I AM WHO I AM: There is No Other
July 28, 2013
It has been quite a week for the royal family across the pond. Over last weekend and into the early days of this week the question was when the royal baby would be born and whether or not it would be a boy or a girl. I don’t’ know what the big deal was. I know the baby is now third in line for the throne, but it just seemed silly to watch serious news anchors gush over the royal birth. I rolled my eyes more than once during the news coverage until I could no longer take it. Even after the prince was revealed, the world waited – or at least some did - for the revelation of his name. Why all the fuss and the waiting. We had our kids named even before they were born. Then again, neither of my kids was destined to rule a nation.
Evidently, the naming of babies is a big deal – at least in England. In a story dated April 17, 2008, Rueters wrote:
British parents spend 30 million hours a year picking the names of their newborn children, a survey showed…And choosing the right name can be crucial -- if you want your child to get on in life. The survey by Abbey Banking showed that parents agonize for up to 45 hours over the name of their child -- a combined 30 million hours annually in Britain. One in three parents believed the right name can give a child confidence while up to two million thought it could help their child's career prospects.
"There is no doubt that children's names reflect people's aspirations and parents believe names can affect career prospects," said Abbey Banking director Steve Shore.
That may be true. The wrong name can certainly get you lots of trouble. Remember the song by Johnny Cash, “A Boy Named ‘Sue’?” And what about this poor little guy?
Proverbs 22:1 tells us: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” A powerful name on your list of references can land a job for you. A letter over the right signature can get things done. The right name will open doors.
Scripture – Exodus 3:11-15
That’s what Moses was seeking when he was asked to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt.
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the 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,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
God is Self-Existent
Forty years prior to this incident, Moses had fled Egypt into the desert, scorned by his own people as a murderer and pseudo savior. Moses needed credibility so that the people would listen to him. So God gave him his name. The founding fathers of Israel had all called on the name of the Lord. But the specific name that God gives to Moses at the burning bush had never been revealed before in the biblical narrative. I AM WHO I AM reflects the very nature of God.
Virtually every child, when they become aware of the existence of God asks the question, “Where did God come from?” It’s a fair question because we all come from someone, from some place. But it is this very point that distinguishes God from his creation. He has no beginning and he has no end. The heavenly hosts, in never-ending chorus cries out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Because we ourselves are creatures, it is nearly impossible for us to conceive of One without a beginning. But if God were to have a beginning, His source would then be greater. Such an idea is inconceivable. If God had a source, he would then be subject to it and no longer sovereign and supreme. Such a god would not be the God of the Bible.
But Yahweh – the name that means I AM WHO I AM - exists within Himself and is subject to no one and no thing. Because God is self-existent he is also self-sufficient. God does not need anything or anyone. He is not, nor can he ever be, needy. Fanciful and romantic notions that suggest, “There is a place in God’s heart that only you can fill” are nonsense and have no relation to the God of the Bible. That God desires us is fantastic…and true. But it flows from his love for us, not his need for us.
Because God is self-existent, he is also unchangeable. I’ll have more to say about this in a couple of weeks. But a God who is evolving and ever changing – like the god of the Mormons – is a god of diminished glory. If God could evolve, then it would mean that he is now less than perfect – a concept completely foreign to the Scriptures. Since before time began, He was perfect in his holiness. He remains the same, today and forever.
Made in His Image
‘All well and good,” you say, “but what bearing does God’s name and his self-sufficiency have to do with me and my problems today?” Everything. By understanding your Creator, you will begin to understand yourself.
A philosopher once said, “Know then thyself, presume not God to scan: The proper study of mankind is man.” He could not have been more wrong. While the study of man and of all creation is a worthwhile endeavor, such a seeker will lie frustrated on his deathbed because he will not understand the source of his own nature.
Man stands alone atop of all creation as the only one made in the image of God. The doctrine of us being made in the image of God (Imago Dei) is foundational to both the Jewish and Christian faiths. I do not know if the earth is millions of years old. Bible believers differ in their opinion as to whether the earth was created in six twenty-four hour periods or longer days. But the biggest stumbling block to embracing the modern theory of evolution is that in so doing, we forfeit the doctrine of being made in the image of God. We cannot give that ground.
The image of God is stamped deeply in our souls and is manifested in countless ways in contrast to the animal kingdom. While there are many social animals, none have the capacity and complexity of human relationships. For example, sexuality is a necessary phenomenon throughout the natural world. Human sexuality, however, transcends mere mechanical reproduction and forges spiritual and emotional bonds reaching to the depths of our souls. “And the two shall become one” is more than a physical act.
But the realm in which God’s image is perhaps the most evident is in our capacity to make a moral choice. Unlike any other of his creation, except angels, God gave Adam and Eve the ability to choose between right and wrong.
There’s a saying, “there are no bad dogs; only bad dog-owners.” Though I hate to admit it, it is true. (Where does that put me?) My dog has no capacity to make a choice between right and wrong. The “choices” she does make are a result of her inbred instincts. If I want to change her behavior, I have to appeal to those instincts. If I don’t want her to mess on the rug, for example, I have to make it unpleasant for her to do so. If I want her to “come” when I call, I have to make it pleasant for her to do that. Usually that means bribing her with a treat. But she isn’t making a “choice” between right and wrong. She’s just responding to a stimulus to her instinct. And so it goes throughout the animal kingdom.
But we are different. We are made in the image of God and given the ability to exercise moral choice. And beginning with Adam and Eve, we’ve all made the choice to be self-sufficient apart from God. We, like Eve, have all fallen for the Devil’s lie, “You will not surely die…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” We have asserted our own selfhood against God’s eternal being.
The Kingdom of Self
The fallen nature of man has taken upon himself the holy name of God, “I am who I am.” We laugh at Popeye who slobbers, “I yam what I yam” but we all suffer from the same malady. Popular culture has exalted this self-idolatry to a place of virtue. Self-worth and self-esteem are the highest and most valued of personal qualities in our land. Professional athletes and performers leverage self-worship into a profitable business practice. We don’t even notice that the worship of ourselves is our own undoing.
Tozer offers this insightful description of the essence of our deadly problem:
Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, “I AM.” (Knowledge of the Holy, p. 29-30)
The Gospel’s Demand
When the Gospel begins to resonate in the heart of a man or a woman, their little self-centered universe is deeply shaken. God is God and we are not. The Good News releases us from the burden of propping up our pitiful little kingdoms and abdicating to the Lord of All. It is at that point – when we surrender our lives and trust the great I AM for everything – we finally discover our destiny as glorious creatures made in the image of God.
In what universe do you exist today? Are you the sovereign of your own little world, making all the choices and bearing all the responsibility for your destiny? Are you finding real peace and fulfillment in that? You never will until you give up control of your life to the One who made you. Jesus said, “Come unto me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). It is when you allow God to be God that you will finally discover the fullness of life that you are searching for.
Removing ourselves from the throne of our universe and coming under God’s rule is a life-altering decision. But it is also a behavior – counter to our selfish instincts – that must be learned and implemented over and over. Israel struggled to learn that God was indeed God – and that he controlled their destiny and would take care of them. They wandered for forty years in the desert trying to learn submission and obedience. For four hundred years they had lived under the yoke of slavery in Egypt. While they certainly had some sense of God’s covenant with their fathers, they did not know him as I AM WHO I AM. Through a forty-year long process, they had to learn trust and obedience. When they needed water in the desert, they panicked and whined about going back to Egypt. When they grew tired of the bread God was miraculously providing, they grumbled. So God gave them so much meat that they got sick. When they blatantly disobeyed, God disciplined them – sometimes severely.
Are we so different? We run short of money, so we panic and whine. Has God ever failed to provide for you? When something doesn’t go the way we think it should, we get impatient and take matters into our own hands, making it even worse. When we really want something we connive and push good judgment aside to get what we’re after.
We get back up on our puny little throne and stake out our universe. And we’re miserable.
A lot of you live in that unhappy state. But you’re just stubborn enough to stay there and maintain sovereignty in your own little world. There is only room for one sovereign in your life. It’s either you…or God. This morning, God is ready to reassume lordship, if you will let him. Why will hang on to your anger, bitterness, and misery? Let it go. Step off the throne and let God be God.
Most of us don’t really have it that bad. Most of us don’t wrestle with questions that shatter our world. Some of you do. Many people of faith have experienced devastating disaster in their lives. In the depths of despair and deep questioning, they found peace in letting God be God. The spouses of martyred missionaries to the Auca Indians of South America experienced that. The film, “The End of the Spear” tells the story of the aftermath of the murder of five men who were attempting to reach a remote tribe of Indians in Ecuador in 1956. The little film clip that I want to show here features the tribe fifty years later after they have responded to the Gospel. The singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, also experienced horrendous tragedy when their teenage son backed the car over his five-year old daughter and killed her. The song he sings is no mere performance. It is his life experience that we can learn from as well.
Song of Response – “You Are God Alone”
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.