Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Names of God

Oh, give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name…Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Psalm 105:1, 3
What’s in a name? The psalmist knew that when it came to the Lord, His name was everything. His name meant His attributes that are revealed to us humans.* We are dependent creatures, and being dependent means living in light of God’s character and attributes. To do that, we need to renew our mind regularly with the attributes of God. In telling us to glory in His name, we are being exhorted quite literally to admire, to eulogize, to praise, to proclaim Hallelujah regarding the character of God (didn’t know all of that was packed into the Hebrew word glory, did you?). In reflecting on God’s character in this manner, we naturally move to call upon Him in light of His character.  And that is when prayer gets daring, adventurous, risky, and faith-filled!

In the book, The Circle Maker (probably my best read of 2012), Mark Batterson writes:
“God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don’t require divine intervention. But ask God to part the Red Sea or make the sun stand still or float an iron ax-head, and God is moved to omnipotent action.”

The only way I know to pray boldly like that is to eulogize often the attributes of God.

In our twenty-first century Western culture, personal names can be little more than labels to distinguish one person from another. This is a poor reflection of the significance of names in the Bible. Unfortunately, to many the names God or Lord convey little more than designations of a supreme being. It says little to us about our God’s character and His ways. But in Scripture, the names of God are like miniature portraits and promises. Naming carried special significance. It was a sign of authority and power. This is evident in the fact that God revealed His names to His people rather than allowing them to choose their names for Him. This is also seen in the fact that God often changed the names of His people: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.

To encourage us in the practice of glorying in the names of God, here is a starter list of some of the names of God revealed in His word:
  • Elohim: The plural form of EL, meaning “strong one.” It speaks of God’s majesty and intimates the trinity. It is especially used of God’s sovereignty, creative work, mighty work for Israel and in relation to His sovereignty (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 32:27; Gen. 1:1; Isa. 45:18; Deut. 5:23; 8:15; Ps. 68:7).
  • El Shaddai:“God Almighty.” It stresses God’s loving supply and comfort; (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; Ex. 6:1; Ps. 91:1, 2).
  • El Elyon: “The Most High God.” Stresses God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy (Gen. 14:19; Ps. 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25).
  • El Olam: “The Everlasting God.” Emphasizes God’s unchangeableness and is connected with His inexhaustibleness (Gen. 16:13).
  • Yahweh (YHWH): Comes from a verb which means “to exist, be.” stressing God as the independent and self-existent God of revelation and redemption (Gen. 4:3; Ex. 6:3 (cf. 3:14); 3:12).
  • Yahweh Jireh (Yireh): “The Lord will provide.” Stresses God’s provision for His people (Gen. 22:14).
  • Yahweh Nissi: “The Lord is my Banner.” Stresses that God is our rallying point and our means of victory; the one who fights for His people (Ex. 17:15).
  • Yahweh Shalom: “The Lord is Peace.” Points to the Lord as the means of our peace and rest (Jud. 6:24).
  • Yahweh Sabbaoth: “The Lord of Hosts.” A military figure portraying the Lord as the commander of the armies of heaven (1 Sam. 1:3; 17:45).
  • Yahweh Maccaddeshcem: “The Lord your Sanctifier.” Portrays the Lord as our means of sanctification or as the one who sets believers apart for His purposes (Ex. 31:13).
  • Yahweh Ro’i: “The Lord my Shepherd.” Portrays the Lord as the Shepherd who cares for His people as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his pasture (Ps. 23:1).
  • Yahweh Tsidkenu: “The Lord our Righteousness.” Portrays the Lord as the means of our righteousness (Jer. 23:6).
Incredible, is it not?  And this is just a sample of Hebrew names for God! Call on His name PCC! Call on it passionately and boldly and may we be transformed as a community as we do!

By the way, save Monday, June 17 for our next church-wide Prayer Night, where we will do this together as a community.  7:00pm in Fellowship Center.

If you had one last speech to give publicly before you were executed, what would it be?  Come find out what Jesus said this Sunday! Sit in Luke 21:29-38 if you can’t wait till Sunday!

I love being your pastor!

*Ross, A. P. (1985). Psalms. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), . Vol. 1: The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Ed.) (869). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.