The Great ‘I AM’

The study of “I AM” touches me deeply due to the fact that I have personally experienced the love, mercy, understanding, forgiveness and power of Jesus Christ. The greatest news of all times is that Jesus is both the Son of God and the physical manifestation of God. The “I AM” is found throughout the Bible. This statement reveals the truth about the name of the Father who through Jesus Christ became flesh. He is both the fulfillment of Israel’s scriptural hope and the embodiment of Israel’s God. No one can reach the Father except through Jesus, who is the bridge between heaven and earth. The “I AM” is the world’s hope and only gift of salvation for everyone who believes.

The question “What is your name?” was posed by Moses directly to God and the response he received was “I AM Who I AM.” 1 God reveals his name to be “Yahweh.” The name Yahweh has four Hebrew consonants YHWH. There are three occurrences of “I AM” in this text that represent forms of the Hebrew verb that means “to be” (Hb. hayah). Yahweh (3068), “Lord.” The four letters of this word (YHWH) appear without their own vowels, and the exact pronunciation is uncertain (although Yahweh is most probable). The Hebrew text does insert the vowels for adonay. The meaning of the divine personal name, YHWH, relates to the verb “to be.” Moses’ question is therefore supremely important: “What is the name, the character, of this God of whom I will speak?”

The divine name Yahweh suggests to scholars a range of nuances of meaning: one, God is self-existent and therefore not dependent on anything else for His own existence; two, God is the creator and sustainer of all that exists; three, God is immutable in His being and character and is not in the process of becoming something different, “the same yesterday and today and forever,” 2 and four, God is eternal in His existence. While each of these points is true of God, the main focus in this passage is in the Lord’s promise to be with Moses and his people. The word translated “I am” (Hb. ’ehyeh) can also be understood and translated as “I will be.”

The birth of Jesus was foretold.   “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 3 The same message is conveyed in the Old Testament. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 4 The idea and expectation of what the Messiah would be is different than what Jesus Christ demonstrated. Elijah’s exit from the world was grand and Christ’s entry into the world was humble in a form of a Jewish peasant, who was born in a manger rather than a bed. The Jews were expecting a divine, military leader to lead them in a battle against the Roman army who had been oppressing them. Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit are all one in their essence and also equal in essence but not equal in authority. God made himself known through Jesus Christ, therefore, Jesus Christ became flesh and blood. To know God is to learn from the character and essence of Christ. “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.”

The numerous accounts of “I Am” found in scripture, depicts the existence of God before time and creation. All of this makes Jesus’ own use of this divine name significant as well, not only in the seven “I am” 6 statements in the Gospel of John but especially his declaration to the Pharisees that “before Abraham was, I am.” 7 In saying this, Jesus was claiming to be the same living, personal God who made covenant with Abraham, the same God who revealed himself to Moses, and the one who was now moving to deliver his people. To be known by Jesus is to be held secure by the grip of his grace. No one can snatch believers from Jesus’ hand or from the Father’s hand. Why? Because Jesus and the Father are one—they are both divine, acting with power and purpose that human forces cannot negate. This is an affirmation both of Jesus’ deity and of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. The Jews certainly took it as such, because they wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy.

In the “I am” sayings, Jesus is presented as interpreting His own significance in light of the Old Testament images. While these sayings resemble the self-revelation discourses in Hermetic literature (as in the tractate “The Thunder, Perfect Mind,” Codex 6.2), the primary background is almost certainly provided by divine speech in the Jewish Scriptures, beginning with Exodus 3:14
“I am what I am” (“I am the one who is” LXX). The Form is also common throughout Deuteronomy 1Isaiah: “I, the Lord, am first, and will be the last” (Is 41:4 NRSV); that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am” “even to your old age, I am” The gospel according to John clearly intends for the readers to hear a resonance between Jesus words and God’s revelation of God’s name in Exodus 3:14. In the episode where the “Jews” say to Jesus, “You are not fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham? Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” I am, “The way, the truth, and the life.” 9 I am, “The light of the world.” 10 The greatness of two words in “I AM” is the ultimate revelation to mankind of God’s manifestation and
characteristics through Jesus Christ. The “I AM” is the world’s hope and only gift of salvation for everyone who believes in Him, the promised Messiah.

Bibliography

Desilva, D. (2004). Introduction To The New Testament, pgs. 424-425. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Nelson, T. (2005). Vines Concise Dictionary of the Bible. WestBow Press. Edinburgh, Scotland.
Crossway. (2008). ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL.
Crossway. (2012). ESV Student Study Bible. Wheaton, IL.
Crossway. (2012). ESV Global Study Bible. Wheaton, IL.
Crossway. (2014). ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. Wheaton, IL.

Source: Genesis University

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