13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

I’m not sure why Moses assumed that the Israelites would ask him what the Lord’s name was, perhaps he was referencing some societal norm that is lost on me today. In any case, Moses’s request hits at one of the most fundamental questions in all of humanity. Namely, what is the identity of God? Who is He, really? What is His name, His definition, His origin? What is it that makes Him God?

God’s response is as profound as it is simple. “I AM THAT I AM,” is one interpretation of the Hebrew phrase that God used, other valid translations would be “I will be what I will be” and “I will become whatsoever I may become.” I think looking at all three interpretations we start to see the real meaning behind them: God is one who emerges from, belongs to, and is directed by His own self. What makes Him God, and not us, is that He is entirely self-sustaining and self-directing. Whatever He says He will do or be, He will do or be. There is no other entity that can override or prevent God’s proclamation from happening.

Let us contrast this to the identity of us a mere mortal like me. I am an employee only if I am hired, I am a citizen only if I am not exiled, I am alive only if I am not killed, I am a father only if my wife gives birth to a child. All of my definitions depend on another, and many of them can be revoked, but God’s definitions only depend upon himself. I say “I am that I am allowed to be,” but God says “I am that I am.”

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