The Hebrew Scriptures have a four letter name for God that sums up the attribute of God’s self-existence – “YHVH.” YHVH appears almost seven thousand times in the Tenach (Old Testament), far more than any other name for God. YHVH is based on God’s revelation to Moses at the burning bush: I AM WHO I AM; and He said, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you… this is My eternal name, and this is how I am to be recalled for all generations (Ex. 3:14-15). YHVH comes from the Hebrew verb “haya,” which means “to be.” “YHVH” is a declaration that the God of Israel is the source of all being. He is the foundation of all reality. He alone is the ground of all existence. He alone has being and existence inherent in Himself. Everything else depends on the self-existence of the One who can say, “I AM.”
The human mind has a very difficult time understanding One who is the cause of everything but is Himself caused by none. Experience teaches us that everything came from something else, and whatever exists must have a cause that was before it. When a young child asks, “Where did God come from?” he demonstrates that he knows the concept of cause and effect. The idea of source and origin are already firmly fixed in his mind. From a very early age a child intuitively knows that everything around him came from something else, and he simply extends that concept upward to God. When a young child asks the question, “Where did God come from?” he must be told that God has no origin. He will find this concept hard to grasp, since it introduces a category with which he is totally unfamiliar. God’s self-existence contradicts the bent toward seeking out origins which is so firmly ingrained in all intelligent beings.
But the LORD has no origin. It is precisely this concept of “no origin” that distinguishes the true God from everything-else-that-is-not-God. Origins, beginnings, starts, are words that can only apply to created things. When we think of anything that has an origin we are not thinking of God. God alone is self-existent. He always existed. There was never one instant when He did not exist. He has no beginning and no end, in contrast to all other created things who originated somewhere at sometime.
To think about that which has no origin is not easy for any of us. When we try to focus our thoughts upon One who is a pure uncreated being, we have difficulty seeing Him, for He dwells in light that no man can approach. Most people will not let their hearts gaze in wonder too long at the Self-Existent One. Those thoughts are too difficult, too uncomfortable, and too painful for us. It is difficult to acknowledge One who is totally outside the circle of our normal experience. The human mind, which is created, has an uneasiness with the Uncreated. We tend to be uncomfortable with the thought of One who is responsible to no one else, who is self-existent and self-sufficient.
Western society’s intellectuals, our philosophers and scientists in particular, have not been very friendly toward the idea of God in recent years. These people are dedicated to the task of accounting for things. They don’t like anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and scientist will admit that there is much they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something they can never know, and which they have no method of discovering. To admit that there is One who exists outside our normal categories, and who does not have to explain Himself to us, requires more humility than most of us possess.
Why is it important to understand the self-existence of the One who is who He is? The self-existence of God is necessary for the existence of man. We were created dependent on Adonai for our life and existence. Man is a created being, who in himself possesses nothing. He is dependent for his existence upon the One who created him. God is everything and man comes from nothing. Apart from Him we can do nothing. Apart from Him we are nothing. Deny God and you destroy yourself. Get rid of God and man has no existence at all. Man apart from God passes back into the nothingness from which he came before God created him.
Our greatest problem is pride – an independent attitude that feels no need for God. Our pride wants to be independent from God, to be the master of our fate, the captain of our own ship, in control of our own destiny, dependent upon no one but ourselves. Sin has many manifestations. It comes to us in a billion ways, but its essence is just one thing – pride. We were created by the Lord to depend on Him, to serve Him with all of our hearts, all of our souls and all of our being. Whoever is unwilling to worship before His throne is actually attempting to sit on His throne and declaring, “I Am.” When we seek to be independent from God, we make ourselves supreme. We attempt to dethrone the only One who has the right to sit on it, and we usurp His place. This independent attitude is the essence of all sin and is utterly self-destructive to all created beings. It is essential we understand that we are usurpers, and we sit on a stolen throne that rightfully belongs to God.
The sin of pride has affected all of humanity. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6). So subtle and widespread is the sin of pride that hardly anyone is aware of it in themselves. Because humanity is born into rebellion the sin of pride appears normal. Man is unaware that he is a rebel since this is all he knows. Human society appears to be perfectly normal, when in fact humanity is a gross monstrosity.
Isaiah 53 tells us that the Messiah is the only one that can save us because the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He is YHVH – God in the flesh. He claims to be “I Am.” He claims self-existent life: Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself(John 5:26). Messiah has self-existent life inherent in Himself, something which is an attribute of God alone. Messiah Yeshua too is the Self-Existent One. The Scriptures declare that all things were created by Him (Yeshua) and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3). By Him (Yeshua) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible… All things were created by Him (Yeshua) and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:16-17).
Messiah Yeshua gave His self-existent life for the salvation of men. To save us from ourselves Messiah must plant a new principle within us. He must reverse the bent of our nature. Instead of being independent from God, we must become God centered. If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me (Matthew 16:24). Rabbi Paul discovered this life saving truth: I have been crucified with Messiah; and it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me (Gal. 2:20). This is the essence of salvation because it restores our innermost being to what God intended, and places the Self-Existent One back on the throne of our lives where He belongs. To be restored to spiritual health and to live forever, every creature must realize that the Lord our God is worthy to receive all glory and honor and power.
The Father has life in Himself (John 5:26). With those few words the Messiah expressed another attribute, the self-sufficiency of God. What the Lord is, He is in Himself. He is complete and sufficient within Himself. We should think about God as the One who contains all, who gives all that is given, but who Himself can receive nothing that He has not first given to others. The life of God does not come from someone else. If any other could bestow the gift of life upon God, then that one would be God.
Again, we must try to reverse our ordinary thoughts and understand that which is perfectly unique. We always allow for the existence of need among created beings. Normally, nothing is complete in itself. Everything requires something outside itself in order to exist. But the words “need” or “necessary” are totally foreign to God. “Need” applies only to creatures, and cannot be spoken of the Creator. If God could have a need, then there would be an incompleteness in God’s being.
Many people have wondered why God created the universe. Even if we can’t know why He created the universe, at least we can know that He did not bring the universe into existence to meet some unfulfilled need in Himself. The creation of the universe is not part of some divine self-help plan because the Almighty was needy, wanting, or lacking something to make Himself happy or complete. So high is our opinion of ourselves that we find it very easy to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater because of our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. The prophets continually refer to man as weak, whose breath is in his nostrils, who grows up like grass in the morning and is cut down and withers before the sun sets. All the nations are like a drop from a bucket and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales… All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless (Isaiah 40:15-17).
One of the most difficult concepts for us to grasp is that God does not need our help. Furthermore, He does not even need us! The picture of a nervous God who needs to ingratiate Himself to men to win their favor is not a pleasant one. And yet this is precisely the picture that we see in much of twentieth century Christianity. The truth is that God wills to have a relationship with the beings that He made, but He has no need for anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures comes from His own good pleasure, not from any need His creatures can supply. He is without need and is perfectly complete in Himself.
Our existence is completely due to God’s free will, not because of our worthiness or because He needs us to feel good about Himself. Nothing is necessary to Him. If anything were necessary for Him, that thing would be the measure of His imperfection. He chooses to create us, but not out of any lack. He chooses to love us, but not out of any necessity. He chooses to enter into a relationship with us, but not out of any need on His part. If nothing is necessary to Him, then no one is necessary, and if no one, then not even me.
If a mysterious comet were to pass by the Earth, and every human being who looked at it suddenly became blind, the sun would still shine by day and the stars would still shine by night. If every man on earth were to become an atheist, it would not affect God’s existence in any way. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections. To doubt Him takes away none of His splendor. Biblical faith has to do with the relationship of God and man, but its focal point must always be God, not man. Man’s claim to importance is that he was created in the image of God. God exists for Himself, and man exists for the glory of God. The honor and glory of God is first in heaven as it must be first on earth.
Although He does not need us, God seeks us and loves us. But we must seek Him because we need Him, for in Him we live and move and exist (Acts 17:28). We live only because He lives. He alone is sufficient. All others are insufficient. This is why having faith in the true God is so important, and why unbelief is such a deadly sin. No created being dare trust in itself. God alone trusts in Himself. All others must trust in Him. When the unbeliever denies the self-sufficiency of God, he takes to himself that attribute which is not his. In doing so he dishonors the One who alone is truly self-sufficient, and in the process destroys his own soul. For our sanity, for our existence, and for our very life, God must be restored to the proper place that He deserves: the all-sufficient Lord of the universe, and the King of our hearts.
I am indebted to The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer for this article.