Written by Linda K. Bridges for Blog Series: What’s in A Name Anyway?
As a young child, Jane often wondered who created the world in which she lived; the trees and plants; the mountains and lakes; the white clouds that filled the summer skies. Who sent the dark and fearsome storms, or the gentle breezes that cooled her sweaty forehead? She attributed all these things to God—Elohim, the Creator. Jane sensed that he had been there, that he might still be there, but she wondered if he was aware that she was there.
Lily’s story is different. She wept quietly, telling me about the loss of their stillborn son. When I asked what had helped her most during this sad time, she wiped her tears away and smiled. “If I had not known the LORD, and what He is like, I would have despaired. But I knew he was close even during this time of sorrow. He is not just a voice in my head. He lives in my heart. He is a God who sees me, and everything I am going through. El Roi comforted me through his Word and his good people.”
These two women have very different understandings of God and who he is. One saw God, Elohim, as the creator of the world and all that is in it—and that was the end of it. She was aware of his fingerprint on the world, but did not know she could know him personally. The second revealed a woman’s personal friendship with God—the One who hears, cares, comforts. I often see this discrepancy among Christians today and wonder how to bridge that gap of understanding. Pondering God’s name Yahweh, this week, I’ve come to a few conclusions I want to share with you.I hope you will gain a better understanding too.
Yahweh is a Person
Each of God’s many names reveal something about his character, as well as, his relationships and purposes for his creation. The first time we see God’s name in the Bible is in Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and earth.” Here the plural form of Elohim is used, emphasizing God’s triune, creative character and power as the true and only God—the sole actor in creation. In chapter two, the name Yahweh or Jehovah, combined with Elohim indicates him as the personal creator of man.
“The LORD God [Yahweh-Elohim] took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live. (Genesis 2:7 GNT)
In this moment of creation, Yahweh-Elohim placed within man’s spiritual DNA a yearning for relationship with him. You may be wondering, ‘Why would the Creator of the universe want to spend time with me? Because he is personal! From the beginning of scripture to the very end, Yahweh pursues relationship with man. Yahweh-Elohim wanted Adam and Eve (and subsequently, us) to sit down and talk with him, as to an intimate friend. (We can do this today through our prayers and scripture readings.) Did Yahweh really intend for us to call him Father? Jesus told his disciples to pray, saying, “Our Father in heaven may your holy name be honored. . . (Matthew 6:9 GNT) God is a person and he desires relationship with us, his creation.
Yahweh is Personal
The Bible is filled with descriptions of God and his various names, each linked to stories that provide rich descriptions of a God who has a unique and vital, personal, relationship with his people. The Psalmists cry out continually using his most sacred name! (See Psalm 13.)
Of all his names, the Hebrew name, Yahweh or Jehovah, is the most sacred. Considered too sacred to be pronounced, the ancient Hebrews would use a substitute name like Adonai, which means ‘my Lord’. Sometimes they would simply say, ‘The Name’ or ‘the One who is.’ In most English versions of the Bible, this name, Yahweh, is represented by the words, ‘the LORD’—written in capitals.
Yahweh’s Name is Eternal—as He is Eternal
Yahweh first appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush to reveal what he wanted Moses to do for the Israelite people. When he was finished, Moses asked God,
“When I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God[Elohim] of your ancestors sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ So what can I tell them?” God said, “I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I AM has sent me to you.’ Tell the Israelites that I, the LORD [sacred name, Yahweh], the God [Elohim]of their ancestors, the God[Elohim] of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is what all future generations are to call me.” (Exodus 3:13-15 GNT)
Of all the names mentioned in the Bible, Yahweh, (Jehovah or LORD) is the most used.
God’s sacred Name bears special emphasis.
- He is Elohim–Creator. He a Person
- He is Yahweh-Elohim He is Personal, and desires relationship with his creation—man
- His is Yahweh-El Olam: He is God-Eternal. His name is eternal.
“I am the LORD [Yahweh], and I do not change. . ..” (Malachi 3:6 GNT)
Browse through the Psalms this week. Note God’s name and write a description of his character, his attributes, purpose, or works that he has done. Praise him for his name, that is above every name. Here is a sampling of verses to get you started.
Psalm 148:13 (GNT)
“Let them all praise the name of the LORD! His name is greater than all others; his glory is above the earth and heaven.”
Psalm 91:1 (NIV)
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD[Yahweh], “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV)
“His name is the LORD [Yahweh]. . .a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
Psalm 18:18 (GNT)
“When I was in trouble, they attacked me, but the LORD[Yahweh] protected me. He helped me out of danger; he [Yahweh] saved me. . .”
Linda is a career missionary and Bible teacher for more than 35 years, having lived on foreign soil 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.