We all know the story of Moses’ encounter with God through the burning bush, where God first tells Moses who he is:
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘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 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: 13-14 / NIV
A footnote to this scripture verse says that an alternative rendering of “I am who I am” is “I will be who I will be”. This is actually not an alternative title for God but according to Jewish scholars , is precisely the one he gave us. It is a much more accurate translation of the the original Hebrew: Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. Answering Moses’s question of “Who are you?”, God essentially responds with; “You’ll see!”.
Is this just a case of splitting hairs over a minor difference? Don’t these phrases mean pretty much the same thing? Well, no, especially not when you realize that this translational deviation was no accident. In nearby verses the same Hebrew wording is translated into Greek and English as “will be” and not “am”. The translators’s wording was quite deliberate. But why?
Perhaps the original Hebrew left too much to speculation. At least with the common (mis)translation we can be assured of the ‘immutability’ of God – a God who never changes is more predictable, easier to describe and easier to limit. But a God who will be whatever he will be? A God who suggests that he is more flexible, more dynamic and more open to change may not jive with how we prefer to see God.
The possibilities are endless (not too surprising when we consider the infinite qualities of God). This understanding of God means that the ways in which we relate to him today and tomorrow need not be the same way in which we did so yesterday. In fact, we may feel comfortable knowing that our personal relationship with God should never be static, but based upon growth and change.
Though this dynamic vision of God is revealed throughout scripture, we seem to prefer a God that we can describe definitively; a logical God who follows a set plan – no surprises. Anything else is just a little too uncertain – and uncertainty is one thing we cannot long tolerate.