After forty years of exiled — by his own people — Moses finds himself speaking faces to faces with the creator of the Universe. Only days ago the regional superpower (the Egyptian army) was buried under the waves of the red sea; washed up on the shores before them. Now he is shepherding a new nation — the people of Yahweh — under the guidance and protection of the glory in the cloud.
Now returning to the mount where Yahweh revealed his purpose from the midst of the bush, where they were to serve him (Exo 3:12). It is here were they would receive the law and the pattern of the tabernacle, the pattern of things in the heavens of the future age (Heb 8:5); and here where he pleads with Yahweh, “I beseech thee, cause me to see thy glory” (Exo 33:18). Moses wanted to understand Yahweh so that he can lead his people (:12-16)
Exo 34:4 - and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up unto mount Sinai, as Yahweh had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone.
Notice how eager he was to see the visions of the Father! Yahweh has recorded a multitude of visions for us… are we trying to understand them with the same fervid zeal as Moses?
5 And Yahweh descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of Yahweh.
6 And Yahweh passed by before him, and proclaimed, Yahweh, Yahweh Ail (powerful), merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping goodness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
In Exodus 3, Yahweh explains the purpose of his name – that he will be manifest in a multitude. Now he explicitly declares his character, and also the character of the people he will raise up as his body!
Yahweh El — יהוה אל
First of all the proclamation starts with a double emphasis on the name — Yahweh, Yahweh El. So why the emphasis on “El”, the might or power? This is exactly what Moses associated with the name.
Exo 15:2 – Yah is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my El, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s Elohim (mighty-ones), and I will exalt him.
This is what Moses thought Yahweh was, and why Yahweh now labours the point in Exo 34:6. Yes Moses, I did destroy the power of Egypt and drown there army in the sea, but that’s not what my name is about Moses: mercy, grace, long suffering and abundance of goodness and truth! Yahweh does not have pleasure in the death of the wicked, but will by no means clear the guilty (Ezk 33:11).
In our series on the Name we saw the “what” of the name, here is the “how”. Yahweh explains what it is to manifest his name. And we plan on looking at each of these in detail.
The first characteristic is “mercy” in the AV. What does that really mean? We can look it up the English dictionary, but that would be pointless: we really need to know the meaning of the original word. In this case the lexicons are also lacking, supplying definitions such as “to love”… but again what does that mean? Few can define such a word.
I would usually look at the root word (the verb) and see where that is used, often there is an event that we can empathise with, or some context that brings the word to life. However in this case that doesn’t really help — this is the root! So in desperation I checked the noun hoping it makes something clearer; rechem רחם, a mothers womb! To have “mercy” on someone is to “womb” them: to nurture, to teach, to protect, provide everything that that person needs to grow. At this point tears were running down my cheeks.
At times the shear beauty of Hebrew still leaves me breathless…
The scriptures were not recorded to explain Nature; Nature was made to demonstrate scripture. The reason we have male and female, the reason we have parents and families, husbands and wives, children… is so that we may know Yahweh.
To follow this up further we could search through scripture to see where “mercy” is used elsewhere, to see many examples of how to be “merciful”. I would encourage you to do this search yourself, but due to time and space I’ll have to leave that to you for now.
Finally we look to ourselves, as we should do with all scripture. Do we show “mercy” — rachem רחם — to our brethren and sisters. We are doing if we are part of the Yahweh Elohim (1 John 5)! Furthermore we will also show the same loving care for the children of Israel; they will be taken once again as the “people” of Yahweh. And eventually all nations of the earth will become part of that body.
Note: I put “people” because the word does not simply mean a people as we know the word people, they never ceased to be the people of Yahweh, a people he created for himself. They did however cease, and will be restored again, as a “people”, am עם… but that’s another subject!
Next week, Yah willing, “grace”…