Who of you is a night owl? A choc-o-holic? A shoe girl? Who’s a worrier? Flamboyant?Easy-going? I can almost see some of you waving your hand and calling out “I am.”
The shortest phrase in the English language.
It only has 3 letters – I – A – M. Yet it carries great meaning. It shows existence. It allows us to define who we are and what we’re feeling. And Yahweh, the Almighty God, claims it as His name.
We relate people’s characteristics to their name. Maybe you have a name that you adore because you loved a person who had that name, and their characteristics will forever be attached to that name for you. Or just the opposite, maybe you swore you’d never name your son a certain name because a guy with that name was a jerk to you.
In the Bible we frequently see this concept of a name representing a person’s character. The names of the people exhibited their nature. Think about it Jacob – the deceiver, Jabez – pain, and Abraham – father of many. And while we may not name a daughter Rahab, we look upon that name kindly because she helped the Israelites, stood up for her family, and was in the lineage of Jesus.
In Exodus 3:13-14 God reveals His name to Moses as “hayah,” a Hebrew word which literally means “I AM” or “to be” or “the self-existent One” From this Hebrew word we get God’s Old Testament name, Yahweh. The letters “YHWH” with no vowels. This is referred to as the Tetragrammaton (tetra meaning “four” and gramma meaning “letter”. Simply – “the four letters.” The Jews wrote God’s name this way because they considered it too holy to be uttered or to be written out entirely. This Tetragrammaton for God’s name is what is translated in scripture as Yahweh or Jehovah, and is written in our current translations as “LORD.”
This is NOT a name people chose to call God. This is THE NAME Father God called Himself. Father God could have revealed Himself to us in any way He chose and could have given Himself any name He wished. Therefore it is significant that He chose to tell us His name was I AM.
He was showing His eternality by stating His name as “I am” – the self-existent One. He is always I AM. He is not here today and gone tomorrow. He is not “I was, but am no more.” And He’s not “I will be, but not right now.” Every moment is now to Him. He is the creator of time, so He is outside of time. “He is” in every moment. That’s why He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) God is dependable.
Why would He choose this for His name?! If I were Him I would have named myself “Creator of All” or “ Mighty King” or “ Ruler of the Universe.” I would be saying “look what I’ve done!” But He was interested in revealing His character NOT His actions. Here in Exodus 3, He is making Himself known to us by who/what He IS rather than what He DOES. He is defining Himself for us with a “being verb” not an “action verb.” Now I’m a teacher. And I love English. So I really get into this. Action verbs show action. Duh? Words like run, play, create, read, serve, pray, witness… Whereas “being” verbs are words that relate what something is. There are 8 of them: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. And by using this kind of verb He is identifying Himself as He hopes we will identify ourselves. By who we are more than by what we do. That’s what He wants from us. He wants us to “be” His, to “be”-come more like Him internally.
So… How about us? Do we define ourselves by what we do or by who we are? Are we evaluating our Christian walk using action verbs or being verbs?
We all know that there is action/work/doing necessary in the Christian walk. We are told in James 1:22 – “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” In other words, if we go to church to hear all great sermons, but we don’t start applying the lessons to how we live our life, we are deceiving ourselves. Our Christian faith involves action: ministry, serving, self-control. When we truly follow Christ we will be doing things. We will be busy. Our time is not our own, it is His and we must consult Him with how we use it.
The “Be”-ing should come before the “Do”-ing. Look at James 1:22 again. It says we are to “BE doers of the word.” Many of us sacrifice time alone being with the Lord in a quiet time and becoming who He wants us to become in order to do, do, do. We read this verse and believe God wants us to “be a doer.” We teach, take meals, sing, act, study, perform,… all the while being stagnant in spiritual growth.
But now read James 1:22 and let the Lord stop us on the first word. “Be…” Be. Period. Realize, the “Be” comes before the ”do” in that sentence. To me this verse, that is a command for us, insinuates that I have first sat and heard or “been” with the Father. And then I become a doer. It presents to us a 1st thing (hearing and being) and a 2nd thing (doing). That was His plan for us. We are “to be” before we are “to do.”
From the first time God tells us His name in the OT, He introduces Himself by what His nature IS, and NOT by what He has done or can do. Now all through scripture we see God called by names that emphasize what He does, but here in Exodus 3:14 God simply called Himself “I AM.”
While the Christina life involves both being and doing, I encourage you to let the Great I AM release you from doing and draw you to just BE. Be immersed in His Word and prayer. Be with Him. Be holy. Be ready. Be yourself. Be all He made you to be. Be all that you can be. Be like Him, then the doing will come.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only – James 1:22