Monday, June 19, 2006

Exodus 3

13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:
This is my name forever,
and this my title for all generations.

David Ford has written a fascinating book in the Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine series titled Self and Salvation . Among other things, it is an exploration of the thought of two rather difficult European thinkers, the theologian Eberhard Jungel and the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. I have found it to be a helpful and at times beautiful book.

One point Ford makes in the book applies to this passage from Exodus. Ford points out that even though many passages in Scripture speak of our life "in Christ", being in Christ still does not negate the reality of our also "facing" Christ- we are not "in" Christ in the sense that we no longer face each other, but rather, our life in Christ is constituted in facing Christ who faces us.

Another way of saying the same thing is that the phrase in Christ does not imply that we become Christ without remainder, nor does Christ become us without remainder, but rather we become who we are precisely in being in front of, facing, being there with the other.

In this sense, another translation of what God says to Moses in Exodus might be, "I AM HERE." Or, "I Am the One Facing You." Being, existence, is existence before God, and God is the one who is there for us. We are not God, nor is God humanity, but God is precisely the one who is there for us while not in any way being us.

God's transcendence, and just so the power of Moses' message to Pharoah, is comprehended in this name. God is God and there is no God but God, but this God speaks and acts and accomplishes in the world we inhabit and know, from generation to generation, beginning with Abraham, and continuing with us.

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