Many of us have watched Cecil B. DeMille’s classic movie The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston as Moses. Remember the scene at the burning bush at Mount Sinai where he experiences the divine presence of the Great Deliverer of Israel and hears His voice?
Moses humbly asks how to answer the Israelites when they ask the name of the God of their fathers who has sent him. The deep, resonating voice responds: “I AM THAT I AM. Thou shalt say, ‘I AM hath sent me unto you’” (see Exodus 3:13-14 Exodus 3:13-14 13 And Moses said to God, Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say to them?
14 And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
American King James Version×, King James Version). The Hebrew could also mean “I shall be what (or who) I shall be.”
This is related to the name God gave immediately afterward— Yhwh (perhaps pronounced Yahweh), which is difficult to translate into English. Its general meaning is “He Is”—or “He Was, Is and Will Be”—having the sense of Self-Existent or Ever-Existent, “the Eternal.” The name is often represented in English Bibles by the word “LORD” (set in capital letters), as it is here (Exodus 3:15 Exodus 3:15And God said moreover to Moses, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial to all generations.
American King James Version×).
The Great Deliver who said He would deliver Israel (Exodus 3:7-10 Exodus 3:7-10 7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good land and a large, to a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come to me: and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.
10 Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
American King James Version×) figuratively hands His calling card to Moses to hold on to the rest of his days, defining Himself essentially as “Always.”
Nearly 1,500 years later Jesus of Nazareth, in walking the paths of Judea and Galilee, directly identified Himself as the One who spoke to Moses in shockingly telling the Jews of His day, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58 John 8:58Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am.
American King James Version×). Moreover, the One whom Moses and the Israelites followed in the wilderness was called the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:3-4 Deuteronomy 32:3-4 3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe you greatness to our God. 4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 32:15 Deuteronomy 32:15But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: you are waxen fat, you are grown thick, you are covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
American King James Version×; Deuteronomy 32:18 Deuteronomy 32:18Of the Rock that begat you you are unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you.
American King James Version×), and the apostle Paul tells us, “That Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:3-4 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
American King James Version×).
Thus, the One later born as Jesus was the “Always” who personally interacted with the Israelites as God. The “I AM” who beckoned Israel to follow into the wilderness toward a land of promise is the same Jesus who invites us today with the call of “Follow Me” (John 10:27 John 10:27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
American King James Version×)—towards the ultimate land of promise, eternity in the Kingdom of God.
In the midst of His followers
But there are times we lose sight of this revelation regarding the One our Heavenly Father has granted to be our immediate and personal Deliverer. Then our cry goes out, “God, where are you when I really, really need you—like right now?!” Yet God said He would never leave us (Hebrews 13:5 Hebrews 13:5Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.
American King James Version×).
We all need to be reminded at times what makes God what He is. Above His being ever-present, all-knowing and even all-powerful, He is ultimately and undeniably all-loving. In fact, the simplest scriptural definition for God is this: “God is love” (1 John 4:8 1 John 4:8He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.
American King James Version×; 1 John 4:16 1 John 4:16And we have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
The one who wrote this, the aged apostle John, was given an opportunity, in a vision, to see the resurrected Jesus Christ and to be powerfully encouraged that, no matter what our condition here might be, Christ, the I AM, is in position to care for our needs.
At a time when the Romans were dramatically persecuting the Church in the late first century A.D., John was reassured that Jesus was and is the living Head of the Church (see Ephesians 1:22-23 Ephesians 1:22-23 22 And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that fills all in all.
American King James Version×). Under such severe persecution it would be easy to think that Jesus was a myth, or that He was just one more distant deity whose attention was only drawn through obeisance and continual appeasement.
The apostle records, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,’ and ‘What you see write in a book …’” (Revelation 1:10-11 Revelation 1:10-11 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.
American King James Version×). He then refers to the seven churches of Asia Minor that were being challenged (also representing the whole Church through history).
John next says: “Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man … The seven lampstands … are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:12-13 Revelation 1:12-13 12 And I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
13 And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle.
American King James Version×; Revelation 1:20 Revelation 1:20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.
American King James Version×).
The imagery is striking. Here the ascended Jesus Christ is not sidelined or disinterested in the challenges facing His followers, but is directly “in the midst of” them and what they are experiencing. And Jesus conveys a vital message to John intended for the Church then and for us today: “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades [the grave] and of Death” (Revelation 1:17-18 Revelation 1:17-18 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
18 I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
American King James Version×).
Here we have the ever-present presence of the ascended and exalted Lord Jesus Christ whose consistent self-disclosure, whether as the man from Nazareth or as a glorified being, is “I AM.” He proclaims that He is the One who lives forever and who has experienced the worlds of life and death, both placed into His forever hands.
And He tells us, “Don’t be afraid!” He’s saying He’s here with us now, as much as He was “in the midst of” the fiery furnace in Babylon with Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego after they refused to worship an idolatrous image (Daniel 3:25 Daniel 3:25He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
American King James Version×). If even King Nebuchadnezzar could see a fourth person with them in the fire whose form “was like the Son of God” (Daniel 4:25 Daniel 4:25That they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will.
American King James Version×), perhaps this column will help open your eyes.
At times we are seeking God from outside of the challenges we are going through rather than recognizing He’s right in the midst of those challenges with us. Our Heavenly Father, who is the ultimate Revealer (Revelation 1:1 Revelation 1:1The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John:
American King James Version×), desired the ever-present presence of His Son in the lives of those personally called by Him (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×, John 6:65 John 6:65And he said, Therefore said I to you, that no man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father.
American King James Version×) to be fully understood and appreciated.
Bearing a cross—but of whose making?
At this point it’s incumbent to remind ourselves that Jesus never said being His disciple would be easy, but He did say it would be worth it.
From the beginning Jesus was brutally honest when He told those who would accept His invitation of “Follow Me” the commitment that was required: “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27 Luke 14:27And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version×). This referred to bearing the weight of one’s own instrument of execution, which of course Jesus did literally toward His own sacrificial death for the sins of the world.
But He showed us how we are all, in a figurative sense, to carry the burdens of our life in self-sacrifice and, like Him, to ultimately commit our spirit to our Heavenly Father (see Luke 23:46 Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
American King James Version×) no matter what comes our way. The reality of the Christian life is this: Before you bear a crown, you will have to bear a cross—yet not alone!
The big question at this juncture might concern the nature of the cross we are bearing. Is it a heavy weight borne for righteousness’ sake, or is it a self-made, earthbound burden created by our own stubbornness, foolishness or simple rebellion against God’s laws? Every decision has a consequence. Only you can answer this question for yourself—and perhaps this means being completely honest with yourself for the very first time.
No matter the origin of our personal burden, God wants to share His presence with us and provide a means to experience Him and for us to know that He doesn’t want to be marginal to our challenges but at the epicenter of our existence, as we exist to perform His will.
What might possibly be hindering us from experiencing the blessing and comfort of His presence? Unrepentant sin can hinder our ability to experience God’s presence. Isaiah 59:1-2 Isaiah 59:1-2 1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
American King James Version×speaks of God’s extensive desire to love us, but also what can stymie experiencing Him. The prophet says: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.”
Beyond the impact of sin, our busy lives can hinder our sense of God’s presence because there’s too much of everything else going on. Too much noise. Too much traffic. Too much confusion. Too many thoughts running rampant in our minds. Too much anxiety!
There’s a reason God says, “Be still and know that I am God … !” (Psalms 46:10 Psalms 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
American King James Version×). The apostle Paul speaks to a “simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3 2 Corinthians 11:3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
American King James Version×), and we experience that profound simplicity in His presence when we stop our world— just stop it! —and reorder it to His and our Heavenly Father’s glory and honor.
Don’t just knock—answer the knocking
It’s time we focus on “the double knocking” that Scripture tells us about. What’s that? We may be aware of one part of this equation, but not the other. You may be familiar with Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7 Matthew 7:7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you:
American King James Version×: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” It’s a wonderful invitation towards seeking God’s presence, but it’s on our terms and timing.
Now let’s notice what Jesus later said in Revelation 3:20 Revelation 3:20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
American King James Version×: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The reality, then, is that Christ is also knocking on the door—the door of our heart—the entrance to our existence. And we must be aware enough of His presence to open the door—over the roar of self and the deafening torrents of this increasingly godless culture swirling around us.
So the knocking goes both ways. The major difference is that Christ continues knocking. His presence is ever-present. The One who identified Himself as “I AM” is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 Hebrews 13:8Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
American King James Version×). He is always there for us, and His abiding words remain ever-present to those who accept His invitation of “Follow Me.” As He tells us, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 Matthew 28:20Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×).
Did you hear that knocking again? It’s time to answer the door!