Have you ever had a nickname? Maybe it was something your teammates called you, or your parents, or a significant other. I used to have a number of nicknames. I bet you didn’t know one of my nicknames was Booey. When y younger brothers were growing up and learning to articulate, Bill was just too hard, so what came out was Booey. Even to this day, my younger brothers will call me Booey. It has come to be a term of endearment they have for me. Think for a moment about all the names you call your best friends, your spouse, or family members, or nicknames you have had.
There is something significant in our names, even our nicknames. Our names and nicknames reflect something about our relationship with the person you are talking with. I can tell in a moment when a telemarketer is calling because they always ask for Mr. William Flavin. Let’s be clear, no one ever calls me that, so if you are calling me that, you must not know me very well or at all. If you know me you might call me Pastor Bill, or if you know me better you might call me Bill.
Names play an important role throughout Scripture. God changes people’s names on occasion to make significant changes, to redefine their future. Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Saul becomes Paul, and Jacob becomes Israel. Their names defined something about them.
Take a minute to think about the names you use when you talk with God or talk about God. The way you talk about God begins to reveal a bit about your relationship and understanding of God. If you primarily talk about God as judge, you might struggle to think of God as anyone but a stickler to rules, a cosmic bully who is watching to see if you do right or wrong. It then might be hard to envision God as healer and miracle worker. If you talk about Jesus as a teddy bear, your best buddy, you might struggle to see God as just and powerful.
God is not just a judge or a teddy bear though. We hear in Scripture that God is our strong tower (Proverbs 18:10), the great physician (Mark 2:17, Jeremiah 33:6), peace (Romans 16:20a), powerful (Matthew 6:13), King (Psalm 10:16), and River of Life (Revelation 22:1) just to name a few. This lengthy list of names for God reveals the depth and richness of who God is.
Does the way we talk about God reflect what we believe about God? Does it reflect our relationship with him? Are the names we use to label God just that or are they true terms of endearment?
- What names do you most often use for God? What does that say about how you think about God?
- Take time to pray using different scriptural names of God. What was it like?
- Are there some names of God that are hard for you to use and pray?