THE GREAT I AM

 

The Egyptian government was so deep into the oppression of the Israelites when Moses was born that midwives had been commanded to kill the male children at birth. Moses was saved from that fate by the compassion of a succession of women. His mother had waterproofed a basket, placed the three-month-old child in it and put it into the water in the hopes that God somehow would save the baby.

God did. He had big plans for Moses, and for the fulfillment of them, Moses needed to remain alive. Pharaoh’s daughter came upon the basket and, having compassion on the baby within, adopted him.

For the first forty years of his life, Moses was a member of Pharaoh’s household, enjoying the same privileges and education as a native Egyptian. But he knew that he was an Israelite, and when he saw an Egyptian overseer abusing a slave, he killed him. Rather than appreciating Moses’ intervention on their behalf, they accused him of murder. Pharaoh himself got wind of what Moses had done, and sought to slay him as well. Moses fled Egypt, and for the next forty years of his life led a pastoral existence in the land of Midian, east of the Red Sea. There he married and had a son.

As the second forty years of his life drew to a close, God appeared to him from within a bush that burned without wasting away. Declaring His compassion on the Israelites for the suffering they were experiencing under the harsh hands of the Egyptians, God informed Moses that He had chosen him for the task of delivering his nation from slavery in Egypt and of bringing them into the land that He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Being alarmed at the magnitude of this task, Moses questioned whether his people would buy into this plan. He no doubt remembered how he already had been rejected by his people when he had tried to help them, and now God was asking him to do it again, but this time on a vastly larger scale of intervention. As related in Exodus 3:13, Moses peppered God with a series of questions:

“And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say to them?”

In response, God gave him His name, an enigmatic one indeed:

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you; this is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.”

For the next forty years Moses, having received abundantly of the indwelling Holy Spirit, struggled to fulfill God’s plan for him and His people Israel, the entire journey representing every Christian’s path through Jesus Christ from sin to salvation.

At first glance, this name that God gave Himself seems to emphasize His majesty and power, as if to challenge the right of mere man to question His authority.

Perhaps that is what God intended to convey, but Jesus, when He came in the flesh, took that name for Himself and embellished upon to give it a far different meaning.

That Jesus referred to Himself as the great I AM, and that the Father honored His assertion, is documented in John 8:56-58 and 18:3-6

“Then said the Jews to him, You art not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

“Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus, therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said to them, Who are you looking for? They answered him, Jesus, of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am he. And Judas also, who betrayed him, stood with them. As soon, then, as he had said to them, I am, they went backward, and fell to the ground.”

As for Jesus’ own interpretation of what this name meant, His descriptions are given in John 6:35, 8:12, 10:7 and 11, 11:25, and 14:6:

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst.”

“Then spoke Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.”

“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me.”

These beautiful self-descriptions depict our God as loving and compassionate, much to our good fortune.

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