WE NOW consider some aspects of the relationship between the God of Israel and His people as expressed in the Name of the LORD and the manner in which He was made known to them. Without overlooking the strong element of promise and prophecy involved in the proclamation at the Bush, for the present we concentrate upon the fact that the All-powerful, Self-Existent God declared what He would be for His people in the immediate future.
As God of gods and Lord of lords, God revealed His mercy or covenant-love (chesed) in bringing His people out of Egypt into the land promised to their fathers. The "good will of Him who dwelt in the bush" (Deut. 33:16). His purpose in creating, sustaining and redeeming, is the subject of the great processional hymn of Psalm 136, where the actual deliverance from Egypt, with its attendant signs and wonders, is seen to be the basis of the revelation of what God was for His people. Time and again psalmists and prophets celebrate the power of the LORD, seen in "His mighty hand and outstretched arm", and recall the people to faith and obedience to Him whose mercy endureth for ever. The words of Psalm 136 should prepare us for our consideration of both the mercy and the judgement of the LORD, since these two aspects of the Name are seen to be one in the events of the exodus from Egypt (see vv. 10-16 especially).
So the LORD began to be known to His people in all His supremacy and might in the dramatic events which preceded the crossing of the Red Sea -- the ultimate revelation to them of "the salvation of the LORD" Exod. 14:13,30). For a time at least "the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses'' (v. 31).
We are now introduced to several other things which became fundamental to Israel's life and thought and pass over into the deep symbolism of our own. The overshadowing and abiding presence of the LORD was manifest to them in the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night for the first time. It was both the evidence that the LORD their God was with them, and would dwell among them, and the means whereby the glory of the LORD was veiled yet visible through the cloud on significant occasions. Indeed, Exodus brings us the very first mention of "the glory of the LORD", in circumstances which we shall consider later. The cloud was in effect a "cherubic" cloud, veiling the LORD who was to dwell between the cherubim in the Holiest of all: "And it came to pass that in the morning watch the LORD looked upon the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud . . . thus the LORD saved Israel."
That day Israel sang a song unto their God (Exodus 15), which is a beautiful paean of praise encompassing the mighty acts of the LORD from the time then present to the final consummation in Christ. Verse 2 is a key:
"The LORD is my strength and song,
And he is become my salvation:
This is my God, and I will praise him;
My father's God, and I will exalt him."
Here then was what the LORD was for Israel already. Supreme in victory and might, He had shown strength with His arm and therefore was the strength of His people. He was also the theme of their song: indeed, all their songs should have been the LORD's songs, a point which seems to have come home to them with full force only after the joy of their heart had ceased and, far from their homeland, they could only lament: "How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?"
To Be and to Become
It is interesting to note that the verb "to be" is absent from these two phrases, as it is so often when a simple "I am" or "he is" is being expressed. The literal translation is "My strength and my song the LORD (Jah)", and the verbal omission can usually be recognised in the English version (A.V.) by the addition of "is" in italic letters. The nouns are said to be in apposition, which amounts in this case to saying that the LORD, my strength, and my song are all the same thing, which indeed they should be. This omission of the verb "to be" in both Greek and Hebrew is of importance for our understanding of the Divine titles. God did not simply announce that He would be Israel's God: He declared that the Everlasting God was their God, which is a more far-reaching concept.
Accordingly, the presence of the verb "is become" in the second half of the verse (it is from the same root as ehyeh) indicates a special emphasis -- it is almost a play upon the Name JAH in the first half: He who Was had become their salvation. It was a necessary preliminary to the fulfilment of the covenant with their fathers, the only means whereby a people under the thrall of another slave master could enter into a covenant relationship with the LORD. He who as their God must first become their salvation by delivering them from bondage. How beautiful the concept that flows from this! The Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, centres in the Lord Jesus, whose very name enshrines the Hebrew for Jah is Salvation. Without that redeeming work we should have remained in thrall to sin, with no possibility of entering into the inheritance of the saints in light, or of coming into the fellowship of the Father and the Son. This theme will further delight us when we come to the study of the Name in the New Testament.
The Triumph of Christ
We can anticipate it briefly by pointing to the two other passages in which these opening words of the Song at the Red Sea are found. Psalm 118 speaks of the great triumph of the LORD's Christ who is delivered from his enemies, including death itself, when "the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation" (vv. 13,14). The Psalm concludes with the foreshadowing of Christ's entry into Jerusalem with the song of the people in his ears: "Save now (Hosanna), I beseech thee, O LORD . . . Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD."
Again, in Isaiah 12, the prophet looks forward to the day when the LORD's anger will be turned away from His people, and their Holy One will be once more in the midst of them. With double emphasis on the Name, he sings:
"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation."
This theme is fundamental in both Old and New Testaments, and is always related to the fact that deliverance from bondage, to actual enemies of the nation or to sin and death, is the first act of the grace of God who is preparing a people "for his name". In Exodus 15 we have in effect an exposition in song of the Name and titles of God: as great Creator of the universe, He blows with His winds to scatter His enemies; as Lord and Judge He fills the surrounding nations with awe and dread by reason of His mighty acts; as God of covenant ("my father's God") He keeps covenant and mercy by delivering the people of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so that they can say, "He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation" (v.2).
The True Tabernacle
So for a brief moment the LORD "inhabited the praises of Israel" (Psalm 22:3). His Name was on their lips and, in their exultation, no doubt in their hearts as well. What He was for them, they had witnessed with their own eyes: what He would be for them they could, however dimly, now perceive. The saving power of His arm would bring them in,
"and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance,
The place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in,
In the Sanctuary, O Lord (Adonai), which thy hands have established." (verse 17)
We know from the Letter to the Hebrews, with the exposition in chapter 8 of the better covenant established upon better promises, that the Song looked far into the future, as did the meaning of the Name itself. For Jesus, the Saviour, became "a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man" (Heb. 8:2). But even at that time there were great things in store for Israel, who were shortly to be constituted the Kingdom of "the LORD (who) shall reign for ever and ever". They were to be invited to come with willing heart and offerings to make the tabernacle of the LORD, who would dwell among them. As they murmured, however, they were to learn that He who had become their salvation would also be for them a Judge.
IN SPITE of the exultation of spirit in which Israel sang the Song of the Red Sea, there can be little doubt that they had not yet begun to know the Name of the LORD in truth. That He had become their salvation had been made manifest before their eyes when they looked back to see the calm waters flowing where there had recently been storm and panic. But the enduring nature of their salvation was still a matter of faith, and in that faith they had yet to be schooled in the adversity of the wilderness journey. Throughout that journey the attributes of the LORD would be revealed in all their wondrous unity so that, for those who would receive it, it would become plain that the LORD was Israel's God and there was none like Him -- He was One LORD.
With the developing manifestation of the meaning of the Name of the LORD another phrase came into the language of the people -- the glory of the LORD. The word for glory is kabod, weight, substance, fulness, honour: in short, all that God is. There is, therefore, a close connection between the glory and the Name. In fact, the Name is glorious, and that glory was to be revealed in the LORD'S dealings with His people.
Let us flow look more closely at the context of the very first reference to the glory of the LORD, which we find in Exodus 16:7. After the rest at the oasis of Elim, the congregation came into the wilderness of Sin, to come face to face with the privations of the hostile desert. They were hungry, and the events at the Red Sea were banished completely from their minds. "And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured . . . Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full." The LORDís response was to declare that He would rain bread from heaven for them ". . . that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or no".
The message Moses delivered to the people left them in no doubt that their faithless complaining was in fact a sin against the LORD:
"At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: and in the morning, then shall ye see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD . . . for your murmurings are not against us but against the LORD." (verses 6-8)
He who had brought them out from bondage would still save them by giving them quails and manna to sustain them. Nevertheless there was an implied warning in the proclamation Aaron made to the people (vv. 9-10):
"Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud."
Coming Short of the Glory
Evidently the LORD was already going before them into the wilderness, as He continued to do throughout their journey (Num. 9:17-19; Deut. 1:32-33). The pillar of cloud and of fire had been the tokens of His presence amongst them since He had brought them out of Egypt and His glory had been seen in His mighty acts at the Red Sea. Why then this sudden manifestation of veiled brightness before their eyes at a time or murmuring? The Apostle Paul gives us a clue in Romans 3:23, in words which are surely intended to lead us back to the passage we are considering:
"For there is no difference (that is, between Jew and Gentile); for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
This remarkable definition of sin offers a key to the understanding of many a passage dealing with Israel in the wilderness. We are perhaps more familiar with the idea of transgression, a crossing over a line fixed by the law of God. But here is a concept especially appropriate to the redeemed people of the LORD. As His people they should have been like Him, to manifest His glory in their corporate and personal lives, and so reveal His saving truth to all nations. The visible sign of the cloud should have convinced them that the LORD was still among them, and He had first revealed Himself on Passover night. Their failure to respond in faith and to believe that He had "brought them out that He might bring them in" (see Deut. 6:23), meant that they had not begun to know His Name nor see His glory. The transient gleam through the cloud was an emphatic reminder that they had fallen short of that to which God had called them.
Ratifying the Covenant
These were early days, however, in the history of the LORD's salvation. Indeed, the formal ratification of the covenant at Sinai had not yet taken place. No punishment followed the first murmuring for lack of bread or the cry for water at Massah, when the children of Israel "tempted the LORD, saying, Is the LORD among us or not?" (Exod. 17:7). At Sinai the manifestations of God's presence were seen in fulness and splendour -- cloud, smoke, lightning, thunder, and the voice of "the first trumpet" in loud crescendo. All these elements appeared later, separately or collectively, at various stages in the life of God's people, and will be seen and heard again in the physical phenonema accompanying "the last trumpet" (1 Thess. 4:16). The fulness of the LORD Himself was to be in the people if they were obedient to the words of the Ten Commandments. The later "exposition" of them in terms of the constitution of the Land and the details of daily life in it, set out in the Book of Deuteronomy, shows what it meant in practical terms to be the LORD's people. Significantly, while the proclamation was being made,
"the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel." (Exodus 24:16-17)
The covenant had now been ratified and the people were now truly the LORD's, for Moses had read the book of the covenant out to them and the blood had been sprinkled upon both people and altar. The idea of covenant relationship is clearly seen in the invitation to Moses to come up into the mount and "dwell with the devouring fire" (see Isa. 33:14-17) for forty days and nights. He who had been afraid to look upon God at the Bush, and indeed had been forbidden to draw nigh, was now able to live in God's presence and literally to reflect the glory from his own shining face. How close was that relationship and the insight Moses was given into the true glory and the meaning of the Name is revealed in the special manifestation of the glory described in Exodus 33:11-34:8 (see chapter 11).
A Tragic Decision
The wilderness journey could have been very short, since "there are eleven days' journey from Horeb . . . unto Kadesh-barnea" (Deut. 1:2). In spite of the sin with the golden calf, for which the LORD had forgiven them at Moses' intercession, the children of Israel were on the threshold of glory when they reached "the holy door" of the Land. The tragic decision, which altered the whole course of their history, is well known to us. That they had once more "come short of the glory of God" was dramatically revealed at the point when they were about to stone Moses and Aaron and return to Egypt: "And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel" (Num. 14:10)
Beyond any doubt this clear manifestation of that which had been there all the time (like that which appeared at another act of rebellion when Korah gathered the people together against Moses and Aaron at the tabernacle door) was intended as a reminder and a proclamation of judgement, in accordance with what the LORD had said He would be for His people. The message was both immediate and prophetic:
"I have pardoned . . . but as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers . . . ."
We who have the privilege of beholding the glory of the Father in Christ our righteousness, and of knowing the Name of the LORD in truth should put our trust in Him.