I AM, THAT I AM
Text: Ex 3:14 “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.”
Jesus said, Joh 8:56 “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw [it], and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
“Verily, verily.” This double expression is used only in John’s Gospel. It is a strong affirmation denoting particularly the great importance of what was about to be affirmed. Before Abraham was. Before Abraham lived. “I AM.”
In the context, the expression I am, present tense, is clearly intended to refer to a time in the distant past. Example Ps 90:2, "From everlasting to everlasting thou art God." Applied to God, it denotes continued existence without respect to time as we count it, as the past, the present, the future. God does not measure his existence in this manner. The word we use to express the present tense, I am, denotes God’s unchanging existence. He takes it as his name, "I AM," and "I AM THAT I AM."
Divinity has no past tense, no future tense, but always the present. "I was" would simply have expressed precedence, but "I am" marks timeless existence. It draws the contrast between the created and the uncreated, the temporal and the eternal. Jesus asserted his divinity and eternal existence, as the great I AM.
There is a similarity between the expression utilized by Jesus and that used in Exodus to denote the name of
God. The text question was about his pre-existence. The objection of the Jews was that he was not yet fifty years old, and could not, therefore, have seen Abraham. Jesus replied to that, that he
existed before Abraham. The passage proves that, while Jesus was a man, he also lived in another form which existed before Abraham, and to which he applied the term, “I AM.” Because Jews understood
this to be God terminology.
In his human nature Jesus could not, as a man, have existed before Abraham. This declaration necessarily referred to His pre-existence as “the Word of God” which was before His virgin birth, John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” This declaration corresponds to the affirmation of this chapter of John’s gospel, that Jesus was in the beginning with God, and was God. This affirmation is the evidence upon which John relies to prove Jesus was the Messiah, Joh 20:31 “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
The words rendered "was" and "I am" are quite different. The one clause means, "Abraham was brought into being"; the other, "I exist." The statement is not that Christ came into existence before Abraham did, but that He never came into being at all, He had no beginning, but He existed before Abraham had a being; in other words, He existed eternally, He is the eternal “I AM.” (Joh 1:1). Jews plainly understood such a meaning because “then took they up stones to cast at Him," just as they had done before when they saw that He made Himself equal with God (Joh 5:18).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO US FOR JESUS TO BE THE GREAT “I AM?”
1. It places Him within the realm of the eternities. He is at the helm. Col 1:17 “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (stand).” It makes Him God. It elevates Him above all that in this world is called god. He is the Ancient of days, it places Him before anything was, it ascribes to Him the authorship of events like the creation of the universe, and especially of all life forms. The building blocks of life are so complicated and fragile that life could not have come into being spontaneously without intelligence. All of it indicates the necessity of intelligent design. The “I AM” was there to do it.
It means that He Is, and therefore all terminology of past, present or future relates only to the things which had a beginning, that is all of His created things. All of which was made out of nothing!! Heb 11:3 "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
Evolution theory starts with something which over time changes into something else. Creation truth starts with NOTHING which becomes SOMETHING instantaneously! God spoke and the universe appeared.
Re 22:13 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” The Alpha, the first letter of the Greek alphabet, Omega, the last letter, are used in Bible to express the eternity of God and His completeness, his all encompassing dominion. He was at its beginning and he’ll be there at the end of this age. We see him at the first creation and we see him at the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. We see Him instituting life in the beginning, and we see him ending life as we know it in the judgment of sinners.
Some say, “I’m not sure that I really believe the Biblical account of creation. I’m more of a big bang proponent myself.” Wow, they must have a tremendous amount of faith, to believe that everything just kind of happened, five Gazillion years ago. Kind of mind boggling isn’t it, when they talk in billions of years.
Wow! Think I’ll stick with Genesis 1:1, even Voltaire the Atheist said “The world embarrasses me, and I cannot dream that this watch exists and has no watchmaker.” Listen, that watchmaker is God, who is the Alpha and Omega the first and the last, the beginning an the end, Jesus the life giving Savior.
It was Sir Isaac Newton, the Scientist, remember the apple and gravity and the whole story, who said “This most beautiful system [The Universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
So not only does our world have a beginning, it has a beginning in God, in Jesus. And just as he was responsible for the beginning of our world, he will be responsible for its end.
It was French Scientist Pierre Bercelt, who said “Within a hundred years of physical and chemical science man will know what the atom is, and it is my belief that when science reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with his big ring of keys and say, ‘Gentleman it is closing time’”.
Just as God brought about the beginning of this world, he will bring about the end of this world. When the time has come, and the last battle has been fought and won, or fought and lost, depending on what side we are on, then this planet, this world, this earth will experience eternal judgment.
On an old Cosby show, Cliff Huxtable, the dad, looked at his son Theo and said “I brought you into this world and I can take you out and make another one just like you.”
It means that as the “I Am” he has absolute control of the events of history. History is more than the story of man, it is the story of how God relates with man who is his highest creation. God said of his creation that it was good. After sin entered things became a rescue effort that detailed in type, shadow and reality a redemptive way out of that moral decline which plunged the whole human race into depravity and destruction.
The almighty, I AM, assumed responsibility for the life He had created and he initiated a program of reclamation which would involve Him in the sacrifice of His only begotten Son which would restore peace between Himself and man. The world which was lost would be reconciled to Him by the blood of the cross of Jesus Christ. The I AM would be just and the justifier of a fallen race. The I AM interceded into human events and a miracle of grace occurred, Ps 85:10 “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other].” The result? WE ARE REDEEMED. By the blood of His cross.
2. It makes Him the source of our being.
Why are we here? If we are here by accident of evolutions survival of the fittest, the question still must be answered. Why was I born? If there was a reason for which I was born or an end to which I was destined, that implies the hand of an intelligence designer.
If I only evolved with no particular purpose in view besides the survival of the human species, I find no comfort in that alone! It makes me no different from the next person and so we all came from nowhere and that’s where we are all headed back. If there was no intelligence in our coming to life, then there will be no comfort when we leave it.
It is because of the I AM that we are here and the purpose for that is for us to glorify and to have fellowship with HIM.
3. It defines our finiteness as it magnifies His infinitude.
To properly relate to who He is, we must acknowledge what we are born as, depraved sinners, contrary and rebellious self-willed ingrates. The Psalmist David succinctly puts it, Ps 22:6 “But I [am] a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” This has both a reference to David and to Christ. Song: Alas and did my savior bleed and did my sovereign die, would he desert that sacred throne for such a worm as I? At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light and the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight and now I am happy all the day.” That’s the original version, modern hymn tinkerers took out the word worm and substituted “sinners.”
“But I am a worm, and no man.” This verse is a miracle in language. How could the Lord of glory be brought to such abasement as to be not only lower than the angels, which the Bible says he was made in order to die for us, but even lower than men. What a contrast between "I AM" and "I am a worm"!
Such a double nature was found in the person of our Lord Jesus when bleeding upon the tree. He likened himself to a helpless, powerless, down trodden worm, passive while crushed, and unnoticed and despised by those who trod upon him.
He selects a weakest of creatures, which is all flesh; and becomes, when trodden upon, writhing, quivering flesh, utterly devoid of any strength except to suffer. This was a true likeness of himself when his body and soul had become a mass of misery -- the very essence of agony -- in the dying pangs of crucifixion. It was the most degrading excruciating painful method of punishment of that day. Today the ACLU would call it cruel and unusual punishment. They’d be right!
Man by nature is but a worm; but our Lord puts himself even beneath man, on account of the scorn that was heaped upon him and the weakness which he felt, and therefore he adds, "and no man."
While deserted by God he could not obtain the privileges and blessings which belonged to the Jews, and common acts of humanity were denied him, he was rejected of men; he was outlawed from the society of earth, and shut out from the smile of heaven. The Savior utterly emptied himself of all glory, and become of no characteristic to his true divinity, all for our sakes! Divinity that cannot die, died in a body of flesh, nevertheless lived again.
4. It makes Him the reason for us to have faith. To whom may we turn other than to Him? Should we turn to science with its multitude of questions still unanswered? Shall we turn to the fossils which pose more questions than they answer? Shall we turn to the world religions? NO! Jesus wants to be our only alternative. Our only recourse. Our only resource. Our only hope.
On the occasion when many of his disciples deserted Jesus and “walked no more with Him,” he then asked the
12 this question, “will ye also go away?” In, John 6:68 “...Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
5. It makes Him the final word in any controversy. God said it, that settles it whether I believe it or not. Ps 119:89 “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” This means it is true, complete, concrete, ever the same unchanging, dependable, not debatable, not negotiable, not arbitrary, or intangible. God’s truths which are meant to be known, can be known with sincere search. I hope you have a copy of it in your hands today. As for other mysterious things, it is His prerogative to keep them secret unto Himself.
6. It makes Him the answer to our most difficult questions.
How did we get here? Why are we here? Why is there suffering? Why death? Wars? What is the meaning of life? Do you suppose the purpose of ones life is restricted to “following the good life” according to the requisites of civilization, and to “gratifying the physical appetites?” And do you suppose the sole aim of our being is to satisfy our sensitive faculties, members, feelings and senses, the low fleshly desires of our fallen nature in this brief life? The humanistic view says yes.
The bible answers both questions, why we are here and what is life’s meaning. Col 1:16 “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” and, Re 4:11 “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
We are here because God created the first human life and told them to multiply. They did. We do. We learn by studying the Scriptures that from the very beginning of human existence it was God’s will that we live life pleasing to Him.
It still is. The CHIEF END OF MAN IS TO GLORIFY GOD.
Col 1:10 “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;” 1Th 4:1 “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort [you] by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, [so] ye would abound more and more.”
All many people think about is how to please themselves. Life is all about them and what they want. As Christians the emphasis gets changed, Ro 15:1 “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Things ought to be in this priority: Jesus first, others second, self last. Hard to do, right?
7. It makes Him our always present helper in need. Heb 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Our needs are many and both spiritual and physical.
The wisest man ever to walk this earth said, Mt 4:4 “.....It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
People seem to concentrate their thinking around the many physical comfort needs that we expect out of life. Such things are not a given. And these are not what brings real peace of mind and satisfaction to our homes. Most all of us are guilty of amassing all the stuff we can over the course of our lifetime. Sometimes misfortune deprives us of it. Some are born into wealth; others acquire it. Some are born into poverty and never make it out of it. But I suspect that wealth has been the ruination of more people & families than has poverty.
Jesus said that He came to give us a more abundant life as Christians. But, He didn’t mean a life full of satisfying stuff. The secret to enjoying life then is not centered in the abundance or the lack of stuff. Lu 12:15 “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
One can be miserable or happy whether poor or rich. Someone said if he had to be unhappy, he’d rather be unhappy rich, than unhappy poor.
Happiness is mostly a state of mind. Most of us are about as happy as we make up our minds to be. To use the words of, Pr 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so [is] he:...” A motivational speaker used to tell his audience, “we become what we think about.” If that is possible, and I believe it can be in many instances, we must fill our minds with positive good things. The great “I AM” knows what is in our hearts. Others may not have any idea what’s there. I suppose every evil deed done first originates in the heart. Even sinful acts of impulse come from a split second response of the heart. Mr 7:21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,”
In Mt 9:4 “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” They thought Jesus was speaking blasphemy when He told a man sick with palsy, “thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Paul said, Ac 26:2 “I think myself happy, king Agrippa,...:” Paul was not in a state of happiness due to successful physical or material circumstances. He was a prisoner charged with the crime of preaching the gospel, in route to Rome for trial. This was not the first or last time he would display happiness amid dire circumstances. He was happy in spite of what was, because he found it in Jesus. He preached this message, “Rejoice in the Lord alway (mns. at all times),...”
God satisfies us by enabling us to be content. Heb 13:5 “[Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Without a capacity for contentment, there is NOTHING WHICH CAN SATISFY US.
Some become like the little child to whom everything thing is offered, but none of which makes him content or happy.
1 Ti 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into [this] world, [and it is] certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”
The great “I AM,” knows what we need in all matters, spiritual, physical or material. All blessing flow from the great “I AM.” If we need something, we are told to ask. The epistle of James tells us that we have not because we ask not, or else it is because we ask amiss.”
Jesus promises good things if we ask for them. Mt 7:11 “If ye then, being evil, (mns in ones influence to others) know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
HOW DOES ONE RESPOND TO QUESTIONING BY GOD?
Isa 6: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I "Here am I; send me!" WHAT DO WE SAY TO THE GREAT 'I AM' when He calls upon us to be sent or to go for Him?
What do you say to God? I know, it depends on how big our understanding of God may be! He is more than our childhood understanding of God as in the simple prayer, "Now I lay be down to sleep," which is perfectly appropriate for a two or three-year old. Look how BIG He is! As we come to grasp the greatness of God, as we come to grasp that this Sovereign of the Universe wants to speak to us, what is our appropriate response? What do we say to God?
I. THE PROPER THING TO SAY TO GOD IS: "PRESENT!"
We should reply as Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.” When God speaks to us, believe it or not, it is always because there is an exciting, wonderful, life-changing prospect ahead for us. God doesn't deal in trivialities! God deals in LOVE!
We are always trying to bring God into our reality, and into our standard of values. If talking with God doesn't make us richer, or doesn't seem to be amusing, or seems as though it might cost us comfort (deferred gratification) then it is hard for us to see what a high honor and privilege it is to be addressed by the great I AM!
The real story of the Bible is the life-history of men and women who said: "Here I am!" when the Great I AM called their names: People like: Abraham (Covenant of faith), Moses (Shaper of the Nation of the People of God) Isaiah (Messiah's fore-teller; Mary ("Behold, the handmaiden of the Lord!"). But GOD DOES HAVE TO CALL US FIRST! And when He does! a proper response is: "Here, Lord! I'm HERE!" But just how simple is it to report "Present" to God?
II. INITIALLY, IT MAY BE JUST AS SIMPLE AS THAT!
If we can be open and simple with God, God can be direct, even confrontational, forgiving and cleansing with us! Can you remember when God spoke to YOU? And you said, "Here am I”?
III. BUT TO CONTINUE TO SAY "PRESENT" TO GOD WE HAVE TO LEARN TO SAY "ABSENT" OR “NO” TO OTHER THINGS!
We have to learn to say no to bad things like sin and guilt and anxiety.
1. Like SIN. Going against God's will. God gently leads us.
2. Like GUILT. God doesn't expect perfection of performance from any of us. But He can and does expect our best, and our honest love! Openness. Confession.
3. Like anxiety. I'm working on WORRY!
And, believe it or not, we have to learn to say no to "Good" things like somebody else's expectations that overload and sink our little boats. There is a tremendous power in expectations. We tend to fulfill the prophecies of those whom we allow to influence us! It is hard to over estimate the power of positive and loving expectations within a loving community! [And the opposite is sadly true, too!]
WE NEVER SAY "NO" TO GOD!
But we sometimes need to distinguish between GOD and God's people and God's various organizations. We have to be alert to the claims of competing values: we want to be liked, loved, and appreciated. It helps to have a personal "Mission statement." DO YOU? What is your main mission in life?
1) We need to say "yes" to the tasks of the church that we can do, and that God approves of. To say "no" to church tasks when we are simply loaded down with selfish agenda is to deny the great I AM. But God is a reasonable Boss if we want to use that title. [Certainly He is our Master; and this is His church-- so He is the Boss!] No one should be so busy that he cannot stop and listen to the great I AM when He speaks! So, we need to say "No" to that which complicates and ruins our lives!!
2) This is not to say that we do not bear one another's burdens. That is not a matter of "expectations."
Conc: HOW DO WE TALK TO THE GREAT "I AM" ?? I said just a moment ago: 'It is hard to over estimate the power of positive and loving expectations within a church community!' What a power it is to know that people love us, and think we're the greatest! People care about what we do, what we choose! But if that is true about PEOPLE, how greatly true it is about GOD! THE GREATEST POWER THAT CAN BE RELEASED IN OUR LIVES IS GRASPING THE GREAT EXPECTATIONS THAT GOD HAS FOR EACH OF US!! GOD MADE US AND HE KNOWS WHAT WE CAN BECOME!
Isaiah, already well on his way to being a good, even great servant of God-- but not aware of JUST HOW GREAT! God reveals Himself to Isaiah! Isaiah says: HERE AM I! PRESENT! Say "YES" to Jesus. Can we build a church with people who belong to the “party of, no, not me.”? If they say, "YES!" then we surely can and will!
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Revelation 11:17 "Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned."
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