“Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its going down the LORD’s name is to be praised.” Psalm 113:1–3

It is good to make a regular habit of reviewing the names by which our Lord reveals Himself. I capitalize the word name when it is used to refer to God because God’s name is God Himself. He reveals Himself in His works. His names often reveal what He is and what He is intent upon doing. When you live each day in humble reverence to the name of the LORD you will be living the truth of Psalm 113.

Names distinguish one person from another. In God’s case, there is no other god and so His names do not distinguish Him from any other real being. All the pretenders, real and imagined (Satan and emperors or gods and idols), attempt to purloin and tarnish God’s good name.

I heard a story about an election precinct where three voters shared not only the same name but also shared the same residence. During voting day, each man came into the precinct to vote and caused a bit of a stir. In their case, the name did not distinguish between the men since there was no sr., jr., or Roman numeral after each name. The distinguishing factor was the unique birthdate. In a similar fashion, the biblical names of God are a purposeful expression of His nature or His position, as opposed to distinguishing Him from any other god. In the biblical stories where a new name of God is revealed, there is often a new fact revealed, a new feat/victory accomplished, or a new relationship being initiated. Each occurrence of a name of God, in its context, deserves careful inspection and thought.

The first name God uses in the Scriptures is Elohim, found in Genesis 1:1. It occurs 2,570 times in the Scriptures. The name is actually plural, meaning superlative in majesty, power, and might. Certainly God’s creative power is a most apt illustration of His glory. Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” When you think upon your Creator you are meditating on the fact He is Elohim.

The Scriptures also employ a general word for God (just as unsaved people are apt to refer to God). The word El is translated God. This name is indicative of “the Mighty One.” Many times the Old Testament combines the name El with some other qualifying aspect. One compound name is El Elyon. It means “the Strongest One, the Highest One. “ Especially since there is no other equal to the true God, He is uncontestedly the strongest of all. Genesis 14:17ff states, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.”

Surprisingly—or perhaps not so surprising due to the blinding, irrational effects of sin—Satan chose this very quality of God to go to war on God’s ground. Isaiah 14:13f reads, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.” How chided our hearts ought to be when we recognize we also tend to put our self-interest above the Almighty God! Sin and self always subvert and supplant submission and service.

Other compound names include El Roi, meaning “the Strong One who Sees” (Genesis 16:13); El Olam, meaning “the Everlasting God” (Isaiah 40:28ff); and El Shaddai, meaning “the Almighty, the Nourishing One.” This later name appears 48 times in the Old Testament (Genesis 17:1, Exodus 6:3). It is a name which carries with it the impression of a mother drawing a child to her chest. Psalm 91:1 reads, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High [El Elyon] shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty [El Shaddai].”

The name El appears in another well-known combination. Immanuel means “God with us.“ This truth is revealed first in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:8, 9:6; Micah 5:2). This name speaks of none other than our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:23)!

We will address several more names of God next time. We must not forget Adonai, Jehovah, or Jesus!

The Westminster Catechism makes good use of God’s self-revelation granted us by the names He has made known to us. “There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His Own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal most just and terrible in His judgments; hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”

Since His names graciously reveal to us who He is, it is necessary that we get to know His names, and know them well. Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’” Trust and obey.