“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:1-4
Our current church study of The Prayer of Jabez has reminded me that as we read through Scripture we can see the importance of names. We can also see in Scripture that God has many Names and descriptions and each reveals Him in a different way. One of the things that became clear to me after I came to know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, was that God was revealing himself to me through his various names. Some of those names were formal and some informal. Some titles, roles, and characteristics define God’s nature and the way He works in people’s lives. Phrases like “God of All Comfort”….“God of Hope”….. “Wonderful counselor”…… “Prince of Peace” began to have real meaning for me as I got to know God more intimately.
As I work with people in discipleship studies, whether in Sunday school, Bible studies, small groups, mentoring relationships, counseling, or with students at the Titus 2 residential program, I like to talk with them about their sense of who God is and seek to help them know and understand God more clearly based on some of His names, titles, roles, and characteristics that are revealed in Scripture.
A few years ago, as I was working with a group, I asked each of them to list what they knew about God. Generally, just off the top of one’s head each could list about 6-10 characteristics or names of God. As we began to compare notes, we saw that many of us had some of the same well known ones, but that each person had typically one or more unique ones and as we talked and compared our descriptions of God, our combined list grew. Our impromptu brainstorm session resulted in a pretty good list of over 140 names, titles, and attributes of God. It was by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. It represented only the combined experience and knowledge of about 20 people sharing what they know about God.
In the study by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God there is a list in the back of the workbook that contains a list of the Names of the Trinity …..Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…… Each name has the Scripture reference to allow one to look them up and read them in context. It’s an interesting exercise to read through them and identify which of the names one has a personal understanding of and experience with and then to explore in the Scripture the ones that are less familiar, in order to see how God is constantly revealing Himself to us in different ways. The ancient Hebrews reportedly had over 3000 names for God, each one reflecting an aspect of His character. Some with which you may be familiar are:
Elohim- God the Mighty Creator
Adonai- Lord, Master
El Shaddai- God Almighty
Jehovah Jireh- The Lord will Provide
As I’ve come to know more and more of the names and attributes of God, I’ve discovered that I am conscious of looking for them now as I read the Bible. And I am conscious of how I think about God and how I hear others speak of God. And although no one can know God completely, I’ve realized that when one comes to personally know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the clearest and most personal portrait of God is shown to us.
When the subject of the character or nature of God is discussed, there are generally two broad categories that reflect typical views of God. The first is as “God, the Transcendent”- the Divine Other, The Creator of the Cosmos, the majestic, all powerful, all knowing, Fearsome and Righteous Judge, who resides “out there” somewhere, beyond us, mysterious and unknowable. There are plenty of Scriptures that support that view. Some people support their idea of the infinite, unknowable, Cosmic “other” God with verses like Isaiah 55:8-9, which says that God’s ways and thoughts are different from man’s and far superior. Others point to Ecclesiastes 11:5, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” And, of course, one to which I refer often, Deuteronomy 29:29, which tells us that “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
The other view is as “God, the Imminent”- Emmauel- “God with us”, the personal, intimate, forgiving, loving Father or Friend, The Comforter, guide, teacher, protector, the Still, Small Voice, the lover of one’s soul. And, again, there are plenty of Scriptures that reveal that view. Jeremiah 24:7 tells us that God says, “ 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.” The Psalmist knew this aspect of God too, revealing it in Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” And in Psalm 91:14 we are told, “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.” And 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 tells us that believers can learn His ways: “For to us God revealed (His wisdom) through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God…the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God”. What a sacred joy! That the Holy Spirit—who indwells every believer—is a member of the triune Godhead and therefore perfectly knows the mind of God. And one of the Spirit’s responsibilities is to reveal God’s ways to us and illumine our minds so that we can comprehend.
I grew up in a small loving Christian congregation and I remember hearing our pastor speak of God in the most loving and gentle ways. As an adult I had a close friend who told of growing up in a church where she recalled hearing only about the eternal fire that awaited her if she failed to live rightly…..that she would be judged by God. It made me question whether she and I even knew the same God. How could our perspectives on God be so different? She quaked with fear at the thought of God. I had so little fear and so much confidence in His love and grace that I respected no boundaries set by His Word.
She and I both were expressing our understanding of various aspects of God’s character ….but only partly so. And each of us suffered as a result our myopic uni-dimensional view of God. Each of us needed to discover God’s revelation of Himself as the fullness of Grace and Truth, which is how Jesus Christ is described by the Apostle John in John 1:14 and 17. In John 1:18 the Apostle goes on to say, “ No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”
For many people, the Christian life consists of going to church, praying occasionally, and reading a psalm when they need comfort. That isn’t much of a life, especially compared to what the Father has in mind for His children. God didn’t create mankind just as an audience to witness His awesome power—He could have demonstrated it to the angels if that had been His purpose. Instead, He created us to know Him as a person and to develop a growing, intimate relationship with Him. For this reason, God desires to unveil His ways to us—then we will understand why He acts as He does and why He allows some situations that cause suffering and heartache. Unfortunately, the journey of faith remains shallow for many believers because they have never stopped to ask, “Who is this God I serve? How well do I really know Him and what motivates His thoughts, decisions, and actions?” The Father has done everything necessary for us to know Him, to be in His family and to experience intimacy with Him. He has revealed Himself most fully through the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed that His followers would delight in an intimate relationship with the Father (John 17:21). The Lord’s ultimate purpose for each believer is that he or she will learn to think, act, and speak like Jesus (Romans 8:29). To ensure that we reach this goal, He steps into our lives and walks with us. Then, not only can we also share our joys, needs, and burdens with Him. We will “hear” God’s voice in Scripture, in the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and in the wise words of fellow travelers. We will “see” God’s glory revealed in creation and in the circumstances of our lives, the lives of others, and in the world. The re sult of this spiritual give-and-take is that we fall more deeply in love with the Father, who loved us even before we were created (Eph. 1:4).
God designed salvation to lead to relationship. His desire is to show us His unending love and in return to receive our companionship and worship. If one is just going through the motions of Christianity, he or she is missing out on the greatest blessing of knowing God intimately. The truth is that we will not love, worship, or serve someone we do not know—so knowing how God thinks and acts is not optional. A pastor once told me that “we give as much of ourselves as we can understand to as much of God as we can understand. “
Learning the Lord’s ways, how His various names reflect God’s character, helps us to know and understand Him, to think like Him. As we gain His view point, many things start to change—fear diminishes, along with frustration, worry, blame and anger. We will also feel more confident about taking a stand for what is right. Understanding the Lord’s ways will fortify us so that we don’t give up on God when disappointing situations arise. There is nothing on earth sweeter or more satisfying than God’s intimate presence. The more we study His ways, the more quickly we will understand our circumstances from His point of view. Calmness and confidence will replace anxiety and discouragement. The more we immerse ourselves in Scripture, the more we will understand God’s character and attributes, His proclamations, prohibitions, promises, and principles.
When we know God personally and walk in God’s ways, we will have an impact on our family, friends, coworkers, communities, and even strangers. Sometimes the Lord leads us to say precisely the words which will plant a seed in someone’s mind. But one of the most powerful ways we testify about Him is through godly responses to problems, hardships, and persecution. The unbelieving world is watching Christians—when our behavior reflects knowledge of and confidence and trust in God, curiosity is aroused. I hope you are encouraged and uplifted as you read and become more familiar with these Names of God. I would urge you to take time to worship Him daily by calling upon Him using His various Names…to do so will be an wonderful experience in knowing God more fully and intimately. Second Peter 3:18 instructs us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior” because the victorious Christian life depends upon understanding His ways. Proverbs 2:5 “then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” If you have never made a profession of your faith in Jesus Christ or if you do not have an assurance of your faith that comes from knowing God in a personal and intimate way, today can be the day that you tell Jesus that you want to know Him more completely. For those who make a first time decision to trust Jesus or for those who make a renewed commitment to get to know Jesus better, he will reveal himself more and more as each seeks to know him through the Scripture. . I yearn for everyone to know the amazingly intimate, gentle, loving, forgiving……… majestic, mighty, powerful, sovereign, and awesome God we serve.