And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you. — Exodus 3:14
If I say “I am,” I say what is not true of me. I must say “I am something — I am a man, I am bad, or I am good, or I am an Englishman, I am a soldier, I am a sailor, I am a clergyman.” — and then I shall say what is true of me. But God alone can say “I AM” without saying anything more. And why? Because God alone is. Everybody and everything else in the world becomes: but God is. We are all becoming something from our birth to our death — changing continually and becoming something different from what we were a minute before; first of all we were created and made, and so became men; and since that we have been every moment changing, becoming older, becoming wiser, or alas! foolisher; becoming stronger or weaker; becoming better or worse. Even our bodies arc changing and becoming different day by day. But God never changes or becomes anything different from what He is now. What He is, that He was, and ever will be. Many heathen men have known that there was one eternal God, and that God is. But they did not know that God Himself had said so; and that made them anxious, puzzled, almost desperate, so that the wiser they were, the unhappier they were. For what use is it merely knowing that God is? The question for poor human creatures is, “But what sort of a being is God?’ Is He far off? Does He care nothing about us? Does He let the world go its own way, right or wrong? Is He proud and careless? A Self-glorifying Deity whose mercy is not over all His works, or even over any of them? And the glory of the Bible, the power of God revealed in the Bible, is, that it answers the question, and says, “God does care for men, God does see men, God is not far off from any one of us. Ay, God speaks to men — God spoke to Moses and said, not “God is,” but “I AM.” God in sundry times and divers, manners spoke to our fathers by the prophets and said, “I AM.” But more Moses said, “I AM hath sent me.” God does not merely love us, and yet leave us to ourselves. He sends after us. He sends to us. But again: “I AM hath sent me unto you.” Unto whom? Who was Moses sent to? To the Children of Israel in Egypt. And what sort of people were they? Were they wise and learned? On the contrary, they were stupid, ignorant, and brutish. Were they pious and godly? On the contrary, they were worshipping the foolish idols of the Egyptians — so fond of idolatry that they must needs make a golden calf and worship it. Then why did God take such trouble for them? Why did God care for them, and help them, and work wonders for them? Why? Exactly because they were so bad. Just because they were so bad, His goodness yearned over them all the more, and longed to make them good. Just because they were so unclean and brutish, His holiness longed all the more to cleanse them. Because they were so stupid and ignorant, His wisdom longed to make them wise. Because they were so miserable, His pity yearned over them, as a father over a child fallen into danger. Because they were sick, they had all the more need of a physician. Because they were lost, there was all the more reason for seeking and saving them. Because they were utterly weak, God desired all the more to put His strength into them, that His strength might be made perfect in weakness.
(C. Kingsley, M. A.)