Scripture: Exodus 32-34
Key verse: (33:19) And [God] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
Reflection: “What is in a name? That which we call a rose; by any other name would smell as sweet.” This famous line in Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet questions the meaning and power of a name. If you remember, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet meet and fall in love. They are doomed from the start, however, because they are members of two warring families. Here, Juliet is telling Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and she loves the man who is called “Montague”, not the name or the family that comes with it. It is their names, and their names alone, that keep them from each other. What power does a name give? Or perhaps take away?
As we have read up to this point in the Year in the Bible, we have seen several stages that build upon the name God has given for Godself: I am the God of your ancestors; I Am Who I Am — or perhaps better, I Will Be Who I Will Be; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order that I might live among them. These stages, built upon the former names given, tell us something about the maturing and growing intimacy between God and Israel. The names given tell us about God’s nature as revealed in the names given. And here, we read of another stage in the self-revealing and self-discovery of God’s own name and character. God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” The God who was “I Will Be Who I Will Be” is now revealed as “I will be Gracious to who I will be Gracious; I will show Mercy on whom I will show Mercy.” God’s character is grace and mercy, and it is there on Mount Sanai where God shows God’s love and compassion, choosing to forgive and have mercy on the rebellious Israelites.
I wonder what your name for God might be as a meaning for your relationship with God. I wonder how intimate or how distant God may feel at times and how our naming of God reflects that. There are many names for God that demonstrate the vastness of God’s goodness and God’s power. I invite you to look at the images provided; these are inclusive names for God found throughout scripture. Is there a name for God that speaks to you? Share it with a friend and talk about why that name was chosen.
Prayer: The name above all names, we give you thanks and praise. Adonai, Holy One, Everlasting Spirit, Sophia, Eternal God, YHWH: it is by your name we are set apart, for you are with us, Immanuel. May we proclaim your name to all the earth. Amen.
Author: Ben Brannan
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].