Before Abraham Was, ‘I AM’


Jesus Christ! The great ‘I AM’ The significance of ‘I AM’

‘Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your Fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ ‘What shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. And he said, ‘Say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Exodus 3:13-14.

‘I AM EHYEH’ first singular present of TO BE. HAYAH denotes that God is personal, eternal, self-existent i.e. absolute being.

1. Eternal. Psalm 135:13

2. Self-existent. Psalm 88:6-7

Then God, having revealed to Moses some essential aspects of His (God’s) personality informs Moses of the name by which He (God) wants to be known. God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘YHWH the God of your fathers, has sent me to you, this is my name for ever and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’ Exodus 3:75 / Psalm 135:13

YAHWEH plural form

Genesis 1:26, ‘Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness’.

The plural in the name YHWH, us and our, can in my opinion be regarded as an indication of the plurality of God’s nature and character, of which the Son and the Holy Spirit are part; three distinct persons who can act individually though never in disharmony and who are united in the godhead as one God. That the Spirit i.e. the force of God was there at creation is clear, ‘and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters’. Genesis 1:2

That through Jesus all came into being is stated in John 1:1-3 and John 1:18. It was through Jesus, i.e. God Himself Incarnate that redemption would be wrought.

The name YHWH meaning ‘the Becoming One’ is the ‘redemptive’ name of God and refers to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ who is in the bosom of the ‘Father’ God; Jesus who is part of the Godhead. When Jesus made Himself equal with God He was merely speaking the truth and had indeed every right to utter the words, ‘I AM’ in such a special way. The Jews understood perfectly well what was alluded to by the term I AM used by Jesus.

‘This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.’ John 5:18 / Leviticus 24:16

Now, remember the Bible doesn’t use names for God in the same way as we use names today. God doesn’t have a name as such but He uses certain words to describe His character or nature.

For example, the word El-Shaddai describes His nature as the all-sufficient One, the all-powerful One. The word Adonia describes His character as Lord, Master, the One with all authority. The word Yahweh describes His nature as the everlasting, self-existing One.

And so when God speaks to Moses, He is not giving Moses a name as we understand it. But He’s telling Moses to tell His people that Yahweh, ‘I AM THAT I AM’, the self-existing One has sent you. God is basically saying to Moses I don’t need a name but I will give you one to tell my people.

Now remember the Israelites have been in captivity in Egypt for 400 years and so God goes on to say in Exodus 3:15 just in case my people have forgotten who ‘I AM’, tell them ‘The LORD, (The One with all authority), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.’

Now let’s fast forward a couple of thousand years. We know that the Gospel according to Matthew focuses a lot on prophecy where Matthew points out time and time again that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The Gospel according to Mark focuses a lot on Jesus’ miracles and Mark uses the word ‘immediately’ regularly.

The Gospel according to Luke focuses a lot on Jesus’ humanity and shows Jesus as being the Son of man. And finally, the Gospel according to John focuses a lot on Jesus being the Son of God which shows the Deity of Christ.

But have you ever wondered why all the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are found in John’s Gospel?

John writes in John 20:30-31 ‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.

Now John never uses the word miracle in his gospel but he does use the word sign regularly. And there are 16 signs recorded in John’s gospel, 8 are things which Jesus did and 8 were things which Jesus said.

John is basically saying that the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are signs, selected from many other signs. And he says these signs are selected with a purpose in mind and that purpose is that you believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be.

And so just as `I AM’ is God’s own identification of Himself in Exodus 3:14 to Moses. Remember that strictly speaking, it is not a name, but a declaration of His Nature. When we come to the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus was not giving Himself a Name or a title, but was asserting His Deity. In other words every ‘I AM’ reveals some aspect of His nature and purpose.

‘Before Abraham was, I AM.’

When we read through John 8:31-51 we find Jesus uttering some very condemning words against the Jewish religious leaders. We can clearly see their carnal attitude, and their determination to hold their position of power and authority at all costs by using all means at their disposal.

Their reaction is one of slanderous insinuation, sneering, sarcasm, arrogance, abuse, and open violence, all of this based upon utter ignorance and blindness towards the truth because of prejudice.

Even if the claims that Jesus made for himself would not have been true, the attitude displayed by the Jewish religious leaders in dealing with the matter does most definitely not demonstrate the presence of a loving, spiritual and pastoral heart.

Moreover, by that time they had seen more than enough about Jesus to come to the conclusion that the claims Jesus made for himself were quite justified. In view of all this, it becomes totally incomprehensible to me how the Jewish religious leaders could have reacted to Jesus and his claims the way they did.

What a great lesson, what a great warning is here presented to us that we should never allow preconceived ideas and conceit to prevent us from seeing the truth, especially when it is so obvious a truth as Christ’s deity.

In John 8:31-59 we also read that, once more, Jesus is getting the better of the Jewish religious leaders. More and more by what Jesus says and does he is becoming a threat to their dictatorship this reaches its culmination in the words recorded in verse 58, their reaction is to kill him on the basis of what we can read in Leviticus 24:16.

Any excuse to kill him was good enough, especially if the ‘reason’ they could come up with to do so would form a cryptical ground to put Jesus to death. Let us, therefore, have a closer look at the words of Jesus as recorded in John 8:58.

‘Before Abraham was, I AM’. John 8:58

Abraham had lived and died. Abraham was, i.e. in the past, had been, Genesis 25:7.

‘I AM’ would imply that Jesus said he was far more exalted than Abraham since the ‘I AM’ in contrast with ‘Abraham was’ and speaking and in the past tense Jesus, by saying ‘I AM’ instead of ‘I WAS’ which would be the normal structure of the sentence in that particular case, was alluding not merely to his antiquity in relation to Abraham, but also to his (Jesus’) timeless existence even the more because he said ‘before Abraham was I AM’.

Note that Jesus even goes to the length of using the double Aramaic amen, amen. In saying, ‘Verily, Verily’ or ‘truly, truly,’ that denotes the paramount importance of the statement that is to follow Jesus is emphasizing even the more the staggering statement.

Now some people may not recognize or understand Jesus’ claims but the Jewish leaders certainly did. In John 8 when the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of being demon-possessed and asked Jesus if He was greater than Abraham. They go on and say to Jesus in John 8:57-59

‘You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!’ ‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him’.

The Jewish leaders had no doubt that Jesus was claiming Deity, that’s why they were going to stone Him. Straight after Jesus has just helped the woman who was supposedly caught in adultery and the leaders wanted to stone her.