"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other would smell as sweet." This line comes from Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet as Juliet tries to downplay the importance of her family name. Yet we know that as much as she doesn't want it to, her name identifies her as belonging to the family that is the enemy of Romeo's family. Names identify who we are. It is the same with God, He has many names and those names communicate to us that He is everything we need.
One of the names that the Israelites used to identify God was LORD. You will find this word in the Bible written in all capital letters to signify a difference between the usage of Lord and LORD. LORD is the Hebrew name for God. It is often referred to as the personal name of God. Writing LORD is simply the best way that those translating the Bible to English could come up with to signify the Hebrew name YHWH. It is often translated Jehovah. Lord is used to signify a title of respect such as sir or master. Exodus 3 is where God first reveals His name to the Israelites. Moses asks God who he is supposed to say sent him. "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has set me to you." The definition of this name given in Easton's Bible Dictionary is: "the unchanging, eternal, self-existent God, the 'I am that I am,' a covenant-keeping God." These names LORD and I AM Who I AM are supposed to be interchangeable.
If we go back to the situation in Exodus where the Israelites are enslaved, we begin to understand why this name means so much to them. They have been in Egypt for hundreds of years and have begun to forget their calling as God's chosen people. He reveals His true name and nature to remind them what kind of God they serve and to Whom they belong. The reminder to the Israelites of His name stirs a longing in them to return to their true identity. They are God's chosen people.
In John Wesley's Notes on the Bible Commentary, he explains this name LORD. First, this name defines God as self-existent. He always was and is and always will be. There is not starting point or ending point for God. What does that mean for us? That means that He knows all about what went on before we were born, while we are living, and after we die.
The second meaning of the name I AM WHO I AM is "He is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday, today, and forever: He will be what He will be, and what He is." Our world is constantly changing and change seems to be coming at us faster. Thinking about an unchanging God gives me peace. Everything around me can be turning upside down, but not God. He is still the same. Nothing else in my life may be consistent but He is. That makes me breathe a big sigh of relief.
The third and final aspect of LORD that Wesley examines is that "He is faithful and true to all His promises, unchangeable in His word as well as in His nature, and not a man that He should lie." People are fallen and repeatedly make mistakes. Not God. This name signifies that. We can know in our relationship with God that He truly is I AM WHO I AM. We don't have to second guess His motives or wonder if He will say one thing one day and something different the next. This wonderful name describes an amazing God who is timeless, unchangeable, and faithful.