Summary: Yes, God has names. Specific, beautiful, matchless names. We start the series with the name He uses to introduce Himself -- "I AM".
The Names of God: Jehovah, the “I AM”
I have many names. The name I was born with is Paul Michael Basehore Junior. As a child I was called “PJ”, for “Paul Junior”.
In high school, my physics teacher called me “Basehore, Long Island”.
In college I was typically just called “Basehore”.
In my first job outside of college, I was called “Opie”. My supervisor was also named Paul, so I became the “Other Paul”, or “O.P.”
My kids call me Daddy, and my heart melts whenever I hear it!
What my wife calls me is none of your business...
I’ve been called other names that I won’t repeat, and I know I’ve been called names behind my back. Whenever I introduce myself, though, I am simply “Paul”. I do that because it’s difficult to get to know me if you don’t know my name.
Tonight we will begin a new series focusing on the different names of God. What better place to start than the name God gives Himself? Turn with me to the book of Exodus, chapter 3, verses 13-15. While you’re turning, let me give you a bit of background. At this point Moses has already left Egypt, and is tending his flock at the base of Mount Sinai. He sees a burning bush and goes to investigate. God speaks to him through the bush, telling him to go to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites.
13Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14God said to Moses, “I am who I am.This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
15God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,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,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.
Moses is insecure, so he asks for God’s name. Moses knew that the Egyptians had many gods -- Ra, Isis, Horus, Anubis -- there were many, and each one had a name. All Moses knew that God existed, but he only knew God as the God of his forefathers. He only knew God’s title -- “God”! Moses wanted a name; something that would make Pharaoh sit up and listen. God tells Moses that His name is “I AM WHO I AM”. This is huge! The God of everything just revealed His personal name to Moses!
In Jewish tradition, this name is never actually spoken aloud, or even spelled out. Because of this, all we have in the Hebrew text for this name is four letters: Y, H, W, and H -- they intentionally left out all of the vowels in the word to make it impossible for someone to accidentally use His name in vain. We think it was pronounced “Yahweh”. It is from this word that we get the English name of “Jehovah”. Out of respect for the original intent of keeping the pronunciation hidden, I will use “Jehovah” for the remainder of this series.
This name is used almost 7,000 times in the Old Testament alone. In fact, whenever you see the word “Lord” in all capital letters, it’s the name Jehovah.
This name was considered so sacred that when scribes would write YHWH, they would take a bath beforehand, and destroy their pen afterwards! In fact, it was so revered that it was only said out loud once per year, only by the high priest in the Most Holy Place of the temple.
As you can see, the Israelites took this name very seriously.
But what does it actually mean? “I AM WHO I AM”. It’s certainly not obvious, and you can’t find a listing of that name in a book of baby names somewhere.
It means that God can only define Himself using Himself. Let me put that another way. When we define something, we always use something that is greater than the thing we are defining to make it understandable. For example, if we want to define a word, we use a dictionary that contains every word -- it is bigger than the thing we are defining. If we want to define creation, we use God, because He is bigger than creation. But how can we define God? He is above all, created all, defines all. There is nothing bigger or more important than God, so He must define Himself using Himself!
“I AM WHO I AM” means that God exists without the need for anything or anyone else’s assistance. He possesses eternal life and permanent existence in and of Himself. He is always present, because He always existed and always will exist.