I remember queuing up for hours with our three kids when they were quite small, to visit the exhibition about the tomb of Tutankhamen. It was a very grand affair, with lots of gold and lots of hype. We learned about the Egyptian gods – their characters, their names, their functions. None of them very personable I have to say! I’m so glad I know our God who is good, perfect, and loves us; and he’s on our side! The greatest of the Egyptian gods tried to keep his name secret because his power was in it. When another of the gods tricked him into revealing it, she gained his power. Coming from this background, it’s no wonder Moses wanted to know God’s name! (Exodus 3:13-15) He did not for one minute underestimate how difficult the job ahead would be, and he needed access to every power available. And the hardest part, as he perceived it, was not persuading Pharaoh, but persuading the Israelites!
What Moses needed to understand, though, was that God wasn’t one among many. The appellation ‘I am’ is so simple, but reveals so much about God – unique, eternal, unchangeable, sufficient, incomprehensible… and so much more. It told more to Moses about God’s character than any regular name could. Stuff Moses himself needed to know. And stuff the Israelites needed to know too. Moses was right: the job ahead was going to be exceedingly difficult. But God wanted him to understand that he didn’t need power. He needed to know ‘I am’ who had all the power that would ever be required, and who had promised to be with him.
There’s a saying about getting on in the business world – ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know. Moses was learning that it was true in the life of faith too. It seems to me that there are just two things we need to cope with anything life throws at us. Knowing God. And knowing God is with us.