“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.’” (Exo. 3:14).
In the Scriptures, many names have emerged for God based on the people in question’s encounter with Him. But Genesis 3:14 is one of the few times in the Scriptures that God has actually told people what His name is or more aptly put, His preferred and designated reference to Himself. When Moses asks God for ‘His name’ that he might properly reference his new Designator, God tells him, “I AM.” Tell the people that “I AM” sent you to them!
Faithful worshippers will later grapple with the I AM-ness of God when Jesus appears and refers to himself as God’s Son, thereby claiming a state of being that has hitherto been ascribed to only the Holy ‘One’ of Israel.
Jesus himself, will further complicate the ‘one-ness’ of this God by yoking God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as ‘One’ God of Israel. The first and the last, Israel already knew. It was the middle portion – Jesus – with whom they were unfamiliar. As a matter of fact, many felt justified in demanding his death based on his claim that he was the ‘son of God’ thereby equating himself with God.
This equality with God is based on the unity that exists within the being of God as understood and confessed in Israel’s Shamma – “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut.6:4).
Critical reflection upon God’s naming of Himself is conversant with a traditional Hebrew style of naming persons or children – a person’s name reflects either circumstance, state of being or promise. And if we pay attention to the many ways God has revealed Himself in Scripture and to His People, then God’s reference to Himself as “I AM Who I AM” begins to take on a fuller meaning and make sense to the Jewish Shamma as well as Jesus’ claims.
By identifying Himself as “I AM Who I AM” or “I Will Be What I Will Be” God reveals what it is to be the Holy One of Israel and our God.
Our God Who is both ‘one’ and ‘One’ does not change in essence but remains the same God whether we encounter Him as the Father, Son or Holy Spirit.
He does not change whether we encounter Him in the wind (as Elijah did) or in the Fire, as Moses did.
He is still God whether we encounter Him in the Baby Jesus, the Man of Galilee, the Crucified Christ or the Risen Lord.
Whether we encounter Him as the Voice of God at Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration or as the tongues of fire at Pentecost, He IS THE SAME GOD in all these manifestations!
This is (one of the reasons) why God would prohibit His faithful people from creating and worshiping graven images or limiting His existence and presence by picking and worshiping an object, person, place or thing.
Because our God determines in what place, time and way to reveal Himself to the faithful, He identified Himself in way that speaks for all eternity – I will be found where, how, and whom I ‘choose’ to be found.’ Thus, He would have strict guidelines for how He should be worshiped lest the faithful err by missing His essence and worshiping the place, state or thing in which He chooses to be found rather than worshiping Him, the True God.
This absolute initiative of God belongs to Him alone. He cannot be found in what He chooses not to be found in. Therefore, it informs our understanding better that He chose to be found in humans, i.e., men and women (Gen.1:26-27).
Whereas God has ‘appeared’ in the fire and in the wind, yet He is NOT in every fire or every wind. The only manifestations in which God has rested the revelation of Himself for all time is in God the Son and in humans – both men and women.
Just as His essence does not diminish whether we encounter Him in the Person of the Son or the Holy Spirit, His essence does not diminish in either men or women, because what it means to be human is to be ‘created’ in God’s image. Thus every single human being carries within him or her the full representation of God.
This is why Jesus would have pity on the woman, crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years and heal her (Lk.12:10-13). It was why he would heal the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda (Jn.5:1-10). It was why he would show love, acceptance and inclusion for every person he encountered because he recognized himself in each person – he was in each person. It was the reason he would not ‘condemn’ anyone to death because that would be contrary to the love by which he, the Father and the Holy Spirit brought such persons into existence.
What does this mean for our understanding of the equality of men and women, who together constitute the human race?
It means that God being Who He is, and Who never diminishes in essence regardless of what He chooses to ‘be’ at any given time in place and time, and Who has chosen for all time to ‘BE the God’ Who is known as God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit, as well has chosen for all time that what it means to be human is to be ‘beings known as men and women’ CANNOT be reduced in worth whether we encounter Him as God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, or we encounter Him in women or men.
To BE the “I AM that I AM” is to be unchanged in essence regardless of how we encounter Him or by gender of human beings. He eternally IS God in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and is eternally represented in both men and women sans difference.
The unchangeability of our God as the ‘One God in three Persons’ and the One God in whose likeness men and women exist, is what makes it IMPOSSIBLE to introduce the reducibility of worth in any man or woman regardless of their state.
The unchangeability of the essence of our God whether in the human Baby Jesus or the Crucified Christ or in the Wind and Fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is what makes it impossible to justify claims of women being unable to fully represent God or being unable to fully and ably fulfill the mandate to be His deputies on earth (what He already determined as the reason for the creation of both men and women in Genesis 1:26) and which Jesus reiterated in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20.
By deputizing his first of disciples to replicate his teachings in the world, Jesus reiterated the original mandate in Genesis 1 & 2. So that every disciple of Christ -both men and women- would thereafter, live according to the mandate of their creation, which is to represent God.
The representation of God in humans does not change in men or in women. It DOES NOT change whether we encounter a man or we encounter a woman. It remains the same, because the God, in whose likeness men and women are made and whom men and women represent, DOES NOT change in either worth or essence, regardless of how OR IN WHOM we encounter Him. No wonder, Jesus will caution us in Matthew 25 that many will at one point or another in their lives, encounter him as the poor and disenfranchised of society!
Just as Jesus (fully God and fully human), IS the same, yesterday, today, and forever, men and women of every nation are beings who carry the essence of the invisible God in them, as at Creation and at the end of time! Not even sin can or will change that! We may be told lies about it, as Satan tried to tell Jesus lies about Jesus’ own worth at his Temptation, but like Jesus, we too, must respond to such lies with ‘It is written…male and female he created them!’ to represent His essence on earth!
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt.24:35).