Taking God’s Character Seriously


The Names of God
The name of God is in effect his reputation. In the ancient world a person’s name was not a mere familial relationship designation. A name was frequently designated a special characteristic of the person.

There are several names which the Old Testament employs to reveal the character of God.

The first of the three names is El. The word in itself suggests authority and is found in several compound forms.

  • El Shaddai: The most common name used for God in the period of the patriarchs. The name suggests permanence, stability, and strength.
  • El Elyon: This name suggests that God is the most high supreme being. El Olam: In this name God is seen as the everlasting one or the God of eternity.
  • Elohim: With this name the ancient Hebrew understood God as the absolute Lord over all his creation.

The second name attributed to God is Yahweh. In our English Bibles it is translated Jehovah. The name appears about 7,000 times in the Old Testament. There are seven compound names which use the name Jehovah. For the most part, all seven have been mistaken for names of God, when in fact all are not.

  • Jehovah-jireh: Abraham gave this name to the place on Mount Moriah where God supplied a substitute for Issac (Gen 22.13-14). The place was remembered by the action of God—he provided the need of Abraham.
  • Jehovah-rapha: This is a name God used of himself (Exodus 15.26). God tells Moses that he is the Lord who heals.
  • Jehovah-nissi: Moses errected an altar to commemorate the defeat of the Amalekites (Exodus 17.8-15). The altar’s name revealed the assurance that God was the one who gave the Israelites victory.
  • Jehovah-shalom: Another name for an altar—this time given by Gideon (Judges 6.24). It is usually translated, “the Lord is peace.”
  • Jehovah-ra’ah: David calls God his shepherd as a metaphorical way of describing some of the characteristics of God. This is a name ascribed to God.
  • Jehovah-tsidkenu: Jeremiah is the only person who used this name (Jeremiah 23.6). It is the name of the future king who would bring the rule of God to earth: translated “The Lord our righteousness.”
  • Jehovah-shammah: Ezekiel uses this term to describe the restored city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48.35). It is translated, “the Lord is there present.”

The third and final name is Adonai. It is usually translated as the sovereign one (Exodus 23-17).

Summary
Only two of the Jehovah compound names are really names attributed to God (Jehovah-rapha and Jehovah ra’ah). One is a future name of a Davidic king (Jehovah-tsidkenu). The remaining are names of places where God interacted with his people in a special way.

The names demonstrate the character of God. If you want to know him seriously, you must understand his character. Too often we are too frivolous with the name of God, thereby demonstrating that we do not take him seriously.

Remember, God wants us to take him seriously.

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