What’s in a Name?
It was Shakespeare that wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” His point was that names were irrelevant. However, I would argue that names are very relevant. Our own names are our very identity, intimate and personal. There is great meaning when people call us by name. This was made very evident to me when not very long ago. During our staff devotional time, I prayed for a co-worker and called her by the wrong name during the prayer. Now she jokingly refers to me as “Tom.”
One of the greatest attributes of our loving God is that He knows our name. Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine.’” Jesus says, in John 10:3, “The sheep hear His voice, and he calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” Not only do we serve a God who knows our name, but he makes Himself known by His names.
The first known name for God is YHWH. When scribes would write the name YHWH, they would purify themselves and their writing utensils. To utter the name YHWH was unthought of and often substituted with the name Adonai. In the English translations YHWH became Jehovah, or in most translations LORD, in all caps.
The names of God are not just a way to know him, but they should be revered. An excerpt from a blog I read states: “We need a healthy respect for God, and our speech is a natural indication of our attitude about Him. Conversation about God and spiritual matters should be a regular topic of conversation (Deut. 6:4-9), but it must never denigrate to where God is treated as common, average, or normal. He is amazing, awesome, and incomprehensible. Our language in worship, Bible study, and daily conversation should always reflect this reverence. This is needed even more in a world where OMG is heedlessly tossed around cyberspace and God’s name is reduced to an interjection. If we are going to use God’s name today, we had better make sure we reverence it!”
We also need to focus on the names of God to work in our hearts for a greater attitude of thankfulness of who He is. Let’s take a moment to look at some of the names of God.
El-Shaddai “God of the Mountains” or “The Almighty God” (Genesis 17:1; 35:11)
El-Elyon “The Most High God” or “The Exalted One” (Num. 24:16; 2 Sam. 22:14; Ps. 18:13)
El-Olam “God of Eternity” or “God the Everlasting One” (Gen. 21:33; Isa. 26:4; Ps. 90:2)
El-Roi “God who sees me” or “God of vision” (Gen. 16:13)
Elohim Plural form for deity (Gen. 1:26)
Yahweh-Jireh “The Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:14)
Yahweh-Nissi “The Lord is my banner” (Exod. 17:15)
Yahweh-Shalom “The Lord is peace” (Judg. 6:24)
Yahweh-Sabaoth “The Lord of hosts” (1 Sam. 1:3; Jer. 11:20; cp. 1 Sam. 17:45)
Yahweh-Rohi “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1)
Yahweh-Tsidkenu “The Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 23:5–6; 33:16)
I AM (Exodus 3:14)
Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:9, 13, 22)
Rock (Deut. 32:18; Ps. 19:14; Isa. 26:4)
Refuge (Ps. 9:9; Jer. 17:17)
Fortress (Ps. 18:2; Nah. 1:7)
Shield (Gen. 15:1; Ps. 84:11)
Refiner (Mal. 3:2–3)
King, Judge, Shepherd, Father
And in Jesus we have:
Christ/Messiah (Matt 16:16)
Son of Man (Matt 26:64)
Son of God (Jn. 3:16)
Suffering Servant (Is. 53)
Preexistent Word (Jn. 1:1)
Redeemer (1Pet. 1:18-19)
And the 7 I AM statements in John:
“I AM the Bread of Life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51)
“I AM the Light of the World” (8:12)
“I AM the Door of the Sheep” (10:7, 9)
“I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14)
“I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25)
“I AM the Way, the Truth, the Life” (14:6)
“I AM the true Vine” (15:1, 5)
As we place our attention on the names of God, let us not only remember what God has given us, but focus even more on being truly thankful for who He is.