The two words here capitalized occur only in one Bible chapter: Exodus 3:14. Jehovah God gave these words as an answer to Moses. The children of Israel in all probability knew the names of the Egyptian gods—Osiris, Isis, etc.—and therefore Moses believed a name was needed in order to authenticate in whose name he, Moses, would be acting. In God’s response we today can find a profound truth.
“—I AM THAT (which) I AM—“ tells us something very basic concerning the nature of God. In Isaiah 42:8 He also says, “I am the Lord: that is my name;” The colon tells us grammatically to prepare for the importance of what is to follow; the semi-colon makes clear two things grammatically. One is that God has more to say and two, what came before the colon is an independent statement in its own right. The emphasis of the importance of this seemingly innocuous selection of scripture can be traced to two later references in Isaiah.
Isaiah 47:8, 10 state “Now therefore hear this, thou that art given to pleasures, that sittest securely, that sayest in thy heart, I am, and there is none else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:” “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness; thou hast said, None seeth me; thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee, and thou hast said in thy heart, I am, and there is none else besides me.” Hosea 11:9 makes the demarcation clear: “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in wrath. Further, Malachi 3:6 “For I, Jehovah, change not;”
Not only man puts himself on par with God; whole civilizations can be severely in error: “This is the joyous city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none besides me:” Zephaniah 2:15.
This valuable phrase was uttered by Jesus in John 8:58 and the reaction was immediate in verse 59; the Jews well understood what Jesus meant. It was reiterated in Revelation 1:17, “….; I am the first and the last.” And verse 18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen;” Then finally in Revelation 21:6 “….; I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end….” And Revelation 22:13 “I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
I AM. This is a complete sentence in its own right. It contains the necessary ingredients—subject, verb, and sense. However, the full implication is that our God is contemporaneous. He always was, is now, and forever will be.
This is a difficult concept. Part of the problem lies in the verb am. There are only 8 of these verbs (call them being or linking) in English: is, am, are, was, were, be, been, being. The preponderance of English verbs are action—run, swim, call; even with verbs like think, believe, hate we can make a mental picture when they are used. But when you try to apply this mental picture to the 8 being verbs, what do you have? Someone who you see running, thinking, skating, would become that someone existing, breathing. Not much to mentally grab hold of, is it?
I AM. Contemporaneous. No trouble to picture our God now and even forever existing. Hollywood has helped us along for the latter (Obi Wan of Star Wars). But a God who always was?!? This is not a simple mental gymnastic like which came first, the chicken or the egg (Answer? Easy. God made the animals first, not the ova). God could not be God without existing in those areas of time—past, present, future. Time is a human concept. Physicists today are hard pressed to explain this concept which they term a dimension. Einstein posits that the closer to the speed of light you travel, the more time as we understand it, slows. Quantum physics now is challenging that concept.
What all this goes to show is that our God is truly omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent—throughout time. Man never has been, isn’t today, and never will be. So while mankind cannot even agree to the definition of time, we can define God just as He defined Himself in Exodus and so confound and anger the secular humanists with the answer—I AM. As the old hymn says, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”!