On this, the twentieth day of our Advent preparation, we delve into the meaning and importance of the name to be ascribed to the Promised One. We will find in this brief study that the name chosen for Him is more than just a moniker by which to call the coming King. The name ‚ÄúJesus‚Äù adds to the revelation of God‚Äôs transcendent greatness (‚ÄúI Am, that I Am‚Äù), the precise nature of God‚Äôs purpose in sending His Son. Let‚Äôs travel back to Moses' encounter with a burning bush to begin our study.
Then Moses said to God, ‚ÄúIf I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‚ÄòThe God of your fathers has sent me to you,‚Äô and they ask me, ‚ÄòWhat is his name?‚Äô what shall I say to them?‚Äù 14 God said to Moses, ‚ÄúI am who I am.‚Äù And he said, ‚ÄúSay this to the people of Israel, ‚ÄòI am has sent me to you.‚Äô‚Äù
Moses was minding his own business, keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro (the priest of Midian). When Moses brought the flock to Mount Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, he saw a most peculiar sight. A bush was burning, but was not consumed by the flames. You might imagine that this piqued the shepherd‚Äôs interest. As he attempted to ascertain the source of the fire and why the bush was not burning up, God called out to him. The dialogue the ensued would change the course of history, and offer an amazing insight into the identity of God.
For four centuries the Children of Israel had languished in Egypt. But, the time had come for a deliverer to be sent to save God‚Äôs people. So, Moses was chosen by God to bring God‚Äôs people out of bondage. God identified Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To these men, beginning with Abraham, God had made covenantal promises. Recorded in Genesis 12:2-3, God vows, ‚ÄúAnd I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great,so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed‚Ä¶‚Äù
First, God promised to Abraham a great nation. This promise pertains to establishing God‚Äôs chosen people in a land. Moses would be the one to lead Abraham‚Äôs offspring from their captivity in Egypt to the Promised Land ‚Äì but due to unfaithfulness to the covenant ‚Äì in time, God would allow foreign invaders to retake this land.
Second, God promised to Abraham a great name. The promise of a great name relates to a royal dynasty. While Moses would lead the people to the new land, it would be through David that God would establish a great Kingdom. But, again, the Davidic Kingdom did not last. In time, David‚Äôs Kingdom was divided (930 BC) into two ‚Äì Israel in the North and Judah in the South. Israel fell the Assyria in 722 BC. Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC. The ultimate fulfillment of the first two promises would have to wait.
The third promise was that Abraham‚Äôs family would be blessed and be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Rather than reach out to the brotherhood of nations, Israel saw their relationship with God as exclusive and they were not interested in seeing God‚Äôs favor extended beyond themselves. With this intolerant and exclusive disposition toward the Gentiles, the third Promise would not be fulfilled by Moses, or by David. It would also have to wait for One to come. (Tomorrow's devotion will show how Jesus is the fulfillment of all three!)
With all of this in mind, let‚Äôs return to the burning bush. Moses asks God, ‚ÄúWhat is your name?‚Äù God offers a concise but amazing answer. He says, ‚ÄúI am that I am‚Äù. Theologians call this the ‚ÄúTetragrammaton.‚Äù Libraries full of books have been written about what God meant. Suffice it to say that in this expression, God is revealing that He is the essence of Being! He is omnipotent (all powerful), omnipresent (not bound by space or time), omniscient (all knowing). Simply put, God doesn‚Äôt just exist ‚Äì He is existence! But, there is more to God than awesome greatness ‚Äì as we will see.
We have learned a great deal about God through Moses‚Äô experience. What can we learn from a carpenter named Joseph, a virgin girl named Mary and their experience of meeting God‚Äôs messenger?
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‚ÄúJoseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.‚Äù
Joseph, like Moses, must have had his interest piqued by the spectacle that was playing out in his life. Mary, to whom Joseph was betrothed, was with child ‚Äì and Joseph knew that he had nothing to do with it! This situation was not just untenable, it was unthinkable and unbearable. No man could be expected to stand by an unfaithful woman. So, Joseph tried to figure out a way to spare Mary from the stoning that normally followed in such a case. He sought to spare her life while severing their relationship. But, God‚Äôs plan was for Mary and Joseph to raise His Son. So, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph while he slept. God‚Äôs messenger relayed the message clearly. Do not fear to take Mary as your wife. This Child has not been created in some covert affair but is conceived from the Holy Spirit. The angel continued to fill in the specifics of God‚Äôs plan. Mary will have a son and you shall call his name Jesus.
Joseph heard God‚Äôs instructions and followed them perfectly. Despite the shame that would befall anyone in this marital situation, Joseph was obedient. When the time came for the baby to born, they named him, Jesus. This begs the question, why would the baby be named Jesus? The angel revealed this in his instructions to Joseph. You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins. In Hebrew, Jesus means, ‚ÄúGod saves‚Äù. These words remind us of God‚Äôs instructions to Moses ‚Äì that he would go to Egypt to save God‚Äôs people from bondage to Pharaoh (Exodus 3). Now Jesus was coming to save God‚Äôs people from bondage to sin, death and hell!
What was revealed to Moses, that God is the great ‚ÄúI Am,‚Äù is now made complete by the addition of the name Jesus. ‚ÄúI Am‚Ä¶the God who saves‚Äù. God is not just watching us, like Bette Midler sang, ‚ÄúFrom a distance.‚Äù Though God is the almighty creator of the universe, He also came to dwell with us, and through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, to bring forgiveness of sins and restoration to the Father for all of humanity. Indeed, God is great, but God is also good!
You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.