Advent | December 11, 2019
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Knowing Him by Name: I Am

“Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
[They replied] . . . “Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
—John 8:51-58 (NIV)

Maybe this has happened to you when a new colleague has come to work at your office:

After brief introductions on their first day, you walk past each other in the hallway each morning, exchanging a quick “hello” and raising your cup of coffee in solidarity as the workday starts. Sometimes you see this person in the kitchen area at lunchtime, and you exchange some small talk as your soup warms in the microwave. You chat about each other’s families, vacation plans, and favorite activities. Then one Monday morning when the person greets you with a friendly, “Hello, Sarah!” it hits you. You cannot remember their name.

There is something about knowing one another by name that strengthens a relationship. Especially in the cultural context of the Bible, names were not simply titles to address another person. They carried significant meaning.

We often see people in the Bible who had more than one name. This is especially true of God, who has many names in Scripture. Do you know some of the names of God? And better yet, do you know what they mean? God’s names often represent an important part of his character, such as a shepherd (Psalm 23:1), a healer (Exodus 15:26), a bridegroom (Isaiah 62:5), a father (Deuteronomy 32:6), a husband (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14), a lion (Isaiah 31:4), an eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11), a lamb (Isaiah 53:7), a rock (Deuteronomy 32:4), a tower (Proverbs 18:10), and a shield (Psalm 84:11), just to name a few!

The importance of each of these names could be explored through pages and chapters of analysis, but for now let us focus on the great covenant name God used for himself when he called Moses to lead his people: I Am Who I Am, or I Am (Exodus 3:14-15). In the New Testament, Jesus often used this same name to describe himself. Throughout John 8, for example, we find Jesus explaining to his followers who he is and who he is not. In verse 58 though, there is a shift.

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

No longer is he saying who he is. He is simply saying that he is. What does he mean by this? The word “am” is present tense. By Jesus saying, “Before Abraham was born, I am,” he is telling all who listen that he is not only present now, but he is also present at all times. He exists outside of time.

What does this mean for our relationship with him? It means that when we call on the name of the Lord, we call on the God who not only is with us in the present but also knows our past and future. And he is already there! We do not just pray to a God who will come through; we pray to the God who already has come through. So when you are anxious for the future, do not pray, “God, will you come through?” Instead pray, “God, thank you for coming through. Please help me to trust until then.”

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for all that you are. It is hard for me, in my humanity, to comprehend that you always have been, always will be, and always are. But in your awesome splendor, you are. Great I Am, I pray that you would let me trust that you will be with me no matter what I am going through, and give me the faith to believe that you already have come through.

Kimmy Berry is the digital marketing associate for World Renew in the United States. She has a passion for sharing the love of Christ and the stories of his people with others, showing that when we all come together through our faith in God, we realize that we have much more in common than we ever might have thought.

Give the Gift of the Father’s Love

This Advent, you can give a family living in poverty the opportunity for a more abundant life. Through World Renew’s 2019-2020 Gift Catalog, your gift can free a specific family from poverty. Choose a region of the world where you would like to see your money go and come alongside a family with a better life today and hope for the future. Just search for “Free a Family” in our gift catalog here.