Why Is the Statement I Am Who I Am so Powerful?
- Lisa Loraine Baker Contributing Writer
- 2021 3 Mar
The name I Am seems to cause knees to buckle in Scripture. Why is this? Let’s take a look at the statement from God “I Am Who I Am” and why it’s so powerful then and now.
What Does 'I Am Who I Am' Mean in the Bible?
When God said, “I AM WHO I AM,” repeating “I AM” twice, He is stating His name, (LORD) Yahweh—His name forever. God was in effect, saying, He is. Period.
He is stating He is the Eternal One who has no beginning or end. He is the really real, the ultimate reality—all reality is according to His will. Because He is Truth, His truth is absolute. I AM speaks to His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience in and for all time. God is constant, and is in the past, the present, and the future. This baffles us because we live in a timeline of life, but God transcends all earthy patterns. Because He is God, there are many things about Him that will never be understandable, even when we reach glory. And that’s okay because He is God!
What Is the Context of Exodus 3:14 and 'I Am Who I Am'?
In Exodus 3, Moses encountered God for the first time. He, an exile from Egypt, the nation that raised him as a prince, renounced his status and dwelled with the Hebrews, of whom he was one. He married a shepherdess and tended her father, Jethro’s sheep. When he took the sheep to the back of the desert, Moses “came to Horeb, the mountain of God,” where he turned aside to see the Angel of the Lord who “appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush” (Exodus 3:1-2). God called to Moses from the bush. Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Moses “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” During their exchange, Moses questions God about His name—the name he was to describe to the Israelites as the One who sent him to go to Pharaoh to bring God’s children out of Egypt. God answered him, “I AM WHO I AM.” God added, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).
Where Else Is 'I Am Who I Am' Found in the Bible?
The most powerful and supreme statements of “I am” in the Bible outside of Exodus 3 are made by Jesus Christ. The name, Jesus is a transliteration of the Greek name, Jesoun, which comes from the Hebrew Joshua. Joshua means “Yahweh saves.” In Philippians 2:11, Paul validates Jesus is God come in the flesh to save us, calling Him, “Lord to the glory of the Father."
One account of Jesus stating, “I AM” is found in John 8:1-59. While at the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said He spoke what He had seen with His Father. The Pharisees and scribes debated with Jesus about their father, Abraham, and they argued God was their Father. Jesus called them on their hypocrisy and said, “…you do the deeds of your father…the devil” (John 8:39-44). Jesus then told them, “If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (v. 51). The Jews acceded to the fact Abraham was dead and berated Jesus by asking Him if He thought He was greater than Abraham, and they said, “Who do You make Yourself out to be?”(v. 52) In verse 58, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” They knew exactly what He said, and Who He claimed to be, so they took up stones to throw at Him, choosing to reject His Lordship.
The second most powerful “I am” statement apart from Exodus is found in John 18:1-11. In this passage, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples. Judas and a detachment of troops and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees barged into the Garden with “lanterns, torches, and weapons.” Jesus led them to His declaration of Who He is with the following question, “Whom are you seeking?” When they said, “Jesus of Nazareth,” He responded, “I am He.” The “He” in that verse is added to our English translations, therefore, the full implication of I AM is implied and recognition of Who He is. At that authoritative statement, “they drew back and fell to the ground.” The force of the expression of God’s name was akin to God telling Moses he was standing on holy ground.
In addition, Jesus, throughout the book of John makes the seven renowned “I am” statements:
He said, “I am:
the bread of life” (John 6:35)
the Light of the world” (John 8:12)
the door of the sheep” (John 10:7)
the good Shepherd” (John 10:11)
the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25)
the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)
the true vine (John 15:1)
Each statement verifies His position as the Son of God and Messiah. Three other definitive “I am” statements by Jesus are:
John 6:20, As He said to the disciples as He walked on the water to the boat, “It is I; do not be afraid,” He showed His sovereignty over creation.
John 8:24, Once again, the word, “He” is not part of the Greek. Jesus as God is sovereign over the salvation of souls.
John 8:28, Jesus affirms He is the One who is to be worshiped.
Why Is the Statement “I Am Who I Am” so Powerful?
In Exodus 3, why does God speak to Moses through a flame of fire that envelopes but does not consume the bush? Before God proceeded, He told Moses to remove his sandals for “the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). God is holy (Psalm 99:9), and His holiness sets Him apart from all His creation. He is the absolute of all, and for Him to say, “I AM WHO I AM” speaks of His eternal nature—that He exists in and of Himself. To define holy is likened to describing a blazing fire so hot and bright that is unapproachable yet leaves a lasting impression on the ones who encounter it. Impossible to look upon, (Exodus 3:6b) yet equally impossible not to be affected (Psalm 96:9, Exodus 20:41, Ezekiel 38:23).
God chose this name for Himself, which makes it all the more powerful because it sets Him apart from the polytheistic gods so espoused by the Egyptians. God, of course, knew Moses’ upbringing and to what he was exposed to, and Moses even probably worshiped these false as an “adopted” son of Pharaoh. It was important for Moses before he stepped into the role God had for Him, to understand and believe in Him as the one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4) and there is no other above Him. Moses stood barefoot before Him, and he beheld His presence and heard His personal name as no one before had, not even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 6:3).
When the early scribes put the Scriptures onto scrolls, they revered the holiness of God’s name, and transcribed His name with holy fear, even to the point of washing themselves and cleaning their pen before they wrote what we call the Tetragrammaton (YHWH). They considered His name too holy even to speak, which is why, in the Bible, we see it rendered as Yahweh, or, Jehovah.
To all of this, we can say, Hallelujah, which means “Praise Yahweh.”
Why Does God Call Himself "I Am That I Am"?
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/coffeekai
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.
This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy to read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. It is our hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in relation to your life today.
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"Do Not Fear"