MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

8. Names of God

Related Media

As we are seeking to know God more, one of the greatest ways to know God is by the names given in Scripture. In the ancient Hebrew culture, a name meant so much more than just what you called somebody; it reflected a person’s character. Satan means “opposer” or “adversary”; Devil means “accuser” or “slanderer.” This tells us a lot about Satan’s role as he opposes God and man and seeks to accuse both. We also see Jacob in the Bible meant “heel grabber” or “trickster,” and he lived out his name as he tricked his brother and stole his birthright and also tricked his uncle Laban and took his lambs. Names are a reflection of character in the Bible.

Wayne Grudem said this about God’s names: “The many names of God in the Scripture provide additional revelation of His character. These are not mere titles assigned by people but, for the most part, His own descriptions of Himself. As such they reveal aspects of His character.”1

Ryrie adds: “In a broad sense, then, God’s “name” is equal to all that the Bible and creation tell us about God. When we pray, “Hallowed be your name” as part of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9), we are praying that people would speak about God in a way that is honoring to him and that accurately reflects his character.”2

The names of God give Christians tremendous comfort because they reveal aspects of his nature and character. Proverbs 18:10 says this: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The person who understands God’s names will better understand his character, and therefore, have a tremendous source of strength and protection while enduring the trials of life.

Therefore, in this lesson, we will look at a few of the names of God. First, we will look at Old Testament names and then New Testament names.

Old Testament Names

Yahweh: LORD

YHWH, often pronounced Yahweh, is the most frequently used name of God in the Old Testament, and it is commonly translated as LORD, with all capitals.3 Mark Driscoll said this about the name:

In the Old Testament the most sacred name for God is Yahweh. Yahweh is a distinctly proper name for the God of the Bible. Because it is sacred, it is never used to refer to any pagan gods; neither is it used in regard to any human. It is reserved solely for the one true God alone. The name Yahweh appears some 6,823 times in the Old Testament, as he is the focus and hero of the Scriptures.4

Yahweh is the personal and intimate name that God gave to Israel when he made a covenant with them to be their God as he delivered them from Egypt.

It was also the name used by Eve (Gen 4:1), Noah (Gen 9:26), and Abraham (Gen 12:6). Look at Genesis 4:1: “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (emphasis mine).

But it was with Moses and Israel that it took on a greater significance. When Moses was told to set Israel free, he asked God what name should he call him by and God replies by saying, “I AM.”

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

This name was considered so sacred to Israel that they would never pronounce the name. It was too holy. Instead, they used the name “Adonai,”—Lord—instead when reading the name Yahweh. In fact, aroudn the ninth century AD,5 the vowels of Adonai were combined with YWHH to make the artificial name “Jehovah,” which became the spoken way of saying Yahweh for the Jews.6 Jehovah was popularized in early English translations of the Bible such as the KJV—though it is not the correct way to pronounce the Divine name.7

What does the name Yahweh mean?

1. The name Yahweh means that God is eternal.

John 8:58 says: “You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham! “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am! (emphasis mine).

Jesus used the name to refer to his preexistence, his eternality. Yahweh means God has always existed.

2. The name Yahweh means God is unchangeable.

God’s name is “I Am.” It is not “I Was” or “I Will Be” because God does not change. We can put our full trust in God because he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. He is “I Am.”

3. The name Yahweh represents a covenant relationship.

Yahweh is forever attached with God’s covenant with Israel. Therefore, it demonstrates God’s intimacy and that he is a personal God. Yahweh, also, has a personal relationship with us and he will never leave nor forsake us. Look at what Paul says in Romans 8:38–39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God because he is in covenant with us. This covenant was cut and sealed with the blood of Christ, and therefore, God will remain faithful to us. We are in covenant with him. He is our Yahweh.

Next, we will look at compound forms of the word Yahweh.

Yahweh Jireh: The Lord Will Provide

In Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. However, when it was time to offer Isaac to the Lord, God provided a ram in the thicket. Genesis 22:14 shows Abraham’s response, “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided” (emphasis mine).

Abraham names the place of provision Yahweh Jireh, which means “The LORD Will Provide”. Those who are in covenant relationship with God shall lack no provisions because he will provide.

We get another great picture of the Lord’s faithfulness to provide in Matthew 6. The disciples were worried about their futures. What would they and their families eat, drink, and wear?

Christ told them to stop worrying because God knew that they had need of these things. He comforted them with how God provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Consider what Christ says in Matthew 6:26 and verse 30:

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? ... If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Jesus called the disciples to stop worrying based on the fact that God would provide. He provides for the birds of the air and he clothes the lilies of the field. Will God not provide for us as well?

In the world, there is a lot of uncertainty about the economy, future employment, retirement, the education system, etc. God wants us to know that his name is Yahweh Jireh; he is faithful and he will provide.

Yahweh Nissi: The Lord Is My Banner

The name Yahweh Nissi is given in the context of warfare. The Amalekites and Israel were at war and as long as Moses had his hands raised, they were winning. Moses’s hands being raised seemed to represent his prayers and, therefore, dependence upon the God of Israel. Philip Ryken said this:

The Israelites generally stood when they prayed, lifting their hands to offer their praises and their petitions up to God. For example, when God brought an end to the plague of hail, Moses said to Pharaoh, “I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord” (Exod. 9:29). Hannah and Jehoshaphat both stood at the temple to pray (1 Sam. 1:9–11; 2 Chron. 20:5, 6). The psalmist said, “in your name I will lift up my hands” (63:4b).8

We also can discern Moses was praying and depending on God by the fact that Moses builds an altar after the battle was won and calls it Yahweh Nissi, which means the Lord is my banner. “Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15).

Typically, when armies went to battle, the flag would go out in front of them, representing the power and spirit of the nation. Similarly, when Israel fought, God went before them. He led the way, he was their banner. However, this is not just true for Israel. It is true for us. Our God always goes before us. He makes our paths straight, and he fights our battles. Look at what Paul said to the Ephesians: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God (emphasis mine) so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph 6:10-11).

Like Moses keeping his hands up in dependence upon God, we must also depend on God daily. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Like Moses, we must wait on the Lord and rely on him. He will fight our battles. The Lord is our banner ,and he goes before us to bring us victory.

Yahweh Rapha: The Lord Who Heals

Yahweh Rapha is a name used of God by Israel while they were in the wilderness. While journeying, they encountered bitter water at a place called Marah (Ex 15:23). However, God told Moses to throw wood into the water, and as the wood entered the water, it would heal the water. After this, God told Israel if they obeyed him he would be their healer. Listen to what he says in Exodus 15:26:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” (emphasis mine)

God also heals us. It is part of his character; God is a healer. When Christ came to the earth, he healed the sick, the blind, the lame, and, even more than that, he healed the hearts of people. People who were separated from God and under his wrath, Christ reconciled through his death. He healed the terminal sickness of our souls and drew us back to God. Thank God that he is a healer and that he still heals today.

In fact, we see in James 5:14–15 that God teaches the sick to call the elders of the church to pray over them so that they may be healed. Listen to what he says:

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.

Certainly, healing is at the discretion of God. Not everybody will receive physical healing in this life. Sin is in our bodies, and therefore, they decay and get old. But one day, the great healer will raise our bodies from the dead (Rom 8:11), and there will be no sickness and no more pain. Our God is a healer. He is Yahweh Rapha, the God who heals us.

Yahweh Shamma: The Lord Is There

Yahweh Shamma is the name given to the New Jerusalem, a future city that was prophesied by Ezekiel through a vision. This name speaks of God’s special presence with the people of God. Look at what Ezekiel shares in his vision.

“The distance all around will be 18,000 cubits. ‘And the name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE (emphasis mine)’” (Ezekiel 48:35).

The Israelites at this point were discouraged because they had been exiled by Babylon and their city and temple had been destroyed. However, God gives Ezekiel a vision about a future city that would be far better than any previous city. In that vision, he says that the name of the city will be “The Lord is there.” This would have been tremendously encouraging to Ezekiel and the Israelites because earlier in Ezekiel’s prophecies God’s presence had left the temple and the city of Israel before it was destroyed (chapters 8-11).

It seems that there will be a future glorious city and a temple in Israel that are marked by the presence of God eternally. However, this truth of God being present with his people is still true today. God has indwelled every believer and he will abide in them forever. Look at what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20:

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Christ indwells every individual believer, and there is a special sense in which his presence comes when the believers are gathered together. Matthew 18:20 says: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

The Lord’s presence is there. He is with us and that’s what makes the gathering of the saints special. The gathering of the saints is about God’s presence. We thank you, Lord, that you will be with us always, even to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:19). Thank you that you are Yahweh Shamma, the Lord is there.

Yahweh Roi: The Lord Is My Shepherd

Yahweh Roi is the name that David uses of God in Psalm 23. He says, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).

We can be sure that as David was caring for his sheep, feeding them, and protecting them, this allowed David’s mind to think about how God did the same for him. Similarly, the Lord is our Shepherd and we shall not want (Psalm 23:1). This speaks of the weakness of his children. We are prone to wander, and we cannot protect ourselves. Therefore, we need a shepherd that leads, provides, and protects us; a shepherd that gives us rest and makes sure that we lack nothing. God is that shepherd.

In fact, what makes our shepherd so wonderful is that he even died for us. Shepherding during David’s time could be very dangerous. Shepherds were exposed to extreme temperatures, wild animals such as lions and wolves, and even robbers. A shepherd that did not really care for the sheep would simply run away when attacked. But good shepherds were willing to give their lives for the sheep. Look at what Christ said about himself: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Our Lord is not just a shepherd. He is the good shepherd. He provides for us, cares for us, and even gave his life for us. He is our Yahweh Roi. Thank you, Lord.

Yahweh Tsidkenu: The Lord Our Righteousness

Yahweh Tsidkenu was the name given by God in the book of Jeremiah for the Messiah. It means “The Lord Our Righteousness.” The character of the Messiah that Israel was waiting for was righteousness. He would gather Israel from all the lands of the earth and he would rule over them. He would be a righteous shepherd and they would call him,
“The Lord Our Righteousness”. Listen to what Jeremiah said:

The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.
Jeremiah 23:5-6

Jesus, the Messiah, is the righteousness of the nation of Israel. He is the one that will eventually turn them from their sins and give them a new heart to follow him (cf. Romans 11:26). However, this is what Christ has already done for us. Christ took our sins while on the cross and gave us his righteousness. Second Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

It is on the basis of Christ’s righteousness that we are justified before God. But Christ does not just give us his forensic righteousness in order to be saved; he also leads us practically into new righteousness every day, as we are conformed to his image. He is the good shepherd that leads us into righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). The Lord is our righteousness.

Yahweh Shalom: The Lord Is Peace

Yahweh Shalom is the name given by Gideon to the Lord. In the context, Gideon sees the Angel of the Lord and cries out that he would die, but the angel said, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die” (Judges 6:23). Listen to the story in Judges 6:22–24:

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!” But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. (emphasis mine)

To see God face to face meant death (Ex 33:20), and therefore, Gideon was afraid. However, the angel comforts him and speaks peace to him. Gideon accepts the Lord’s words and builds an altar to proclaim that the Lord is Yahweh Shalom—The Lord is Peace.

Similarly, we do not have to be afraid of the eternal wrath of God. Christ bore the wrath of God so we could have a right relationship with him. Listen to what Romans 5:1 says:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (emphasis mine).

Christ has brought peace in our relationship with God where before there was only enmity (Rom 5:10). But not only do we have “peace with God,” we also are given the “peace of God.” This is a peace that God gives regardless of circumstance in order to guard the hearts and minds of those he loves (Phil 4:6-7). Jesus said this, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). In this world, we will have troubles and difficulties, but in the midst of these Christ wants us to have his supernatural peace. Therefore, we must let this peace rule in our hearts as we enjoy intimacy with Christ. Colossians 3:15 says: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (emphasis mine). How do we let this peace rule? Philippians 4:6-7 gives us the answer:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God promises that if we practice these disciplines he will guard our hearts with his peace.

Like Gideon who accepted God’s word of peace while facing the prospect of death, we must in obedience choose not to be anxious as we trust God’s words to us. The Lord is our peace, not the economy, not our family situation, not the government. Our peace is in the Lord.

Yahweh Sabaoth: The Lord of Hosts or the Lord Almighty

The name Yahweh Sabaoth pictures God as the ruler of the angels, the armies of heaven. We see this image throughout the Scripture. Look at what the Sons of Korah said in Psalm 46:7 (KJV): “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” (emphasis mine).

The phrase “Lord of hosts” pictures God as a warrior and one who fights for us and protects us. We get a good picture of this when Elisha is protected by an army of angels that are surrounding his house (2 Kings 6:16-17). Certainly, we can be sure that God is always protecting us with angels. They are spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14). The Psalmist said this about angels: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

He said that God will guard you with his angels in all your ways. This includes one’s eating, drinking, sleeping, working, etc. God, the “Lord of hosts,” is always protecting his saints. In fact, Jesus warns his disciples about not offending or looking down on God’s children because of this reality. He says: “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven (emphasis mine)” (Matthew 18:10).

The angels of the Lord of hosts are always watching the master, listening to his words. They are ready to respond at any injustice or offence against his little ones. We thank you, God, that you are the Lord of hosts and that you are always protecting your saints.

Elohim

Elohim is a general name translated “God” in the Bible. It is the second most used name of God in the Old Testament. The word “El” comes from a root that means strong or power, and therefore, has the connotation of “Strong One” or “Mighty Leader.”9

Because Elohim’s root means power or might, the name will commonly be used in verses that demonstrate the power or awesomeness of God. For example, look at Jeremiah 32:27: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (emphasis mine).

He is the “Strong One” of all mankind and nothing is too hard for him. We, also, see this in Deuteronomy as Moses used it to describe God’s greatness over all other gods. Deuteronomy 10:17 says: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes” (emphasis mine).

Our God is Elohim, the mighty God, there is no one stronger than him and nothing is impossible for him (Matt 19:26).

Trinitarian Implications

One of the interesting things about the word “Elohim” is that it is a plural noun that always is used with a singular verb. For instance, we see this in the first verse of the Bible. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (emphasis mine)” (Genesis 1:1).

The noun “God” is plural and the verb “created” is singular. Because of this, many have seen implications of Trinitarian doctrine in the use of Elohim. The word “Elohim” would then not only be a reference to God’s strength, but it would also imply his “plurality” and yet “oneness.” He is plural, but at the same time one. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (emphasis mine)” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

El: God

As mentioned, El is the root of Elohim and is commonly used for the God of Israel; however, the word is also used of false gods like Molech or Baal. The context determines who is referred to when the word is used. Though Elohim is more commonly used to refer to God, the root El is also at times used in Hebrew poetry in conjunction with other adjectives about God.

Let’s look at some compound words that come from “El”.

El Shaddai: God Almighty

El Shaddai is used when God promises to give Abraham a son at the age of ninety-nine. Listen to the narrative in Genesis 17:1: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless” (emphasis mine).

God was declaring to Abraham, through his name, that he was about to do something impossible. He was about to demonstrate his power in the supernatural birth of his son, Isaac. The almighty God would give Abraham a son, even though he and his wife, Sarah, were past the age of child bearing.

However, this is not the only time we see God Almighty accomplish things that are impossible. The Scripture is full of his mighty works. He creates the heavens and the earth with spoken words. He delivers Israel from the oppression of Egypt, parts the Red Sea so they can walk through it, and then closes the Red Sea to destroy the army of the Egyptians that was chasing after them. He is God Almighty.

When Christ came on the earth, he spoke peace into raging storms. He multiplied bread and fish to feed the multitudes. The Almighty God did what was impossible. In fact, the greatest work that El Shaddai has done is to save sinful man. Christ said this in reference to the possibility of a rich man being saved.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (emphasis mine)
Matthew 19:24–26

Christ declared the impossibility of a rich man being saved through the illustration of a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle. He widened this impossible illustration to include all mankind. The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?” (v. 25). He replied, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26).

It is impossible for man to save himself. This is what every religion has tried to accomplish from the beginning of time. Like the rich man who sought to justify himself through his works (Matt 19:17–20), the religions of the world have sought salvation through prayer, through works of kindness, through sacrifice, etc. Because of their works, they have assumed that they can merit salvation before a holy God. However, Christ says that this is impossible. Man cannot save himself. It is something only God can do. Salvation is monergistic, a work that can only be done by God. Even man’s faith is a gift from God in salvation (Eph 2:8–9).

The God who did something impossible in allowing Abraham and his wife Sarah, who were past childbearing age, to give birth, is the same God that reaches into the deadness of our sin and brings new life (Eph 2:1–5). He saves us and makes us new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).

In fact, he promises us that if we will only call upon the name of the Lord, we shall be saved (Rom 10:13). He makes a promise to us, even as he made to Abram. He promises that he will be our God Almighty, our El Shaddai, if we commit to him.

Certainly, this name reminds us of the importance of prayer. It reminds us that we have a God that can meet all our needs, as we bring them before him. Nothing is impossible for El Shaddai.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20–21

El Elyon: Most High or Most High God

The name El Elyon means “the Most High.” “El Elyon is the name that designates God as the sovereign ruler of all the universe.”10 It emphasizes God’s supremacy and sovereignty over everything. We see this name used in reference to Abraham and his defeat of four kings in Genesis 14. Even though Abraham only had 318 trained men (Gen 14:14), he took on the four kings and their armies, and he defeated them. The King of Salem, Melchizedek, in response to this victory, blessed Abraham. Look at what he said: “And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand (emphasis mine)” (Gen 14:20).

Melchizedek blesses Abraham by blessing God. He said that El Elyon, God Most High, delivered Abraham from his enemies. This victory was so spectacular that it was clear that it could have only been done through the Most High God.

The name El Elyon should comfort us because it teaches that God is in control everything. There is nothing on the earth that happens apart from his control. He is the sovereign over all things. Similarly, Look at what Nebuchadnezzar says about the Lord Most High.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” (emphasis mine)
Daniel 4:34–35

Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful king on the earth at that time, said the Most High does what pleases him both in heaven and on earth. “No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”

God is El Elyon, the Most High God. As talked about in studying his sovereignty, we see his sovereignty over random events. Scripture says even the roll of the dice is of the Lord (Prov 16:33). He is in control of calamity (Isaiah 45:6–7). He is in control of every temptation (1 Cor 10:13). He is in control of every good and perfect gift we receive (James 1:17). He is even in control of Satan (Job 1:12). Ephesians 1:11 says this about God: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (emphasis mine). He works everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

Like Nebuchadnezzar realized, because he is the Most High God that is in control of all things, he is worthy of praise. He is worthy of glory and of honor. Let us adore him as the Psalmist does. “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:2).

El Roi: The God Who Sees

Hagar, Abraham’s wife’s servant, called the Lord, El Roi, “The God who sees.” The context of this is that Hagar had been mistreated by her master, Sarah, and therefore, ran away from Abraham’s household with her child Ishmael. Hagar was alone by a spring in the desert, and it was there that the angel of the Lord appeared to her. He commanded her to return to Abraham’s household and to submit to Sarah (Gen 16:9). He also promised that God was going to increase Hagar’s descendants and that they would be too numerous to count (v.10). Hagar responded to the angel by blessing the Lord and calling him El Roi. Listen to what she said in Genesis 16:13 says: “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” (emphasis mine).

Hagar recognized God’s faithfulness in watching over her and her child. Similarly, El Roi, the omniscient one, sees and knows all things and is always watching us. But this watch is not a casual stare, it is a watch of love, in the same way that every parent watches and enjoys their children. It is a watch that brings his protection and favor. Look at what the Psalmist said: “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous (emphasis mine), but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).

Does not God watch over the wicked as well? Yes, but, his watch is for the purpose of discipline and judgment. God watches the righteous in order to bless them and provide for them. In fact, like with Hagar, God promises to bless to the thousandth generation of those who love him. Listen to what Exodus 20:5–6 says:

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (emphasis mine)

We should consider that his favor over us reaches to our families and even to our children’s children. God is our El Roi. He is the God that sees us and watches over us and our various affairs.

El Echad: The One God

Malachi declared that God is the “one God.” Listen to Malachi 2:10: “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” (emphasis mine).

This is a declaration of monotheism, the belief in one God. This was very unique in the time of the ancient Jews because almost everybody was polytheistic. They believed in many gods and even accepted the gods of others as true gods. However, the God of the Bible claims to be the “one God,” the only God. In fact, this was the great schema or declaration of Israel. Listen to what Deuteronomy 6:4 says: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (emphasis one). To Israel, God was the one God and every other god was false.

Today, there is a similar attack on the monotheism of the Scripture and that is pluralism. People are proclaiming that there are many ways to God and some proclaim that the gods in all the different religions are the same god. However, Scripture clearly teaches that there is one God and that the only way to him is through Christ. Listen to what Jesus said, ‘“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

El Echad, the God of the Scripture is the “one God.” There are no other gods and there is only one way to God. The only way to have a relationship with the God of the Bible is through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Adonai: Lord, Master, or Owner

Adonai is the third most used name of God in the Old Testament, and it is a plural noun similar to “Elohim.11 Therefore, many scholars see this as another implication of the Trinity in the Old Testament. The name could be translated, “Lord” or “Master.” Listen to Psalm 8:1: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens” (emphasis mine).

O LORD, our “Master” how majestic is your name. This was a declaration that not only was Yahweh God, but he also was the master of all people. This is important to say for there are many who recognize the God of the Bible as God, but will not take him as Lord and Master of their lives. James confronted scattered Hebrew Christians about the impossibility of this type of faith being salvific. Listen to what he says in James 2:19: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”

James says it is possible to believe in God, be monotheistic, and yet not truly be saved. The demons have orthodox theology as well, but they do not have orthopraxy—they do not submit to him as Lord and Master of their lives. They live a life of rebellion against his Lordship.

Christ proclaimed that if anybody was going to follow him as a disciple, they must make him the Lord of their lives. Listen to what he said in Luke 14:26–27:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Christ was declaring the need for absolute Lordship in order to be one of his followers. Every type of love must pale in comparison to our love for Christ. In the same way, David proclaimed that God was both Yahweh and also Lord of his life. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens (emphasis mine)” (Psalm 8:1).

Is God really the Lord of your life? Orthodox theology that doesn’t lead to orthopraxy does not save. To truly believe in God means to follow him as Lord and Master of our lives. Let us adore him as God, and follow and submit to him as Master.

Emmanuel: God with Us

Emmanuel was one of the names used for Jesus, the messiah. It means God with us or among us. Listen to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (emphasis mine).

This wonderful name is rich with theology. It speaks of the incarnation. The God of heaven came down to earth in the form of a baby. The “all powerful” God became weak and vulnerable. The “all knowing” God became a child that grew in stature and wisdom. It is the greatest miracle in the Bible, and it is this name that speaks grace and comfort to us.

God became a man not only so he could save us (Hebrews 2:14) but also so he could understand and sympathize with us. Listen to what Hebrews 4:15-16 says:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (emphasis mine)

We have a God that understands weakness. He has been hungry. He has been thirsty. He has been lonely. He has been weary unto death. And, it is for these reasons that we can approach the throne of grace in search of mercy and grace in our time of need. He is Emmanuel, God with us—the God that understands.

The writer of Hebrews says that it is this reality that should draw us to prayer with confidence. He understands. He is our counselor, and yet, he is more than a counselor because most counselors can only listen. Emmanuel is God, and therefore, he can give grace. He can minister to whatever problems we have in our lives. The name Emmanuel tells us that God cares, understands, and that he wants to give grace.

New Testament Names

We will also look at the names of God used in the New Testament.

Theos: God

Theos is the most common name used of God in the New Testament.12 It is not only used of God the Father but also of Christ. Look at these verses:

Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God (emphasis mine) over all, forever praised! Amen.
Romans 9:5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (emphasis mine), and the Word was God.
John 1:1

Kurios: Lord

Kurios can mean Lord, sir, master, or owner. The word represents “authority and supremacy.”13 To call God, Lord, means that we not only recognize his authority, but that we will also submit to it. Romans 10:9 says: “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (emphasis mine).

As said previously, we must not only recognize that Jesus is God, but he must also be Lord of our lives. Anything less, falls short of saving grace (Eph 2:8–9).

Despotes: Master or Lord

The name despotes emphasizes “the idea of ownership, whereas kurios emphasizes authority and supremacy.”14 A despot is a king, ruler, or master with absolute power. In the Scriptures, it was commonly used in reference to slave masters. Look at 1Timothy 6:1: “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered” (emphasis mine).

The word master in this text is the word despotes. Similarly, Scripture often calls God and Christ despotes, one’s with absolute power. We see this in Revelation 6:10 as the martyrs in heaven call God their despot as they pray to him. Listen to the text:

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (emphasis mine)

Christ also is called the despot in 2 Peter 2:1:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. (emphasis mine)

This not only represents the absolute authority of God, but it also shows that we are his servants. Paul, in fact, often called himself a slave or servant of Christ (Phil 1:1). A despot would have many slaves that he owned and had absolute power over. Therefore in the Scriptures, we commonly see this analogy of God being a household owner and believers being his servants. Consider Luke 12:35–38:

“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night.

As servants, we must always be aware that we have a master in heaven, and that we are not our own. We have been bought with a price (1 Cor 6:20) and everything that we own is his. Therefore, we must always recognize that we are but humble stewards of the resources of God. We will be held accountable for how we steward our time, family, friendships, careers, and even the Word of God. Look at what Paul said about stewardship of the Word of God:

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. (emphasis mine)
1 Corinthians 4:1–4

Paul here says we are stewards of the mysteries of God. God has given us his Word and we must study it, obey it, teach it, and protect it. One day, the judge, the master, the despot will come and judge us according to our faithfulness. Have we been faithful stewards?

The believer that will be found faithful, not only with the Word of God, but with all things God has given, will understand that everything he owns is not his. He has a despot, an owner that will one day hold him accountable for his stewardship. We must be ready for our despot to return.

Abba: Father or Dearest Father

Something new to New Testament thinking was the revelation of God as Father. “Whereas the word ‘Father’ is used of God only fifteen times in the Old Testament, it occurs 245 times of God in the New.”15 The name Abba shows the intimacy and care of God for his children. It can be translated “Father” or “Dearest Father.” We see that it was the name that Jesus taught his disciples to use in the Lord’s Prayer. “This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father (emphasis mine) in heaven, hallowed be your name”‘ (Matt 6:9).

We should also notice that this is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. The Holy Spirit comes into a believer’s life and brings intimacy with God. He enables us to call God “Abba.” Romans 8:15 says this:

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (emphasis mine)

Most of us only have one person in our life that we call father. That person will go out of his way to provide for us, to make sure we have all that we need. We can share our most intimate secrets with that person. When a person is truly born again, the Spirit of God creates this intimacy in the believer’s life. He gives him a desire to pray and to call upon his Abba.

Again, this reminds us of the exclusive intimacy we have with God, but it also is a reminder of how much our God desires to provide for us. Listen again to what Christ said about our Father:

Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Luke 11:11–13

We must know how committed God is to listen to our prayers and also to provide for all of our needs. He is our Abba. Where earthly fathers have failed because they have been infected by sin, we can be sure that God will not. He is our perfect Abba, and he desires for us to cast our cares upon him for he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

Conclusion

What can we take from the names of God?

1. Understanding the names of God should help us worship him better.

The names of God were often used as a way to give praise and honor to God throughout the Scripture. They enabled the worshiper to reflect on a specific characteristic of God’s goodness. Judges 6:22–24 says:

When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the LORD, he exclaimed, “Ah, Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!” But the LORD said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. (emphasis mine)

When Gideon was afraid, God comforted him. He built an altar to worship God, and, he called him “the Lord is Peace,” Yahweh Shalom. The names of God were used to help people worship.

Similarly, David said this: “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High (emphasis mine)” (Psalm 9:2). When David reflected on God’s sovereignty, he called him the “Most High,” El Elyon. He is the God who is over all things.

When David wanted to focus on God’s care and provision, he said the Lord is my Shepherd, Yahweh Roi. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).

He is our shepherd; he is our strong one; he is our daddy dearest; he is our banner who will represent us in battle; he is the Lord of hosts who sends his angels to fight for us. He is our Elohim, the God who exists in three persons and yet is one. He is the God who sees us in our pain. He is the God who sees and knows our problems. He is the Almighty God, and nothing is impossible for him. As we reflect on his names, our expression of worship can find more fullness. Let us worship his name, for he is wonderful.

2. Knowing the names of God should help our prayer life.

Many times, these names are used in the midst of prayer. Listen again to Genesis 16:13: “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” (emphasis mine). Hagar speaks to God in prayer and calls him the “God who sees me.”

Similarly, Jesus taught us to use the name “Abba” in prayer, Daddy Dearest. When we do this we reflect on our intimacy with God and his desire to provide for us as his children. We should use God’s names in the midst of prayer.

3. Knowing the names of God should help us be more secure and less shaken in the midst of trials.

Listen again to Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

The name of the Lord again refers to God’s characteristics. As we reflect on Yahweh Jireh, the Lord who will provide, and Yahweh Rafa, the Lord who heals, we should find great comfort in the difficulties of life. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

Review Questions

  1. Why are names important in Scripture? What can we learn about God from the names given to him in Scriptures?
  2. Many believe that there are no references to the Trinity in the Old Testament. What Old Testament names show implications of the Trinity?
  3. Which name or names of God were most comforting to you and why?
  4. In what ways can you use the names of God in order to enhance your worship and prayer life?

Prayer Prompts

  • Pray that God would “hallow his name” by revealing his characteristics to us personally, to our church community, and to the world (Matt 6:9). As you pray this, pray some of his names and ask for him to reveal these specific character traits.
  • Pray that God’s name would bring comfort and strength to saints who are going through trials or being persecuted. Name individuals and communities who you know are struggling. Pray that they may know his character better (Prov 18:10).
  • Pray that God would provide for the needs of everyone in your small group and in your church as a good shepherd does (Psalm 23). As you pray, bring people’s needs before God.

Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


1 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

2 Wayne A. Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House,2004), 157.

3 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

4 Mark Driscoll; Gerry Breshears. Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (Wheaton, IL, Crossway. 2010), 16.

5 Shields, M. A., & Hawkins, R. K. (2016). YHWH. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

6 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

7 Shields, M. A., & Hawkins, R. K. (2016). YHWH. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

8 Philip Ryken & Kent Hughes. Exodus: Saved for Gods glory. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), pp. 460–461.

9 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

10 Kay Arthur. Lord, I Want to Know You: A Devotional Study on the Names of God. (The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, 2009), 15.

11 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

12 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

13 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 51.

14 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 57.

15 Charles C. Ryrie. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 57.