“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”
The name of God is reason to celebrate Thanksgiving!
Today I’m thanking God for His name.
Our God is indescribably great. Yet He has seen fit to give us a book, the Holy Bible, which contains hundreds of pages devoted to the task of describing the One who defies description.
One way that God reveals Himself is through His name. While Scripture ascribes many names to God, there is one name that stands out – “The LORD.” This is by far the most frequently used name for God in the Bible, occurring 6,828 times in the Old Testament. (By comparison, the word “God” occurs about 2,300 times.)
In most English translations, when the word “LORD” is used with all capital letters, this is the Hebrew word “Yahweh”. (When you see the word “Lord” with lower case letters, that is the Hebrew word “Adonai”.)
The Meaning of Yahweh
In Bible times, a name was much more than a label. A name had a specific meaning. To find the meaning of “Yahweh,” let’s go to Exodus 3 and the story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush.
After spending 40 years in the desert, God wants Moses to return to Egypt. “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10).
But Moses is reluctant to accept this assignment and says, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).
God responds with this pronouncement: “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The LORD, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation” (Exodus 3:14-15, emphasis added).
As the NIV footnotes indicate, the Hebrew word “Yahweh” (LORD) sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for “I AM”. So whenever you see the name “LORD” in the Old Testament, this word “Yahweh” can also be translated “I AM”. It has the idea of “the One who is” or “the One who exists.”
The Self-Existence of God
When we think of God, many wonderful and terrible things come to mind. Central to our thinking should be the concept of the self-existence of God. He exists, and He has always existed. He, and only He, is the eternal One. Moses grasped the significance of God’s self-existence when he wrote in Psalm 90, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2, emphasis added).
Have you ever pondered the mind-blowing truth that God has always existed? Let it take your breath away! Let it drive you to your knees in worship and adoration of the One who is unlike like everything else and everyone else in all creation.
All else in the universe has a beginning. But God has no beginning, because “I am who I am.”
It’s a simple fact: God always was. Yet it has huge implications for us, because the One who always was is also the One who always is and always will be. The self-existence of God is reason to praise Him today and forever. And it is also the source of infinite joy and comfort for the believer in the I AM.
The Presence of God
The self-existence of God has beneficial implications for us of the most practical kind. Since God always is, I can count on Him to be with me every moment of every day. God’s being is much more than a fact. It is also a promise – the promise of His presence.
God told Moses to lead His people out of Egypt; Moses expressed his lack of self-confidence to do this task by saying, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
How did God respond to this objection?
“I will be with you” (Exodus 3:11).
This is a promise we find repeatedly throughout Scripture. The God of eternity past is the God of the present. He is with us, and this should be the source of great encouragement to us in any situation. Whether we find ourselves fearful or alone or sick or discouraged, God is saying to us, “I will be with you.” The presence of God is the antidote to any negative emotion we may have.
God loves to repeat the promise of His self-existent presence. Not only do we find it in the Pentateuch, in the story of the exodus, we also find it in the Psalms.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.”
We also find it in the Prophets.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
And we find it in Jesus.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, ‘God with us.’”
Jesus did many things that infuriated the Jewish religious leaders. He went into the temple, overturned tables and threw out the merchants, bringing this profane money-making machine to a screeching halt. And he broke the Pharisees’ legalistic interpretation of the Mosaic law by harvesting grain and healing the sick on the Sabbath.
But what Jesus said was much more provocative that what He did. He claimed to be the Son of God, “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).
Yes, Jesus claimed to be the eternal, self-existent God of the burning bush. He told the Jews that “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
Their response: “You are not fifty years old . . . and you have seen Abraham!”
“I tell you the truth . . . before Abraham was born, I am!”
“At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:56-59).
Jesus’ claim to be the everlasting God of Exodus 3:14 is what, humanly speaking, put Him on the cross. He was executed as a criminal, and the crime was blasphemy, His mind-bending declaration of existence as the God of eternity past.
And this same Jesus, who was crucified for telling the truth about His identity, was raised to life three days later, and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, building His church and praying for His people, empowering us to be His ambassadors in a world bent on dragging His name in the mud.
What is His promise to you and me?
“And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:10).
NOTE: For the other posts in this Thanksgiving acrostic, visit Click Here.
To date, there are 6 posts in this series, one for each letter of the word T-H-A-N-K-S.