What's in a name?

Squirrel! Come here!”

I glanced round, half expecting to see a small, bushy-tailed creature come leaping down from the trees. But no; just a spaniel being called to heel. A dog called Squirrel? I wondered why. Was it squirrel-coloured? No, it was white. Could it climb trees? Not as far as I could see. It seemed an odd choice of name for a dog. Mind you, I once met a little boy called Badger!

The names we give our children or our pets are chosen for all sorts of reasons, but in Scripture names are far more significant. The name stands for the character; it represents what the person really is. To know the name of God is to know God Himself, and that is surely what we most need to know.

Not that we could ever find out such knowledge for ourselves, but throughout the Old Testament God reveals His name, beginning with terms such as Elohim, El Elyon, El Shaddai – the strong, the mighty One, Creator and Sustainer of everything. That is always a good place to begin!

Then we read in Exodus 3 that when God called Moses to go back to Egypt to bring His people out of bondage, Moses asked, ‘when they say, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses,”I AM WHO I AM.” He is the self-existent One, unchanging yet ready to reveal Himself to His people; Jehovah, the covenant God of His people; the Redeemer.

The name had occurred before, but now God begins to reveal Himself in a new way. And as the years roll on, He reveals more of Himself by, as it were, adding adjectives to His name:

Jehovah-jireh: The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14)

Jehovah-rophe: The Lord who heals (Exodus 15:26)

Jehovah-nissi: The Lord our banner (Exodus 17:15)

Jehovah-shalom: The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24)

Jehovah-ro’eh: The Lord is my Shepherd (Psalm 23:1)

Jehovah-tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6)

Jehovah-shammah: The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35)

And then we are given the final, the ultimate, revelation – Jehovah-Jesus, Jehoshua: The Lord saves. In Him – in His life, in His words, in His actions – we see the fulfilment of all the promises. As He Himself says to His Father: I have manifested Your name to the men You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. (John 17:6)

Not just information about God, but God Himself dwelling amongst men. For the Lord Jesus is the image of the invisible God… It pleased the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:15,19-20)

And by His death and resurrection He shows us, in a way that we could not otherwise know, the blazing holiness, perfect justice, and unfathomable love of God.


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)



How sweet the Name of Jesus sounds

In a believer’s ear!

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,

And drives away his fear.


It makes the wounded spirit whole,

And calms the troubled breast;

Tis manna to the hungry soul,

And to the weary rest.


Dear Name! The Rock on which I build,

My Shield and Hiding place;

My never-failing treasury, filled

With boundless stores of grace.


Jesus, my Shepherd, Brother, Friend,

My Prophet, Priest and King,

My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,

Accept the praise I bring.


Weak is the effort of my heart,

And cold my warmest thought;

But when I see Thee as Thou art,

I’ll praise Thee as I ought.


Till then I would Thy love proclaim

With every fleeting breath;

And may the music of Thy Name

Refresh my soul in death!


John Newton