Our God is personal. He relates. Fundamental to his very existence is the reality that he exists as a person in community. From eternity past the Father has loved the Son (John 17:24). He is a personal, relational-covenant-keeping God.
And because he is personal, he has a name. I think it might be time for us to familiarize ourselves with it again.
Lately I’ve been reading Michael Reeves’ excellent book titled, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Here’s an insight that resonated with me.
For what makes Christianity absolutely distinct is the identity of our God. Which God we worship: that is the article of faith that stands before all others. The bedrock of our faith is nothing less than God himself, and every aspect of the gospel—creation, revelation, salvation—is only Christian insofar as it is the creation, revelation and salvation of this God, the triune God. I could believe in the death of a man called Jesus, I could believe in his bodily resurrection, I could even believe in a salvation by grace alone; but if I do not believe in this God, then, quite simply, I am not a Christian. And so, because the Christian God is triune, the Trinity is the governing center of all Christian belief, the truth that shapes and beautifies all others. 1
Which God we worship is of fundamental importance. We can’t agree on anything else, really, if we’re conceiving of, placing faith in, and worshiping different gods. Our God needs to be distinguished. Here’s an explanation of why:
Strangely enough, who and what God is like tend to be things we assume we already know and so do not need to think much more about. Especially in the post-Christian West, where the identity of God seems to have been pretty much universally agreed on for centuries, it seems obvious. Thus Christians ask non-Christians whether they believe in “God”—as if the very idea of “God” is self-explanatory, as if we will all be thinking of the same sort of being. 2
But the reality is that increasingly, when we speak of ‘God’ or ‘god’ with people who live around us, we’re not talking about the same conception of God at all. And even those who think they have a Christian heritage are now so biblically illiterate that I’m almost certain that they have no idea who the God is that I know.
I think one thing that would be helpful for us is to begin using the proper name of God. The reason God’s name was spoken to Moses and given to the people of Israel at the time of the Exodus was specifically to distinguish him from the gods of the surrounding nations. The Israelite people needed a name to boast of, to worship, to give glory to, to ascribe feats of power to, in a way that would make everyone around realize that the God of Israel is very, very different from the gods of the nations.
And that is exactly what we need again.
We don’t worship Oprah’s ‘god’, or Allah, or Jehovah (as in the god of the Jehovah’s Witnesses). We worship Yahweh. Distinguishing him with our speech, using his name, will give us opportunity to speak of him in way that doesn’t presume others know who we’re talking about.
Our God, the covenant-relational God, has intimately bound himself to his people and made himself known by name. Why would we not speak his name?