Today, while reading my bible—the one with liner notes that help clear up any misconceptions—I noticed something. A misconception.
Well…first, let me show you what I was reading. It comes from the Biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt; or more specifically, the chapter in which God introduces himself to Moses—from a burning bush:
13 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?”
14 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.’ “
15 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 by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
Okay…so the burning bush story is familiar to most of us who’ve grown up in Western society, even if we’re not all practicing Christians or Fundamental Jews. As is, of course, the epic crossing of the Red Sea, and the Ten Commandments, and so on. How is this misunderstood?
Well…take those Ten Commandments. PLEASE! Take ’em…you can have—
No, no! I didn’t mean it like that…seriously! 😉
I meant that, in those Commandments, God has something to say about His name—that’s right, the same name He gave Moses to introduce His Almighty Self to the Israelites:
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Notice anything interesting here? Hmmm? Not yet? Well…you will.
You see…in any version, and in nearly every language, God introduces Himself as “I AM”—the present-perfect sense of the verb “to be”.
“Well,” you say, “maybe it’s specifically referring to the Hebrew language word for it?”
Actually, that’s what most people think. It’s what the Israelites thought. In conjunction with what the Fourth Commandment told them, they took it so seriously, they stopped using the word. LITERALLY! The people of Israel took the Fourth so seriously, they stopped saying “I AM” outside of prayer and worship activities, until the sound of the word itself was lost, and all we have left of the original Hebrew name for God is the four consonants written in the Hebrew scriptures for it: “YHWH”.
Wikipedia has a great article on this Hebrew name for God, including images of that Hebrew script for it. Regarding their reverence for the name of God, Wikipedia has this to say:
Jews ceased to use the name in the Greco-Roman period, replacing it with the common noun Elohim, “god”, to demonstrate the universal sovereignty of Israel’s God over all others; at the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered, and was replaced in spoken ritual by the word Adonai (“My Lord”), or with haShem (“the Name”) in everyday speech.
They stopped using it. The Israelites stopped using “I AM”. And even today, people are loath to say “God” or “Jehovah” or “Jesus” unless they’re really calm or reverent—or, really, really PISSED!
And that’s the part that I think was a terrible mistake.
You see…I don’t think God made a mistake when he used one of the most ubiquitous and irreplaceable symbols in the Hebrew language system to describe Himself. He referred to himself as “I am what I am” or, as I prefer from the King James version “I Am THAT I Am”.
Seemingly, God…is equating Himself with Existence itself.
He told Moses “I Am that I am”, and that he could introduce his God simply as “I AM”: I Exist, I Was, I Will Be, and Am Here And Now. He told them His Name was the same as Existence itself—that everything that is was His, that He made it, owned it, and without Him it wasn’t to be.
In Modern English, we can’t speak at all without using derivatives of the verb “To Be” in our sentences.
Think about it. Here I am, writing about the name of God, and where would I “be” without that one little word? I WOULDN’T! Literally, the opposite of “I AM” is “I AM NOT”—non-existence, nothing, never there. Without “I AM” I could not communicate my existence, your existence, nor the existence or state of anything in the Human Experience.
God meant to do that. And He meant us to remember Him whenever we talk about OUR existence, too!
THAT was why He chose such a word. God never intended Humans to stop saying His name. He never wanted us to shy away from Him out of reverence, or fear, or shame. The Fourth Commandment says what it means, and means what it says. Every single time we speak of our existence, or our state of mind, or our place in the universe—every time we use ANY derivative of “Be”…is, am, are, was, were, will be, couldn’t be, has been…WHATEVER!—we ARE speaking the Proper Name of our God, just as He intended from the beginning!
God’s EXISTENCE is tied into the very framework of our own! With that Fourth Commandment, God permanently and explicitly tied reverence to the concept of “Is”, of being, so that whenever we spoke of something that is, we must inevitably think of the Almighty God that made it POSSIBLE for it to be.
His name is “IS”. “I AM”…I-Exist-And-All-That-Exists-Exists-Because-I-Am. That is the proper name of God, and this is why I believe Israel—and all the people who followed Israel’s lead on the matter—have mis-interpreted not only the intent of the Fourth Commandment, but have misunderstood the entire meaning of God’s name, and his relationship to Creation. We can’t “not” use God’s name! It’s impossible to speak coherently without saying it. It is impossible to contemplate, without experiencing it. To be, or not to Be…we can’t without God—and that was the idea.
What a SPECTACULAR misunderstanding! These people thought the name of their Lord was too precious to speak aloud.
I know now that it is too prescious…NOT to speak it.
I shall speak the name of my Lord—loudly, openly, and proudly. I shall speak it in every way, each and every day. And I shall remember this name, and I will keep it always Holy in my heart. Never will I take existence in vain—mine, nor His.
If I am truly the product of God’s Hand, then here is a lesson not taken lightly. God commanded me to BE, and created me—a Human “BE”ing.
This…is what I Am…
SASS has Spoken.
— the SASS Man