Brief Notes

Bargaining with
Pharaoh (4):
“I AM” vs.
“Who Is?”

9 January 2024

If we are to deal with
the opposition of
the enemy, we must enter
into a deeper knowing
of who God is

When Moses went in and told Pharaoh,

“Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness,’ ”
— Exodus 5:1

Pharaoh replied roughly and defiantly:

“Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”
— Exodus 5:2

[Note: The capitalization of “LORD” in these verses indicates that in Hebrew the actual word is “Jehovah.”]

God had already revealed His name to Moses, telling him that it is,

…“I AM WHO I AM….Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
— Exodus 3:14

This, however, meant nothing to Pharaoh, for as his word above indicates, he did not know the Lord at all.

After Pharaoh’s initial refusal to let God’s people go, Moses became quite discouraged. Fortunately, however, he did not give up; rather, he went back to the Lord. (See “Bargaining with Pharaoh (3): Retreating Unto the Lord.”) And when he returned, God told him,

I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty [“El Shaddai”]; but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them.
— Exodus 6:2-3, ASV

This passage has troubled some Christians, for it is clear that God’s people had known the name of Jehovah prior to this time (Gen. 4:26, 9:26, 14:22, 15:2), and God had even spoken of Himself to Abraham as Jehovah (Gen. 15:7, 18:14, 22:16). Yet, while God’s people had known Him as Jehovah, they had not truly known Him by that name; that is, they did not have the revelation of what it really means to say that God is Jehovah.

It is the same today: so many know the name of Jesus, but they do not know God by the name of Jesus. Even we ourselves as the believers in Christ, while we surely know God by the name of Jesus, may know Him in this regard in a very limited way; there is always so much more for us to enter into!

So, God responded to the discouragement of Moses by bringing him into a deeper realization of His name. As Witness Lee states in his Life-study of Exodus (Message #14, p. 162),

El Shaddai is God’s name for supply and promise, [whereas] Jehovah is His name for existence and fulfillment.

The patriarchs only had the promise that they and their seed would possess the Good Land; they did not have the fulfillment of that promise, so they mainly knew God as El Shaddai. Even Abraham, who did experience God as Jehovah in relation to the birth of Isaac (Gen. 18:1, 10, 21:1; cf. 17:1, Rom. 4:16-21), did not have the revelation of the name of Jehovah. (So it is with us; often we first have a spiritual experience of the Lord, and only later does He give us revelation to help us understand what we have experienced.)

Now, in contrast, God was not merely promising the Good Land to the Children of Israel, but was working to fulfill His promise by dealing with the opposition of the one who enslaved His people. Thus, Moses needed to know Him as Jehovah, “I AM WHO I AM,” the ever-existing God who is when all else is not, and who is therefore fully able to carry out whatever He has promised. This is a much deeper experience of God and His name, for it is the revelation of the God who not only makes the promises, but of the God who is fully able to fulfill what He has promised.

Pharaoh had told Moses,

“Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”

He had also accused Moses of speaking “vain words” (5:9). However, this Jehovah God told Moses,

The Egyptians shall know that I am Jehovah, when I stretch forth my hand upon Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.
— Exodus 7:5

Only after Moses had received a deeper realization of God and of His name could the Lord work through him in this way to deal with Pharaoh; and when He did the Egyptians would finally realize that what Moses spoke were no “vain words” after all! In brief, the Lord needed one who knew Him as the great “I AM,” to deal with the one who defiantly said, “Who is?”

In fact, in a very real sense, the whole reason God allowed Pharaoh to rise up in opposition to Him was so that His people would enter into a deeper knowing of Him and of His name. He told Pharaoh, through Moses,

“Indeed, for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”
— Exodus 9:16; Rom. 9:17

Even so, in our time the world defiantly responds to the Lord’s demand by saying, “Who is the LORD, that we should obey His voice?”; it refuses to let God’s people go, and fully rejects the Bible as His revealed truth, claiming it is nothing more that “vain words.” This is because today’s Pharaoh, Satan, the Evil One, “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), is fighting to keep God’s children in bondage in his world system. It is surely no small matter to deal with him, and we need to realize that; as D.L. Moody said,

Most Christians fail because the underestimate the strength of the enemy.

He can only be dealt with when we, like Moses before us, are brought into a deeper realization of God as the One Who Is, the God who is far beyond all our limitations and difficulties, and far beyond, also, all the opposition of the enemy, so that He is fully able to fulfill all the promises we have in the Bible, and whatever He has promised to us. May the Lord make it so, that He may fulfill His purpose in our lives and in the church today and thus bring an end to this present evil age; Amen!

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— 9 January 2024 —