“I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
It’s been a tough few weeks in our country, for sure. Most of us have been walking around with a sense of heaviness and sorrow as we grieve with those who grieve, and mourn with those who mourn. As my prayers become a lament to the only One who can save us, and my eyes turn to the eternal Word of the only One who can truly comfort us, my attention is caught by this very familiar verse in Exodus.
The context of the verse is a burning bush in the middle of the desert, with Moses standing in front of it, being commissioned by God to go and lead His people out of slavery. The Israelites were a suffering people, bearing the harshness and brutality of constant oppression. We know from Exodus 2 that Moses’ heart was bruised by the suffering of his people, yet he was exiled and helpless…until God stepped in and began putting His plan into motion by introducing Himself to Moses as the God of his fathers (Ex. 3:6, above). Moses was understandably overwhelmed, and asked God “Who shall I say is sending me?”
“God also said to Moses, “Say 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.’” (Ex. 3:15)
Anytime God repeats something in Scripture, it alerts us that something particularly important is going on; and God speaks this same phrase not once, not twice, but THREE times in the space of 27 verses (Ex. 3:6, 3:15, and 4:5):
“I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
The more I meditated on this, the more it impressed me as being a really beautiful thing. When Moses asks God how He is to be identified to the Israelites, the answer is given in terms of relationship; the relationship that the God of the Universe had with their flesh-and-blood forefathers whose names were as familiar to them as their own. In my human understanding, it would seem to make more sense for Moses to come in reminding them of the Creation story and conveying the power of “the God who made the heavens and the earth” as being the One behind his (seemingly impossible) mission. But no; God is specific about how He wants to be re-introduced to His people, and it is all based on relationship.
Recently our youngest son reminded me of the last words my dad spoke to him before his death:
“Jacob, never forget that the most important things in life are family and relationships—beginning with your relationship to Christ.”
What a good word. That truth is also emphasized to me through another layer we see in these repeated verses. All three times God says, “…the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” These men are not all just clumped together as “the relationship I had with your forefathers.” God’s personal relationship with each one of these individual humans is recognized and named.
As if God’s repetition in the Old Testament wasn’t enough, centuries later Jesus Himself references this very passage in Exodus:
“And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Mark 12:26
What a comfort to read these words! God’s relationship with not only those three men, but with every human being who has ever walked with Him, is not limited to the history of our space and time continuum. Rather, it is an eternal relationship that is living and active today…because it is based on the living and active covenant that God made with Abraham, recorded in Genesis 15. Author Sandra Richter says that this “covenant serv[es] as the general law that coordinates the facts of redemption’s story” (The Epic of Eden, 2008). And those of us who claim faith in Christ are “children of Abraham…blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:7, 9).
Throughout all our days of both joy and lament, He remains the God who identifies Himself, first and foremost, by His relationship with us—
our ever-present Father.
Most loving Father, Whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things,
to fear nothing but the loss of You, and to cast all our care on You who cares for us:
Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties,
that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from me the light of the love which is immortal,
and which You have manifested to us in Your Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
Who lives and reigns with You, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forevermore.
–Prayer from The Divine Hours