Notes below based on sermon preached at One Church Home on August 14, 2022
If you’ve ever met someone in authority for the first time and addressed them respectfully by their position title or even by their last name: President or Pastor______, Mr. or Ms.______ (fill in the blank); only to have the person respond, please call me _______ (their first name), you have an inkling of how God introduced Himself to Moses and the Israelite people in Exodus 3:14-15:
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
In a pantheistic culture where people worshipped many gods, the true and living God distinguished Himself in a compelling and personal way by telling Moses His first name. A name for those close to Him, a name uniquely His, a name of covenant relationship with His people.
In Hebrew, “I AM” was “YHWH,” composed of four consonants. In ancient Hebrew, vowels were spoken but not written, and thus the proper pronunciation of Hebrew was learned as people spoke the word.
However, “YHWH” was a name so personal and sacred that the Jewish people refused to speak it out loud. “YHWH” later became “Yahweh” by adding vowels from other names for God— Adonai (“Lord”) or Elohim (“God”). Some versions of the Bible translate YHWH as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah;” most translate it as “LORD” (all capital letters).
What matters most is not the translation or how it should be pronounced but what it means about our great God and how much He loves us.
We read in last week’s blog that after Elohim had created and filled the earth, Yahweh created us, male and female, in His image and breathed into us the breath of life.
It’s important to understand that Moses wrote the book of Genesis under God’s divine authority and inspiration. While Genesis tells the story of the beginning of the created world, it was likely written in the desert—after God had delivered His people out of Egypt after God had made a covenant with Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai (Exodus chapters 19-24), and after the God who revealed Himself to Moses as I AM had already proven Himself to His people as a covenant keeping God worthy of being their LORD.
Covenant comes from the Latin word “convenire,” meaning “to come together” or “to agree.” A covenant is a chosen (or elected, as opposed to natural) relationship entered into by two living parties that confers the property of each to the other. It is a relationship of blessing as well as obligations.
Covenant-making was a fairly common practice in the ancient near eastern times. There were many kinds of covenants, but two of the common ones were:
- A parity agreement—is an agreement between equal parties. In the Bible, Saul’s son, Jonathan, entered into a covenant relationship with David, which ultimately led David to bring Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, back to his home to eat at the King’s table after his father had died.
- And the second, which is our focus today, is between unequal parties—generally a king or Lord and his subjects, known as a suzerainty or vassal agreement. In this type of covenant, a suzerain or sovereign exercised dominion over a vassal or subordinate.
This wasn’t a harmful kind of dominion; it wasn’t arrogant or overbearing. On the contrary, this was an oath that promised blessing and protection in exchange for submission and obedience, an oath based on a history of what the sovereign had already done and a commitment to what he promised to do in the future. This promise was to bless and protect those he is entering into covenant with.
Most often, the history of the relationship between the two parties was recounted at the beginning of the agreement to make the vassal feel obligated to the suzerain because of the benefits received in the past. Out of gratitude, the vassal would seek voluntarily to fulfill the suzerain’s wishes.
This type of covenant was an oath of loyalty and commitment from each party to the other. When God entered into covenant with Israel when He enters into covenant with us, He takes us as His most precious possession, binding us to Him only, and He binds Himself to us.
I will be your God;
you will be my people;
And I will dwell with you forever.
“…I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.”
Typically the parties to the vassal covenant call themselves “Lord” and “servant” or “Father” and “son,” with the Lord or Father promising to bless and protect the servant or son and the servant or son promising to submit to and obey the Lord or Father.
Once initiated, if either party violates the covenant terms, the penalty is death—of either the covenant-breaker or a substitute. In ancient times, this was often reinforced through a covenant ceremony in which the parts of killed and dismembered animals were laid side by side with a path between them. The parties to the covenant walked between the animal pieces as they swore an oath to keep the covenant, agreeing that they would be subject to the same curse as the animals—death—if they should break their covenant vows.
Genesis chapter 15 describes how God directed a covenant ceremony with Abraham as God swore an oath to give Abraham an heir through whom God would bless the world. But note that the only party to the Abrahamic covenant who passed between the animals was God, manifested as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch. God thus became the sole guarantor of the covenant—calling for His own death should the covenant not be fulfilled by either party.
And it is this that sets God’s covenant apart from and above every other suzerainty covenant. Before God ever entered into a covenant with Israel, before He entered into a covenant with us, even before He created us or the world we live in, He knew we would not keep our end of the agreement, and He made provision to keep it for us.
The Certainty of God’s Promise
13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Just as God took responsibility for fulfilling His covenant with Abraham, He took responsibility for fulfilling His covenant with us, planning before the beginning of the world that He would send His Son to die in our place so that even when we fail to keep our covenant promise as His servants, His sons and daughters, He continues to be our faithful Lord and Father.
So with that context, let’s think about God’s great name, YHWH (I am who I am), and all that means regarding how we relate to Him.
As Pastor Ian shared, He is LORD of every aspect of our lives.
Paul says in Romans 10:9
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Paul isn’t suggesting that it’s enough to simply say, “Jesus is Lord,” and then go on living life as we please. Instead, he is telling us the kind of relationship we need to have with Jesus when we are saved. This relationship, by definition, must be one of submission. We are saved when we surrender our life to Him. We can’t choose to accept Jesus as our Savior but reject Him as our Lord.
Jesus said in Luke 6:46
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
And in Matthew 8:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
You may have heard, “if Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” We are not given an option to receive Jesus as Savior and not as Lord. He must be both Savior AND Lord.
So, how do we go about making Him LORD?
It begins in our hearts.
1 Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord…”
Lordship is a matter of the heart. Remember from our suffering series:
Motivation matters. God is looking for shema levot….for hearing hearts. A hearing heart is committed to listening, understanding, and then doing the will of the Father. It is action that is motivated by love and rooted in trust.
In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.”
I John 5:3
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands…”
This brings us to the second aspect of honoring Jesus as LORD: obedience. We begin by submitting in our hearts. And then genuine submission in our hearts will reveal itself through outward obedience.
When Jesus taught us to pray, He said…
“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Remember that a covenant is made between living parties. This means that our covenant with God doesn’t just affect what happens when we die; it orders how we live our lives with God and with others now. We seek to live with Him and for Him and to follow His perfect will for us in all things.
And once again, there is even more good news!
The same God who made the covenant with us to make us His sons and daughters, who kept the covenant on our behalf by sending His Son Jesus to be our substitute sacrifice, has also sent His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, helping us to want to obey Him and giving us the power to do so.
“for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
This doesn’t mean we will always get it right by never sinning and always following His will over ours. It means that as we grow spiritually, we will seek more and more to submit to His Lordship in every aspect of our lives, knowing that just as He has proven Himself faithful to us in the past, He will continue to bless and protect us, keeping His covenant of love to us, His children.
Note: all scripture references are from the New International Version. (2011) BibleGateway.com
Questions for reflection or discussion:
Take time to journal or share with one another the many things God has done to demonstrate His love for you and His faithfulness as your covenant-keeping LORD.
How does thinking about His love and faithfulness lead your heart to want to trust and obey Him and His perfect will for your life?
Is He LORD of:
- Your relationships?
- Your finances?
- Your time?
- Your work?
- Your leisure?
- Your appetites?
- Your plans and priorities?
- Your thoughts and emotions?
What are some areas in which you struggle to honor Him as LORD—to submit your fleshly desires to His perfect plan?
Write or say (personally or as a group) a prayer of surrender, asking the Holy Spirit to give you (and each other) His strength to make Jesus LORD of those very things starting right now.
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