What's in a Name?

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What's in a Name?

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Four centuries or so ago, one man—a man who would eventually become incredibly popular and whose work would one day be found in school curriculums, movies, even day-to-day conversations—wrote down a couple sentences about names. This probably didn't strike anyone as a big deal, because the man had written thousands of sentences. He was, after all, a playwright! And yet, for whatever reason, this particular phrase became ingrained in countless minds (both in his day and in ours), even if they didn't know who the author of it was.

Have you guessed what it is? The phrase was this: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The idea Shakespeare was trying to convey here is that names are just labels—that they really don't mean anything. It sounds reasonable, but doing a little research reveals that Shakespeare was as far from the truth as he could be—at least when it comes to the names of God.

Throughout the Bible (the Old Testament in particular), God is referred to by many different names. What are these names and what do they mean? An awful lot, that's what. They reveal specific things about God's character—who He is, what He does and what He can do, for starters. Let’s take a look at just a few of these names and explore what they mean. And what better name to start with than:

YHWH (Exodus 6:3 Exodus 6:3And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
American King James Version×
).
The Jews eventually taught that it was wrong for anyone to speak this name of God. Of course, this name was written in the Bible, but unfortunately the written Hebrew language did not use vowels. So what's been passed down to us are just the four letters "YHWH." One of the most common pronunciations of this is "Yahweh," but it is only a guess at the original pronunciation.

What we do know about it, however, is that YHWH is related to the verb "to be," similar to the word translated, "I am" in Exodus 3:14 Exodus 3:14And God said to Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
American King James Version×
. It might not seem like this says a lot, but it does. It tells us that God...is. On His own, with no help from anyone else, He exists. He was not created. He was not born. He had no beginning, He simply...is.

El Roi (Genesis 16:13 Genesis 16:13And she called the name of the LORD that spoke to her, You God see me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that sees me?
American King James Version×
).
The author of Hebrews tells us, "There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13 Hebrews 4:13Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
American King James Version×
). God sees everything. It is fitting, then, that one of His names is El Roi, "God who sees." Since none of us is perfect, this name should give us all a wake-up call. If God sees everything, He sees when we sin, too.

Knowing that Someone is watching when we're doing things wrong—especially if we're hiding it from others—should give us all the more reason to start doing things right. If you've ever thought that you've "gotten away with something," whatever it may be, if you've ever done something you shouldn't have and thought that no one saw, you're wrong. God saw. We shouldn't fall into the mind-set that we can get away with something wrong if no one's watching, because God always is.

But there's a comforting side to this verse, too. If God sees everything, then it also means He sees you when you need help. He sees you when you're honestly struggling with something. He sees you when you cry out to Him. He sees you when there's no one else around to give you a hand or even when there is. Which brings us to another name of God:

YHWH Shammah (Ezekiel 48:35 Ezekiel 48:35It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.
American King James Version×
).
There are times in any person's life where he or she can't help but wonder if God is really there. When things get really rough, it's easy to wonder if maybe God forgot about you, if maybe He gave up on you. The truth is, God is always there, and He is never going to give up on you, not as long as you're trying. After all, "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7 Luke 12:6-7 [6] Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? [7] But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
American King James Version×
).

If God knows where every single sparrow in the world is, and Christ says that we're of more value than a whole bunch of them—how much more must God care about us? So we can be sure that God is always there, no matter what we're going through. This is why He has the name YHWH Shammah, "The Lord is present."

And even the trials that we go through are because God loves us and wants to help better us, as James points out: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4 [2] My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; [3] Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. [4] But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
American King James Version×
).

YHWH Yireh (Genesis 22:14 Genesis 22:14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
American King James Version×
).
In a world where so many are obsessed with material gain, where people make a contest of seeing how many expensive things they can collect, it's easy to lose sight of what we're trying to get to—God's Kingdom.

Even so, we should be seeking the Kingdom above all else, as Christ tells us: "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing... But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:22-23 Luke 12:22-23 [22] And he said to his disciples, Therefore I say to you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on. [23] The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
American King James Version×
, 31-32).

If we make reaching God's Kingdom our top priority (which we do through Bible study, prayer, fasting, obedience and service), God will provide what we need along the way—not necessarily what we want, but what we need. And it's not for us to decide what we need. God knows, and He promises to give it to us. That is why He has the name YHWH Yireh, "The Lord will provide."

And finally, consider one more of God’s names.

El Shaddai (Exodus 6:3 Exodus 6:3And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
American King James Version×
)
By taking a quick look at some of His names, we've seen a lot of attributes of God. He sees everything, He is everywhere, and He can do anything. He is, to sum it all up, El Shaddai, "God Almighty." There are no limits on the power of God, which is why "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 Matthew 19:26But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
American King James Version×
).

God has a plan for each of us, and if we are willing to seek first the Kingdom of God, and all His righteousness, He will make it come to pass. He is El Shaddai. There is nothing in heaven or earth that can stop Him if He wants to do something. It's sort of like watching a suspenseful movie but knowing that, in the end—no matter how impossible it might seem at certain parts—the good guys are going to win, and they're all going to live happily ever after.

We do know the ending of this story; it's written down for us in the book of Revelation: "I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away'" (Revelation 21:3-4 Revelation 21:3-4 [3] And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. [4] And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
American King James Version×
). This is the "ending" our God, El Shaddai, promises us.

So what's really in a name? Everything. VT

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