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?" 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.'" 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.
Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.' They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days' journey into the desert, so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.' I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go.
Give thanks to the Lord, tell his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, the judgements he spoke. (R./)
He remembers his covenant for ever,
his promise for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac. (R./)
He gave his people increase;
he made them stronger than their foes,
whose hearts he turned to hate his people
and to deal deceitfully with his servants. (R./)
Then he sent Moses his servant
and Aaron the man he had chosen. Through them he showed his marvels
and his wonders in the country of Ham. (R./)
Jesus exclaimed "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
The long slavery of Israel in Egypt is coming to an end and they are to be brought into a new and better existence, a free people in their own land. Moses will tell the elders of Israel about God's concern for their plight. The people will not simply be liberated, but the living God will be with them, into the future. The divine name, Yahweh, derives from the Hebrew verb "to be" and suggests that GOD will be continuously with his people. The very name "Yahweh" contains this promise "I will be always there", but when spoken by Israel or by ourselves, it can become a prayer ("Please be with us at all times!").
Jesus underlines this aspect of God in today's classic text which ought to be fixed in memory. By his closeness to us, he makes our yoke easy and our burden light. He knows how life can be weary and burdensome, and makes no false, easy promises. The yoke will remain on our shoulders, as will the burden, but somehow they become easier to bear. What is new is the presence of Jesus, "gentle and humble of heart." God is with us always, promising life and peace. He is a gentle and loving Lord.
We can be burdened for all kinds of reasons: overtired; overworked; a marriage going wrong; a struggle with ill health. Jesus spoke words of hope to people burdened by the demands of the Jewish Law; for in failing to observe them they felt themselves marginalised. He does not offer them a new law. Rather, he offers himself as their guide to life. He calls them to learn from him. "Come to me," he says, and "learn from me." We learn from his example as well as his words. His teaching is clearly visible in who he is and how he lives.
To learn from someone, we should spend time with them. In saying, "Come," he is really saying, "Come and stay." We are called into an friendship with him. It is in being with him that we learn to live as we ought to live. If we come to him and remain with him, we will find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. The way of the Gospel is demanding, but our relationship with him makes it much less demanding than it would otherwise be. St Paul assures us that God's power at work within us is "able to accomplish immeasurably far more than all we can ask or imagine." It is by remaining in Jesus, as branches in the vine that our lives will flourish and bear much fruit.