I’ve always hated the phrase, “it is what it is,” after all, it means nothing, tells you nothing of significance or importance. A fluff phrase. And when I was younger, I was bugged to no end by God’s answer to Moses’ question when he asked God for His name. After all, Moses was about to do battle with the most fearsome, powerful nation on earth, and he needed some very real, concrete answers about the God who was supposed to have his back. And God says, almost as if with a shrug, “I am who I am.”
Did God give Moses a fluff name?
May it never be.
“I AM WHO I AM,” translated literally, means, “I will always be who I always have been; I have always been who I always will be.” And so God tells Moses who He always has been.
“I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Now Moses is an Israelite. They’re big on oral history. He knew the stories. He wrote the stories, so when God told Moses who He’d always been, this is what Moses would have known.
Abraham, too old to have children, met God, and God made of him a great nation, a nation so strong and powerful that Pharaoh, who claimed to be god, was threatened by them. Isaac, a miracle child who should never have been born, was saved by the hand of an angel and the God who provides. Jacob, who was deceitful, thieving, heartless, and who ruined his family by favoritism, received the blessings promised him not because he earned it, but because God is a God who keeps His promises.
This is who God has always been. And then He goes on to tell Moses who He always will be. The One who will go before them, who will clear the land of giants. When the Israelites spied out the land the first time, they came back spooked. Look at those giants! We must be like bugs to them, to be squashed underfoot. And God will clear the way before them, bring them to a place of abundance, to a land flowing with milk and honey, a homeland prepared especially for them. And do you know why God didn’t empty the land before they got there? Because if He cleared the people out too quickly, the land would be overtaken by weeds and wild animals and the Israelites would have had a bear of a time claiming it. Instead, they get to move right in to fields already planted and vineyards ready for harvest (Exodus 23:29-30).
So Moses, scared of men and gods, demons and armies, asks in his squeaky little voice for God’s almighty name, His character, personality, core, intentions and power, and God claims to be nothing less than the nation-making, promise-keeping, sacrifice-providing God He always will be and the giant-toppling, way-clearing, abundance-giving God He always has been, i.e. the maker of nations, the keeper of promises, the God who provides.
The same yesterday, today, and forever.
I am who I am.
Excerpt from “Peace and How to Keep It.”