The angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned." When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" He said, "But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain."
Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 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. (ESV)
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Friday of Pentecost 20
16 October 2015
Even the pagan Greeks recognized that humans had their whole existence in God. Paul is alluding to this in his Areopagus speech in Acts 17: "Yet [God] is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring'" (Acts 17:27-28
). Paul must have been aware that Plato thought that God (Theos
) was so called because it is related to the Greek word for "run." In Plato's Cratylus, Socrates argued that since the sun and moon and stars were always moving, and that they were the original gods of the Greeks, they simply called all the gods by the same name (Crat. 397). The Greek gods were the "moving ones." Paul seems to be using this definition in the Areopagus speech. If we are to live, move, and have being it must be derived from God, according to Paul. Thus God is the only one who can be said to have existence absolutely. Our existence is always derived from the one who is in Himself existence. We only exist in relation to Him. We exist only in relation to God. We can live and move and having our being because we are "in Him," and not otherwise.
Athanasius of Alexandria thought that the name God (Theos
) was derived from the Greek word that means to perceive or to contemplate (theoria
), from which we get our English word theory, meaning a way of looking at things. According to Athanasius, God is called this name because He perceives all things. Or more specifically God is the One who sees all things. Paul used the verb form of this word in his Areopagus speech (Acts 17:22
), perhaps quite intentionally. He may be distinguishing his God-given insight to the relative blindness of the Areopagites.
When we truly see, then we see God. We are sharing a divine attribute with Him who sees all things when we see rightly. Jesus wants us to see the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5), which is the same as entering it. Living, moving, seeing and being are all tied together and are gifts from God. Once you stop living, you stop moving, seeing, and being. All the wonderful attributes of existence are shared with God, because they are only possessed "relatively," that is, in relation to God Himself who is these attributes in an absolute way. Because of our relative relation to God, we are not capable of perceiving the whole of His divinity. We are often dumbfounded by the revelation of God. We only perceive bits and pieces of His self-revelation over a succession of time. He is not handicapped by temporal succession for with Him there is neither past nor future. He perceives everything at once, for that is who He is (Ex 3:14). And in Him we are who we are.
"Deity cannot be expressed in words. This is proved to us, not only by argument, but by the wisest and most ancient of the Hebrews, insofar as they have given us reason for this conclusion. For they appropriated certain written characters for the honor of the Deity, and would not even allow the name of anything inferior to God to be written with the same letters as that of God, because to their minds it was improper that the Deity should even to that extent admit any of His creatures to a share with Himself. How then could they have admitted that the invisible and separate nature could be explained by divisible words? For neither has any one yet breathed the whole air, nor has any mind entirely comprehended, or speech exhaustively contained the being of God. However, we sketch Him by His attributes, and so obtain a certain faint, feeble, and partial idea about Him.
"Our best theologian is he who has, not indeed discovered the whole, for our present chain does not allow of our seeing the whole, but conceived of Him to a greater extent than another, and gathered in himself more of the divine likeness or shadow of the truth, or whatever we may call it.
"As far then as we can reach, 'He who is,' and God, are the special names of His essence. Of these, especially 'He who is,' not only because when He spoke to Moses on the mount, and Moses asked what His name was, this was what He called Himself, bidding him say to the people "I AM sent me" (Ex 3:14), but also because we find that this name is the more strictly appropriate. For even if the name, God (Theos), as those who are skillful in these matters say, was derived from the verb 'to run' or from the verb 'to blaze,' from continual motion, and because He consumes the evil conditions of things (He is called a consuming fire [Deut 4:24]), it would still be one of the relative names, and not an absolute one...But we are inquiring into a nature whose being is absolute and not bound up with something else. Being in its proper sense is unique to God, belongs to Him entirely, and is not limited or cut short by any before or after, for indeed in Him there is no past or future.
Gregory Nazianzus, Third Theological Oration, 17-18
Lord God, in You we live and move and have our being. Grant that we might acknowledge with our mouths what we have received from Your gracious care. Amen.
For all those traveling to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis for the joint meeting of the seminary Boards of Regents, that their travels would be safe and homecomings joyful
For the gift of faith, in thanksgiving to God for His overflowing grace to poor sinners like us
For all those who are struggling in the marriage that God has given them, that both husband and wife would love and cherish each other
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015