“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.”
On occasion, during College Park worship service, beautiful banners with the names of God written upon them have been carried into the sanctuary and set in place in front of the congregation. Each time I witness this event, watching the flags make their way up the aisles and onto the platform, I am overcome with an awesome sense of the presence of the Lord. As His name is lifted high, so my heart is lifted high in worship in a unique and overwhelming way! What is it about His name?
While shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep, Moses encountered YAHWEH in the wilderness of Mt. Sinai. From the midst of a burning bush, the Lord commissioned Moses to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt promising that He would be with Moses. But a reluctant Moses anticipated that the people would ask, “’What is His name?” (Ex. 3:13) The people already knew the identity of the God of their fathers, so what did they really want to know? They were asking “what” with the Hebrew word, “mah.” What does His name mean? What is His character? And what does His name mean in the present situation? The Lord answered Moses, “I AM Who I AM.” (Ex. 3:14) He was identifying Himself as the One who exists past, present, future and would be present with them wherever He sent them. His “name” is His unique person, character, reputation and power. Throughout the Old Testament, as God interacts with His people, they experience the unfolding of His very nature and character through the many names by which He reveals Himself. God wants to be known by His people!
Let’s start at the beginning! Genesis 1:1 says that in the beginning Elohim, the Mighty God, Creator, created the heavens and the earth.
In Genesis 14 Abram encounters the priest/king Melchizedek, who was the priest of El Elyon or God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth. Abram paid tithes to El Elyon, recognizing that He was Sovereign over all, majestic and pre-eminent.
In Genesis 16 we see Hagar fleeing for her life from her mistress Sarai. God finds her, comforting her as El Roi, the God Who Sees and will not abandon her in her distress.
In Genesis 17, God made a promise to Abram, to bless and multiply his descendants. But there was a problem! Abram and his wife Sarai were childless and well past childbearing years. But nothing is impossible for El Shaddai, the Many-Breasted One, who is the Provider and well able to satisfy all of the needs of His children. Now years later imagine Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, the son who embodied all of the promises of God! Walk with him and young Isaac up the mountain as Isaac carries the wood. “Father, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham in unwavering faith answered his son, “Jehovah Jireh will provide Himself the lamb.” (Gen 22:7-8) The substitutionary lamb would be provided by God our Provider, “in the Mt. of the Lord it will be provided.” (Gen 22:14)
He is also Jehovah Rapha, the Lord our Healer, who sweetened the bitter waters of Meribah to give life to the children of Israel in the wilderness. He is Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my Banner, giving victory against their enemies, and Jehovah Mekoddishkem, sanctifier of the children of Israel, as memorialized by the Sabbath. He is Jehovah Shalom, our Peace; Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of the Armies of Heaven; and Jehovah Raah, our faithful Shepherd, and Friend.
Jeremiah 23 tells of a future day when Israel will dwell in their land securely, and Judah will be saved. God will then raise up for David a Righteous Branch who will reign as King. His name will be Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness. He is the One who stands with His people, and it is He alone who can provide His righteousness.
What does His name mean to us? It is this same God who created us, saw us in our need and set us apart to be his own. He has provided us with His Righteousness through the substitutionary death of His Son, the Sacrificial Lamb. He shepherds us through life and through death as our sustainer, provider, and friend. He is the One who is actively present as our help in every circumstance of life to fight our battles as we go forth in His name.
So, let us press on to know the Lord (Hosea 6:3), for the people who know their God will display strength and take action. (Dan.11:32) May we be those who go forth in the power of His Great Name accomplishing with His strength the tasks to which He has called us!