What is in a name?
For many of us who have grown up with a Western culture, a name tends only to be used as a form of appellative or label as a means of identifying each of us from another, without conveying to each of us any particular meaning or characterisation. The same cannot be said of GOD. As we read the Scriptures we discover that there are several names given to God, some of which referring to Him in the singular and others referring to God in the plural. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is one God yet in three Persons (one in essence yet different in office) and so the names we encounter will reference Him as the singular or the plural.
Consider verses such as:
Psalm 48:10 - Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth;
Psalm 76:1 - God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.
Proverbs 18:10 - The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Here we see that God and His name are one. The use of the “name” of God refers the reader to the full revelation of God as He relates to His creation. In Hebrew culture (as in some other cultures) the name given to a person is significant in that it represents more than just a label or identifier to be known by, but describes the character and attributes of the person being named, eg Jacob - supplanter or deceiver, Abraham - father of many nations. So then, when we refer to the 'name of God' we are referring to His character and attributes in their totality, whereas we have multiple names to express His multi-sided or multi-faceted character, eg Jehovah Jireh as provider, and so on.
Even in referring to God in the singular we are still attempting to describe or sum up the infinite, eternal, incomprehensible God in a single name, as if somehow we can bring God down to our level so we can relate to Him as a finite being. Yet how does the finite mind of man comprehend the infinite? Is it possible that the Creator can somehow become like and relate to the Created?
Thankfully for us, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. When Jesus was born as a baby to the virgin Mary He spanned the divide between the Infinite and the finite. As the old hymn states,
“Our God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man”.
Such is the joy of Christmas, that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).
Scripture presents yet more evidence that an immortal, invisible, immutable and infinite God
wishes to reveal Himself to His creation when we look at the account of creation in Genesis
1:26-27, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
In Genesis 3:8-9 we find that God would come into the Garden of Eden every day to spend time with Adam and Eve; even knowing they had disobeyed His command not to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God still came to the Garden as usual, calling out for Adam.
We have other examples of God revealing Himself throughout Scripture, for example God appearing to Abraham to tell Him what He planned for Sodom and Gomorrah. Such was their
relationship that Abraham could negotiate with God and advocate for those found righteous in those cities (see Genesis 18:16-33).
We could recall God’s relationship with Moses, Samuel or Elijah all demonstrating that somehow it is possible for finite mankind to have a meaningful relationship with the infinite God.
Despite this desire by God to manifest Himself and be known by us, we still have the challenge of the finite mind of the created being somehow being able to know the Infinite Creator. How can this be?
The apostle Paul addresses this challenge in his first letter to the Corinthian church reiterating that the human mind cannot know the mind of God - only the Spirit of God knows that. However, when we become Christians our spirit is united with God’s Spirit so that we can now begin to know and understand the mind of God as His Spirit brings us understanding and revelation; we now have the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
So then we see that the name used by God is such that it brings revelation to us of His character and attributes whether addressing Him as a singular Divine Being in general or as one of the separate Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), thereby enabling us to know God and bring Him pleasure (Revelation 5:11 KJV).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism opens up with the question,
“What is the chief end of man?”
to which it responds,
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”
We often pray for God’s glory to shine through in our circumstances, but how much do we ‘enjoy’ Him? It’s why we were created.