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The Christadelphian | May 2015

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Seeing things differently
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “What shall I say to them?” | David Caudery
  • Studies in Matthew’s Gospel 17 – Matthew & the Epistle to the Hebrews | John Benson
  • Agapao & Phileo Their use in the Gospels | Phil Evans
  • Evolution, education and the believer | Andrew Godber
  • The example of Daniel | Stephen Whitehouse
  • Bible Learning Centres The next 5 years … | John Botten
  • Faith Alive! Make your calling and election sure | Paul Dredge
  • Signs of the times Iran’s push for regional hegemony | Roger Long
  • Israel and their Land Another barrier … | Roger Long
  • Epilogue “Will he find faith on the earth?” | David Caudery
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Sunday Morning

“What shall I say to them?”

On delivering His people, the Lord God revealed His name and His reputation. Bearing Christ’s name, what reputation are we building?

Our exhortation begins with a meditation on the motivation in the mind of Moses when conversing with God at the burning bush. The Creator is responding to a question Moses asked. Much has been written about what we call ‘the memorial name’. Most Bible versions for Exodus 3:14 say, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’”. However, modern versions such as the ESV, NIV, NEB, have the footnote, “or ‘I will be what I will be’” and we accept this as the real intent of the Hebrew, seeing it as a continuous tense.

It has become a tradition amongst some of us to use the name Yahweh, seen as the divine name, reading this whenever the word “LORD” (in capitals) occurs in the Old Testament. A prime motivation for doing this is God’s statement in verse 15, “This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (KJV). Versions since the KJV usually render this as, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations”. [1]

The Hebrew for “memorial” has the sense of ‘to be remembered’. Our world erects memorials to keep an event in remembrance. Our ‘memorial meeting’ is a remembrance of what Christ did for us.

Now a point we tend to gloss over and see as having little significance, is that God was responding to a question by Moses when He gave what we call His memorial name. When we understand the context of this conversation, the name takes on a particular and meaningful significance for us.

The voice from the burning bush initially said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. He tells Moses that through him He will achieve the deliverance of His people out Egypt. Now this causes Moses to ask a question and maybe we have not realised its significance. He asks God:

“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?” (verse 13)

Why did Moses expect the people to ask him this question? It was because he knew that the people had grown up conscious of the gods the Egyptians worshipped. There was Isis the goddess of love, Osiris, the god of vegetation, the husband of Isis, Horus the ‘god of the day’, Mont the god of war – and countless more. The Israelites would want to know, ‘What is the reputation of this God that our forefathers worshipped?’ As we perceive that God was responding to this question of Moses, we start to realise the full significance of the name that God pronounced. As we do this a great number of Old Testament statements jump into our minds, making it clear that the memorial name was to be founded on what God was about to do – in delivering them from Egypt.

Many quotations in the prophets and Psalms now come to mind and challenge our personal meditation. Let us first realise the meaning in what the Lord said to Moses later, when he was having his challenging confrontations with Pharaoh.

In Exodus 6 God told him:

“I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.” (verses 2,3)

So “LORD” (Yahweh) was to have a meaning the Patriarchs would not have been aware of. We move on to chapter 9:16 and take note of Moses declaring to Pharaoh that the people would be delivered from his hands so that they could serve the one true God. “For this purpose I have raised you up”, Moses told Pharaoh that his God was saying, “to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth”.

As we read the Old Testament we see many references to this, but first let us take in the point Paul makes in his letter to the Romans:

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” (9:17)

The name, that is, the reputation of the one true God, was to be made known to His chosen people, and to the people they were to conquer; we remember the awe in the words of Rahab at Jericho (Joshua 2:10,11). And then our thoughts move forward in time to the work of Christ and the disciples, the greater reputation of God’s name was then made known – God became a Father!

Let us now look more fully at the reputation that was being made known before the time of Christ. This is powerfully revealed in the Psalms and the prophets. The Psalmist taught the Israelites to sing:

“For I know that the LORD is great and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does … He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast; who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants … Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.” (Psalm 135:5-13)

Isaiah was caused to write:

“Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble. Like livestock that go down into the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.” (63:11-14)

Jeremiah also prayed,

“You have shown signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and to this day in Israel and among all mankind, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day.” (32:20)

The prophets in exile received messages, so they could keep the name of God in focus in their minds. Ezekiel was reminded of God’s name, His reputation, and given a vision of the future. The Lord told him:

“I acted for the sake of my name [His reputation], that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations … I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your fathers. And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves, and you shall loathe yourselves …” (20:9,41-43)

Surely we are about to see the final fulfilment of these words.

Then, in the first year of Darius, the aged Daniel in his prayer says:

“And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away … listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy.” (9:15-17)

So the Lord is reminded of the name He made for Himself.

Yet again when the exiles return and Nehemiah is seeking to strengthen their faith in the Lord, he makes an impassioned prayer:

“You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it … and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day.” (9:6,10)

We come to the New Testament and note how Jesus said:

“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me.” (John 5:43)

He had come to represent his Father. The name was to be seen now not just as a reputation the Creator had achieved by the dramatic deliverance of His people from Egypt but, with the birth of Jesus, God had become a Father and he taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father …”

We come to the impassioned prayer in John 17, where Jesus tells his Father, “I have made known to them your name” (verse 26). Surely this was his Father’s character. We recall that Moses, after being told at the burning bush the name God was going to make for Himself, learned on the mountain the far more intimate person-to-person name, that is, the reputation of God. He was told:

“I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19)

It was the character of God, the foundation of His personal relationship, this was the nature of the name Jesus made known – no longer to the nation as a whole, but to individuals – that they might come to realise when they take on the name of Jesus as their Saviour.

A name above all others

We now come to consider how Jesus made himself a name. Paul brings this out most meaningfully in his letter to the Philippians:

“He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (2:8-11)

So Jesus gained his name by becoming obedient. Of course he already had the name ‘Jesus the Christ’ – his obedience proved that he deserved it. We have taken on the name of Christ, so let us deeply reflect on our name. Are we making any progress in showing we deserve it? An even more pertinent question than this is to ask, ‘Are we making for ourselves a name?’ This question brings us to the heart of our exhortation. We find a key illustration in Revelation 3 to help us search our hearts on this question.

Each of the letters to the seven ecclesias begins with the Master’s statement, “I know thy works”. He knows what progress they are making. He tells the believers in Sardis (3:1), an ecclesia that parallels many twenty-first century ecclesias, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead”. The KJV uses the word “name”, but modern versions such as the ESV, use the word “reputation”. It is our name, or reputation in the sight of our Lord that matters. “Wake up, and strengthen what remains”, he tells them – and he tells us the same in 2015! Those who do this and show they are overcomers, will find their names remaining in the book of life and, says Jesus, “I will confess his (or her) name before my Father and before his angels” (verse 5).

Finally, the most important question of all. What will he confess? It will not be David, Andrew, Mary, Elizabeth or whomsoever – no, he will confess the reputation we have earned in serving him, such as Brother Dedicated, Earnest – or Sister Compassionate, Dependable, and so on! Let us each search our hearts as we come to take the emblems, honestly meditating as to what our Lord sees as the name he will confess before his Father. May it be the opposite of the reputation that our Lord saw in Sardis. And yet even there, he says, “You have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (verse 4). So our ecclesia might be “dead” or ‘dying’, but it need not mean that we are! Indeed, it may well mean that we have a responsibility to bring the others back to life with renewed dedication. It is what we do that counts just as much as understanding that which is true about God, our Saviour, and his word. May he, on that day, find our “works complete in the sight of God” (verse 2).

David Caudery

[1] Quotations from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise stated.

 

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