In Exodus 3:14, God gave Moses the name by which He wished to be identified to His people, Israel, when he presented to them the prospect of deliverance from slavery to Pharaoh, their hard-hearted taskmaster.
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.
I AM THAT I AM. Frankly, as a child, when I heard the story of Moses and the burning bush, the name sounded awkward and left me wondering exactly what God was trying to convey by the nomenclature. But as I read the name today in the American Standard Version, I’m amazed at its significance. The ASV renders it I AM BECAUSE I AM.
Just think of that! Every one of us can wear the first part of this name: I AM. You are. I am. We exist. But we do not exist because of ourselves. We exist because of a mother and father who existed because of another set of parents, who existed ultimately, through the line of generations back through time because of an original cause: Jehovah. God. The Creator. We are because He is. I am because of His eternal being and power. I cannot wear the second half of God’s Exodus three name. I am not existent because of my own existence. In other words, I am, but not because I am. I am because He was, is and continues to be. My name is I AM BECAUSE HE IS.
Jehovah, then, is the only one who can claim the name I AM BECAUSE I AM. Everyone else has an original cause. He is the Original Cause. So that makes Him God. He had no beginning, no designer, planner, maker or authority. That makes him the ultimate of all of those things. The fact that He is the Original Cause renders Him the superlative in every relationship: the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords. The Original Cause does not have to explain Himself. Just as the Exodus three name implies, He not only is because He is, He does because He does. In our modern vernacular, we might say He gets to decide. Everything. The buck stops with God.
This is why Moses had to take off his shoes in front of that bush that day. Moses, the one who was caused, who was saved from destruction, who was nurtured in the palace and commissioned to deliver was standing, at that moment, before the Great Cause, the Savior, the Nurturer, the Deliverer.
That’s why every one of us has to deal with God. He is the One with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:13). There’s a sense in which we all have our burning bushes….The ultimate One is the only One who can truly present the ultimatum of this lifetime. Because He has this kind of superlative power over us, it makes it all the more amazing that he gave us His Son. Jesus, the One who was every bit God, who shared the quintessential power that’s inherent in the Exodus three name, gave up, for a time, the ultimate authority and learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8). Obedience. I AM THAT I AM obeyed. And He did this for me. The One who could wear the name I AM BECAUSE I AM humbled himself to dwell among those who are the caused rather than the Cause and even to die for the caused.
When I think about this, I know that I’m not worthy to contemplate this humbling of Jesus. I am not capable of fully grasping the great gap between Cause and caused that was bridged at Calvary. But I want to take off my shoes before the great I AM. Whatever I’m called upon to do as I go forth from my burning bush, I want to do it. I want to bow before the great I AM THAT I AM.
May all who suffered sword or flame
For truth or Jesus’ lovely name
Shout victory now and hail the Lamb
And bow before the great I AM.