What’s in a name?

One of the most-asked questions of a pregnant mother must be “What are you going to name your baby?” Choosing a child’s name means pulling out the baby name books, looking at genealogies and writing down a list of favorites. Despite the hours spent throwing around potentials, bestowing a name on a new life holds little significance in comparison to names given in the Bible.

While our parents may have named us after a relative or an impressive man or woman from the Bible, a name in today’s American culture is rarely more than how we identify ourselves. Can you think of the meaning of your name right now, without the help of Siri?

In Bible times, however, a name stood for something specific about that person. When someone said their name, they were sharing a part of who they were and giving a glimpse of their character. Which is why the name of God is not tethered to just one name.

The different names of God

It’s a shame how many English versions of the Bible cannot translate words and their meanings exactly as God spoke them. We need to use phrases that we will understand in our language. However, boiling down a phrase into one English word for the sake of simplicity oftentimes takes away from the original meaning.

The name of God is one of the greatest examples of this. God places great emphasis on each name He gave His children throughout the Bible. He gave new names when lives were changed. He proclaimed through angels and visions the names He wanted given to newborns. If we are made in His image, wouldn’t that mean His names are also of great importance?

In American culture, we normally use God, Heavenly Father, Lord, and a few others when addressing the Name above all names. We don’t realize, though, how this just scratches the surface of who God is. We also do not hold His name in adoration the way we should. Too often God’s name is used in vain, thrown around like an exclamation or curse word. We forget that using His name in this way is so vile to God that He told Moses to include not using His name in vain as one of the 10 commandments.

If we take a closer look at the individual names of God, we will see His character and authority revealed in a whole new light. While we could dissect each name used for God, this article would then turn into a book. Instead, let’s take a quick look at a couple names and learn how our view of God can expand when we cherish each one.

Yahweh

Translated as LORD, this name of God was so precious and holy to the Israelites, they wouldn’t even speak it aloud. Instead, they would say Adonai — Lord. Yahweh breaks down to mean “to be, exist.” This name of God reveals to us that God is I AM. He is the One true God. He is the only God.

There are many compounds to Yahweh used throughout the Bible. Translated, they say the Lord is our provider, Shepherd, Righteousness, Banner. And the list goes on from there. Each name of God reveals the completeness of His character.

When we see the name Yahweh, we can know God is eternal. He is not a god created from human hands. He never changes. His name tells us of His holy and righteous character.

El

In the plural form, this name of God means “strong one.” Also claiming different compounds, we learn God is the Almighty, Most High and Everlasting God. He reigns as our Mighty Leader, and we can rest assured that nothing is too hard for Him.

Those living in the time of the Old Testament called upon God using the name Elohim and many compounds of El (El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Olam). Their use of these names reveals to us the aspects of His majesty He displayed for His people. He doesn’t just call Himself these names, He holds true to what they mean.

God’s name revealed in us

How should learning about the different names of God change us? These names and their meanings should help us understand the vastness of God’s character. Yes, our God is loving and forgiving and gracious, but He’s so much more than that. God has dozens of names used in the Bible. Which means He is a God we cannot put in a box, label and expect to understand simply by reading that label when we want Him to do something for us.

Learning about God’s name should place us humbly at His feet. When we begin to read about and understand all who God is, we can’t help but fall on our faces and worship Him. We will never understand the depth of His character while we live in our sinful flesh. However, we can begin to understand His relationship with us as we dive into the meaning of His names.

Let’s not forget God created us in His image. Just like children carry characteristics of their parents that come to light the older they get, we also have within our souls slivers of God’s character. As we learn about God through His names, we learn about whom we can become if we strive after Christ.

If we desire to grow into the men and women God created us to be, we must cherish His names. We must learn all we can about them. We serve a God who fulfills all our needs and contains every perfect characteristic we could ever desire. He is the beginning and the end. He is Almighty. He is Sanctifier. He is Peace. He is I AM.  

Let’s Talk About It: How does learning about God’s names open your eyes to His character? 

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