Summary: Part of our problem today is that we’ve become too casual with God. Instead of hesitating to even pronounce His name, we use His name flippantly. It is to be spoken with deep reverence and profound respect … even fear.
I guess I was about 4 years old when I realized that my mother had another name besides “Mom” … and one day I decided to call her by that name instead of “Mom.” Big mistake. She asked me to do something and I replied: “Okay … Marie.” There was that thunderous moment of silence … the laser beam stare … and then, through clenched teeth, my mother slowly asking, “What … did … you … call … me?”
I’ll never forget the speech that I got that day … very short, clear, and to the point. “When I ask you to do something or call you, you will answer me with a ‘yes, ma’am’ or a ‘no, ma’am,’ and the same goes for your father. When he asks you to do something or calls you, you will answer him with a ‘yes, sir’ or a ‘no, sir.’ Do you understand?”
What could I say but … “yes, ma’am.”
That was 60 years ago and I still answer my mother with “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.” Same for my father. I still call her “Mom” and I still call my father “Dad” but I have never called either of them by their first name … not because I’m afraid of them but because I respect them.
People under 50 might think that my parent’s reaction to being called by their first name was a bit over the top … but most of you, I think, come from a generation where you just didn’t do that … period! I was taught that you called all adults “ma’am” or “sir” as a sign of respect. First names were for other children only. I grew up in the 60s and 70s when all of that started to change. I remember going to a friend’s house after school one day and hearing my friend call his mother by her first name and I was shocked … my heart froze as I waited for the hammer to fall … and was even more shocked and confused when his mother acted like nothing had happened. As the robot in “Lost in Space” would say, it did not “compute.” Eventually she asked me to stop calling her “ma’am” and to call her by her first name. Couldn’t do it. It didn’t feel right for me to be that personal, that familiar with an adult who was supposed to be an authority figure. It just felt disrespectful. I know that some of you know what I’m talking about and miss it like I do. Calling someone “ma’am” or “sir” never felt mean or oppressive … just respectful.
As we have been learning in this series, the ancient Hebrews often considered a person’s name equivalent to their personality. The meaning behind the name “Moses,” for example, was “pulled out” … which was prophetic, given that he was literally “pulled out” of the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter and later he would pull his people out of Egypt.
If you remember, in Genesis 2:19, God brought all the animals before Adam and whatever Adam called them, that was their name. In other words, unlike all the other animals that God made, we had been given the ability … the insight … to see into the nature and characteristics of other animals and other human beings … but when it comes to God … as we are about to find out … God had to give us His names for a reason. His names reveal aspects of His character or “personality” … if that’s the right word … that we could never see for ourselves. For example, He is one … “El” … and He is plural … “Elohim” … the Designer and Sustainer of His Creation … and He is “Adon” and “Adonai” … the Sovereign King of kings and Lord of lords, remember?
“Elohim” and “Adonai,” along with the other names that we are going to learn about and explore, were often revealed to specific individuals for specific reasons or for specific purposes. But today’s name … O, my sisters and brothers … we must hear today’s name with fear and trembling … with reverence and awe … for it is the personal name of God … not a title or an adjective … but the very name of God as given to us by God Himself!
I am begging you to do your best to stay awake and not let your mind wander because the name that He gave us is so … so … [pause] … amazing … so revealing … so unique that I am going to do my utmost best to show you how this name reveals the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of who He is. I say “as best I can” because such a thing isn’t really possible … but I beg you, bear with me.