My wife and I have just one daughter who is nine years old, and she is learning to play the violin. Recently I have had a few Saturdays off and went with her to her orchestra lessons – they play a piece: “I have a dream”, based one Martin Luther King’s famous speech. Well Martin Luther King is no more, and I don’t know that his dream has fared any better. Like men, dreams tend to fade and soon disappear. But I have had dreams too. I recall when I was studying Computer Science and we had to do a bit of programming, and quite often you would hit an impasse and you couldn’t solve how to get the program to work. On several occasions I would have inspiration in a dream how to solve the problem. The trouble was, in the morning I couldn’t remember the solution. But one time I managed to wake and write down the solution on a bit of paper and then go back to sleep. In the morning I looked expectantly at the piece of paper: it was absolute nonsense! It made no sense at all. It seemed so brilliant in the dream – but when you looked at the reality in the cold light of day, the solution was no solution at all. It wasn’t real! It was a dream, it had no substance, it didn’t really exist. And dreams are like that – they can seem so vivid but they vanish as quickly as the dew does in the morning. But it is not just dreams! The Bible says that we are like that! [Hosea 13:3 They will be like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.] or as Isaiah puts it: [Isaiah 40:6-8 A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.] Now it would be very foolish to base my computer science assignment on the inspiration I had in the night – I need something more solid, tangible, real, true. Something that really is, rather something with no substance. And that is even more true of what we base our life on – it must exist, be real, be true. And this desire for some foundation that you can rely on and know to actually be real and true has caused many to embark on a search for truth. A noble pursuit, but many in that quest have come up with ideas of about as much value as that dream I had. The philosophers of the world have come up with some strange notions: George Berkley posed this question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” – it seems a stupid question, but how do we know that something is real? Only by observation – and can you trust your senses? Is what you see and hear real? For instance, your view of reality would be very different if your eyes detected x-rays instead of visible light. He was really asking how do you know what is real? Well if you start questioning basic things like that where do you end up? We are all people of faith – we trust what our senses tell us. When I introduce myself to you, I say: “I am Paul.” That is who I am, it is my identity, I know I exist. But some of these crazy philosophers decided to question everything: one of them went and sat in an oven to think and he questioned everything to try and come up with the truth. But you have to start with something – and he came up with this basic premise: “I think therefore I am” [OHP] – a half-baked idea in my opinion. But this was the foundational premise on which he relied: his own thinking! Reality was based on what he had in his mind. Is that all reality is? The perception we have in our consciousness? I mean – my mind will soon be gone, just as Descartes’ has. Where is he and his thoughts now? Isn’t there something that is, that is true that exists that is the “I AM” that Descartes was searching for?
Well, praise God, we have wisdom that is sounder and more reliable than these men’s speculations! We have the Word of God that is true. We look at the first verse and what does it say? [Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.] There is the foundational truth, the basic thing on which all else is based – there, right at the beginning was God! Hallelujah! He existed at the beginning. Not just at the beginning of creation but even further back at the beginning itself [John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.] There is God existing from the very start. There have been various so called proofs of God – but the Bible takes it as given – it is one thing of which there is no question. He simply is. Not something that exists and then fades away, dies and is no more like the grass in the Australian outback. No, He always has existed and always will. It says in [Psalm 90:1-6 You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God! You turn man back into dust and say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away.] We are temporary and soon are no more but God is! The funny thing is that we rely on our senses and our philosophy which prove very unreliable; yet we do not rely on Him who is, always has been and always will be. We trust in fallible man’s ideas and our own experience, but not on that which is sure and eternal. Funny, we never question our own existence but we continually question the existence of God who is. [Romans 1:19-20] says the evidence of God is everywhere in the things He has made. There are some supposed proofs of God’s existence which may have validity – but, as you may have gathered, I don’t place a lot of stock in philosophical reasoning. Far more convincing is to meet up with Him for yourself. I want to read the account of someone who did. This man’s name was Moses and he was just getting on with his job of looking after sheep when he had this amazing encounter: [Exodus 3:1-15 Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvellous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (there he was in a face to face encounter with God Himself in person!) He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Just as I introduce myself as “Paul”, God tells Moses who He is – the God of those in the past. Moses had been told about the God of his fathers, He did things for them, they knew Him; but where was He now? They were in slavery; the land they were promised by God was far away – where was God now? But now here was this God, and He is still the God of all those promises) Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. (Not only had the God revealed Himself to him, He was aware of their situation. Sometimes people believe in God, but He is far removed and seemingly unconcerned with what they are going through. But this is not the case. God is there and He is aware – furthermore He has the power and ability and is going to do something about the situation) “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land. (The promise had not been forgotten) “Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them. (Their cry had been heard. Are you in a situation? Suffering? God is aware, He hears the cry) “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” (Moses did not know this God personally, how could He vouch for Him?) God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘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, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.] So God tells Moses who He is: “I AM WHO I AM!” [OHP] He exists! He is ever present! They had heard of the God of their fathers, but where was God now? Where is God now in my situation and crisis? It is all very well to theorize about God – but if He just acted some time in the past then He is not particularly relevant to me and my situation. But here is God who really exists, not some religious speculation, who is here NOW! “I am who I am” can also mean “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE” He is the God of Abraham in the past but also the future – He is always present tense – unbounded by time. Eternal – from everlasting to everlasting you are God. He exists. All else fades, wears out, dies, comes to an end. But God goes on! But not an impersonal presence but One who is ever present, aware of your situation and will and able to save – He will act to do something about your crisis. God was there to deliver them out of their desperate situation – to save them. Moses went back to Egypt to tell the people and the Pharaoh what God had said – and it didn’t go down to well with Pharaoh. He made things worse, increased their suffering, the people complained and Moses went back to God with their complaint. This is what God said to him: [Exodus 6:2-3 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am יְהוָה; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, יְהוָה, I did not make Myself known to them. Exodus 6:6-8 “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am יְהוָה, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am יְהוָה your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am יְהוָה.’ ”] God was introducing Himself to them by name! This is His name: “יְהוָה” This is His Name forever! He will always be יְהוָה! Now this name “יְהוָה” actually comes from the words “I AM” or “I will be” – His Name is a statement of His eternal existence. All else has an end but God exists – in fact nothing exists apart from Him. [John 1:3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.] He is the Source of all existence. And God gave this Name to them! What a possession! You might think that giving you a name isn’t much. Let’s see if I can explain: I work in a hospital laboratory – I’m a lowly lab worker, the doctors, the consultants are up here! It was even more so when I started work – it was Dr. this and Dr. that; we never called them by first name. And we had some fairly austere consultants, one I recall in particular, a Dr, Heaton. But suppose that Dr. says to me one day, “Look Paul, don’t call me doctor anymore, call me “Dave”” – he ceases to be way up here, we have entered into a relationship, he has let me become His friend. That is what God was doing! No longer “God” the ever existing One, somewhere out there. But יְהוָה, their own personal God in covenant relationship! He said that is how they were to remember Him for all generations. Now the only way we could become His friend is for the enmity to be destroyed – this enmity was caused by our sin, our rebellion, going our own way instead of His. That enmity was destroyed at the cross by Jesus bearing our sin in His body and receiving the full judicial punishment that we deserved. The sentence has been carried out in full – carried out in full by Jesus. [Ephesians 2:12-18 Remember that you were separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.] But do you know the tragedy? יְהוָה made this special relationship with these people, the Israelites, but they no longer called by name, they say that name is too holy to speak. It’s like that Dr. saying: “Call me “Dave””, but I still call him “doctor” – it is a slight, an insult to the privilege offered to me – rejecting the offer of friendship, relationship, closeness. God said remember Me by this name forever and they said no, we won’t call you by name. They rejected the Name given to them – but that Name is the only way to be delivered out of your bondage. But the Bible says: [Romans 10:13 “Whoever will call on the name of יְהוָה will be saved.”] and [Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”] But if you reject that offer and don’t call upon Him by name you will not be saved. Moses and Israel were delivered from their bondage – we are in bondage to sin, we can’t escape its clutches. It matters not what resolutions you make, your determination or therapy; you can’t escape its clutches. There is deliverance only in the Name of Jesus – a name which means יְהוָה saves! So what have we here: God who is: “I AM!” – eternal, ever present, One who exists when all else comes to an end. Someone you can depend upon being there. And furthermore He is near, made Himself known, we can know Him by name: [Jeremiah 23:23 “Am I a God who is near,” declares יְהוָה, “and not a God far off?] He is Near to those who call on Him in truth [OHP] [Psalm 145:18 יְהוָה is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.] and in calling on that Name we are saved. You can be delivered from the bondage to sin and the power of self if you sincerely call upon the Name of יְהוָה today – Jesus, the One who is the eternal I AM.