YHWH, The Great I AM
The Needle. My sister and I used to love to pore through the magazine, ‘Country.’ It was full of beautiful colored photos of landscapes, old barns and wheelbarrows filled with flowers. Amongst the photos and handed down recipes, they hid a small ‘needle’ somewhere in the issue. I became obsessed with finding that needle. Once found, it was SO apparent where it was, I was amazed I had missed it.
Unlike the needle, God’s word is not hidden to us. In the Old Testament God’s name is almost always translated LORD in the English Bible, appearing some 6500+ times. THAT is a lot of name dropping! LORD as in all caps. And no, it was not the authors attempt to yell Gods name or a typo on the publisher’s part. This is referred to as the ‘Tetragrammaton’ (Greek for ‘consisting of 4 letters’) In the original text, it is YHWH, (Yahweh, or some translations use Jehovah) and occurs in every OT book except Ecclesiastes and Esther. The all caps distinguish it from other Hebrew names for God. (i.e. ‘Lord’ which is Adonai, meaning ‘Master’) LORD is built on what God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3, after God tells him to go to Egypt and demand His people are set free, Moses asks what His name is. He isn’t necessarily asking ‘What shall I call You?” Rather he is asking “WHO are You?” According to Jewish thought and tradition, a name is not a random word, but the name of the person conveys their nature, character and essence. God answers him as such: “I AM WHO I AM, This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.”
Although He had been known as El Shaddai (God Almighty) the covenant keeping God to the patriarchs, (Abe, Isaac & Jacob) now He wanted His people to know Him, experience Him also as Deliverer, in their now and continue to be known. “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as My own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:6-7)
Looking to the scholars, most are in agreement, ‘I AM’ conveys ‘to be.’ The root word signifies existence. One might say, “I am present is what I am” God’s all-pervading, ever-present nature, character and essence in our here and now. He is the “I AM THAT I AM” -the One Who was, Who is and is to come. (Revelation 1:8).
Jesus bolding stated in John 8:58 “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” The Jews were so irate; they picked up stones to kill Him, such an awesome-fearful thing for Him to say. (Go God!) In the olive grove (John 18) when Judas approached with the soldiers, they said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus answers, “I am He.” (Literally, “I am.”) The narrative says the soldiers drew back and fell to the ground, struck no doubt by the MAJESTY of His words.
Just like the needle, the LORD wants us to see Him, (um …6500+ repetitive use of His name assures that) He wants us to know Him, may He be so ever apparent. Each time we read ‘LORD’ let us take pause, look at the context, insert “The Great I AM, the One Who is…” Like David wrote, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) “O, LORD…the Great I AM! The One Who is and ever will be… my strength and my redeemer!”
May the written word flow and bleed into our everyday lives, that not only on the parchment may we see and seek after Him, the LORD, but LOOK for Him in our everyday, the Great I AM.
The author of Hebrews wrote: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine)
God says, “I AM.” We say, “He is.”
And for you Scrabble players, ‘Tetragrammaton’ … BOOM! 67 points!
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Side Note: The most devout of Judaism, will to this day not pronounce His name aloud. It is known as the Unutterable Name, the “Ineffable Name” (too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words.) Even when reading the scriptures when they see LORD, they will replace with Adonai, or Ha-Shem (The Name) So honoring.