There is a telling chapter in Nehemiah today. It is the remarkable account of how the people “assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins …” (9:1,2). It was an all-out effort to renew their commitment to God – to ‘get back on track’ as we might put it today. The leading Levites told them to “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (verse 5). Do we understand what this means? What is the name of God and how can a “name” be “glorious” in itself?
These Levites say, “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it … You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram … You found his heart faithful before you … you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt … And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day … you divided the sea before them …” (verses 6-11).
It is invaluable to understand how God “made a name” for Himself. In Exodus 3 Moses is told by God to go to Egypt and bring the people out (verses 10,11). Take note how Moses responds, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (verse 13). We may be familiar with God’s answer, but we need to ask ourselves why would Moses expect the people to ask, ‘What is our God’s name?’ They really wanted to know His reputation. The people would be familiar with all the different reputations of the various Egyptian Gods.
The answer God gave Moses was that He was going to make a reputation for Himself in what was about to happen. This understanding is confirmed here in Nehemiah, but also in other places (see Isaiah 63:12-14; Jeremiah 32:20; Daniel 9:15).
The challenge is how the meaning of God’s name changes in the New Testament, for now God has become a Father. What did Jesus tell his disciples (see John 17:6,26)? How is the prayer of Jesus working out in the lives of you and me? “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them”. Think through these words they lead to the deepest meditation.