“Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.” (Daniel 2:19–20)
We may ask ourselves, “Why is it so important to study the names of God? Why not just call Him ‘God’? Surely that is enough.” Or is it?
Though all English speaking Believers likely use the word “God” to refer to the one true God, the fact is that this English word is of questionable origin. It may actually be rooted in Proto-Indo-European writings (such as Sanskrit) or later Proto-Germanic (500 BC to AD 500) ideas about the divine.
Etymologists have connected this word to old Sanskrit or Germanic words like Odin, sacred cow, idol, and libation, to name a few.
What’s more, it can be and is used to refer to a variety of deities by any number of religions.
It’s sort of a generic “no-name” label for any type of divine being.
By using the true Biblical names of the one true God, we can all be certain that we are addressing, referring to, and praying to the LORD God (YHVH Elohim) — God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), and not to some false god or arbitrary deity.
By knowing His names, we actually know and understand God better, since each name is a revelation about the inherent character of God.
The Power of YHVH (the LORD)
“Then you call on the name of your god [אֱלֹהֵיכֶם], and I will call on the name of the LORD [יְהוָה / YHVH]. The god who answers by fire—He is God [הָאֱלֹהִים / Elohim].” (1 Kings 18:24)
The ancient prophet, Elijah, demonstrated the power of calling on the name of God. In his day, 450 prophets in Israel followed Baal (which means lord or master in Hebrew) instead of the Lord (YHVH).
Therefore, Elijah challenged Baal to a spiritual duel of sorts in order to prove that the Lord (YHVH / יְהוָה) is God [Elohim] and that other deities were nothing more than a mere deception.
Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to call on the name of Baal, while he would call on the Lord God of Israel. It was to be settled once and for all that whoever answered by sending fire to miraculously consume the sacrifice was the one true God (Elohim).
The prophets of Baal called on the name of their god loudly, accompanied by dancing and the cutting of their bodies. Apart from their dramatic and reverent display, nothing happened. Their god could not respond. He was a false god.
Elijah, however, knew the God whom he worshiped. He was so confident that God would answer when he called that he drenched the sacrifice in water to the point that the water filled a trench he had dug around the altar.
Perhaps Elijah soaked the sacrifice with water to dispel any doubt that he had somehow hidden a fire on the altar.
The water didn’t worry Elijah because he was quite certain that after he prayed to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel), He would send an all-consuming fire that would burn even a soaked sacrifice.
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.
Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD [YHVH], are God [Elohim], and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18:36–37)
When Elijah humbly but boldly called on God by His name, He answered in such a spectacular fashion that His fire fell and “burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38)
God’s response to Elijah’s prayer was evidence enough.
All the people watching this duel understood that the Lord God [YHVH Elohim] was the only God, and they fell down and worshiped Him.
The holy name of God that Elijah used when he called down the fire of God, YHVH (commonly translated as LORD), is derived from the Hebrew verb meaning “to be.”
In this study, we will look closely at three compound names of God that begin with YHVH (Please note that this holy name of God is not spoken aloud in Judaism; instead, Adonai [Lord] is substituted):
- YHVH Yireh (The Lord Will Provide),
- YHVH Shalom (The Lord Is Peace), and
- YHVH Tz’va’ot (The Lord of Hosts).
God has revealed Himself to us in Scripture through His names. Each name of God tells us more about his marvelous attributes and wonderful character.
Everything we could ever need or want is found in His Divine Presence.
“And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD [YHVH], in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’” (Exodus 33:19)
The Lord Will Provide: YHVH Yireh (יְהוָה יִרְאֶה)
“So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide [YHVH Yireh]. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.’” (Genesis 22:14)
When we are in need, God reveals Himself as YHVH Yireh, the One who sees and provides for our needs.
YHVH Yireh is the name of God that Abraham used after God provided a ram as a substitute for the sacrifice of his son Isaac.
In obedience to God’s request that Abraham offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering, Abraham had bound Isaac somewhere on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount). Just as he lifted the knife to carry out the sacrifice, the angel of the Lord stopped him.
Abraham saw a ram caught in the thicket and sacrificed the ram rather than Isaac; therefore, he named the place YHVH Yireh (The Lord Will Provide).
This name of God, although often translated “The Lord Will Provide,” is more accurately translated “The Lord Will See.” Because of the context of God providing the ram for a sacrifice instead of Isaac, it is often taken to mean “the Lord will see to it (provide the need).”
It’s interesting to note that Isaac asked his father specifically about a sacrificial lamb in Genesis 22:7–8:
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb [seh] for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
When Abraham looked in the thicket, however, he did not see a lamb (seh), but a ram (ayil).
Is it possible that in saying God would provide the lamb for a sacrifice, Abraham was speaking prophetically of the final perfect sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus) — the Messiah and Lamb of God?
This was accomplished through the precious blood of Yeshua which has made atonement for all of our sins. Thus, we are saved by grace through faith.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18–19)
The Lord is Peace: YHVH Shalom (יְהוָה שָׁלוֹם)
“So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD Is Peace [YHVH Shalom].” (Judges 6:24)
In this world filled with strife, fear, and anxiety, most of us desperately desire to find peace (shalom).
How can we find this shalom we seek? Ultimately, it can only be found in the God of peace — YHVH Shalom.
This name of God appears in the book of Judges at a time when the Israelites had definitely lost their peace. For seven long years, because of Israel’s sin, God had placed His Chosen People into the hands of her enemies, the Midianites, who oppressed them terribly.
During that oppression, God called on Gideon to deliver Israel. When he had a face-to-face encounter with the angel of the Lord, Gideon thought he would die, but God reassured him saying, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”
In response to this encounter with God, Gideon built an altar to the LORD and called it The LORD Is Peace (YHVH Shalom). (Judges 6:23–24)
Perhaps Gideon received this revelation that God is Peace because peace was the very thing that he and Israel needed.
Whenever we are oppressed, overwhelmed, or in any kind of distress, we can cry out to the God of Peace, YHVH Shalom.
In fact, one of the names of the Messiah is Sar Shalom (Prince of Peace). (Isaiah 9:6)
In His final words on this earth, Yeshua (Jesus) promised to leave us His peace that passes all understanding.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Living in peace is our rightful inheritance, no matter the circumstances.
The apostle Paul tells us how to live in the peace of God: refuse to be anxious for anything but, instead, give every care, concern, and burden to God:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Yeshua HaMashiach [Jesus the Messiah]. (Philippians 4:6–7)
If we will steadfastly turn to God and trust in Him, we will have a double portion of peace (shalom), perfect peace (shalom shalom)!
“You will keep in perfect peace [shalom shalom] those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)
The Lord of Hosts: YHVH Tz’va’ot (יְהוָה צבאות)
“Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty [YHVH Tz’va’ot] at Shiloh.” (1 Samuel 1:3)
The Lord of Hosts is the most frequently used compound name of God in the Bible and is found over 270 times in Scripture.
It is first used in the first book of Samuel in the account of Hannah and Elkanah.
Hannah came face to face with a problem she found too big to handle. She was barren, and consequently subjected to tormenting ridicule and humiliation from Peninnah, her husband’s second wife, who did have children.
So Hannah called upon the Supreme Warrior to win a war she could not win on her own:
O LORD of Heaven’s Armies [יְהוָה צבאות], if you will only look upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, then I will give him to You. He will be Yours for his entire lifetime, and as a sign that he has been dedicated to the Lord, his hair will never be cut. (1 Samuel 1:11)
The name YHVH Tz’va’ot is derived from the word tzavah, which means army. God is the Captain of the most powerful army in the universe — the tzavah of Elohim — the army of the Lord! He is the King of glory.
“Who is he, this King of glory? YHVH Tz’va’ot — He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:10)
When we come up against something too big or powerful for us to handle, we can turn it over to YHVH Tz’va’ot to fight the battle. The victory is always His.
David came at the giant with just a few small pebbles, but he won the victory because he understood the power of YHVH Tz’va’ot, the Lord of Hosts.
“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Samuel 17:45)
David went on to become the great King of Israel. Why? Not because of his own merit or abilities, but because The Lord of Hosts was with him. (2 Samuel 5:10)
What a comfort and encouragement to know that the God who helped, healed, and delivered in ancient times is the same God who loves us today.
He has revealed Himself in Scripture through His many names. Because of them, we can better understand His wonderful nature.
Although many people place their trust and hope elsewhere, may we continually trust in the name of our God and hope in Him.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD [YHVH] our God.” (Psalm 20:7)