In the book of Genesis when the Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush instructing him to go to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of bondage, Moses asked his name. The reply was “I am that I am.”
The Hebrew words are ehyeh asher ehyeh. Many Bible scholars believe this could be translated “I will be what I will be” or “I will become whatsoever I may become.”
This phrase could be considered an idiom, an expression whose meaning cannot be understood by the individual words. Like “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “it costs an arm and a leg.”
So what was God saying by calling Himself “I AM
I think to Moses he was saying that He would be whatever Moses and the Israelites would need as He led them to freedom. To us today the great “I AM” tells us He is faithful and will be whatever we need in any and every situation we face.
With that in mind my list today is of the “I AM” Jesus spoke while on earth.
I am the Bread of Life.
I am the Light of the World.
I am the Gate for the Sheep.
I am the Good Shepherd
I am the Resurrection and the Life.
I am the Way and the Truth and the life.
I am the True Vine.
Before Abraham was, I am.
This week, I encourage you to think about these things Jesus claimed to be. What do they mean to you that he is the bread of life, light of the world, etc.?
In our worship today we sang about the Lion and the Lamb. Those two terms are often used in Christian circles to describe Jesus. But what a contrast!
Think of a lion. The mighty king of the jungle.
He is big, he has a tremendous roar. He symbolizes power and strength. Lions have often been used as symbols of royalty. Many of the ancient palaces of kings and temples of pagan gods were decorated with statues of lions.
And these descriptions describe Jesus Christ in His role as king and resurrected Lord.
Old Testament prophets foretold of a coming Messiah who would be king.
Micah told us:
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”
Isaiah spoke of Him:
“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”
Daniel had a vision of this coming king and told us:
“And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.
Jesus Himself accepted the title of “King” when confronted by Pilate:
“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth”
But then there is the lamb.
Lambs are considered to be meek animals. They have no sharp teeth, no claws, no physical way to defend themselves. They run from what frightens them and the only protection they have from predators is to band together in large groups for protection. Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated. Dependent on protection from the shepherd, it is doubtful they could ever survive in the wild.
Yet the Bible often refers to Jesus as a lamb.
Isaiah in describing the coming suffering of the Messiah, described Him as a helpless lamb.
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
When John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the one coming to deliver he referred to Him as a lamb.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
And Peter spoke of Jesus as the lamb without blemish or spot.
“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” !
I am so thankful that my Savior is both a lion and a lamb.
Powerful yet meek.
Majestic yet humble.
Calling for justice and righeousness yet standing for grace and mercy.
I’m glad my God is a powerful and mighty God. So glad when I go to Him with my problems, I know I am going to a God that is able. His strength is mine. How often I have called on that strength –
When my father left my mother and me when I was only 14 – He became the source of strength and love I needed to go on with hope.
When my husband was killed in an accident and I was left to raise two little girls, He promised to never leave me and He gave me the wisdom and courage to go on with hope.
When the doctor said my cancer was very advanced and aggressive and there was not much hope I would live long, He assured Him that He would walk with me though this “valley of death” and gave me the determination to fight with all my might this dreadful disease with hope.
I am also glad He is a meek and loving God with mercy and grace.
When I became all stressed out about my future and my aging body, He assured me that just as He has been there for me in the past, He will not leave me now. He understood my worry and concern and did not condemn me for my lack of faith.
In the many times I have allowed my own thoughts and feelings to lead me to gossip, not forgive others, to be disobedient, He has never stopped loving and drawing me back to where I need to be in Him.
It was His love (the lamb) that led Him to the cross – thank God for the Lamb!
It was His power (the lion) that brought Him out of the tomb – thank God for the Lion!
Growing up in a Pentecostal background much emphasis was put on the need to be holy. I was told that God was holy – and I needed to be also.
Well – Scripture does back that up.
In the Old Testament God is called “Qedosh Y’Israel – Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah uses this term multiple times – I counted 29 times. Perhaps he used this term so much because of his vision of the Holy One. Jeremiah and Ezekiel also used that term as did the Psalmist.
The New Testament affirms that Jesus is holy.
Luke tells us in his Gospel that Gabriel told Mary:
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.
Evil spirits, when confronted with Jesus recognized His holiness as Mark tells us:
Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
And both the Old Testament and the New Testament called for us to be holy also.
Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Tell the whole congregation of Israel: Be holy because I, Yahweh your Elohim, am holy.
Peter reiterated this command to be holy as he reminded us what the God had spoken in the Old Testament:
For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
Being holy is an important thing because the writer to Hebrews declared:
Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.
But, what exactly does it mean to be holy? That has been a subject of debate and study for centuries so I am not going to pretend that I have “the” answer. But I think for too long we have looked at holiness as something we can obtain by our own efforts.
We see it in every denomination as we all have our lists of “do’s” and “do not’s”.
For me a lot of what it meant was all about outward appearances – and most of that was for the women.
Your hair must be long
You cannot wear any makeup
You cannot wear slacks or pants
You cannot wear jewelry
And on and one the list went with what I could not do. Not much was said about what I should do.
I joke now that if I wanted to know if something was a sin I would just ask myself “Would I have fun if I did this?” If the answer was “yes” it was probably a sin. It really was not that bad, but it always gets a laugh.
The big one for my Catholic girlfriends was
You cannot use birth control.
I want to share more in future posts about how I came to realize holiness was more about what was inside of me than outside. I don’t want to give the impression that being holy does not require an effort on our part but I believe (as I will share more in later posts) that holiness shows up on the outside only when it is rooted on the inside.
For now I would love to hear from some of you on this subject of holiness.
What does holiness mean for you? How would you describe it to an unbelieving friend?
What were some of the “rules” you grew up with in your church?
Studying the names of God, I continue to reflect on the name Hagar, the Egyptian Slave of Abraham and Sarah, gave to God in her encounter with Him. It was a moment of great despair and hopelessness for her. Despair and hopelessness until she realized that God saw her and cared about her.
As I continue to think about this concept that God sees us, I continue to be reminded of times in my own life when things seemed hopeless, but then God reminded me that I was not alone, that He saw me and He cared. I shared the first two times in my life – at ages 14 and 33 – when God revealed Himself to me so vividly in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1 and The God Who Sees Me – Part 2
Perhaps the greatest time God showed up for me was when I was fighting for my life in a battle with an aggressive cancer. After a mastectomy, the surgeon apologized to me because he said he had to cut a lot more nerves under my arm than he wanted to, including the main nerve running through my underarm down my side. He had found so many lymph nodes full of cancer and he wanted to make sure he got all of them so he cut away more than he preferred to do. He said I would have more pain than normal, but he felt trying to save my life was more important than inflicting some pain. I totally agreed with him. I wanted to live. If that meant some pain, so be it.
Meeting the cancer doctor for the first time he told me my cancer was a very aggressive type and far advanced. The type of cancer they found would also not respond to any further treatment after chemotherapy and radiation. His first words to me will never be forgotten. He said:
The odds are not in your favor!
After undergoing 16 chemotherapy treatments with three different powerful drugs, I began a radiation treatment which would include 35 sessions radiating not only the chest area where the cancer had been removed, but my underarm, the left side of my neck and the left side of my upper back. Because so many lymph nodes had been cancerous, the doctors wanted to radiate all the lymph nodes in that area of my body to make sure any cancer cells left were destroyed.
Starting the first radiation treatment I was already exhausted from almost nine months of chemotherapy. Several hours on two different days were spent in the radiation department as they worked to set up the computer to deliver the radiation to all four parts of my body. They had to be careful to avoid my heart and my lung as the cancer had been on my left side. Then the day arrived to begin treatment.
As I entered the room where the treatment would be given, I saw a sign on the door “Danger! Radiation!”. The technicians helped me on the table, working to get my body placed in the exact position needed so the radiation rays would reach the right places. They then left the room and the heavy door slammed shut. I lay on the table in a very painful position and watched the big x-ray machine begin to descend toward my chest. Feeling so frightened, I never felt so alone.
As tears ran down my cheeks, I cried out to God telling Him I felt so alone. At that precise moment, the elevator music they had been playing stopped and a song from my childhood came over the sound system.
Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so!
The song was so comforting reminding me that I was not alone. When the treatment was finished I thanked the technicians for playing that song. They did not know what I was talking about. The music they were playing was canned music already programmed and that song was not on the program. They also said they did not hear that song.
But I heard it. The God Who Sees Me – the God who saw Hagar – was there. He saw me, heard my cry, He cared.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.
In our small group Bible Study we have been looking at the names of God in the Bible. One of those names is El-Roi, “the God who sees me.” I wrote about the basis for that name recently in The God Who Sees Me – Part 1.
Reading that story led me to think of times in my life when I experienced that same sense that God had seen me. Times of my own fear or suffering when God ministered to me in a clear way that let me know He saw me. He knew my distress and He gave me assurance that He was with me and would help me in this time of difficulty.
The first time was when I was 14 years old and grieving over the father who walked out on me and my mother and left us to get by the best we could. That story is told in TheGod Who Sees Me – Part 1
Almost 20 years later, God again assured me that He was the God who sees me. While working at the University of Missouri Extension office in Perryville, Missouri, I anticipated the daily call from my oldest daughter. My two daughters would ride the bus each day from school to our home in the country. Their father who worked the midnight shift would be getting up and waiting to greet them. Although he was always there to meet them, I still had my daughter call me just to let me know they were home and see how their day had gone.
When the phone rang at work, I picked it up happily awaiting my daughter’s voice. But as soon as she began speaking, I knew something terrible had happened, something that would change our lives forever. I will always remember that little girl’s voice saying
Mommy, I think Daddy is dead!
My two daughters – only 6 and 11 – had come home to find their father laying in the driveway underneath our car. He had been working on the muffler and the jack had apparently slipped and crushed him. He had always been very careful when he worked on the car and to this day I do not understand why he raised the car with the jack and did not use anything to stabilize the car or the jack. It was not like him to be so careless. I always remind my family to be careful because it only takes one moment of carelessness to bring disaster.
Hanging onto the phone, I felt my heart would stop! It was hard to believe it was really true but the moments that followed showed me it was true. At 33 I was a widow with two little girls to raise. All kinds of questions flooded my mind.
How would I get through the days, the years to come without my best friend?
How would I help my daughters cope with not only their father’s death but the horror of finding him crushed beneath the car?
How would I be able financially to take care of them with the loss of my husband’s salary?
Who would be there to take care of them when they got home from school since I would be working?
How would I pay for the funeral?
Should we stay in Missouri or move back to be close to family? Could I make it on my own far from family’s support?
On and on the questions raced through my mind as I tried to grasp what had happened. It still seemed like a bad dream. Surely I would wake up soon and be in my own bed with my husband beside me and I would laugh at it all.
But it was not a dream. For the next few days I was numb. Planning the funeral, trying to comfort my daughters, trying to find answers to all those questions, slowly the sense of being in a dream began to leave and reality hit me hard.
Blessed to have family and friends who loved me and supported me, still the time came when everyone went home and back to their lives and I was left with my daughters to face the future alone. This realization came to me the first night after everyone had left. I fixed supper for the three of us and started to place the dishes and silverware on the table for us. Turning from the table to get the food from the stove, I realized I had put four plates and four setting of silverware on the table. With tears streaming down my face, I picked up the extra plate and silverware and returned them to the cabinet. In the future, we would only need three sets of dishes.
I did what I had always done in times of despair. I cried out to the Lord telling Him I did not see how I could make it through the months and years ahead, how alone I felt.
Instantly a verse of scripture came to my mind.
Lo, I am with you always…
While I know in this instance Jesus was speaking to His disciples – and through them to the church, I also realized this scripture had come to my mind by no coincidence. God saw me – this young widow living in the middle of the country – and He cared. He assured me I was not alone and that I would make it because He was with me. He was the “God who sees me.”
In the book of Genesis we are told of the story of Hagar, the maid of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. When Sarah was not able to conceive, she gave her maid to Abraham in hopes that she would be able to bear a son who would then be considered Abraham and Sarah’s legal offspring. This was often the custom in the ancient world – their version of our surrogate mother today.
After Hagar conceived it appears there was conflict between the two women. No doubt Sarah felt jealous and perhaps afraid that Abraham would begin to love Hagar more for giving him a son. The Bible indicates that Hagar may have also become a little arrogant because she had been able to do for her master while his wife had not been able to do.
In any event when Sarah began to treat Hagar harshly, Hagar fled into the desert. There, huddled by a stream of water, no doubt feeling all alone and wondering what would become of her and the child she carried, Hagar was visited by the Angel of the Lord. From the promises the visitor made to Hagar and from her response, it is clear that this was none other than God Himself.
God instructed Hagar to return to Sarah and Abraham and submit to them. He assured her that she was going to have a son and that this son’s descendants would be too numerous to count. She was instructed by God to name her son Ishmael which means “God that hears.” Hagar clearly realized who her visitor was and she called Him El-Roi, “the God who sees me.”
I have often read this story, even taught it in Sunday School, but recently as I read it, the name of God seemed to jump out to me off the pages of my Bible.
The God Who Sees Me
In the midst of her fear and suffering Hagar recognized that God saw her. I began to think of times in my life when I experienced that same sense. Times of my own fear or suffering when God ministered to me in a clear way that let me know He saw me. He knew my distress and He gave me assurance that He was with me and would help me in this time of difficulty.
I sat down and began to make a list of those times when God let me know without any doubt that He saw me and He was there.
Does Jesus Care?
The first moment for me was when I was 14 years old. My father had recently walked out on my mother and me, leaving to live with another woman. My heart was broken as my father had been the one I looked up to and wanted to be like. Unable to cope with her husband’s desertion, my mother became the child and I became the adult. Instead of her trying to comfort me, I was called on to give her comfort. Over and over she would repeat to me stories of the early days of their marriage long before I was born and would tell me terrible things about my father. Things I did not want and should not have had to hear.
One day feeling so alone I sat down at the piano and began to play a song we sometimes sang at church. As I played that song, it was a cry from my heart to God. The words of the song spoke exactly what I felt.
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press,
And the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches
Till it nearly breaks,
Is it ought to Him? Does He see?
After crying out to God through these words, I began to sing the chorus. I was not sure if the words of that chorus were true, Did God really see me? A young girl living in a run-down small house in a tiny town. What was I compared to the rest of the world? Did He care? As the tears ran down my face, I sang these words.
O yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary,
The long night dreary,
I know my Savior cares.
What I am about to say I know some will not believe or will say it was just the fancy of a young girl. But to me it was so real, I will never doubt it. As I sang the words of that chorus I felt a strong presence beside me. Such a sense of peace came over me and I knew that the God who saw Hagar had seen me. Afraid to turn and look for fear I would really see Him standing there and feeling how unworthy I was, I never turned. But to this day, I know this was a moment when the Creator of the universe showed up to tell a young girl that He cared.
I have had other times of distress and problems but I have never doubted that God cares about me and that He sees me.
Have you had moments in your life when God “showed up” and let you know He was there? If so, I would love to hear about them.