I have long been interested in names, their origins and meanings. Names do not define us – after all, we are not aware of them until after we are born; and we are known by them before we grow up or formulate our character and our characteristics.
Some names, it is true, can be pre-determined. I am Timothy Michael. My Father is Michael Sidney. His father was Sydney William (I’m not sure why the ‘y’ became an ‘i’). Sydney’s brother was Lionel Arthur and their father was Arthur Edwin Pitt: Christian name becomes middle name down the generations.
But back to me for a moment – “Timothy Michael”: what does that mean? Am I to fit the name or does the name characterise me?
Timothy – Man of God; honouring God; God’s servant. I’ll take that! It is from the Greek “timi’ meaning honour and ‘theos’ meaning God.
Michael – from a Hebrew phrase ‘Who [is] like-El’ (‘Who is like God?’) and its answer that ‘there is none like El; none are as famous and powerful as God.’ It is a famous question, and is set out in Latin as ‘Quis ut Deus?’ I might suggest to my father that he takes the motto “Quis ut Deus.” I would suggest that I take “The Honourable Timothy” for myself, but I don’t think that is quite in the spirit and truth of it all.
Anyway, it occurred to me: What do we call God? How do we address or refer to Him? Well, ‘God’ is good. And we can say ‘the Lord God’ with all due reverence; also ‘LORD’ – we will come to the difference later in this series. Thanks to Jesus’ intervention on our behalf, restoring us to relationship with God when we trust in Jesus and repent of our sins, we are adopted into God’s family and are entitled – encouraged, even – to call Him “Father God.” Think on that for a moment: The King of the Universe; the Author of Creation, the Lord of Lords … and we get to call him Dad!
But what if we took a wander through the Bible and noted the Hebrew names for God, and the context in which those names were used? What might we learn about God’s character? Might we draw closer to Him and enjoy a more loving, complete relationship with Him? Relationship depends on the people in that relationship, not their names, but knowing what to call each other is a good start.
In the culture, in the time when the Scriptures were being written, people were more deliberate in how they referred to God – and why; each occasion, each circumstance. We miss both subtlety and intimacy when we simply and only say “God.”
Let’s find some names and make the introductions …
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10)
[from Timothy Pitt]