Take off your sandals (or boots as may be the case this cold, rainy spring). Imagine yourself on the holy ground Moses once found himself standing on.
We learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.
He had just heard the voice of God come from a burning bush. God called Moses to go to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh release God's people from slavery. Moses wrestles with the idea of such a monumental task and finally asks, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" (Ex. 3:13).
Before Moses goes to the most powerful man in the world, he wants to know the name of the God who sends him. Seems reasonable to me.
God answers Moses' question this way, "I AM WHO I AM" (Ex. 3:14).
Then, He repeats Himself, but doesn't offer Moses much clarity.
"And he said, 'Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'" (Ex. 3:14).
There isn't an English teacher in the world that wouldn't mark all over that sentence with her red pen.
Imagine the same sentence in a different context. You are introduced to a new visitor at church. You say, "Hi, my name is Erin. What's your name?"
"I am . . . " is their reply.
I am who? I am what? Simply leaving it at "I am" seems like bad grammar and bad manners.
But that's what God said when Moses asked His name.
"I AM WHO I AM." "I AM has sent me."
Don't you imagine that Moses was perched on the very edge of his seat? Waiting for more information. He knew he would be pressed by Pharaoh and by the people he was called to free for more information. I am who? I am what? But "I AM" seemed to be all the information God was going to give at that moment.
Fortunately for all of us, it's not all He ever said on the subject.
Timothy Keller recently tweeted, "God doesn't tell Moses, 'Tell them, I am what you want.' He says tell them, 'I AM what I AM."
That quote stuck with me for days. So much so that I decided to do some digging into this "I AM" business. When God says, "I AM" what does He mean? Why does He leave his identity so mysterious?
I decided to look in my Bible for every place where God says "I AM." Before I show you what I found, I want to warn you that it's a long and impressive list. If you're like me, you have a tendency to gloss over information when it comes to you in bulk, but let me encourage you to take your time. Read and re-read. Think about all the things God says about himself with the simple introduction, "I AM."
I AM . . . your shield (Gen. 15:1-3).
I AM . . . God Almighty (Gen. 17:1, 35:11).
I AM . . . compassionate (Ex. 22:27).
I AM . . . holy (Lev. 11:44).
I AM . . . your portion and your inheritance (Num. 18:20).
I AM . . . your salvation (Ps. 35:3).
I AM . . . with you (Isa. 41:10, 43:5, Jer. 1:19,15:20, Hag. 1:13, 2:4, Matt. 28:20).
I AM . . . the Lord, besides me there is no salvation (Isa. 43:11).
I AM . . . the first and the last (Isa. 44:6, Rev. 1:17).
I AM . . . he who comforts (Isa. 5:12).
I AM . . . merciful (Jer. 3:12).
I AM . . . a father (Jer. 31:9).
I AM . . . their inheritance (Ezek. 44:28).
I AM . . . gentle and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29).
I AM . . . the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Matt. 22:32).
I AM . . . the Christ (Mark 14:61-63).
I AM . . . the bread of life (John 6:48).
I AM . . . the light of the world (John 8:12).
I AM . . . not of this world (John 8:24).
I AM . . . the Good Shepherd (John 10:1).
I AM . . . the door (John 10:9).
I AM . . . the son of God (John 10:36).
I AM . . . the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
I AM . . . teacher and lord (John 13:13).
I AM . . . the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:1).
I AM . . . the true vine (John 15:1).
I AM . . . the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8).
I AM . . . alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18).
I AM . . . coming soon (Rev. 3:11).
I AM . . . the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16).
I AM . . . the LORD your God (this one is stated so many times throughout the Bible that I lost count).
I told you it was an impressive list. So why didn't God just dictate it to Moses from that burning bush so that Moses could pass it along to Pharaoh? Why leave the dots unconnected?
Because we learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.
The answer to Moses' question, "What is his name?" would be given to Pharaoh soon enough. The purpose of the plagues God sent upon Egypt was to put the power and character of God on full display.
Sooner or later, we all mumble Moses' question under our breath, "Who are you, God?" We follow it up with "How will you prove who you are in my life?" We've got the benefit of a hard copy of His answer in the Word. From Genesis to Revelation the Lord speaks often of who He is. But the proof is also in the pudding, isn't it? If you will take a minute to reflect on your own life you will see that His descriptions of Himself are spot on. I know He's been everything on that list in my own life (compassionate, salvation, merciful . . . )
Who has He been in yours?
P.S. Who God is becomes even more powerful when we look at who we really are. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a follow up post on that.
Learn more about Jesus, the I AM, as Nancy teaches through the series, "The Wonder of His Name."