Our church is going through the book of Exodus for our current sermon series, and last week our head pastor preached on Exodus 3:11-22. In this passage, God calls Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, and Moses responds with the question, “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?” God’s answer to Moses is, “I AM WHO I AM.”
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture and, I suspect, always will be. Reading it never fails to transport me back to my freshman and sophomore years of college. I went to Northwestern not sure what I believed about the universe, God, and most of life’s big philosophical questions. For my classes and on my own, I began to read and explore those ideas.
In my introductory philosophy courses, we talked quite a bit about existence – we read Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes, and we discussed the nature of reality and the material and immaterial aspects of our existence and theorized about how we learn and how we know what we know. We studied Plato’s theory of Forms, and we encountered Aristotle’s conception of the Unmoved Mover – something that affects other objects and beings and causes movements and changes in the universe but which itself is not caused by anything else in any way. We grappled with Descartes’ meditations and his inability to, without a benevolent God who could serve as a guarantor of truth, take even one tiny step beyond his only certain statement, “I think, therefore I am.”
At the same time, I was studying the Bible, again both on my own and in my classes. When I encountered this passage, God’s claim to be, “I AM WHO I AM,” I saw not a silly, contrived, anti-intellectual, tribal god of a people group that existed thousands of years ago but a true God who transcends space and time and the customs and desires of any people group. In His very statement of His name, He is claiming independent existence. He is the only being in the universe not dependent upon another in any way. He was not created and is not sustained by anyone or anything else. He has no beginning and no end. He is eternal and self-existent. He is the God that the most brilliant philosophers from all those years ago were seeking out and attempting to describe. He is, in many ways, Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover and Descartes’ benevolent guarantor of truth.
Even in just His revelation of His name, God reveals depths of wonders about who He is and His fulfillment of more than we often think possible. Sometimes, in the midst of laundry and dishes and diapers, it’s hard for me to remember the wonder of who God is. God, please help me to see you more clearly and remember more often.