God, or Yawheh, has a number of roles which define who God is in Old Testament writings. Among them are creator, one who calls forth, deliverer, law-giver, provider, leader, one-who-is-to-be-praised, and prophet-provider.
A second identity of God is as one who calls forth. After Moses has fled to Midian to become a shepherd, God calls him forth to be a deliverer of the suffering Israelites in Egypt. Moses is very reluctant, but God overcomes that reluctance by giving him a staff, a symbol of power. The initial calling occurs in Exodus 3: 2-4: 17. God names Moses deliverer with the promise that God will be with him.
A second calling forth was of the judges appointed by God to rule over the tribes of Israel after they had entered the land of Canaan. In Judges 1: 2, God appoints Judah who, with the help of Simeon, goes forth and captures the Canaanites. In Judges 6:11 the angel of the Lord calls forth Gideon as his next judge. For a number of centuries, the Israelites were content with judges appointed by God to rule over them. Then, after a number of military losses, they were discontent and asked God to appoint a king to rule over them as the other Canaanite tribes had.
So God relents and sends Samuel to call forth David, the shepherd, son of Jesse to be the king of Israel. David proves himself in his battle with Goliath and earns the respect of the Israelite people. This story is told in 1st Samuel 16: 4-13. David leaves home and enters the court of Saul.
As deliverer, God follows through on his promise to Moses to deliver the people from Egyptian oppression. Through a series of plagues directed at the Egyptian people, Pharaoh is finally convinced and allows the Israelites to leave Egypt. This revelation of God as deliverer begins in Exodus 12:33-38.
Throughout the years in the desert, God continues to be the deliverer of the Israelites even when they are cantankerous, blame God for their hunger and conditions, still God provides and delivers them. Exodus 16:4-16 describes the deliverance of the Israelites from hunger through the manna and quail provided for the people by God on a daily basis.
Joshua 6: 1-27 tells the story of the city of Jericho and its deliverance into the hands of God’s anointed warrior, Joshua. Joshua then went on to lead the Israelite warriors into a number of conquests of the cities of Canaan.
A fourth identity of God is that of law-giver. The single most important time in which God fulfills this identity is on Mount Sinai when the Ten Commandments are given to Moses. Exodus 20: 1-21 describes Moses’ trip up the mountain and his acceptance of the Ten Commandments. He then returns to the people and shares these Ten Commandments with them. These form the basis of the law for the Hebrew people throughout the rest of their history.
A second law-giving from God is the setting aside of the Levite tribe to serve as priests to the people. Numbers 3: 5-11 tells this story of God’s instructions to Moses to call the Levite tribe apart and set them apart. Numbers 6: 1-21 also sets aside the Nazarites and God gives the laws which pertain to the Nazarites.
God serves as leader of the Israelites throughout the story of the Old Testament. A first example is in the early weeks of deliverance from Egypt. In Exodus 13: 17-22, God shows his leadership to the people by a “pillar of cloud” by day and a “pillar of fire” by night. Another example of God as leader is the story of Deborah and Barak. In Judges 4: 4-16, God tells Deborah to send Barak with soldiers to rescue the people who have been sold to King Jabin of Canaan. Barak goes to battle, Sisera’s army is thrown into chaos. It is God’s leadership which brings about the freedom, once again, of the people.
The book of Psalms contains a number of full songs and parts of other songs in which God is the “one-who-is-to-be-praised.” In their history, when the Israelite people forget this, they often get a reminder of the first commandment through their suffering.
A full third of the psalms reference praise to God. Some are dedicated to the praise of God. One is Psalm 71. The speaker is an individual who is speaking his own praise of God. The psalm begins with a plea for deliverance, but throughout the psalm, the speaker renews his praise for God. Another psalm which focuses on the praise of God is 119 in which an individual again describes his relationship to God as that of one who is grateful for God’s goodness and describes the praise he has to offer to God throughout the day and the night.
Finally, a psalm which gives evidence of the community’s praise is found in Psalm 148. This is a psalm which is entirely focused on praise of God for all of creation and for the leadership of the people. The Israelites have finally found a measure of security in David’s leadership, the building of the temple under Solomon and a kingdom which has provided economic security for the people of God.
Since the Old Testament is a story of God’s calling of the Chosen People, their intermittent apostasy, God’s punishment and God’s redemption, a final example of God’s identity in the Old Testament is that of prophet-maker. When the people were either tempted or completely turned by the false gods of those cultures around them, God brought forth prophets to warn the people of what was to come if they did not return to the one God who had delivered them from Egyptian slavery.
Isaiah, chapters 1-3 are a listing of the sins of the people who have turned to other gods and violated the covenant with God. Chapter 6: 1-8 describes Isaiah’s calling as a prophet; it is very personal calling one in which Isaiah makes a clear statement of commitment to God’s call to him as a prophet. “Here am I; send me.” Isaiah’s prophecy is the longest in the Old Testament and he repeatedly calls the people back to God and shares God’s renewed promises of the kingdom of God on earth when they turn back from the local gods and worship only the one true God.
Jeremiah’s calling was much like Moses’ calling. And Jeremiah protests.
In Jeremiah 1: 4-10, God calls to Jeremiah, reassures him and makes the promise
God makes to all the prophets: “I will be with you to deliver you” and “I have put my words in your mouth.”
In the Old Testament, God reveals a number of identities including creator, deliverer, leader, provider, law-giver, one-who-is-to-be-praised and prophet-provider. The scriptures of the Old Testament reveal God’s work in all these roles.