Study 1: God
The Existence of God | The Personality of God | God's Name and Character | The Angels | Digressions ("God Is A Spirit", The Use of God's Name, God Manifestation) | Questions
1.3 God's Name And Character
If there is a God, it is reasonable to think that He will have devised some means of telling us about Himself. We believe that the Bible is God's revelation to man, and that in it we see the character of God revealed. This is why the word of God is described as His "seed" (1 Pet.1:23), because if it reacts with our mind, a new creature is formed within us which has the characteristics of God (James 1:18; 2 Cor.5:17). Therefore the more we apply ourselves to God's word and take the lessons to ourselves, the more we will become "conformed to the image of His son" (Rom.8:29) who was in character the perfect image of God (Col.1:15). In this lies the value of studying the historical parts of the Bible; they are full of case studies of how God has dealt with men and nations, always displaying the same basic characteristics.
In Hebrew a person's name often reflected their character and/or information about them. Some clear examples:
'Jesus'= 'Saviour' - because "he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt.1:21).
'Abraham'= 'Father of a great multitude' - "for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Gen.17:5)
'Eve'= 'Living' - "because she was the mother of all living" (Gen.3:20).
'Simeon'= 'hearing' - "Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, He hath therefore given me this son" (Gen.29:33).
In Jer. 48:17, knowing the people of Moab is paralleled with knowing the name of Moab. The Psalms often parallel God Himself with His Name, His word and actions (Ps. 103:1; 105:1: 106:1,2,12,13).
It is therefore to be expected that God's names and titles will give us much information about Himself. Because there are so many aspects of God's character and purpose, He actually has more than one Name. A detailed study of the name of God is advisable after baptism; further appreciation of God's character as expressed in His name is something which should go on during all our life in the Lord. What follows is therefore very much an introduction.
When Moses wanted a deeper knowledge of God to strengthen his faith during a very traumatic period of his life, an Angel "proclaimed the name of the Lord: The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex.34:5-7).
This is clear proof that the names of God comprehend His characteristics. His possession of them is proof that God is a personal being - it is nonsense to reason that a puff of spirit can have these traits of character which can also be developed in us humans.
God has chosen one particular name by which He would like to be known and remembered by His people; it is a summary, an epitome, of His purpose with men.
The Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and needed to be reminded of God's purpose with them. Moses was told to tell them God's Name, so that this would help motivate them to leave Egypt and start the journey towards the promised land (cp. 1 Cor.10:1). We too need to understand the basic principles concerning God's Name before we are baptized and start our journey towards God's Kingdom.
God told Israel that His Name was YAHWEH, meaning "I am that I am" or, more correctly translated, 'I will be who I will be' (Ex.3:13-15). This name was then slightly extended: "God said moreover (i.e. in addition) unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD (Yahweh) God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob...this is My name for ever, and my memorial to all generations" (Ex.3:15).
God's full name is therefore "The LORD God".
The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, and our English translation inevitably misses out a lot of detail when it comes to translating the Hebrew words for 'God'. One of the common Hebrew words translated 'God' is 'Elohim', meaning 'mighty ones'. God's "memorial", the Name by which He wants us to remember Him, is therefore
HE WHO WILL BE REVEALED IN A GROUP OF MIGHTY ONES.
It is therefore God's purpose to reveal His character and His essential being in a large group of people. By obedience to His word we can develop some of God's characteristics in ourselves now, so that in a very limited sense God is revealing Himself in the true believers in this life. But God's Name is a prophecy of the time to come when the earth will be filled with people who are like Him, both in character and by nature (cp. 2 Pet.1:4). If we wish to be associated with the purpose of God and to become like God to die no more, living for ever in complete moral perfection, then we must associate ourselves with His Name. The way to do this is to be baptized into the Name - i.e. Yahweh Elohim (Matt.28:19). This also makes us the descendants ("seed") of Abraham (Gal.3:27-29) who were promised the eternal inheritance of the earth (Gen.17:8; Rom.4:13) - the group of 'mighty ones' ('Elohim') in whom the prophecy of God's Name will be fulfilled. This is explained in more detail in Study 3.4.