Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelite 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.' " (Exodus 3:13-14)
There is one name of God in particular that has been a bit more difficult to translate than others, a bit of a puzzle if you will. That name is Yahweh. The Hebrews considered this name to be so holy they would not pronounce it for fear that they would profane the holiness of the name. It is even said they have forgotten how to actually pronounce it. When they wrote it they would only use the consonants, YHWH. Since they did not speak the name or include the vowels, scholars have had to use a number of references to try and figure out what vowels to use.
Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew verb which means “to be.” The essence of “to be” is to have life. With that in mind, the name implies that God is absolutely self-existent. He is the One who in Himself possess life and permanent existence. Most scholars agree that Yahweh, or Jehovah, as it is sometimes translated, would be God’s proper name.
In most English translations of the bible when you see LORD in all capitals it is a reference to the name Yahweh. There are a couple instances in which we see it translated differently. Rather than a reference to God, in these cases it is used when God or Jesus identifies Himself using His proper name. Here the translation is “I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM.”
I find this fascinating. The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is identifying Himself and in doing so just simply says “I AM.” Granted, the English language is not the most expressive language, but think about it. Rather than something outlandishly verbose, yet completely holy, descriptive, and complex, God chose something unassuming yet all encompassing. Something that when translated from the original Hebrew would be elegantly simple but would carry completeness that is hard to wrap your mind around.
God does this when He is speaking to Moses at the burning bush. In Exodus Chapter 3 God is commissioning Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring out His people out of Egypt. Moses asked God who he should tell the children of Israel sent him (vs. 13). God answers in verse 14: And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “This you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
Jesus also used the term “I AM” to identify Himself. While teaching in John 8:58 Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” This is Jesus declaring Himself to be Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. The Hebrews knew and understood this and were going to stone Him for blasphemy.
Scholars tell us that Jesus identified Himself in this fashion while in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the troops arrive to arrest Him, Jesus asks them who they are looking for and Jesus responded “I am He” (John 18:5). Then something amazing happens! Look at verse 6: Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. It is said that Jesus used His proper name to identify himself, He didn’t just say, “That’s me.” He responded with “I AM” and with that identification there was a release of power as He fully acknowledged who He was.
Amazingly simple, yet powerful and complete.
These are just a few examples. As you read your bible, look for the times in which “I AM” is used. In your walk with God, ask Him to reveal to you the subtle intricacies of what His name means. What a great way to get to know Him better, by learning about His proper name. Yahweh, the Great I AM.
We are very blessed at my church with several great singers and songwriters. One of these songs is The Great I AM by Jared Anderson. If you have the means, I highly recommend getting it. It will touch your heart, I know it does mine.