Rabbi Schneider - Who Is Elohim?
I want to talk about the names of God in Scripture. Particularly we're gonna be looking, beloved ones, in this series at God's covenant name. Did you know that the Lord actually has a personal name; that Father God actually has a personal name? Just like you have a personal name, your God has a personal name as well. But before we look at God's personal name, I want to make a few comments today to set the stage for the series of messages that are to come. I want to begin today by going to the Book of Exodus with you. If you've got your Bible, I want you to go there with me. You might want to have your Bible in front of you during the course of these series so that you can make notes and underline places as I point out to you the different places in Scripture where the Lord uses His personal sacred name in conjunction with one of the things that He does in the salvation of His people.
In other words, what we're gonna do is we're gonna look at God's sacred name and then we're gonna show you when God joins His covenant name, His sacred name, to a function that He performs in the lives of those that He is saving. I'm making now an introductory comment by going to the Book of Exodus, chapter number 33, verse number 18. Now in this section of Scripture, Moses has been calling out to Father God and He's wanting Father God to affirm him, to affirm him, and affirm him. And finally the conversation reaches a climax in verse number 18. I'm gonna pick up there. Moses says to the Lord: I pray You, He said, show me Your glory! Again, this is the climax of the conversation. Moses keeps on looking to the Lord for assurance. And then finally Moses said, show me your glory.
And the Lord says this to him. Listen carefully as I pick up in verse 19: And He said, I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim, get it now, the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. But He said, You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live! Let's put this in context. Moses is asking, Father God, He's saying, God Lord, I want to encounter you. Show me your glory. And the Lord responds back to Moses and He says, Moses, you can't see me face to face. But Moses, He said, listen, I am gonna proclaim my name to you. So once again Moses says, show me your glory. And the Lord says, you can't see me face to face, but I'm gonna proclaim my name to you. He tells Moses to go hide himself in the cleft of the rock and to call upon Father's name.
Moses goes into the cleft of the rock, and as Moses is calling upon Father by His sacred name, which we're gonna be studying in this Scripture. I'm not saying it yet 'cause we haven't got to it yet, but Moses is calling now upon the Lord by His sacred personal name, Exodus, 34, verse 6: Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty go unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers and the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. Moses made haste to bow low and to worship. And so I'm setting the stage right now, beloved ones, by helping you to see how incredible it is to know Father God's personal name. And in knowing His name, to have revelation about who He is.
Moses says, Lord, show me your glory. Father says, I'm gonna proclaim my name to you. Go hide in the cleft of the rock. Moses then calls upon Father God by His name, a breathy, Yahweh. And as Moses calls upon the name of Yahweh, the Lord himself, Yahweh himself, descends upon Moses and He says, I am Yahweh, God, compassionate and gracious, full of lovingkindness and truth. And Moses literally, beloved ones, is filled with light. He encounters God and He knows who He is.
So before we move further into this, I want to take a couple steps back now as we go to the very beginning of the Bible to the Book of Genesis, chapter number 1. So to begin this series, we're gonna take a few steps back. I want you to go with me now into the Book of Genesis. We call it in Hebrew, Bereshit. And we're gonna go there with chapter number 1. As we go to Genesis, chapter 1, we read the verses that we're all familiar with: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis, 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. In fact, on my set right here, you can see behind me that I actually have that verse in Hebrew: In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. So in the first verse of the Bible, Genesis, 1:1, when we see God's name translated in English, the actual Hebrew word there for the English word God is the Hebrew word, get this now, church, Elohim.
So what the verse actually says is: In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. The word Elohim, listen now, is a title. It's not God's personal name, but it's a descriptive title of God. It's interesting to note that during the time that the Old Testament was written, during the time that Moses wrote Genesis, even the heathen referred to their God, get this now, as El. Now we're looking at the word Elohim. Elohim, in the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. Elohim is the plural of El. And again I said, even the heathens referred to their gods as El. It just meant god or lord. But here it's not a singular El, but we add the him on the end of it the El Elohim, which makes El plural, Elohim.
And the reason that we're adding the him on, the reason that the Lord added on the him sound at the end of El is 'cause when we add the word him on the end of a word in Hebrew, it number one, shows accent. It marks it to, to give it greater weight. It gives it an exclamation point. And so when we say Elohim, it makes the word El just stand out. So that's the first reason that we use the plural of the form El in Genesis, 1:1. The second reason that we use the plural of the word El in Genesis, 1:1, is because, listen to this church, within the Godhead there is a multi-dimensional aspect. And so in other words, as we continue in the Book of Genesis, chapter 1 and 2, we hear the Lord saying as He's about to create man, He says, Let Us, He said, make man in Our own image.
And so I'm looking now at Genesis, chapter 1, verse 26: Then Elohim, then God said, Let Us make man in Our own image, in Our own likeness. And so the question is, who is the Lord referring to in Genesis, 1:26, when He said let us make man in, get this now, our own image? The point is, is that within the Godhead, listen now, there is relationship. And this is what we read about in the Gospel of John; that Jesus is God himself. He's the Son who's always been in the bosom of the Father. And so the fact that we have relationship on earth, a relationship between a man and a woman, relationships within families, relationship within society; this whole concept of relationship stems out of God's own nature. In other words, in God himself there is relationship. And so this concept of in the beginning let us, He said, create man in our, in our own image. In the beginning Elohim, God plural, said let us create man in our own image.
This comes from the concept of the fact that within God there is relationship. He's talking to himself. He, the Son is in His bosom and there's an eternal dialogue going on between the Father and the Son, and the Son and the Father. And so the Elohim connotates the fact that there is a relationship within the Godhead. It's multi-dimensional. There's only one God. We all know that. There's only one God, one God alone. But within the one God there's relationship. And so for this reason when we read about God creating the heavens and the earth and him making man in His own image, we see him using the title Elohim rather than El because again He's putting accent on, on, on the sense that He's not just one of many Gods but He's the one true God, and there is relationship within him. And thus we have Elohim in the plural form.
As we begin to read the Old Testament, we don't see God revealed by His covenant name, which this series is about, but we simply see him being referred to as God. In fact, when Jesus was on the cross, right before He gave up His Spirit, He said, Eli, Eli. And that word, Eli, is actually a form of this word, El, here. It's interesting that the only time that Jesus referred to God simply as God as Eli, Eli, why has thou forsaken me? The only time that He referred to God simply as God, rather than as Father, in terms of His own communication with him was when He felt forsaken by God, 'cause He knew God more than just El, or more than just Elohim, or more than just Eli, as we read in the Gospels, but He knew God, listen beloved ones, as His own Father.
So I'm just building up now to the revelation of God's sacred name. When then, if in the very beginning we see him revealed as Elohim, the name used for the Creator, when then in Scripture do we first see the Lord revealed by His covenant personal name? I'm gonna answer that question as we go now together to the Book of Exodus, chapter number 3, and we're also going to be looking here at Exodus, chapter 6, as we get now into the meat, beloved children of God, in this series we're studying, The Covenant Names of God. In Exodus, chapter 3 and Exodus, chapter 6, we see the revelation of God's covenant name. Hear the Word of God as I read first of all Exodus, chapter 3, verse 14-15: God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM, and He said, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.
Now this is God's sacred name here. God furthermore, said to Moses, Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, this is My memorial-name to all generations. So in Exodus, 3, we see the covenant name of God is made up of four Hebrew letters. You'll see them on your screen now, YHWH (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey). And most sematic scholars, scholars of the ancient Hebrew language, feel that it was pronounced a breathy, listen now, church, Yahweh.
Now I want to continue on in chapter number 6, of Exodus. Once again the Lord and Moses are speaking. God spoke further to Moses and said to him: I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty. This is El Shaddai. Remember we looked at El in the Book of Genesis; El, Elohim. He said, I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty. This is El, okay the singular form of Elohim that we looked at, almighty. This is El Shaddai. We've heard that song, El Shaddai.
Remember some of you old timers like myself, remember Amy Grant sang that song, El Shaddai. The Lord said here: I revealed myself as Abraham, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, as El Shaddai. But listen to this, but by my name, Yahweh, did I not make myself known to them. And so up to this point those that walked with God didn't know him by His covenant name. But God revealed His covenant name to Moses. And everyone from Moses onward in the Old Testament when they called upon God, listen now, church, they called upon Father God in reverence and in love, get this now, and in the fear of the Lord, listen, they called upon him, hear me church, by His covenant name. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea, all the prophets, they all called upon God by His name, a reverent Yahweh.
Now today the Jewish community feels that God's sacred name is to be protected, that it shouldn't be spoken. And so when Jewish people speak to God today, traditional Jewish people, they don't speak to him by His name. Rather than calling him by His name, Yahweh, Jewish people will simply refer to him as Adonai, which simply means Lord. Again, the mindset in the rabbinic Jewish community is His name is so sacred we shouldn't speak it. But I want you to know, beloved ones, from my heart, that does not resonate or make sense with me because everybody in the Old Testament from Moses onward called upon Father God in love and in reverence by His name, Yahweh.
See there's something personal when you know somebody's name. If you just say to somebody, hey, hey you, hey Bud; if you just call somebody by their title there's a sense of disconnectedness there. That's why when you meet somebody and you want to get to know them a little bit more, more deeply, you say to them, what is your name? Because when they give you their name and you call them by their name, a personal relationship is formed. So even though I want to say I respect the Jewish community and I understand their reasoning for not referring to God by His name, I think biblically you can't back that up. And so this series is about God's covenant name. I want to obviously challenge every listener right now that if you're gonna call upon God by His name, you need to do it in, in reverence and in love. But I also want to say to you that God loves you and He revealed His name to you because He wants you to know him. He wants you to love him. And He wants you to be able to feel comfortable enough to call upon him by His name, Yahweh.
Otherwise, church, He wouldn't have revealed him, himself to us by His name. In fact, did you know that in the Hebrew Bible, in the Old Testament God's covenant name, Yahweh, again made up of the four Hebrew consonants YHWH (Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey) is used, get this now, almost, I shouldn't say almost, it's used over 7,000 times. Now today we hear different songs that are calling God Jehovah. And this is a mispronunciation of God's holy, sacred name, a breathy Yahweh. And the reason that the Gentile church is calling upon God by Jehovah often times rather than Yahweh is because the ancient Jewish scribes actually did some things which I'm gonna share in next week's broadcast so that Gentiles wouldn't know how to pronounce His name. They tried to cover up His name and conceal His name so that Gentiles wouldn't be able to speak His name because they were concerned about the Gentiles of the world blaspheming His name.
And so once again they tried to cover it up and confuse how it could be pronounced so the Gentiles couldn't blasphemy it. I'm gonna get into that on next week's program. But I want to conclude today by talking about this point. God's personal covenant name, Yahweh, listen to this, beloved ones, is a verb. Now think about this. Even, even those of us that weren't the most astute students of English, we learn that a noun was a person, place or thing. And so if you refer to a person, that person is a noun. But God's name, Yahweh, is a verb. And the tense of Yahweh, the tense of that verb form, listen to this, is continuous, unfinished action.
You see, beloved, your God and Father is alive. Yahweh, it's continuous, unfinished action. I want you to hear. Your Father is alive. He's active. He's involved in your life every second of every day. He was involved in your life yesterday. He's involved in your life today. And He'll be involved in your life forever; continuous, unfinished action. Yahweh is your God. He's your Father, and He loves you. Join me next week and invite a friend for the very important edition of Discovering the Jewish Jesus that will be coming up.