These two words are very small and yet very powerful. This phrase is used to make declarations about who we are. For instance, I can say, “I am smart. I am joyful. I am sincere.” These are true facts about who I am and what my personality is like. So, what did God mean when He said, “I am who I am.” Why did he use this phrase when talking to Moses and what does it mean for us today?
We will start at the beginning. Before Moses encountered the burning bush, before he was living in the desert, before he ran away from Egypt, he was just a baby. A baby that they Egyptians wanted dead, but his very brave mother hid him and sent him down a river where he showed up in a basket to Pharaoh’s daughter. The baby was taken in and raised as a part of the royal family. Moses grew up and one day he was out where the Israelites were working, he saw an Egyptian man hurting one of the Israelites, and when Moses confronted this man, he ended up killing him and hiding the body. Scared of what the king would do to him he ran into the dessert. Meanwhile, God’s chosen people were forced to be slaves and they cried out to God.
“23 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” Exodus 2:23-25
God heard their cries and he felt compassion for them because they were His chosen people, who He loved. I can only picture what was going on in God’s mind, He was probably thinking, “I have to prepare a savior for my people” and at that moment knew that He had to get Moses’ attention.
One day, Moses was out taking care of his sheep and he saw a bush that was on fire but not burning, so he went and investigated. When he got closer, the bush began to speak to him. I don’t know about you, but if a bush randomly started talking to me, I would be slightly concerned, confused, scared, but mostly intrigued. Moses walked into where the bush was, and the bush talked more. If I were Moses, I would probably start convincing myself that I am having a nervous breakdown since it is VERY unusual for plants to speak. Sadly, the Bible doesn’t tell us what Moses was feeling at that very moment, but we do know that He listened to what the bush was saying. God said, through the bush, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6) Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The LORD continued to speak, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a long flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7-8) Moses felt incapable of doing such an important God, he was riddled with his own insecurities, but God reassured him, he was the man for the job. In Exodus 3:13, Moses asks who he should say sent him and in verse 14 we see that God simply said, “I AM WHO I AM.”
This little statement seems so simple, yet so hard to understand. Why would God chose to use such few words to explain who He was? Why not say, “I am the Almighty Creator, who came before you and knows everything and is all powerful.” That type of statement may have packed a little more punch when speaking to Pharaoh, after all, in our English language, the statement, “I am” isn’t even a complete thought. Again, we don’t know Moses thoughts and feelings about what God was telling, but I like to imagine myself in these situations. Again, I would be confused, how is telling Pharaoh that “I AM” sent me going to make sense? Of course, like Moses, I would be obedient, although there would still be confusion in my mind.
If we were to say, “I am” and nothing else, it wouldn’t make any sense, but when God says, “I AM” it shows His true character. I believe God wanted Moses to know that He encompasses anything and everything that Moses or the Israelites would possibly need Him to be. The best thing about God is that He is never changing. When He tells Moses that He is anything and everything he will ever need, He is telling that to us too. All of us have needs to be filled; we have struggles that seem impossible to overcome. The amazing this about God is that He is our, “I AM.” He can and will supply everything we need. If He cares about the birds in the air and the flowers of the field, how much more will He care about you, His child? The answer is a lot more. So whatever you are going through right now, remember God is beside you, He’s not going anywhere and He is the one that will supply all your needs. Lean on Him and not your own understanding.