What is in a Name?
Most of us are familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet. Upon discovering each’s other’s last name, they are faced with the tragic fact that their families are mortal enemies. To this, the lovesick and hopeful Juliet asks, “What is in a name”?
The answer? A LOT! Juliet’s question was rhetorical, because once she learned of Romeo’s unfortunate surname, she understood a wealth about him and the near impossibility of a future with him.
If Juliet could discover so much about Romeo from his last name, how much more can we derive from the powerful names of Almighty God?
Two Significant Names of God
God has always been in the business of revealing His character to humanity through various means -one of the most significant of which was through His names. In Scripture, a name often carried with it the concept of identity, destiny, power, authority and calling. When God renamed Jacob “one who grabs the heel” to Israel “one who prevails”; He was not only unveiling the destiny of a man, but of a whole nation who would prevail after him.
The first personal name God reveals to mankind in Scripture is perhaps the most significant of them all. In Exodus 3 God speaks to Moses through a burning bush and tells him to go to Pharaoh to ask for the release of His people from slavery. With fearful hesitancy, Moses questioned by what authority he could approach the people of Israel and Pharaoh with such a foreboding game plan. He asked God in what name should I tell the people he was being sent? “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’…Say to this people of Israel: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:13-14). God gave Moses a name, and in that name, He would shake the dynasty of Egypt, part the Red Sea, and release the whole nation of Israel from slavery!
This name of God appears in the Hebrew Scriptures over 6,000 times, over twice as many times as all the other names and titles of God used in the Old Testament combined!
In Hebrew the name is ‘יהוה’, which is often translated into English letters as ‘YHVH’. The exact pronunciation of this name is debated, but its meaning derives from the concept of being or existence. Philosophically speaking, before any other title or characteristic can be ascribed to God, He first has “to be”, before He can be anything else.
The Hebrew involved in those four letters is extremely telling. The identifiers for the Hebrew future, present, and past are all represented within the name in such a way as to imply a merging of all three tenses.
In plain English, God’s name not only connotes His present existence, but that He has always existed and He always will!
A unique name of God is the “Holy One of Israel.” It shows God’s intimate relationship with the Jewish people. Not only did He choose Israel as a people to be called by His name (2 Chronicles 7:14), but He in turn identified Himself by their name. The title Holy One of Israel expresses God’s relational heart! This is very clearly displayed in 2 Kings 19:21-22, when the Lord rebukes the King of Assyria for his evil treatment and scorn of Zion and Jerusalem. “Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights? Against the Holy One of Israel.” God considered an attack against Israel to be a direct attack against Himself, and He used the title “Holy One of Israel” as the one who was insulted, to prove His point.
The Name Above All Names
God’s character is perhaps ultimately revealed through the name Yeshua, which in Hebrew means YHWH will save. In Matthew 1:21 we are introduced to this name and the powerful destiny attached to it, “She will bear a son and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.” In a final cosmic act of complete identification, Yeshua took on “human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess Yeshua [the] Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-10)
From just these three names we learn that God eternally exists, He is passionately relational, and He is the Anointed Savior of the world.
Blessed be the name of the Lord!
There is something powerful about declaring a name. It commands attention and invokes authority based on identity. Several FIRM Members have local congregations that identify with a name of God and declare this aspect of HIs nature to the community around them.
Check out these ministries and join us as we pray for them this week:
• Adonai Roi (The Lord is my Shepherd) This name of God, taken from Psalm 23:1, reminds us of the Lord’s loving care as a shepherd over His people. Adonai Roi (www.adonairoi.com) is a Hebrew-speaking congregation and distribution center in the heart of Tel Aviv that ministers the Love of God to their community in many ways.
• Melech HaMelachim (King of Kings) This name declares God’s absolute sovereignty over every power or authority. He is the God who rules and reigns over all (Revelation 19:16). Melech HaMelachim (http://www.kkcj.org/ministries/hebrew-congregation) is a dynamic Hebrew-speaking congregation in the center of Jerusalem that emphasizes families, discipleship and youth ministry.