Name Above All Names
Shakespeare asked the question many years ago, “What’s in a name? That which we can call a rose by any other word would smell just as sweet.” The manner of how we use and understand words is essential for correct interpretation and understanding. For instance, the Hebrew word davar means “a thing,” but, it also means “word.” It implies that knowing the thing is to know the word. It is believed that when Adam named the animals they were named by their various physical and behavioral characteristics. The same is true of names of the Hebrews— Moses means “to be drawn out,” as he was taken from the river; and Abraham means “father of a multitude,” as God said he would become.
Now And Then
Unlike our modern American and European cultures in which we use names prosaically (without interest or imagination) as identifiers for persons, places, or things, the ancient Hebrew words had symbols, and often prophetic significance. The name of a person was identified with that person’s life, character, reputation, and, oftentimes, spiritual destiny.
God revealed His character and nature, His acts and deeds, and most of all His promises revealed in His name(s). The name of the Lord Jesus Christ means “anointed Saviour.” Our believing confession of His name brings forth our salvation. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord (‘a-do-nai) Jesus (Saviour), and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
Understanding The Names Of God
The Hebrew language has root words that form the base of a word. When we look at the word El it comes from a root word that means “might, strength and power.” Its primary meaning is “god,” pagan or false. When used referring to the God of Israel, it is most commonly qualified by additional words that help further distinguish the true God from false gods. These other names and titles are known as “construct forms.” We can fully comprehend the wonders of our God by understanding His names.
Look At Our God
El ‘el-yon describes Him as “the most high God,” depicting His strength and sovereignty. As El ‘O-lam, we understand that He is “God everlasting.” El hash-sha-mayim reveals He is the “God of the heavens.” He is “one God” (El ‘e-chad).
Through His name, we gain a better understanding of His nature and how He deals with His creation. He is known to be a “gracious God” (‘el Chan-nun). The children of Israel were told that He is ‘el re-chum, “the God of compassion.” We may have complete confidence in God when we pray and speak to Him because His name(s) says “He sees our afflictions and hears us” (‘el ro-i).
We know “God is truth and in Him there is no lie” (‘el e-met). We further gain a wonderful comprehension of His plan of salvation through His name(s). He is the one that made the way of salvation for us. He is the “author and architect of our salvation” (‘el ye-shu’a-te-nu). To all of us that believe, we know Him as “the God of my salvation” (’el ye-shu-‘a-ti).
As our God, we can be assured that “He is with us” (‘im-ma-nu ‘el). We know that “He is for us and will protect us by His mighty power” (‘el gib-for). In our relationship with Him, we see Him as “the joy of our exaltation” (‘el sim-chat gi-li). I used the transliterated spelling of God’s Hebrew names to help you learn to pronounce them.
He is also known as ‘e-lo-him (‘e-lo-ah singular form) and also by the four Hebrew letters that make up the unutterable name the Jews refer to as YHVH, with YAH as the shortened version. YAH is found in the construct hallelu-YAH , which means “praise the Lord.” ’A-do-nai and hash-shem also refers to Lord. Today, the word Jehovah is often used and is believed to come into existence by Hebrew translators (Masoretes) who tried not to use the Lord’s name in vain by maneuvering the vowels in the word Adonai. In fact, the name of God was so revered that the high priest would only speak the sacred name of God 10 times per year, and that was done only during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). When the people would hear the name of God, they would prostrate themselves in deep reverence. Space will not permit me to supply an exhaustive study of all the names of God used in the Bible.
Reverence To God’s Name
His name is so wonderful that God warns us not to use the His name in vain. The Lord Himself warned us of this in the third commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). When we use His name in vain, we are denying His character, nature and promises. We characterize Him as being unfaithful, untrue and without compassion and grace.
Most understand the third commandment to mean only using God’s name as company to a slang word, making it an acceptable expression when something goes wrong. It is far worse and deeper than this. It is a matter of false-swearing not merely vain-swearing. False-swearing is a form of perjury. Perjury is the offense of willfully telling an untruth or false-testimony. Similar to Peter who denied the Lord when the cock crowed, we likewise deny Him when we use His name in vain.
What we must come to understand is that His name envelopes His word. I believe the two are inseparable. The psalmist wrote in Psalm 138:2, “For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” If His name and His word are inseparable, then what was David referring to? I believe he is speaking of Jesus. God could not improve upon perfection, but He made it available to all by the Cross of Jesus Christ.
By His cross we now know: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
This was the true and fulfillment of Yom Kippur! Jesus is the one who atoned for our sins, and just as the name of God was revered by the Jews on this day when it was said by the priests, we should all bow in honor of our Lord Jesus Christ when His name is spoken. It is the name above every name!