THE GREAT I AM

THE LORD MY STRENGTH

It was only a very short time after God revealed himself to Moses as ‘I AM’ – the LORD, Jehovah, Yahweh [Exodus 3:14] – that Moses and the Israelites witnessed the power and authority of this God of their ancestors, this God who had, as far as they could see, been silent and inactive for over four hundred years.

The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, burdened with incredible work loads, subject to the horrific dictates of the Pharaoh [Exodus 1, 2 & 5].  When Moses came and demanded the release of the slaves in the name of the LORD they saw the power of the LORD at work in the plagues [Exodus 7 to 10] and their miraculous escape from the death during the final plague [Exodus 11 – 12]. They experienced deliverance from slavery by the hand of the LORD as Pharaoh finally let them go and Moses led them out [Exodus 12:31-42].

But then came the roadblock. The impossible situation. The Red Sea in front and Pharaoh’s army behind, and nowhere to go. These 2.3 million Israelite slaves knew with absolute certainty that this was the end of their escape. Encumbered by little children and the elderly, unarmed and totally untrained for battle – there was nothing to do except be afraid and wait for the inevitable. Hope for anything else was irrelevant. Or so it seemed. [Exodus 14:10-12]

But they had not reckoned on one thing: that the LORD was with them and on their side. The LORD – the eternal, self-existent One, the almighty, all-sufficient One – was about to do a mighty work on their behalf that would be remembered by their descendants for generations to come.

The impossible happened: The LORD divided the Red Sea. The LORD took that great crowd of Israelites across on dry land. The LORD destroyed the entire pursuing army. [Exodus 14:13-30]

In response to this unprecedented and powerful deliverance Moses burst forth into a song of praise:

‘The LORD is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God and I will exalt him’ [Exodus 15:2; see also Psalm 118:14].

This truth that the LORD is our strength occurs repeatedly through the Old Testament, with a variety of Hebrew words translated as the English ‘strength’ in the KJV and variably as ‘strength’, ‘rock’, ‘fortress’, ‘stronghold’ in other English translations:

‘I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.
He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.’ [Psalm 18:1,2]

‘The LORD is the stronghold of my life’ [Psalm 27:1]

‘The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.’ [Psalm 28:7,8]

‘The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble’ [Psalm 37:19]

‘Praise be to the LORD my Rock’ [Psalm 144:1]

‘O LORD, my strength and my fortress,
 my refuge in time of distress’ [Jeremiah 16:19]

‘The LORD will be a refuge for his people,
a stronghold for the people of Israel’ [Joel 3:16]

‘The Sovereign LORD is my strength’ [Habakkuk 3:19].

This exaltation of the LORD as our strength is regularly expressed in the context of deliverance or the urgent need for deliverance. It is thus connected with salvation. Frequently it is accompanied by expressions of joy. This connection: the LORD our strength/salvation/joy is the focus of Isaiah 12.

‘”Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.”
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known to the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.”’ [12:2-5]

May we who know the deep spiritual meaning of these words, manifest in the Lord Jesus Christ, also sing with exultant confidence and joy, and also make him, Jesus Christ, the great I AM, known to all the world!

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013