May 12, 2014

Yahweh: "I Am Who I Am"

Exodus 3:1-15

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: &lsquoI AM has sent me to you.’”
—Exodus 3:14


Moses’ encounter at the burning bush is a pivotal moment in the Bible. Standing on holy ground in the presence of God, Moses hears God’s deep concern about the suffering of his people in Egypt. The moment also marks the beginning of Moses’ call to lead the people of Israel. Most important, Moses learns the name by which God wants to be known and worshiped by his people—Yahweh: “I AM WHO I AM.”

Written with only the consonants YHWH, this name was the most sacred name of God to the Israelites. Because they avoided saying this holy name, its exact pronunciation has been lost. Eventually the word for “Lord” was always spoken instead of the proper name, so wherever YHWH occurs, our English Bibles today use the word “LORD” (printed with small capital letters).

God tells Moses to tell the Israelites in Egypt that Yahweh, “I AM,” has sent him. What does this name mean? Some point to God’s self-existence, not being dependent on anything else. Others highlight God’s immutability, that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

While these qualities reveal something about the name “I AM,” they overlook the context of the story. At the burning bush, Yahweh reveals his name “I AM” as a declaration: “I will be with you.” Yahweh, the covenant God, keeps his promise to never leave or forsake us.

Yahweh, we praise you for your faithfulness to all your peo-ple, including us. Help us to live faithfully for you. In Jesus, Amen.

About the author — Kurt Selles

Kurt Selles is the director of ReFrame Ministries and serves as the Executive Editor of Today. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to ReFrame, he served 19 years in Taiwan and China with CRC World Missions. Kurt later taught missions at Beeson Divinity School, where he also acted as the director of the school’s Global Center. Kurt and his wife, Vicki, reside in Grand Rapids and have three adult children.

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