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Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: Ridgemoor, by John Willard Peterson
Note: Mr. Peterson was likely the most prolific hymn writer of the latter half of the twentieth century, producing both words and music for hundreds of hymns and dozens of choral cantatas. The present song was published in 1957.
We sometimes gain nicknames in our youth, or even in later years. A nickname is a familiar and descriptive title given to an individual. Some of them are cute or complimentary. Others are neither. Instead, they’re meant to ridicule or intentionally hurt. Nobody wants to be called Stinky, or Fatty. And there’s quite a difference between referring to an American president as “Honest Abe” Lincoln, and “Tricky Dick” Nixon!
Our son called his daughter “Peanut,” when she was small. But the name doesn’t fit any more, as she’s now taller than her mother. I was called “Professor” in my high school days, being something of a study nerd. Frontiersman James Butler Hickok became “Wild Bill,” not due to his unruly conduct, but to his big nose. Baseball legend George Herman Ruth was “Babe,” and the “Sultan of Swat,” the latter because of his prowess with a bat.
Turning to the Bible, we find there are many names and titles for the Lord Jesus Christ recorded in its pages, some of them He used of Himself. Dozens of times in the four Gospels Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” emphasizing His humanity, and His identification with us. But He also boldly took to Himself the Old Testament “I AM” name of Jehovah God.
Centuries before, the Lord commissioned Moses to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt. At the thought of such a dangerous and difficult mission, Moses balked and began to make excuses. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Exod. 3:11). And whom can I say gave me the authority to do that–when they ask me, “What is His name?” (vs. 13). In response, God said to tell them “I AM has sent me to you” (vs. 14).
The “I AM” name of God expresses His eternal existence, as One living in the eternal present (Isa. 57:15). Actually, the name Jehovah (or Yahweh) itself is related. A form of the verb to be, it identifies Him as the existing One–not only as eternally existing, but as being self-existent and self-sustaining. And, as such, He is the Source of all our blessings and promised blessings.
That’s the name Christ took to Himself, declaring, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn. 8:58), meaning before Abraham was born I was already there, existing in the eternal now. That they understood what He was saying is plain. “Then they took up stones to throw at Him” (vs. 59), later accusing Him of blasphemy: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (Jn. 10:33).
But Christ went further. He presented to them a series of nicknames (if we may use that word of them), titles adding to His I AM name, describing Him as the source of all truth, and all blessing. He said, “I am the Bread of Life” (Jn. 6:35); “I am the Light of the World” (8:12); “I am the Door” (Jn. 10:9); “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:11); “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn. 10:25); “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6); and “I am the Vine” (Jn. 15:5).
In sum, the I AM titles of the Son of God describe Him as the Saviour who died for our sins, the Source of eternal life, the Source of the truth we need, and of divine guidance and care. It was to exalt such a One that John Peterson wrote his worship hymn, All Glory to Jesus. It provides an apt description of our wonderful Lord and Saviour.
1) All glory to Jesus, begotten of God,
The great I AM is He;
Creator, Sustainer–but wonder of all,
The Lamb of Calvary!
3) The King of all kings and the Lord of all Lords,
He reigns in glory now;
Some day He is coming earth’s kingdoms to claim,
And ev’ry knee shall bow.
1) What name or title of the Lord Jesus encourages you most?
2) Why do you think it is that there are so many names and titles of Christ given in the Scriptures?