What’s in a Name?
by Rev Jacky Quarmby 25 February 2022
Abram is ninety-nine years old, Sarai is ninety and still the promised child has not arrived. Surely time has run out. But God appears once more and says to Abram,
“Abram, I will confirm my covenant with you and will greatly increase the number of your descendants. Therefore, you shall no longer be called Abram. Your name shall be Abraham, which means father of many.” God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai, she will be called Sarah (which means Princess of Israel). I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations and kings of many peoples will be born from her.”
At this Abraham fell down before God and laughed a bitter laugh. Surely it was too late for Sarah to have a child. But God insists that it is not too late. Sarah will have a child and they will call him Isaac which means “he laughs”, because Abraham laughed and did not believe that God’s promise would come true.
In the Bible, names are important, because they say something about a person. Sometimes, as here in this passage, a person is renamed, so that their new name more accurately reflects their character or their destiny. In the New Testament, Jesus gives the disciple Simon the new name Peter meaning “the rock” as Jesus says, “on this rock I shall build my church”. (Matthew 16: 18)
The Bible uses many different names for God, each of which tells us something about the nature of the God that we worship. Here are just a few of the Hebrew names for God that we find in the Bible and what they mean …
El Shaddai God Almighty Genesis 48: 3
El Roi God who sees Genesis 16: 13
Yahweh Roie My shepherd Psalm 23: 1
Yahweh Sali My rock/my hiding place Psalm 18: 2
Yahweh Shalom Peace Judges 6: 24
Yahweh Rafa Healer Exodus 15: 26
El Rachum God of Compassion Deuteronomy 4: 31
Yahweh Avienu Our Father Isaiah 63: 16
El HaKadosh The Holy God Isaiah 5: 16
El Elyon Most High God Numbers 24: 16
Taken together, these names give us a wonderful picture of God, who is both awesome and mighty, our rock and our fortress, but also compassionate and tender, our shepherd and our peace.
What’s in a name?
These names tell us all we need to know – that our God, El Shaddai, truly is a God worthy of our worship and our praise.
Song: El Shaddai, El Shaddai
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A Prayer of Praise by St Francis of Assisi
You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and Your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong.
You are great.
You are the Most High.
You are Almighty.
You, Holy Father are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good.
You are Good, all Good, supreme Good,
Lord God, living and true.
You are love. You are wisdom.
You are humility. You are endurance.
You are rest. You are peace.
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches, and You suffice for us.
You are beauty.
You are gentleness.
You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender.
You are our courage. You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, our great consolation.
You are our eternal life, Great and Wonderful Lord,
God Almighty, Merciful Saviour. Amen