When I was at school, staff were addressed as ‘Mr’ ‘Mrs’ or ‘Miss’ and their surname. It was of amazing value to discover the Christian name of a teacher. Kids would hover in the background if two teachers were talking together, hoping for a name to be dropped in their hearing. For myself, when I was a secondary school teacher, my first name was a closely guarded secret. Yet moving into special ed, I was happy to be on first-name terms with the kids – easier for those with speech difficulties, and more natural in the small family-like classes. And there was no lack of respect as a result.
There’s a puzzle in Exodus 6:2-3 in that God introduced himself to Moses using the name YHWH (which we often write as Jehovah), saying that whilst he had appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he had not made himself known to them using that name. This was his personal name. I understand from this that God wanted to reveal to Moses and the people of Israel, that he wanted a personal relationship with them. He wanted them to know him. He wanted them to relate to him. He wanted them to know his character.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had held God in high respect. They knew who he was. They worshipped and put their faith in him. God had chosen them and made a covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan. But even they did not know him as he now wanted to be known by this people. God was holding out to this group of people an amazing opportunity to become his special people. He was renewing the covenant that he had made to the patriarchs; but I think that it was even more than that. He wanted an intimate relationship with them. He wanted them not just to be children of Israel, but children of God – his own children (v4-7).
Of course the people God was choosing were special. They would never doubt him. They would always honour and obey him. They would be eternally grateful that God had taken them out of their misery in Egypt, and trust him with their future. NOT! Did God not know what a ramshackle, moaning lot they were? Of course he did. But that didn’t stop him from loving them and wanting them to know him. That’s who God is. Aren’t you glad God is like that???