by Dr. Brad Black
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Dedicated to Jason Waldroup and Roxanne Reed
Our choir director played us a new song the other day; it was called “I am.” The whole choir loved it and with Roxanne, it became a passion. I also love the song, but I believe I loved it more because of a word study I did in seminary. I would like to share some of this with you.
First of all I AM is the name God calls Himself when he is talking to Moses.
Exodus 3:13-14 (King James Version)
13And 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?
14And 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 AM THAT I AM means that He was the beginning and the cause for everything. Or as Jesus said in Revelation:
Revelation 21:6 (King James Version)
6And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
Therefore, God is saying that He is the cause of all things, and Jesus is rephrasing this in Revelation. These simple words “I am” shows that God is all-powerful and is all time (past, present, and future) and everything is because of Him. This is just incredible how the name God gave Himself encompasses all of this.
I had a seminary professor who told us that she would not let her children watch Popeye because one of his catch phrases in his cartoons was “I am what I am.” She felt it was blasphemy and making fun of God and did not want her children exposed to this. I have found out later that in the generation before me there was a large group who felt the same way.
In Hebrew the word translated to “I am” is . Letter by letter it is YHWH. You see Hebrew does not have vowels. This Hebrew word is called the tetragrammaton; tetra means four, gramma means letters and ton means great. Therefore, this means the great four letters. These four letters are given great respect by the Jewish and Christian religions because they are the name of God. The third commandment says that you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. Therefore, to this day Jews will not say this word because they do not want to commit blasphemy. So instead, when they read from the Hebrew Bible, (Torah) they say the word “Adonai” which means Lord in Hebrew. Because of this, we do not know for sure how YHWH is pronounced. Scholars have a very good guess, because other words in the Hebrew Bible have part of this word in them, and by seeing how they are pronounced they can figure out how to pronounce it. Yahweh is how scholars say it should be pronounced.
This leads to the question, where does the word Jehovah come from. This is a combination of Latin and vowels from Adonai. In Latin translate to IHVH and then they give it the vowels from Adonai they come up with Iahovah, or translated into English it becomes Jehovah. The word Jehovah leads to a lot of controversy I had on Old Testament Professor who would take five points off if we used Jehovah on a test or paper. While I was doing a little research, I found one web site that was very pointed about their dislike of the use of Jehovah. I personally do prefer Yahweh out of respect for my professors, and how important the name of God is, so that it is preserved and respected.
I would like to look at when Jesus says He is I AM.
Luke 22:66-71 (King James Version)
66And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
67Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
68And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.
69Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
70Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
71And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
This is one of the most important times Jesus says I am, because it is during his trial. They could not get all of their witness to agree and were having trouble at finding anything with which to charge him. Therefore, they ask Jesus if He is the Christ and He says, “I am,” He claims He is God. The Jews see this as blasphemy, and He said it in court so they need no witnesses. The problem with this is, He was and is God so it was not blasphemy. Another point is Jesus could have avoided having to go to the cross here, He could have remained silent, but no, He knew that He needed to go to the cross and He gave them what they needed to convict Him. It just blows me away what Jesus did for all of us. He truly gave up His life, He did not have to, but He gave them everything they needed.
Now let’s look at the power in I AM. This is when Jesus is about to be arrested, look at the power when Jesus says, “I am.”
John 18:3-6 (King James Version)
3Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
4Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
5They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
6As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
When Jesus says, “I am” everybody falls down. Just the words knock everybody down - this is incredible. I just cannot understand the power of Jesus saying, “I am,” it is incredible.
I think the above examples are the two most important examples of when Jesus uses “I am,” but there are over a hundred times that Jesus uses “I am,” I cannot give them all, or this blog would be over twenty pages, so here are a few more that I like with less commentary.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
Jesus using “I am” says He is the resurrection and the life.
John 10:36-37 (King James Version)
36Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
37If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
Jesus claims with “I am” that He is the son of God.
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
Jesus is the light of the world with “I am.”
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
“I am” indicates the way, the truth and the life.
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
Jesus and the Father are one; Jesus is “I am.”
This is an awesome word study, you should get a Bible study together some time and just look at they way Jesus uses “I am.” I know you will be blessed.
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Good thoughts. My mom was Jewish, and she loved Popi. I keep telling the Lord, that He needs to take another ESL course; 'I AM' needs an object. Hebrew, afterall, is His First Language. I think He has some trouble with American English, particularly all the dry humor. God Bless.