There is a lot of time, attention, and consideration given to the naming of a child. Why? Because names are important to us. Before my wife and I named our children, there were a whole host of names in the running for us to consider. There were male names, female names, family names, names suggested by friends. It was all a bit overwhelming. But we got through it somehow and have been blessed with three children in our family.
When our youngest was born, we named him Benjamin Joseph after the two youngest sons of Jacob and Rachel in the book of Genesis. Like most people, he’s had a number of nicknames over the years that define and describe him, who he is, what he does, what he is all about. His friends and close family members often use these names, but most people simply know him as Ben.
Names are important to us and to God. There are a lot of names for God in the Bible. It may seem a bit overkill at first, but all of these names in Scripture are significant because they define and describe who God is, what he does, and what he is all about. They give us insight into his nature, person, and character.
Elohim is the first and most basic name used for God in the Old Testament. It’s merely the Hebrew word for “god,” but the way it is used in Scripture is typically in terms of Creator God or Almighty God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1). Elohim is the One who was there at the beginning and who brought all things into existence. It’s interesting to note that Elohim is a plural noun that operates in a singular way. How can this Elohim God exist in plurality and operate in singularity? Could it be one God in three persons, perhaps?
It’s interesting to note that Elohim is a plural noun that operates in a singular way.
Yahweh is God’s name, and the name for God used most often in the Bible. It first shows up in Genesis 2 when it comes time to talk about the crown of God’s creation, man and woman, Adam and Eve. The name Yahweh always shows up at important times in salvation history and in the story of God’s people. When God appears to Moses through the burning bush, he says of himself, “I AM WHO I AM ... Tell them I AM has sent me to you” (Ex 3:14). Yahweh always has been, is now, and always will be. He is always in the present to deliver and to save his people.
Adonai is the name for God that means “Lord.” Psalm 97 says that “God is the Lord over all the earth.” God is not only Elohim the creator, but also Adonai, the lord and ruler of all things. Adonai became the standard name for God used among the Jews, who considered God’s personal name of Yahweh too holy to be written or uttered.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angel Gabriel told Joseph what his name would be. “You are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 2). In Hebrew, Jesus’ name is Y’shua, or Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves.” Jesus is Yahweh incarnate, Yahweh in the flesh, sent from heaven to earth to save his people from their sins. From the womb to the tomb, from the cradle to the grave, Jesus’ name defines and describes who he is and what he is all about.
At the end of his earthly ministry, before his ascension, Jesus finally reveals God’s true nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28). The God of the Bible is the creator, redeemer, and sustainer of all things. Three in one and one in three, the holy and blessed Trinity.
Names are important to us and to God. By the time this article is published, my son Ben and his wife Laura will be welcoming their first child into the world, a son. He will be given a name and will surely have plenty of nicknames along the way. But the most important name he will have is the one placed on him in the sanctuary and at the font, where through water and the word, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, he will be named a child of God.
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