I Am Who I Am
The Old and New Testaments of the Bible are intricately connected. You’ll never fully grasp all of the work of the Lord, which is awe-inspiring. So, it’s fascinating when God reveals one of these connections in order to understand Him in a deeper way.
Jesus is known in the gospel of John by describing Himself with a series of titles that are labelled the, I Am’s. But John isn’t the first time this name was mentioned.
Moses was leading a flock of sheep through the wilderness when he arrived at Mount Horeb. This mountain is later known as Mount Sinai and the Mountain of God. He came upon a burning bush there. Though sporadic bush fires in the desert were common due to the heat, this bush wasn’t actually burning up. Moses’ curiosity sent him to investigate. Then something phenomenal happened.
“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
“Here I am,” he answered.
5 “Do not come closer,” he said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the territory of the Canaanites, Hethites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 9 So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, 10 therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.”
13 Then Moses asked God, “If I go 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 should I tell them?”
14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this 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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” Exodus 3:4-15
I AM WHO I AM – is a constant, present-tense name. It is also where the name Yahweh came from. It is the personal name of God. This name is loaded with meaning. Let’s look at what the Lord said after He announced His name:
“I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this 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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.”
He declared Himself as the God of the past by saying He was the God of their forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This is significant to the Israelites because they would have been aware of the close friendship their forefather Abraham had with this God. They would have also known of the prophecies and promises passed down from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which gave the Israelites hope of freedom from the Egyptians. The promised land awaited them and this God who made the initial promises to them was calling them out to fulfill these covenants.
He was the God of the present. This God from the past was presently speaking with Moses. He was still alive and continued to have full authority. The same God was about to deliver Israel. It wasn’t a former god that died and passed the promise on to the next one. That would have been normal in the Egyptian culture and understanding of their gods (they saw each Pharaoh as a god on top of a host of other gods). So, this God stood out.
Yahweh was also declaring Himself as the God of the future. “This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” He is immortal and unchangeable. Our God cannot die. You must never forget that.
By being eternal, He is self-sustaining. He doesn’t rely on anything or anyone to survive. In fact, everything relies on Him for life.
This name, I AM WHO I AM, became sacred to the Israelites to the point that they would not utter or fully write the name. They would abbreviate it instead. They realized the magnitude of this personal and powerful name of God.
Which is why it was so shocking to the Israelites when Jesus used that name for Himself.
54 “If I glorify myself,” Jesus answered, “my glory is nothing. My Father—about whom you say, ‘He is our God’—he is the one who glorifies me. 55 You do not know him, but I know him. If I were to say I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”
59 So they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden and went out of the temple.”
John 8: 54-59 (bold added)
If Jesus was an ordinary man, Israel’s leaders would have been right to stone Him.
“13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 14 “Bring the one who has cursed to the outside of the camp and have all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then have the whole community stone him. 15 And tell the Israelites: If anyone curses his God, he will bear the consequences of his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death; the whole community is to stone him. If he blasphemes the Name, he is to be put to death, whether the resident alien or the native.” Leviticus 24:13-16
However, they Israelites of Jesus’ time were choosing to ignore the prophecies being fulfilled by Him, and to recognize that He truly was the Messiah. Because Jesus really was, I AM, He deserved to use that name. Hence why He was hidden and escaped the stoning.
We’re going to spend the next number of weeks exploring the various descriptive names of I Am which Jesus used to help people understand the rich complexities of that name, and how they apply to you.