Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Names of God

One of the ways God chose to reveal His character to man was through the use of different names. Several names for God are recorded in Scripture, each one identifying an aspect of His nature and character. In Hebrew, God’s names generally fall into two groupings. The first is the El group. El is the Hebrew word for God that signifies His strength and faithfulness. His promises and covenantal relationship are grounded by the fact that God refers to Himself as El. The second is the Yahweh or Jehovah group. This group originated with God’s revelation of His name to Moses at the burning bush. The Hebrew word translated “I AM” is YHWH. Translators sometimes transliterated the word into either Yahweh or more commonly Jehovah. In most English translations it is translated as LORD. The two groupings are further broken down into several hyphenated names, each describing a particular aspect of God’s personality. For the purpose of this essay I will concentrate on only five.

The first name is El Shaddai. Most of the time, English Bible translators render it “God Almighty”. It signifies God’s all-sufficiency. Some scholars say Shaddai means “rest or nourisher” coming from a root word that means “breast or strength given or sustainer”. Others say it originated with “the God of the mountain”. Regardless of the etymology, it conveys the notion of God’s sufficiency. It is known as the covenant name of God. It is how He revealed Himself to Abram as he changed his name to Abraham, gave him the promise of land and seed, and sealed it with the sign of circumcision. By using El Shaddai, God was telling Abraham that He is sufficient to fulfill the promise He was making.

The next name is El Elyon. This name for God is rendered in our English translations as “the Most High God”. Some scholars have stated that this name is mostly used to identify God to polytheistic Gentiles. I don’t know as I totally agree. It is used more times in Psalms, the hymnal of Israel, than any other place in the Old Testament. In Genesis 14, the mysterious Melchizedek to whom righteous Abraham gave a tithe, was identified as priest to El Elyon. Later in Israel’s history, David recorded what we know as Psalm 21. Therein he offered “thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of El Elyon.”

Next is the name, El Roi. This name literally means, “the God who sees”. It is used only one time in Scripture. In the wilderness after Hagar and Ishmael were sent off from Abraham, Hagar responded to God’s promise to her: “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are- the-God-Who-Sees (El Roi); for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.” This name is an awesome acknowledgement of what the Psalmist declared in Psalm 139 when he said, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?”

Another name is Yahweh Sabaoth. This name emphasizes the power and glory of God. It is translated as the “LORD of Hosts”. The term “hosts” refers to vast numbers of angelic beings. In Isaiah’s vision, the angels who stand above God’s throne use this name in their shouts of acclamation: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts (Yahweh Sabaoth); The whole earth is full of His glory!” This name was exemplified when Elisha’s servant’s eyes were opened to the sight of the adjacent mountain filled with God’s horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha. Yahweh Sabaoth is the God who allows us, like Elisha to not fear, “for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

The final name we will consider is my favorite – Yahweh Jireh. When God stayed Abraham’s hand as it was poised to sacrifice his son Isaac, He displayed His goodness, compassion, justice, righteousness, love, and faithfulness. Moments later, He displayed His provision when He provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. In an infinitely greater way, Yahweh Jireh demonstrated His provision for us when He sent His Son to die as a substitutionary atonement for us.


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