As awesome as that passage is, it’s one of many instances in the Bible where God uses the words I Am – although He usually uses them more conventionally and less mystically as part of longer sentences that look similar on the surface, but seem to convey fairly different messages:
Many times in the Book of Exodus, God issues instructions or declarations and either prefaces or follows them with the phrase, I am the Lord. In these cases, He’s usually reminding His people they can act boldly, because He is with them – or warning the Egyptians not to mess with Him, because ‘I am the Lord.’
The same phrase also comes up in Leviticus, where God gives the Israelites the law and underscores the importance of obeying it by reminding them that I am the Lord.
Fast forward a few hundred years through the times of the Judges and the Kings to the time of the Babylonian Exile, and turn to the Book of Isaiah: Here He uses the phrase ‘I am the Lord’ repeatedly to clarify, underscore and remind an Israel that had lost its way that God is still God; He hasn’t forgotten or condoned their wayward ways but He hasn’t forsaken them, either.’ At times in Isaiah, ‘I am the Lord’ almost feels like a plea for Israel to come to its collective senses and come back to God.
In the Book of Ezekiel, you’ll find the phrase ‘You/They will know that I am the Lord’, mostly after God promises to take out the trash – both the enemies of Israel and the enemies of God in Israel.
‘”…I will carry out great vengeance on them and punish them in my wrath. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I take vengeance on them.”‘
That’s Ezekiel 25:17, by the way. All that cool stuff Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) says in Pulp Fiction about shepherds and the tyranny of evil men when supposedly quoting this verse, is not in the Bible. Apparently, writer-director Quentin Tarantino lifted the phrase from another movie and didn’t bother to confirm it was authentic. (If I were Tarantino, I’d probably justify it by claiming it was the character, not the writer, who failed to do his homework. Plausible deniability…) Just a bit of trivia for you, free of charge.
I am pops up now and then throughout the Bible, but perhaps the most powerful use of the phrase after Exodus 3:13-14 comes in John 8:58, when Jesus says “Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!”
Wait. Does that mean that Jesus Himself appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush? I’d always assumed that was God the Father.
But if that’s the case, was it Jesus who walked with in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day? Was Jesus one of the three visitors who appeared to Abraham, and the One with whom Abraham pleaded for Sodom in Genesis 18? Was it Jesus who wrestled with Jacob in Genesis 32:22-32? Was it Jesus who spoke with all of the prophets, from Amos to Zechariah – including both Isaiah and Ezekiel?
Well, as we discovered in The Word Word, Jesus is the Bridge between God and humanity, and this began long before Mary and Joseph. Therefore, it might make sense that the Son handled all these interactions on behalf of the Trinity (if it can be said that anything God does is ‘handled’ by one member of the Trinity to the exclusion of the others).
But if that’s the case, was it also Jesus who gave Moses the Law in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy?
Since one of the reasons Jesus came was to free us from legalism, the thought of Him being the One who etched 613 exhaustive, pedantic and heavy commandments into stone just doesn’t fit inside the box I’ve apparently constructed for my Saviour.
Maybe Jesus is saying, ‘I am inviting you to toss that box away, and worship Me, not for who you want Me to be, but for who I am.
Peace be with you.
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