man. He served God and God’s people here on this earth. He astonished the people around Him by claiming to be the great I AM, Jehovah—the same God who revealed Himself to Moses in the wilderness, the same God who revealed Himself to the Jews in Egypt.

The same God who delivered His people from captivity in Egypt was still alive! He was still at work in human history—fifteen-hundred years after this burning bush experience. He was still redeeming and rescuing and saving His people!

You see this connection between Jesus and Yahweh—I AM—most clearly in the gospel of John. Jesus says “I AM” twenty-four times in John’s gospel. Seven of those statements are connected to a metaphor or an analogy.

Jesus says,

  • I AM the Bread of Life.
  • I AM the Light of the World.
  • I AM the Door of the sheep.
  • I AM the Good Shepherd.
  • I AM the Resurrection and the Life.
  • I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • I AM the true Vine.

In each of these He’s claiming to be Yahweh, claiming to be the great I AM. He’s just explaining something more about who that I AM is.

But there are numerous other instances throughout the gospel of John where Jesus identifies Himself simply as “I AM.” It’s hard to tell this in our English Bibles because, typically, when He says this in our English Bibles it’s translated as, “I am He,” or “It is I.” But the pronoun “He” or “I” is not actually in the Greek text.

Let me give you a couple of illustrations of what I mean by this, and you’ll notice them when you come across them in the future. Remember the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman? This is in John chapter 4:25–26. She said to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming . . . When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

That’s what our English Bibles say. But, literally, it is, “I AM the One speaking to you; I AM is the One speaking to you.” He’s claiming to be Yahweh! He is the great eternal I AM.

Here’s another instance in John 6:20, where Jesus is walking on the water toward the disciples. He says to them, “It is I.” That’s how our English Bibles read. But actually, the text should say, literally, “I AM; do not be afraid.”

The bottom line, the point of all this, is that Jesus is Yahweh. He is the LORD—all caps—of the Old Testament. He is the great I AM of Exodus chapter 3. He is the One who came to deliver His people, came down, sent from God, to deliver His people, to set them free!

This is crucial to our Christian faith! This isn’t just like a theological, “Oh, that’s interesting.” This matters! It means everything. If Jesus is not Yahweh, if He is not Jehovah, then His claims are not true. And if He is Yahweh, then He is LORD, and everything else He claimed is absolutely true.

To reject Jesus is to reject God—I AM—and everything that is true of God is also true of Jesus. Jesus has all the attributes of God—He is self-existent, self-sufficient, unchanging, eternal. He always was, He always will be. Jesus does the works of God.

When Jesus came to this earth, the Jews couldn’t help but think back to the Exodus as Jesus did and said things that could only be attributed to Yahweh. He did miracles, He talked about delivering His people. He was Yahweh. He is Jehovah.

Jesus came to this earth to reveal God to us. It’s a continuation of the conversation that started with Moses back at that burning bush. Jesus is the great I AM in the flesh and through Him we can know Yahweh, I AM.

In Jesus Christ, Jehovah, the great unapproachable I AM, who said, “Don’t come near!” . . . In Jesus Christ, that Yahweh has drawn near to us! He is holy. He has come to give us His holiness, to save us from our sin so that we might draw near to Him.

And as Jehovah delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus is the God who delivers and sets captives free. He has rescued from slavery to the ultimate “Pharaoh,” he has delivered us from slavery to Satan and to sin. Daily He continues to rescue us from ourselves, from the power of sin, from the power of our flesh, from the entanglements of sin and this world, and the devil.

One day He has promised that He will deliver us fully, completely, and forever from the very presence of sin! He’s our Deliverer!

And as Jehovah in the Old Testament judged and destroyed the Egyptian army, so Jesus has come, ultimately, to destroy every enemy, sickness, disease, Satan, demons, and death itself. He will destroy and judge all that is contrary to His character.

As Jehovah led His people into the Promised Land with the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, so Jesus came to this earth to lead many sons to glory. He leads us every day by His Holy Spirit, and He’s preparing a new heavens and a new earth for us to live in eternally. Jesus is Yahweh, the great I AM!

And so, Jehovah, the LORD, said to Moses, “I AM with you. I am all that you need.” Jesus is Jehovah with us, all that we need—the All-sufficient One. He gives us Himself in exchange for whatever we lack.

You have a thirsty soul? He says, “I AM the Living Water.” You have a hungry heart? He says, “I AM the Bread of Life.” You’re under the curse of sin and death? He says, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” You’re lost? He says, “I AM the Way.”

Well, let me give you just one more glimpse of the great I AM as we go to the last book of the Bible, in Revelation chapter 1. We meet John the apostle—the beloved disciple of Jesus who’s now an old man. He’s been banished to the island of Patmos by the Roman government, banished for his faith.

And there he is a prisoner, not ultimately of Rome, but a prisoner of God, in a good way. And there on that island, as John is in exile, God reveals Himself to His servant. He says in verse 8 of Revelation 1: “I AM . . .” I AM! You see this all through the Scripture! “‘I AM the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’”

I AM. The I AM who met Moses at the burning bush. The I AM who came to this earth to do miracles and to heal and to deliver people from blindness and death and sin. That I AM now appears to John the apostle. He says, “I AM the Beginning and the End.”

Look at verse 12–14:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire.

Have you seen fire connected with I AM before? The great I AM.

His feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Remember Moses? He hid his face because he was afraid? That’s the experience the apostle John has here. But this Great I AM, Jehovah, Jesus,

He laid his right hand on me, saying [this time He didn’t say, "Don’t draw near." This time He said], "Fear not, [I AM] I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (vv. 15–18).

And so, Father, we thank You that You have made Yourself known to us, and we’ve just touched on this great expanse of Scripture over the last couple of days to be introduced to Yahweh: “I AM who I AM.” You have made Yourself known to us! You reveal Yourself in common, ordinary bushes and desert places.

You turn the desert and the desolate place into a place of mission and passion and purpose. You repurpose us. We see who we are when we learn who You are! Thank You for Your holy name. And thank You for this holy I AM God, that You have drawn near to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Thank You that You want us to know You; You want us to draw near.

You tell us, “Don’t be afraid; I AM with you!” So we worship You, we honor You, we exalt You, we fall before You, and we trust You! And we thank You that You’ve come to deliver Your people, to lead us out of captivity, and to lead us into a good and pleasant and beautiful place, to be with us forever, for You change not. You are the eternal I AM. You were, You are, and You always will be. So we bless You in the name of Jesus, Yahweh, the great I AM, amen.

Leslie: Don’t you just love how the gospel message is woven throughout the Old Testament? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us how the story of redemption in Exodus chapter 3 still applies to us today. Jesus delivered the people of Israel out of slavery, and He can deliver you from the bondage of sin into freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness.

This is why Revive Our Hearts is committed to declaring the life-giving truths of the gospel. We want women to discover, embrace, and delight in Christ. And we can’t do it without the prayer support of people like you.

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When you join this team, you’ll receive regular communication from Revive Our Hearts, such as our daily devotional printed each month exclusively for our Monthly Partners. You’ll also be able to attend one conference per year at no charge. That includes Revive ’19 this fall in Indianapolis. If you’re ready to partner with us in this way, visit ReviveOurHearts.com to get more details, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Have you ever been tricked or defrauded? Mary Kassian says you probably have, but there’s a solution. Hear Mary’s answer to this dilemma tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Today we’ve been exploring the names of God, and as part of this recording Nancy asked some members of our audience to share the stories of their names. Let’s hear some of those responses.

Woman: This is not as spiritual, but Betty is named after a hurricane! (laughter)

Nancy: Was it Hurricane Betty?

Betty: Actually, I was telling her that I am the youngest of nine. There were six girls and two boys. My older sister was hoping for me to be a boy. She picked out a name for me, and when I was born and I was a girl, she said, “I don’t have a name for a girl!”

And my dad said, “So I heard that there is a hurricane in Puerto Rico. What’s the name?” The name was “Betsy,” but he understood “Betty.” And he said, “That’s the name for the girl!”

Nancy: And it stuck. That’s great!

Jean: My name is “Jean,” but it was supposed to have been “Beryl.” My parents hadn’t told anybody the name that that they had chosen, but my mother went to the hospital with false labor and made the mistake of telling my grandfather, her dad, what the name was going to be.

My sister was “Bethel,” and they had thought it would be nice: “Bethel and Beryl.” Well, my grandfather, who was an old Swedish gentleman, said “Ohh! The Swedes will all call her ‘Bar-r-r-rel!’” They decided they didn’t want me to be “Barrel”! So they picked the name of their doctor’s daughter: “Jean.” (laughter)

Nancy: That’s great. It is a good story!

Melody: If I remember the story right, before my mom was even pregnant, she was reading in the Psalms. I forget which one, but the one that says, “I will sing and make melody . . .” And she just knew that God was going to give her a girl. And so, when I was born, they named me “Melody.” Now I say that I’m obligated to sing! (laughter)

Nancy: That’s great!

Gabriella: My name is “Gabriella.” The pronunciation is Italian. My parents love Italy, and I guess that’s a popular name there. Tthey liked the name Gabriella, but it’s also the feminine version of “Gabriel,” so it means, “messenger of God” or “angel of God.”

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to find freedom in Christ. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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