“The Sermon On The Name”

Last week in “Love or Die” I introduced you to Alexander Strauch’s book, Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church Revelation 2:4. In the chapter “Study Love,” he writes:

“If you want to pursue love, you must read and study what God says about love in his written Word. You will then grow in the knowledge of love and in the knowledge of God and Christ whom we are to love above all others. Nothing but God’s Word and Spirit can awaken our desire to love and transform our sinfully selfish hearts to love as Christ loves.”1

There are fifty texts he considers to be key Bible passages on love. I agree so emphatically with him on the vital importance of love in the church, I’ll be posting one each week on Sunday. I may include some verses to provide context or combine or even add a few. Pray, read and study the passage; ask God to transform your heart to know Him and His love and to love others.

In Exodus 34:5–8, God is speaking to Moses. Martin Luther called verses 6 and 7, the “sermon on the name of the Lord.”2

5Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of Yahweh. 6Then Yahweh passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7who keeps loving- kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” 8Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship.
Exodus 34:5–8

I’m sure you noticed I substituted Yahweh for LORD, the word used in the NAS translation. I thought it was important because this is God’s sermon on His name. This explanation from Dan Phillips tells you why I did this:

“Every time you see “LORD” or “GOD” printed all in caps, it means that the Hebrew text has God’s personal name, יהוה (YHWH, probably pronounced Yahweh), which is used some 6,823 times.3

He has this to say on the importance of using Yahweh:

“We need the reminder that God has a personal name. He is not a principle, a force, an impersonal spirit. He is an infinite person, and He has named Himself Yahweh….4

“The name Yahweh almost certainly derives from the verbal root הוה (hwh), meaning to be or become. Of the many explanations of its significance, I take Yahweh to signify God as the one who is present faithfully to keep His covenant, the promise-keeping God who is personally present. It is God’s covenant-name; if you will, it is the name by which He signs His covenants. The closest to an explanation comes in Exodus 3:14, I am who I am, in the context of expressing God’s presence to keep his covenant with Abraham and his sons.”5

“…God’s name is Yahweh, the creator of heaven and earth, the self-revealing, covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses and the exodus and Mt. Sinai. He is also the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yahweh is the God who committed Himself to covenants, and revealed Himself by word and deed throughout the Bible.”6

In his sermon on Exodus 34:1–9, “The Lord Passes By,” J. Ligon Duncan said:

“In verses 5-7, we are treated to an astonishing verbal divine self-revelation of the character of God. The Lord Himself draws near to Moses at the top of Sinai, He walks between the pieces as we already noted in verse 6, He draws near, He passes by, reestablishing the covenant, and [as] He does, He is revealing His essential character in a dramatic way. This passage gives us an essential revelation of the name, of the character, the moral nature, and the heart of God. The Name of the Lord is an expression of what He is and what He does. What does the revelation turn out to be? If you look at the end of verses 6 and 7, that encapsulated statement, the revelation ends up being God preaching about God. God telling His people what He is like. It is the self-proclamation of God.”7

I included God’s words on forgiveness, sin and judgment because it’s vitally important that we see and know God as He is. Duncan also said:

“Notice also that the revelation of verses 6-7 focuses on God’s mercy and grace. If you were look[ing] back at Exodus 20:5-6, where God describes His character in language very similar to Exodus 34:6-7, you would notice something quite interesting. In Exodus 20, the Lord says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to those who keep My commandments.” And you say, “Well, that sounds very similar to this.” It is, but notice the emphasis there is on the covenant jealousy of God and the judgment of violators, whereas in Exodus 34 the emphasis is on God’s grace. “I’m merciful, I’m compassionate, and I’m slow to anger. Yes, I visit iniquity to the third and fourth generation,” but the focus is on God’s mercy and grace and that is wholly appropriate for this context.”

The context makes this focus incredible and teaches us much about the extent of God’s love and mercy. What is the context of Exodus 34? If you go back to Exodus 32, you will read of Israel’s great sin in demanding and worshiping an idol, the golden calf made by Aaron. Yahweh truly is a God who abounds in lovingkindness.

Now go back and read this passage again. What was Moses’ reaction to hearing God proclaim who He is? What is yours?

May God’s mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you in 2012.

UPDATE: Welcome Pyromaniacs readers! If you’d like to know more about who I am and what I write here, my About page will fill you in, while in My Witness I tell the story of how I became a Christian during the days of the Jesus Movement.
Posts in the series:
1. “Love or Die”
2. “The Sermon On The Name”

Heart-[foto & Concept by paul b. toman], Plismo: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
1Alexander Strauch, Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church Revelation 2:4 (Lewis & Roth, Littleton CO): 27, 31.
2C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch.
3, 4, 5, 6Dan Phillips, “The Foundation of Wisdom,” God’s Wisdom in Proverbs (Kress Biblical Resources, 2011) 67, 68, 69, 70.
7J. Ligon Duncan, Exodus 34:1–9, “The Lord Passes By.”

Original content: Copyright ©2012 Iwana Carpenter

3 thoughts on ““The Sermon On The Name”

  1. Hi, I’m preaching a message on Exodus 34:6-7 this Sunday and I’m trying to track down where Martin Luther called Exodus 34:6-7 “the sermon on the name of the Lord” as you have in footnote 2. I did a google search, but I couldn’t find the reference. Can you point me to where Luther said this?

  2. Luke, I apologize for not responding to your comment. Nowadays I usually only blog at Easter, Christmas, and a few other times during the years, and I haven’t kept up with the comments.

    I did look in my C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch commentary, but there is no reference given for the quote. If I come across it I will post it here.

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