And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. (Ex 3:13-14)
It is not uncommon to hear about God’s response that the word translated “I am” shows a process and not a one-time action. He is not saying, I exist at this very time. Rather, He is saying, “In the past I am; I now am; and in the future I will still be I am.” In other words, God is eternal, always existing outside of time. That is probably a valid observation, but there may be another lesson to be learned.
The literal phrase is, “I am; I am.” The conjunction “that” was supplied by the translators of the King James Version of the Bible. If they supplied that conjunction, might it also be possible that God is saying, “I am who I am.” In response to Moses asking a name to give to the Israelites, God says, “It is I, God, and nobody else.” God is God and can be no other. Nor can another replace him as the savior of the nation.
Many years later, the psalmist Asaph said, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Ps 82:6) His point was that people should help the poor because, even though we may be God’s children, we too will die. Jesus, however, used the verse to show that his claim to being the Son of God was not blasphemy because scripture said, “Ye are gods,” speaking of the children of Israel. We are gods because we were created in the image of God.
Sometimes we fail to see what a gift God gave to us. He emphasizes that he is the unchanging and unchangeable God. He is who He is. If we are made in His image, then we are who we are; we are who he made us.
Back in the 1960s there was a regular cartoon segment that was part of a Saturday morning series. It featured Tudor (or Tooter) Turtle, who was always wanted to be someone in the past. His friend Mr. Wizard (a lizard, of course) would magically send him into this alternate destiny, and Tudor always got into trouble and had to call to Mr. Wizard to bring him back to the present. At the end of each episode, Mr. Wizard would say, “Be just what you is, not what you is not. Folks what do this has the happiest lot."
Perhaps this is what God is telling us. God has created us in His image and we are endowed by our creator with those things that make us “what we is.” Each of us has their own uniqueness. The gifts, abilities, and responsibilities that God gives one are not the same as those he gives another. Just as God is who He is, so we are who we are. God embraced his uniqueness, and he expect the same of us.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (1 Cor 12:15-18)
Perhaps this is why God’s law to the Israelite people included the one that condemned a thought rather than an action. “Thou shalt not covet.” An inordinate desire for what another has or who they are shows disrespect to God’s creation. It is saying that God made a mistake in creating me.
Rather, we should relish our uniqueness. Whatever God gives us, whoever he makes us, we can use that to his glory. “Folks what does this has the happiest lot.”