When it is my turn to do communion meditations in 2021, I plan to study several of the names of God. And there are many good reasons to memorize these names and to use them in our prayers. I'll just mention three:
First of all, God's people were repeatedly commanded to know His names, to use His names, and to "call upon His name" (Is. 12:4). Can you really say that you know God as a personal friend if you don't know any of His names? Friends know each other by name. And you might respond, "But His names are in Hebrew, and I don't know Hebrew." That's OK. My name "Phillip" is a Greek name, and you know it because you know me. A close walk with God means that you know God by name. So studying His names is an act of loving obedience and loving friendship.
Second, knowing and using His names actually builds our faith because God's names reveal the essence of who He is. Unlike the name "Phillip," which refers to a person who loves horses, and which does not reveal who I am very well, God's names reveal His very nature. When God calls Himself Rapha, or healer, He is saying that healing is more than just an after-thought that He sometimes does. It is of His very nature to delight in healing what is broken. Each name shows us a different facet of His nature and His purposes for us, and as such it builds our confidence and builds our faith. And it helps us to know our God better.
And this relates to the third reason to study His names: the names become promises that we can claim. This is why blessings are so often connected with knowing God's name or calling upon His name. For example, Psalm 91 says of the believer, “I will set him on high [that's the blessing], because he has known My name.” If you want more of His blessings on your life, know His names. If you want more of His power in your life, know His names. Demons tremble at His name because of the potential victory we receive when we call upon His name by faith.
So let's begin today by looking at the very first name that God uses in the Bible. It's in Genesis 1:1, which says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." The word translated as "God" is Elohim and it occurs more than 1000 times in the Old Testament. It's is a marvelous name that communicates two truths: power and fellowship.
Let’s break the name down into its two parts. The first part of the name is El. El by itself means God, mighty one or strength. So if you want to think of God as the mighty one, El could be the word that comes to mind. And El often does describe God by itself. This name reflects the fact that He is so powerful that He spoke the universe into existence in six days.
Some of you have perhaps seen the sort-of-Google-Earth-like videos that start in someone’s back yard (perhaps looking at a leaf) and go up, up, up until you see the whole planet, and then other planets, and then our planet disappears as we zoom past the other planets, and eventually we can only see our sun off in the distance as a tiny dot.
It would take our fastest traveling space ship (New Horizons Pluto) 75,000 years to reach the closest star to us. So the video has to go much-much faster than the speed of travel or even the speed of light. If you traveled at the speed of light, it would take 4.24 years to get to the nearest star. And there are 200 billion such stars (or solar systems) within our Galaxy, which is the Milky Way Galaxy. That's just within our own Galaxy - 200 billion stars. And all of those were created in Genesis 1 by Elohim. NASA says that the Milky Way Galaxy is 100,000 light years in diameter, which means it would take you 100,000 years to get from one end of our Galaxy to the other end if you traveled at the speed of light. That's a gynormous amount of space. Elohim created that. And the El part shows His power.
But the Milky Way Galaxy is only one tiny Galaxy within the universe. Yes, this 100-billion-light-year in diameter Galaxy is a tiny Galaxy. In 1999 NASA estimated that there were 125 billion galaxies out there, but the number just keeps growing every year. Recently, a German Super Computer estimated that there may be as many as 500 billion galaxies out there, and we can only see a fraction of our universe. And God spoke those into existence in one day, and He governs those. We are talking of power, awesome power that is implied in the El portion of the name Elohim.
It is no wonder that the Psalmist after viewing the stars stands amazed that God would be mindful of us. But He is. In fact, He is so mindful of us that He knits us together in our mother’s wombs and upholds every atom of our bodies by the word of His power. He is the one who gave you moles. He is the one who makes the blind and the seeing. And there are no accidents. He is more familiar with everything in our lives than we are. If we go back to that same yard that we had zoomed up from, and instead magnify a leaf on a bush, and keep magnifying until we bore into the cell structure, and the molecular structure, and the atomic structure with its protons and neutrons, to the subatomic particles in quantum mechanics theory, it absolutely blows your mind. It’s almost as vast going inward as it is going outward. The knowledge and the power required to keep all those things going on that leaf, and ever other leaf and every other structure on our planet and in our universe is beyond stupendous. This is what the name "Elohim" immediately ilicits in my mind - and it makes me want to worship. I love the name Elohim. It calms my fears and builds my faith. There is nothing going on in Washington DC that is beyond His power.
When you couple the power inherent in the name El together with God’s provision of salvation and His promises to provide, it makes sense that God is offended with our fears and anxieties – as if He cannot take care of us. Fear and anxiety is a form of atheism; it is a denial of God’s Providence. When you begin to have anxiety, meditate on the name Elohim and worship Him for His power. He said that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in your mortal bodies. The same power that upholds all things in this universe has been purchased by Jesus to work on your behalf this day and every day. Let the name Elohim cleanse you of your doubts, worries, frustrations, bitterness, or anything else that would hinder you from trusting Him in faith.
But the second part of the word is the him part of Elohim. And it's application is just as astounding. Elohim is a plural form of El. If we didn’t have a singular article in front of the word, it would refer to mighty ones or gods. But with the singular article, it refers to one God, but one God in some kind of plurality. That's why in Genesis 1:26, this one God says, "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." God is not like the Muslim god - a solitary being who does not have fellowship and love at the core of who He is. Unlike the Muslim god who had no one to fellowship with anyone before creation, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were constantly speaking with each other, fellowshipping with each other, loving each other, and serving each other. They were in koinonia or communion with each other. So, before there were any angels, the first verse of the bible has a reference to the Trinity. "In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth." Elohim therefore refers to the Trinity. I know that some people say that there is no Trinity in the Old Testament. But I have Jewish commentaries written on Genesis 1 that are dated centuries before Jesus was born, and those commentaries speak of God, the Word, and the Spirit all talking with each other (they are different persons) but all being one God and all three being the one Yehowah. They knew the doctrine of the Trinity and they saw it as being right there in Genesis 1 as well as in many other passages. In fact, I have a book written by a converted rabbi that shows the Trinity throughout the Old Testament.
And when we come to the Lord’s Table this morning, we are not only banking on His power being on our behalf since He is our El-ehim, but His fellowship being shared with us since He is our Elo-him. 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, "God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." That is astonishing - that we are being ushered into the same perfect fellowship the Son enjoyed throughout eternity with Father and Spirit. Elohim has never ceased to be a God of outgoing love, fellowship, and heart-to-heart ministry. And He offers that to you in the Lord's Table.
And so when God calls us to this communion meal, He is calling us into His fellowship and into His power. Let’s glory that His power and fellowship have been pledged to us in this meal. And let's pledge to enter into that power and fellowship ourselves and to not continue in doubt and unbelief. Let's pray.
Elohim - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we glory that you have called us to Yourself in this table. We glory in Your power. Forgive us for those times that we doubt your power to be sufficient for us. Forgive us for our anxieties and fears. Forgive us for those times that we doubt your presence and fellowship with us. This morning, as we partake of this communion, we do so in faith that you are for us, and if you are for us, who can successfully be against us? No one. We partake of communion in faith that you loved us with an everlasting love and that we will forever be diving deeper and deeper into knowing and experiencing Your perfect fellowship. Help us in this meal to catch a glimpse of who you are and what you have done. And may we leave this worship service being enriched by Your power and fellowship. May it be so Lord Jesus. Amen.