God’s Many Names

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This Shabbat we are reading the portion Va’era from Exodus 6:2 – 9:35, and the reading from the prophets is from Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21, and from the New Testament this Shabbat, we read from Romans 9:14-24.

Just take the opening verse that starts the reading of the Torah in every synagogue around the whole world on the same date and from the same ancient scroll that was used in the synagogue in Nazareth when Yeshua (Jesus) was reading from Isaiah.

Our reading of the Torah starts this Shabbat with these words:

“And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.’” – Exodus 6:3 [NKJV]

This is probably one of the most enigmatic verses in the whole Bible. I have written about this in a previous prayer list, maybe last year. I am mentioning this again in order to confront and discourage Christians or Jews to join these sects that insist that they know exactly how to pronounce the holy name of God that is made up from four Hebrew letters: yod-hay-wav-hay.

I get every week at least some Christian that is talking about “YaHaWe”, and another that thinks that the name of God has to be “YaouWho” and immediately I know that these people have lost their way into the maze of ignorance and sectarianism. Because in the Hebrew Bible the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has 70 different names by which our forefathers addressed Him.

All these names are kosher and every one of them describes a different aspect of the Creator of the Universe. Right here in the texts of Exodus 6:2-3, you already notice that there are two very important names of the Lord. We hear God say to Moses that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as “El-Shaddai” (God Almighty).

Then God reveals to Moses another name that is pronounced by all Jews when they read the Torah scroll on Shabbat and holidays as “The Lord” – “Adonai”. Here is a short list of the names by which God is addressed by our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the other great heroes of the Bible:

God – el
God Most High – el elyon
Almighty God – el shaddai
The Lord of Hosts – yahweh sabaoth
The Mighty One of Jacob
The Fear of Isaac
The Lord our Righteousness – adonai tsidkenu
King of Kings – melech hamelachim
The Lord Provides – yahweh-yir’eh
Father – abba
Everlasting God – el olam

The reason that the Lord is now revealing Himself to Moses with the ultimate name, is that essentially it is a name that transcends time and space. In last week’s Torah portion from Exodus chapter 3:2 forward, the Angel of the Lord appears from a bush that is burning and not being consumed by the fire.

Moses sees this phenomenon and says to himself, let me go and see what this is, a strange bush. In verse 3 of the same chapter Moses says to himself, “Let me go and see what is this strange bush!”

In verse 4 we read:

“So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’ Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” – Exodus 3:4-6 [NKJV]

The way that the Lord identifies Himself to Moses here in one of the most important moments in the history of Israel and in the history of salvation has to be examined. The identity of the creator of the world is indelibly connected and attached to the nation of Israel and to the fathers of this nation.

In the New Testament the Lord is identified in the same way:

“‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” – Matthew 22:32 [NKJV]

“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.” – Acts 3:13 [NKJV]

“…saying, ‘I am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look.” – Acts 7:32 [NKJV]

The importance of this name of God is the relationship and identification as the God of the family, the God of history, the God who has called our forefathers to move from their birthplace and move to a land that would be given to them and their children as an everlasting inheritance.

Moses, who is disconnected from his nation and from his natural family and is now a shepherd of Jethro’s flock, is addressed by God who is identified as the God of his family. The family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is in this identity making himself eternally connected to this people, the family of these patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The importance of this text is that this displaced prince of Egypt who is also a fugitive for 40 years and without his historical family, is suddenly encountering the God who created this world and who relates Himself to the three wandering fathers of the nation of Israel.

Now in chapter 6 this same God of our family, the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is again giving Moses a revelation that He is the God who cares and who is keeping his promises and covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This relationship of the creator of the Universe who is attached to this family whose mothers are all unable to give birth to a son naturally is now telling Moses how much He cares that His children are slaves in Egypt and who have to be saved from their situation and leave Egypt and return to the land that was given to their forefathers.

Yes, to the Land given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This God that is speaking to Moses is also a God who doesn’t forget His promises and covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The reading of the Torah this Shabbat is accompanied with the reading from the prophets, from Ezekiel 28:25-29:21. We must remember that like Moses, the prophet Ezekiel is also in the diaspora, he is also not in his God-given land and home.

In this context Ezekiel the prophet is again hearing that God is planning to keep His promises to our forefathers, the promise to give the children of Israel the land, and even though He sent them out and scattered them among the nations of their exile – He, the God who created the world, has never forgotten His promises to our forefathers.

Here are the words of Ezekiel. We must remember that Ezekiel was in Babylon when he was writing this revelation that he received from the Almighty God of Israel:

“Thus says the Lord God: ‘When I have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and am hallowed in them in the sight of the Gentiles, then they will dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they will dwell safely there, build houses, and plant vineyards; yes, they will dwell securely, when I execute judgments on all those around them who despise them. Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God.’” – Ezekiel 28:25,26 [NKJV]

As you notice the words of God to Ezekiel are very relevant for us today. This promise includes us today. It is talking of the return of the children of Israel to their land, and they will build their houses and dwell in safety and plant vineyards.

Just today I drove through the hills of Judea and passed at least five vineyards that produce wonderful wine that are famous internationally and compete with Italian and French wines.

Yes, we are living and experiencing the living Word of God both from the book and from our relationship with Yeshua. Yes, through the fulfillment of God’s promises we are also enjoying the fulfilment of God’s salvation through Yeshua.

This reminds me of 1971, the Holy Spirit Conference in Jerusalem. The who’s who of the evangelical churches in the world were gathered here in Jerusalem. The daughter of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, Ada, was attending our congregation in Jerusalem. She was already very old, but still very sharp.

So, Ada asked me, Joseph I heard that there is an international conference of Christians who are friends of Israel at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, would you please take me with you?

I took Ada with me and because of advanced age I sat her in the third row up front near the stage. Next to Ada was a big blonde woman with her hair fixed in what I would call the “Hallelujah tower” hair fashion. Ada was a small woman and in her 80’s. So, this big woman turned to Ada and asked her, “Where do you come from?” Ada answered, “I came from home!”

Where is your home? Asked the blonde woman. Here in Jerusalem! Ada answered. “How wonderful to meet a Christian from Jerusalem,” said the blond. Ada said: “I am not a Christian; I am a Jew!” “What are you doing here, this is a Christian meeting?” Said the blonde with the Hallelujah hairdo. Ada answered, “I am very interested in Yeshua!”

The blonde was in shock now. “How could you be interested in Jesus and not be a Christian? Don’t you believe in Jesus?” Ada replied, “No, I don’t believe in Jesus, I know Him!” “How do you know Him and not believe in Him?” said the blonde.

Ada said: “From the time that I was a very young girl, my father and my sisters would take the Bible and walk through the land and read the New Testament and walk and read and walk and read and in every place where Yeshua was teaching and making signs and wonders, we would stop and read. This is how I know Yeshua.”

The poor big American blonde from Texas was now totally bewildered. She really didn’t understand Ada, nor did she understand what is really going on here in Israel. What is going on here and is often forgotten even by some of our own dear and precious Jewish brothers and sisters in this land is that we are again experiencing a major exodus from the diaspora back to the land of Israel.

From the North and from the East and from the South and from the West, the Jewish people are being returned home by God. Yes, there is not one Moses and one Aaron today that walk in front of the camp. Yes, we don’t have a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night leading us, now. Yes, we are returning, and the abandoned cities of Israel are being rebuilt, and Jewish soldiers are, like in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, defending our borders and the streets of Jerusalem.

Yes, we still have the very same enemies that tried to keep those who returned from Babylonian exile from returning, who are trying today to keep Israel from returning home and rebuilding the land and the people. God’s word is not returning empty and void, we are in the land of Israel.

Spiritually, Yeshua is still dragging the cross through the streets of Jerusalem, and the crown of thrones is still on His head. He is waiting for us, the Jewish and the non-Jewish disciples to replace the thorny crown with that of King David.

Here are the words of the apostle Paul from Romans 9:14-24:

“What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’ But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” – Romans 9:14-24

It is not easy to see the hand of God fulfilling His promises to Israel and to the world, but if you just close your eyes and ask God to show you the events of the 20th and now the 21st Centuries after Christ, and pray sincerely, projecting from the stories of the patriarchs in the book of Genesis, and stretch through your imagination what you are seeing today in Israel, and in the relationship of Israel to its neighbors, like in the past still in this present, you will see with the eyes of faith…

O Lord how great Thou art and how magnificent are Your deeds and how faithful You are to keep Your promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thank you, Lord, You are truly righteous, and Your deeds are righteous altogether.

(Read Psalms 145 for your dessert.)

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.