It’s All in the Name
By Tim Harlow
I have a lot of names. Each of them serves as a distinct description of who I am. I’m “Dad” to my kids. I’m “incredible, magnificent, loving husband” to Denise. I’m Dr. Harlow, Pastor Tim, or Brother Tim, depending on your affiliation. I’m “Boss.” I’ve been “Coach.” I used to be “Timmy,” and I’ve been “Hairball” (but that’s a longer story!).
But when people ask me what I like to be called, I usually say, “Just call me Tim.” It’s a good name, and it’s my personal name.
Moses was the first guy to ask God what he wanted to be called. Others may have done it. Enoch walked with God. Noah and God were tight. Maybe God told Adam and Eve his name, but Moses was the first to ask to see some ID.
Moses had good reason. God had asked Moses to do something crazy. “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). So Moses’ first reaction was, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).
It’s a normal reaction when God asks you to do something to say, “Who me? Are you serious?”
And God said, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). I love that answer. God did not give Moses a pep talk. He didn’t say, “Believe in yourself, Moses. You can do it.” He didn’t send him to the “Pump You Up” motivational seminar for middle management shepherds.
Essentially he said, “You know what, buddy? It doesn’t matter who you are! I’m using a bush right now, OK? If I can use a bush—it doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is who I am. I will be with you!”
That must have made some sense to Moses, but since he was talking to a bush, he had to ask the question, “What is your name?”
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’” (Exodus 3:14).
The name is “I AM”—Yahweh, Jehovah, Adonai, depending on who’s translating.
This personal name is used 6,823 times in the Bible. Whenever you read “the LORD” in all caps, it’s God’s personal name—“I AM.”
God was telling Moses:
I AM the God.
I AM running the planet.
I AM the owner of everything.
I AM the Lord.
I AM the Creator and Sustainer of life. I AM the Savior.
I AM more than enough.
I AM the Alpha and Omega—beginning and end.
I AM everything.
Who Are You?
So what does this mean? If God’s name is “I AM,” then who is Moses? Who is Tim Harlow? Who are you?
If I meet the president and he says, “Hi, my name is George W. Bush and I’m the president of the United States. Who are you?” I can answer however I want. He doesn’t know me. I can tell the truth. “I’m Tim Harlow and I preach at a church in the Chicago suburbs.” Or I could lie and say, “I’m a country-western singer. I’m the ruler of North Korea. I’m the Tooth Fairy.” I could be or pretend to be anyone else in the universe.
But the one thing I can’t even pretend to be—in the presence of the president—is the president! Because that job is already taken. There can only be one.
So if God is I AM, what does that mean? It means that I can’t be I AM.
If God’s name is I AM, then my name is I AM NOT!
That has incredible significance for us, doesn’t it?
I am not the guy in charge, or the one with any power, or any talent, or any ownership, or any abilities whatsoever. It’s not about me. Because I AM NOT!
“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing . . . Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord (I AM) will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:25, 26, 28-31).
Do you see what this does for us? If I AM is our Father, then he’s got everything under control.
What Can He Do?
One of the pitchers for the St. Louis Cardinals, Braden Looper, is a member of our church. So not only do I get good tickets, I get good seats. I was at one of the home playoff games against the Mets and I was seated in the players’ family section. They were great seats, filled mostly with young women with little kids.
So there I was, sitting behind whom I figured out to be Jim Edmonds’s wife and their little 8-month-old baby boy. He’s very cute and I love babies, so we hit it off. But he started to get tired, and suddenly it became a perfect illustration of how we ought to be living our lives, knowing that I AM is our Father.
Around the fifth inning, the game was tied. The Cardinals had one guy on base, no outs, and Jim Edmonds came up to bat. And the crowd was really into it . . . the series was tied 2-2 so it was a huge game.
The crowd was on its feet, waving the rally towels around in the air. Literally tens of millions of people were watching all over the world. It was very exciting. Then I looked down and Baby Edmonds had his head on his grandmother’s shoulder, sound asleep.
He couldn’t do anything about the epic battle of Good (the Cardinals) vs. Evil (the Mets.)
It was his dad’s problem. So he decided to take a nap. (In case you’re wondering, Dad got a hit, we went up that inning, and the Cardinals eventually won the game.)
Wouldn’t it be better if we could figure out how to live that way?
I AM NOT—BUT DADDY IS.
What Can I Do?
It took Moses a while to get it, but he eventually understood and pulled off the greatest leadership task in human history. If you walk through the Bible, you will see it was always about God and never about the leader. Somehow David figured that out early on.
David said to the Philistine,
You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
Just let this serve as a reminder that your dad is I AM and you are I AM NOT. The battle belongs to I AM. The family issue belongs to I AM. The church situation belongs to I AM. And the financial worry belongs to I AM.
I’m certainly not saying that David or Moses didn’t have to do their part. It’s not always going to be easy facing Pharaoh or the giant. But however daunting your responsibility, remember it’s not your name that’s important—it’s his.
Tim Harlow ministers with Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois.