Published August 25, 2015
For my recent birthday, someone gave me a little plaque that gives my name, Paul, and its meaning: "humble." I'll leave it to others to decide if the name fits. But names do seem to mean things.
You have probably seen similar definitions over the years of your own name. Do those descriptive words fit you?
In the Bible, the word given as the name of the first man, "Adam," actually, in Hebrew, is spelled with the very same letters (consonants) as the more generic term for "man." That fits. And the first time a proper name is actually bestowed in the Bible is when Adam names his wife, Eve, which means "the mother of all living." (Genesis 3:20.) That fits, too.
Throughout the Bible you see case after case where an individual's name somehow reflects some attribute of that individual. Sometimes, names are even changed to "perfect" the meaning, such as when God changed Abram's name to Abraham. An arrogant Saul, "humbled" by God, became Paul.
Many names are given in the Bible, usually including some descriptive aspect of His nature or character. If God has always ascribed such significance to names, then it would be very interesting to consider what name God would give as His own name. What name do you think He'd choose?
In Exodus 3, God, speaking from a burning bush, tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him that God sent him, commanding Pharaoh to let His people go. But Moses says to God, "When I come to the children of Israel and tell them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' What should I tell them?" Here's where God immediately gives the name He considers most representative of his nature: "God said to Moses, 'I Am Who I Am,' and he said, 'You shall tell the children of Israel this: 'I Am has sent me to you.'" (Genesis 3:13,14.)
In Hebrew, "I Am" comes from the term we often hear for God, "Yahweh," sometimes transliterated (not accurately, scholars say) as "Jehovah." However it is rendered, it means "the self-existent One" and is the most personal name given by the Living God for Himself. He is without beginning or ending.
Isn't "I Am" a rather unusual name? Yes it is. But it's a key to understanding God. It is, in fact, the simplest, most basic, most fundamental attribute of God: He IS. He exists. And because God is outside of time (having created it), it means that He always has been and always will be. He, simply... IS!
I ponder that often. But I find that I totally lack the words adequately to express how profound this single thought is!
Jesus made an interesting use of "I Am" after suggesting that father Abraham rejoiced to see "my day." When critics countered that Jesus simply wasn't that old, he countered, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58.) What a strange use of verb tense! But His critics knew what he meant (identifying Himself with the ever-existing God) because they immediately tried to stone Him for blasphemy.
Also when the soldiers came to find Jesus in the garden on the night He was betrayed, they asked for Jesus of Nazareth, and He replied, "I Am." (The word "he" has been added to many translations for clarity, but was only implied in the original.) In this case, Jesus said "I Am" with such authority that merely speaking the Name caused the soldiers to fall backward to the ground! They didn't even know what hit them!
Another thing - ever wonder why so much prophecy in the Bible is written in past tense, even for things that haven't happened yet? It's because to God, they have already happened! They are that certain.
For God, everything from before the worlds were created until beyond the end of time - everything! - is right now. That's why God is described as the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8.) He's always the same because He is always right now, and it is logically impossible to be essentially different things simultaneously.
Is this making any sense?
Think about it this way: Right now, in the mind of God, He is...
- creating the universe.
- breathing life into Adam.
- giving Moses the Ten Commandments.
- watching Solomon build His temple.
- dispatching angels to announce Jesus' birth.
- displaying His power at Jesus' resurrection.
- sending His Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
- empowering and sustaining the church.
- hearing your cry of repentance and saving your soul.
- living in you through His Holy Spirit.
- sending Jesus back to Earth for believers.
- destroying evil once and for all.
- unfolding a new heaven and a new earth.
In fact, if you are a born again Christian, God right now sees the welcome you will receive when you reach heaven. It's that certain. It's as good as done. Because it IS done!
Isn't it great to serve a God who eternally IS? He always has been and always will be. He knows everything from how the universe was created to the very thoughts in your mind at this instant. He know what's best for us now and far into the future (because He's already there).
Mark Lanier and Phil Cross wrote a song (recorded by the Kingdom Heirs) called "He's Already In Your Tomorrow" which refers to the Father as "the master of time." Look at the promise given in the chorus:
"He's already in your tomorrow
He's walking one step ahead
Whether it's joy or it's sorrow
He'll do just what He said.
He'll never leave you lonely in the land of the great unknown.
He's already in your tomorrow
Don't be afraid, keep pressing on."*
Remember, Jesus said, "...I AM with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20.)
He always has been, is, and always will be "the Great I Am." What a comfort!
*"He's Already In Your Tomorrow," written by Mark Lanier (Mark Lanier Music) and Phil Cross (Cameron Hill Music). Lyrics excerpted by permission.
This "Epistle" first appeared here June 24, 2003.
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