In Exodus 3:13-15 we see God say:
“God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, 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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
In this passage, we are at last presented with the name of God: I AM, or, more commonly translated, Yahweh. Up until this conversation with Moses, God had yet to reveal His name to the Israelites. So, what does His name mean, and why did He choose then to reveal it? We hope to speak into the meaning and purpose behind I AM in hopes of a better understanding of Exodus and the Bible as a whole.
Firstly, why did God choose to reveal His name at that moment? For 400 years the Israelites had been in slavery by the Egyptians. As generation after generation came and went, the knowledge of God and understanding of Him faded away. With a lessening knowledge of God, and increasing exposure to the gods of Egypt, the Israelites eventually forgot who God was. They knew their forefathers worshipped God, yet they were not near to that God, and did not know Him. They longed for Him, yet did not know how to have Him. Therefore, Moses anticipates that the Israelites will ask for the name of God once he tells them he has been sent. And God reveals His name to first, show Israel who He is, and second, to validate Moses’s claim to have been sent from God.
So what does I AM or Yahweh mean? What is the importance behind it? Simply put, I AM translates to “I am the LORD.” When we see “the LORD” spelled in all capitals in the Bible, it is understood to be Yahweh. So looking back at 3:13, we can understand that to be “I am Yahweh.” I AM speaks to the being of God as well. I AM shows that God is always present, eternal, without beginning, and self existent. God is center. If you are a numbers person, you’ll see that God reveals who He is three times to Moses, which signifies the completion of God’s protection and care for Israel. He does not say it once, but three times to make it clear to Moses (and in turn, the Israelites) that He will protect and be near to them.
The remaining parts of Exodus then serve as an explanation or proof of God’s name. The remainder of the book shows that God is present in the lives of His people and is at the very center of the story. When God says in Exodus 3:8 “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 land flowing with milk and honey…” He meant it. He is not satisfied to just take them out of Egypt and let them figure it out from there. Rather, He guides and protects them until the day they eventually cross over the Jordan river in Joshua 3. When God says, “I AM” He is saying that we will always be present in the lives of His people and will watch over them.
Does that not bring us comfort today? The same present God, who was there in the lives of the Israelites, is here with us now. He still is protecting His people, and watching over them. Just as He always has, and always will.