It was during the mid-1700s, a time known as the Great Awakening, that men like George Whitefield and John Wesley burned through England and America with revival fire. Both preachers preached to thousands in the open-air because many churches wouldn’t have them. Whitefield was particularly known for his eloquent and animated preaching. Nobody could command an audience like him!
The story goes that one day Whitefield, actually inside a church, wasn’t living up to his reputation. It was rainy and the gathering was relatively small. One man reported to have thought, “This man is no great wonder, after all.” Another person in the front began to fall asleep.
Then, all of a sudden, Whitefield’s whole countenance changed. He raised his voice and cried, “If I had come to speak to you in my own name, you might well rest your elbows on your knees, and your heads on your hands, and sleep… But I have not come to you in my own name. No! I have come to you IN THE NAME OF THE LORD OF HOSTS, AND I MUST AND WILL BE HEARD!” This was emphasized with a forceful stomp and pounding of the pulpit. It made the whole building ring! No one looked uninterested after that.
The name of the Lord gave him confidence and boldness to command attention. This is also what Moses was seeking when he asked the Lord, “When I come unto the children of Israel …and they shall say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say unto them?” (Exodus 3:13). God revealed His name to Moses and He has also revealed it to us. We too have authority to be heard in the name of the Lord, whether speaking to a group of believers, speaking the truth in the midst of lies, or rebuking the devil with the word of God. We can have confidence to boldly say, “I MUST AND WILL BE HEARD!” Our help is in the name of the LORD (Psalm 124:8).
There is authority in His name. A name’s primary function, though, is to be an identifier. Thus the Lord became personal with Moses and the children of Israel: And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you (Ex.3:14). Of course, I AM is not your typical name! But upon further consideration, it’s a very significant and encouraging revelation of who God is.
He is Present and Eternal
At a basic level, God is I AM, not I WAS. He’s not simply a God who did great works in the past. Many churches have become little more than monuments to what God has done in the past. They wear their robes and go through their rituals, and it’s all commemoration. There’s little expectation of God working now, and little experience of His presence in their daily lives.
But God is present! He is a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). You can receive from Him today just as they received in Bible times. God did not say He was I AM FOR NOW, and that later the situation might change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
That’s a great comfort to us. The God who delivered the children of Israel from Egypt is the same God who will deliver us from sin. The God that destroyed Pharaoh and his armies is the same God that destroys the devil and his armies that come against us.
He is not I WAS, nor is He I AM FOR NOW. He always is eternal: From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:2). Everlasting means without limit. There is no expiration date! There’s no end of term. The good news is that His mercy is also everlasting- it endures forever. And His love for you and me lasts as long as He does: I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). You can’t exhaust His mercy or love. It’s not past tense “I was” or “just for now.” It simply IS, and you can’t mess it up and change it.
He is Independent
Some people argue, “If God created the world, who created God?” They miss the point! God is the cause, He is not an effect. He needs no creator, because He is self-existent, a being unlike any other. Any god that would need to be created would not be ultimately independent.
Actually, the Hebrew behind I AM THAT I AM means, “I will be what I will be.” No one else can tell Him what to be. He is the top of the chain, which means He is the most powerful. He is not dependent on anyone or anything for His existence. Nor is he bound by any restrictions of time or locality.
In contrast, the gods of Egypt had specific confinements. One was the god of the Nile, for example. There was a sun god, a god of the soil, and a host of others. But our Lord is not bound to any assigned position. He will be what He will be. This puts Him over and above any Egyptian “deity,” and this would encourage Israel.
It’s also a comfort to us when considering that our trials and circumstances have no effect on who God will be. He is not stumped by your situation and is not challenged by it. He will be who He will be regardless of what life throws at you. He delivered Israel in spite of the multitude of Egyptian deities, and He can deliver you in spite of the multitude of problems that seek to keep you bound.
He is Personal
The Lord continued to reveal His name to Moses: Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations (Ex.3:17).
You may or may not know that when you see the word LORD in capital letters, it is really not the word meaning Lord, but what is known as the Tetragrammaton. This is the four Hebrew letters that make up God’s name. There is much debate as to how to pronounce this name, because there were no vowel markings in the ancient Hebrew language. So all you can see are the consonants, which are Yod, He, Vav, He. Some read it as Jehovah, but probably Yahweh is better.
Yahweh is a more familiar form of the Hebrew for I AM THAT I AM. In other words, it represents God getting more personal with His people. It’s more or less like me, whose name is Richard, saying, “Call me Rick.” It is God’s personal and relational name, in contrast to the other generic terms that identify God, like the word God (Elohim).
This would surely be different from anything heard of in Egypt. The gods were not on a first name basis with their people, but deities to be appeased. By contrast, Yahweh calls us by name and reveals His name informally. He desires this kind of closeness with His people.
Understand, then, the grave error of Jewish tradition. The Tetragrammaton was later deemed to be too holy and too sacred for human lips to pronounce, so religiously observant Jews replaced Yahweh with “Adonai.” To this day when reading the Hebrew characters for Yahweh, they will instead say Adonai, which means Lord. That’s why our English Bibles use LORD in capital letters.
But that defeats the point that God was trying to make. God wanted to put Himself on a personal level with Israel, in a way that not even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew: And God spoke to Moses and said to him: I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them (Ex.6:2-3; NKJV). In other words, He didn’t want to hide who He was behind a mystery, He wanted His people to become more familiar with Him. That is what I AM is all about.
He is Progressive
Still, I AM is kind of a strange name. Why didn’t the Lord use something more defining? Well, that’s just the point. Again, He is not limited. In fact, as in any good relationship, there is a progression of understanding who the other person really is. Getting to know someone is ongoing.
When the Lord said, “I AM” to introduce Himself, the tendency perhaps would have been to lean in and wait for the rest of it. “I AM what?” Or, “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.” “Yes, you will be what?” I believe He was setting His people up for further revelation. They were about to learn who He was in many different terms, and it would be an ongoing discovery.
Thus you see different names attached to Yahweh in different places, as:
Yahweh Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
Yahweh Shammah (The Lord Is There)
Yahweh Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
Yahweh Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)
Yahweh Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
Yahweh Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
Yahweh Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
Yahweh Rohi (The Lord My Shepherd)
Yahweh Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
Who is God? Who do you need Him to be right now? Some of you need The Lord that Heals. Some of you need The Lord is Peace. Some of you need Him as your Righteousness. He will be what He will be; He will be these to you too! Believe in the I AM, that He is present right now to be whatever you need at this time. Put your faith in Him according to His name.
God’s Ultimate Personal Revelation
It’s very interesting to notice that apart from Old Testament quotes, the capital letters LORD does not appear in the New Testament. That is because the ultimate expression of God’s name finally came in the person of JESUS.
Throughout the Old Covenant, God kept saying He will be…He will be… Then He became! The Word became flesh and dwelt among us! (John 1:14; ESV).
God gave us the most personal and perfect communication of who HE IS in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person (Hebrews 1:3). Express image means the same as the exact reproduction (Robertson). Paul wrote that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). Now Jesus is our peace. Jesus is our healer. Jesus is our righteousness. It is through Jesus that we personally know God. The children of Israel were to know God by a name that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob didn’t know. Today we can know God by a name that even Moses and his people didn’t know. We have the most glorious revelation.
Where did I AM go? What happened to that name? Jesus shocked the Pharisees when He announced to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58). Standing before them was divinity in human form. How can you get closer to God than that?
And yet I WILL BE did not stop there! He became an indweller of His people through the Holy Spirit.
He promises to be your righteousness and salvation. He promises to be your joy and strength. But in order to learn and know all that Jesus can be, you have to first accept His I AM. You have to believe in who He is and what He did.
Then don’t stop there! Many Christians believe in Jesus, the “I am” part, but then forget about Him and never let him finish the sentence. “I am what?” He wants to have an ongoing relationship with His people. He wants us to discover all He is and what He will be to us.
Then, when we say, “I am…” Tired? Hungry? Happy? Sad? We need to remember that we are reflecting the very nature of God who dwells within us. We need to speak in agreement with what He says we are. Ultimately, who are you? You may be tired, but you can add, “I am alive in Christ!” You may be lonely, but you can add, “I am loved of God!” You may be tempted, but you can add, “I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me!”
Get to know who I AM is and then find out who you really are in Him.