I enjoyed a vacation last week--spending time with family and resting and recharging. My wife and I hiked through “Tate’s Hell” and saw a pigmy rattlesnake! Tate's Hell State Forest got its name from a farmer named Cebe Tate who in 1875 took a shotgun into the swamp to search for a panther that was killing his livestock. Tate got lost for seven days, was bitten by a snake, and had to drink murky swamp water. Finally, he stumbled into a clearing, living only long enough to murmur the words, "My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell." There were so many biting flies buzzing around us we could stop to rest or the flies would land on us to bite.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.
21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,
and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’”
24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
Elohim - God
In our passage, we see that Adam (the first man) names all the animals. Then, when God makes a woman from Adam’s rib, Adam names her “Woman”. The word Adam was not originally a proper name. It simply meant “human being” and the word Eve meant “life” or “life-giver”. These weren't proper names, just descriptions.
We also see another common name in the passage—God. In verse 21, the word we translate into English as “God” is Elohim. Elohim is a plural common noun. The singular is just “El.” In the Bible, you will often see names with the word “el” imbedded in them. For instance Bethel and Daniel. The “El” in these names almost always means "god". So Bethel means “House of God”. Daniel means “God is my judge”.
Elohim is not a proper name like Chris or Kelly. Just as Adam and Eve originally simply meant man and woman, Elohim was originally a descriptive name for god, similar to other descriptive words like man, woman, alligator, or fish. So in the Genesis passage, we see all these descriptive names. And Adam, the man, decides what to call everything. “This is a sunflower, a red-tailed hawk, a manatee.” And this is a man and this is a woman. And this is God who made them all.
And there is an interesting thing about the descriptive name for God, Elohim, that gets lost in translation from ancient Hebrew to modern English. Elohim is plural. So technically, it should be translated gods (plural), not god (singular). However, one of the crucial points throughout the Bible is that there is only one God. And whenever the Bible uses the plural word Elohim, it uses it in a singular sense. This is a great mystery about God that boggles the simple human mind. God is One (singular) but He is also many (plural).How can God be both one and many?
The early Church wrestled with the singular/plural nature of God and formulated the doctrine of the Trinity to describe God. There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—the Holy Trinity, the Holy 3-in-1. It’s a mind-boggling doctrine that confuses everyone. Critics of Christianity like to tease, “So you Christians say there are three gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” No. There is only One God. However, He is a Three-In-One God. And nobody understands it fully--not even Christian scholars. Likewise, we are totally confused when we say, “Jesus is both God and man." We don't believe Jesus is half-God and half-man. No. Jesus is 100% God and also 100% man. What??? How is that possible? It’s totally confusing, but it’s the best we can do to use limited human logic and language to describe the unlimited and infinite nature of God.
After sin corrupted the world, the ancients turned from worshipping the One, True God and began inventing all kinds of different gods to worship. Either they didn't like the One True God or they forgot His true nature and so they invented imaginary gods that had the kinds of attributes they wanted. They also named their imaginary gods like they named their children and animals.
Have you ever though the immense power parents possess in the right to name their children? Think about it. Parents give life to a new himan being and then they decide, "From thence forth, you shall be known as John (or Charles or Susan or whatever...)!" For the rest of that human being's life, they bear the name their parents gave them. My little sister was named Katie. All my life I called her Katie, but when she became an adult, people started calling her Kathryn (which was her full name, Katie was the nickname). I still call her Katie though. She will always be my little sister and she will always be Katie to me.
Naming your pets is even more fun than naming children, because you can name them anything. You don't have to give them regular human names. You can name your pets: Fluffy, or Bowzer, or even Dumb Dog if you like. Humans have the power to name their pets.
Parents have the power to name their children, but children don't have the same power to name their parents. It doesn't work that way. They can't say, "I don't like your name, Steve; I'm going to call you John." now sometimes children do give their parents a new name like Daddy or Mom or Pop, but these are not proper names, they are common names--descriptive names that describe the relationship.
But the ancient sinful people who turned away from, rejected, and forgot God, invented new gods that they could name what ever they wanted. Isn't that a silly idea? God is God. He is who He is. People don’t get to name God or change His name. We don’t get to decided who God is. But people still try.
Some people today don't like what the Bible says about God and so they think, "I don't like that and I don't believe that. I would rather God be like this instead." Others choose instead to reject the very existence of God. And still, God is who He is. It doesn't matter whether people like it or believe it. And if He is who He is and people choose not to accept it, we would call that delusion.
ORD God - Yahweh
People have always wanted and tried to re-invent God. That’s why the Bible adds the proper name for God in the passage. Paired with the common descriptive name “Elohim”, is the proper name LORD—which in Hebrew is Yahweh. Whenever you see the word LORD in the Holy Bible (and it’s in all-caps), you should know that LORD is the translation of Yahweh (God’s actual proper name). So we learn that the One True God who created Man and Woman and Alligators and Blue Herons and Red Fish and even Rattlesnakes is The LORD God.
He is Lord. He is Sovereign. He is who He is. He does not change. We cannot control Him. We don’t name Him. He names us. And rather than try to imagine God to be the way we wish Him to be, we should turn to the Holy Bible to see the names or God The LORD God has revealed to us so we can better know The LORD God’s character. For we are to love God, and (as Nina Miller said), "You can’t really love something unless you know its name" (and what it really is).
Thankfully, the LORD God has always wanted His creatures to know Him. He has used all His resources to reveal Himself to us. Romans 1:20 says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” God even spoke to people in the Bible and revealed some of His many names. We will look at some of these in the course of this series—name like El Shaddai, Jehovah-Jirah, Alpha and Omega, and others.
But as we conclude, I want to share one more of God's names. It is the best name of all by which we can know God. It is the name of Jesus—which means, “The Lord Saves”. You see, though all people sin and fall short of the glory of God leaving us all in jeopardy of punishment in Hell, God doesn’t want us to suffer in Hell for eternity. Therefore, The LORD God came as the Son, Jesus, to save us. On the cross, Jesus died for our sins so we can be saved if we repent and put our faith in Him. Will you? The choice is yours.
In the sacred ceremony of Holy Communion, we recall the sacrifice Jesus made for us that shows the depths of God's love. We also remember Jesus rose from the grave and is here with us now to offer new life and eternal life with God forever in Paradise.
Will you repent of your sins and accept the free gift of grace God offers you through Jesus today?