The Great I Am
God’s promises to Israel—and to us—depend on His supernatural ability to fulfill them. And He makes that ability abundantly clear.
“Welcome to the State of Israel,” the guard said, smiling as he checked us through security and into the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC. My wife and I attended a function there many years ago, and I will never forget the Israeli ambassador’s words when he spoke about God’s covenant name.
“Yehovah,” he said, “literally means ‘I will be what it shall be.’” It is the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name the Hebrew Bible uses for God 5,410 times.1 The letters are yud, hey, vav, hey (YHVH).
Yehovah (English, “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”) comes from the Hebrew root verb “to be” and incorporates past (Hayah, “He was”), present (Hoveh, “He is”), and future (Yih’yeh, “He will be”). In other words, Yehovah is everything.
This powerful concept runs throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly in the book of Isaiah. God showed the prophet Isaiah the future because He not only knows the future but orchestrates it. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End.
This is a vital concept our struggling world does not understand. As we see pandemics coupled with seemingly uncontrollable hatred and violence, we must remember God still rules the world. He is seated solidly on His throne and is not astonished by current events. He is Jehovah: “I will be what it shall be.”
A Lesson From Babylon
Isaiah prophesied from approximately 740 to 680 BC, when tradition says he was martyred under evil King Manasseh of Judah.2 He died more than 100 years before Babylon dispossessed Judah, destroyed Solomon’s Temple, and carried the southern kingdom into captivity in 586 BC. Yet God divulged to His prophet how He would judge Babylon far in the future:
Bel bows down, Nebo stoops; their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle. Your carriages were heavily loaded, a burden to the weary beast. . . . They could not deliver the burden, but have themselves gone into captivity (Isa. 46:1–2).
These verses picture those who worshiped the Babylonian gods Bel and Nebo fleeing because their fake deities could not deliver them from Jehovah’s hands. Events, of course, transpired exactly as Isaiah prophesied.
Yet according to a 2017 Gallup Poll, a mere 24 percent of Americans believe the Bible is “the actual word of God, and is to be taken literally.”3 That fact would not be surprising were the Bible not so accurate, particularly with regard to Israel’s history. In fact, Isaiah is so accurate some Bible critics claim different men wrote different sections in different time periods.
Such a view, of course, negates the supernatural work of predictive prophecy. Some people simply cannot accept the fact that God foretold the future through Isaiah, so they try to reduce the Bible to an ordinary book, rather than accept it as the actual Word of God.
God’s promises to us and to Israel depend on His supernatural ability to fulfill them. And He makes that ability abundantly clear in Isaiah 46 by contrasting Himself to idol worshipers who make their animals carry their useless idols, while He carries Israel—and promises to do so forever:
Their idols were on the beasts and on the cattle . . . a burden to the weary beast. “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been upheld by Me from birth, who have been carried from the womb: Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (vv. 1, 3–4).
Then He declares, “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (vv. 5, 9). No one and nothing can compare to Jehovah.
He is the “God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19). He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last” (Rev. 22:13; cf. 1:8, 11; 21:6). He is the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (1:8). He is the God of Israel, the one to whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
And He alone declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isa. 46:10). The Lord proclaims that He provides predictive prophecy. He could not have said so any clearer.
‘Israel My Glory’
The world today reeks of evil. It is filled with anti-Semitism and political and social chaos. It shakes its fist at God, repudiates His Word, and wars against Him; His Chosen People; and the true, believing church.
But God will win: “I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (Ps. 2:6). Israel houses His holy hill; and His Messiah, the King of Israel and Savior of the world, will stand there and watch His enemies become His footstool (110:1).
God is perfect, eternal, and unchanging and transcends time and space. He determines the future because He is the future: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). He is the one who will clean up the mess mankind has made here on Earth.
Of all the amazing revelations God gave Isaiah, one stands out: “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, for Israel My glory” (v. 13).
If there is one thing the world needs, it’s righteousness. Without it, we cannot truly love one another, enjoy lasting peace, or even get along as nations. Sin hinders these blessings.
Humanity’s greatest need is deliverance from sin: “For the wages [the penalty] of sin is death [eternal separation from God]” (Rom. 6:23). Every individual stands condemned by the holiness and righteousness of God. But God knew exactly what we needed: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
God promised Israel that (1) His righteousness would never be far off and could be found if searched for (Jer. 29:13); (2) salvation and deliverance from unrighteousness are possible; and (3) His plan for the salvation of humanity would be found within His beloved nation Israel, His “glory.”
Not only would God deliver Israel from the Babylonians, but He would make Israel His crown jewel by making salvation available to all mankind through Israel’s Messiah.
It is reassuring to know we not only serve a God who created everything and controls everything, but we also serve a loving God who is the Alpha and Omega—the one who was, who is, and who ever will be. Our lives are in His hands, as is the nation of Israel.
- MJL, “What Is The Tetragrammaton? The unpronounceable four-letter name of God,” myjewishlearning.com (tinyurl.com/tetragr-1).
- Victor Buksbazen, The Prophet Isaiah (reprint, Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 2008), 40.
- Lydia Saad, “Record Few Americans Believe Bible Is Literal Word of God,” news.gallup.com, May 15, 2017 (tinyurl.com/Gal-25).