We are beginning a fascinating study of the names of God in the Old Testament. Our generation doesn't place much significance on the meaning of names. Most parents usually name their children after a relative or because they think the name sounds "cool." They seldom research the meaning of the name. However, in the Bible the names of God are filled with meaning that reveals particular aspects of His character, nature, and concern. Familiarizing ourselves with the names of God is essential for getting to know Him.
The Bible contains many names for God because one name cannot adequately describe His power, majesty, character, etc. What does Solomon say about God in his prayer as he dedicates the temple in 1 Kings 8:27b-c?
If the heavens cannot contain God, certainly no one name can describe Him. In this study we will look at thirteen of God's names that are essential for getting to know Him.
In the Bible the first name for God is Elōhîm (El-oh-heem), which is always translated God. How is this name used in Genesis 1:1?
Getting to know God as "Elohim" requires doing at least two things.
"Elohim" is one of the most frequently used names for God, occurring more than 2,600 times in the Old Testament. The name "Elohim" is derived from two Hebrew root words. The first—"El"—means "powerful" or "mighty" and refers to awesome power that demands reverence. The last part—"him"—is plural. That's why God makes what statement at the beginning of Genesis 1:26a?
By referring to Himself using plural pronouns, does God mean there is more than one God? No, because what does He say in Isaiah 45:5a?
"Elohim" speaks of the Godhead as a Trinity. God is a tri-unity, three persons in one. This is not fully revealed until in the New Testament when we discover God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The book of Genesis does tell us about the Spirit of God (1:2). However, one person of the Trinity is not mentioned as being a part of creation until the New Testament. What do we discover in John 1:1?
The Word (logos, lo-gos) refers to a divine expression of God. That's why John tells us the Word was made flesh, and dwelt, or tabernacled, among us (1:14a). What other fascinating fact about Jesus do we learn in John 1:2?
Jesus was there when Elohim created everything, and without him was not any thing made that was made (Jn 1:3b). The name "Elohim" is used more than thirty times in the first chapter of Genesis. The awesome power of Elohim is seen in the fact He simply spoke the universe into existence. How does Hebrews 11:3 describe creation?
Invisible atoms and molecules obey the voice of Elohim. It is Elohim who brought order out of chaos, light out of darkness, and everything out of nothing.
The letters "el" are an abbreviation for the name "Elohim." When you see a Hebrew name that begins or ends with "el," that name has Elohim, or God, as a part of its meaning. Can you think of some biblical names that begin or end with the letters "el"? The most famous is "Israel," which is used more than 1,800 times in the Bible and is still heard on the news every day.
When you investigate the meaning of "Elohim," you begin to know the powerful Creator and Sustainer who creates and sustains everything that exists. Next, you must . . .
How does this name for God apply to you and me? There are at least three ways . . .
1. We are wonderfully created. Elohim created everything, including you and me. We are unique creations of God, who does no shoddy work. As someone has said, "God don't make no junk." How does Psalm 139:14a express this fact?
The Hebrew word translated fearfully (yārē', yaw-ray) means to stand in awe. It is not fear of harm but an overwhelming reverence and could be translated "awesomely." Wonderfully (pālâ, paw-law) means marvelously distinguished and implies uniqueness. For example, no person's voice, fingerprint, or DNA is the same as anyone else's. We should stand in awe at how God has made us so marvelously unique.
I am just average. I have an average IQ and average athletic ability. I have far less than average musical ability and golfing ability. However, I can never use mediocrity as an excuse for not serving God because He created me exactly as He wanted so I can fulfill His purpose for my life.
From the burning bush God tells Moses to go back to Egypt and lead His people out of Egyptian bondage into the Promised Land (Ex 3). Moses responds by saying he can't because he is slow of speech, and of a slow tongue (Ex 4:10). That means he was not a good speaker because he was clumsy with words. However, what revealing question does God ask him in Exodus 4:11a?
Don't miss this! Even though we are fearfully and wonderfully made, we are not perfectly made. Why did God create all of us with flaws? God made us exactly as we need to be so we can fulfill His will for our lives, but we can only do so with His guidance and help. God created us as ordinary people through whom, because of His awesome power, He can do extraordinary things. Why, according to 1 Corinthians 1:29?
The name "Elohim" reminds us we are wonderfully created and . . .
2. We are specifically shaped. God never does anything without a reason or purpose, including creating you and me. Regardless of the circumstance of your conception, you were not a surprise to God. He did not have to hurriedly come up with a purpose for your life. Quite the contrary! God ordained the days of your life in His book before one of them began (Psa. 139:16).
Elohim creates us in the womb by taking specific DNA from our moms and dads and knitting them together. He does this so we each will have the personality, talents, intellect, and desires to fit perfectly with His purpose for our lives. How does Psalm 139:13 express this process?
Elohim not only created us but also has a marvelous plan for our lives, even before we are born. We are created in Christ Jesus to do good work that God hath before ordained for us to do (Eph. 2:10). When we complete God's will, or purpose, for our lives, we will be like David. What does Acts 13:36a tell us about him?
That means when God has fulfilled His purpose for our lives, we will die. Therefore, if you are not dead, guess what? God still has a purpose for you.
When we get to know God as "Elohim," we find out we are wonderfully created, specifically shaped, and . . .
3. We are clearly informed. We are plainly told in the Bible God's ultimate purpose for our being wonderfully created and specifically shaped. Even though all of us are unique creations and have different purposes, at least to some degree, we all have the same ultimate purpose. How does Isaiah 43:7b clearly inform us of our ultimate purpose?
Jesus said we are to let our lights shine so people can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Mt 5:16). This means each one of us is to be a "living advertisement" for the holy, good, and loving Elohim. If we really know God, our heart's desire will be like that of the psalmist in Psalm 57:5. Write it below:
Only when you know the God who created you will you discover you are wonderfully created, specifically shaped, and clearly informed. Turn to page 11 and fill in the blanks that relate to "Elohim."
|Name||English Translation||First Mentioned||Meaning or Application|
|Elohim (El-oh-heem)||Gen. 1:1||The powerful Creator and Sustainer|
|Jehovah (Juh-ho-vuh)||Lord or God||Gen. 2:4|
|El Elyon (El-yon)||Gen 14:18|
|Adonai (Ad-o-nigh)||Gen. 15:2|
|El Roi (Ro-ee)||Gen. 16:13|
|El Shaddai (Shad-eye)||Gen. 17:1|
|El Olam (O-lahm)||Gen. 21:33|
|Jehovah Jireh (Jigh-ruh)||The Lord Will Provide||Gen. 22:14|
|Jehovah Rapha (Ray-fuh)||Ex 15:26|
|Jehovah Nissi (Nis-see)||Ex 17:15|
|Jehovah Shalom (Shah-loam)||Judg. 6:24|
|Jehovah Tsidkenu (Sid-kay-new)||Jer. 23:6|
|Jehovah Shammah (Sham-uh)||Ezek. 48:35||My Lord is near me all the time.|