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I AM the Living God

A man standing in front of a burning tree in the desert

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites 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.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers —the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob —has sent me to you.’ (Exodus 3:13-15 NIV)

Moses is 80 years old and has been chased out of Egypt. He is tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro. One day he sees a bush that is on fire, but not being consumed. He decides to check out the unusual sight. As He approaches, the Living God speaks to him from the fire, telling him to take off his sandals, because the place he is standing is holy ground.

God proceeds to call Moses to the mission of leading his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt. Moses protests: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” God's answer is simple: "I will be with you." Who Moses is does not matter to the mission. God will go with him and God will bring about this deliverance.

Moses then speaks his second protest: “Suppose I go to the Israelites 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 then gives Moses the name He calls Himself: YHWH - which is translated either Yahweh or Jehovah. The word means: I AM.

God's name for Himself is I AM. I AM the Living God. I AM the One who exists. I AM the only God who really exists. All other gods are merely stone or wood idols, or demons pretending to be gods.

Fast forward 2,000 years or so. Jesus is walking on the earth. The Jewish leaders are debating with Him about the greatness of Abraham. They ask Jesus, "Are you greater than our father, Abraham?" Jesus responds with this:

Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to Him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:56-58 NIV)

There it is. Jesus is doing more than saying He is older than Abraham. To exist before Abraham lived 2,000 years earlier, Jesus would have to be eternal. But there's more. He is not only claiming to be eternal. He did not say, "Before Abraham was born, I was." He uses the Yahweh name here. "Before Abraham was born, I AM."

Is that a stretch? Am I making too much of it? Nope. It's exactly what the Jewish leaders thought themselves. Because the next verse says:

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds. (John 8:59 NIV)

Why stone Jesus? For blasphemy. For claiming to be the I AM. For claiming to be Yahweh. Today, a person who believes himself to be God receives mental health treatment. But to the Jewish leaders, these were "fightin' words"!

Jesus goes on in the Gospel of John and makes multiple I AM claims about Himself. I AM the Bread of Life. I AM the Good Shepherd. I AM the Gate of the Sheep, and others. Today at Grace Church we begin a worship series on "The I AM Statements of Jesus." I believe it's going to be rich and deep.

One more thing. This God who exists, Yahweh, does go with Moses to Egypt. He inflicts on Pharaoh (the king of Egypt) a series of supernatural plagues that causes him to release the Israelites from slavery. Afterwards Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues them with his army. The Israelites escape through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and Pharaoh's army is drowned.

Yahweh leads Israel from place to place by a pillar of cloud by day, which becomes a pillar of fire by night. Israel knows when to move and when to camp by following the Pillar. Moses knows where to go next by following Yahweh's pillar.

The Tent of the Tabernacle, their place of worship and sacrifice, is packed up, follows the pillar of God's Presence, then is unpacked and set up in the next place Yahweh where leads. That is exactly what is happening today (April 16) with Grace Church. We packed everything up last Sunday at the Copperfield Room. We're following God to the next place of worship - Concord High School. We'll set up our Tabernacle there for the next season of the life of our church.

And we will worship Jesus there. The One who is the Living God in flesh and blood. The One who was crucified, buried, and raised from the dead. The One who ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. The One who will return one day to claim those who have walked with Him in faith. And knowing Him, we will make Him known by our witness and love and service and sacrifice in the community.

Who leads us in all this? The One who calls Himself "I AM WHO I AM." If you are reading this and live in the Concord, North Carolina area, I invite you to join us at 10 am on Sundays at Concord High School. Come check out the fire (of God) that is burning there!



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