I AM WHO I AM
God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.’ And the Lord said, ‘I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their plea to be free of their slave-drivers. Yes, I am well aware of their suffering. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow.
So, come, I send you to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites, my people out of Egypt.’
Then Moses said to God, ‘I am to go then to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you. But if they ask me what his name is, what am I to tell them?” And God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This’ he added is what you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I Am sent me to you.’
TI invite you to think about your experience of God. What has it been like over the years? Has God been there for you or has God been absent? To help you to look at this experience, I invite you to ponder over one phrase: “I am who I am.”
When Moses asked God, What is your name? God answered, “I am who I am.” It was a strange answer. It doesn’t seem to say anything; it doesn’t seem to make much sense. Yet if you think about it – it may surprise you.
I am there
In an Irish version of the Bible, the translation of these words is: Is mé an té atá ann: I am the one who is there. In giving that name, the first thing God is saying is: “I am, I exist, I am there.” As you look back over your life, has that been your experience? As you remember good times and bad times, good things and bad things that came your way, do you have a sense that God was there, that God brought you through?
When God spoke to Moses, he told him what he had done in the past for Moses’ own people: he was their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had been there for them. Then he told Moses: he was not only there in the past, he was there in the present time: “I have seen the miserable condition of my people. I am aware of their suffering. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians.”
As you look on your life right now, do you have a sense of God taking care of you? Freeing you from the things that hold you back? The answer may be Yes and you are encouraged by your awareness of God’s care. The answer may be No – you have no sense of God looking after you; you may be discouraged and disappointed; you may doubt whether God is there at all.
That brings us back to the name God gives himself: I am who I am. It may help you to understand what God meant by these words if you ask yourself, what you would mean if you used them to describe yourself. Supposing you are doing your best and other people criticise you. They are disappointed in you, they want you to be different. But you know you cannot be the kind of person they want you to be. You have to be true to yourself and do what you have to do. You may eventually say: “I can’t be otherwise, I can’t be someone else - I am who I am.”
Trusting God as he is
God says the same thing to us. We can’t understand why God doesn’t give us the things we desperately need, why he leaves people in terrible situations, why he allows disasters to happen. God says: “I am who I am – trust me.”
That was Jesus’ own experience. In the agony in the Garden, he prayed, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible: take this cup away from me.” The Father was silent. In a sense he was saying, “I am Who I am – trust me.” The Father’s final answer came three days later: he raised Jesus from the dead and made him saviour of the whole world.
In a similar way God says to us, and he says to the people of Haiti and Chile: “I have been there in terrible times in the past and I brought you through. I see your suffering now and I intend to free you from it. But I do not manage the world the way you think I should: I am who I am – trust me.”
God, our Father,
we thank for having been there for us in the past,
in good times and in bad.
We thank you for your promise to take care of us in the present.
With Jesus we offer ourselves to you
and we leave ourselves in his hands
as you say to us:
“I am Who I am.”