Two Powerful Words

Congratulations go out to Matt and Kate Ulrich who were married this weekend, having the privilege of speaking two of the most powerful words that can ever be uttered from human lips.

More on that in a minute, but I must first preface my discussion of those two words with another powerful statement.

Approximately 4,000 years ago, Moses was wandering in the hinterlands surrounding Egypt when God appeared to him in the form of a burning bush.  A dry bush caught ablaze in the heat of a Middle Eastern desert is no anomaly outside the boundaries of natural law.  That is, unless the bush catches fire spontaneously and speaks to you in a clear, distinct voice.  Or if the voice addresses you by name.   I can only imagine the surprise, if not sheer terror, that Moses must have felt when the voice of the Lord called him to remove his sandals because he was standing in the presence of God.

God gave him specific instructions to return to Egypt, to confront the Pharaoh and order the release of the enslaved Israelite peoples.

“Suppose I go to the Israelites,” Moses suggests, “and say ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God’s answer was simple: “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to theIsraelites: I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:13-14) 

Two words.  One name.  Identifying the person but moreso giving claim to the character of God.  This was the God who spoke with authority, who upheld promises, who made unbroken covenants.  The Lord needed no further introduction or explanation, even to the Pharaoh over Egypt.  I AM.

Again, roughly two thousand years later, God appeared to man.  This time he arrived in human form, taking on flesh and blood.  He was the dynamic, mysterious, prophesied messiah, Jesus Christ.  Not everyone knew who he was. In fact, most did not know who he was.  And so when the officials of the chief priests and Pharisees came to arrest Jesus under cover of darkness – a violation of law in 1st century Rome – they needed to be assured that they were confronting the right man.

Jesus went out and asked them “Who is it you want?”  
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said.  When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.  
Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”
And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered.  (John 18:4-8)

And so the story reads in the NIV Bible.  Yet in the original Greek language, of which the New Testament was derived, Jesus’s words were literally I AM.  This presence, this character, these two words were so incredibly potent that they could knock people off their feet!  God’s most powerful statement made to man was and is I AM.

Man has a way of responding to that proclamation in marriage.  As two people are joined together with an enduring pledge to love and support one another, their union serves as an illustration of Christ’s covenant with his church.  Marriage is about covenant-keeping.  So when a man and a woman stand at the altar and profess their love before a public audience they use two carefully selected words.  Two powerful and symbolic words.  One after another, face to face, the groom and the bride proudly tell each other I DO.