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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone

Don Stewart :: What Does the Name of God Mean?

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What Does the Name of God Mean?

The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone – Question 18

When we used the word “name,” it is the way we address something or someone. However, in Scripture proper names have significance.

Sometimes the same person will have two names. For example, when Rachel died, her son was called, “Ben-oni,” which means, “the son of my sorrow.” The Bible explains it this way.

Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named him Ben-oni; the baby’s father, however, called him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:18 NLT)

Jacob, his father, named him, “Benjamin” (“son of my right hand”).

We find that the same thing is true with the name of God. His name reveals His character. There are a number of observations that we must make.

1. God’s Character Is Revealed through His Name

God’s name, as revealed in the Bible, is more than a combination of sounds. Indeed, it stands for His character. God reveals Himself by making known, or proclaiming, His name or character. We read in Exodus,

“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:3 NIV)

His name, the Lord, is how He made Himself known to Moses.

We also read in Exodus about God’s Holy name.

And he [the Lord] said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19 NRSV)

Later in Exodus, we read the following.

The LORD came down in a cloud and stood there with him and called out his name “the LORD.” Then he passed in front of Moses, calling out, “The LORD, the LORD, a compassionate and merciful God, patient, always faithful and ready to forgive.” (Exodus 34:5, 6 God’s Word)

The splendor and majesty of the Lord are proclaimed in Scripture; sometimes this is equated with His “name.”

2. We Are to Call upon His Name, His Person

The Bible commands people call upon the name of the Lord. In the Book of Genesis, we find that Abraham built an altar and called upon the name of the Lord.

From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8 NIV)

Here Abraham called upon the Person of the Lord.

Scripture commands people to fear, or respect, the name of the Lord. Moses wrote,

If you do not diligently observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, fearing this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God... (Deuteronomy 28:58 NRSV)

The name of the Lord should be respected.

Singing praises to His name is the same as singing praises to His Person. We read in Samuel,

For this I will extol you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. (2 Samuel 22:50 NRSV)

We are to sing praises to His character.

To worship God, is to glorify His name or Person. The psalmist wrote,

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. (Psalm 86:9 NIV)

Therefore, often God’s name means His Person.

3. It Is a Sin to Misuse His Name

It is a sin to misuse the name of the Lord. We read the following words in the Ten Commandments.

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7 NIV)

It is a sin to blaspheme, or profane, the name of the Lord. We are not to dishonor His Person or character by our actions. Moses wrote,

“‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.’” (Leviticus 18:21 NIV)

We must not profane His name.

We also read in Leviticus about the penalty for dishonoring God’s name.

“...anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.” (Leviticus 24:16 NIV)

The Lord attaches extreme importance on His name, or Person. Therefore, we should never misuse the name of the Lord.

4. God’s Name Is Set Apart

To reverence God, is to sanctify, or set, apart His name. Jesus told we are to recognize the holiness or God in our prayers.

“Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.” (Matthew 6:9 HCSB)

God’s name should always be seen as holy, or set apart.

5. His Name or Character Defends People

The name of God is that which defends His people. The psalmist wrote about this. He put it this way.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you... (Psalm 20:1 NKJV)

It is God’s holy character that comes to our defense.

6. Because of His Name God Will Not Reject His People

God will not forsake His people for His name’s sake. We read in Samuel,

“For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own.” (1 Samuel 12:22 NIV)

This is a wonderful promise of God. Because of His character, or name, He will not reject His people.

7. We Are to Make His Name Known

The Bible says that we are to make the name, or character of God, known to the world. In Chronicles we read,

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. (1 Chronicles 16:8 NIV)

Therefore, the Bible speaks of God’s name, or character, in a number of different contexts.

Summary – Question 18
What Does the Name of God Mean?

The name of God speaks of the character of God. God’s character is shown in a variety of ways through the use of the word “name.” From Scripture, we can make the following observations.

When we call upon His name, we call upon His Person. The Bible says that it is a sin to misuse the name of the Lord because that is dishonoring His Person. We are never to dishonor the Lord.

We are to set apart, or give reverence to His Holy name. Indeed, His character or name deserves our respect and devotion.

The name, or character, of God is what defends and protects His own. The Person of God is what looks after us. The Bible also says that God will not reject His people because of His name, or character.

Finally, we are told to make His name known to the world. This is the responsibility of every believer. We are to tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ.

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