The Names of God Part 1

Introduction, Yahweh, Abba Father

God. Lord. Jesus. Abba Father. Adonai. Christ. Elohim. El Shaddai. Yahweh. Yahweh Yireh… the titles of the Supreme Being.

These names help us to know who He is.

God created us to have an intimate personal relationship with Him.  His purpose for us is that we bring Him glory by responding to Him with a life of reverence, praise, thanksgiving, obedience, and service.

We can learn about God by observing His Creation.  Having a relationship with Him requires that we study His inspired Word, the Bible, and the many names of God revealed in the Bible.

Why does God have so many names?

How do you describe a glorious Being who created the universe by speaking it into existence?  What words can possibly express His infinite goodness and perfect justice?  How can we begin to understand the depth of His love for us – a love so great that it moved Him to send His own Son to die for our sins?

There is so much more to this Living God than how we perceive Him.  His names are more than mere labels.  Think of a brilliant, multi-faceted diamond.  Its exquisite beauty is only revealed when light shines on it.  In the same way, each name of God in the Bible “shines a light” on one of the many facets of God’s divine attributes, flawless character, and care and concern for all He has created.

In Scripture, God’s names identify who He is and what He does.  They are like miniature portraits and promises.  It is significant that God revealed His names to His people rather than allowing them to choose names for Him.  This was a sign of His authority and power.

If we want to know God personally and fulfill His divine purpose for our lives, we must study His names.

John 17:3 – This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Psalm 9:10 – And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

General Use of  “The Name”

Sometimes in Scripture, reference is made to God by using the terms “the name of God” or “the name of the Lord”, rather than by using a more specific name.  In the Old Testament, for example, Abraham “called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8);  God warned His people not to take “the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7);  and the priests of Israel were to “serve in the name of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 18:5).  General references to “the name” refer to the entire Person of God.

Likewise, in the New Testament, “the name” refers to the whole character and Person of God the Son, Jesus Christ.  Those who “believe in His name” become children of God (John 1:12); Jesus told His followers He would be in the midst of those “gathered together in My name” (Matthew 18:20); a lame man received healing “on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus” (Acts 3:16).

Give Honor and Respect

The terms “God”, “Lord”, “Jesus”, and other names for God reflect who He is and what He does.   God is not like man.  He is the one, true, Living God, the Creator of the universe.  He is awesome and holy.  He is worthy of all respect, reverence, honor, and praise.  When we use His names, our attitude and usage should be in a manner that honors Him.  We must use His names thoughtfully, in earnest, with respect.

The Bible verses listed below can help us better understand the attitude God desires us to have toward Him and His names.

Psalm 29:1-2,10 – 1…Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in holy array [Or the majesty of His holiness]. 10… The LORD sits as King forever.

Psalm 33:8 – Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.

Psalm 99:3 – Let them praise Your great and awesome name; holy is He [Or it].

Colossians 3:17 – Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Philippians 2:5-11 – 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Revelation 5:11-13 – 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain [Jesus] to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

Be Careful

God warns us not to misuse His name.

The verse below is Commandment Number Three from The Ten Commandments.  It follows “You shall have no other gods before Me” and “You shall not make for yourself an idol…” (Commandments One and Two, Exodus 20:3-6).

Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

What does “in vain” mean?  This passage from Isaiah gives us some clues.

Isaiah 29:13-14 – 13 Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, 14 …the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”

“In vain” refers to using God’s names in an empty, casual, unthinking manner.  It can also refer to using it in a blasphemous way.  Examples include using God’s name as a cliché (Praise the Lord!); as an exclamation point (OMG!); in swearing (I swear to G); or in cursing (#!*#!).   Scripture makes clear that what we speak comes out of our heart (Matthew 12:34; Luke 6:45).  Misuse of God’s names reveals a need to adjust our heart attitude toward Him.

Psalm 111:10 – The fear of [Or reverence for] the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.

Below are some of the better-known names of God.  The first name, Yahweh – or Jehovah – forms a foundation for our understanding of who God is.  All other names in the lessons in this series are listed alphabetically.  As you familiarize yourself with the various names, you will gain a greater appreciation of our amazing God.  Learn to use His names in praise and prayer.  You will deepen your relationship with Him.

Yahweh, Abba Father

Yahweh (YHWH) – The Self-Existent One

Yahweh is the most frequently used name of God.  It appears 6,800 times in the Bible. It is generally rendered “LORD” (all capitals), while “Lord” stands for a different name of God, Adonai.

Yahweh is God’s holy covenant name which He revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14.  It comes from a verb meaning “to be” and can be translated “I AM the One who is/ will be”.  This name stresses that God is self-existent and eternal.  He was never born.  He has always existed and always will exist.

Scholars are unsure of the exact pronunciation of this name of God.  In the original Hebrew, only the consonants YHWH were written.  The Jewish people considered the name to be too holy to be spoken aloud, so they substituted other names for it.  Jewish scribes inserted the vowels of Adonai (Lord), into YHWH to remind themselves to say “Adonai” instead of “Yahweh” when reading the Scriptures.  From this arose the King James translation’s rendering of YHWH as “Jehovah”.  Scholars today generally accept Yahweh as the most likely rendering of YHWH.

God Reveals His Sacred Name

In the Bible, there is a progressive revelation of God; He gradually unveils more and more about Himself, sometimes by identifying one of His names or titles.

The occasion for the revelation of His sacred covenant name Yahweh is the time of the Exodus, when God delivered His people the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.  God tells Moses He wants to use him to deliver God’s people and to fulfill the covenant He made with their ancestors (the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) to bring them into the land He promised to give them.

The two passages below record God’s conversation with Moses and will help us understand the significance the name Yahweh can have in our lives today.

Exodus 3:10-15 – 10 [God tells Moses,] “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”

12 And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” [Yahweh]; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD [Yahweh], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’  This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”

Exodus 6:2-4 – 2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD [Yahweh]; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty [Hebrew El Shaddai], but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them. 4 I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned.”

The Significance of the Name Yahweh

How can knowing God’s holy name Yahweh deepen our relationship with Him?

1. We can know that God is near, ever-present, and accessible to us.

As Moses prepared to go before mighty Pharoah, Yahweh encouraged him with the words, “Certainly I will be with you…”(Exodus 3:12).  Yahweh is near to those who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).  If you have a relationship with Him, He is there to help you with whatever you need.

Psalm 25:11 (forgiveness) — For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

Psalm 107:13 (deliverance) — Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses.

Psalm 31:3 (guidance)  — For You are my rock and my fortress; for Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.

2. God never changes.  He will do what He has promised.

In Exodus 6:2-4, we see that the same self-existent, eternal God who had made covenant promises to the Patriarchs in the past was now working with and through Moses.  He hadn’t changed. His covenant hadn’t changed.  His promises hadn’t changed.  Yahweh would fulfill what He had promised.  Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the LORD, do not change…”

3. Yahweh is the one, true, sovereign, eternal God, the only Savior.

Deuteronomy 6:4 declares, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”  Yahweh has much to say in Isaiah chapter 43 about how His name relates to His sovereignty, His strength, and His goodness.

10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.” 11 “I, even I, am the LORD, and there is no savior besides Me.”  13 Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”  25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”

Yahweh in the New Testament: Jesus!

John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, the promised Savior.  All four gospel accounts identify John with the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3: A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”  John and many other witnesses in the New Testament testify that the LORD in this prophecy is Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament prophecies were proof.  Jesus’ power to heal, cast out demons, and do miracles was proof.  His authority, great wisdom, and infinite knowledge of Scripture were proof.  His resurrection from the dead was proof.  Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.”

Jesus Himself claimed to be God, the Son of God, and one with God the Father.  He made this statement in John 8:58: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.”  The religious leaders were enraged that He declared Himself to be Yahweh, the LORD of the Old Testament.

In the gospel of John, Jesus stated He was the “I AM” over 20 times.  Sometimes He joined “I AM” with a metaphor that illustrated His relationship as Savior to the world.  For example, in John 10:11, He said, “I am the Good Shepherd” who “lays down His life for the sheep.”  In John 14:6, He declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  Additional I AM statements can be found in John 6:35 (Bread of Life); 8:12 (Light of the World); 10:7,9 (Door of the Sheep); 11:25 (Resurrection and the Life); 15:1,5 (True Vine).

In the gospel accounts, whenever anyone worshipped Jesus as God, He always accepted their worship (John 20:28).

Relationship, Relationship, and Relationship

What does this mean to us?  We can only relate to God if we understand the concept of the Trinity.  There is one true God, yet He is eternally existent in three coequal Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  These three are One in essence and will, yet each has unique characteristics and function.

Yahweh of the Old Testament declared that He wanted relationship with His people, that He alone was Savior and would forgive their sins (Isaiah 43:12,25).  In the New Testament, He gives us new revelation.  He is a loving Father who wants to become our personal Father.

John 3:16-17 – 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

John 1:12 – But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

Jesus Christ is God.  He came to explain God to us (John 1:18).  He came to take the punishment for our sins.  Through faith in His sacrifice, we can enter into a relationship with the eternal God and begin to know Him.

Praise and Prayer

Dear God, thank You for revealing Yourself as Yahweh, the eternal, self-existent One.  Thank You for sending Your Son Jesus so I can have a relationship with You and begin to know You. You are always near me.  You never change.  You will do what You have promised in Your Word.  You are sovereign and You are good.  Please help me know You better.  In Your Son Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Abba Father

The name Father is used of God 15 times in the Old Testament, but 245 in the New Testament.  The New Testament reveals that through faith in Christ, God becomes our personal Father.

The combination “Abba Father” is used three times in the New Testament.  Abba is Aramaic for “father”, followed by the Greek word pater, meaning “father”.   Abba was used as a general term by both young and adult children to refer to their fathers, so it could include different levels of intimacy, affection, and familiarity.  In the New Testament, it is used with a respectful tone.

A Deep Personal Relationship

The three references to “Abba Father” point to a deep personal relationship first between Jesus and His heavenly Father, and then between God and all those who enter into a relationship with Him through faith in Christ.

Mark 14:36 – [Jesus, in fervent prayer before His crucifixion, says,] “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Romans 8:15-17 – 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Galatians 4:4-7 – 4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

The Significance of the Name “Father”

What significance does the name “Father” have for us?  Below are summaries of Scriptures that help us understand God’s relationship to us as His children.  They show us how we are to address God in prayer, and reveal our heavenly Father’s generous provision, loving care, and discipline.   You may wish to study them further.

Ephesians 2:18 – Through Christ, we have access to God our Father.

Matthew 6:9 – Jesus instructs us to address God as “Father” when we pray.

John 15:16, 16:23 – When we keep our eyes fixed on doing God’s will, we can petition God our Father in Jesus’ name, and receive what we have asked.

James 1:17 – God, the “Father of lights”, never changes.

Matthew 7:11 – God provides for us more generously than even the best earthly fathers.

Hebrews 12:5-11 – God, the “Father of spirits” loves us as His children, and therefore “disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.”

1 John 3:1 declares, “ See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God…” How amazing that the holy God who spoke the world into existence would choose to adopt us as His children!  What a testimony to the abundant grace He has poured out on us through Jesus!

We see a picture of this grace in the following two Scripture passages.

Psalm 103:8-14 – 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.  9 He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.  10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.  11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear [Or revere] Him.  12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.  13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

Luke 15:11-32 – 11 And [Jesus] said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living…17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Even as we enter into a father-child relationship with our God, we should always remember to treat Him with the respect and honor He deserves.

Praise and Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, thank You so much for adopting me as Your child.  Thank You for allowing me to have a personal relationship with You through Christ.  I’m so glad Your love for me never changes. Thank You for providing for me, and for disciplining me when I need it.  I want to become more like Jesus.  By Your Holy Spirit, help me know You more.   In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

In Part 2, we’ll be looking at the names Adonai, Alpha and Omega, and Christ.

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB © The Lockman Foundation.”
 
Copyright 2013 Word For Life Publishing, LLC
WordForLifePublishing.com

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