Who Is God? Part 1 - page 4


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From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Who Is God? Part 1

by Thomas A. Tarrants III,  D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director
Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute

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 As his encounter with God continued, Moses asked to know God’s name in order to answer the Israelites when they asked. In response, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you” (Exod. 3:14). This mysterious, enigmatic response was in fact God’s personal name, which He had not disclosed, even to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In Hebrew it is represented by the four consonants YHWH and comes from a verb meaning “to be.” It represents the idea of self-existent being and could also be translated “the One Who Is.” God does not depend on anyone or anything for His existence. He needs nothing and is entirely self-sufficient.

God Reveals Himself as Eternal

  Moses also comes to understand that the God of Israel, YHWH, is eternal. He had no beginning and will never have an end. He is not bound by time, which he created, but rather exists outside of time. From God’s vantage point of “the eternal present,” He sees the end of things from the very beginning. Many years later, Moses would pen the words “Before the mountains were brought forth, / or ever you had formed the earth and the world, / from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:2). And in his final blessing to Israel, he assured them, “The eternal God is your dwelling place, / and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27).

God Reveals His Glory and Grace

 Moses’ growing relationship with God inspired in him (as it should in us) a deep desire to know God even better and led him to pray, “Please show me your glory.” God’s holy, awe-inspiring response is the high point in His self-revelation in the Old Testament. This new revelation “proclaimed that God is love, but that kind of love in which mercy, grace, long-suffering, goodness, and truth are united with holiness and justice.”7 God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name.” But “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live,” therefore “I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” (Exod. 33:18–23). The Lord then passed before Moses, proclaiming His name and saying,

The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Exod. 34:5–7).

  This became the classic description of God in the Old Testament, reappearing over the centuries in other passages such as Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Jonah 4:2; and Joel 2:13. It is also the view of God the Father held by the writers of the New Testament and has enduring value for God’s people, so we will examine it more closely.


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