The word name (šēm, H8034) raises a couple of questions. “Why does God give Himself a name?” and then, further, “Why does God give Himself several names?” As for the first question, a name is important because it is personal and enables God (and us) to make contact. Without names, most all communication would be practically impossible.
That second question, however, takes us far deeper. Why is God called by many names? Why isn’t just one, such as God (’Elōhiym, January 7), good enough? We would submit that God’s giving Himself multiple names serves three purposes, purposes that simply could not be served by any one name:
First, God’s multiple names more fully reveal His person. No single name of God could come even close to expressing His full nature, character, and work. That is a major limitation of language. As we will see, each name reveals something new, something unique, something deeper that we have not seen before.
Second, God’s multiple names more fully demonstrate His presence. How often do we really stop and think about the implications of the truth that God is with us? 2Sa_5:10, for example, declares that “David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him,” and as Luke recounts, when Joseph was “sold . . . into Egypt . . . God was with him” (Act_7:9). Without exception, every name of God speaks of His presence with us and the staggering implications of that fact.
Third, God’s multiple names more fully address His people. Anthropomorphism is the ascribing of human characteristics to nonhuman things. Many of us do this with our pets. God has done this very thing, though infinitely deeper. He speaks (Gen_1:3), hears (Exo_16:12), and sees (Gen_1:4). Scripture uses figures of speech when indicating He has a face (Num_6:25), a back (Exo_33:23), arms (Exo_6:6; Isa_53:1), and hands (Isa_14:27). Why does He do this? It is for our benefit, so we, in our limited human understanding, can grasp a little more of who He is and how He reaches down to us. Again, every one of His names underscores His relationship with His people, and no single name could possibly suffice.
Oh, let us rejoice in how God reveals Himself through His multiple names! Without this, we could never even hope to know Him.
Scriptures for Study: What do verses such as Psa_34:3; Psa_69:30, and 1Ti_6:1 encourage us to do concerning God’s name (and names by implication)?