Meditations on the Names of God
The author of these meditations borrowed the pattern and many ideas for these meditations from a devotional book entitled Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler. Zondervan, 2004.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1). Scientists today are building a gigantic particle accelerator in Europe in an attempt to smash atoms together with such force that they will be able to detect the elusive particle within an atom which they call the “god” particle. They believe that knowledge of this particle will help them answer all the questions that can’t be answered apart from a sovereign, creative God. The word for God used here to reveal his creative power is the name “Elohim.” This name for God also contains the idea of his authority and sovereignty. Being a name that is plural in form, it hints at the truth that God is triune. Elohim has everything he needs within himself to be supremely blessed, yet it is his sovereign will to create a people, on a world, within an immense universe, and to live with them in covenant fellowship. Give thanks to God for creating us in his own image. Meditate upon Genesis 1 and sing a Psalter number from Psalm 102.
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). As the sovereign, creative God speaks, the creation comes into existence exactly as he wills. With the creation of light, Elohim gave to his creation a source of energy to sustain life and direct the living creatures to their Creator. God uses this name, “Elohim,” in the Old Testament more than 2500 times so that we never forget that he alone is God. Light serves the creature in this life, but Elohim creates a light that sustains the spiritual life of his children as well. “For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness” (Psa. 18:28). Ask God to enlighten your soul and renew your sense of wonder and gratitude for the things he has made. Meditate upon Psalm 18 and sing a Psalter number from Psalm 18.
Are you weary? Are you faint? “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (Isa. 40:28-29) Elohim, the mighty and sovereign creator gives this wonderful promise to his covenant people. Let us confess any tendency to reduce God to our level, and pray for grace to seek this strength from our God. Meditate upon Isaiah 40 and sing from Psalter 275 or 276.
Elohim created all things, and he has the power to create for us a life with all of its blessings, sufficient for our place of service to him. “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on” (Gen. 28:20). God gave this to Jacob, and much more. After receiving a family and flocks and herds, “God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother” (Gen. 35:1). Read the rest of Genesis 28. Ask God for what you need, knowing he is able to provide. Sing Psalter 169 or any other psalm of thanksgiving.
We live in a world of constant change. Sometimes we enjoy the changes, and other changes, such as the loss of a loved one can be devastating. Our comfort lies in the fact that all this change is working to purify us and prepare us for eternal life with God. As things constantly change around us, we are able to stand firm on One who never changes: Elohim. Of him we read “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed” (Psa. 102:25-26). Praise God for his unchanging nature–no matter what may happen in the world around us, God stays the same. Meditate upon Psalm 102 and sing Psalter number 274.
God Almighty—El Shaddai [EL shad-DAI]
When God was about to establish the covenant with Abraham, he did so under the name “Almighty God.” God created all things with a view to a covenant relation with his people in Christ, and now he makes it absolutely clear that nothing will get in the way of this work of salvation; not even things that appear to us to be insurmountable roadblocks, such as having a child at ninety years old. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1). Ask God to give you wisdom to walk before him, and the peace of heart that knows and believes that he will work all things for our salvation. Read the rest of Genesis 17 and sing Psalter number 249.
Abraham had a hard time believing that God, God Almighty, could fulfill his covenant promise of a child. It seemed to be impossible. Do you believe God’s promises? He gives us many. One of which is as follows: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Do you believe this? Let us pray for grace from God Almighty to believe that he will reveal his strength in us when we are at our weakest. Read the rest of I Corinthians 10 and sing Psalter number 248.
Often it is not until some time after a serious illness, a broken relationship, or emotional turmoil that we are able to look back and see the overshadowing protection of God Almighty. As covenant people, we can see ourselves as one described in Psalm 91:1 where we read “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Let us thank God for his powerful protection, ask him for grace to rest in his shadows, and seek comfort and future protection. Read Psalm 91 and sing the related Psalter numbers.
Jacob singles Joseph out among his brothers as one who after much confusion, pain, struggle, and difficulty was in the end blessed by God Almighty, El Shaddai. “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)” (Gen. 49:23-24). We too may need to endure much confusion, pain, and struggling in our life, but let us remember that nothing can prevent Al Shaddai, our Mighty God, from working salvation and blessing for his people. Read the rest of Genesis 49 and sing Psalter number 228.
The god who provides the way for salvation, offers salvation to all man, desires all to accept the salvation, pleads and begs man to listen and make the critical choice is not El Shaddai, God Almighty. Abraham was surrounded by people who believed in such gods, and so are we. God had worked believing faith in the heart of Abraham. He believed that God had the power to fulfill all the promises revealed: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). Do we have this faith? “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). Let us pray for grace to live by faith as we raise covenant children, establish schools for them, and provide for the kingdom of God.
The Everlasting God—El Olam [El o-LAM]
As Abraham sojourned in the land of Canaan, Abimelech noticed something unusual about his life. He was not a typical sojourner who might come, stay awhile, and go again. Abraham, and all he stood for, was here to stay with life and death consequences. The God of Abraham had plans that would stand firm forever. He said to Abraham “God is with thee in all that thou doest:” After establishing a covenant with Abimelech, “Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). Do you live like Abraham, giving testimony to the fact that your God is El Olam, or are your life principles blown to and fro by every change in the world? Let us pray for grace to live with God as citizens of the everlasting kingdom. Read Genesis 21 and sing Psalter 247.
In contrast to the Everlasting God, we are reminded every day that our earthly life is characterized by beginnings and endings. When we take the time to meditate upon our life, how fast the days go by, what all our business really accomplishes, we can only conclude that it is all vanity. Our only comfort is that we are not our own, but belong to the Everlasting God. Psalm 90 binds our weak, transient lives to El Olam. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psa. 90:2). How then must we live in this knowledge? Let us pray with the psalmist, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psa. 90:12). We can begin by asking God to make us grateful for every day that passes. Read the rest of Psalm 90 and sing another Psalter number from Psalm 90.
No matter what our age, any activity over a length of time eventually makes us weary. As we get older, we may find ourselves to be weary of life itself. We may wish that we had the energy of youth, but when we meditate upon the fact of our weariness in the light of the Everlasting God, we come to recognize our limitations and come to God. God has the power to give us what earthly strength we need to carry on the work he gives to us. And insomuch as our earthly strength fails, he is also able to give us spiritual strength that enables us to leap and run spiritually in joy and praise before our God. “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength” (Isa. 40:28-29).Let us confess our tendency to complain of our aches and pains, and pray that God will increase our strength. Read the rest of Isaiah 40 and sing Psalter 248.
Our life on this earth has a beginning and an end; our God has no beginning or ending. In fact, he is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending. He is El Olam, the Everlasting God. The youth may see much life ahead of them, while those who are older begin to realize that life is really quite short. Either way, what comfort we have knowing that our covenant God has determined in his counsel to take his children into that everlasting life he has enjoyed through all eternity. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Joh. 17:3). Do you believe this and long for that life? Whether old or young, we are called to live that life even now. Does your life express heaven as your deepest longing and true home? Let us confess our tendency to live as though this world is all there is. Read the rest of Christ’s high-priestly prayer in John 17 and sing a Psalm from Psalm 100.
We build in stone and steel in an effort to make our works stand for a long, long time. We make plans and say they are “set in concrete.” Yet we know that nothing of our plans last forever. In stark contrast to our plans, the plans of El Olam are eternal. “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psa. 33:11). And what is that counsel? “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (Joh. 6:39). Let us give thanks to God for his everlasting love. May we live today in harmony with the eternal counsel of God. Read the rest of Psalm 33 and sing from the same.
Jehovahjireh—Jehovah Will Provide
God revealed this name to Abraham after he sacrificed the ram as a burnt offering instead of his son. “And 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” (Gen. 22:14). At the root of this name is the truth that God not only sees everything right now, he also sees what will happen tomorrow, and the next day all through the history of time. He sees because he has determined it in his counsel. As we move through time, we are often placed in a moment where a need becomes apparent. Abraham went to offer a sacrifice. And if he was going to offer a sacrifice, the time will come when something or someone will need to shed its blood. Abraham knew that, and he had many questions, for which is only answer was “God will provide.” Read Hebrews 11:17-19 and sing Psalter 94.
What a miserable situation man finds himself in! He is dead in sin. He is even unable to accept an offer of help. There is no hope of salvation anywhere apart from the God Who sees, Who plans, Who provides. He provides the one and only way for man to see the depth of the love of God. He created the need, he provides the way, he planned from all eternity to send his only begotten Son. “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Joh. 1:29). God has provided for our eternal welfare, and he also provides for our daily needs. Let us give thanks to God for providing our spiritual, material, and emotional needs. Pray for strength today to live in the confidence that God will provide for the needs in ways we do not at this time understand. Read John 1 and sing Psalter 147
Read Genesis 22:1-14. Are you ready to walk by faith as Abraham walked up Mount Moriah? God gives us many opportunities throughout our life to face whether we really know God as Jehovahjireh. Are we going to rely on our own logic and assume that our particular circumstances or gifts allow for exceptions to obedience? Moses had been given gifts and experience that would enable him to rule as Pharaoh, but he chose to lead grumbling slaves through the waste howling wilderness. Abraham could have given many arguments and reasons to think that he did not need to obey God. Are you willing to sacrifice a relationship, job opportunity, or a gift so that you might know Jehovahjireh? Confess any tendency to live as though God’s grace is cheap and ask God to help you obey him without hesitation or compromise. Sing Psalter 257.
Read Genesis 22:15-18. We will experience great blessing when we come to know God as Jehovahjireh. Through his trial and obedience, Abraham received the blessed knowledge that God would make him the father of all them that believe. He enjoyed already in his life the joy and peace of eternal life with his God. We too are called to obey our God without hesitation. If we live in doubt and seek to test the faithfulness of our God, we will not know Jehovahjireh and will live a life of crushed hopes and frustration as God leads us back to his word. Ask God to help you see the connection between obedience and blessing. Sing Psalter 321
Jehovahjireh—Jehovah Will Provide. He sees what we need, he leads us to see what we need, he makes it clear that we depend solely upon him to fulfill that need, and then he graciously provides for that need. Read and reflect on the ways that God provides for us in Matthew 6:28-30. Even when we face temptation and sin, we need to remember and believe that God is Jehovahjireh: “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:12-13). Ask God for grace to reflect in your life that providing grace of God by providing for fellow saints as well. Read I Timothy 6:17-18. Sing Psalter 268.
“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Ex. 3:14-15), God revealed his sacred, personal name to his people in connection with the great picture of salvation: deliverance from Egypt’s bondage. The one and only God, who exists in perfect harmony with himself, is pleased to create and reveal his covenant life with man in the way of salvation from sin. What a profound mystery! Let us praise the God of our salvation as Israel did at the Red Sea. Read Exodus 15 and sing Psalter 211.
Afraid of profaning God’s covenant name, for a time only the priests said the name out loud. Eventually the name “Adonai” was substituted for “Jehovah,” and when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70, how to pronounce the name was lost because the written Hebrew did not include vowels. Jewish scholars began to supply the vowels in the tenth century and simply used the vowels for “Adonai” in the name Jehovah. The KJV reflects this practice by using “LORD” instead of “Jehovah.” Thus, the name has been pronounced as “Jehovah” since the middle ages, without knowing for certain if that was correct. Scholars now have reason to believe that the correct pronunciation is “Ya-WEH.” If the pronunciation was essential for our faith and knowledge of God, we can be sure that this would have been preserved without question. Let us rejoice that the covenant significance of this name continues “unto all generations,” even in our generation. Sing Psalter 332.
Jehovah, the I AM who exists eternally in perfect blessedness within himself, and who has created man in his own image to see, know, and rejoice in covenant fellowship with God, makes clear to us how we will enjoy this joy and fellowship. Having any other in whom we find the source of our being and happiness will sever us from Jehovah. Setting ourselves up for our own glory destroys life with God as well. It is with his name “Jehovah,” “which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Ex. 20.) In summary, we are to love God, we are to devote ourselves to him even as he is devoted as the triune God within himself. Let us give thanks to Jehovah who has been pleased to reveal the depth of his love in giving his only begotten Son for our salvation. Read Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6. Sing Psalter 284.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:” (Psalms 103:2) Here again, like diamonds set in gold, the name “Jehovah” sparkles within a veritable flood of good gifts for his people. He heals, he forgives, he redeems, he has compassion, he delights to bless, he helps the oppressed, he is slow to anger, gracious, and loving. As a child may not always perceive these motives in godly parents, so we don’t always see it in Jehovah. Do you believe that God loves you? Let us pray that God will correct any false images we may harbor of God in our heart. Read Psalm 103 and sing one of the Psalter numbers from the Psalm.
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) “I am.” So simple, yet so profound. The covenant name of God, now revealed in a baby born from a woman. His name is Jesus, Jehovah Saves. The angel said “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1). The covenant name of God was now bound within the incarnate Son of God. Let us rejoice and give thanks that he makes us members of his very body. Ask God for wisdom and understanding into this great mystery of love. Read Matthew 1 and sing Psalter 83.
God gives to us a bounty of promises in connection with his name, Jehovah. “For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken” (Prov. 3:26). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10). He surrounds us with his unfailing love (Psa. 32:10), delivers us from fear (34:4), and is close to the broken-hearted. May we pray for the grace to wait for Jehovah in all our needs. Read Psalm 37 and sing one of the Psalter numbers from the Psalm.
The name “Adonai” means “Master” and implies a relationship in which we are servant. As Creator, and sovereign God, he gives instruction to his creature, and we are called to submit and obey. He rules according to his eternal counsel and plan knowing exactly what must be done, while we foolishly see and act according to what we think is good for us. Moses addressed God as Adonai, but at the same time expressed reluctance to obey. Have you ever done this? Why? Let us pray for grace to submit humbly to the will of God and willingly obey even when it is uncomfortable or frightening. Read Exodus 4:1-20. Sing Psalter 27.
God is Lord. We are servants. The concept of servant is not very popular in American culture. Often those found in positions of service in a hotel or other places of entertainment are foreigners. Our attitude toward those who serve can make it hard for us to understand what it means for us to be willing and cheerful servants to our Lord. Perhaps we even come to God with the attitude that we deserve to be served by him! Let us bow before our Lord, asking for grace to serve even as Jesus did and give all the glory to God. Read Luke 17:7-8.
To be unhappy with one’s position as servant when things don’t go the way we would like is the greatest foolishness. The psalmist thought, for a time, that he knew better than his Lord, but said “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.” (Psalms 73:22) When our relationship as Lord and servant is rightly understood, we confess with the psalmist, “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.” (Psalms 73:1) Instead of striving to do what we want, when we want, let us ask for grace to see the beauty and peace of doing what God wants, when he wants. Read Psalm 73 and sing the Psalter from that psalm.
As servants, we are called to do battle every day against the forces intent on destroying us. The enemy constantly seeks to eat away at our faith, corrode our relationships, and destroy our families and church life. The battle often becomes very discouraging, but we find the courage and strength to continue again when we remember whose servants we are. Nehemiah came to the Jews who were constantly harassed by neighboring enemies while they tried to rebuild Jerusalem and said, “Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Neh. 4:14b). God’s kingdom will come no matter how dismal our situation may be. Pray, remembering whose servant you are, and fight in his strength for your family, school, church, and children. Sing Psalter 148.
It is not always easy to live the life of a servant. Often earthly masters have no idea what it is like to be a servant and treat servants cruelly. Our sovereign Lord understands well what it is to be a servant. In fact, while living on earth, he demonstrated as no man could what it means to be a servant. He humbled himself perfectly before the will of God and willingly gave his own life. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). Read the rest of Philippians 2 and sing a Psalter number from Psalm 136.