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Showing posts with label God's Name. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God's Name. Show all posts

Monday, August 30, 2021

The Names of God - Alpha and Omega

We have covered quite a few names for God.  In this series, we have studied 12 and today we will look at one more.  If we were to look at every name or title for God, we could go on for years.  One website I found list 950 names for God from the Bible.[i]

There is only One God, in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  But because God is so important and His character is infinite and people have experienced Him in so many ways, we know God by many, many names.  Don’t ever forget, though, that every name refers to the One True and Living God revealed in Scripture from the very first verse of Genesis at the beginning of the Bible to the last verse of Revelation at the end.  All of Scripture is the story of the One God who created us and saved us, whom we will worship for all eternity.

Let us read together a passage that reveals one more important name for God.

Revelation 1:7-8
Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
    And everyone will see him—
    even those who pierced him.
And all the nations of the world
    will mourn for him.
Yes! Amen!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”

Alpha and Omega
There are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet.  The very first letter is Alpha.  The word alphabet we use to describe our own ABCs, actually comes from the first letter of the Greek alphabet—Alpha—and the second letter—Beta.  These two words or letters are combined to give us Alpha-Bet to designate our 26 letters—A-Z.  The Greek alphabet only has 24 letters, the first is Alpha and the last is Omega.

You may realize doctors and scientists are using the Greek alphabet to name variants of the COVID-19 virus.  The variant all over the news right now is the Delta variant.  Delta is the 4th letter of the Greek alphabet, which indicates it is the 4th variant of this virus.  There was the original COVID-19 out of Wuhan, China.  Then there was Alpha (the first variant) out of the UK.  Beta came from South Africa.  Then Gama was first identified in Brazil. 

The Delta Variant is a far more infectious and faster growing variant than the others.  That is why it Delta is causing more sickness and spreading more rapidly.  But if Delta is the 4th letter in the Greek alphabet, are there more variants coming? 

According to Alvin Powel of the Harvard Gazette, a publication of Harvard Medical School, “Variants have continued to develop and spread since the emergence of delta. The World Health Organization has designated variants Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda “variants of interest” and is tracking 13 additional variants that originated in the U.S., Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, Colombia, and other nations.”[ii] 

It would seem, we are going to be living with COVID-19 for a while.  The verdict is still out on how well we will live with COVID.  Will future variations of this virus be less lethal?  Will the human immune system evolve to be better equipped to handle this illness?  Or will a future version of COVID be more deadly than anything we have seen so far? 

I wish we knew the answers to these questions, but human understanding is limited.  All we know is what we know and all we can do is do our best.  Thankfully, we have some treatments that help people heal and we have vaccines that—after over 350 million vaccinations in America—has proven itself to be safe and effective.  Nothing is perfect, but you are more likely to be struck by lightning than have a life-threatening reaction to the COVID vaccination.  And the vaccines are over 80% effective in warding off COVID or greatly reducing the severity of the illness.  I think the hope is that if enough people are vaccinated, we can slowdown the spread and mutation of the virus so that future variants won’t have a chance to take hold and get out of control.  If we can do that, then maybe the virus will become something like a common cold.

But I’m not here to talk about COVID.  My purpose is to talk about God.  And in Revelation 1:8 the Lord God says He is the “Alpha and Omega—the beginning and the end”.  God is the first and last and everything in between.  While we forget what happened yesterday and we don’t know what might happen tomorrow, God knows it all perfectly.  We have no control over what tomorrow brings, but God is in control of it all.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who is and always was and is still yet to come.

God Always Was…
Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God existed before the world was created.  Before there was a thing called earth or heaven, before there was light or darkness, before there was time, God was.  And though He needed nothing, out of love God created a beautiful planet with mountains and oceans and plants and animals and people.  And God saw that it was very good. 

Unfortunately, people didn’t love God the way He loves us.  We rebelled and tried to make life all about us and what we wanted.  Even though a loving relationship with God is all we needed to be truly happy and fulfilled, we turned our backs on God and chased our own selfish dreams.  But God didn’t turn His back on us.  From the very beginning, God has been working to save us from ourselves.  And throughout the pages of the Bible, we can clearly see God working to bring us back to Him.

  • God called Noah and his family to enter the ark and leave behind a world that had become overwhelmed by evil and to make a fresh start in a new world.[iii] 
  • God called Abraham to leave his country and go to a new land where God would make Abraham the father of a great nation and a blessing to all the families of the earth.[iv]
  • God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery into the Promised Land to be a holy nation, dedicated to God.[v]
  • And the greatest example of all is Jesus Christ.  Jesus called people to accept the relationship God offers them. 

Before the world began, God already knew you and knew you would be sitting here in this sanctuary right now, with all your personal concerns swirling around in your head—fears, anxieties, hopes, dreams, disappointments.  God already knew about all the things that would be overwhelming us today.  We might feel overwhelmed, but He is not.  He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.  God always was and…

God Is…
“Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)

I don’t know what you were thinking when you decided to come to church today.  I don’t know what you are thinking right now, but I know what Jesus is doing right now.  This Scripture tells me Jesus, the one who was with God in the beginning and who is God, the one who healed the sick, brought sight to the blind, the one who made the deaf to hear and the lame to walk, the one who never sinned, but was crucified to atone for our sins, Jesus is pleading to God on your behalf right this very moment.

God is.  God is right this moment, extending His grace and forgiveness to you.  Right this very moment, God is ready to welcome all who sincerely repent and trust Jesus as Lord.  Right now, God is ready to grant you the gift of eternal life with Him where there will be no more sickness or sorrow or death, where every tear shall be wiped away and every hurt will be healed.  God is here, right now.  Won’t you turn to Him while there is still time?  I sincerely hope you will, because…

God is Still to Come…
“Yes, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:20)
Jesus promised us He would come again

After Jesus rose from the tomb, he spent 40 days with his disciples and then he ascended to Heaven where he sits at the right hand of God in the place of highest honor, pleading for you.  When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He promised he would return.  (See John 14:3)  Two white robed, angelic figures confirmed Jesus promised return to the Disciples in Acts 1:11. “Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Some critics and skeptics scoff that Jesus hasn’t “returned in the clouds” in nearly 2,000 years.  I can assure you of this, you will meet Jesus face to face in your lifetime.  Either Jesus will come in the clouds for the whole world all at once or Jesus will come for you personally when you take your last breath.

Revelation 1:7 tells us, “Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him.”

Everyone will face Jesus one day.  Will you rejoice to see Jesus, or will you mourn?  Will you be overwhelmed by love or fear and dread?  Will you spend eternity in paradise, rejoicing with your loved ones and celebrating with a feast or will you spend eternity suffering the tortuous separation from God, the Source of Life, in what the Bible variously describes as “the outer darkness”, the lake of fire, the second death, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teethe?  It is the place most commonly known as Hell.


God is still to come and whether that is an incredible good thing or and incredibly bad thing depends upon the choice you make today.


For God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.

Choose to Follow Jesus as Lord Today
I hope you will choose today, right now, to follow Jesus as Lord.  Then you won't have to dread the day Jesus comes in the clouds.  He will be your Lord and you will be forgiven and welcome into God's perfect presence where you will live in paradise for eternity.  

If you would like to make that choice today, pray this prayer and believe it in your heart.

"Lord, come in and take control of my life.  I surrender to You.  I recognize that You are the true Lord of all and You deserve my full allegiance.  I want to give my allegiance to you from this day forward.  Lord, please forgive me for my sins.  Wash me clean and give me a fresh start so that I can live for You from this day forward, with the help of Your Holy Spirit.  I know that Jesus is Your precious Son who died on the cross for my sins.  I trust Him to forgive me.  Thank you for giving me eternal Christ, for His names sake.  Now, let me live all my days as Your precious child. Amen."



[iii] Genesis 6:5-13

[iv] Genesis 12:3

[v] Exodus 3:10

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Names of God - Adonai

John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement and is credited as one of England’s greatest spiritual leaders.  John was a godly man who spent his life serving and making the world a much better place.  Many churches are named after this great spiritual leader.  Kelly and I were married in a church called Wesley United Methodist.  We are sitting here today in Pleasant Grove Methodist Church because of John Wesley's influence on the world.

Many people have named their children after John Wesley.  One family that followed this custom was
James and Mary Hardin.  James was a Methodist minister in Texas who named his son after the founder of the Methodist movement.  Unfortunately, their son, John Wesley Hardin, didn’t live up to his name sakes reputation for Christian love and charity.  John Wesley Hardin became a notorious murderer who killed his first victim when he was only 15 years old.  John Wesley Hardin murdered 21 men during his treacherous life.  Yet despite this, people still name their children “John” or “Wesley”, and even “John Wesley”.

We have been studying the names of God to learn about His character.  Today we come to a name that may seem natural for some but may trigger very negative feelings in others.  One might be tempted to discard the name altogether, base merely on the negative connotation associated with it.  However, we must not blame God for the sinful actions of people--anymore than we should blame John Wesley for John Wesley Hardin's evil actions..

The name of God we study today is Adonai.  The Hebrew word Adonai may not seem controversial until we learn the English translation.  Adonai means Master.

Master was a common word used in the ancient world.  Both paid servants and unpaid slaves referred to their lord as master.  In fact, calling someone master was a polite way for anyone to show humility and respect to someone of higher rank.  A student called their teacher master—a tradition carried on today in some schools where the principle is called the headmaster.

Unfortunately, what comes to mind for many Americans when we hear the term “Master” is the terrible era of slavery in our country where people bought and sold other human beings as if they were only animals.  The term master may bring to mind the terrible way slave master's treated their slaves in this country.  however, this is not at all what we mean when we call God Adonai/Master. 

God is not like sinful people any more than John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) is like the murderer John Wesley Hardin.  In fact, it is precisely because God is our True Master that the world finally concluded slavery is evil.  Christian abolitionists diligently argued and convinced the world that it is not right that one human being should own another human being.  Their Christian belief that slavery is evil was based largely on their Christian belief that God is already our true master and a man cannot serve two masters (as Jesus said in Matthew 6:24).  Many scholars and historians (including non-Christians) argue that slavery could not and would not have been abolished without Christianity. 

Isaiah 61:1a
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
    for the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor.

There are two things about this passage so far.  First, you may recognize this as the words Jesus used in Luke chapter 4.  You are absolutely right. Jesus once visited a worship service in his own hometown of Nazareth.  He was invited to read the Scripture and preach.  Jesus read this very passage from Isaiah 61.  Then he preached a sermon saying, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”  His sermon made his hometown so furious they tried to throw him off a cliff!  (I hope my message today doesn’t have the same effect!)

Second, notice where is says Sovereign Lord (I’ve highlighted it for you in the passage above).  This is the English translation of the Hebrew Yahweh Adonai.  Yahweh is God’s holy name.  It means something like "I am who I am and you can’t control me." Adonai means master.

What has this uncontrollable sovereign master done?  He has anointed or chosen Jesus for a special purpose: to bring good news to the poor.  Going on there’s more…

Isaiah 61:1b
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
    and to proclaim that captives will be released
    and prisoners will be freed.

Are you brokenhearted?  Are you trapped by someone or something?  Are you imprisoned—literally or figuratively?  The Master has Good News for you.

These words of Isaiah were written over 500 years before Christ was born. Originally, they were intended to comfort and console the Israelites who, because of their sin, had been dragged away as captives to Babylon when Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians.  Those captives longed for a Messiah who would save them.  Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, came preaching these words and giving them new meaning.  We are all in need of a Savior chosen to comfort our broken hearts and set us free from captivity.  And Jesus goes on sharing His beautiful purpose for being born on earth as God’s Messiah:

Isaiah 61:2-3
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
    that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
    and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Do You Want A Master?
Jesus came preaching this Good News, but not everyone wanted to hear it.  Some thought He did not have the right to speak these words.  He was just the son of a carpenter.  Others wanted to cling to their power and position.  They didn’t want the world to change—even if it was changing for the better—because it might threaten the life they’d eked out at the expense of others.

Do you want God to be your master?  That’s a question we all need to honestly think about.  It goes to the very heart of the human condition of sin and rebellion.  Most of us do not want anyone to be our master—not even God.  We prefer names for God like Savior, Redeemer, and Father.  But Master?  Not so much.

It is interesting that in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as Master over 700 times.[i]  Jesus is only referred to as Savior 26 times[ii] (the specific original Greek word for “Savior” is actually only used once, by the Samaritans in John 4:42[iii]).  Master takes precedence over savior in the New Testament.

We want someone to save us.  We don’t want someone to master us.

We are far too much like the younger son in Jesus’ famous parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-31).  Like that rebellious younger son in His story, we chaff against the restraints of God on our life.   Who is God that He should tell us how we should live—what we can and can’t do with our own life?  Are we not free people?  Can we not live however we please (so long as we aren’t hurting anyone else)?  It is precisely this attitude that leads so many people to a place where they need someone to save them.  The prodigal son in Jesus' story took all his money and went away to a foregn land to live however he pleased.  He spent all his money on wild living.  When it was all gone, he was destitute and forced to work for a pig farmer.  He was starving to death and it was so bad he wished he could eat the slop he was feeding the pigs.  That's what "living however we please" often leads to.  Look at some of the results of people living however they please in America today.  It often leads to financial debt. The average credit card debt in America is $6,000[iv]; the average household debt is $90,000[v].  The total national debt is $28 trillion and is projected to rise to $89 Trillion by the end of the decade[vi].  Living however we please can often lead to poverty, substance abuse, depression, heartache, and even suicide.  Ultimately, it leads us to hell. When you won’t let God be your master, by default you invite someone or something else to be your master--and these other things are never kind masters who have your best interest at heart.  They will use you up and discard you.

Even good people who work hard, live wisely, and do the right thing are in trouble if they refuse to let God be their master.  This is an even more dangerous road to take.  For the “good” people of our planet often become self-righteous and say, “I have earned the right to be my own master.  I have my life together.  I deserve the rewards of my good living.  I’m not like those lazy, undisciplined, self-indulgent people. I work hard for everything I’ve got.  I don’t owe anyone anything.”  People who think like this are the blindest people of all because they think the God who created them owes them.  They cannot see God has already given them more than they deserve, and they owe Him everything.

I pray that everyone would come to have the attitude where they can come to God and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”

An interesting thing happens when we ask God to be our Master.  Instead of treating us as slaves, or even servants, the Master--Adonai--treats us as beloved sons and daughters.  Some of the ways the Bible portrays this is that God heals all our hurts and fills us with His Holy Spirit.  God gives us royal robe and honors us with a heavenly feast.  God makes us co-heirs with His son Jesus.  God blesses us with eternal life where their will be no more sin or sickness or suffering.

Jesus showed us the Master’s attitude most vividly in one of his final acts of love for his disciples before he was arrested and crucified.  Jesus, the Master, who was with God in the beginning when the world was created and who is God, knelt down like a slave and washed His disciples feet.  And he said, whoever among you wants to be the greatest must become the least.  And he told them (and us) go and do likewise.







Monday, July 12, 2021

The Names of God - Yahweh-Yireh

My message today is about one of God’s names:  Yahweh-Yireh, also known more commonly as Jehovah-Jireh.  Ancient Hebrew didn't have vowels, only consonants, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation on how to pronounce this ancient word.  Yahweh is spelled YHWH.  The letter Y can be pronounced as John or Yan.  Also, the letter W can be pronounced as What or Vat.  Therefore, Yahweh could be Jahvey.  Added to this confusion is that in the middle ages, Jews wanting to avoid saying or writing God's name would add the vowels for the Hebrew word Adonai in with the consonants of YHWH to render YaHoWaiH or JaHoVaiH, which is where we may get the word, Jehovah.  Most scholars believe the ancient pronunciation was closer to Yahweh.

Genesis 22:1-14
Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.

“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”

“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”

The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”

“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”

12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

This is a strange and disturbing passage with which we should never become completely comfortable.  Anytime religious texts that promotes a loving and holy God commanding a person to sacrifice another human being, it should give us pause.  However, the passage reveals God’s name:  Yahweh-Yireh (or Jehovah-Jireh).

Yahweh means "I Am" or "I Am Who I Am".  In other words, God is who He is and we don't get to determine what He is like.  He created us in His image.  We don't get to create Him in ours.  God is the Great I Am.

Yireh means “see to it".  Vanilla Ice once rapped: "If there's a problem, yo, I'll save it."  God sees the problem and then sees to it and provides the solution.

People like there needs met.  In a world of uncertainty, it’s good to know we will have food to eat, shelter for warmth, companionship, etc.  Unfortunately, we always want more. 

I had an experience that illustrates this.  When my son was 2 years old, we were riding alone in the car and I had a really big bag of potato chips.  I decided we were going to eat as many of those chips as we wanted.  So I started eating and gave a chip to my son.  He loved it and wanted more.  SO I stated handing him chips one by one.  He would eat one and ask for another. I decided I would give him as many as he wanted, but I wasn't going to give him the bag and let him stick his grimy two-year-old hands in the bag.  After repeatedly giving Gavin chip after chip, he started asking for the bag.  I told him, he could have as many as he wanted, but only one chip at a time.  He couldn't have the bag.  He didn't like that.  He started to get upset and throw a fit.  He wanted the whole bag to himself.  He didn't want to have to depend upon me to give him each chip.

This is the human condition.  We don't want to depend on God or anyone else.  We want what we want and we want it independently.  We want things our way and leads to sin.  We see this from almost the very beginning of humanity.  In Genesis, we read how Adam and Eve in the Garden f Eden.  It was the very definition of paradise.  They had every thing they could ever want and it was perfect.  God said they could eat anything in the Garden except for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This alone would be a test to prove their loving obedience to God.  But then a Satan slithers up to them as a snake and convinces them "God is withholding something good from you."  And they wanted it and they believed a snake instead of God.

I see this in the church sometimes.  People have everything they need—people in the church that care about them, people that sacrifice for them and love them unconditionally while overlooking their faults, and so many good things.  And maybe for a time, they will tell you “This church has been such a blessing…”   They will be fine for a time, but unfortunately it often happens that these same families start to want something more they feel the church isn’t providing—better music, better kids programs, whatever—and they go looking somewhere else or they just get bored with the church and stop coming.  For them, God and His Church are just something to use to get what they want or need. They consume the church as a product or a fruit; and when they are finished with it or what more, they will move on and consume something or someone else.  This is the human heart and it is incredibly wicked.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

And so humanity finds itself broken and corrupt, with no way to be healed.  But God is Jehovah-Jireh, the God who sees the problem and the God who provides the solution.

Abraham and Isaac
It is passages like this Abraham/Isaac story that convince me the Bible was inspired by God.  Yes, God used people to write and compile the stories, but their work was guided by God.  If it had only been a human effort, the editors would have gotten rid of passages like Genesis 22 a long time ago.  The editing committee would have sat together and said, "Come on guys.  This passage makes God look really bad.  We need to get rid of it."  But God is not trying to make us like Him.  He is Yahweh.  He is who He is.  

This story has an important purpose.  One purpose is to disabuse us of our entitlement mentality.  Lest we ever begin to think of God as our personal Sugar Daddy in the Sky who only exists to give us stuff and make us happy, the story of Abraham and Isaac serves to shake us from our selfishness.  In the image of Isaac on the altar, we see the agonizing cost of our broken relationship with God.  We see the agony of a father (Abraham) poised to sacrifice his only son (Isaac) and we are appalled.

Many religions throughout the millennia have advocated human sacrifice (and even child sacrifice) as a method to appease or manipulate the gods.  Yahweh actually forbids and abhors human sacrifice in the Bible (Deut. 18:10).  Yahweh cannot be controlled—He is who He is and He is sovereign.

The story of Abraham and Isaac foreshadows what God has done for us. While other so-called “gods” (which are really idols and false gods or demons parading as god) entice people to sacrifice their children in order to get something, the One True God—Jehovah-Jireh/Yahweh-Yireh, the God who provides—gave up His own Son for us.  He did this, not because we deserved it, but because we desperately needed it.

Mt Moriah is Mt. Calvary
Many scholars believe (and I agree) that Mount Moriah, where Abraham laid his son on the altar, is the same location where thousands of years later Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified on the cross.  God wanted Abraham and us to know the agony He would go through to provide for our deepest need and the cost of our atonement.

Notice what Genesis 22:14 says, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”  These words were spoken 2,000 years before Christ was even born and died on top of Mount Moriah (what the Christians call Mount Calvary).  No one could have known that one day a Messiah would be born that John 3:16 tells us is God’s “only Son”.  No one could have known he would be called "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".  No one could have known that God’s Son would be bound and nailed to a cross for our sin.  No one could know this accept Yahweh-Yireh, who is the God who sees and provides what we really need.

God, Yahweh-Yireh, sees deeply into every situation and even far into the future and works out His perfect plans for us.  We must have faith like Abraham, especially when we don’t understand.  We need to trust God is providing for our truest needs.  And this is extremely important, because we feel like we have needs but we don’t always know what we really need.  We cry out to God in our perceived needs.  We pray for things we want and think we need.  We may even pray for things that seem reasonable and even noble—things like safety for our family, healing and health, etc.  And it’s ok to pray for those things.  But God really see our deepest needs and He provides.  And we have to trust Him because we can’t see the big picture and God’s providence may take forms we don’t understand.  We can’t even see what’s going to happen this afternoon and God is thinking thousands of years down the road.  He sees eternity and He wants you there with Him.  So we have to have faith—like Abraham—and listen for God’s voice and keep our eyes open.  God may provide a solution that’s just right there like a ram with its horns caught in a thicket.

What do you need today?  What do you really need?
You may not know.  You may have some idea.  You may think you know.
But maybe God has something to show you.  It could be a solution you haven’t seen before.
It could be that you’ve been looking at the problem all wrong.
God wants to give you new insight.
Ultimately, God has already seen to everything you really need for eternity.
On the mountain of the Lord it was provided in Jesus Christ on the cross.
Maybe you just need to accept it.
Well, I invite you to spend a moment talking to Yahweh-Yireh, the God Who Provides now.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Names of God - Elohim

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.

We went fishing and looked up all the names of the different fish we caught.  We caught a lot of Whiting (AKA Gulf Kingfish or Sea Mullet) and Red Fish (AKA Red Drum), which are quite tasty.  I enjoyed watching and learning the names of so many different birds that we don't see wear I live, but are native to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico--Great Blue Heron, Laughing Gulls, Anhingas, and Purple Gallinules.  We visited Wakula Springs and saw Alligators, Manatees, and Suwanee Cooters (a funny name for a turtle!)  We had a great week and I am thankful to have been able to take that vacation. I feel rested and recharged for ministry.

Not long after I came to be the pastor of Pleasant Grove, one of our older members died, Nina Miller.  Nina's family had been close to a former pastor of our church, Renfro Watson, and we invited him to speak at her funeral.  Renfro recounted how Nina loved to grow flowers.  Walking through Nina's garden one day, Renfro said he loved flowers but didn't know any of their names.  Nina replied, “You can’t fully love something until you now its name.”  

The Bible tells the story of how all the animals got their names. And it also reveals some important things about God's name. I want to share that Scripture with you today as I begin a new series for this summer – “The Names of God”.

Genesis 2:18-24
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.  

LORD 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.

Jesus, the Best of All Names for God
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?