What Is His Name?

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I am has sent me to you”‘” (Exodus 3:13,14).
The name of God has always been a subject of curiosity and sometimes controversy. Different languages use different words for divinity, such as “El” or “Elohim” in Hebrew, “Theos” in Greek, “Deos” in Latin, etc. Various gods are given personal names. Baal, Moloch, and Rimmon were gods worshipped by the nations surrounding Israel in Old Testament times. Krishna, Shiva, and Ganesh are deities of modern Hinduism. In a polytheistic society one cannot identify his god only by the generic term for deity; he must specify the exact one he wishes to address.
The third commandment is “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). God attaches great significance to his name. He gave it to Moses in order that he might be correctly identified and known, and he protected it with a strict and ominous warning. The Jews took this commandment so seriously that they refused to even pronounce God’s name, substituting “Adoni” (“The Lord”) for “Yahweh” even when reading the Old Testament text aloud (a practice continued in most modern English translations ?- for instance in Psalm 23 the original text says “Yahweh is my shepherd,” but we read “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
It is significant that the name of God is very like the Hebrew verb “to be” and that it is unmistakably connected with God’s eternal existence in Exodus 3:14. God’s name reflects at least a part of his unalterable nature. He is, he is the ultimate Being and the ground and cause of all other being. Without God there is no life, no existence. These truths are reflected and acknowledged whenever we speak or read his name.
I was made to reflect on these things recently by a rather trivial incident in Nepal. A group of Christians came to one of our workshops from the village of Badhurjahula. The name of the village means, “hanging monkey.” Does that perhaps suggest a certain type of location for the village? Would you expect that name to be given to a neighborhood in a modern city? Badhurjahula lies within Chitwan National Park, the oldest of the parks in Nepal and home to many wild animals, including tigers, leopards, Asian rhinoceros, and, yes, lots and lots of monkeys. The name well describes and fits the village’s location.
So our perception of God’s identity and nature is enhanced by our knowing his name. He is eternal, all-powerful, ever-present. He Is! And He always will be! “Blessed be the Name of the Lord” (Psalm 113:2).

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