Summary: In the Scripture one's name is more than simply something you call someone, it is a reflection of their person--their character. By knowing the names of God, we can understand him better, and therefore, more fully worship and pray to him.
Names of God
As we are seeking to know God more, one of the greatest ways to know God is by the names given in Scripture. In the ancient Hebrew culture, a name meant so much more than just what you called somebody, it reflected a person’s character. Satan means “opposer” or “adversary”; Devil means “accuser” or “slanderer.” This tells us a lot about Satan’s role as he opposes God and man and seeks to accuse both. We also see Jacob in the Bible meant “heel grabber” or “trickster,” and he lived out his name as he tricked his brother and stole his birthright and also tricked his uncle Laban and took his lambs. Names are a reflection of character in the Bible.
Wayne Grudem said this about God’s names: “The many names of God in the Scripture provide additional revelation of His character. These are not mere titles assigned by people but, for the most part, His own descriptions of Himself. As such they reveal aspects of His character.”
Ryrie adds: “In a broad sense, then, God’s “name” is equal to all that the Bible and creation tell us about God. When we pray, “Hallowed be your name” as part of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9), we are praying that people would speak about God in a way that is honoring to him and that accurately reflects his character.”
The names of God give Christians tremendous comfort because they reveal aspects of his nature and character. Proverbs 18:10 says this: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” The person who understands God’s names will better understand his character, and therefore, have a tremendous source of strength and protection while enduring the trials of life.
Therefore, in this lesson, we will look at a few of the names of God. First, we will look at Old Testament names and then New Testament names.
Old Testament Names
Yahweh is the most frequently used name of God in the Old Testament, and it is commonly translated as LORD, with all capitals. Mark Driscoll said this about the name:
In the Old Testament the most sacred name for God is Yahweh. Yahweh is a distinctly proper name for the God of the Bible. Because it is sacred, it is never used to refer to any pagan gods; neither is it used in regard to any human. It is reserved solely for the one true God alone. The name Yahweh appears some 6,823 times in the Old Testament, as he is the focus and hero of the Scriptures.
Yahweh is the personal and intimate name that God gave to Israel when he made a covenant with them to be their God as he delivered them from Egypt.
It was also the name used by Eve (Gen 4:1), Noah (Gen 9:26), and Abraham (Gen 12:6). Look at Genesis 4:1: “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (emphasis mine).
But it was with Moses and Israel that it took on a greater significance. When Moses was told to set Israel free, he asked God what name should he call him by and God replies by saying, “I AM.”
“God 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’” (Exodus 3:14).
This name was considered so sacred to Israel that they would never pronounce the name. It was too holy. Instead, they used the name “Adonai,”—Lord—instead when reading the name Yahweh. In fact, eventually the vowels of Adonai were combined with YWHY to make the artificial name “Jehovah,” which became the spoken way of saying Yahweh for the Jews.
What does Yahweh mean?
1. The name Yahweh means that God is eternal.
John 8:58 says: “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham! “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (emphasis mine).
Jesus used the name to refer to his preexistence, his eternality. Yahweh means God has always existed.
2. The name Yahweh means God is unchangeable.
God’s name is “I Am.” It is not “I Was” or “I Will Be” because God does not change. We can put our full trust in God because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. He is “I Am.”
3. The name Yahweh represents a covenant relationship.
Yahweh is forever attached with God’s covenant with Israel. Therefore, it demonstrates God’s intimacy and that he is a personal God. Yahweh, also, has a personal relationship with us and he will never leave nor forsake us. Look at what Paul says in Romans 8:38–39: