A glimpse into forever
(Moses said) “...if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’
what am I to tell them?”
“I am who am.”
Then he added,
“This is what you shall tell the children of Israel:
I AM sent me to you.”
God spoke further to Moses,
“Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:
the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac,
the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.
“This is my name forever;
this my title for all generations.”
Volumes have been written about the meaning of what is described in these few, short verses, yet not even all the libraries and document servers in the world could exhaust the reality that underlies what God says here.
What God reveals here is not just his name, as if it were just a label that might be somewhat descriptive but is really just externally applied to something, even though he gives this as his name and it has been rightfully (if not always perfectly) venerated as such for millennia. (This name is represented most accurately with English letters as YHWH, although it has been represented by some as 'Jehovah'. So sacred was this name held, that no one reading Scripture would pronounce it, saying “The Lord” instead.)
In fact, what God reveals in this name is the key to understanding who God is: I am who am - a unique, existential statement of inconceivable reality.
God IS. God exists without dependence on any thing or cause.
God IS. Past, present, and future exist simultaneously to God in the eternal Now.
God IS. God exists without any limit of any sort: perfect, infinite, omnipotent.
As I said, volumes have been written about this: men and women have written about it incessantly over the ages, trying to grasp the meaning of these few words with the best intellectual tools of the time. I personally could not even scratch the surface of this reality.
I personally imagine Moses - already astounded beyond words by the miracle of the burning bush, the wonder of God’s own voice, and the glory of the Lord shining upon him - and then...! and then... when God spoke his name... he had a glimpse into the infinity and eternity of God himself.
The reality of God is the ultimate WOW!
But what God says here is not just a matter for endless ontological reflection. God also reveals that he - the God of eternity and infinity itself - is the same one who has involved himself in a special way in the lives of a particular family and their particular history and who is committed to the salvation of his people.
This reality becomes even more profound, universal, and intimate by the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is famously exemplified by the strange reaction of the crowd on the night our Lord was handed over (John 18:4-6).
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them,
"Whom are you looking for?"
They answered him, "Jesus the Nazorean."
He said to them,
Judas his betrayer was also with them.
When he said to them, "I AM,"
they turned away and fell to the ground.
They had been struck between the eyes with that same glimpse of infinity, but lacking faith and grace, they do not understand and they continue on their evil path.
May God give us the grace to have faith and to understand, so that we may turn from our evil paths and turn more and more to the infinite reality and eternal glory that is God in himself: the one who has loved us since before time began, who has loved us throughout history, who loves us at each and every moment of our day, and who loves us forever and beyond.