We give thanks to you, God;
we give thanks to you, for your Name is near.
People tell about your wondrous works. (v. 1 CSB)
In times of chaos or suffering and pain, it is a comfort to have someone near, to know we are not alone.
The psalmist gives thanks to God, saying “Your Name is near.” To say “Your Name is near” is more than saying a friend is near or even saying God is near. “God” can mean different things to different people. If you believe God to be impersonal and passive, what difference does it make if He is near?
So who is this God whose Name is near?
Our understanding of God’s Name determines our ability to truly appreciate His presence.
God’s Name is His character, His promise, and His presence.
We have to go back to Exodus to begin to understand the significance of God’s Name.
God reveals His covenant Name.
God first revealed His covenant Name, YHWH (Yahweh), to Moses at the burning bush, where God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt to free His people from slavery.
Moses had two big questions about his assignment.
The first was, “Who am I that I should go?”
God responded, “I will be with you”.
But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.” Exodus 3:11-12 CSB
The second question Moses asked was, “What is Your name?”
God replied, “I AM” and “The LORD, the God of your fathers.”
Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”
God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: 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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:13-15 CSB
Equipped with the promise of God’s presence and God’s Name, Moses obeyed God and went to Egypt. Moses and the Israelites witnessed God’s miraculous power, provision, and love as God miraculously rescued His people from Egyptian slavery, as God led them through the Red Sea on dry land, and as they followed God through the desert.
During the desert journey, Moses spent time with God on the mountain, receiving God’s instructions for how His people should live and worship. Moses came down from the mountaintop carrying the 10 commandments God wrote on tablets of stone, ready to share the loving terms of God’s covenant with His people.
Instead of finding God’s people waiting in faith and anticipation for his return, Moses found the people in a state of chaos and rebellion, worshipping a golden calf. Angry and heartbroken, Moses returned to the mountaintop.
God explains His covenant Name.
Exodus 33 and 34 record an intimate conversation between God and Moses upon Moses’ return to the mountaintop.
God told Moses that, despite His people’s rebellion, He was prepared to fulfill His promise to His people to give them the Promised Land. However, the devastating consequence of Israel’s rebellion while Moses was on the mountain was this: God would not go with them. Instead, He would send an angel to accompany them to the Promised Land.
Moses interceded for himself and the Israelites.
Moses said to the LORD, “Look, you have told me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor with me.’ Now if I have indeed found favor with you, please teach me your ways, and I will know you, so that I may find favor with you. Now consider that this nation is your people.” Exodus 33:12-13 CSB
Moses prized his relationship with God over access to God’s resources. He wanted to know God more than He wanted escape from the desert or prosperity. He knew that God’s presence was what set the Israelites apart from all other people.
God answered Moses and promised His presence.
And he [God] replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
But Moses wasn’t finished asking.
Then Moses said, “Please, let me see your glory.” Exodus 33:19 CSB
Moses discovered that God’s glory is His goodness and His Name.
He [God] said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name ‘the LORD’ before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:20 CSB
God revealed His covenant Name, YHWH (Yahweh), to Moses at the burning bush. On the mountain, God explained His Name to Moses.
The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, “the LORD [YHWH, Yahweh].” The LORD passed in front of him and proclaimed:
The LORD —the LORD is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.
Moses immediately knelt low on the ground and worshiped. Exodus 33:5-8 CSB
What Is Moses’ response to God’s glory and His Name?
God’s Name is near.
The revelation and explanation of God’s Name that Moses received influences all of the remainder of God’s Word – The LORD. Yahweh. I AM. Every time you see the word LORD in all capital letters, it refers to God’s covenant name.
The truths about God’s character contained in His Name are repeated throughout the Bible.
How do we know God is love? His Name.
How do we know God is slow to anger? His Name.
How do we know God is faithful and compassionate? His Name.
How do we know God forgives? His Name.
How do we know God is a God of justice? His Name.
This is why the psalmist doesn’t simply say God is near.
The psalmist specifically says “your Name is near”. God’s Name – His character, His presence, and His promise – is near, right beside you.
Do we grasp the significance of God’s covenant Name?
His Name is Who He is, Who He will be, and what He will do to bring us home.
We know that I AM became Immanuel, God with us. Jesus became one of us, experienced every temptation on this broken planet, but lived a perfect life without sin. His death on the cross paid for our sins and made a relationship with God [Yahweh] possible. His resurrection gave us power to live a God-pleasing life. His name is above every name.
When we know God’s Name is near, we know God is not near simply to give silent witness to our suffering. He is near to show His perfect love, HIs compassion, His grace, His faithfulness, His forgiveness, and His justice.
Right where you are, God’s Name is near.
He is near to you in every moment.
He is everything you need.
We give thanks to you, God;
we give thanks to you, for your Name is near…. (v. 1 CSB)
Father, thank You that Your Name is near. You are Yahweh, our covenant God. Thank You for Your love, compassion, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice. You are Immanuel, God with us. Thank You for Your presence. Please teach me Your ways so that I can know You more and more. You are everything I need. In Jesus’ name, Amen.