The Names of God

If you have been reading my blog over the last couple of months, you know we are discussing “systematic theology.” We’ve discussed the revelation and communication of God. Today, I want to begin writing about theology proper, which is the study of God. As I have quoted before, pastor and author A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” There is nothing that shapes our lives more than what we believe about God. So in order to understand God—who He is and what He does—we need to see, throughout the whole of Scripture, what God has revealed to us about Himself. 

One of the best ways we can learn how God has revealed Himself to us is through the names of God. In the Bible, a person’s name revealed His character. The name represented who the person was. The same is true with God; the names of God reveal who He is. Through His names you can see Him in a personal way. Let me name a few of these names of God:

El Elyon  This name speaks to the supremacy of God. God is greater than any other. There is none before Him or beside Him. The word means the strongest of the strong and the highest of the high. Hinduism and Pantheism speak of God as a part of the universe. But God is not a part of the universe. He is the transcendent God. He is above all. He is the Most High God. Jesus is our El Elyon. Colossians 1:16-17 says, "For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him: And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist."

El Shaddai  “El” is the generic name for God. But when you add a descriptor to El, it turns the general name into a specific, powerful meaning. “El Shaddai” means that God is Almighty, in His sovereignty and kingship. Many scholars believe that “Shaddai” means “mountain.” So, El Shaddai would mean “God, the one of the mountain.” In the Bible, mountains represented immovable strength and power. Therefore El Shaddai is the immovable, Sovereign God. As the lyrics of the Michael Card song that Amy Grant made famous said, “Age to age you’re still the same, by the power of the name.” 

Yahweh  Yahweh is the personal name of God that He first revealed to Moses as “I AM.” It is used some 6800 times in the Bible (and is written as “LORD” in all caps). “I AM” or “I AM THAT I AM,” means “self-existing.” In other words, God never had a beginning. He has always existed. He exists in and of Himself. He is the uncreated One. Yahweh (or often translated as “Jehovah”) is the most intensely sacred name to Jewish scribes and many will not even pronounce the name. When possible, they use another name. Often, they would replace the most sacred name of “Yahweh” with the name “Adonai,” which means “Lord.” Yahweh (which in Hebrew transliteration would look like “YHWH” because there are no vowels in Hebrew) was the first “four letter word” that was not spoken because it was too sacred. 

Yahweh-Raah  “The Lord is my Shepherd.” As Adrian Rogers wrote, "Psalm 23 and John 10 are the most beautiful descriptions of God as our Shepherd, Jehovah Rajah. When we say "Lord," we think of God's deity. When we say "my Shepherd," we think of God's humanity. God in human form - Jesus Christ - prophesied in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament. The Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New Testament. As the Good Shepherd, He dealt with the penalty of sin. As the Great Shepherd, He deals with the power of sin. As the Chief Shepherd, He's coming to take us from the very presence of sin.”

Yahweh-Yireh (Jehovah Jireh) “God Will Provide.” The first time this name was mentioned was in Genesis 22, a difficult passage of Scripture involving God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, God provided a ram in the thicket. God provided…exactly what Abraham needed. The implications of this name of God are deeply personal. It’s not just that God provides, but that He provides exactly what we need, when we need it. 

Of course, there are many names of God in the Bible that reveal to us the nature of God. And when you combine them all, we can be confident we know and serve a powerful, sovereign, loving God.

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