13 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?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am . [a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”
- Exodus 3:14 Or I will be what I will be
So, are you guys ready for 2010? What do you think it’s going to be like? They say the economy is turning around. Do you think that’s true? And even if it is true, do you think it will be true for Michigan?
Of course, Michigan just got on the map as being the latest target for terrorism. And what with my grandmother’s funeral in Minnesota and all, I was even more aware of the threat level than I usually am. How’s that going to affect us in 2010? Is this the year for another 9/11? And will our troops ever be coming home to us?
Then there’s the continuing pandemic scare. Then there’s this new health bill. Then there are the new technologies that make every day seem different and confusing when compared to the last. And people die. And relationships grow sour. And innocence is lost. And everything changes. It almost makes you wonder if a phrase like “Happy New Year” started as an ironic joke.
Well, one thing isn’t new, and it’s cause for celebration. One thing isn’t new, and, thanks to that truth, you can be certain that your ultimate future—and even your immediate future—will be full of blessing. All sorts of things are new, but I Am Is Not New.
And when I say, “I Am,” keep in mind that I’m not just referring to a couple of words strung together. I’m talking about the personal name of God. Remember me mentioning that a week ago on Christmas Eve? When we considered the name of Jesus, that no other name would be as sweet, we looked at what Jesus’ name meant: “The Lord Saves.” And we talked about the fact that the Lord is a reference to God’s personal name. So no name could be sweeter for the Son of God in human flesh sent to deliver us from the consequences of our rebellion than “The Lord Saves.”
But, as I just said, the Lord is really just a reference to the one, true God’s personal name. It is not the name itself. The personal name of the one, true God that he chose for himself and revealed to the world in his Word is Yahweh, or, as we often say in English, Jehovah. It sounds something like the Hebrew word for “He Is,” and a little like the word for “He lives.” In our text he explains it not by saying Yahweh, but Ehyeh, or Ehyeh a’sher Ehweh: I Am or I Am Who I Am.
Could there be a more perfect name for the one, true God? He is. He is and that’s just the way it is. He is and no one can change that. He is even if people don’t want to believe that. He is without need for anyone else to make him be or to sustain his existence. He just is, and that’s all there is to it.
Some people say that’s not a good enough explanation, but those people are not listening to the name well enough. He doesn’t require your explanation. He is whether you can explain him or not, whether you can understand him or not.
Besides, such people ultimately know that something has to just be. They understand it both instinctively and logically. Don’t believe me? All you have to do is ask them!
Those of you who have been in my Bible Information Class or my catechism classes, bear with me for a minute while I share this with the rest of the people who have not heard it before. You see, I used to be sort of embarrassed to argue that God simply is without any explanation. I went to public school through eighth grade, and there was no end of text books, articles and people who were willing to argue that belief in a God who simply is is illogical. That it is dumb, shallow, superstitious thinking.
But then I started carrying the conversation out logically with people. Note, I said logically. I didn’t have the benefit of a Lutheran Elementary School education, so I didn’t think I had the passages on hand to argue it any other way.
The conversation would generally go like this. Someone would say, “Where do you think everything came from?” And I would say, “God made it.” They would say, “Oh yeah? Well, who made God then?” I would say, “No one.” And they would smile at me like they just proved what a fool I was.
Then I would say, “Where do you think everything came from?” They would say, “It evolved over billions of years. Everyone nowadays knows that. It’s a proven fact.” I would say, “What did everything evolve from?” They would say, “We can’t say for sure, but life seemed to start in the oceans, or perhaps in some mud.” I would say, “Where did the mud come from?” “Earth and rain,” they’d say. “Where did the earth come from,” I’d ask. “It formed from cosmic dust and matter that was drawn together through the natural forces of gravity and attraction.” “Where’d the dust and matter come from,” I’d say. “From a hyper-concentrated, infinitely dense ball of matter that blew up into the emptiness of space long, long ago.”
“And where did the lump of matter come from,” I’d ask. Their answer? “It was always there.”
You see? Everyone knows that something has to have always been there. They just need to decide whether they believe that to be a loving God of order and providence or a super-dense lump of stuff that blew up a long time ago. I think you know where I stand.
I Am, God says. “Before Abraham was,” Jesus said, “I am” (John 8:58). They wanted to stone him for saying that, you know. They wanted to stone him because he was equating himself with the one, true God. He was saying that he existed before everyone, that he existed before everything, but they didn’t believe him and thought that he was mocking God.
But they were missing the most basic truth of all Scripture. They were forgetting this conversation between Moses and the one, true God, who had appeared to him out of the burning bush. They were forgetting that God identified himself by his personal name not just to show that he was real, that he existed, but especially to show that he had always been there for his people! God told Moses to go deliver the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and “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.”’”
They didn’t just need an existing God. They needed a helping God, a delivering God, a faithful God, a saving God. And that is what the unchanging, unbreakable, self-sufficient, independently existent, one true God is. He Is a Savior.
Now back to the matter of this evening. Have you figured out what this sermon on the name of God has to do with you and this little New Year’s Eve commemoration tonight?
Think back to all the things that have changed, all the things that are worse, harder—more evil, treacherous and scary than ever before. The economy has gone south. Retirements are disappearing. The health care system is in trouble. Terrorists are trying to blow us up. Why do I want a new year when each new year seems to be worse than the last one?
Because of the one thing that is not new and that does not change: I Am. Because the science can change and turn our whole understanding of the make-up of the universe over on its ear, but the Lord still is. Because the Lord was there for Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, John, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Luther and all those who trusted in him no matter what the age and no matter what the trouble. This is not new, nor will it change.
And if you have betrayed him, changed on him, turned your back on him, sinned against him? Well, you sure can’t excuse it. You’ve turned your back on the one person who will always be faithful to you, the one person for whom even death is not an issue when it comes to keeping his promises. Disobeying him is turning your back on the I Am, turning your back on the very source of goodness and life. An eternity with the death we choose when we turn our back on that is the only appropriate punishment.
But when does the Lord say that we understand his name best? It’s when we need deliverance. It’s when we need help and protection. “The Lord Saves.” That’s what Jesus’ name means. “The Lord Saves.” As he did for Moses and the Israelites, as he did for you, me and the whole world when he died on the cross under the punishment our sins deserved: “The Lord Saves.”
This is not new, and a new year won’t change it, either. “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:2,3,7). This is not new and will never change. Amen.
New Year’s Eve I Am Is Not New
December 31, 2009
Pastor Aaron C. Frey Exodus 3:13,14