February 25, 2010 I am who I am
Having kids, it’s not uncommon to get their names confused. I remember correcting my mom growing up, and now my kids often correct me when I am calling them by the wrong name. After having our third child I think the wires in my brain were really crossed. For some reason every time I was talking to my daughter I called her Buttercup, and every time I mentioned our pet rabbit’s name I called him by my daughter’s name. Sure a rabbit and new born are both cute, but that is all they had in common. It seemed the harder I tried not to call my daughter by the pet’s name the more I called her Buttercup.
Although most of this study will be from the gospel of John, I think it is important to take a little time and look at the first use of God’s name: I AM.
Most people are familiar with Moses. He was placed in a basket into a river as an infant by his mother. She did this as a way to protect him from death. The daughter of Pharaoh found him floating while she bathed and decided to raise him as her own son. As time passed, Moses grew and was educated and a leader in the Egyptian court. When we first see Moses as an adult we find a character that is very full of himself. He is well educated, respected, and full of power despite his true identity as a Hebrew.
Being a person of high responsibility requires exercising responsible reactions to trouble. This is where Moses failed. He sees another Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian, takes matters into his own hands, and ends up killing the Egyptian. As life seems to go, rumors spread, and his heroic act seems to be common knowledge, however he is not the perceived hero he hoped to be. He does what any person would do who is afraid of losing all he has succeeded in. He turns tail and runs for his life.
After forty years of hiding in the desert we find Moses in a different light. He is no longer the official full of pride and authority. He is a shepherd living a humble quiet life in the desert, alone. Nothing has been resolved for the Israelites, however. They are still enslaved. There is a new Pharaoh. When the people cry out for help it stirs God to action.
He appears to Moses in a bush on fire that wasn’t burning. As Moses approaches, God calls to him. I think it is interesting to note Moses’ reply, “here I am.” (This is the same reply of Abraham (Gen. 22:1), Jacob (Gen 33:11) Samuel (1 Sam. 3:4) and Isaiah (Is. 6:8).) There is a brief introduction from God about from the beginning how he chose out the Hebrew people to be a nation He choose out. He includes the entire plan and history up to this point. He then explains to Moses how the plan will continue. Moses will go to Pharaoh and bring the people out of Egypt.
Feeling over whelmed and much more humble Moses replies in a classic way, “Who am I?” (Are you noticing a theme yet?) God assures Moses that it will not be him, but God who leads them away. He even blesses Moses with signs and wonders. Moses being certain that God has chosen the wrong man based on his previous failures, tries some other tactic: “What if they ask me your name?”
This is significant for a number of reasons. In Chapter 6 God tells Moses how the forefathers (Abraham and sons) knew God only as God Almighty. They knew an attribute of Him. They were shown a quality of God. Now God was ready to reveal to the people more of who He is. He wants them to identify Him and identify WITH Him.
The other significance we see is when we compare the Egyptian gods. The ancient Egyptians had over a hundred gods to worship and serve. If they needed more sun that would pray to Ra, the sun god. The Israelites, however, could only identify their God by “my father’s god”. They had no identity with the one they were suppose to worship.
God answers Moses with his personal name. “I AM WHO I AM.” If that was too long to say, God even gave himself a nick name: I AM.
You find this name through out the rest of the old and new testaments. You must understand a little about how to identify it. The Israelites understood that they were to not use God’s name in vain. Out of fear of writing it down and then being destroyed, they made a way to write his name in code: YHWH (Yahweh). Then later this was translated from German as Jehovah. YHWH is marked in most translations with LORD in all caps. There is also the translation of Lord, but this is taken from the more general sense of Lord, Adonai.
With the knowledge of God and His plan to free the Israelites, Moses was commissioned to go to the Israel people and share this with them. The I AM of the universe was calling them to enter into a relationship with Him. He would be their God, and they would be His people. He was then to go to Pharaoh and tell him the same message. After being rejected by his own, Moses knew Pharaoh would also reject him.
God speaks a mighty word to Moses. “See I have made you like a God to Pharaoh…” This is most significant because of who Moses was going to be addressing. Pharaoh was seen by his own people to be Ra, the god of the sun. The greatest and most powerful of the Egyptian gods. The I AM was going to make Moses like a god to Pharaoh, that is, equal in power and authority to Pharaoh himself.
In these few chapters we have already seen some of who the I AM is. He is not limited to one power or quality. All that exists, all the needs we could ever have, all there has ever been known or will be known is found in the I AM. He is the creator, powerful one. Before there was sun and stars he created light. He is love, power, passion, peace, hope, joy, comfort, on and on. Yet, in his greatness, he desires for us to know Him and be known by Him.
This was the beginning of understanding I AM. Through time, God would continue to reveal who he is. I have a little more to add about Moses, but for now I will conclude with this song by Casting Crowns: