The Name of God: I Am
Lent 3 Exodus
important. Knowing someone’s name is important. Here at church,
there is always pressure on us as pastors to remember a person’s
name. To remember a person’s name implies that you know them, have
a relationship with them. Their name is a shorthand into their
person. You know their name, and you know something about them. If I
don’t know your name, it suggests we don’t know each other very
well The deeper the relationships, the more we know each other’s
name. Names and knowing names are important.
Naming a child is
one of the great pleasures of life.
If you are in the process of having a child biologically or
by means of adoption, you are immediately thinking: what shall we
name this child? What would be the perfect name? You start thinking
about names. You got and get a book that has some 6000 names in it.
You pick up the dictionary and you look up all the old names and
their meanings. You then may try out some of the old names and how
they feel to you such as Alfonzo, Chauncey, Aurelious, Casper. None
of these names are just right and you laugh and chuckle. Finally,
the child arrives at your home. You see the child for the first
time, and you have a name all picked out. You see the child and for
some reason, the name doesn’t fit. You see this little baby and
you think, “We were going to call her Jennifer, but she is not
Jennifer. She looks like an Anne Marie.” I don’t know what
Jennifers look like but she did not look like a Jennifer, and so she
got the name, Anne Marie. Suddenly, at the very last moment, you may
change the name of the child even though you had agreed for months
Now, people give
names to their children for different reasons. Some times they give
a child to honor a parent or a grandparent, a brother or a sister. I
was born on my father’s birthday, so of course I was named after
my father, Edward, as he was named after his father before. Or, some
people are named after very famous people such as Martin Luther
King, Jr. who is obviously named after the great reformer, Martin
Luther. George Washington Carver was obviously named after our first
president, George Washington. I ask you the question: why are there
so many women in our church between the ages of 55 and 65 who are
named Janet? We have so many Janets in our church between the ages
of 55-65. Why? Did it have anything to do with Janet Leigh being the
famous movie star when these women were born so many years ago?
Perhaps it was not that many years ago that they were born. Or
people are given a name because of the meaning of the name. My name,
Edward, means guardian of the property and my family is a business
family. George means farmer. Roy means king. Janet means gracious.
Susan means lily. Phoebe means shining. So if you want your
child’s name to mean “shining lily,” you name your child
So, what is the
meaning of your name? Do you know the meaning of your name? What is
the meaning of your secret name?
I would like to
share a poem with you.
“What is your name, my little friend, David, John or Dan.
Rachel, Jill or Sally Jane, maybe it is Mary Anne.
Tell me now your secret name, a secret what is true,
The hidden meaning in your name is really part of you.
If your name is Simon, son, it means you’re like a dog,
A wild and tough and clever dog, that fears no other dog.
But if your name is Jill, my friend, you are like a plant that
With very dainty pretty leaves that look like fairy’s wings.
But if your name is Robin, child, it means you are like a bird so
A gentle little singing bird, who tells you spring is near.
Do you know your secret name, a secret that is true.
The hidden meaning in your name is really part of you.
People do give
secret hidden meanings to names of their children. For example, our
oldest daughter is named, Anne, from Hanna and Janna. These are all
the same root word. The word, Hanna, or Janna or Anna means
gracious. Jo-el is really two words in Hebrew. The name Jo-el comes
from a Hebrew word meaning, the Lord is God. The name, Nathan, or
Nathaniel, means God’s gift. So I call shout, Hanna Jo-el, Na-than
and this means a message: Gracious is the Lord God’s gift. There
is a secret meaning to the name.
In the Old
Testaments, the prophets did this all the time. They gave the names
of their various children symbolic names. Hosea named one of his
children, “not to be pitied” and he named another one, “not my
people.” Hosea was angry at the people of God. Isaiah, filled with
hope, named one of his children, “a remnant shall return.”
In the Old and New
Testament, the meaning of the name gave a clue to the character of
the person. The name becomes a message. Such as the name of Moses.
In Hebrew, it means “pulled out” and Moses was pulled out of the
Nile River as a baby and Moses was to pull the people out of
slavery. Such as Joshua. What did his name mean? His name meant,
savior, and Joshua was to save the people. And the name of Jesus
meant what? It is the same root word as Joshua. His name meant
“savior” for Jesus became the savior of our sins. What was the
meaning of Peter’s name? The name, Peter, meant rock and Peter was
to be the rock of the church.
What is the meaning
of the name and what message does it communicate?
name? Do you know God’s name? There is only one time in the Bible,
only one time in this library of sixty-six books with 1184 chapters
that we hear the story of how God received his name. It is the Old
Testament lesson and I would like to tell you the story of how God
got his name. I will use the words of a poet, Norman Habel.
afternoon, when the sun was burning hot and the sky was burning hot
and the sand was burning hot, and that dry old bush just caught on
fire. And Moses came near and he looked and looked and he couldn’t
believe his eyes. The fire he saw just flickered and glowed in a
strange and wonderful way. It showed and it glowed but nothing was
burning away. Nothing. Nothing at all. And Moses came near and
somebody spoke, “Moses, Moses, this is no joke.” Moses was
astonished. He said, “Lord, Lord, I am here.”
A voice came out of
the bush and yelled, “You can take off your shoes, Moses. You are
standing on holy ground.” Moses took off his shoes, and God said,
“Be off now Moses. Go and tell the king of Egypt to set the people
free.” And Moses sputtered, “God, I am ttttttongue tied and I
dddddon’t know what to say.” God said, “Go off, Moses. I am
with you always. I will tell you what to say.” And Moses sputtered
again, “We…we don’t know who you are? God…we don’t know
your name?” … “I am. I am. I am.” Said the Lord God as he
started to shout. “I am with you always. I am with you. I am in
you. I am all you need, I am, I am, I am. Hmmmmmmmm. That will be my
secret name. And if you lived in Moses’ day, you would say that
name, “Yahweh.” For
that is the secret name of God, the name that means “he is.” He
is with us always, everywhere we live. So Moses left his giggling
goats and said unto himself, “He is. He is. Yahweh. Yahweh. Nobody
will believe me anyway.” So off he went to tell the king, to let
the people go. For Moses was a special man, in God’s great purple
Now, that is the
story of how God got his name. It is the story of the I AM, the
secret name of God.
What is the meaning
of God’s name? What is the message of God’s name? The meaning of
Joshua was that he was to be the deliverer. The meaning of Jesus was
that he was to be the savior from our sins. The meaning of Peter was
that he was to be the rock of the church. What is the meaning and
message of God’s secret name, Yahweh, the focus of the sermon for
At this part of the
sermon for today, we are going to do a Bible study. You need a piece
of paper from your pew and everybody needs a pencil. We all need to
do this. No one is too old or too young, too dumb or too smart, too
sophisticated or too plain, whatever. You can use a worship
registration card or the white spaces of your bulletin. … On that
piece of paper, I want you to write four letters. J with a blank
space. H with a blank space. W with a blank space. H with a blank
space. So you are to write four letters, JHWH with a blank space in
between. … Now, that is the word, Yahweh. You say, “Well, there
are no vowels in that word.” Of course, in the Hebrew language
there are no vowels. … So let’s put in vowels. After the letter,
J, insert the vowel E. After the letter H, insert the vowel O. After
the letter V, lets put the vowel A. We are going to put three vowels
into this word, just like the Greek language added three vowels into
the Hebrew word. … What word do you get? Jehovah. In 1611, in the
King James Version of the Bible, what is God’s name throughout all
the book? God is called Jehovah. Jehovah is the Hebrew consonants
but the Greek vowels are added. … We now have a denomination
called, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and they are witnesses to
Jehovah. … But the Hebrew pronunciation of the word is Yahweh.
This is by far the most common name for God in the Old Testament and
it is used more than 6800 times. Yes, more than 6800 times. You need
to know God’s name. Please write the number 6800 by God’s name.
Until l50 years ago
and the beginnings of the sciences of archeology and philology,
modern people did not know how to
pronounce God’s name. They way you pronounce God’s name
is Yahweh, YAH-WAY.
Next to the word,
Yahweh, I would like you to write three little words, AM and then BE
and then IS. AM, BE, IS. That is what the word, Yahweh, means. It is
the “be” word in the Hebrew vocabulary. The word is not a noun.
It is a verb. It is a “Be” verb.
Gradually, the name
Yahweh became so sacred that nobody could say it. You were not
allowed to say God’s name in the Old Testament. And so every time
the ancient Jews came across the name Yahweh, the Jews always said
the word, “Adonai.” It
was pronounced, AH DOUGH NIE. For ancient Jews to say the name,
Yahweh, was to curse God. They said the word, Adonai. The Hebrew
word, Adonai, was translated in Greek to Kurios and in English, that
is the word, Lord. So every time you see the word, Lord, in the Old
Testament, it is really the word, Yahweh. The ancient Jews called
God, Lord, but God’s secret name was Yahweh. I AM. I IS. I AM THE
GROUND OF BEING.
this Bible study. I want you to write the word, EL. E. L. and then
put an “equals sign” e.g. = God. Another name for God in the Old
Testament is the word, God. I have been using the word, God, all
through this sermon. The word, God, does not come from the word,
Yahweh. The word, God, comes from the word, EL. The word, EL,
interestingly enough, in the Old Testament refers to the pagan gods
of Baal. It is the gods, Elohim that means “gods” in the plural.
It is interesting
for me nowadays that when people swear, what word do they always
And then they same something to curse. Have you ever heard
anyone use the word, Lord, to curse? I never have. I never
have heard anyone use the word, Lord, to swear. Or Yahweh? Or
Jehovah? No. People who swear and curse always go back to that pagan
name for God, EL, to swear with. EL was always translated God; YHWH
was always translated Lord. It still is.
this Bible study. In the Old Testament, the word was Yahweh. When
you got to the New Testament, the name means I AM, the Greek word
is, “ei-mi.” Everyone write this word. AMEE. Pronounce it with
the emphasis being on the last syllable. A-MEE’. That is the Greek
word, for I AM. Seven times in the New Testament, what does Jesus
say. Jesus says, I AM the bread of life; I AM the good shepherd; I
AM the light of the world; I AM the living water; I AM the way, the
truth and the life; I AM the resurrection and the life. And then
Jesus said something that got him killed. Jesus said, “Before
Abraham was, I AM. And the Jews around him cried out, “Blasphemy.
You are making yourself equal with God.” It was true. Jesus was
making himself equal with God when he used the word, EMEE.
It is interesting
that Jesus’ secret name is I AM and God’s secret name in the Old
Testament is I AM.
interesting thing as we continue this discussion. The word, AMEE, in
French, means friend. In Spanish, you call it “amigo” and it
means friend. In English, we use the word, “amiable” and it
means friendly. This
word, I AM, has something to do with amiableness, friendliness.
Something or someone who is amiable to us.
What is God’s
secret name in the Old Testament and the New Testament? It means I
AM. Yahweh. AMEE.
What is the message
that God is trying to communicate with us through his secret name?
What is God trying to teach us today?
First, to have a
personal relationship with someone, you need to know their name and
use their name often. Their personal name and use of the name
reveals your relationship with them. When you are distant from that
person, you rarely if ever use their name. If you are tight with
that person, you use their name often. It flows from your lips
naturally. So it is with God. We are to know God’s name and use
God’s name often. The secret name for God in the Old Testament was
Yahweh, but for us, that same word is translated, Lord. Lord is our
modern, equivalent translation of the word, Yahweh. We are to know
God’s name and use it often in prayer, praise and thanksgiving.
That is why God wanted us to know God’s name so that we could have
a relationship with God. In the New Testament, in the Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus used as personal of name as he could think of when he
called God, “pappa.” The name was intimate. We are called to
know God’s intimate name and use that name often in a close
Second, we know
God’s name is holy. For centuries, the Jews would not even orally
speak God’s name because to speak God’s name seemed to be
disrespectful of God. And we are the same way. That is, we know that
God’s name is holy. We do not appreciate it when people around us
use God’s name in vain. When we hear foul language and the name of
God or Christ being defamed, we cringe inside. We want the person to
stop. We teach our children to not desecrate God’s name because we
know God’s name is holy.
But thirdly, we
need to know the meaning of God’s name. We need to know the
message of God’s original name. On your paper, everyone write the
word, BEING. Underline the word, BE in the word BEING.
Everyone write on your paper, the word, EXISTENCE, and in the
word, EXISTENCE, underline the word, IS. … Do you understand what
God is saying? BE. IS.
AM. The BE verb. God is saying, “I am the ground of all existence.
I am the ground of all being.” That is why the most famous
philosophical theologian in America wrote a book entitled, THE
GROUND OF BEING, by Paul Tillich.
Let me give you a
concrete illustration of what I am talking about. One of your little
children comes up to me and asks, “Pastor, who created God?” And
I say and you say to your children, “God always was. God always
is. God always will be.” The first message in God’s name is that
God is existence. God is being. God is life itself.
Bu there is more.
The word, Yahweh, also has a sense of mystery to it. You cannot hold
God down. You cannot box God into categories. God is mysterious. God
says, “I am.” Let me give you an illustration of this where you
cannot box God in. God’s name will not allow you to box God in, to
contain God. Years ago, I was putting my little child Nathan to bed
and he asked me, “Daddy, are you God?” I said, “No.” Then he
asked, “Where is God, Daddy?” I said, “Everywhere in this
room.” If you know Nathan, he was not going to leave it with that
and so he questioned? “Is God in my piggy bank?” Yes. “Is God
in the light bulb?” Yes. “Is God in my clock?” Yes. And
knowing Nathan’s peculiar humor, he asked, “Is God in my
butt?” Yes. The point
is, you cannot box God in any place. Because God is. God is the
ground of being. God is existence. God is. I am who I am. God’s
name is wonderfully and mysteriously philosophical. IS, BE, AM.
You cannot lock God
into “I am father.” You cannot lock God into “I am mother.”
You cannot lock God into anything because God is essentially
mysterious, the ground that all that is.
What is the message
of Yahweh’s name? God’s name is a verb. It is not a noun. IS.
AM. BE. God’s name is
not I but AM, not a noun but a verb. God is action, movement. God is
moving throughout the universe. God is never stationary. God is
never still. For God is energy itself. God is forever on the move
because God is movement. God is a BE verb. God is entire
flexibility. I will be
father. I will be mother. I will be son. I will be daughter. I will
be anything I want to be.
I will be anything
you need. If you are thirsty, I am water. If you are starving, I am
food. If you are all alone, I am friend. If you are an orphan, I am
your father. If you are weak, I am strong. If you are afraid of
death, I am eternal life. No matter what you need, I am all things
for you. I am. I am. I am. I am with you. I am in you. I am for you.
I am everything you need, I am. I am. I am. For that is the secret
name of God, the secret that is true.
Well, what is your
name, my little friend, David, John or Dan,
Rachel, Jill, or Sally Jane or maybe it is Mary
Do you know your secret name, as secret that is true.
The hidden meaning in your name is really part of you.
Now, if you live in Moses’ day,
you would say that name, Yah-way,
For that is the secret name of God, the name that means He is.
God is with us always, every where we live.
Yah-way. Yah-way. I
am in you. I am with you. I am for you.
am everything you need. I am. I am. I am.