Wednesday, October 03, 2012

“I AM WHO I AM” says God but What Does It Mean? -- Exodus 3:13-14


Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’   Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”  And God said to Moses “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

You need to know that I was not looking forward to studying this particular segment of Scripture.  If the truth were known, as a young man (many decades ago) I felt that God’s reply to Moses’ question here unsatisfying.  At worst, I thought it was a bit out of character for God.  I know now I was mistaken, but more on that later.

Here we have Moses still so lucid during his conversation with God, he is able to continue asking questions and as some would say, posing objections.  His first objection you will remember was “Who am I to go?”  God took care of that one, patiently.   Now he as much as tells God the people won’t believe him when he goes to tell them God sent him.  What I find interesting here is the idea that either Moses was serious at this point or he was being a little tongue in cheek.  Did he really believe that the people would ask, “What is His name?” when he already refers to Him as “The God of your fathers”?  This is another one of those interesting questions that we will never really know the answer to.  But it is very probable that by now the Israelites had so integrated themselves with the Egyptian culture that they had started to adopt the Egyptian false gods as their own and over generations, people could easily have mistaken one of those gods for the “God of their fathers”.  So, they needed to check out which one Moses was talking about.

“God, I need a name for you or this won’t work,” says Moses.   He seems to have recognized, given the way his fellow Israelites were living at the time, the opposition he would face with this possibility of being led out of Egypt.  Perhaps this was partly due to their loss of hope over all these years and not just their belief that it was impossible to even think about it being a possibility.  In any event, Moses wanted to be well covered with the potential responses to their questions and objections.
And it is here we now have God’s great and awesome and simple response – “Tell them I AM WHO I AM and I sent you to them.”

Chuck Smith in his commentary on Exodus 1-5 (C2000 Series) makes this comment: “Now this really is to Moses. God is declaring to Moses that relationship, "I am", I am what? "I am whatever you're going to need." The name of God, a verb, "to be". "I am", because God always wants to be to you whatever your particular need might be. "I am your peace, I am your strength, I am your help, I am your guide, I am your righteousness, I am your salvation, I am your hope." Whatever you might be, God will become to you whatever is the need in your life. How beautiful that is. "The Becoming One is named Yahweh, The Becoming One", as God becomes to you whatever your need might be.”

David Guzik, in his own study guide on this chapter, says that w
hen God revealed Himself to man in the days of the patriarchs it was often associated with a newly revealed name or title for God, and gives us several examples from stories in Genesis.  And here he suggests, therefore, a different reason as to why Moses would ask this question regarding God’s name. “It is logical to think they would ask, ‘what name did He reveal Himself to you under? What new revelation from God do you have?’"

Yet here if “I AM WHO I AM” is clearly a reference to the name YHWH, then God is not providing Himself with a new name to be revealed at this time.  The existing name of Yahweh appears more than 160 times in Genesis alone.  Although not mentioned in our Scriptures, Judaic Rabbinical documents indicate that Moses’ mother’s name was Jochabed meaning, Yahweh is my glory.  Guzik goes on to quote Cole (another commentator) in saying, “Moses and Israel knew the name Yahweh. God did not give Moses a ‘new and improved’ name of God, but the name they had known before. God called them back to the faith of the patriarchs, not to something new.’”


Is it possible that God says His name is I AM because God simply ‘is’, asks Guzik.  “There was never a time when He did not exist, or a time when He will cease to exist.”  Guzik, in his writings, goes on to give us some more insight into the possible meanings of the name “I AM” saying it “has within it the idea of aseity - that God is completely independent; that He relies on nothing for life or existence. (He) doesn't need anybody or anything - life is in Himself.”   And, “Also inherent in the idea behind the name I Am is the sense that God is ‘the becoming one’ God becomes whatever is lacking in our time of need. The name I Am invites us to fill in the blank to meet our need” and then shares how through His Son, Jesus Christ, meets whatever that need may be – “when we are in darkness, Jesus says I am the light; when we are hungry, He says I am the bread of life, when we are defenseless, He says I am the Good Shepherd.  God is the becoming one, becoming what we need.”   But that is not to imply that we can make God what we want Him to be for us at any given time.  No, God becomes what He feels He needs to be for our best interest.  And so it is, that Jesus Himself often took upon Himself that divine title of “I AM” and as Guzik says, “identifying Himself with the voice from the burning bush.”  You can check the references for that in John 8:24, 28, and 58; John 13:19; and John 18:4-6.

Have you met the great “I AM WHO I AM”?  He has come to us.  He has ‘become’ for us what we need.  Through His son, Jesus Christ, He is now with us.  We, therefore, can go and do His bidding.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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  1. Anonymous3/10/12 20:35

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