Seven Wonders of the Word
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. – Exodus 20:2
“I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam” – Popeye the Sailor Man
WARNING: There maybe nitpicking ahead!
The author of the Seven Wonders of the Word today points us first back, into the story a good distance. When Moses first asks God for some ID back at the burning bush he gets the response, “I AM WHO I AM.” Now our author doesn’t use the caps, she simply quotes the words, and states that this “ wasn’t a particularly satisfying answer for Moses, and it’s not particularly satisfying for us, either. In fact it sounds like an answer intended to end the conversation.”
Um… I can’t go there. In fact the rest of the verse she is talking about ties in quite nicely with the verse for today and her premise of difference between a relationship of care and a relationship of power and the difference it makes when it comes to the Word “Commanding.”
The verse in Genesis 3 goes this way: “14God said to Moses, ” I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘ I am has sent me to you.'” 15God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.” – Genesis 3:14-15
Whoa, you want relationship, you want a name that carries with it a context to understand who God is, I think you have it all right there!
With the I AM in caps God is saying just that, I AM, it is an all-inclusive statement, it wraps everything together. In this statement, God is reminding, Moses, and the people of Israel of their history, of their relationship, of the promise made to Abraham! It is in my view a particularly satisfying answer! The “ I am” often reminds me of “Popeye’s” statement “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.” That is a very limiting definition. It is in some ways the exact opposite of what God is saying. When Popeye declares that “I yam”, it think it is in the understanding that he isn’t “all that!”
When God declares “I AM” we need to be reminded of what God has done for us, thus the Israelites get the reminder of who God has been most recently for them before the commands are given. These commands and this God is “I AM WHO I AM” and this “I AM” is for us!
Being for us, frees us to be God’s people in the world sharing his care and looking out for the welfare of others. The theological quote for today is one of my favorites from Luther: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
Back when I was in seminary I used to respond to the inquiry of “how ya doing” with the phrase “i am who i am, no capitals!” What I was trying to say in that statement is essentially that I am a child of “I AM” Knowing that God’s commands are not to squash us, but are given out of a loving concern for our, and all people’s welfare, frees us as God’s children from constantly looking out for ourselves. That is a very freeing gift and one that lets us be little “i am’s” for others.