Bible Study Commentary on Jesus the Great I AM
An introduction - Moses meets the I AM at the burning bush
by I Gordon
I've spent a lot of time in the Old Testament over the last few months (ok
years, well, some would say decades!) so thought it best to get back to the
New Testament... and specifically something in the Gospels. In the last
series I looked at the faith chapter in the Bible - Hebrews 11. It showed
us what faith looks like through numerous characters and real life
examples. But faith has an object so I wanted to explore the One who our
faith is in. I want to look at the great 'I AM'. And that is, Jesus! Many
of you will be familiar with some of the 'I am' sayings of Jesus. For
hundreds of years prophets came giving words from the Lord for the people,
pointing them back to the God of Israel. Then Jesus arrives and not one
'thus saith the Lord' is heard. Instead He says things like 'I am the
truth', 'I am the light', 'I am the door', 'I am the life'. So I wanted to
explore these great statements. Do you know how many there are?1
So why study the 'I am' sayings'?
1. Firstly, this 'present tense' aspect of Jesus is very important. Our
Lord is the One who 'was, and is, and is to come.' Sometimes we can look
back to what was and look forward to what will be but forget the present
everyday reality of Jesus Christ and who He is now.
2. The 'I am' sayings present Jesus Christ in His true glory. In a word,
they present Him as God! They present Him as the God of Israel, Yahweh,
present with His people. This is greatly needed in a world that doubts who
3. The third reason (which is linked to point 2 above), is that the I AM's
Jesus in His right place in our lives, This is not Jesus the moralist who
you might learn right and wrong from. It is not Jesus the role model who
you might like to try copy. It is not Jesus the great teacher who can give
you some nice one-liners to remember. It is Jesus the I AM - Immanuel, God
with us.... The Creator and Sustainer of all things. The One who is the
Way, the Truth and the Life.
4. The I AM's present the unchangeable nature of our great God and Saviour,
Jesus. We have studied faith recently but faith is only as good as its
object. You may have tremendous faith in me but, alas, prepare for
disappointment! Seriously, I could let you down. But the 'I AM'? He is the
same yesterday, today and forever and will always be that which he has
promised to be. The I AM's present this aspect of His character.
So what are we going to do today? Today will be an introduction. Out of the
7 I AM statement of Jesus, today we will look at... none. Before looking at
any of the specific statements we first need to do a little background
detective work. Jesus used 'I am' many times but what did that mean for his
hearers? What did they associate it with? We shall see that the origin of
the name obviously goes much further back than the gospels. And yes, that
means a trip into our favourite Old Testament again! : ) Can you remember
where this name of God is first introduced?
Nothing really changes... until we meet God!
Exodus 3:1-2 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law,
the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert
and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (2) There the angel of the LORD
appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though
the bush was on fire it did not burn up.
You will remember from the Hebrews 11 messages on Moses that this event
came when he was around 80 years of age. He had 40 years thinking he was a
somebody, followed by 40 years learning he was a nobody... And here he is,
well past middle age, getting a little bit old, a little wrinkly, a little
grey. In his mind that God-given destiny that was with him since a young
boy seems to have been nothing more than wishful thinking. Here he is... a
shepherd, something that any good Egyptian is brought up to despise, and as
he looks back, he knows he blew it. Though his intentions of wanting to
deliver his people all those many years ago were genuine, he also knows
that his anger got the better of him. He lost his cool. He lashed out. He
murdered a man. That was 40 years ago but it feels like yesterday to Moses.
He was meant to amount to something greater than this but it's been 40
years of the same old stuff... taking the sheep out, getting them back in,
moving on to the next field... and then back again. 40 years and nothing
really changes for Moses. And then, something changes! He sees something
strange... 'What is that?' 'A bush? On fire? Burning without being
consumed???... Ok... what's going on here?'
Now as we read this passage we need to remember that this is how God
introduces Himself as the 'I AM'. So it is good to think of how this
impacts our life today for we have come into a relationship with Jesus, the
I AM. Now I know we haven't got far so the only point that I'll say at the
moment is that the I AM never puts people into an early retirement and says
they are too old to be used. There is always hope. That mistake you made in
your past doesn't disqualify you from being used any more than it did
Moses. He looks at the heart. But he does want us to do something...
The need to turn aside
Exodus 3:3 So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the
bush does not burn up."
Now Moses has seen a few strange things in his 40 years tending sheep in
the wilderness but nothing like this! The bush is on fire without being
damaged... It just burns and burns without being consumed. It is a strange
sight indeed. Moses has to turn aside to see this one! As we think about
this passage in terms of what we can learn, this is the first point - we
need to turn aside like Moses did if we want to learn and experience more
about this great I AM. Imagine if Moses saw this sight and thought 'hmmm,
now that's odd! Oh well...lunch!' And then finds a nice spot in the field
to break open his lunch box with his sheep. I fear we miss lots of
opportunities to both learn from the Lord and to be led by the Lord because
we don't take the time to turn aside and see. And I'm not just talking
about 'quiet times'. We can and should be pondering on and communicating
with the Lord through the day. Now granted, some jobs and activity make
this easier than others!2 Many lead busy lives in this day and it
is easy to take on too much. So we need to learn from Moses here - Take the
time to turn aside again to learn
more of the I AM. While you walk, do the garden, ride your bike, mow the
lawns... just turn your mind aside to think of Him!
Any old bush will do!
The second point here is what Moses wanted to see - he was puzzled why this
bush didn't burn out. Moses had burnt out a long time ago. He tried and he
failed badly. What was different about this bush he thought? I can't go
past this without quoting Major Ian Thomas for he has an awesome chapter on
this encounter called 'Any old bush will do!' He writes:
'This is the message of the Bible, that God has chosen the weak and the
things that are not to confound the things that are. All that God
demands of a man is his availability. What you are is totally
irrelevant - nationality-wise, money-wise, education-wise,
personality-wise, and any other wise, if only you will recognize the
principle that it is God that works in you, to will and to do of His
You read of the lives of men like Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, Dwight
L. Moody - men whose lives have made spiritual history. They were
simply men who had qualified in the school of failure and despair. They
were men who came to the end of themselves and discovered that what
they were apart from God was nothing... Judged by purely human
standards, you may be highly qualified for Christian service, and
yet... it is tragically possible for you to go down in the annals of
spiritual history as one of those who did not count either for God or
man - and do you know why? Because you never took time to find out the
reason why God uses men!
God had something to say to Moses, and I think that it must have been
something like this:.. You thought that this was a very remarkable
bush. You thought there must be something about it at once peculiar and
wonderful -something unique, that it could burn and burn and burn. But
you are wrong! Do you see that bush over there? That scruffy, scraggy
looking thing - that bush would have done! Do you see this beautiful
looking bush, so shapely and fine - this bush would have done! For you
see, Moses, any old bush will do - any old bush - if only God is in the
bush! The trouble with you, Moses, is this: forty years ago, learned in
all the wisdom of the Egyptians, might in word and deed, you admired
your own foliage! You thought you were some bush! But you burned
yourself out in twenty-four hours, and you have been a heap of ashes
for forty years! If this bush that you have admired were depending upon
its own substance to sustain the flame, it too would burn itself out in
twenty-four hours; it too would be a heap of ashes like you. But it is
not the bush that sustains the flame, it is God in the bush; and any
old bush will do.
Did you ever make this discovery? Have you ever come into the place
where you realised that all you can produce, at your best, is ashes?
Did you ever come to the place where you presented yourself for what
you are - nothing - to be filled with what He is - everything - and to
step out into every new day conscious that the eternal I AM is all you
need, for all His will!... Only remember this - any old bush will do!
That is the gospel truth! Whether we have seen it or whether we live in it,
is a whole different question! But it is a fantastic summary of what God
was showing Moses in this meeting and it sums up what the 'I AM' is all
about. So why would the One who introduces Himself here for the first time
as the 'I AM' appear in a bush that doesn't burn out? Why use that imagery?
Come on think... for it has both a personal application for Moses and a
prophetic application for the nation of Israel.
For Moses personally, He was showing that it's not the vessel but that
which dwells within the vessel, God Himself, that matters. In fact, the
word for bush here gives us a further glimpse of this as it means a
bramble - a thorny shrub. And thorns were a picture of the fall.
'Cursed is the ground because of you... Both thorns and thistles it
shall grow for you.' (Gen 3;17-18) And we are all a little bit prickly
at times are we not? We are nothing impressive in and of ourselves. But
any old bush, or person, will do as long as we see that it is God
Himself within the vessel that matters!
Prophetically - The bush speaks of the God's people collectively. This
was Moses' call to lead Israel and this burning bush was prophetic of
the fact that as a people they would pass through the fire but would
not be consumed. That is the history of Israel going back 4000 years.
Same could be said of the church - the fires of persecution burn
against it but cannot consume or overcome it.
God speaks... when we look!
Exodus 3:4-6 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from
within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." (5) Do not
come any closer, God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you
are standing is holy ground." (6) Then he said, "I am the God of your
father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At
this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
So look at what happens when Moses takes the time to turn aside... God
speaks and calls to him! God wants to be wanted so we should remember to
turn aside! He didn't speak till Moses turned.
What does the book of James say? ' Come near to God and he will come near to you.' (James 4:8)
Note also the fear within Moses. There was a thought at this time that no
one could look at God and live so Moses hid his face. Fear still causes us
to hide our face but as we get to know God better and see what He has done
for us, we approach Him as our Heavenly Father. As His children we are
certainly to live with a reverential fear of God. .. but not to be scared
of Him. Perfect love casts out all fear. The Holy Spirit calls out 'Abba
Father', 'daddy' within us and if you had a child in a family who was
scared of his father you would think something is not right. But how good
is it to have the 'I AM' as your Dad!
No matter what your earthly father was like, here is One that is the perfect
He came, He saw, He delivered... So Go!
Exodus 3:7-11 The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my
people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of
their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their
suffering. (8) So I have come down to rescue them from the
hand of the Egyptians... (10) So now, go. I am sending you
to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." (11)
But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring
the Israelites out of Egypt?" (12) And God said, "I will be with you
. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you
have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this
We see here that the I AM cares. I like this - 'I have seen, I have heard,
I am concerned, I have come down.' What He did at the Exodus was repeated
in a greater way with Jesus. Saw, heard, concerned, came down, paid the
price to deliver. But note that the I AM wants to use us as He did Moses!
After saying that He saw, heard, cared, came down to rescue... He says to
Moses 'so now, go!' The I AM wants to use the I'M NOTS (argh btw, that's you!)
'If you have some work to do,
start this very hour.
You supply the
God supplies the power!'
So what does Moses say? Who am I? I'm a nobody. I just look after some
dirty old sheep. How am I meant to go before Pharaoh?' And what is God's
answer? Well it is very simple - 'I will be with you'. In the Hebrew it is
literally the same word later translated 'I AM' - I am with you. So as
Moses steps into the unknown, into that which seems daunting to him right
now, he does so with the promise that right there, with him, will be the I
AM. We all feel inadequate do we not? Your particular insecurity may not be
mine and mine may not be yours. But we all have fears, insecurities and
things that make us feel well below what the task demands. That's fine.
Moses did. I do. You do. We are all the same. We are all thorny bushes with
issues, weaknesses and more than a few prickles. We all show signs of the
fall as this bush that God choose to speak from did. But praise God that
that's not the end of the story. God is with us and is what we are not. I
was telling someone the other day how I knew as soon as I became a
Christian that I would end up preaching. And that really scared me because
public speaking terrified me. Now I was getting scared of being scared! As
a youngster going through school I was just a shaky, nervous, daunted,
scruffy little bush when it came to standing up in front of a group of
people. But God says what He said then - 'I AM with you!'
Who is this I AM?
Exodus 3:13-15 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.
Commissioned to go, Moses has one question? 'Argh, excuse me but what was
your name again? Who shall I say sent me?' Here, for the first time, God
reveals His name as 'I AM'. But what does this mean?
Our Daily Bread' says 'I have long wondered why God would call Himself
by such a name, but slowly I am learning its significance. A sentence
needs only two things to be complete: a subject and a verb. So when God
says His name is "I AM," it conveys the concept that He is complete in
Himself. He is subject and verb. He is everything we could possibly
'I AM' is the Hebrew word 'Hayah' (pronounced ha-ya) whose primary meaning
'to be'. The name Yah-weh, or YHWH, comes directly from this Hebrew word.
Bible scholars will tell you it speaks of God's self-existent,
self-sufficient and eternal nature, And that is all true. But it means more
than that in a practical sense. As a young Christian I read a book called
'Grace plus nothing'5
which had a chapter called the 'Bathtub revival' that has
always stuck with me and what I want to close with:
The Bathtub Revival (by Jeff Harkin)
In 1968 I almost died. I was twenty-eight years old. After I was
released from the hospital (I had been there for more than three
months), I had to spend three hours per day soaking in my bathtub to
help heal an incision that had abscessed and was open. I weighed about
112 pounds. (Approx 50 Kg) I couldn't work, and the future looked very
dark. It was the darkest period of my entire life. Yet it was during
that very period that God was revealing his grace to me, and I was
learning that He is my righteousness.
One day, as I was sitting in the tub, bored to tears and open to God,
the Lord suddenly took over. I was thinking about his name, I am (John
8:58 and Exodus 3:14). An interesting question came to my mind, so I
asked Him, 'Since Your name is I AM, what are You, Lord?' His answer to
my question began to flow instantly (in my mind, not audibly). He made
it clear to me that He was going to reveal His nature to me,
specifically in terms of His righteousness for me. The list of all that
God is for me lasted a minimum of five minutes, and in all my years of
study I have never been able to duplicate it with a list of my own that
lasts even three minutes. That's how I know it was God and wasn't
merely originating in my mind. Not only that, I was also greatly
strengthened and encouraged. That's how I know it wasn't Satan!
So here is only a partial list: He said, 'I am your friend, your
Savior, your Lord, your healer, your comforter, your righteousness,
your supply, your next job, your finances, your dwelling place, your
peace, your joy, your direction, your love, your faith, your
self-control, your mental stability, your physical strength, your mercy
seat, your intercessor, your high priest; I am the Door, the Way, the
Truth, the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the
Creator, the Sustainer, the Everlasting Father, the Mighty God,
Immanuel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the husband of the
church, the true Vine, the root and the offspring of David, the Holy
One of God; I am your teacher, your companion, your enjoyment, your
future, your eyesight (I had an incurable eye disease that doctors told
me would render me legally blind in a few years); I am your hearing,
all of your senses, your IQ, your clean conscience, your voice of
praise, your baptizer, your glorious King; I am Faithful and True; I am
your salvation; I am your hope.
Like I say, that is a very partial, two-minute list. I'm sure I could
think of more if I took the time, but I could never duplicate His list.
You name it, it was on His list of all that He is for me. Many of the
things He said I had never thought of before. These days I refer to
this experience as my bathtub revival. '
Some of those things on the list you may have seen for yourself. Others we
may never see in this life. But one day we will see that this One that we
worship, Jesus, the I AM, truly is the creator and sustainer of all things.
All things hold together by Him and in Him.
So what have we seen
in this study? In brief...
Firstly the need to turn aside and enquire of God.
Secondly we have seen that we are like that prickly scruffy old bush God
choose to manifest His glory through. And in the words of Major Ian Thomas
- 'Just remember this - Any old bush will do!'
Thirdly we need to remember that the 'I AM' is with us. In anything and
everything that you face, God would have us know that we are not adequate
but He is. Moses didn't feel adequate at this time. If you read on in the
story he came up with four or five pretty good excuses as to why God had
picked the wrong guy! Nice try Moses! But God's answer was that 'I AM with
you.' From God's point of view that was more than enough and that is what
we need to take away this morning.