We now come to the moment when Moses has asked the question of God that amounts to, “What’s your name? Who are you really?” And God responds in Exodus 3:14-15:
I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites : I AM has sent me to you.
Okay… So not quite the “Frank God” or “Henry God” we might have been looking for. In fact, what’s really strange is that God’s name, the summation of His character, is not a name at all. It is, in fact, it is a form of the verb, “to be.” A more accurate translation might be “I am the One who always is,” or “I am the Is-ing One.” That’s confusing.
Before we get to the meaning, you might be interested to know how this is translated in other parts of the Bible. Have you ever noticed that the word “lord” is sometimes spelled like this: “LORD;” sometimes like this: “Lord.” When you have all capital letters, the text refers to this name – Yahweh – The One who Is.
We’ve already discussed how the name is a revelation of the essential reality of the person who has it. So maybe a better question is what is this name saying about the nature of God? For my part, it’s telling us that with God, there is no past, present, or future. He always is. That is to say, we live our lives on a line. We can see what is behind us, but not what is far in front of us. But God doesn’t exist on the line of time. He exists above the line of time because He made time, just like He made rocks, trees, and people. Time is part of His creation. So the same rules don’t apply to Him as do to us.
Seen in that light, it makes sense why Jesus can be the lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), or why God can treat believers like their glorification in heaven is past tense (Romans 8:30). God is not the one who was, or the one who will be, but the one who is.
Now it becomes even more meaningful when you see the reason behind Moses’ question to begin with. He was a man struggling with his situation. And he came from a struggling people, one that had been enslaved for 400 years. If God is the One who Is, the God is invested in the present. He’s not just telling them to look to the future or remember the past, because He’s the God of right now. He’s there with them in their bondage. He feels their back-breaking labor. He weeps with them in their situation.
And for us, in all our junk, God is the One who Is. Not the One who will be. He’s with you, and with me, personally and emotionally invested in our own “right now.” He’s here, and He’ll always be here, because He’s Yahweh, the God of the Now.