The second proclamation of God's name.
God had proclaimed his name to Moses, when he spoke with him out of the burning bush. He had declared it to be JEHOVAH , "the Self-Existent One." Under this name the people of Israel had known him from the time of Moses' return to Egypt from Midian, until that of which he is here speaking. Hitherto it had sufficed for them. It had marked him as,
1 . eternal;
2 . uncaused;
3 . unconditioned;
4 . self-sufficient;
5 . all-powerful.
But it had not revealed his moral nature. Something of that had always been known to man. Something more had become known to Israel through the law already given from Sinai. But in their present state of sorrow and depression ( Exodus 33:4-6 ) something further was needed. God accordingly "proclaimed his name" afresh. Of this second proclamation we may note—
I. THAT IT CANCELS NOTHING , BUT ADDS . The first words of the name are " Jehovah, Jehovah El ," or "the Self-Existent, the Self-Existent God." What had been revealed before is confirmed; nay, is still put in the fore-front, as the proper foundation of all the rest. For a true knowledge of God, we must, first and foremost , have the conviction that there is a self-existent being, eternal, uncaused, the cause of all things, and therefore of our own existence, on whom we are absolutely dependent. It follows, after this, to inquire and learn the moral character of this Eternal One.
II. THAT IT SETS FORTH GOD AS , ABOVE ALL THINGS , MERCIFUL . The Jewish commentators make out thirteen epithets of God in these two verses, and say that all but one are epithets of mercy. This seems to be an overstatement of the actual fact, that the epithets of mercy form a large numerical majority. They are
1 . Rakhum , "the tender or pitiful one," who is full of kindness and compassion;
2 . Khunnun , "the gracious one," who bestows his benefits out of mere favour, without obligation;
3 . Erek appayim , "the long-suffering one," who is not easily provoked, but "suffers long and is kind";
4 . Rab-khesed , "the great in mercy" which needs no explanation;
5 . Notser-khesed , "the keeper of mercy," he who does not desert those he loves, bet is merciful to them, and their children , from generation to generation;
6 . Nose 'avon, vapesha vekhattaah , "the forgiver of iniquity and transgression and sin"—the being who alone can forgive sin and give peace to the guilty soul. Moses did well to make appeal to this description of himself by God himself, when Israel had a second time provoked God to destroy them ( Numbers 14:17 , Numbers 14:18 ). We shall do well to make our appeal to the same, whenever we have offended our Lord and Master by our faults and shortcomings, our "sins, negligences, and ignorances." Conjured by this "name," God can scarcely refuse to reply, as he replied to Moses, " I have pardoned according to thy word" ( Numbers 14:20 ).
III. THAT IT FURTHER SETS HIM FORTH AS JUST AND TRUE . God gives it as part of his name, that he "will by no means clear the guilty," or rather perhaps that he will not "always" do so (Kalisch). There is some guilt that he will not, cannot pardon. "There is a sin unto death— I do not say that a man shall pray for it" ( 1 John 5:16 ). Unrepented sin cannot be forgiven. "Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" cannot be forgiven. God's justice is an essential part of his nature, no less than his mercy; and is perhaps, as has been argued, a necessary consequence of his love. £ Again, God is true—"abundant in truth" ( Exodus 34:6 ). There can be no trust in any being who is not true. Truth lies at the root of all moral goodness; and the truth of God is pre-supposed in any revealed religion, since without it revelation could have no force or value. Further, beth in the Old and the New Testament, God reveals himself as "true," or sometimes as "the truth." "Thy truth reacheth unto the clouds" ( Psalms 108:4 ). "The truth of the Lord endureth for ever" ( Psalms 117:2 ). "God is true." " I am the truth." It is essential to a right conception of him that we should believe in his absolute veracity. If we "make him a liar," we ruin our whole idea of him. We might as well make him non-existent.
Consider on this
I. THE CONNECTION WITH THE NAME JEHOVAH . "Proclaimed the name of Jehovah" ( Exodus 34:5 ). Observe—
1 . The name Jehovah connotes moral attributes. The absolute being is, at the same time, the most perfect being. His excellence includes all possible perfection. This implies the possession of moral attributes. "That character," says Dean Graves, "from which the acutest reasoners have endeavoured demonstratively to deduce as from their source all the Divine attributes, is SELF - EXISTENCE . Is it not then highly remarkable that it is under this character the divinity is described, on his first manifestation to the Jewish lawgiver?"
2 . Former revelations implied moral attributes. The attributes on which, in former revelations, the main stress needed to be laid, were those to be illustrated in the events of the exodus—power, freedom, supremacy, changelessness (cf. on Exodus 3:14 ; Exodus 6:2 , Exodus 6:3 ). But that moral attributes—the attributes of truth, mercy, goodness, justice, also belonged to Jehovah was shown—
3 . The new revelation declares moral attributes. Formerly, the revelation was in deeds, now it is in words. Formerly, God told Moses what, as Jehovah, he would do. Now he declares what, as Jehovah, he is. The name was first spelt, then pronounced. Cf. with law of ordinary historical progress—
Or of scientific progress—
For this announcement of the name, the renewal of the covenant furnished an appropriate historical occasion.
II. TEACHING OF THE NAME . The name exhibits the Divine character. It lays bare to us God's very heart. It reveals his essence. Learn—
1 . There is justice in God . "That will by no means clear the guilty," etc. ( Exodus 34:7 ).
2 . There is mercy in God . This side of the Divine character is exhibited with much greater fulness than the other. "Merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin" ( Exodus 23:6 , Exodus 23:7 ).
3 . Mercy rules in the character of God . This is a fair inference
III. THE NAME AS REVEALED .
1 . We need a revelation. It is but a dumb, inarticulate revelation of this name which we have in nature. What is revealed relates more to God's justice than to God's love. If there is much in nature which supports, there is also much which seems to discredit, belief in the entire goodness of God. Nature in. particular, has no answer to give to the questions—Can God forgive and restore sinners? Can he undo their evil? Can he turn back from its avenging course that terrible law of retribution which holds us in its grasp?
2 . We may expect a revelation. If God loves men, we may expect him in some way personally to attest his love to them. "Gracious thoughts never revealed are not gracious thoughts at all. It is essential to the being of grace or love that it manifest itself. Love unrevealed is love unreal" (Dr. A . B . Bruce).
3 . The revelation has been given.
The Manifestation of God.
I. GOD 'S GLORY VEILED THAT IT MAY BE REVEALED . "The Lord descended in the cloud." The glory of Jesus was veiled by his humanity. There is but one avenue through which the knowledge of God can come—the spirit; it cannot come by the senses. God reveals himself by a word, by one in whom he has put his name, and by the Spirit's unveiling of the word in the heart.
II. GOD 'S NAME .
1 . Faithfulness: he proclaimed " JEHOVAH ." He changes not, his purpose abides, his word is fulfilled.
2 . Faithfulness and might. "Jehovah, Elohim." God's power waits upon his unchanging purpose.
3 . "Merciful." He will not spurn need. He is moved by, and drawn to, it.
4 . "Gracious." God is not merely a just master, bestowing rewards which have been earned. There is favour to be found with him, unmerited and free.
5 . "Long-suffering." He is patient with blindness and weakness and sin. He waits to be gracious. The great husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth and "hath long patience for it."
6 . "Abundant in goodness and truth." The ages have been unveiling their fulness; but the story is not yet told. Eternity will never know all the length and breadth and depth and height.
7 . The largeness of God's mercy
8 . The severity of God.
III. THE FRUITS OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD .
1 . Adoration. For deep and true worship the soul must know God in the reality of his existence and the glory of his nature.
2 . Prayer for himself and his people. To Jesus the vision of God is intercession for his Church and the world.
The name of the Lord.
Moses had asked to see the glory of Jehovah, a request which it was possible to grant only in a very modified way. As much as Moses could bear to see he was allowed to see; and for what he was not able to see he received a most abundant and timely compensation in the revelation made to him of the Divine character. For this of course is what the proclamation of the name of Jehovah amounts to. The name of Jehovah is what we should call the character of Jehovah. It is always a great comfort and stay to know that the character of one with whom we have to deal is satisfactory through and through. Nay more, it is well to know character, whether it be good or bad; not to go to a man, uncertain of his disposition and altogether in doubt as to what we may expect. From the proclamation here made we may judge Moses to have been up to this point ignorant of certain fundamental qualities in the character of God. He might have certain guesses, certain inward promptings, which led him into supplication and conduct accordant with the Divine character; but now he is lifted above all guess-work. From God's own lips he gets an account of all that is deepest in the disposition and relations of God toward man. He is made to see that God's recent action towards apostate Israel was based, not on incessant importunity in supplication, but on what was a constant source of the Divine action. God was pleased to see Moses so importunate; importunity we may even say was needful to the occasion; but God bad not in him the spirit of the unjust judge, that he should be moved by importunity alone. The character here revealed doubtless gave Moses confidence in all future necessary intercession. Henceforth he knew, and knew from as solemn and authoritative a communication as could be made, what there was in the great Disposer of his movements upon which he could at all times rely. The aspect of Jehovah's character here presented is of course one which it is important for his sinful creature man to know. God does not tell us here all that may be known of him; he singles out that, the knowledge of which we cannot do without in our hours of deepest need, and although there is thus revealed to us only a part of the Divine nature, it is a part which has the harmony of a whole. God is here made known as indescribably considerate of all the needs of men, and yet at the same time inexorably just. His mercy and love are not as human mercy and love too often are. There is a mercy which, while it may soothe present agonies and smooth present difficulties, is yet essentially nothing more than an opiate; it does not go to the root of the trouble and show how it may be entirely swept away. The' tender mercies of the wicked, it is said, are cruel; and so in another sense the tender mercies of the thoughtless and the ignorant may be called cruel. Stopping suffering for the immediate present, they may be sowing the seed of suffering a hundred times greater in the future. But God's mercy is so offered and exercised that it needs never to be regretted. It is mercy gloriously allied with great considerations of righteousness. It is mercy for the repentant; for those who confess and forsake their sins; and although from a superficial glance this visitation of suffering upon children and children's children may seem to contradict the mercy of God, we find on further reflection that it is a great warning against human selfishness. What a rebuke to the man who, knowing that his sin will involve posterity in suffering, yet goes on with the sin! Who are we, to indulge in aspersions on the mercy of God, when perhaps at the very moment we are sowing in self-indulgence what others must reap in pangs which our self-denial and regard for God's wise will might have utterly prevented?— Y .
God is love.
A previous revelation, cf. Exodus 3:14 . Then the emphasis was on the name , now it is on the character of him who bears the name. Moses, in common with the people, longed after some visible manifestation of the glory of the unseen God who spoke to him ( Exodus 33:18 ). His desire is granted; but at the same time God turns his thoughts from the visible to the invisible. "It is not," he seems to say, "what I appear to be that man has to trust to; it is what I am." Consider—
I. THE CHARACTER REVEALED .
1 . It implies intelligence in the Being who is characterised . The name Jehovah might, conceivably, be given to "a stream of tendency." Law, irresistible and impersonal, might be described as "the eternal." You cannot, however, speak of law as "merciful and gracious," etc. There must be some one who works through law. A divine heart is the mainspring whence flow all "streams of tendency," the issues of the universal life.
2 . It is not such as man could have imagined . Men do create their own gods; deifying the exaggerated and distorted shadows cast by their own characters—so the mountaineer is at first awe-struck when confronted by his own gigantic shadow. Here, however, is a character which cannot he traced to such an origin; it is not man's thought about God, it is God's revelation of himself to man. Contrast the character of the shadow, man-created, god, with that of Jehovah. The one is revengeful, arbitrary, cruel, etc.; the other is merciful and gracious, etc. The man-made god is at best kindly with a weak and sentimental kindliness; with Jehovah, love is the heart-root of his nature, a love which will by no means clear the guilty. Nature "red in tooth and claw" scarcely suggests such a god as this; man could never have conceived him. The character is a revelation of himself, made here to Moses; made, yet more clearly, later, in the life of "the Word made Flesh."
II. THE CHARACTER AS EXPRESSED IN ACTION . Men are treated by some one or some thing as God says he treats them. The "stream of tendency" makes for righteousness; it is not purposeless, it must be purposed. Though experience was insufficient to suggest the character, it yet helps us to verify the revelation. Notice, specially, the stern side of love. The latter part of the revelation seems at first inconsistent with the first part; they give, however, two aspects of the same homogeneous character. True love is quite distinct from kindliness; its brain is wisdom, and justice nerves its right hand.
1 . The action which love will take, must depend upon the circumstances which call for action . Our own experience shows sufficiently that love does not shrink from giving pain. The parent wilt forgive his child, and yet, at the same time, not "clear" him; he cannot pass over without notice conduct of which he disapproves. Love may wield the surgeon's knife; or the scourge, with a view to moral surgery. So long as the child keeps sound and well, physically and morally, love is all sunshine; with illness or danger, physical or moral, love—seeking the good of the beloved object—may strike and pierce like lightning. Apply the general principle and it explains:—
2 . A special case . Can love visit upon children the sins of their parents? Yes, for children inherit the sinful tendencies of their parents; and it is just this visitation which may best secure them against falling into sin. Sad that the drunkard's child should be an epileptic; yet epilepsy may be a loving visitation if it guard against the confirmed drunkenness which might otherwise have mined body and soul. A warning for parents; yet consolation for the victims of their sins, when it is seen that love has inspired severity (cf. Hebrews 12:11 ).
Conclusion . Such the God revealed to Moses, and such the God revealed in Christ. Before such a Being what attitude so fitting as that of Moses? ( Exodus 3:8 ; cf. Job 42:1-6 ).— G .
Renewal of the tables, and fourth intercession.
One more mighty effort of intercession, and Moses will bear away the blessing which he seeks. It needs, however, that it be a mighty one. The covenant is not yet restored in its integrity. The people's sin is not yet perfectly forgiven. God, indeed, has promised to go with them, but he has not said, as of old, " I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God" ( Exodus 6:7 ). The new relations are not those of perfected friendship. They are moreover, unstable. New transgressions of the people may at any moment upset them. Moses, accordingly, would not only have the covenant renewed—restored in its old completeness and integrity—the last trace of the Divine displeasure wiped away—but would have God give him a pledge of grace beyond anything he has yet received—a pledge that he will show great forbearance with the people: that he will not deal summarily with them, or cast them off, on account of backslidings which he now perceives to be inevitable ( Exodus 34:9 ). It was a high thing to ask: too high, Moses may have thought, for him to be able to attain to it. If he did, it could only be as the result of an earnestness, a perseverance, and a sublimity in intercesssion beyond everything of which he had yet felt himself capable. The strength he needed, however, was not to be withheld from him. He had already, though, probably, without this being present to his mind as a motive, put himself in the way of getting it, by asking for a vision of the Divine glory. From this would flow into his soul a spiritual might which would make "all things possible" to him. By sheer power of prayer, he would obtain what he desired. Jehovah, on his side, was too well pleased with his servant's zeal and devotion, too willing to be entreated of him, too entirely in accord with the object of his supplication, not readily to grant him the opportunity of pressing his request.
I. JEHOVAH 'S " COME UP HITHER " ( Exodus 34:1-4 ).
1 . The command to hew out tables ( Exodus 34:1 ). Formerly, it was God himself who furnished the tables on which the law was written ( Exodus 32:16 ). Now, the tables are to be provided by Moses. This may have had reference to the facts
View the command to hew out tables as
2 . The command to ascend the mount ( Exodus 34:2 ). The summons to ascend the mount was,
3. The command to preserve the sanctity of the mount ( Exodus 34:3 ). This was to be done by keeping man and beast from approaching it. Moses was to ascend alone. The command—a parallel to that in Exodus 19:12-13 —has for its end the warning back of intruders from what, for the time being, is "holy ground" (cf. Exodus 3:5 ). Other reasons are, that there might be
"The manifested glory of the Lord would so surely be followed by the destruction of man that even Moses needed to be protected before it" ( Exodus 33:21 , Exodus 33:22 ).
II. THE NAME REVEALED ( Exodus 19:4-8 ).
1. The name itself . Note here in regard to it—
Love is the union of goodness and holiness. The history of revelation has been but the spelling out of this name. Christ is the perfect embodiment of it.
2 . The effects on Moses.
"Though none may fathom thee—thy sight
Upon the angels power bestows," etc.
III. THE COVENANT RESTORED ( Exodus 33:9 , 27, 28).
1 . The intercession . This fourth and last intercession presents us with several noteworthy features.
2 . The success . The prolonged, fervent, and sympathetic intercession of Moses did not fail of its reward. "The Lord," he tells afterward, "hearkened unto me at that time also" ( Deuteronomy 9:19 ). Nothing was wanting to the completeness of his success. The last frown had. disappeared from the countenance of Jehovah. Covenant relations were perfectly restored. The people were reinstated in privilege. No wonder that the mediator's face "shone" as he descended from the mount! We, too, have an intercessor whom the Father "heareth always" ( John 11:42 ).— J . O .
1 . That he would proclaim his name to him afresh; and
2 . That he would pass by him, and let him see, after he had passed, what man might see of his glory. The fulfilment of the first promise appears in the long enumeration of attributes contained in Exodus 34:6 , Exodus 34:7 ; the fulfilment of the second is expressed with extreme brevity in the words—,' And the Lord passed by before him" ( Exodus 34:6 ). Probably no further description could be given of that marvellous manifestation beyond those words in which it was promised ( Exodus 33:21-23 ). Its effects were seen in that permanent reflection of God's glory on the face of Moses, which thenceforth compelled him to wear a veil mostly when he showed himself to the people ( Exodus 34:33-35 ).
The Lord passed by before him . God did as he had promised in Exodus 33:22 , Exodus 33:23 . He made his glory pass by, Moses, as he stood in a "clift of the rock," and "covered him with his hand as he passed by," and, when he had passed, "took away his hand," and allowed Moses to look after him, and see a glorious and transcendent vision—a vision so bright and radiant, and so real , that the light which streamed from it settled on Moses face, and remained there ( Exodus 33:20 ). And proclaimed . In his passage God proclaimed his name; not however, as in the burning bush, an actual name contained in a single word—but a description in many words of his essential nature—a description setting forth especially his three qualities of mercy, truth, and justice, but dwelling most upon the first of the three—perhaps, as most essential, for" God is love" ( 1 John 4:8 )—certainly, as moot needing to be prominently set forth at the time, when his favour had been justly forfeited, and but for ]]is mercy could not have been restored. Note the accumulation of terms that are nearly synonymous—
1 . Merciful (or pitiful);
2 . Gracious;
3 . Long-suffering;
4 . Abundant in goodness;
5 . Keeping mercy for thousands: and
6 . Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin
an accumulation for the purpose of emphasis—to assure Moses, and through him mankind at large, of the reality of this attribute, on which the possibility of our salvation depends, and which had never hitherto been set forth with anything like such fulness. That will by no means clear the guilty . Some critics take this clause in an entirely different sense, translating "who in destroying will not wholly destroy" (Maimonides, Pool, De Dieu, Patrick), or, "who acquits even him who is not innocent" (Geddes); but the rendering of our translators (which agrees with the LXX .], is approved by Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Kalisch, Keil, and others. It seems to have been also the meaning assigned to the passage by the prophet Nahum, who quotes it ( Nahum 1:3 ) when he is threatening Nineveh. Visiting the iniquity. See above, Exodus 20:5 . While setting forth his attribute of mercy in all its fulness, God will not have his attribute of justice forgotten ( Exodus 20:8 ).