The Ultimate Introduction
December 5, 1999
Life is full of awkward moments. The following awkward moment will be played out in many of our lives, especially during the holiday season. You are standing at a party talking to some good friends. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye you see someone approaching. As you lock eyes with them, you know you should remember their name, but you can’t come up with it. As they approach you and your friends, they give you the look that says, “Aren’t you going to introduce me?” In a nanosecond you have a couple of choices. Number one, you can look at your approaching friend and say, “I’m, sorry. I have forgotten your name, and I am also an idiot.” Or number two, you can just kind of kick back for a second, and pray that they introduce themselves to your friends. Then you say, “Oh, I thought you two knew each other.”
Those awkward moments seem to assault us time and time again. Maybe this is another awkward moment. Let’s just say you are in a conversation at a party with a group of friends and God walks up. Could you introduce Him? Do you really know who He is, His true nature and character, His essence? Sadly, most of us could recite the name of God, but we don’t really know who He is and what He is all about.
When I say “the name of God,” what comes into your mind? A detached deity, bearded, and in a long, white flowing robe who is busy tweaking the dials of the universe? A denominational God who is confined and defined by the Baptist Church, the Episcopalian Church, or the Catholic Church? The benevolent God who is always smiling no matter what we do? What comes to mind when I say “the name of God?”
I am in the middle of a series of talks called “www.godonline.com.” It is a series on worship, and the motivation for this series is the “www” deal, the wonderful world of worship. That has been the goal of this whole topical study, that we would delve into the wonderful world of worship. Last weekend we talked about the fact that God has put significant symbols in our paths to point us to worship. Today we are going to talk about the names of God. Just by understanding and articulating and defining the names of God, you and I should be drawn to worship. Worship is simply becoming intensely passionate about the person of Jesus Christ in everything we do and say. That is worship.
I want to bring someone on stage right now that a lot of you recognize: Owen Goff. If you are a guest today, let me introduce him to you. Owen Goff is one of the ministers at the Fellowship Church, and we know him by that name and by that title. But I am here to tell you, his wife knows him by another name, a loving husband. His children know him by yet another name, Dad. His grandchild knows him by another name, Grandpa. His mother, who is in her 90s, knows him by another name, the ultimate son. And Caesar’s Palace knows him by another name, a high roller. You know I am kidding about that! Thanks, Owen. We can know Owen and know his name and know he is a minister, but to really know his true essence, we have got to understand and see Owen in different rolls. We have got to know him by different names.
Over the last couple of weeks, about 100 of us traveled to Israel for a wonderful time of walking where Jesus walked. One evening many of us had the opportunity to swim in the Dead Sea, if you call it swimming. The Dead Sea has such a high salt content that in reality you just float. You just do the surface thing. It would be very difficult to drown in the Dead Sea. In a real sense, a lot of us treat worship that way. We are just floating on the surface. We think we are expressing love to God, but we are just floating. We never go deep. We never understand that worship is a 24/7 deal. Worship should transcend everything that we do and say. A lot of us who are floating and doing the Dead Sea thing with worship need a worship wake up call.
The Bible speaks volumes about the name of God. In the book of Exodus, we are told not to use God’s name in a flippant or casual or profane manner. The scripture says, “Do not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain.” And it saddens the heart of God for people to say things like, and I quote, “Oh, God,” “Jesus Christ,” “God damn it.” You are asking God to do something that He does not do. God doesn’t damn anyone to hell. We make that call. I ask you, if someone sacrificed his only son to save you, would you trash his name? Would you abuse his name? Would you trash talk him and make fun of him and recite stupid jokes about him? Would you do that? How do you think God feels when we do that?
There is nothing like the names of God in the Bible. Psalm 113:2, “Let the name of the Lord be praised.” The name of the Lord should be worshipped. However, we can’t praise His name if we don’t really know His name. So today, I want to pause a little bit, and I want us to negotiate the names of God. As we negotiate the names of God, I think it will force us to negotiate some areas in our lives that need some serious work. So it doesn’t matter if you are investigating Christianity, if you are not a Christ follower. It doesn’t matter if you are a believer and are walking with God. I truly think that just by studying the names of God, a transformation will occur in every life here. It can reform us and remake us.
For starters, let’s run through the Rolodex of God’s names. The first name I want us to look at is Elohim. It is a commonly used name in the Old Testament for God. Turn to you neighbor and say, “Elohim.” Elohim means “the creator.” Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God….” It is the plural name of God. Implication, the completeness of Him, the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, co-existent and co-eternal. Three in one and one in three. Everything we see visibly in the creation pales in comparison to the creator. Elohim, The Creator.
Here is another name of God: El Shaddai. El Shaddai means “God almighty.” El means “great” or “mighty.” Shaddai means “to pour forth.” We get the word “breast” from Shaddai. Have you ever talked to a nursing mother? It is amazing what takes place. Nursing mothers know when their babies are hungry before the baby ever cries. Why? Her milk comes in. We serve an El Shaddai God. Before we cry about the problem at work, about a relational hiccup, about some difficulty, God’s milk has come in. He is already prepared to meet the need, to nourish us, to satisfy us. El Shaddai, God Almighty.
There is another name of God: Adonai. It is much easier to call God El Shaddai than it is to call Him Adonai. Adonai means “the Lord.” Whoa. I mean that is pretty heavy. Adonai has two big implications. First, God’s dominion, His lordship. The second implication is our submission and our stewardship. If we just got this one right, we would be different people, we wouldn’t skim the surface any more.
The next name we will camp out on for a while. We will bring our sleeping bags, our tents, build a fire. Jehovah is the most commonly used name of God in the Bible. For those who are into statistics, it is used 6,800 times throughout the pages of scripture. Jehovah means “I am.” This name was so holy to the Israelites that they wouldn’t even pronounce it. Well, Moses gives God a hypothetical situation. Exodus 3:13-14, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, the God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask me what is his name. Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites, I am has sent you.” I can almost hear Moses saying, is that your final answer?
Well, if God says, “I am,” our response should be, “You are.” And to others we should say, “He is.” God is self-sufficient and self-existent. He can only be defined by Himself, and thankfully, He has revealed Himself and His essence to us just by His names. At this point, as we camp out and roast marshmallows, we are going to look at the redemptive names of God from the Old Testament. Some call them the compound names of God. They connect to Jehovah.
The setting, Mount Moreh. The players, Abraham, his only son, Isaac, and God. God asks Abraham to do something strange. He asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering. Abraham says, “Yes, God, I will do it.” Abraham was a very wealthy man, the Michael Dell or the Bill Gates of the day. Scripture records that Abraham saddled up a donkey with everything he needed for the sacrifice. He took Isaac and a couple of servants. They began to walk toward Mount Moreh. They spotted Mount Moreh in the distance. Genesis 22:5, “He said to his servants, stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there, we will worship and we will come back to you.” Can you imagine what was going on in Abraham’s mind? Can you imagine the conversation he had with his only son as he was walking up Mount Moreh knowing that he was going to take his son’s life, when Isaac questioned where was the animal to be sacrificed and his father responded that God would provide?
Abraham tied his son to the altar, and as he was unstrapping his knife, an angel of God said, “Abraham, don’t touch your son. Now I know you are a true man of God, you would even give up your son. Take him off the altar.” Then he showed Abraham a ram caught in the thicket. Abraham captured the ram and sacrificed it. And on Mount Moreh, Abraham named the spot Jehovah Jireh, the Lord is my provider. On Mount Moreh, years later, Solomon built the temple. It is where all of the temple sacrifices took place. And later God put His own Son on the cross. There wasn’t a voice from heaven saying, “Stop.” There wasn’t a ram in the thicket. Christ did it because of His unfathomable love for you and me. And He became our ultimate sacrifice in the same area that all of this played out.
Jesus is our ultimate provider. He has provided a way for us to know God because of the most amazing act of grace that will ever be known to us, his redemptive work on the cross. “Provide” comes from two Latin words, pro meaning “first,” vide meaning “to see.” We get the word “video” from the word “provide.” And I love this. It is like God has already checked out the video at Blockbuster. He has played it and seen history from the beginning to the end. So there is not a need or a question that we can bring to God that He has not already dealt with and processed. And I don’t know about you, but that fires me up. Meet Jehovah Jireh, our God who provides.
The Amalekites were some evil people. And strangely enough, they lived in the region of the Dead Sea. That could make you mean just living there. They probably floated in the same waters that we did, who knows. The Amalekites killed people for sport, tortured people, dominated people. The stumbling Israelites showed up in their region. They were licking their chops believing that they could easily take out the Hebrew hicks. Moses was on a mountain overlooking this whole scene. He talked to Joshua and told Joshua to take some men and go rumble with the Amalekites. He promised to lift his hands and pray and seek God.
Joshua took on the Amalekites, and Moses lifted his rod and prayed. The Israelites began to win the battle. However, when Moses’s hands became tired, the Amalekites began to win. Moses had two friends with him, Aaron and Hur. And when Moses’s arms began to get heavy, they helped hold them up. Miraculously, the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. So what did Moses do? Did he just high-five Aaron and Hur and say, “Yeah, man we did it?” No, he cruised down the mountain and built a memorial. We talked about the significance of symbols last weekend. Please pick up the tape. I won’t go there now. But he built a memorial and he named it Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my victory. The Lord is my banner, my standard. Moses wanted to mark the spot to indicate that this was the place where God was a God of victory.
Are you in a battle right now? Are you? I know you are not fighting the Amalekites, but maybe you are doing battle with materialismites, the lustites, the angerites, the selfites. How are you doing? Remember Joshua. Remember the Israelites. Remember Moses holding up his hands with his arms outstretched. Remember we serve someone else who has held out His hands in an ultimate way, our Lord. Jesus stretched them out on the cross when He died for your sins and mine and rose again. So we should never, ever just wave the surrender flag, throw in the towel. No, no, no. We serve Jehovah Nissi. We have won the ultimate victory, secured for us on the cross. What are you battling? What are you facing? I have got good news for you today. You have won. You have won.
Leviticus 20:7-8, “You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep my statutes and practice them. I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” At the count of three let’s breathe a huge sigh of relief. One, two, three. Sigh. That is the sigh of relief that I breathed this week as I studied that text. It says as I personalize it, “Ed, you shall keep my statutes and practice them. I am the Lord, Ed, who sanctifies you.” Sigh. I can’t sanctify myself. I can’t make myself holy.
Jehovah M’kaddesh is the Lord who makes me holy. The Lord cleanses. The word “sanctification” simply means “to be set apart to be used by God.” It is used 700 times in just the Old Testament. When we receive Christ, we are redeemed. Because of His death we have that redemption and we are secure. Then, because of His resurrection, we can be sanctified as we walk and talk and mirror the image of God in all that we do and everything that we say. That is why Romans 12:1 is an offering plate verse. At the end of the service we are going to pass the offering plate. Just in your mind—I am not going to ask you to do this literally—crawl into the offering plate. Here is where I am going: “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.”
Being holy and living a sanctified life. These words also refer back to the articles used in the worship of God in the temple. Remember how God was sort of confined and defined by the temple. That was His dwelling place. Well, in the New Testament, he breaks out of the temple and the writers tell us that we are the temples of God, the dwelling places of God. The moment in time when we make the choice to make a temple out of our life and allow Christ to come in, He places the Holy Spirit there. The Holy Spirit works from the inside out to make us holy, pure, and clean, which is our spiritual act of worship.
Let me do one more, and then we will throttle back and go to something else. Several months ago, I did a message series which was one of my favorites. It was on the 23rd Psalm. Let me read just the first portion of that Psalm, the first few words. “The Lord is my shepherd….” The Lord is MY shepherd. Jehovah Rophe is the Lord is my guide, my director, my leader.
As you read the rest of Psalm 23 or just peruse the Bible, you will see time and time again that we are compared to sheep—stinky, smelly, dumb sheep. Sheep are not that smart. Sheep are so stupid that if they are feeding and there is a cliff which one dives over, all the others will just follow. Don’t ever think that you are smart or especially brilliant. I am not. We are like sheep. You may laugh at that. How dumb can you be, Ed?
Have you ever watched “VH1: Behind the Music?” I love that show because it illustrates how much we are like sheep. “You know I learned how to play the guitar well. Started my own band, dude, when I was in high school. Signed a record deal. You know, I got involved in some kind of wild stuff—orgies, groupies. I got into heroin, cocaine. I would drink two or three cases a day. The guys who used to be members of my band, they all died. He OD’d; he crashed his Lamborghini. Those other two got in a fight and killed each other. Then I got in a rehab. Recovered. Rehab again. Recovered. Rehab again. Rehab, rehab, rehab. Now, man, I am clean, dude, you know.”
Every story, for the most part, is the same. If we were so smart, we wouldn’t keep diving off the same cliffs. Jimmy Hendrix, John Belushi, Sam Kinnison, Kurt Cobain…. We like sheep have gone astray, each of us is gone our own way. And people right now, just in the entertainment industry, are going off the same cliff. Left to myself, I am a dangerous man. I could go off the cliff ‘cause I am just dumb. And so are you.
Here is the problem we have with the Christian life. We think that we will be specific with our sins and confess them and that is good. But we forget to ask God to forgive us for being a dumb human. “God, I am worthless before you. God, I am a Dead Sea person. Nothing is living inside without you. I am unworthy.” It is like the prophet Isaiah when he saw God, “I am unclean, God. On my best day, I don’t measure up.” Is God your shepherd, your guide?
I will tell you what this study of the names of God has done for me. I just scratched the surface, but it has done two things for me. First, it has brought into my life a true sense of awe. It has ushered in a sense of awe. You cannot study the names of God without being awed. Read the book of Acts. It said people in the early church were filled with a sense of awe.
Every time I hear the word “awe” I think about LeeBeth. LeeBeth was five years of age when she went to the pet store with her mom and bought a little turtle. She named him Mr. T. She took T home and put him in a giant aquarium in our garage. Every night she would toddle out and feed Mr. T. He never grew, but remained the same size. Then one evening I was driving home and spotted a huge alligator snapper (large turtle) crossing the road. You know I like reptiles. So I stopped the car and grabbed the snapper, threw him in the trunk and drove home. I snuck into our garage, took out little Mr. T, put him in a tiny jar and replaced him with the alligator snapper. I wedged him down, opened the door, and asked LeeBeth if she had fed Mr. T yet. She got her turtle food, walked out, and soon came running back. “Oh, Daddy, Mr. T. has been eating a lot. He is huge. It is a miracle, Daddy!” That is awe. Astonishment. And I am astonished by the nature and character of God, that He would love someone and reveal Himself specifically to someone like me.
This study has ushered in a sense of awe. It has also ushered in my life a sense of need. When you think about the names of God—God providing, giving victory, making us holy, being our guide—that sort of tips us off that we will need those aspects in the future. Thus, I should worship God specifically concerning His names. So just pick out a name, any one of the names I have discussed.
Are you feeling kind of depleted, feeling that your life is in a kind of short fall? Maybe you should take the name Jehovah Jireh and worship God because He is your provider. Just write that on a card this week and meditate on it. Or maybe you find yourself in a battle or see one on the horizon. Just take Jehovah Nissi. The Lord is your victory. Just meditate on that name and the scripture verses that deal with that.
Maybe you are dealing with a sin. Maybe you are locked on the rearview mirror of your life, can’t get your eyes off what you did in the past and move on. Just take Jehovah M’kaddesh, the Lord who makes you holy, and meditate on that. Thank God, for He is the one who does the work. Maybe you are trying to negotiate the maze of life. Maybe you are facing a big decision. Maybe it is who to marry. Maybe it is which way to turn. I don’t know. Take Jehovah Rophe, the Lord is my Shepherd, and worship Him because of that.
We have been talking about the names of God. I want to be really candid with you today. Speaking of names, I want to name a name which is very bold for me, who gives me more problems in worship than any person in this church—Ed Young. And if you are honest with yourself, you will say the same thing.
Philippians 4 and Revelations 3 talk about names, the names of people. They refer to names in something called the Lamb’s Book of Life. All of us know the name of God and obviously God knows our names, but has your name been registered in the Lamb’s Book of Life? The moment that we make a temple out of our lives, and receive the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, and say that Jesus is the only way we can get to God, then our name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Jesus was called “The Lamb of God.” Remember I talked earlier about all the Old Testament stuff? It just pointed to the ultimate lamb, the final sacrifice of Christ. One of the things which scares me the most every time I teach is that someone will be out there listening and they won’t get it. They will miss the message. And one of the things that keeps me up at night is to know that someone may be attending the Fellowship Church, but when they face God upon death, their name will not be found in the Book of Life.
If you have not responded to Christ, your name is not there. I don’t care if you have grown up in church, if you cut your teeth on the back pew of a house of God, been baptized and confirmed. It is all immaterial unless your name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And I have got to ask you, is it there? I have no doubts about my name being there, do you? The Bible says that if we believe on the name of Jesus, we will be saved. In a Biblical sense, “believe” means “to take it on, to become that, to receive that.” And once you receive it, that is the ultimate introduction.