Man’s quest for knowing the force that has created and that manages the whole universe, has been strong and various efforts have been and are being made to understand this phenomenon that is called God. Even atheists also have this urge to know more. In whatever way man saw God fulfilling his needs that became his basis of understanding and a name was given accordingly. But can man ever really and fully know God and how can this be done?
Importance of God’s name – In the creation process God revealed Himself as ‘Elohim’ which being a plural reveals God is more than one and His Spirit and His Son being God make the Holy Trinity (Genesis 1:1). After creating man, this same God as a covenant gave him the dominion rights to exercise authority over everything that He had created. Therefore while giving the detailed account of creation God became Yahweh Elohim, where Yahweh is the ‘Covenant keeping God’ and Elohim is the Creator (Genesis 2:4). Abraham referred to God as Yahweh Adonai where Adonai means Lord and Master (Genesis 15:8). Abraham surrendered to the Master God, thus seeking the covenant keeping God to fulfill His promise as Elohim, the Creator. In the ancient culture a name represented the character traits of that person and knowing the name was also perceived as a way of controlling/manipulating the individual by using his traits against him/her.
On Mount Moriah, Abraham tied up his son Isaac to offer him as a burnt offering to the LORD, but was stopped by the voice of the Angel of the LORD from heaven (Genesis 22:13-14). And he found a ram for the sacrificial offering, ‘caught in a thicket with its horns; and he called the name of the place ‘Yahovah Yireh’ meaning ‘God will provide’. God is called ‘Yahovah Rapha -The God that heals’ or ‘Yehovah Nissi – The Lord is my Banner’ and we refer to Him as our Father for through faith in the salvation in Lord Jesus we become His children and He loves each one of us equally. These are the names that man has given to God as he perceived Him to be on the occasions that they encountered God in their life, or for receiving a blessing and then we believe that He will bless us in a similar manner in our situation also.
These names were like a title to God like God Most High The Possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:22); Almighty God (Genesis 17:1) or Everlasting God (Genesis 21:33). Even if God revealed Himself to man, He did not mention His name but a particular trait of His through that particular Title. God revealed Himself to Moses from the ‘Burning Bush’ and commanded him to go back to Egypt to lead his people out from their slavery. While trying to help a fellow Jew from an Egyptian man, Moses had ended up killing him and had to flee into the wilderness after he was challenged by another Jew for trying to mediate in the fight between them (Exodus 2:13-14). Moses was fearful that the Israelites will not believe him and wanted to know the name of God as an identity to support his claim of being sent by God (Exodus 3:13-14). God revealed His name as ‘I AM who I AM’ or Yahweh (YHWH). The Jews added the vowels of Adonai to make the four letters as Yahowah, though they never refer to Him by this name but as Hashem meaning ‘the name’.
God as I Am means God is and He always was and will always be, He is completely independent of creation and all else. This quality of God is referred to as ‘aseity’, meaning God does not need anybody or anything to be. In Him is life and existence, as He is eternal and unchanging with no past or future. I AM also implies that God can be whatever He wants to be to meet any situation or need in our life. In our darkness He is the light; in our hunger He is the Bread of life; in our vulnerability He is the Good Shepherd. Joshua was out to see and plan the capture of Jericho when He met ‘Commander of the army of the LORD’, the Son of God, who was worshipped by Joshua and who then told Joshua the plan to capture Jericho (Joshua 5:14).
David had a close relationship with God for being ‘a man of God’s heart’ and could urge all of humanity, ‘Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good’ (Psalm 34:8). In God’s name is the announcement of His presence as also His introduction and the more intimately we get to know Him the more we are filled with joy. The Son of God came to reveal God to all of humanity and took on this title for Himself and Apostle John has listed in his Gospel seven of His traits of being God. Lord Jesus could say to the Pharisees, ‘before Abraham was, I AM’ thus speaking about His Divinity (John 8:58). When we identify God with a name we are referring to Him as competent to meet that particular need of our life and pray accordingly. Knowing God is to know His name and then through that knowledge seek to imitate Him for we were created in that image.
New Testament name for God – God does not change to handle a situation for nothing can ever surprise Him due to His foreknowledge. The name I AM means that all of the past and future is open before Him from eternity past to eternity future like the present moment is to us. Lord Jesus fulfilled all those names in Himself for He is God. In the most important prophetic declaration about the Messiah, Prophet Isaiah has not only revealed God’s message about the most unusual way of His birth but also about His role. The message is, ‘Therefore the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14). Since the Hebrew word ‘almah’ means a ‘virgin or a young woman’, the Jews reject this prophecy as being about Lord Jesus’ birth. Immanuel means ‘God with us’ and that defines the Messiah’s role. Humanity was separated from God and needed someone to restore the relationship with God since the way of sacrificial offerings provided forgiveness of sins for a short period but did not get people back into God’s presence.
The name given to the Son of God even before His birth, ‘Yehoshua’ means ‘God is deliverance’ and He led believers out of the darkness of sin and from under the control of the devil and death. Identifying Himself with God’s name I AM, He also revealed His work as Redeemer. Apostle John in his Gospel has recorded seven statements of the Lord about Himself. First, ‘I AM the bread of life’ (John 6:35) for those who hunger and thirst for God. King David expressed the state of one who seeks God, ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night’ (Psalm 42:1-3). Second, ‘I AM the light of the world’ (John 8:12), for all people who are under control of the darkness of their sins to show them the way back to God. Third, ‘I AM the door’ through which one can gain entry into the presence of God. Four, ‘I AM the good shepherd’ (John 10:11, 14) to lead the lost sheep back home under His care and protection. Five, ‘I AM the resurrection and the life’ John 11:25). Adam was warned about sure death on eating the forbidden fruit, and this was spiritual death through separation from God.
Lord Jesus’ only recorded prayer in the Bible defines life, ‘this is eternal life, that they may know You (God the Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ (John 17:3). Six, ‘I AM the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6). Mahatma Gandhi had initially said God is truth but in 1929 he reversed this to say truth is God. Lord Jesus as ‘the Word’ is God and He defines the truth, and since only truth can lead back to God, He alone is the way and He is and gives life to the dead, both spiritually and physically also. Finally, ‘I AM the true vine’ (John 15:1). Lord Jesus has taught, ‘by their fruits you will know them’, all people of the world, for fruit represents one’s character, conduct and faith through their behavior and their works (Matthew 7:20).
Apostle Paul has identified the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, Immanuel in us, as love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and self control (Galatians 5:22). Lord Jesus then said that without abiding or remaining attached to the true vine we cannot bear fruit (John 15:4). The one prophecy about the Messiah of virgin birth and His name being Immanuel clarified to all about His role and Lord Jesus fulfilled that role completely in Himself.
Exodus 20:4 The second commandment forbidding making of any image of God is about man’s inability to know God fully and then try and create Him to our ‘likeness’, an image that we perceive of God –
Intimately knowing God – Lord Jesus declared, ‘no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him’ (Luke 10:22). Lord Jesus is the Word and God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, God with us in the flesh (John 1:1 & 14). The first way of knowing God is to know Lord Jesus and He being the Living Word, we get to know Him through the written Word, the Holy Bible. His name Yahoshua defined His role as the Redeemer of mankind but that task was completed after His resurrection and ascension into heaven with the human body, thus opening a way for all believers. His second coming will be to judge all of humanity and establish the kingdom of heaven from within all believers into a visible form on the earth.
Lord Jesus revealed Himself to Apostle John in His new role as Judge of the world (Revelation 1:11-17). As Alpha and Omega He is the beginning and in Him all things must find their fulfillment or completion; He had a golden band around His chest showing His royalty; snow white hair about His eternal being; feet like fine brass refined in the furnace of fire of His first coming. His face was shining like the sun shining in its strength and out of His mouth went a sharp two edged sword. In His second coming Lord Jesus will judge and condemn the sinners while those who have surrendered to Him as their Lord will be with Him. Thus one edge of the sword will bless while the other side will declare eternal condemnation of sinners.
Just before the final battle on the earth, Lord Jesus is seen riding a white horse of royalty and victory with His various names. First, ‘Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war’. He is Keeper of promises including of judgement which comes after a very long period of grace, patience and mercy. His war is not for personal ambition but for God’s Sovereign rule. ‘His eyes were like flames of fire’ that discern the secrets of hearts and nothing can be hidden from Him. ‘On His head were many crowns’ and ‘on His robe and on His thigh, a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS’ for He is the King of kings. And all the kingdoms of the world that the devil had shown Him during His temptation are under His Sovereign control (Matthew 4:8-9). Also ‘His name is called The Word of God’ for He carries the authority of God and what He speaks comes to be.
But it is also written, ‘He had a name written that no one knew except Himself’. Some believe that this name is YHWH but this name was already revealed by God to Moses. The Son of God being the Word of God executes all that He sees in the Father’s heart and probably He has roles beyond this earth which we may never know. In heaven Apostle John saw ‘four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy LORD God Almighty, who was and is and is to come’ (Revelation 4:8). The same scene was seen by Prophet Isaiah in the Temple (Isaiah 6:2-3). The seraphs might is in their six wings but with two they cover their feet or their walk or ways and with two their faces or their God given glory in humble submission to God. The eyes on their wings ‘all around and within’ show their extraordinary power of perception, wisdom and intelligence.
Despite this they never tire of worshipping God with the same words since they were created for every moment they learn something new about God’s glory and start all over again.. When such worthy creatures are unable to know God fully, how can we expect to know Him, until and unless He Himself reveals Himself to us through His Word or otherwise. We are blessed to have His Word, The Holy Bible, with us to know God and the indwelling Holy Spirit as our teacher to reveal the truth to us. We must aspire to know more of God daily and keep thanking for what He has revealed while avoiding all speculations.
Having been made in the image and likeness of God, a human being has to perforce attempt to know God to know Himself. Every believer is being daily transformed into that image by the indwelling Holy Spirit, bit by bit. But we can contribute to this process of transformation by knowing more and more of God through a close everyday relationship with God. This then not only helps us to live as better human beings but also be able to contribute more for the works of the kingdom of God on earth. God does not need us but we do and it all depends on us.