QUESTION: Is there somewhere in the Scriptures that tells us what we are to call God, a name He prefers?
ANSWER: “God reveals himself to us in the names given to Him in Scripture; for example: Jehovah (Exodus 3), Lord (Isaiah 61), Ancient of Days (Daniel 7), Jesus (Matthew 1), Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9); He also reveals himself to us in his works. God requires that His name be used in the right way for the support of truth in our life and in our worship” (ELS Explanation of the Small Catechism, page 46).
Moses asked God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:13-14). The Hebrew for this name of God is called the Tetragrammaton, meaning “four letters.” They are transliterated as “YHWH” and come from the Hebrew verb “to be.”
Scholars debate the pronunciation. In an attempt to follow the Second Commandment strictly, Israel didn’t say the name. They preferred to say “Adonai” or “Lord” in place of the Tetragrammaton. English editions translate the word “LORD.” The four capital letters show that this is God’s personal name. The ancient texts didn’t point the vowels to reveal the pronunciation. We guess that it is “Yahweh.”
God has another name that is easier to remember. The angel told Joseph, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matthew 1:21-23).
God, who gave His name to Moses, sent His Son as a human baby. He gave Him the name that proclaims what He would do for every human being. Jesus is the Savior, our Savior. Begotten of the Father from eternity, He became human to live the holy life God demanded of us. Jesus stepped into our shoes and substituted for us so that His Father could credit us with His life and holiness. He stepped into our shoes by taking our sin to the cross to suffer the penalty sinners deserve. He did that for all of us. By faith in Jesus’ name, we are God’s children and eternal.
God’s Word is the means by which God makes Himself known to us. God’s Word has been translated into most known human languages. There are many pronunciations of these names in these many languages. We call God “Jesus.” He is our Lord and Savior.
Reverend Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL