The catch phrase, “by any other name”, originated with Shakespeare’s Juliet who lamented to Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”[i] Oh, if his family name had not been Montague perhaps these love-torn hearts could have lived happily ever after! Juliet reasoned that the character of a person matters more than what they are called.
This is true, however many people and cultures place great worth in the meaning of a person’s name. Like so many moms-to-be I consulted baby-name books while waiting for our child. I wanted to ensure he or she had a name with spiritual depth. So, we chose one which comes from the Hebrew meaning “God will uplift”. It is also a favourite of mine! Because my husband’s heritage is Chinese, it was customary for his parents to decide on a name as well. The one they chose represents “bright” and “handsome”.
Two weeks ago I took up the challenge to explore the Hebrew names for God. But instead of only researching the meanings behind these names, I wanted to go “beyond” and see what impact they have on my own life. What difference do they make in my understanding of God? Do they influence me to change in some way? How can they contribute to a deeper relationship with God?
Over the next few weeks I invite you to come along on this journey with me. I’m excited to know God better and see how my daily walk is transformed as a result!
In the Bible, the primary word for God, or a god, is“El” signifying “might, strength, or power”. It was the most common title for any deity in the ancient Near East including Almighty God. It can be used on its own, but is usually combined with another word to clarify the nature or role of a god in some way. This is especially true when distinguishing the one true God from false gods. There are many combinations of this name but I will choose a few for further reflection.
“El Haggadol” is found in Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome…” This title speaks of the greatness and awesome nature of God. After Moses had received the Ten Commandments, he descended from Mount Sinai to discover the Israelites had turned away from worship of God to bowing before a golden calf. He was so angry and distraught he smashed the stone tablets, ground the idol into powder and made them drink it. To Moses, it was unthinkable that anyone could treat God with such disdain and disregard for the consequences. After God had written His laws on new tablets, Moses recounted to the people the goodness and mercy of God and encouraged them to “Fear the Lord your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him…He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” (v.20-21)
During my travels to many Asian and European countries, I’m always fascinated with visiting various cathedrals, temples, and other places of worship. While their architecture is captivating, the spiritual overtones are what move me most deeply. I have watched people burning candles and incense, offering food to the gods, falling prostrate on the ground before manmade idols, consulting fortune tellers, and buying paper money to burn for their deceased loved ones. Hubby and I have hundreds of photos of tiny idols, golden idols, wooden idols, the largest Buddha statue in the world, simple and ornate crucifixes, and altars of every description. It makes me sad to see these people so devotedly going through the rituals they believe will please their unseeing gods and earn them a better afterlife.
However, their devotion always inspires me to gaze inward and examine how deeply I am committed to the One whom I know is the God of all gods and the Lord of all lords. How often do I pause and openly, without embarrassment, give thanks to God before eating my meal in a restaurant? Do my neighbors see me unashamedly carrying my Bible as I go to church? Have I become desensitized at all to the blatant misuse of God’s name on TV or in the workplace, stores and recreation areas? Why am I shy about sharing my God and what He means to me?
I know and serve the One Great and Awesome God! I have no reason to fear!
Until next Sunday,
KathyP.S. I welcome your comments and input as we grow together!