I noticed an interesting theme on ‘knowing the LORD’ when I started reading through Exodus this year (using my bible marking plan). I then started noticing it elsewhere and would like to show what I think is a surprising connection in the New Testament.
After the Lord reveals His name, YHWH, to Moses (Exodus 3:13-15, LORD = YHWH in Hebrew) there is a repeated phrase that appears throughout the Exodus narrative, “that you may know that I am the LORD” (Ex 6:7; 8:22; 9:29; 10:2; etc).
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD [=YHWH] your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
— Exodus 6:7
The Lord’s acts in delivering Israel from Egypt are the means by which He reveals His name and His power. He alone is YHWH, there is none like Him, and the Israelites will know this through experiencing exodus from Egypt (Ex 7:17; 8:10; 9:29; 10:2; etc).
Not only that, but Pharaoh and Egypt will know that the YHWH alone is God (Ex 5:2; 7:5; 14:4; 14:8; etc). The difference here is that their knowing comes through judgment, not salvation. They won’t know the LORD through experiencing His mercy, but rather by being crushed in His wrath.
Israel will go into exile, and Jeremiah describes their promised return in language reminiscent of the exodus account, i.e. a second exodus. This second exodus will exceed the first, to the point where it will replace the exodus from Egypt as the key salvation event.
“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ Then they shall dwell in their own land.”
— Jeremiah 23:7-8
What’s more, in this saving event, the LORD will make Himself known (Jeremiah 16:21; 24:7). This knowledge is one of the gifts in the promised new covenant:
I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
— Jeremiah 24:7
So Jeremiah tells us that God’s name (LORD=YHWH) will be revealed in a greater exodus, a greater act of salvation than the exodus from Egypt. This is a running theme, then. God’s salvation is likened to the exodus, and through it His people know Him as LORD. This language is even more prominent in Ezekiel (Ezek 36:11, 23, 36; 37:14, etc).
Jesus’s work of salvation is likened to the exodus by using the language of redemption:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
— Colossians 1:13-14
Now this brings me to the main point I would like to illustrate: it is in our salvation/new exodus in Christ that we know Jesus as the LORD (i.e. YHWH)! In the same way that the Israelites understood their God, His character, and His uniqueness through their deliverance, Christians understand Christ in the same way. Just as Israel knew their God in a greater way through the exodus, the early Christians discovered, through their exodus, that the man Jesus is preexistent and divine, sharing in the identity of YHWH along with the Father and the Spirit.
Jesus is identified with YHWH in being given the divine name. See what Paul does to the confession in Deuteronomy 6:4.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD [=YHWH] our God, the LORD is one.”
— Deuteronomy 6:4
For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
— 1 Corinthians 8:6
In 1 Cor 8:6 Paul alludes to Deuteronomy 6:4 and, in an amazing move, adjusts the quotation in such a way to include Jesus in the identity of God without compromising monotheism. Both the Father and Jesus are given names that belong to the one God alone (God and LORD). It is fascinating that Paul gives Jesus a title that is God’s, namely, ‘Lord’. Paul identifies Christ with God but doesn’t replace the Father or create two gods in the process.
Something similar happens in Philippians:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
— Philippians 2:9-11
There is a debate over the identity of the “name above every name”. Many think this name is simply Jesus. I would argue that it is in fact Lord.
- The name in Phil 2:9-11 was given after Christ’s resurrection, but the name Jesus was given at Jesus’ birth.
- The name Jesus is not in itself unique; others have possessed it. However, no one can claim YHWH as their own!
- What name can be greater than the very name of God?
- Paul is drawing from Isaiah 45, and for me this is the clincher:
For thus says the LORD…“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”
— Isaiah 45:18, 22-23
In this passage the LORD (=YHWH) claims to be the only source of salvation. He alone is God and all knees will bow to Him. And yet, Paul says that this will now happen to Jesus, because of the name that He has been given! I am not saying that Jesus displaces the Father, but that in Paul’s language He is included in the identity of God. Paul shows this through applying the divine name (LORD) to Jesus, while retaining God for the Father. This same idea is expressed differently elsewhere, such as in John, who shows this by saying that Jesus “was God and was with God” (John 1:1).
Does the fact that the name was “bestowed” on Christ mean that He wasn’t preexistent as God before His incarnation? Phil 2:5-8 and John 1:1-3 certainly contradict this idea. I think what it means is that Jesus, who was previously known only as a man, is now recognized as LORD (=YHWH) through His sacrificial death and resurrection. Phil 2:5-11 is a narrative, and it was after Christ’s ascension that He was recognized for who He is, seated at God’s right hand (1 Cor 15:27).
So, lets wrap this all up. What I am saying is that through Jesus’s acts of deliverance, we know Him as LORD.
Just like Israel knowing their God as YHWH through their exodus, we know Jesus as YHWH in ours. Not only that, but just as Egypt knew Israel’s God as YHWH in their judgment, the enemies of Christ will also bow and acknowledge Him as Lord in their judgment at His return (Phil 2:9-11).
Salvation is found in Christ alone, the LORD!
32a And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
What do you think? Any comments would be appreciated!