The Basic Gospel- There Is A God 2: Exodus 3:14

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Daily Journey |

Exodus 3:14 “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM”. And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.'”

Normally speaking, a passage like this would be studied as part of a book study of Exodus or perhaps a topical study of the names of God. But I am studying evangelism and believe this verse is excellent for doing some of the pre-evangelism that is required as people have become ignorant of the Bible and have become essentially polytheistic and practically atheistic in their worldview. People today live as if there is no God and believe that every religion is true for those who believe in it. Hence the term polytheistic-atheist. So what does this important verse from the “burning bush” encounter between Moses and God tell us about evangelism?

Since I believe the Gospel is essentially God-centered and not man-centered, we must be sure that those to whom we are sharing the Gospel understand that there is a God, the God of the Bible and no other, and understand some of the basics of what God is like. In this verse God reveals his covenant name with Moses, YHWH, and this name tells us a lot about who God is and helps us to answer the question, “Is there a God?” This name gives us an apologetic point for the being of God.

There are a couple of ways to interpret the name because it is built upon the Hebrew verb, to be. I do not look at the differences in interpretation as contradictory but complementary and lend depth to the meaning and bring in more implications.

I Am Who I Am- at the very least the name boldly states the existence of God, I Am, I exist, he tells Moses. What will happen later, when YHWH sends the plagues upon Egypt, is that he proves the gods of Egypt do not exist, they are powerless before the One Who Is. The God of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, this God of history is the God who is and the other gods simply are not. Furthermore, in the story of the Exodus we see that YHWH judges Egypt and Pharaoh severely while graciously delivering his people, keeping the covenant He made long ago with Abraham. This God, YHWH, not only saves the Jews from slavery, thus providing us a beautiful picture of our salvation from slavery to sin, but he calls them to himself at Sinai in order to reveal himself to Israel, form them into a nation, and lead them into a worshipful, covenental relationship with himself. God Is, God Judges, God Saves, God demands proper worship, and God is personal and desires a personal relationship with those whom he saves. This is YHWH of the book of Exodus.

When God reveals himself as I AM WHO I AM, the Hebrew word for the verb “to be”, it is a bit more than simply saying that God exists, as profound as that is. He is The IS, the Supreme Being and the ground of being, the necessary being. In our previous study we looked at the God of Gen . 1:1 who was the Prime Mover, the Creator, the necessary first cause who is himself uncaused. Here we see God as the Ground of Being.

This can be related to the ontological argument for the existence of God stated by Anselm, God is that which nothing greater than can be conceived. Not only did God create all things, but all things necessarily consist in him, that is, their being is dependent upon him. This does not mean that God is all things or that all things are God or that all things are in Him. He is separate from, above and beyond his creation. But it does mean that nothing else can exist apart from him.

Luke records Paul’s speech at the Areopagus in Athens in Acts 17

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, [2] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

And then he brings up a similar idea in Col.1

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by  him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

In these two passages we see that we exist because he exists, he holds all things together ontologically.

The theologian Paul Tillich depersonalized God when he described him as the Ground of Being, but everything in Scripture screams that God is a personal being as well as our ground of being.

This name for God can also be translated “I SHALL BE WHAT I SHALL BE”. This aspect of his name points to his greatness and infinitude, his eternality, indescribable majesty and incomprehensibility. Man cannot, as a finite and created being, ever fully comprehend the greatness, holiness and sheer infinitude of God.The person of God is what he has always been, he remains unchanging and will eternally be what he has always been. When we look at the universe we see something that is always in process and always changing. The ancient Greek, pre-socratic philosopher Heraclitus said that “You cannot step into the same river twice.” In reality, you cannot even step into the same river once because it is constantly flowing even as you step into, it is in change. God is YHWH, he is not in process. He has determined the end from the beginning. He Is, and He Will Be.

For many people life is a chaotic jumbled up mess, the product of sin. Knowing that there is a God who was, is and will always be the same, “yesterday, today and forever” can be a good beginning point when sharing the Gospel. I am convinced that within our fallen, lost hearts, there is a desire for, a need for, something that is unmovable, firm and eternal. It may be that the Holy Spirit can use the covenant name for God, YHWH, I Am Who I Am, to help convict a lost sinner who needs something that is eternal and unchanging.



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