Alan Marshall - November 2003
The God of the Bible, the creator of the universe with a special relationship to mankind, first reveals himself to a whole people group in the book of Exodus, just before he rescues them from captivity in Egypt. He reveals himself to Moses and appoints him as his prophet. He reveals himself as “I AM WHO I AM”, the one whose being needs no other explanation, the one who has always existed, the one who is in fact master of time itself, the one known by Moses’ ancestors, the one is everything Moses and his people need. In ancient Hebrew, the name “I AM” was probably pronounced as “Yahweh”, and may be translated in your Bible as “the LORD”. The precise pronunciation is not really important. What matters is who he is, and what that means to us. He appears to Moses in a fiery manifestation, and speaks the following words, though his actual being remains hidden.
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: 'Yahweh (I AM) has sent me to you.' " God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, Yahweh (I AM), the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
In an awesome display of power that could only be accomplished by the creator himself, Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian territory and through the parted waters of the Gulf of Aquaba, into what is now Saudi Arabia. Stunning evidence for this event, including photos of the remains of Pharaoh’s army can be seen on my Red Sea Crossing page (www.jesusisreal.org/RedSea.htm).
After crossing the Red Sea, Yahweh gives the Israelites this promise:
"If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I AM your healer." (Exodus 15:26)
When the Israelites are attacked by the Amalekites, Yahweh gives the victory, and Moses commemorates the event by building an altar:
Moses built an altar and called it “I AM your banner”. (Exodus 17:15)
The Israelites enter the land promised to them and live securely for many generations. When they again come under military threat, Yahweh’s angel brings a message to Gideon, which he also commemorates:
So Gideon built an altar to Yahweh (I AM) there and called it “I AM peace”.
The nation of Israel continues to rise, and prospers under King David, but then it forgets Yahweh, and is taken once more into captivity. At this time the prophet Jeremiah delivers a message of hope that Yahweh will bring another king who will bear Yahweh’s own name and save the people from their sins:
"The days are coming," declares the LORD , "when I will raise up to David a righteous branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: Yahweh (I AM) your righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6).
In fulfilment of various prophecies relating to the time, place and lineage of his birth, the boy known to the Jews as “Yeshua”, and to us as “Jesus”, was born to a young Jewish virgin named Mary. The angel that appeared to her instructed her to give him this name, which is a contraction of Yehoshua, meaning “Yahweh is your salvation” and thus “I AM your salvation”:
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Yeshua (I AM your salvation), because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)
It is crucial to understand that Jesus was not just a teacher, although he had an authority like none other. He was not one of many who were, or claimed to be, messengers from God. He was none other than the God Yahweh himself, the creator revealing himself for the first time in person to those he had brought into being. He also revealed something astonishing that was not previously known, that in Yahweh there was both a father and a son, that indeed human relationships were a mirror of relationships that had always existed within God himself.
There are some who will tell you that Jesus never claimed to be divine, that he never assumed the nature of God. Do not listen to them! This is the very heart of the Christian faith. I advise you to ignore godless scholars and unbelieving academics, and examine for yourself in the texts below, what Jesus actually claimed about himself, about Yahweh, and about his relationship to his heavenly father. I trust you will see that in his own person he was the continuation, and culmination, of the revelation of Yahweh to mankind.
Jesus ministry was bold, and while many responded to him, he quickly aroused opposition from the religious establishment:
Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM (Yahweh)!"
He makes a very big claim below. He again takes God’s name to himself, and claims not just to be the messenger of all wisdom, but the source of all wisdom.
In the following passage, Jesus claims that in every way, in his power, his authority and his compassion, he shows us the nature of God. He clams he is the only means of access to the Father, and he uses the name of God, Yahweh, in referring to himself as the source of all spiritual life.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:1-11)
In claiming to be the good shepherd, Jesus is clearly alluding to the Lord that King David called his shepherd in Psalm 23, with all that implies in terms of leadership, spiritual care, protection, love, and ultimately eternal life. It is evident that the intimacy that David had with God was intimacy with Christ himself (cf. Matthew 22:41-45). Isn’t it astounding that at the same time as Jesus takes to himself the name of God, he expresses a love for his people so great that he is willing to die for them?
I AM (Yahweh) the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:14-16)
Jesus claims to be the source of all our spiritual strength. Nothing of any worth can be accomplished without him working in our lives.
I AM the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Jesus has been constantly weaving his divinity into his teaching. As well as his direct use of the name of God in reference to himself, he has referred, and will refer, to himself in relation to the various aspects of the saving work of Yahweh, as revealed (in part) to the Israelites, and as foretold by the prophets. Now he emphasises that he really is staking a claim to be the promised Messiah, the divine Son of God. For us to share in his immortality, we must believe in him - that is we must acknowledge and trust in who he is, and what he has done for us.
The pharisees and priests were envious of Jesus’ following, but it was Jesus’ claim to divinity that offended them more than anything else.
But he continued, "You are from below; I AM from above. You are of this world; I AM not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I AM (Yahweh) the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." "Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world." They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. (John 8:23-30)
For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
At his trial, Jesus is asked directly whether he is the Son of God. He answers this question in the affirmative, and in doing so, uses the name of God just as he has on previous occasions. He goes on to say that the one they now see before them, vulnerable in his humanity, will appear again, sitting at the right hand of the Father, in judgement on those who now reject him.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I AM (Yahweh)," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" (Mark 14:61-63)
Jesus rose from death, because once he had suffered the punishment our sins deserved, it was impossible that death could hold him. Jesus is “the Son of God”, the Son who together with the Father, has always existed as Yahweh. But from the moment of his conception to the end of eternity, he is also fully human, and he opens the way for men and women to enjoy the immortality that was always intended.
Jesus said to her, "I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." (John 11:25-27)
Jesus claims to be our spiritual food, that is, our sustenance. His sacrificed his life for ours, that we might enjoy God’s love now and throughout eternity.
Then Jesus declared, "I AM the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
After he is raised from the dead, Jesus appears to his disciples. With his own divine authority, and with that of the Father, he commissions them to spread the message of salvation throughout the Earth. To equip them for this task, he authorises them to receive the same Spirit of God that empowered his own ministry.
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I AM sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)
Shortly after this, Jesus is taken up into heaven. Many years later, after most of the disciples have also died for their faith, he appears to John, the sole survivor of the original twelve disciples. He again affirms his absolute and complete divinity, which is at the core of the Christian faith. This enables him to encourage a suffering church by guaranteeing their victory with him.
The words and deeds of Jesus recorded by John and other disciples, up to and including the revelation above, are preserved for us so that we might share in the blessings released at that time. We would do well to spend a few hours reading these words, inviting the Spirit of God to apply them to our hearts.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I AM (Yahweh) the First and the Last. I AM the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
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