Leslie Basham: What does God’s name “I Am” mean for your everyday life? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Whatever you need, whatever you lack, He is that for you and to you.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 24.
Nancy’s continuing in the series “The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus.”
Nancy: One of the things I love about these names of Jesus as I’ve been studying for this series on “The Wonder of His Name” is how many of these names connect the Old Testament and the New Testament together, which is of course how we should read God’s Word. It’s one great big whole. But many of these names demonstrate the deity of Christ—that He is God. And as Jesus is unfolded in the New Testament, we see that He is the same as the God of the Old Testament.
This week I want us to look at a set of names for Jesus that are highlighted in the Gospel of John. But to understand those names, and before we go to the gospel of John, I want us to go back to the book of Exodus where we see God first revealing His covenant name.
So if you’ve got your Bible with you, I encourage you to turn to Exodus chapter 3. I know as you listen to Revive Our Hearts, sometimes you’re in a place where you can stop and take notes and open your Bible, and sometimes you’re not. But if you can, let me just encourage you to be following along in your Bible because that’s how you’ll get the most out of these sessions.
Exodus chapter 3, and I’m beginning in verse 10. God says to Moses:
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God said, “I will be with you.” (vv. 10–12).
So Moses says, “Who am I?”
And God says, “It doesn’t so much matter who you are. What matters is who I am. I will be with you.” Well, then Moses asks the obvious question, “Well, who are you?” Verse 13:
Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, [really, really important verse here] “I AM WHO I AM.” [Moses asked, “What is your name?” And here is his response, “I AM WHO I AM.”]
And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (vv. 13–15).
Now we could do a whole series just on this paragraph. We’re going to take just one day on this “I AM” name, but we’ve got to do a little bit of digging here. So are you ready for some work, some study, a little bit of language study here?
In verse 15 we have this revelation of God’s name the LORD. That name in verse 15 is based on a verb that is found in verse 14. In the Hebrew language, the verb is the word “I AM” which means “to be, or to exist.”
YHWV is the Hebrew word. It’s a verb. It means, “to be, to exist.” And so the name the “LORD” is derived from that verb in the Hebrew and the “LORD” means “the existing one,” the One who is. It’s the most important name for God in the Bible. It’s found almost 7000 times in Old Testament. The LORD.
In fact, in the Hebrew this name is called the tetragrammaton by the Jews. You may not be familiar with that term, but it’s a word that just means “four letters.” Tetra—four, gramma—letters. Four letters, the tetragrammaton. It’s the four Hebrew consonants YHWH.
We don’t actually know how it’s pronounced. It’s sometimes pronounced Yahweh or Yehovah or Jehovah as we add vowels to those four consonants. This name is so revered by the Jews that they were not allowed to write it or to say it out loud. And most of our English translations, probably the one that you are holding on your lap render this name, YHWH, this tetragrammaton, they do it LORD with all caps. Is that how it is in your Bible?
This name LORD or Jehovah is the personal proper name of God. And this reminds us that I AM Jehovah God is a person. He’s not a figment of our imagination. He’s not a cosmic force. He’s a personal God who reveals Himself and makes Himself known. And aren’t you glad that He has made Himself known to mankind?
Now, there’s some things that we know about God because of this name, the I AM, the existing one. First of all we realize that:
- He is self-existent.
- He is self-reliant.
- He is self-sufficient.
- He is the uncreated Creator.
- He is the sustainer of all that exists.
- He exists by Himself and for Himself.
- He is utterly independent.
- He is not dependent on anything or anyone else.
He is self-existent. The I AM, the one who is. And that says to us that first of all there is a God. He is. And if there is a God, and there is, then He matters supremely. This God matters.
John Piper has said it this way. He says that
It is a cosmic outrage billions of times over that God is ignored, treated as negligible, questioned, criticized, treated as virtually nothing, and given less thought than the carpet in people’s houses.
If there is a God, and there is, then He matters. He is the self-existent One. And because He is self-existing and self-sufficient, that means for us that He is all-sufficient to meet our needs.
The I AM God, the One who exists who is everything in Himself, one package that has everything that is ever needed, that means whatever we need, whatever we lack, He is. He is the I AM God which means fill in the blank. Whatever you need, whatever you lack, He is that for you and to you. The I AM God who is all-sufficient for us. And we’ll see that as we get into these “I AM” names of Jesus.
Now, not only is the LORD, Jehovah, self-existent, He is also unchanging and unchangeable. The theological term for that is He is immutable. He says, “I the LORD [Yahweh, Jehovah] do not change” (Mal.3:6).
God is never altered by circumstances outside of Himself. Now, are you that way? No way. We are very altered by circumstances outside of us. Cold, rainy days we get down and gloomy days here in West Michigan, we can get a little blue. But God never gets blue. He never gets discouraged. He never gets altered by circumstances outside of Himself.
He never has something arise He didn’t think of or that He didn’t plan for. He never gets caught off guard. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament.
That’s so unlike us as creatures. We are continually becoming, constantly changing. I didn’t have this gray hair twenty-five years ago. We are changing. But God never changes. That’s why He’s often called “the Rock” in Scripture. He’s immutable. He’s a faithful, constant God. He keeps His promises. He can be trusted. You can depend on Him. He is the covenant-keeping I AM God. He’s unchanging.
And then number three, He’s eternal. He has no beginning, no ending. He always was. He always will be. “I AM WHO I AM” that Hebrew phrase includes the past tense of being or existing, the present tense, and the future tense of that verb “to be.” He is the eternal I AM.
We read in Revelation chapter 1, verse 4 about “him who is and who was and who is to come.” The eternal I AM. He says, “What I am today is what I always have been and what I always will be.” And this personal, self-sufficient, unchanging, eternal God, Yahweh, Jehovah, the I AM, made Himself known to Moses and to His people, and He promised to be with them.
In fact, flip over just a few pages to Exodus chapter 6. Exodus 6 all background to the I AM names of Jesus. Exodus 6, verse 6, “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the LORD'" Yahweh/Jehovah. Now, based on who He is, God makes seven promises to His people in this paragraph. “I am the Lord . . . I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment.”
Yahweh‚ the great I AM says, “I am a saving God.” He promises to rescue His people, to deliver them, to redeem them from bondage. He promises to bring salvation to His people as He delivers them through the Passover and through the Red Sea. But He also promises to bring judgment to those who oppose Him as He does to the Egyptians in the exodus.
And then in verse 7 He says: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
Here God makes a promise that He will take these Jews to be His own people; that He will bring them into relationship with Himself. He’s saying, “You don’t belong to Pharaoh; you are My people. You belong to Me—the great I AM.”
And then He says in verse 8: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession.” He promises to bring His people into a land that He has prepared for them that He has set aside for them. And He says that He will overcome their enemies, and He will give them an inheritance.
And then He says, “I am the LORD.” He starts this paragraph this way. He says it in the middle. He says it at the end. All of what God does in His saving power, in His redeeming power flows out of the fact that He is the great I AM. I AM the LORD, Jehovah, Yahweh.
Now, when Jesus came to this earth, thousands of years later, He astonished people by claiming to be the great I AM, Jehovah. The same God who revealed Himself to Moses in the wilderness and to the Israelites in Egypt, the same God who delivered His people from captivity in Egypt was still alive. He was still at work in human history, still redeeming His people.
We see this connection between Yahweh, I AM from the Old Testament and Jesus as He comes onto the scene of human history in the New Testament. We see the connection between the two most clearly in Gospel of John. So let me ask you now to turn there to the Gospel of John.
Twenty-four times in that gospel, Jesus says “I AM.” And seven of those statements are connected to a metaphor or an analogy. I AM the Bread of Life; I AM the Light of the world; I AM the Door; I AM the Good Shepherd; I AM the Resurrection and the Life; I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life; I AM the true Vine.
We’re going to take a look at several of those “I AM” names of Jesus over the next several days. But there are a number of instances in the Gospel of John where Jesus identifies Himself simply as I AM. And it’s often translated in our English Bibles “I am He” or “It is I.” But that pronoun “I” or “He” is not actually found in Greek text. What Jesus is saying in those instances is: “I AM. I am the great I AM.”
Let me show you a few illustrations. And you may not want to flip to all of these, but in chapter 4 with the woman at the well, she says: “'I know that Messiah is coming. . . . When he comes, he will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, 'I who speak to you . . .' Now your Bible says, “I am he.” But the actual original text just says, “I who speak to you am” (vv. 25–26). Literally, “I AM, the one speaking to you." I AM.
In chapter 6, verse 20, Jesus walks on the water toward the disciples, and He says to them in verse 20, “It is I do not be afraid.” Literally that is, “I AM do not be afraid.” He is revealing Himself to be the great I AM that the Jews knew in the Old Testament.
Turn to John chapter 8. You see this three times in that chapter. John 8 verse 24, Jesus is speaking to the Jews in Jerusalem during the Feast of the Tabernacles. And He says, “Unless you believe that I am you will die in your sins.” Verse 28: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me."
Look at verse 56. The context here is that the Pharisees accused Jesus of having a demon, while they claimed to be the legitimate offspring of Abraham, the father of the Jews. And in verse 56 Jesus says to them, "'Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.' So the Jews said to him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am'"(vv. 56–58). An astonishing claim.
Now you would expect Jesus to say, if He was going to make this what sounded like a ludicrous case, you would expect Him to say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” Past tense. But instead He said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Grammatically this makes no sense at all. Theologically it’s very important.
The Jews understood exactly what Jesus meant. They understood that He was claiming to be Yahweh. The God who had revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 at the burning bush “I AM WHO I AM,” they understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, the great I AM. So verse 59, “They picked up stones to throw at him.” Because if this was not true, then what He said was blasphemy, and He was deserving of death.
Now there are other instances where you can see this through the Gospel of John. Look for them the next time you read through the Gospel of John where it says, “I am He,” or “It is I.” He’s literally saying “I AM. I am Jehovah.”
The bottom line, the point of all this is that Jesus is Yahweh. He is “the LORD” of the Old Testament, the great "I AM" of Exodus, who has come to deliver His people and set them free. Now, this is not just theological trivia. This is crucial to our Christian faith for several reasons. Let me just highlight a few of those.
First of all, if Jesus is not Yahweh, if He is not Jehovah God, then His other claims are not true. But if He is Yahweh, if He is Jehovah God, then He is Lord, then everything He claimed is absolutely true. To reject Jesus, as so many around the world do today, is to reject God. People say, “I believe in God.” Many religions say this. “But not this Jesus as God stuff.” No, if Jesus is Yahweh, then to reject Jesus is to reject God.
We realize also that everything that is true of God is also true of Jesus. Jesus has all of the attributes of God. He is self-existent, self-sufficient, unchanging, eternal. He always was. He always will be. Jesus came to reveal God to us. He is the great I AM in the flesh. Through Him we can know Yahweh, the great I AM. And in Jesus Christ, Jehovah, the great unapproachable I AM has drawn near to us.
Not only does Jesus have all the attributes of God, but He does the works of God. So when Jesus came to this earth, the Jews couldn’t help but think of those passages we just read in Exodus 3 and Exodus 6, as Jesus said and did things that could only be attributed to Yahweh.
As Jehovah delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt, Jesus is the God who delivers and sets captives free. He has rescued us from slavery to the ultimate Pharaoh—Satan and sin. And He continues to rescue us from ourselves and from the power of sin and from our flesh and from the entanglements of this world and sin and the devil. He is the One who, one day, will rescue us from the very presence of sin. Hallelujah. I’m ready for that.
And as Jehovah in the Old Testament judged and destroyed the Egyptian army, so Jesus has come to destroy every enemy—sickness, disease, Satan, demons, and death. Now, we don’t see the fulfillment of all of that yet, but we have the promise that I AM, Yahweh, I AM that I AM will deliver us from all of those things and will judge and destroy every enemy including the final enemy of death.
And as Jehovah in the Old Testament led His people into the Promised Land, as He led them with cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so Jesus came to lead many sons to glory. He leads us today by His Spirit who lives in us. Jehovah. Yahweh. The I AM whose name the Jews wouldn’t even say, He lives in us. How amazing is that? And He has prepared a promised land for us, a new heaven, a new earth where we will live eternally with Him.
One more take-away: Jehovah God said to Moses as He was sending him into Egypt to lead God’s people out of captivity. He said, “I AM with you.” That covered past, present and future. I AM, I have been, I will be. God had never forsaken His people in all those four hundred years of captivity.
And God was saying to Moses, Moses who felt so inadequate. “I can’t talk. Lord, send somebody else. How will I . . .?” You know all these objections. God said, “I AM. I am all that you need. I will be with you, whatever you need I will supply.”
Well, Jesus is that same I AM, Jehovah with us. Today. As He sends you out as a mom or a grandmom or in the work place or whatever kind of ministry you’re involved in, or to love the unlovable and to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus. And we feel so inadequate and ill prepared and unable. Don’t you feel like Moses sometimes? “I can’t do this Lord.” I feel that way all the time.
Over and over again, I am reminded that Jesus is the great Jehovah I AM with me and in me and working through me. And He is all that I need. He is the all-sufficient one. He gives us Himself to fill up whatever we need or lack. So you have a thirsty soul? He says “I am living water.” You have a hungry heart? He says, “I am the Bread of Life.” You feel the weight and the curse of sin and death? He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” You feel lost a lot of days? Every day? He says, “I am the Way.” What do you need? What do you lack? Jesus says, “I am all that you need. I am the great I AM.”
Leslie: A lot of us have grown up with a picture of Moses in front of a burning bush encountering God as the great I AM. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing us why Jesus used that name for Himself so often.
I AM is one of thirty-two names of Jesus we’re looking at during a teaching series from Nancy called “The Wonder of His Name.”
We’re bringing you the series throughtout the Lenten season. I think it’s a meaningful way to focus on Jesus leading up to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
You’ll get even more out of it when you read Nancy’s book, also called The Wonder of His Name. You’ll read 32 devotionals—one for each of the names in this series. Timothy Botts designed the artwork for the book, and I know you’ll get a lot of meaning from those illlustrations as well.
When you support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we’ll send the book, The Wonder of His Name. Ask for it when you call with your gift. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit