Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the 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 forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation. ~ Exodus 3:13-15 (NIV)
A lot has been written about this passage. I’m going to suggest 3 interpretations that intertwine to give us a fascinating understanding of who God may be in relation to us.
- God is indefinable. The Hebrew phrase here has been interpreted as a proper name, much like the term “ha satan.” Yet another way to interpret it is God simply saying, “I will be what and who I will be.” In other words, “You don’t have the language to express nor the capacity to grasp who I am. I will not be put in a box. I am beyond your theological forms and models and beyond even your imagination.” Obviously, if you’ve read my blog, you know this interpretation appeals to me a great deal.
- God is Being, itself. This was basically the interpretation of Paul Tillich. In essence, Tillich refused to consider God as the “ultimate being,” but rather understood God to be the “ground of all being.” Nothing exists apart from God, for nothing can exist apart from God, since God is the very ground from which existence springs. This folds into the first interpretation very well, since it points to a “God above God,” as Tillich would say…meaning, God is that to which all those theological models and forms point, but that which they all fail to fully describe or define.
- God is in us. And this is my favorite interpretation. We are sons and daughters of the Divine. Therefore, each time we say or think “I am,” we are essentially invoking our Divinity, that inner self that is connected to all that is. In short, God is here claiming that, “I am I am, not your ego, which will try to tell you that it is I am. Don’t let that little satan fool you. Don’t let him or her take over your ‘I am-ness.’ Your ego is a temporary adversary, necessary to keep you alive and fresh and always learning. But don’t for a minute think that it is I am.”
God’s name isn’t Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai, Allah, Elohim, Hu, Ek Onkar, Wakan Tanka, or any other so-called “proper name,” because as Tillich emphasized, God isn’t a being, God is being.
God is I am.