DEAR FATHER PAUL: A friend of mine insists that God has a number of different names and that these are actually all in the Bible. I’ve always just called him “God.” So what IS God’s name? Frank
DEAR FRANK: Your friend is right.
The first reference in the Bible to God’s name is found in the book of Exodus, chapter 3.
In this passage, Moses is out in the fields tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he notices a nearby bush that is enveloped in fire, but is not being consumed. Thinking that this is a truly amazing sight, his curiosity compels him to draw closer to the bush.
Beginning in Exodus 3:4 God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush. He first warns Moses not to come any closer to the burning bush because the ground on which Moses is standing is holy ground and he commands Moses to remove his sandals. God then identifies himself as the God of Moses’ ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses covers his face because he is afraid to look further. We can only imagine the awesomeness of this experience.
Next, God tells Moses that he has seen the suffering of his people, the Israelites, and their harsh treatment as slaves to the Egyptians. God tells Moses that he has selected him to go to Egypt, set his people free and lead them to safety in a new homeland.
But Moses demurs stating that this is far too great a task for a lowly, ungifted man such as himself. God then convinces Moses that he himself will lead, guide and protect him even when he stands before Pharaoh (ruler of Egypt).
Finally, still trying to avoid obeying God’s call, Moses tells God that the Israelite slaves in Egypt probably won’t follow him and will instead ask him, “what is the name of the one who sent you?” Then, God speaks again in the passage. Beginning in Exodus 3, verse 14 (New Living Translation) God answers Moses’ question with these words, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel; I AM has send me to you,” 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, the name to remember for all generations.”
Scholars tell us that Yahweh is a transliteration of the proper name YHWH that is sometimes rendered “Jehovah,” or “the Lord” in more modern Bible translations.
Later, in the Old Testament many names of God are given in various places. Each of these names describe a different character trait of God. Here are a few of God’s names and the scriptural citations: EL or ELOAH “God Mighty And Strong” Nehemiah 9:17 and Psalm 139:19 … ELOHIM “God Creator” Genesis 17:7 … EL SHADDAI “God Almighty” Genesis 49:24 … ADONAI “Lord” Genesis 15:2 … JEHOVAH JIREH “The Lord Will Provide” Genesis 22:14 … JEHOVAH RAPHA “The Lord Who Heals” Exodus 15:26 …JEHOVAH NISSI “The Lord Our Banner” Exodus 17:15 … JEHOVAH M’KADDESH “The Lord Who Sanctifies, Who Makes Holy” Leviticus 20:8 and Ezekiel 37:28 …JEHOVAH SHALOM “The Lord Our Peace” Judges 6:24 …JEHOVAH ELOHIM “Lord God” Genesis 2:4 and there are more.
So do you need healing? Do you need peace? Perhaps you have another need. Countless millions of people over many centuries have learned the secret of addressing God by one of his many names as an act of faith. They addressed their prayer for healing specifically to JEHOVAH RAPHA and their prayer for peace specifically to JEHOVAH SHALOM and had their prayers answered. Often I have found that when I express the faith that God honors by addressing him by his specific name that applies to my need, he honors that tiny measure of faith. God doesn’t play favorites! What he has done for me, he will do for any of his other children.
Are you one of his children yet? You CAN be today. Start 2018 with a brand new heavenly father. Google Romans 10:9 then simply do what it says and you instantly gain the right to address your new father by any of his names. Wow!
Do you have a question or a comment? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Father Paul Massey is Pastor Emeritus of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. The church’s ad appears on the opposite page.