What Do God’s Names Mean in the Bible?
Discover a deeper encounter with God through different names
By Linda K. Bridges for Blog Series: What’s in A Name Anyway?
Vladimir Putin. Osama bin Laden. Mother Teresa. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hilary Clinton. Donald Trump. These names conjure up images in our minds of faces, reputations, famous words spoken, infamous acts done. These images blitz through our memories, chilling us, or inspiring and challenging our hearts—all within seconds of the mere mention of a name.
What’s in a name anyway?
Character! One of the very first things we do when we meet someone new is to learn their name. An introduction tells us who they are and what they do. Often their name can reveal to whom they belong—their family origins. The same is true about God. The Creator of the universe—Elohim (Genesis 1:1)—has chosen to become known to us. Not only is God revealed in the mighty works we see (what God has done/is doing), God has also chosen to reveal God’s names (who God is)—and thus grants us insight into God’s character. Like gazing at a multifaceted diamond, we begin to see God’s names and character reflected all around us—each facet coming into focus according to our current circumstances and needs.
Benefits of knowing God by name
To know God’s name is to enter into a special, privileged access to the Lord. No longer is God a faraway Being we know a little about—now God is the loving Father who gave his only son so that whoever believes in him would not perish, but have ever lasting life (John 3:16). God becomes close and personal—our loving Father, who invites us to call him Abba—meaning “Daddy.” Our trust grows as we come to know God as our Good Shepherd, the one who knows and provides all our needs. (Psalm 23)
The Bible says God’s name is trustworthy—it is a strong tower into which we can run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10). God’s character and names are unchanging. El Olam is God Eternal—everything about God is “always” (Genesis 21:33). “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations” (Psalm 102:12 NRSV). God is the only stable one in this ever-changing world. I can run to God. You can too!
Perhaps, like many of us, you have misconceptions about God: who God is—what God is really like. Have these caused you to try trusting people or things rather than putting your trust in the Lord? Learning and meditating on God’s names will give you a new understanding of God based on God’s interactions with the human race in the Bible. These short readings will give you a new lens through which to view God—the Creator of the universe—by name.
Open your Bible and begin this journey with me. Here is a sampling of what you will find.
Elohim—“The Creator” (see Genesis 1:1)
Psalm 19:1-4a (GNT):
How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory!
How plainly it shows what he has done!
Each day announces it to the following day;
each night repeats it to the next.
No speech or words are used,
no sound is heard;
yet their message goes out to all the world
and is heard to the ends of the earth.…
Jehovah-rapha—“The Lord Who Heals” (see Exodus 15:26)
Jeremiah 17:14 (GNT):
“Lord, heal me and I will be completely well; rescue me and I will be perfectly safe. You are the one I praise!”
El Roi—“The God Who Sees Me” (see Genesis 16:13)
Add your name to personalize this passage!
Psalm 121:3-8 (NLT):
He will not let you stumble;
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm
and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.
Yahweh—The Lord—“I AM WHO I AM” (see Exodus 3:13-15)
Psalm 103:2-4 (GNT):
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and do not forget how kind he is.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He keeps me from the grave
and blesses me with love and mercy.
Note: This article first appeared on Engager’s Blog of American Bible Society. (http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=84e4f3953145dff586a6dd7c1&id=312111d67a&e=75090e39d2) It is reprinted here.
Want to learn more about God’s names in Scripture?
Find out about God’s names in the Bible. The following articles explain different names Scripture uses for God and Jesus. Discover new ways to address God in prayer and understand God’s character. Let these names lead you into deeper encounters with God—I am, Yahweh, Messiah!
Linda K. Bridges
Linda is a career missionary and Bible teacher for more than 35 years, having lived in both Austria and Thailand. Through her ministries she has traveled and taught the Bible in more than 20 countries, most recently in Nepal and Ukraine. She is also an author and children’s storybook illustrator and loves painting, writing poetry, and blogging. To see more about her book, go to http://www.lindakbridges.com