“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
Once, I was invited to speak on “The Promises of God.” It was the first time I could remember being asked to speak outside of my own church. I was hesitant in accepting but had great respect and admiration for the one who issued the invitation. I accepted, thinking, if she had faith that I could do it, the least I could do was agree with her! So I researched and began to prepare to teach on this ambitious topic and I found that His names are promises. They tell us much about his character, who he is and how much we can rely on him.
My search yielded well known names: Jehovah Jireh – The Lord as provider. Jehovah Shalom – The Lord as peace. Jehovah Rapha – The Lord as healer. The second word modifies his personal name and reveals character traits. El Shaddai, one of my favorites, means God Almighty or “The Big Breasted One.” Actually, it’s masculine in nature, more like “chest”. The image sprang to my mind of God as my superhero, able to leap tall problems in a … well, you get the idea. What surprised me was that the “God” part of the name could often be found in the smallest section – “El.” As in, Bethel (house of God) and Emmanuel (God with us). Kind of like the “Je” in Jesus or “Jo” in Joshua or “Ye” in Yeshua (The Lord saves). I learned to follow the clues to find his names. When you see LORD in all capital letters, it denotes God’s personal name, Yahweh or Jehovah, which is thought to be related to the Hebrew verb, “to be” and closely akin to “I AM.” For me, it was fascinating stuff! I loved learning about his names and uncovering his promises.
One name, though, stuck with me more than any other for it told me the most about Him: I AM. This was the name he gave Moses and how he chose to reveal himself to the Israelites. But it didn’t make sense. “I AM” is not a name but the beginning of a sentence. It was confusing. And then I got it – Oh! *FACEPALM* It was so simple that it took a child’s mentality to understand it: “I AM,” fill-in-the-blank. “I AM,” insert-problem-here. “I AM,” anything and everything you need me to be! That’s how he wants us to know him. That’s why he revealed himself as such. He gave himself that name, showing himself to a people in need because he wanted to fulfill that need. He wants us to know he stands ready, even now – no matter the need, whatever the problem. “I AM” here for you!
I had a dear uncle – Pap, is what we used to call him. Uncle Pap was my mother’s brother and very much a fixture in our household as we grew up. During that time, he grew to be my father’s good friend and confidante. They spent many hours in our basement, talking and working on their latest home improvement project. Pap practically lived with us a lot of the time. Even when he went home, it was only for a short time and then he was back at our house again. He was needed. He was good company, an excellent cook (cornbread!) and a good male presence. He was steady and dependable; faithful.
Time passed. We grew up, got married, and had children. Our father passed and the family began to disperse. We moved out, one by one, to build our own lives and seek our own fortunes, so my mother moved on with us. Pap continued to come and support her, staying with her until the final moving day. My brother reported to me how very lost Pap looked on that day. He had been such a constant in our lives that it hadn’t occurred to me, until then, that we were just as big a part of his life. So I reached out to him and he came to visit me and my family. Being a farmer all his life, Pap helped to plant vegetable gardens at my home, my sister’s home and his daughter’s home. He got a big kick out of it for he was in high demand and was kept busy shuffling back and forth. He was a welcome and major part in all our lives and became as firmly entrenched in our households as he had been in our mother’s.
We looked forward to his visits. My children thought of him as a grandfather and I valued his company. I spent many hours talking with him, just as my father did before me. One day, Pap said to me, “Just like me and your daddy was, that’s how you and me is. Whatever you need, if I can do it, Pap’ll do it for you.” Wow. I was touched. Not because I needed anything. Pap was treasured. He didn’t have to do anything in my home, just be. But I appreciated the sentiment. I never took my uncle up on his offer but he found ways to help me in his own way – from helping me plant my garden to being a grandfather for my kids. I wouldn’t have asked so whenever he saw a need, he stepped up to fill the vacancy. I see God in this, for when Pap verbalized his desire to be the one I could turn to, he was ultimately fulfilling the will of the ONE who really desired to be The Great I AM in my life. Pap wanted me to know that he would be there for me, in whatever capacity, if I needed him. He also recognized his own limitations and put qualifiers on his offer, “If I can do it, I will.”
It occurred to me recently, that God is saying the same thing but without the limitations. He didn’t put qualifiers on it and say “maybe” or “if I can.” He boldly declared himself to be the One who could and would fulfill our needs. His name tells us, he will take care of us, just as he did the Israelites and our ancestors. And my father and mother and grandmother. He has said simply, in effect: I AM the one you can turn to in a time of need. A God without limitations, that’s who we serve.
We have limitations. Sometimes we are limited by time or physically. Sometimes we are limited because of our mindset. But, as hard as it is to grasp, He is limitless in his ability. Inconceivable, we may think. Yet, it is. Otherwise, how can we embrace miracles that happen every day? Thirty-three Chilean miners were trapped underground longer than anyone in recorded history, since August 5th. Today, they are free. Inconceivably. Recalling recent mining accidents, I know they don’t always have a happy ending. As one of the miners, Mario Sepulveda, put it, “I think I had extraordinary luck. I was with God and with the devil. And I reached out for God.” In choosing God, he had to believe that God could be his solution. God could be just the remedy that was needed. In reaching out for God, he had to believe that God could fulfill his promises.