What do your friends call you? If they’ve given you a nickname that’s kinda cool, you’re probably pretty proud of it. If they’ve given you a name that isn’t so nice, you’re not happy about that. N
ow let’s go to a party. Your friends introduce you to someone of influence, but they call you by the wrong name. Do you just smile, or do you correct the mistake?
God has a name. As a matter of fact, he has tons of names. The Bible calls him Almighty God, Lord, Savior, Jesus, Holy Spirit and Jehovah, to name a few. But that’s in English. Don’t worry—God understands English. But what about the names of God in other languages?
I was a missionary in Japan, and we ran into this problem when talking about God. The word for god (kami) in Japanese is a very old word, and the typical Japanese understood “god” to mean any “god.” Even 8 million different gods. How could we get across the names of God from the Bible? By defining the word “God.” The God of the Bible is the “God who created heaven and earth.” Or he is the “God who saved us from our sins.” In time, Japanese Christians could use their old name for “god” and understand it to mean the true God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In languages all around the world there are various names for gods. Take Allah, for example. For most people of the world the name “Allah” does not stand for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For most it stands for the god of the Islam religion. No doubt there are some Christians around the world who use “Allah” in their native tongue, but like the Japanese Christians, they have come to use this name to mean the True God.
This works both ways, you know. If a Jehovah’s Witness uses the name Jesus, but doesn’t have any confession of Jesus as Savior from sin and death, just using Jesus’ name in prayer would not please God. So, also, if I would use Allah or Kami and attach the common, accepted meaning, the true Lord God in heaven would not be pleased with me, either.
Are you beginning to get the picture? No matter what language one uses to call upon God’s name, it is not the simple sounds of the word, but also the confession that comes with the name we use. God hears the words and sees the heart. Let it be a heart that trusts in Jesus.
No wonder God said, “I am the LORD; that is my name!” (Isaiah 42:8). Let’s use the good name of the Lord God to pray, praise and give thanks.