Summary: Names are important to us because they often do more than just identify an individual; they can actually reveal who a person is, and what he or she is like.
During a job interview, a woman was asked to give her name. She replied, “My name is Lilly.” When the boss wanted to know why she was named after a flower, she told him, “My parents gave me that name because when I was born a lily fell on me from the sky.” A couple days later, the boss interviewed a man for the same job. He wasn’t much to look at and had a very rough appearance. The boss asked, “What’s your name?” He gave a crooked smile and said, “Piano.”
Names are important to us because they often do more than just identify an individual; they can actually reveal who a person is, and what he or she is like. God goes by many different names in the Bible. One commentator has counted over 63 found in Scripture. That seems like a lot but God is so awesome that the number of names we could use to describe Him is as endless as He is. These names provide us with at least two helpful truths.
They help us identify the one true God. The pagan nations worshipped false gods and so one reason God gave us His name is so we can know how He is different.
His names describe His character. When we study what He goes by, we will actually get to know what He is like.
While names are important in our culture, they were even more so in biblical times. Proverbs 22:1 tells us that a good name is more to be desired than great riches. Names didn’t just distinguish or label a person; they were often thought to reveal the very nature of an individual. For example, Nabal, whose name means “fool,” lived out what his name meant in 1 Samuel 25:25: “He is just like his name-his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.”
The term for name in the Old Testament means “individual mark” and communicated an individual’s essence. In the New Testament, the word for name comes from a verb that means “to know.” To know the name of God means to personally know His personality. During this new series, it’s my prayer that we will not just know who God is, but that we will actually get to know Him much more than we do right now.
As we begin our study, let me state four foundational principles:
These names are given by God, not thought up by people. God is not some abstract thought or nameless power. He is personal and knowable. And one of the ways His personality is known is through the giving of His names.
Each name of God reveals one of His qualities or characteristics. We’ll focus on one of these attributes each week, and like studying a multifaceted diamond, when we’re finished we’ll appreciate His beauty like never before.
These names were given to God’s people in order to help them through a moment of need. It’s my prayer that this series will not just be academic, but deeply personal and heart-changing so that you will call out to Him when you are in crisis or need. These names are like miniature portraits filled with promises, given by God as a gift to us so we can actually know Him.
Use these names when you call out to God in prayer. While we will learn the Hebrew names for God, I encourage you to also memorize the English attributes and then use these titles in your praise and in your prayer times. As we go through each name, ask yourself this question: “Do I know God in this way?”