“I AM WHO I AM” (EXODUS 3: 14)
THE BIBLE READING: EXODUS 3: 1-15
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.’
4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’
And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’
5 ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ 6 Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
7 The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’
11 But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’
12 And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.’
13 Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’
14 God said 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 to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.”
‘This is my name for ever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
Notice an incredible contrast here between Moses and Father God.
When God calls out his name: “Moses! Moses!” Moses replied “Here I am”. Moses knew his name, he had a limited understanding of who he really was. But when God challenges him to do something wonderful Moses now cries out: “who am I?” You see, he really didn’t know who he was at all.
Moses was able to tell God “I am Moses” but God is able to tell Moses “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” – awesomely different!
But then we have the ultimate juxtaposition. Moses asks “who am I?” but Father God is able to say that He, God, is “I AM WHO I AM”. Moses is unsure as to who he, Moses, is; God knows that He, God, is EVERYTHING!
YOU JUST CAN’T CLAIM TO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND GOD FULLY
God is SO BIG that we can’t begin to fathom Him. He is so wide that we can’t ever pigeonhole Him. He is so deep that we can’t begin to say we understand Him.
That old children’s song – “The Love of Jesus is so wonderful, the Love of Jesus is so wonderful, the Love of Jesus is so wonderful, oh! Wonderful love! So high you can’t get over it. So low you can’t get under it. So wide you can’t get round it. Oh! Wonderful Love!” – just says it all!
God declares in Isaiah 55: 8-9
‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts”
Meditating on the awesomeness of God in Psalm 139 (the whole Psalm is a wonderful testimony of this) David declares in verses 7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
His Love is so great; His Power is so awesome; His knowledge is so complete; His awareness of all things is so total.
What wonder, then, that when Moses asks who he shall say has sent him, God replies “I AM WHO I AM” – there is nothing else to say. He is everything. He knows the past, the present and the future. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing and all-loving.
MAYBE WE CAN UNDERSTAND THE “I AM” BY UNDERSTANING WHO WE ARE
When we meet one another the first thing we do is to get to know each other. Some are very self-centred and want to tell the other person all about themselves – who they are, where they work, what they like doing, how wonderful they are in fact! Others want to know all about the other person – who they are, whether they are married and have kids, what kind of music they listen to.
Etc, etc, etc!
We also define ourselves by very forcefully declaring who we are not: we are NOT bad, NOT angry, NOT stupid, NOT foolish, NOT Australian (you’d be amazed how many people in California think that our accent makes us Australian!!!).
Etc, etc, etc!
It is so very important for us to define our identity – of who we are and who we are not.
WHO I AM SHOWS THAT I AM LIMITED
I am a man and not a woman. I am a human and not an elephant.
I am limited and therefore I am often afraid, often unsure, often wrong.
This is what makes God SO VERY WONDERFUL!
(Oh! And by the way! The Bible promises us that one day we shall not be limited any longer – but that we shall be like Him – look at what John promises us in 1 John 3: 2 – Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.)
“I AM WHO I AM” SHOWS THAT GOD IS LIMITLESS!
God is NOT limited by “I am this” or “I am that”. When He declared “I AM WHO I AM” He was encompassing EVERYTHING. There is no limitation on God.
Does that mean that He is “all things”? Does that mean that He is a “man” and He is also an “elephant”? That He is both “good” and “bad” – because He is ALL THINGS???
This has, I believe, been the conclusion that many have made. One of my favourite programmes on TV is “Outnumbered” where 3 very bright children constantly overwhelm their lovely parents. In a very early episode their precocious daughter asks “if God is everywhere, is He in this jar?”
Nothing more shows our limitations than trying to “put God in a jar”. The moment we try to do this we limit God Himself.
No, we simply repeat what we have already said: God is all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-seeing. Far, far more than Mary Poppins He reallyis “perfect in every way”.
I am a man. He is “I AM WHO I AM”. And this should give me total hope, total peace and total confidence in Him.
But…the “I AM WHO I AM” wishes to be known to us. Because, like Him, because we are made in His image, we want to be in relationship with Him and He longs to be in relationship with us. So, He wants to make Himself known to us.
In the Old Testament He was (rightly) held in awe and was known by the Name of YHWH (called the tetragrammaton and pronounced either as Yahweh or Jehovah) after His declaration at the Burning Bush.
But, through Jesus, He wants to be known by us. And so He (literally) began to “put flesh” on the “I AM WHO I AM” through the so-called “I AM” statements of Jesus. Over the coming weeks we shall be looking at each of these in turn to discover some of the wonderful and amazing things about God’ character – so that we might know Him better through His Son, Jesus Christ.
But, also we have this wonderful truth that Moses wants to know who God IS; and that by knowing His Name he will have an understanding of who He is. The wonderful story is told of Helen Keller, the remarkable American woman who was left deaf and blind at the age of 19 months after an illness. Totally locked in her own world till she was taught to communicate with others she declared to a minister, brought in to tell her about God by her parents, “I knew about God before you told me, only I didn’t know His Name” – God is ALWAYS trying to find a way to reveal Himself to us.
God wants us to know Him, because knowing Him is the most important thing in life – so He sent us Jesus to show us and tell us what the “I AM” is truly like.
Moses “The Prince of Egypt” – at the Burning Bush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ds9y3lJGig
HERE’S SOME QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP STUDY
Start by watching this film clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLrGM26pmM0
Now read Deuteronomy 6: 4-5
- What do you think is the Hebrew word written LORD?
- What do you think about these words that are spoken by orthodox Jews to this day?
God really wanted His people to know Him – to know how He was the “I AM” – so His Word gives us 9 other times when YHWH is used in conjunction with words that explain what He is like. Have a study of them and write down what they tell us about Father God:
- Yahweh-Jireh: Genesis 22: 14
- Yahweh-Rophe: Exodus 15: 26
- Yahweh-Nissi: Exodus 17: 15
- Yahweh-M’Kaddesh: Leviticus 20: 8
- Yahweh-Shalom: Judges 6: 24
- Yahweh-Rohi: Psalm 23: 1
- Yahweh-Sabaoth: Psalm 46: 7
- Yahweh-Tsidkenu: Jeremiah 23: 6
- Yahweh-Shammah: Ezekiel 48: 35
The Name “YHWH” is, at its simplest, translated as “I AM WHO I AM” but it can mean far more: It speaks of the past “I have always been”, of the present “I AM” and the future “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” (NIV footnote). The Bible scholar Warren Wiersbe writes: “The Name conveys the concept of absolute being, the One who is and whose dynamic presence works on our behalf. It conveys the meanings of ‘I am who and what I am, and I do not change. I am here with you and for you’”
- What does all this tell you about God?
Finally, why not watch this film clip that links the I AM who is Father God with the I AM who is Jesus – God the Son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI6K1Y7fvW0