Celebrating the Names of God
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Daniel was reading the Bible with James, his young son. James stopped him after the story of Hagar in Genesis 16:13.
In the story, Hagar has given God a name. She is the first person recorded in Scripture to have called God by a special name (though she certainly wasn’t the last).
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13, NLT)
James asked his father about the names of God. Daniel thought for a second and then said, “Your name is James. But I call you my Jimmy-Jam. Your mom calls you Jamie. Your friends call you Jimmy. You’re called by many names, but you’re still the same person.”
Daniel continued his explanation. “The different names show a special relationship. It means what we have is unique, and it’s a mark of friendship.”
Like James, you may have wondered why God has so many names and what they all mean. Let’s examine a few of God’s names and the beauty behind what they mean…
Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Will Provide
In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham’s faith. God asks the father to sacrifice his beloved son. This is not a metaphorical sacrifice but a literal one which involves killing the most precious person to him.
Yet Abraham is willing. He sets out on a journey to bring his son to the appointed place. As they near the mountain, his son asks an innocent question that must have cut Abraham to the bone. “Where is the lamb?”
From the question, it’s obvious that Isaac has accompanied his father on other sacrifices. He knows from the torch and the wood that the only thing missing from their hike is a lamb.
His father, willing to be compassionate and not scare his child, whispers, “God will provide for the offering.” (Genesis 22:8)
Just as Abraham is about to complete the offering and kill his child—the knife poised in his hand—an angel calls out.
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12, NLT)
At this moment, Abraham looks up and spots a ram caught in the bushes. He sacrifices the ram in place of his son.
But then a curious thing happens. Abraham names God. He calls Him, “Jehovah Jireh”. Some versions render this name as “Yahweh-Yireh”. But they mean essentially the same thing–God will provide.
The names of God reveal the character of God and never more so than with the name of Jehovah Jireh. It’s a reminder to Christians everywhere that we can depend on God to provide for our needs.
Sometimes, it’s hard to remember when the creditors keep calling, when the bills are piling up, and when it seems there’s no end to the cycle of lack and struggle. But just as Isaac was not responsible for finding a substitute lamb, God is not counting on you to provide anything.
The beauty of the name of Jehovah Jireh is that God intervenes. The same God that breathed life into a galaxy, that made the leaping antelope, and the tiny flea, see’s your struggle. He knows your needs. He will provide a way.
Your only job is to climb your mountain. You walk in obedience, and you rely on your Heavenly Father to supply your needs. This is the very definition of faith.
Jehovah Nissi: The Lord Is My Banner
The nation of Israel camped in Rephidim. God had already delivered them from Egypt and was providing for their needs, including water (Exodus 17:5-6). In fact, this was the place where the Israelites had asked, “Is the LORD here with us or not?”
Then the word comes that the Amalekites, another powerful nation, are about to attack. So, Moses instructs Joshua to take his soldiers and go into battle. Meanwhile, Moses will be on the mountain with his hands lifted to God.
God grants the Israelite nation victory in the battle and, as a result, Moses selects a fascinating name for God.
“Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the LORD is my banner”).” (Exodus 17:15, NLT)
The significance of this name is lost to modern audiences. But to the nation of Israel, it was a powerful reminder. For during their time, a nation going into battle would display a banner (or flag).
The flag runner would be at the front of the army, carrying the nation’s symbol. Soldiers in the middle of battle could look at the banner to remember what they were fighting for. They could find strength and courage from this, for it was a rallying point in the face of death and destruction.
But there’s no record of Israel having such a banner…until Moses makes a bold declaration. He declares God is the banner over Israel. He was making it clear to everyone that God was their rallying point. That He was the one they would find strength and courage from.
It’s easy during the battle to lose focus and get discouraged. Maybe you’ve been praying for your drug-addicted daughter to turn her life around. Perhaps you’ve cried out for your wife to be cured of cancer. Maybe you’ve begged God to heal your infertility and grant you a child.
In the battle, God is your banner. He is your strength and courage. He is the one you must look to if you want to find victory in this place.
Jehovah Shalom: The Lord Is Peace
Gideon is moving slowly, quietly. He’s trying desperately not to attract attention as he threshes wheat in the winepress. Though the job is difficult, he keeps going.
For seven years, his nation is afflicted. Every time they plant crops or raise animals, an enemy nation comes and takes what’s theirs. Many people are on the verge of starvation.
Working as he did, he was probably terrified of being caught. He knew that not only would the little wheat be destroyed but they might also kill him.
As he works, a stranger greets him, calling out, “Mighty Warrior, the Lord is with you!” (Judges 6:12)
Like so many would in his situation, Gideon bypasses the name. He doesn’t think of himself as a warrior. He’s hiding out, trying to scrape together a living for his hungry family. In his mind, he’s no hero.
What he focuses on is the question he can’t stop thinking about. It springs immediately to his lips. “Why?”
It’s a question that haunts all of us at one point. Why did I have to be born to a drug-addicted mother? Why did my child have to suffer from a muscle disease? Why did my husband have to die in a car accident? Why did I have to make that stupid choice and end up here?
God doesn’t answer Gideon’s question. But He appoints him. Sometimes in the middle of our why’s, God gives us an assignment.
You were born to a drug-addicted mother…and now God calls you to foster kids who need the love of a good parent. You watch your child suffer from a muscle disease…and now God calls you to walk with other parents on the same journey.
Gideon is quick to point out why he’s not qualified for the assignment. It’s a normal, human reaction to a daunting task. It’s a common response to say, “Whoa, wait a second. You’ve got the wrong person here. I’m not special.”
But God reassures Gideon with one simple truth. It’s the same truth that’s He’s speaking over you right now…
“I am with you.” (Judges 6:16).
When the encounter has ended and Gideon is alone again, He calls God “Jehovah Shalom” or, depending on the version your Bible renders, the name might be “Yahweh-Shalom”. They both mean the same thing, “The Lord Is Peace”.
“And Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and named it Yahweh-Shalom (which means “the LORD is peace”). The altar remains in Ophrah in the land of the clan of Abiezer to this day.” (Judges 6:24, NLT)
Gideon’s story stands as a powerful reminder that we can know peace in the middle of uncertainty. Nothing was resolved when Gideon declared that the Lord was his peace. An overwhelming assignment lay ahead of him. His enemies still oppressed him. He was still hungry. He was still waiting to see the deliverance.
But God was granting him peace.
It’s a gift that God longs to give every one of His children. It’s available to you right in this moment, in the middle of all your uncertainty and confusion and chaos.
God is your peace. This peace comes not from the belief that everything will work out perfectly, but peace comes from an awareness of God’s presence. It’s the knowledge that in the middle of the battle, you are not abandoned. God stands right beside you. He is with you, and He is for you.
Jehovah Sabaoth: The Lord of Hosts
They used the Lord of Hosts throughout the Old Testament, but it’s a name of God that’s lost its meaning for some audiences. In modern language, it can be translated to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
It was this name that David used when he approached Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45.
David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.”
What’s fascinating about this verse is how David, a young shepherd boy, approached one of the fiercest warriors of his time. He didn’t come trembling like others. He didn’t fall on his face in terror.
Instead, he makes a powerful statement by invoking the name of God. Even as a young man, David recognized a powerful truth: a conversation always changes radically when we bring the name of God into it.
So, David does.
He comes into the battle not in his own strength, not in his own wisdom. Not even in armor. The shepherd is completely unprepared for battle, according to the human eye.
Oh, but he’s not fighting. He recognizes the battle belongs to the Lord of Hosts–the God of Heaven’s Armies.
Before the battle is won, David proclaims victory in the name of His God, “And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (1 Samuel 17:47, NLT).
Calling God, the Lord of Hosts is an act of ultimate trust. It signifies that we know who will win the war. It displays to the world that we are putting our faith in the only true Victor, the one who conquered death itself.
Whatever battle you are encountering today–be it physical, emotional, mental, or financial–you can rest knowing that God is the Lord of Hosts. He maintains supreme reign and absolute control over every power in this realm and the unseen realms.
He has not slipped from the throne. He has not forgotten to lift His sword. He is not deaf to the cries of His oppressed children. Instead, He marches into battle—not just with us—but for us.
Never is this seen more clearly than at the Red Sea. As the Israelite nation faces the tormentors of their past and the fear of an uncertain future, God steps in.
He speaks through Moses when He says, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14, NLT).
So often, we think the battle depends entirely on us. Yet often, God simply wants us to show up and proclaim His name. He does not need our puny efforts or pitiful stones. All He asks is our faith and reliance. He will do the rest. He will fight our enemies. He will win the battle on our behalf.
The Intimacy of a Name
The beautiful thing about a name is that it can show a special relationship. Just as you might call a spouse “sweetie” or a beloved child “baby girl”, you are signifying the importance of your relationship when you call God by a special name.
In fact, that name can be a rallying point in the middle of a hard season. Perhaps right now, God is showing you He is your provider. Maybe God is revealing to you He is your strength. Perhaps God is displaying His power as your defender.
God is always exactly what you need. You can rely on Him to show you who He is.
A Prayer for You…
God, please reveal Yourself to me. Show me a new name of Yours. Help me cling to that name in the middle of this season of my life. Thank You for always being exactly what I need. I love you, Father. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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