God in the Present Tense
By: R. L. Wilson | ©2020
[This thought came to me as I was teaching an ESL (English as a Second Language) class a few years ago. As I was explaining the verb “to be” and its various uses, it occurred to me that so many of the uses for this verb parallel our God. What follows is just a sample of the amazing ways we can see God even in English grammar!]
One of the first things we teach an ESL class is the present tense of the verb “to be.” This verb and this tense are used frequently in simple “beginner” conversations: My name is…, I am from…, My address is…. Or, when we begin to teach names of random items, we’ll use simple sentences using the verb “to be”: It is a pen; it is Monday. In other words, the classroom pretty much runs on the simple present tense of the verb “to be” for the first few weeks.
But there’s something else I noticed about this verb tense. The present tense is used to talk about, for example, habits—things that happen regularly, or that you do often; it’s also used to describe things that are true (facts), or the way things are now.
From a purely grammatical sense, it makes absolute sense (in English!) that God told Moses His memorial name was “I Am”. He is the One who is always there, always true, and never changes.
But it goes beyond that. In the first person (the one speaking), the verb is stated as “I am” or “we are.” This is the way God refers to Himself. In fact, in the book of John there are seven statements where Jesus uses “I am” to tell us things about Himself. For example, He says, “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the resurrection and the life.”
In the second person (the one being spoken to), it is expressed as “you are.” This is the way God speaks to us. For example, “You are redeemed,” “You are forgiven,” “You are adopted into God’s family,” “You are assured a future with God in heaven for all eternity.”
This is also the way we talk to God when we pray. For example, “You are my refuge and strength,” “You are an ever-present help in time of trouble,” “You are a consuming fire,” “You are a jealous God,” “You are a merciful God,” “You are God of gods and Lord of lords,” “You are mighty and awesome.”
In the third person (the one being spoken about), it is expressed as “he is,” or “they are.” This is the way we talk about God to other people. For example: “He is the one who created the world,” “He is a father to the fatherless,” “He is faithful and true,” “He is the Savior,” “He is Alpha and Omega.”
So when you think about God, think about Him in the present tense – He is ALWAYS there. He is Truth. He is Life. In his book Jesus in the Present Tense, Pastor Warren Wiersbe says that when God calls Himself I AM, “It conveys the meanings of ‘I am who and what I am, and I do not change. I am here with you and for you’” (p. 20).
He truly is the I AM.
 Present tense of the verb “to be” is expressed as “I am, you are, he/she/it is.”