Tuesday, February 10, 2015

At Your Name

If you were reading yesterday as I talked about what it means for God to have given His name to Moses, you likely understand that there are some questions inherent in this. For example, what are we to make of the relationship of God and the patriarchs, men of faith who had not been given His name? Men who, by the standards of the culture around them, could not have known this God they worshiped without having His name. Men who would have had to have named Him.

Isn't that strange? Man naming God? If we go back to the Genesis account, we see Adam given the authority to name all the living beings in Creation. But what we don't see is God then saying, "Good job, Adam. Now, what about Me? What would you call Me?" It's not so simple as that. 

This is an idea I was kicking around last week in one of my seminary classes, and my professor pointed out that man has often named God. It's how God has come to have so many names. Dozens, if not hundreds, of names are given to God in Scripture, the vast majority of which are given to Him by His faithful. In fact, it is very rare He gives us a name of Himself. And yet, if we go back to what I introduced yesterday, the very first name He gives us is almost an invitation to our naming of Him.

Remember, He has given us "I Am," which implies simply that He is God. It is an invitation to come to Him for anything, to come to Him for everything. He is, in every situation, whatever His character allows Him to be, and we can come to Him seeking whatever our parched hearts thirst for, and we will find a measure of Him, within His character, responding.

So when someone in the Scriptures names Him, Lord, is He not Lord? When someone gives Him the name Deliverer, is He not Deliverer? When someone gives Him the name Gracious, is He not Gracious? When He is named Healer, is He not Healer?

It's a dangerous precedent, of course, that man could give name to this God. If man can name Him, is man not also creating Him? Is this not the foundation of some of the assaults against Christianity? That it is not God who has made man in His image but man who has made God in his? What if one prays to God as Deliverer before one has been delivered? Is this wishful thinking? Is this god-creating? What is it?

This is the double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is an incredible to have a God who "Is." It's amazing to have a God who dares us to come to Him for anything, for everything, and who promises to be God. It's awesome to watch God reveal Himself in the myriad ways we need Him to reveal Himself at any given time. It's breathtaking to have a God who is Lord, Deliverer, Gracious, Healer, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, and so on. On the other hand, it should give us great pause. The God who Is anything and everything also only Is who He Is. He said that in the same breath - "I Am...that I Am." I Am God, but I Am only ever what I Am as God. I only ever act according to My character. You can only ever know Me by coming to Me for anything and everything and discovering that character for yourself. 

It ought to make us hold our breath a little. 

So to an extent, I'm okay with patriarchs who weren't given God's name but rather, gave Him one. I'm okay with the faithful who have come through the years who found this way or that to call on God by name, to worship Him according to their experience of Him. I'm okay with a God who is Lord, Deliverer, Gracious, Healer, Redeemer, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, and a thousand other names. I think that's one of the beautiful things about Him. Just so long as we remember two things:

That there is a name above all names and that at the name of Jesus, Immanuel, God With Us, every knee shall bow, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess.

And that before there ever was, He Is.

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