“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father refuse thy name… What is in a name?” I must’ve heard that line a hundred times during high school play rehearsal. It’s a legitimate question. After all, what is in a name? It doesn’t seem to be all that important. These days you are more likely to be given a name based off of a fad, or trend than anything particularly meaningful. Sure, we parents like to get all deep and explore the original meaning of the name we pulled out of the 1,001 top baby names book, but in the end all we are looking for is that “cool” factor. Is the name OG (that means original for those of you without teenagers)? Check. Will my child be made fun of on the playground? Check. Are there any potentially devastating nicknames to go along with this name? Check. Seen in this light, your name doesn’t seem to be all that important.
As I was reading through the book of Exodus, I came across this passage in chapter 33, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” God is speaking to Moses in response to a request Moses has made of Him. God had threatened to abandon His people Israel after their continued rebellion and stubbornness. However, Moses pleaded for mercy and asked Him to stay with them. Miraculously, God responds favorably to Moses request and promises His presence. His reasoning? “I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
There wasn’t anything particularly special about Moses’ name. In fact, it was an Egyptian name that carried with it the meaning “drawn out of the water.” His adoptive mother, sister to the Pharaoh of Egypt, gave him the name. She most likely had no idea what was in store for the baby she pulled out of the stream that day. But God knew. His watchful eye was upon Moses. He shielded him from the decree of the Pharaoh. He blessed him with a resourceful mother. He guided him to the porch of the compassionate sister of Pharaoh. He equipped him with a world class education in Egypt. He humbled him through 40 years of shepherding in the wilderness. It’s no wonder upon their first meeting God calls out from the burning bush, “Moses, Moses.” He knows exactly who He’s talking to.
God was never confused about whom Moses was. I think it was Moses who had to figure out who God was. God first introduced Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sure, Moses had heard a few stories, but he had no personal experience of knowing this God. In the painstaking process of leading Israel through the Exodus and the subsequent journey through the wilderness, Moses cultivated a friendship with God. “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” He reached such a depth of knowledge and understanding in God’s ways that God used the prayers of Moses to bring about His will for the people of Israel.
If God is Righteous and Holy, Gracious and Merciful, Powerful and Mighty, Savior and Redeemer, then Moses knew God by name. He had been exposed to the ways of God time and time again through the course of his journey. Out of this depth of knowledge Moses developed a boldness and a courage to ask for the desires of his heart and to expect God to answer. He was no longer a stranger to the God of His forefathers, He counted himself a friend. So when God says, “I know you by name” perhaps He is implying that now He will be known as, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses!”