To know God is the greatest joy of my life.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:3
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. Jeremiah 24:7
Names! We all have one! It appears names are ever changing and evolving! As I investigated current trends, some sources claim that names related to nature, such as Luna, Juniper and Sage for girls will be a new trend. Pop culture has influence with names such as Kobe for boys and Arya for girls high on the lists. Names with political vibe are cropping up as well: Kamala and Jill for girls went up, while Donald and Joseph (and Joe) went down for boys. And the racial justice movement is inspiring baby naming such as Breonna, King (for Martin Luther King), Malcom (Malcom X) and Rosa (Rosa Parks).
At the same time, certain names trend for generations. James, Robert and Michael continue to be top choices in boy names, with William and David right in there! Elizabeth, Jennifer and Mary are ever popular girl names. For 2021, the top four girl names are Olivia, Emma, Ava, and Sophia. The top four boy names are Liam, Noah, Oliver and William.
Then there are those names that make you smile! My maternal grandfather, whom we called Pop, loved genealogy and family history and left us some of his notes. We all take great delight the name of one of our ancestor’s: Thankful Day Johnson. It just makes one happy! She must have always known she was loved and wanted with a name like that!
Pondering names, I recalled the movie “Where the Heart Is”, from the book by Billie Letts. It is the story of teenage girl, Novalee, who gets dumped by her no-good boyfriend at a Walmart store. She uses her wits to stay hidden in Walmart until her baby is born – in Walmart! They become instant celebrities. Novalee becomes friends with photographer Moses Whitecotton. Moses tells her to give her baby a name “that will mean something” and “withstand a lot of bad times.” Novalee names her little girl Americus, believing that having a whole country behind her name will mean a lot!
All these trends are just that –trends. They come and go. A name’s meaning is often lost or unimportant to the bearer of the name. Unless told otherwise, we take our given names for granted.
Conversely, the names of God remain true and steadfast and eternal. It is in their very meanings that we know God and draw closer to Him, gaining in faith, confidence and then obedience.
YAHWEH- “I Am, The Self-Existent One” (pronounced yah-WEH)
God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations. Exodus 3:14-15.
Many of us remember this well-known conversation between God and Moses at the burning bush. The name “I Am” is known to us. In the original text only four letters YHWH are used. YHWH appears in the Old Testament more than 6,800 times. The name YHWH was so holy; some scribes would not write it but would substitute “the Name” or “the HOLY Name”. One author, while researching the Dead Sea Scrolls, noticed four dots where the Hebrew letters for Yahweh should have appeared. Bible translators also render the translation Jehovah.
Yahweh, “I Am”, is the name that God gave Himself. It carries all the power, might and omnipotence of the Holy God of the Universe. The One who always is, always was, and always will be.
Jesus uses the “I Am” when He refers to Himself. He identifies Himself as the Messiah before a group of religious leaders, shocking the listeners by saying “Before Abraham was born, I Am."(John 8:58)
A great New Testament study would be the “I Am” statements made by Jesus in the gospel of John. We just may have to do that some day!
To know God as Yahweh, is to know God as the self-existent, all powerful Holy One with no beginning and no end.
EL SHADDAI- “The All-Sufficient One, God Almighty” (pronounced El Shad-DAI)
The Old Testament word for Almighty is the Hebrew word “Shaddai”, which means “most powerful.” Some scholars suggest that El Shaddai could be translated “God the Mountain One”. What pictures does that conjure up? Strength? Shelter? Heavenward? Steadfastness?
The word “Shaddai” comes from the Hebrew root word shad, meaning “breast”. So often when I come across the Hebrew meaning of a word, I am amazed because it is so unexpected! At least at first glance. Along with being the Almighty One, God is also the one who nourishes, supplies and satisfies. I love that these traits exist side-by-side with power! Don’t you wish our world leaders would describe and seek power in such a manner?
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai - ‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2 I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.” Genesis 17:1-2.
Think about the scene here when God speaks this name and makes this promise to Abram. Abram’s response is to fall on his face, overwhelmed by the very presence of a Holy God. When he does, God lays out His covenant with Abram. Then gives new names to both he and his wife Sari. His covenant is that He will be their God and the God of their descendants - as numerous as the stars in the sky. Wow! Abraham and Sarah are childless at this time!
Yet the power in the presence and words of El Shaddai were enough to hold Abraham close to God’s heart and faithful for many more years until this promise was fulfilled in Isaac, long past Sarah's childbearing years.
To know God as El Shaddai is to know God as the God who keeps His promises, accomplishing what only He can in the lives of His people.
EL OLAM: The Everlasting God Or The Eternal God. (Pronounced El o-LAM)
After making their covenant at Beersheba, Abimelech left with Phicol, the commander of his army, and they returned home to the land of the Philistines. 33 Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God. Genesis 21:32-33.
Abraham cried out to El Olam, the Everlasting God as he planted the tamarisk tree. It was a call of worship to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The One beyond time and space. Understanding this helps me when some answers to my prayers may not be the ones I would have wanted. I’m reminded that He knows what is in front of me, when all I can see in the present and the past. He keeps in mind all the others involved in our prayers. He knows the plans He has for us.
Being the Eternal One, reminds me too, that He has invited me, through Jesus Christ, to spend eternity with Him! In fact, He is even now preparing a place for me. For you! His everlasting arms are outstretched and He invites us to join His eternal purposes as we serve and love Him here on earth.
To know God as El Olam is to know that you will live with Him for eternity, but also that you can be part of His eternal purpose now.
To know God is the greatest joy of my life. My prayer is that it will also be the greatest joy of yours.
As you meditate on the Names of God, worship with Amy Grant’s song “El Shaddai”