The perfect name

God as I-AMby J. Randal Matheny, editor

Choosing a name for a child is a dreadful process. The parents want to get one that will sound just right, not too strange, but not so common either. One that will fit both the child and the times, since names go through cycles of popularity and neglect.

Some people, unhappy with the label handed down to them, go to the trouble to change their name legally. Others go from good to bad, with a moniker to call attention to themselves. Just today I read that some pathetic performer changed his name from Snoop Dog to Snoop Lion.

One person gave himself his own name from the beginning, one that doesn’t change, because it expresses his very being.

From Exodus to Revelation, the name of the great I-AM reverberates down through salvation history. Revealed first to a fearful, tongue-tied Moses, the name describes his beingness, his self-definition, his very nature, his self-revelation. No one sketches or fleshes out ideas about God. He is who he is, he will do as he decides to do, and no one may question, challenge, or dicker about his determinations.

Moses thinks the Sovereign has the wrong man for the job of rescuer and leader (read Exodus 3-4). God is patient, he works with man where he is, but in the end, if man tells God to do otherwise than he has planned, you just make him mad.

It’s a shame that we get confused and tangled in discussions about the Tetragrammaton and its varied manifestations in Jehovah, Yahweh, and the like, not to mention its translation in some versions as LORD, because those four consonants belt out the existence and eternity of God. While many of those discussions are necessary, no one less the the Lord Jesus restores the divine essence in the name with his shocker to the Jews, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (John 8:58 NET). Not to mention his seven I-AMs in the gospel of John, stars that orbit (this is spiritual astronomy) around the Center of the existential universe.

Speaking of John, his wonderful fixation on the I-AM and his love for threes in the book of Revelation lead him to open the book with the salutation that begins like this, “Grace and peace to you from ‘he who is,’ and who was, and who is still to come …” (Revelation 1:4). This extension of, or commentary on, the divine name I-AM¬†reaches behind and forward beyond the time-bound horizons of human sight. For people who weren’t sure if they would see tomorrow, what a blessing to consider that name!

The divine name is not only a comfort, but a challenge. Jesus’ appropriation of the I-AM for himself exploded the Jews’ small concerns with genealogy and street-corner prayers. The sound of that name will cause us either to fall to our knees or bend down for a rock to throw (see John 8:59). Either we will buckle before the Eternal One or stiffen our necks against the Verily-Verily of the Ages.

Because the I-AM is not stasis but movement. While he is the Unchanging and Unchangeable One, he is not the Mexico City fog that hangs over the bowl of the world and does nothing, goes nowhere. This I-AM is also the one who descended and ascended, gave gifts to mankind, who, says John, loved us and proved it by freeing us and setting us up as a kingdom (Revelation 1:5.6). He is the one who is ever planning and executing one visitation after another in judgment and redemption (v. 7), until that final coming with angels and clouds. The I-AM is power in motion, force in action, energy with shape and form and direction (v. 8).

What a relief that this name never goes out of style!

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet. His microblog is randal.us.

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2 thoughts on “The perfect name

  1. Very well said, Randal!

    In my opinion, this is the best article that you’ve published hands down…at least of the ones that I have read. Great job with such a great topic brother.

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