“I will now restore the fortunes of Jacob and will have compassion on all the people of Israel, and I will be zealous for my holy name.” (Ezekiel 39:25)
Last week in Parasha Shemot (Names), Moses was called by God to deliver the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and discovered the proper name of God—YHVH, which is usually translated LORD in English Bibles, and also Jehovah or Yahweh as scholars try to add vowel sounds to these consonants.
This name appears over 6,800 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament)!
This week’s Torah portion opens with God identifying Himself as the God of the Hebrew Patriarchs after Moses complained to God that trying to free the Israelites has brought them trouble. In this context, He underlines to Moshe (Moses) His holy name and the fact that until then, He had not made Himself fully known.
“I am the LORD (Ani YHVH). I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name the LORD (YHVH) I did not make myself fully known to them.” (Exodus 6:2–3)
Today, most Jewish people do not utter the name of God out of reverence for His holiness and fear of transgressing the command forbidding using God’s name in vain.
Instead, the term HaShem (The Name) or Adonai (Lord) is substituted.
Still, God desires that His people know Him intimately by His proper name, and His word promises that they will.
“I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel….” (Ezekiel 39:7)
“No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
Knowing God by His Name
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai)….” (Exodus 6:2–3)
El Shaddai (God the All Sufficient) is an interesting name of God, since it relates to the Hebrew word for a woman’s breast. This name reveals the maternal quality of God’s character as nurturer, comforter, sustainer, and source of life-giving nourishment.
Up to this point in the history of His People, God had cared for and nurtured Israel as a mother.
When God brought His people out of Egypt, He was in effect, birthing a new nation of holy people—a royal priesthood.
But, He also now was revealing Himself to Moses and to the children of Israel as their Father—protector, provider, deliverer, and redeemer.
El Gibor (Mighty God)
“And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
God is called El Shaddai (Almighty/ All Sufficient God) and also El Gibor (Mighty God).
He displayed His might and power when He overcame Pharaoh and delivered the children of Israel from Egypt.
Often, we find ourselves in situations that make us realize that we need His powerful intervention, as well. We need to know Him as a Father (Abba in Hebrew) and feel comfortable crying out to Him, “Abba!”
God wants to father us—not as our earthly fathers who in their imperfect humanity failed or disappointed us have fathered us—but as our perfect Heavenly Father who will never leave us nor forsake us.
God is good, and all He does is for our good.
As covenant people of the God of Abraham, we can reclaim God’s authentic name and its accompanying power as part of our divine inheritance.
“I will teach them My power and might (g’vurati, from the same Hebrew root as gibor). Then they will know that My name is the LORD.” (Jeremiah 16:21)
Establishing the Covenant
“I also established My Covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.” (Exodus 6:4)
God re-affirms in this Parasha the unconditional covenant He made with the people of Israel to give them the land in which we now live.
God’s faithfulness to His people is bound up with this Land. He is a covenant-keeping God who confirms, “My Covenant I will not break.” (Psalm 89:34, see also Numbers 23:19 and Deuteronomy 7:9)
As people who belong to the God of Abraham, we need to stand firm on Israel’s Biblical right to this Promised Land, seeing the issues in the Middle East from a Biblical perspective, through God’s eyes and not what the newspapers report.