It may be one of the deepest longings of the human soul: to be known by name. If we’re honest, every one of us feels it, which makes a strong case that it’s part of our hardwiring. It really shouldn’t surprise us given that we are made in the image of a God who wants to be known, to have the kind of relationship with His image-bearers that involves being known by name. He made that clear in Exodus 3 when He met up with Moses at the burning bush. In that miraculous moment, He expressed His desire for His people, generation after generation, to know Him by His name. Not by a title, not a generic word for god, but by His name: I AM WHO I AM. Or, for short: I AM.
While it may not even seem like a name to us, a spirit being choosing a verb form instead of a proper noun for a name is genius. It evokes the idea of wind or of fire, an irrepressible movement or uncontainable force.
I AM means He is. He is now, He was then, and He will forever be. Self-existent. Everlasting. Above us. Beyond us. Infinite. And truly incomprehensible. And yet desiring to know and be known by His creation.
It was by the name I AM that God desired His people to know Him because it was by this name that a relationship with His people would truly take root. It was by this name He would initiate a covenant with them. I AM would lead them, bless them, and chastise them. By this name He would speak to them through the prophets and accept their worship. This was the name that gave them law and grieved over their unfaithfulness. This name, used over 7000 times in the Old Testament, was the name by which He made Himself truly known to them.
But within the relationship He established, I AM wanted His people to remember generation after generation that it was by this name they were rescued. It was I AM that sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand His people be freed from their bondage. It was I AM that sent the plagues, parted the Red Sea, and turned bitter desert water into fresh. Time and time again, it was I AM that came to their aid and delivered them from their distress. And it was by this name that He intended to do it again. But this time it would be an even more magnificent rescue, one that would reach far beyond His covenant people, sweeping them up in a restoration of all creation. And it was I AM who would do this.
Though His covenant people would hardly recognize Him, after a long and silent absence, I AM would return to His people intending to rescue, release, and restore it all. Quietly, inauspiciously, He would appear by way of the manger, spend His youth in a backwater called Nazareth, and step onto a first century stage running circles around the religious elite.
But rest assured, it was the same I AM.
The same I AM who sent the manna in the desert centuries later also fed the loaves to the 5000, afterward declaring, “I AM the bread of life.”
The I AM who called His people to be a light unto the Gentiles later announced, “I AM the light of the world.”
The I AM who excoriated the bad shepherds of Israel through the prophet Ezekiel told His first century followers, “I AM the good shepherd.”
The I AM who spoke to Moses from the bush spoke also to a woman at a well, revealing His true identity to her: “I AM, the one who is, speaks to you.”
And the I AM who called Abraham out of Ur and into the land of Canaan boldly proclaimed to His enemies, “Before Abraham was, I AM!”
We may call Him Jesus, but make no mistake, He and I AM are one, and this is the great mystery of what is called the incarnation. But the mystery that is greater still is how one who is self-existent, everlasting, above us and beyond us, would want to be known by us and would make a way to make it so. He would enter our world to reclaim it, become one of us to reach us, and ransom Himself to rescue us all.
Given the lengths to which our Maker has gone to be known by us, it is no wonder the human soul desires to be known. When that longing wells up from deep within us, remember, not only are we known by Him, we are deeply loved.
Being known and loved. Maybe that's what He's wanted all along.