For the week of January 27, 2007 / 8 Shevat 5767
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Haftarah: Jeremiah 46:13-28


Knowing God

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD." (Shemot / Exodus 10:1,2)

One of God's purposes in displaying his wonders in Egypt was so that the people of Israel would know that he is "the LORD." Reading this in English gives the impression that they were to learn that God was the master or boss. But in many English translations when we see the word, "LORD," in all capitals, the Hebrew it represents is actually God's name, the letters of which are yod, hei, vav, hei. We do not normally pronounce this name, because in Jewish tradition it was believed that God's name was too sacred to pronounce. So instead the Hebrew, Ha-shem, meaning "The Name" or Adonai, meaning "Lord" was substituted. Therefore when reading English translations, the word "Lord" with only the "L" capitalized represents the actual Hebrew word for "Lord," while "LORD," in all capitals is God's name.

This is all to say that when God told Moses that one of the purposes of his wonders was so that Israel would "know that I am the LORD," he was not saying that he was trying to teach them who their Lord really was (which would be a good lesson too), but rather that they were to learn that he really is who is name represents.

This name for God, is derived from the Hebrew word for "to be" and is most likely related to God's revelation of his name to Moses at the burning bush, when he called himself, "I Am Who I Am" (Shemot / Exodus 3:14). I find the usual French translation for "LORD" with all capitals, "L'Éternel" much better as it means "the Eternal One." God's name expresses that he is the self-existing one: "who was, and is, and is to come" (Revelation 4:8). This is what God wanted his people to learn.

God desired to impress upon them that he was real. God is not a concept, nor is He an aspiration. He controls history. He is not a product of human endeavors. God gets involved in our affairs. He is not an impersonal designer, who put the Earth in orbit and just lets it run its course. He is a God of justice. How we live and how we respond to his directives matters to him. God is a God of power. He makes plans and sees them to fruition. He is personal. He calls people to engage him. Not only are our lives dependent on him, the quality of our lives is in direct proportion to the intimacy of our relationship with him.

This was the legacy God gave to the nation of Israel long ago: to tell future generations of the reality of the one true God. It is this legacy that we can all receive. It is this legacy that we all today are called to pass on to others.

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