“Hi, what’s your name?” You meet someone for the first time and the first thing you ask or are told is their name. The expression “we’re on a first-name basis” has some truth in it. And then there’s nicknames, where a lot of times they can be endearing or fun and kind of a cue how close you are with that person. My best friend's name is Kimberly. She usually goes by “Kim” and a few of us close friends get to affectionately call her “Kimmy”. You see where I’m going with this right? There’s some level of legitimacy in your relationship when you know someone’s name.
I had a professor in my first year psychology class that made a goal to learn everyone’s names. There was about 250 people in just one of his classes. After each student would complete their multiple-choice, scantron exam he would say “goodbye Johnny [insert name]” to each one of us. I’m not sure if he was conducting research on this or something but it did prevent me from falling asleep in his class after realizing he could call me out by name in front of the whole auditorium.
Most everyone or everything is given a name, except for the Giver, the Creator Himself. This is how He describes Himself, how he functions and how He wants to be known, and even how He will be known in the future. I’ve found knowing the names of God has helped me connect with Him more intimately. When I was in a pivotal point in my faith journey, I decided to check into the names of God. I was thinking - if I’m really going to know God, I should know His names. It helped teach me how to relate to God, pray and have faith in His character.
In our culture, a name sets someone apart. In the first part of the Bible, God is mostly interacting with Hebrew people and in this culture a name has great significance to the destiny and character of that person.
In Exodus we read about Moses, a Hebrew by ethnicity, raised Egyptian. When Moses meets God for the first time, God introduces Himself as “I AM who I AM”. At this point it’s been about 430 years since the Hebrews have had revelation from God. So God has been seemingly “quiet” for a long time!
I know I have times where God seems more present and active in my life than other times. Can anyone else relate to not feeling the presence of God for a while? We first meet God as the I AM in the Sinai wilderness where God literally calls out to Moses. Let me set the scene...
Moses is in a mountainous region and walks by a burning bush. Now hold on… let me geek-out here and surprise you with this fact: apparently thorn bushes can and still do spontaneously burst into flames in the Sinai region so initially the thing that may have been the most alarming to Moses wasn’t that the bush was on fire but that it was not being burned up! Let’s dive in right here - I think we all have times when the heat-is-on. You know when things are tough, or it feels like you may be burned up, parched. But from this place, God reveals Himself, His character, His attention and care for His people and His rescue plan for His beloveds. If we know and have faith in the I AM God, He will preserve us, we will be just like the bush, on fire but not scorched.
So right back in Sinai. God speaks to Moses from this burning, not burning up bush, and tells Moses He has come down to deliver His people who are in bondage. And that God is sending him to lobby for freedom for His people. Moses responds to God: “"Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?" A fair question from Moses but God promises His presence! In response to Moses, God introduces and declares Himself as I AM who I AM. At times we may relate to Moses here, when we are responding to a nudge from God, His conviction, or prompting it’s easy to think “Yeah, but God who am I to do that, go there, say that, give grace there…” I love how the name God answers Moses' question and redeems the self-focused question. God flips the question on it’s head. Moses asks "Who am I?” but God is I AM and He is with Moses and He is more than sufficient.
This God is truly Holy, Mighty, and I AM is concerned with His people and enters into our world despite His magnificence that He is with us. This name signifies authority. He is not just a being but a God who acts powerfully. "To the Hebrew 'to be' does not just mean to exist as all other beings and things do as well—but to be active, to express oneself in active being…” Our God is actively working, involved in our lives, and will always be exerting His plans and authority. He is and was, and is to come, always. The repetition of I AM conveys God’s ongoing continuity. I AM cannot be changed or altered. God’s name, I AM who I AM, reminds me that I believe He is active and powerful even if I don’t see this displayed right now in my life the way I’m wanting to or expecting to.
In light of our I AM God, I will think of myself connected to the One who is present and powerful, whose being is so grand it cannot easily be grappled with and comprehended. I have a feeling I AM wants to meet with you today, you may feel like you’re walking through the wilderness but I know God wants to convey His concern for you and show that He is present with you. Our being is wrapped up in His being and His being with us, who He is will be sufficient for all our needs and bring us victory over anything weighing us down.