Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Great I AM

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelite 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?"
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 3:13-14)

There is one name of God in particular that has been a bit more difficult to translate than others, a bit of a puzzle if you will.  That name is Yahweh.  The Hebrews considered this name to be so holy they would not pronounce it for fear that they would profane the holiness of the name.  It is even said they have forgotten how to actually pronounce it.  When they wrote it they would only use the consonants, YHWH.  Since they did not speak the name or include the vowels, scholars have had to use a number of references to try and figure out what vowels to use. 

Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew verb which means “to be.”  The essence of “to be” is to have life.  With that in mind, the name implies that God is absolutely self-existent.  He is the One who in Himself possess life and permanent existence.  Most scholars agree that Yahweh, or Jehovah, as it is sometimes translated, would be God’s proper name. 

In most English translations of the bible when you see LORD in all capitals it is a reference to the name Yahweh.  There are a couple instances in which we see it translated differently.  Rather than a reference to God, in these cases it is used when God or Jesus identifies Himself using His proper name.  Here the translation is “I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM.” 

I find this fascinating.  The Creator and Sustainer of the universe is identifying Himself and in doing so just simply says “I AM.”  Granted, the English language is not the most expressive language, but think about it.  Rather than something outlandishly verbose, yet completely holy, descriptive, and complex, God chose something unassuming yet all encompassing.  Something that when translated from the original Hebrew would be elegantly simple but would carry completeness that is hard to wrap your mind around.

God does this when He is speaking to Moses at the burning bush.  In Exodus Chapter 3 God is commissioning Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring out His people out of Egypt.  Moses asked God who he should tell the children of Israel sent him (vs. 13).  God answers in verse 14: And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “This you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 

Jesus also used the term “I AM” to identify Himself.  While teaching in John 8:58 Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”  This is Jesus declaring Himself to be Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament.  The Hebrews knew and understood this and were going to stone Him for blasphemy.  

Scholars tell us that Jesus identified Himself in this fashion while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  When the troops arrive to arrest Him, Jesus asks them who they are looking for and Jesus responded “I am He” (John 18:5).  Then something amazing happens!  Look at verse 6: Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. It is said that Jesus used His proper name to identify himself, He didn’t just say, “That’s me.”  He responded with “I AM” and with that identification there was a release of power as He fully acknowledged who He was.

Amazingly simple, yet powerful and complete. 

These are just a few examples.  As you read your bible, look for the times in which “I AM” is used.  In your walk with God, ask Him to reveal to you the subtle intricacies of what His name means.  What a great way to get to know Him better, by learning about His proper name.  Yahweh, the Great I AM.

We are very blessed at my church with several great singers and songwriters.  One of these songs is The Great I AM by Jared Anderson.  If you have the means, I highly recommend getting it.  It will touch your heart, I know it does mine.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Names of God

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed when I come to the children of Israel and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” Ex. 3:13

What’s in a name?  Some have said it is the most important and sweetest sound to a person’s ear.  Sons are named after their fathers and people honor those that have had an impact in their life by naming one of their children after that person.  In some cultures a new name is given to signify a child is now an adult. 

Today we use names as a means of identification but to the people in biblical times names meant so much more.  For them the very existence of a thing was tied to its name.  Especially a divine name, this was critically important to them.  And it should be for us as well.

So why is should it be important to us?  Why should we study the names of God?  There are several reasons.  First, we are commanded to honor His name.  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in Vain.” (Ex 20:7)  There is more to this than avoiding using God’s name in a slang or profane way.  The name of God has to do with His character, and when we live in a covenant relationship with Him, we become accountable for reflecting his character.

Another reason to study the names of God is because of the inherent greatness of His name.  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth…” (Ps. 8:1)  By understanding the names of God we can understand how to praise and worship Him more effectively. 

Third, God’s name provides protection to all believers.  “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Pvb. 18:10)  As our understanding of God grows, we will find ourselves running to His name to find safety and strength.

Finally, in the various English versions of the bible simply translate His name as “God” or “Lord”, but there are a number of other names used throughout the scriptures, both in the Greek and Hebrew.  These names reveal many different aspects of God’s character or His relationship with us; they contain a wealth of truth about the God we serve.

Let’s look at a few of the names of God:

Elohim – Powerful God – This speaks to the idea that God is the Supreme Being and to His triune nature.

El-Shaddai – Almighty God – This speaks to God’s control of everything.

El-Elyon – God Most High – This speaks to God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy.

El-Olam – The Everlasting God – This speaks to God’s unchangeableness.

Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord Will Provide – This speaks to God’s provision for all our needs.

Jehovah-Rophe – The Lord Heals – This speaks to God healing us, both physically and spiritually.

Jehovah-Shalom – The Lord is Peace – This speaks to God being a source of peace in our life.

Jehovah-Sabboth – The Lord of Hosts – This speaks to God defeating evil.

Jehovah-Rohi – The Lord Is My Shepherd – This speaks to God’s relationship with us as a source of comfort and strength.

Part of how God shows us His love is by being all these things for us and more, so much more.  Here are just a few verses:
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Rom 8:37-39)
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”  (Mt 6:26)
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (Jn 3:16)

As you continue your walk with God, ask Him to reveal new things about His names (the above list is not a complete list) and Himself to you.  You will see there is so much to learn and the more we learn the more we grow closer to Him.  What better way to be an example to those around you than by growing closer to God.