I was driving my car the other day, listening to the local Christian radio station. I have discovered that out of all the songs I have heard which center around God’s pivotal self-revelation, “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), 80-90% of those songs absolutely drive me up the wall. That’s because those 80-90% of songs convey something along the following lines:
“When you need a soft place to land, I am your big fluffy pillow / When you need a morale boost, I am your cheerleader / When you’re feeling weary, I am your double shot / When you get lost, I am your GPS…”
Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating a bit. But here’s the point: These songs all say, from the Lord’s voice (and not often in Biblical language), “I am whatever you want/need Me to be”. It’s supposed to be very encouraging to know that, good ol’ God, He’s such a great buddy. What a pal. What a nice quick fix. Whatever I need, He will become to me.
I believe it was A.W. Tozer who described this sentiment as trying make God in our own image.
When God revealed Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM,” He was doing the precise opposite of what these songs are saying. God was not saying, “I am ___ (fill in the blank).” He was saying, “I AM.” Period. Possibly even an exclamation point.
“I AM” is the ultimate statement of self-sufficiency. God’s identity is derived from no one. The three Persons in unity in the Trinity are co-eternal, having no beginning, fellowshipping in perfect joy, glory, and love. God needed no created thing to be God. He needed no audience to have a personality, identity, or sense of fulfillment. God is the I AM, the Creator and Author, the Beginning and the End, the One “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:15). “Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom 11:36). God alone is the “I AM,” and everything else derives its being and origin from His power, kindness, and will. No one votes for Him or approves of Him as God. He just is.
God is also unchanging. Although it’s true that He is a rational, emotional, personal Being who experiences differences of feeling and thought, He never fundamentally changes. The God who was loving and just yesterday will not become resentful and capricious tomorrow. The God who had the power to create will not one day become feeble. He does not compromise regarding His holiness, justice, or mercy. He is who He is. The I AM.
Can you imagine how well it would have gone if “I AM” meant “fill in the blank”? What if Israel asked Moses who sent him, and he replied, “Well, whoever you want has sent me”? Those aren’t the words you want to hear coming from a prospective deliverer. If some dude comes in from the back side of the desert, claiming that a God wants to save you from slavery, you want to know that the aforementioned God means business and that He has the substance to back up the promise. After all, can you actually trust a fluffy-pillow, cheerleady, fill-in-the-blank God to bust you out of the iron grip of a sadistic Pharaoh?
When we water down “I AM,” rather than find greater comfort, we actually resign ourselves to futile, forced optimism. When we try to recreate God in our own image, we will invariably end up with a mousy, shallow, not quite believable deity who might give us warm fuzzies but has no actual power. When my life is in turmoil, and I tell myself, “God is my big fluffy pillow, because that’s what I want right now”, nothing has changed for me. Other than pinning my ache onto my idea of God, nothing has happened. By trying to make myself feel better, I actually short-change myself from any true hope or courage I might otherwise gain.
However, if I can remember that God is the I AM… that He doesn’t waver or change, no matter how much my circumstances do… that He is sovereign, and His plans and purposes can’t be thwarted by anything created… that He is loving, that He is good, that He is trustworthy, and that His heart is for me… suddenly I have a reason to hope. Note that the Psalmist recorded, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), not “Be still and think nice thoughts about Me.” When God is a fixed standard, rather than a variable, I have an anchor. I have a place to hang on for dear life until I remember which way is up. I have an arsenal of understanding revealed in the Word of God that tells me what God is like, what His emotions are towards me, and what kind of power He has to back up His good intentions. I know that He wins at the end of the day — always — and that nothing can separate me from Him. I know that I won’t be the one exception who slips through the cracks and falls out of His attention. Why? Because He is the I AM. My view of Him no longer hinges on what I feel or what I think I need, but it rests in the assurance that He absolutely is who He says He is and that nothing on earth or in Heaven or Hell can change that.
He said I AM. And that’s the end of any argument. Praise the Lord. For real.