What’s in a name? Quite a lot, actually. It’s the “handle” by which we grasp someone, the “label” which we use to categorize, the “moniker” by which we get familiar, the “title” by which we honor, and so on. In Genesis, God named himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was “their” God. Now, as God prepares to lead the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt, he meets Moses in the wilderness and gets much more personal.
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.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’ Exodus 3:13-15
God equates his new name with his old name so there will be no confusion. The I AM is the same God WHO WAS. I AM, or Yahweh, can also mean “the one who causes to be.” He exists and causes all else to exist. But most importantly, he comes to make himself known to the Israelites. He will no longer be the God of their fathers. He comes to be their God.
John Piper describes the I AM as the God who is:
God is who he is. Or to say it more philosophically, God absolutely is. This is the most basic fact and the most ultimate fact. Period. Of the billions of facts that there are, this one is at the bottom and at the top. It is the foundation of all others and the consummation of all others. Nothing is more basic and nothing is more ultimate than the fact that God is.
Nothing is more foundational to this church than that God is. Nothing is more foundational to your life or your marriage or your job or your health or your mind or your future than that God is. Nothing is more foundational to the world, or the solar system, or the Milky Way or the universe than that God is. And nothing is more foundational to the Bible and the self-revelation of God and the glory of the gospel of Jesus than that God is.
God still comes to each of us personally. He is no distant “man upstairs.” He wants to be so close you feel it on your face like the burning bush. It won’t do to say that he was your mother’s God or your grandfather’s God. If he isn’t God to you, you don’t know him at all. As I write these words, I hear Jesus saying ominously, “Depart from me…I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23) As for me, I want to be on a first name basis with God.