The God who is

I’ve always been fascinated by Exodus 3:14 where God gives his name, by which he wants to be known. It is variously translated, such as “I AM that I AM” or “I Am who I Am”, or some say it could be taken as “I will be who I will be.” This is the first occurrence in verse 14. The second occurrence in verse 14 just has it once, “I AM.” Following this in verse 15 it uses the yhwh name, which we say as “Yahweh.” This is the Tetragrammaton, where God’s name originally was written without vowels, because the Hebrew language had no vowels. There seems to be almost complete agreement that no one is sure how to translate the “I AM.” I can’t pretend to translate it but it seems to me the emphasis is not on what God would do in the future or on his power or many other attributes. It seems to me the emphasis here is on God’s existence and on him acting in the present. He was the one God who really existed and was there relating to Moses. He was the God who understood what his people were going through and was taking action (for Moses and the Israelites) to do something about it. So to me it seems almost as if God is saying “I am the God who is”, in contrast to all other alleged gods, which do not exist. Or, you might put it in a more modern parlance as “I am the God who is real.” The “I AM” is a variation on “to be” and there is a conjunction, followed by the same “I AM.” So it’s as though “to be” is used first as a nown and then as a verb, with a conjunction in the middle.

This name for God implies things about God’s attributes also. God is self-existent, He is the only self-existent one. He is transcendent, existing outside of the physical universe and not dependent on the universe. The name “Lord” in the Old Testament sometimes uses the four Hebrew letter name yhwh and it seems to be thought of as connected to the “I AM” name in Exodus 3. God also often refers to himself as the” God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses was also told to use this when he spoke to the Israelites in Egypt.

Then in the New Testament Jesus refers to himself with the “I AM” name, such as in John 8. Jesus makes statements that clearly imply that He existed from before Abraham, from the creation. The New Testament describes Jesus as the Creator, such as in John 1, Hebrews 1, and Colossians 1. But even the Old Testament occasionally had statements to the effect, such as in Micah 5:2. In Micah 5:2 it speaks about the city of Bethlehem, then says “From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler of Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Thus both the Old and New Testaments point to the same person being savior of all men and being fully God.

Thus, when Jesus made the radical statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I am” this was implying he was with God in the beginning, before Creation. I think the “I am” perhaps could also be taken to mean that Jesus came from outside of time and space as we know it. Since he is fully God, his existence is transcendent. He is from “outside” this universe. Jesus’ statement starts with “before” then ends with “I am” which sounds present tense. Some have argued that this implies from God’s perspective God can see all times at once. C. S. Lewis, somewhere in his Chronicles of Narnia book series, once put in a statement describing Aslan in similar terms. It said that to Aslan, “all times are near.” So this may be how Lewis thought about God. This is really speculation about things beyond us. But the important thing is that Jesus became one of us, to give us a way of salvation and a hope for eternity. So the God of the Bible is not far away or merely theoretical. He is a God who emphasizes his own existence in his name. He is the real God who acts in the present and relates to people who seek him.

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