Does It Matter What We Call God?
A couple of months ago Beverley and I took our about to be two year old granddaughter, Kenzie, shopping at a mall. At one particular store we found an inexpensive ball for Kenzie. When I carried her up to the cash register, she dutifully handed the ball to the cashier. He scanned it and quickly returned the ball. Since her parents have trained her to express gratitude, she took the ball and said, “Tankoo MeeMee.” At this point the young man, who was at this point handing me the change from our transaction, said, “Oh! Isn’t that the sweetest. I had me a ‘MeeMee’ when I was growing up. She was the kindest and sweetest little old grandmother a little boy could ever have.” Well I just had to set the record strait. Pointing to Beverley I informed him, “that’s Grammy. I’m MeeMee!”
Ever since Kenzie (my first grandchild) was born I have been known as “GranDan.” The first grandchild, I have been told, helps teach the special names of the grandparents to all future grandchildren. Therefore, I have felt the necessity to correct this misnomer. However, I have been informed that grandchildren tend to pick out the special nicknames for their grandparents regardless of the grandparents’ wishes. But wait just a minute here! Who is older, more experienced, and wiser?
So the other day I was holding Kenzie and while using my index finger I poked Beverley on the arm and told Kenzie, “this is Grammy, Grammy, Grammy.” Then pointing to myself I told her, “I am GranDan, GranDan, GranDan.” And without any hesitation and a serious face she used her little index finder and poking me several times in my chest, firmly said, “MeeMee, MeeMee.” So now when she calls “MeeMee,” I just answer submissively.
Special names given denote unique and special aspects of the relationship. Don’t ask me what “MeeMee’ represents to Kenzie. On the other hand, the motives for names given to God by His children can easily be discovered by the Biblical context where they are found.
Hagar, the second wife of Abraham, was pregnant with Ishmael. Sarah became jealous and was so unkind to Hagar she fled into the wilderness. While alone and felling helpless she was confronted by the Angel of the Lord and told to return home. “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees (El Roi, drv); for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Gen. 16:13, KJV).
Later, Abraham had his faith tested by God when he was commanded to go three days journey to a mountain. There he was to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham obeyed. He went built an altar, bound Isaac, and placed him on the altar. Just has he was about to spill the blood of his own son…the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen (Genesis 22:11-14, KJV).
The name Jehovahjirah means “the-Lord-Will-Provide.” When Abraham and Isaac had come to the mountain to worship God, Isaac noticed they had wood for the fire but no lamb for the sacrifice. “And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 8:22). God did provide the sacrifice, and it was not Isaac. When the children of Israel had crossed over the Red Sea into the wilderness, they were attacked by Amalek (Ex. 17:8ff). God told Moses to have Joshua lead the Israelites in battle for the first time. Moses was to take the rod of Aaron to the top of a hill and as long as he raised it up, the Israelites would prevail against Amalek. This worked until Moses’ arms began to tire. So Aaron and Hur roll over a stone for Moses to sit upon while each supported one of his arms. Israel gained the victory. “And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi: For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:15,16, KJV).
The Hebrew term Jehovahnissi means “The-Lord-is-My-Banner.” This underlines the fact that God fought for this band of slaves just out of Egyptian bondage. God gave them the victory.
Years later the descendants of Abraham had attained the land promise and occupied the Promise Land. Because of their disobedience, He sent the Midianites to oppress them for seven years until they cried out to Him for mercy. God raise up a Judge or Savior named Gideon. “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!…’ Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’” (Judges 6:12,14). At first Gideon was reluctant to obey.
And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites (Judges 6:22-24, KJV).
The term Jehovahshalom means “The-Lord-Is-Peace.” And through Gideon the Lord did bring peace to Israel for forty years.
King David in his famous Shepherd’s Psalm called God Yahweh Rohi which is “The-Lord-Is-My-Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). David had been a shepherd and knew the care and guidance needed to take care of sheep. David saw his relationship with God as a little lamb needing the care of the Shepherd.
So there are at least three instances of men and a woman giving special names to God reflecting their special relationship with a Lord who provides, brings peace, delivers the victory, and shepherds them. All of God’s names affect man’s attitude concerning his relationship with his Creator. Someone has counted some seventy-six names for God found in the Bible. All of them express something of God’s attributes. All of them support the idea that we serve a God who is our Loving Father.
The Muslims have a set of beads they use to help count the names of Allah. There are said to be ninety-nine names of Allah which are known to man. The one hundredth name no one knows but the camel. Last I heard he wasn’t talking. It is interesting to note that not one of these names imply that Allah is a father or that he is love.
It matters a great deal how and why God’s children reference Him. It matters little why Kenzie has named me “MeeMee.” However, only she can call me “MeeMee.” If anyone else calls me “MeeMee” – well, I am just going to have to hit them with my purse.
– by Daniel R. Vess
News & Notes
- Morning’s Lesson: Walking in the Light Text: Eph. 5:8-14 ● Contribution Scripture: 1 Cor. 16:1,2 ● Tonight’s Sermon will be: Is the Old Testament Misogynistic? A misogynist is someone who hates women. Tonight’s lesson will defend attacks against God’s Word and God the author from those who claim the Divine commandments of the Old Covenant promote the hatred of women. Hope to see you later this Lord’s Day at 5:00 when we gather together to worship God and study His Word. ● Leadership Class this evening after services. ● Please remember Mary Burr’s mother who lives in Arkansas. She is now under Hospice care. ● This coming Saturday at 9:30 in the morning is our monthly Brush Arbor singing and prayer meeting. ● Let us remember all those who are spiritually weak and struggling in our prayers. Try to text, call, e-mail or visit them this week. ● “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Psalm 122:1).