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The covenant name of God communicates profound depth with a two-word simplicity: I AM. The hallowed Name of God contains a wealth of truth, if we will stop to peer into its depths, and not merely notice its surface.

I AM THAT I AM reveals a God who is immutable: unchanging and unchangeable. To say I AM THAT I AM is to say, I WILL ALWAYS BE WHAT I AM, or I AM ALL THAT I WILL EVER BE, or even I AM WHAT I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN. God has never, can never, and will never change, in the slightest degree. “For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6) 

Change belongs to finite beings. Our finitude means we are capable of growth or diminution. We can improve, or decline. We can develop or decay. We are not what we will be. We are not what we were. We can never say, I am what I will be, or I am what I have always been. We retain a sense of continuing identity across time, but we change continually.

Change also belongs to finite beings who experience time sequentially. For us, time is a stream of events coming to us from the future and then receding into the past. Each moment of time changes us in slight ways: we age, we learn, we react. Each moment is new and unknown to us until it arrives.

Finitude and sequential time are not part of God’s existence. God is unchanging because His being is infinite in all perfections. Were God able to grow, learn, or improve, it would imply that His being still fell short of infinite perfection, however little. Were God able to suffer, forget, or be weary, it would imply His being could experience decay or regression from perfection. But to move towards or away from perfection is to change, and God cannot and does not change. Were He to change in any degree, He would no longer be able to say I AM THAT I AM. He would be, in some sense, a different being to what He had been.

God is immutable because time-space does not act upon God. God is not a mere participant in the cosmos, allowing events to form or shape Him. He is not passive: world history does not imprint itself on Him and change Him. This is what is meant by God’s impassibility. It is not that God has no affections. It is that God is not a passenger in the train-car of time, reacting to what life throws at Him. Instead, all of cosmic history is encompassed in the being of God, and all of God’s responses to all events are in His eternal Now. I AM THAT I AM.

These eternal responses are what we are seeing when we read of God “repenting”, “regretting”, or “being grieved”. These are indeed real, deep, affections, and real responses to human action. But they are the eternal, foreknown, perfect responses of the I AM to the time-based actions of man and angels. From our point of view, God seems to be in this moment with us, responding to us. And He is. But He is in all other moments as well, and His response is not a finite reaction to an unforeseen moment. As the I AM, He is to us in this moment what He will always be.

This means that linked to the idea of immutability is the idea of faithfulness. If God’s name communicates, “I am all that I will ever be”, then His future responses to us will be what they have ever been. No random thoughts or responses will alter God’s promises. No arbitrariness or capriciousness is present in God. No slow erosion of His purposes or commitments can take place. He does not grow bored or weary. His covenants are made in His own name, securing them by His own immutability. “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself… For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:13–18) 

What God is today, He will be tomorrow, and into eternity. How he views us in Christ is how He will always view us. As Moses reflected on the transience of our lives, and on the possibility of our life’s work being swept away, his consolation was the immutability of God. “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2) Forever and ever, He is “I AM THAT I AM”.

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