Yahweh, I am the Eternal God, El’Olam

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Yahweh is the Hebrew name of God in the Bible.Composed of four Hebrew consonants (YHWH, known as the Tetragrammaton) which the prophet Moses revealed to his people. As the name of the supreme being was considered too holy to be spoken, the consonants YHWH were used to remind one to say the word `adonai’ (lord) in place of the god’s name (King). Yahweh was a desert god who, led his chosen people from captivity in Egypt to the `promised land’ of Canaan. The meaning of the name `Yahweh’  has been interpreted as “He Who Makes That Which Has Been Made” or “He Brings Into Existence Whatever Exists”, though other interpretations have been offered by many scholars.  In the late middle ages, `Yahweh’ came to be changed to `Jehovah’ by Christian monks, a name commonly in use today.

God’s revels his name to Moses at the Burning Bush, in Exodus 3:1-15

1Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.”

4When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

5″Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

7The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey — the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

11But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

13Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”

15God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

When Moses ask God ‘ “Who shall I say sent me?” God takes the question of his name seriously and answers — but maybe not what Moses expected:

God (elohim) said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (3:14)

God reveals to Moses his name in a new way: “I AM WHO I AM.” What does it mean? The phrase consists of three words in Hebrew: the verb “to be” (hāyā)10 occurs twice, and sandwiched between them ashar, a “particle of relation,” that can be translated “that,” “who,” etc., depending on the context.11 Since both verbs are in the Hebrew imperfect tense they can be translated either:

I AM WHO I AM “He who is,” the “Self-Existent One”
I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE “He who will continue to be (present with his people).

In context the idea is to encourage the people that God has not forgotten them but is always with them, the Covenant God. In all subsequent Israelite history God would be known as the One who brought Israel from Egypt (Exodus 20:2). The revelation of the name therefore is not merely a deep theological truth, it is a call to the response of faith by Moses and by Israel.”

But the idea of eternity is clearly present also. Since the idea of “to be” can refer to God’s indefinite existence in the past, present, and future, we see in the Book of Revelation: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” Jesus’ audacious claim to the Pharisees clearly uses the “I AM” statement in a striking way: “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!'” (John 8:58). They were so offended by his assertion and use of the Divine Name they picked up stones to stone him.

 

Another way in which he is known is as the Everlasting God, the Eternal God (’el ‘ōlām). ‘Ôlām means, “forever, ever, lasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world, etc.” It doesn’t quite equate to our English word “eternal.” It can apply to the indefinite future and past, but in the past can point to things long ago, rather than necessarily to a limitless past.18

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God (’ēl ‘ōlām).” (Genesis 21:33)

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God (’elohi ‘ôlām),
the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:28)

“But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God, the eternal (‘ôlām) King.” (Jeremiah 10:10)

“The eternal God (’elohim qedem19) is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting (‘ôlām) arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)

“Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting (‘ôlām) to everlasting (‘ôlām) you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

“… But now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God….” (Romans 16:26)

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17)

Another Hebrew word is used to express eternity as well: ‘ad, “perpetuity, continuing future.”20 In Isaiah 9:7, the Messiah is called “the everlasting (‘ad) Father.” The NIV translates Isaiah 26:4, “the LORD, is the Rock eternal (‘ad).” In Isaiah God identifies himself this way:

For thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity (‘ad), whose name is Holy…” (Isaiah 57:15, RSV).

Meditate on this a moment. What does it mean to inhabit perpetuity? Never ending, never changing time? If time can ever be any real measure of eternity. God inhabits a different plane than we do.

In the last chapter of Revelation, Jesus identifies himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). In Isaiah, God is identified in a similar way, suggesting eternity:

“Who has done this and carried it through,
calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the LORD–with the first of them
and with the last — I am he.” (Isaiah 41:4)

However, in two verses close by there is also an emphasis on exclusivity. Yahweh is the first God and the last one too. There is no other god but he.

“Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel,
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.” (Isaiah 44:6)”Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called;
I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.” (Isaiah 48:12)

Finally, in Revelation we read:

Finally, we come full circle to the Living God. If the essential meaning of Yahweh is being and presence and life for all time (I AM THAT I AM), then the Name speaks of the One who lives forever and ever:

“I blessed the Most High,
and praised and honored the one who lives forever.
For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34)

He is the Living God. If the key verb for Yahweh is hāyā, “to be,” then the key verb for the Living God is chāyā, “live, have life, remain alive, sustain life, live prosperously, live forever.” Also “be quickened, revive from sickness, discouragement, or even death.” The related adjective is chay, “living.”23 Again and again we see God in the dynamic descriptor of the Living God beginning in the Pentateuch and continuing through the New Testament.

The descriptor or title the Living God seems to carry a sense of might and awe. This is no dead idol, but the God who lives and is the essence of life itself (2 Corinthians 6:16).24 Woudstra comments, “As living God, God stands opposed to, and is different from, the gods of the nations who are always portrayed as unable to act or to save (Psalm 96:5; 115:3-7). These other gods are idols (Leviticus 19:4). They are nothing but breath (Deuteronomy 32:21; Jeremiah 8:19). This living God is among Israel, which indicates his active presence with his people (Deuteronomy 6:15).”25

“For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived?” (Deuteronomy 5:26)

You can almost feel the intensity and surety of the indignant faith that rises in the heart of David as a teenager as he sees the armies of Israel paralyzed in fear of the giant Goliath, similar to Hezekiah’s prayer in the face of the Assyrian armies (2 Kings 19:16; cf; 19:4; cf; Isaiah 37:4, 17):

“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26; cf. verse 36)

David’s heart longs for the reality and soul-quenching experience of knowing God — the God of life, the God who is alive forever.

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:3)

“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.” (Psalm 84:2)

Gentiles who had no god and were not God’s people have been blessed:

“In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'” (Hosea 1:10; quoted in Romans 9:26)

The Living God in Peter’s confession seems to resound with power and majesty and solemnity:

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” (Matthew 16:16)

Finally, the author of Hebrews reminds us:

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

Living God is also found in Joshua 3:10; Psalm 18:46 = 2 Samuel 22:47; Jeremiah 10:10; 23:36; Daniel 6:20, 26; Matthew 26:63; Acts 14:15; 2 Corinthians 3:3; 1 Timothy 3:15; 4:10; Hebrews 3:12; 9:14; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 7:2.26

Wow what a revelation of a God that remains the same! It gives us understanding that what God did before, he can do again! He is eternal, nothing can stop our God. He is not going anywhere!!

Prayer: Lord, what an incredible privilege we have to know you. And to have crossed the bridge from the limitations of our own mortality to the limitlessness of your eternal life. Thank you. Let us live with the perspective of eternity so that our moments here on earth count for your eternal purposes. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Be blessed

Stephanie

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