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What’s in a Name?

When you hear the name Brutus, what image comes to your mind? Perhaps someone rather large with muscles in his earlobes and who grunts?

What about the name Cedric? Do you imagine someone not quite as large and who doesn’t grunt, but rather speaks impeccably with a British accent and is wearing a private school uniform and glasses?

Or the name Jean? Do you picture someone strikingly beautiful with an intelligent look about her? You’re laughing!

My point is that names can create powerful images in our mind.

That’s one reason why people throughout time have put tremendous thought into naming their children. (Some should have put a little more thought into it, but that’s beside the point.)

In the Bible, we see each name of God overflow with meaning.

Every time God recorded a name for Himself, He’s teaching us something we need to know about His character and who He is. From the very beginning—the opening verse of the Bible, no less—God immediately reveals Himself in the original Hebrew as Elohim.

“In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:1

Through this name, God is revealing to us that He’s Elohim, the “Supreme God.”[1] From the very beginning, God declares to us that He’s supreme over all. This is quite fitting for the Creator of the universe.

And while the full meaning of the next name we encounter for God may be fitting, it’s shocking to me. Let me explain. 

In Genesis 2:4, we see the second name God uses to teach us about Himself: In the original Hebrew it’s Jehovah Elohim, translated into English as LORD God.

The Hebrew words Elohim and Adonai are applied to something other than the true and living God. There is, however, one name that is unique to the God of the Bible. This name is Yahweh-an alternative transliteration is Jehovah. Yahweh refers to “the self-existent, eternal God” the name God revealed to Moses: “And God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3:14). [Quoted from the Blue Letter Bible.]

Through His name Jehovah, God reveals Himself as the Self-existent, Eternal One. [2] That’s fitting and, in my opinion, just a more concise way of saying that God is the Eternal-God-Who-Has-Always-Been-And-Will-Always-Be-Complete-Within-Himself-with-Absolutely-No-Needs.

That’s not the shocking part because it’s perfectly fitting, however . . .

We see Jehovah mentioned over 6,500 more times in the Bible. It’s the most common name God uses for Himself when He’s talking about His covenant relationship with His people[3], and that’s the shocker:

the One who needs nothing,
chose us
to be in relationship with Him
and not just in a casual relationship, but
a covenant relationship
with HIM

In today’s world, to say you’re in a covenant relationship doesn’t mean all that much. It really just means you’ll give it some effort to stay with that person. A wedding vow is not really a vow—it’s more of a hope.

In the sports world, a commitment really just means, “I commit to come play for your team until I get a better offer—or just change my mind—and commit to someone else instead.”

But when God commits, it’s forever. 

Before we get all puffed up with pride, though, we need to understand that God’s desire for a relationship with us doesn’t reflect on us and our character—it reflects on Him and His character.

He doesn’t want this relationship because we’re just that great. He wants it despite how non-great we are. The Bible actually teaches we’re wicked through and through.[4] 

If you know anything about the history of God’s people recorded in the Bible, you know they were essentially only faithful in being unfaithful to God. He knew this before page one, and still He chose to create man and be in covenant relationship with him—with us.

We’re no more faithful to God today than the Israelites were in the Old Testament—and no more faithful than Adam and Eve were about to be in a single flip of the page in my Bible. And yet, in essence God is saying, and still says, 

“I AM Jehovah Elohim, and I want you.”

Do we truly understand how staggering this is? I’m not just saying that God knew we’d be hard to get along with and still chose us. I’m saying, He knew we’d be His enemies[5], and yet, here we are in Genesis 2:4, being told He’s Jehovah Elohim—the One who promises to be in covenant relationship with us.

So, I ask you again, what’s in a name? If it’s God’s Name we’re talking about, then the answer is: 

infinitely more than we can ever comprehend!

By the way, did you know that the name Jean means Gift of God?
I promise. I didn’t make it up. And now you’re laughing again. Wow!

[1] Warren Baker, D.R.E, General Editor, The Complete Word Study Old Testament, KJV, and Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary (AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN 1994) Pgs. 2, 2301, 12.
[2] Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon #H3068
[3] Warren Baker, D.R.E, General Editor, The Complete Word Study Old Testament, KJV, and Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary (AMG Publishers, Chattanooga, TN 1994), Pgs. 6, 2322, 47
[4] Jeremiah 17:9 ~ “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”
[5] Romans 5:10 ~ “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

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