Biblical Meditation: What It Is & How To Do It?

Author Sarah Geringer, in her book Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus, addresses the difference between our society’s current understanding of meditation and genuine Christian meditation.

“You may be skeptical about the word meditation because of its association with New Age and Eastern religions. I can understand if you feel hesitant, but I’d like to reassure you that the idea of meditation is not foreign to Christianity. It is simply the practice of thinking about Scripture and communing with God. I think you will find it to be a powerful tool for increasing peace in your life.

“(Christian meditation) involves the solid truth of God’s Word… It’s an invitation to deeper relationship with the One who perfectly loves us. When we make God’s character, laws, promises, and works our focus, we engage in Christian meditation.”

Last week I wrote about one of the world’s ways to use meditation, the process of Mindfulness Meditation. Today, I am looking at the biblical model of meditation.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines meditation as:

“Close or continued thought; the turning or revolving of a subject in the mind; serious contemplation.”

Some form of the word meditation is mentioned in the Bible 23 times, 19 of which are found in the Psalms. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, mentions the Word of God in almost every verse. That Psalm alone uses some form of the word meditate eight times, in verses 15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97. 99, and 148.

Biblical meditation was first mentioned in Scripture in Joshua 1:8. In the middle of an exhortation for Joshua to be strong and courageous as he was commissioned to lead Israel into their Promised Land, God gave a command to meditate on the Book of the Law.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Biblical meditation is one of several ways to commune with God. It focuses our thoughts on a specific verse or short passage of Scripture or on one of the names or attributes of God that are given in Scripture. It is different than prayer, but can include prayer. It is an important part of a growing relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Meditation begins with prayerfully reading a passage of Scripture, asking God to speak to us. Often when we do this, one or more verses will stand out to us. Maybe within those verses, one or two words catch our attention. For me, this is usually a prompting to look up the words in a biblical resource, such as the Blue Letter Bible, to learn what the word(s) actually meant to the original audience. I usually do this with my current journal in front of me, which I use to record any new insights I’ve gained from the verse(s).

What is the difference between Bible reading and Bible meditation?

The website of Billy Graham Evangelistic Ministries, http://www.billygraham.org, clearly answers this question.

“We believe that it is essential to differentiate between reading and meditating on the Bible. Reading is primarily assimilation of facts without application. In other words, it is for gathering of information.

“When we meditate on the Word of God, we seek to make personal application of the Scriptures to our own lives and circumstances. This results in more than the intake of information; it transforms by leading to the formation of the individual into Christlikeness.

“It is at that very moment that the Holy Spirit is able to speak to us, for as the apostle Paul said, “All scripture is … profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We never know how or when the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to bring conviction and correction. As God promises in Isaiah 55:11, the Word “will not return to me empty.”

“It is also essential to remember that Satan knows the Scriptures well. He often uses Scripture, out of context, to tempt us. He is a master at distorting what the Word of God says (Genesis 3:1). However, when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Luke, chapter 4), Jesus correctly used the Scriptures to defeat him. The Word of God is our sure defense against Satan’s attacks.”

An important part of gaining benefit from meditating on Scripture is repetition. When we meditate on a verse or short passage of Scripture that is personally applicable to our current lives and circumstances, it’s important to meditate and repeat. I offen do this for a week or more, until I sense that my response to the situation has begun to change.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV) says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds… “ One of the most effective tools to renew our minds and experience transformation is biblical meditation.

In a world that has taken the God-given discipline of meditation and distorted it to the point that some Christians are afraid to even use the term, God has given us a major key to seeing lasting change in problem areas of our lives. Whether you choose to use the term meditation (which the Bible uses) or a synonym such as ponder or muse, please don’t ignore this valuable Spiritual Discipline.

Biblical meditation is incomplete until we apply what we’ve learned though the Word of God to our personal lives and our circumstances. In a Bible study group I’m a part of, we call these our Faith Actions. How does God want us to apply the lesson(s) He has been teaching us through meditation on a verse or short portion of Scripture?

Let the Holy Spirit lead you in this. Remember, the purpose of biblical meditation is first a transformed way of thinking and finally a transformed way of living. Permanent change takes time, so don’t rush through the process.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

This week, we are looking at the character of this One to whom we are called to submit. And one way we know the Lord is as our Shepherd.

Psalm 23 begins with the Hebrew words “Yahweh rohi,” the Lord my Shepherd. Yahweh, in our English Bibles LORD (in all caps), is the unique and sacred name of the Everlasting and Eternal God – the almighty, omniscient and omnipotent Creator.

The New Testament focuses on God incarnate, God in human flesh, Who we know as Jesus Christ. He is identified in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” So both Father (Yahweh) and Son (Jesus Christ) are the Shepherd of those who have surrendered to their rule.

Psalm 23 was written by David, who during his youth had been a shepherd over his father’s flock. He took seriously his responsibility as the protector of the sheep.

In 1 Samuel 17, we read of some of young David’s experiences as a shepherd. In answer to King Saul’s concern that David was only a youth, not able to go against the Philistine giant Goliath who was taunting the army of Israel, David recalls some of the dangers he faced and overcame as he was tending sheep for his father, saying this Philistine would be like one of the lions or bears he battled as a shepherd.

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17:33-34 ESV)  

Sheep are definitely not the smartest animals God created! They constantly need to be under the watchful eye of a shepherd as they graze. In the hilly terrain of Palestine, sheep faced many dangers. For example, if one sheep jumped off a cliff, and there was no shepherd there to protect them, the whole flock would likely follow. Therefore having an alert and vigilant shepherd to watch over them was essential.

Let’s look at Psalm 23 verse by verse. In these six short verses, we are promised:

* RELATIONSHIP AND PROVISION:The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:1a‬) (The word translated “want” ‬refers to not lacking anything we need.)

* REST AND RESTORATION:He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a)

* GUIDANCE AND PURPOSE: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:3b‬)‬

* GOD’S PRESENCE AND COMFORT:Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:4)‬

* BLESSING AND ABUNDANCE: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:5)

* GOD’S GOODNESS AND MERCY AND AN ETERNITY WITH HIM: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬)‭

Like sheep, we are helpless, defenseless, and even purposeless without God in our lives. We need a Shepherd who will protect, provide, and give purpose to our lives. And God wants to be that good Shepherd in our lives.

There’s just one problem. As sheep we are not always wanting what our Good Shepherd provides. W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, wrote, “It takes some of us a lifetime to learn that Christ, our Good Shepherd, knows exactly what He is doing with us. He understands us perfectly.

We want the care of the Good Shepherd while still reserving the right to do things our way. But that’s not the way it works. Surrender to the One who is our Good Shepherd is to key to being able to partake of all the benefits of being one of His sheep. On this Thankful Thursday, let’s make sure there are no areas of our lives we are refusing to surrender to the Lordship of Christ and then give thanks to God for all the blessings that are a part of the life of surrender.

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The LORD Yahweh is Our Good Shepherd

My last blog post was in June, so I decided it was time to write a new post. Typing is a challenge right now, using mostly one hand because my right hand is in a wrist brace with thumb splint, but here this goes. This is a short post I wrote this morning on one of the most familiar passages in the Old Testament.

The LORD Yahweh is Our Good Shepherd

This familiar psalm teaches us so much about our Good Shepherd. I used Psalm 23 in the New English Version this morning to gain a fuller understanding of what it means when we use the name of Yahweh Rohi, meaning the Lord my shepherd. (Numbers correspond to verse numbers)

  1. As my Shepherd, He provides for ALL my needs
  2. He meets my PHYSICAL needs.
  3. He meets my SPIRITUAL needs.
  4. He is WITH ME in the darkest valley.
  5. He has a SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP with me, even in plain sight of my enemies. My cup is completely full.
  6. His “hesed” – His GOODNESS and FAITHFULNESS – will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live with Him forever.

“Hesed” describes the covenant relationship Yahweh has with His children. This Hebrew word has no one English word that even comes close to it’s full meaning. Other Bible versions translate it LOVINGKINDNESS, UNFAILING LOVE, and STEADFAST LOVE. It also conveys the meaning of DEVOTION and LOYALTY.

Take some time today to thank Yahweh Rohi for all He is and does for us. Another good Scripture to study is John 10: 1-18, which gives us an extended picture of Yahweh Rohi through the life of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Reclaiming Your Life: The Place of Biblical Self-Care in Chronic Illness Management

side of the bed. Gradually increasing my walking is another goal. Yes, there are days I don’t feel up to exercise, but on days that this is an achievable goal I start my day with some light exercise. Another area where we can become more active is by doing my household tasks.2side of the bed. Gradually increasing my walking is another goal. Yes, there are days I don’t feel up to exercise, but on days that this is an achievable goal I start my day with some light exercise. Another area where we can become more active is by doing my household tasks.

I’m washing the breakfast and lunch dishes, a job I can do in less than ten minutes, and one other small job that needs to be done most days. When you live with the limitations of chronic illness, pacing yourself is very important, but for me a small job that takes around ten minutes is doable, and it takes a little of the pressure off of our daughter, who deals with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

SELF-CARE FOR THE SOUL
Our souls are made up of our mind, will, and emotions. Romans 12:2 deals with our minds and thoughts.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬

Do your thoughts line up with the truth of God’s Word? Or is your thinking “conformed to this world”? Renewing our MIND to see our lives through the lens of God’s Word is an area of self-care many of us need to work on. Lasting changes, even those that mainly affect the body, must start in the mind. That’s because our actions are a direct result of what our thoughts are focused on.

The apostle Paul spoke about our WILL in Philippians 2:13, saying we are to work out the salvation God has worked in us through His Spirit, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” While God won’t violate our self-will and force us to do His will, He will work in our will to help us embrace His will and then to empower us to do it.

The third area of our soul is the EMOTIONS. A passage that has helped me many times when my emotions are out of control is found in Philippians 4.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬

SELF-CARE FOR THE SPIRIT
1 Corinthians 4:34 encourages us to be holy – set apart for God’s use – in both our spirit and our body. Just as our bodies need physical nourishment, our spirits need spiritual nourishment.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬‬‬

Do you have a daily time in God’s Word? Are you taking time to listen to see if God has some truth that you need to make it through the obstacles before you today? Reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on Scriptures are spiritual disciplines that are essential to spiritual growth.

Prayer is equally important. Prayer is an acknowledge of our need for and dependence upon a God who is bigger than anything we may be facing.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭ESV ‬‬

This is no where near a complete list of all the areas where self-care would help us better deal with the daily challenges of life with chronic illness. But it gives a starting place for choosing some self-care actions that will enable you to better manage the daily challenges of your life. I encourage you to share in the comments an area of self-care that has helped you cope better with the limitations and struggles of living with chronic illness.

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Is Mindfulness Meditation Something Christians Should Try for Pain Relief ?

One of the most difficult problems of living with one or more chronic illnesses is chronic pain. I personally have lived with chronic pain since 1975, and I’ve used a variety of treatments including over-the-counter and prescription pain medications, supplements, physical therapy, braces, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS unit), ElectroCorticosteroid and Hyaluronic acid injections, and several orthopedic surgeries in hope of relieving the pain – with minimal effect in most cases. One thing I have shied away from is mindfulness meditation for chronic pain.

Focus on the Family says of mindfulness meditation:

“Mindfulness (some use the word grounding) is characterized by meditation and relaxation techniques. The idea is to become more self-aware. You pay attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations in that moment — without purposefully deciding whether they’re good or bad, and without becoming overwhelmed or overly reactive. In short, you tune in to what’s real right now.”

Many reputable universities (such as Harvard) and medical facilities (such as Mayo Clinic) now recommend mindfulness meditation for chronic pain. What is mindfulness meditation, and is it something I should try as a Christian for pain relief?

Mindfulness meditation can be individual mindfulness meditation, sitting alone in a quiet comfortable space, usually with your eyes closed and not focused on anything specific to begin with. It often includes concentrating on various areas of your body, one at a time.

Or it may be guided mindfulness meditation, which involves listening to someone either on a recording or in person, who will prompt you to relax into a meditative state and then guide you through the meditation.

Sometimes guided meditation uses imagery, asking you to picture specific things in your mind. Guided meditation may include Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), when you focus on relaxing each part of the body, one at a time, to take the tension away from each muscle.

All of these are recommended by some physicians and counselors, so it’s important to decide ahead of time what you will do if mindfulness meditation is recommended as a part of your pain relief.

Opinions about both individual and guided mindfulness vary within the Christian community. Focus on the Family mentioned the following cautions to those considering any secular kind of meditation therapy.

  • Secular mindfulness is based on an unhealthy degree of self-focus.
  • It supports emptying the mind, which can expose people to demonic influences.
  • It encourages escape from reality.
  • It sometimes promotes a one-with-the-cosmos worldview.
  • The concept of “mindfulness” is rooted in Zen Buddhist meditation.

All of these concerns are valid. Secular mindfulness encourages you pay attention only to yourself. In contrast, Scripture teaches us to have the mind of Christ and to evaluate everything in light of our vertical relationship with God and Jesus.

Mindfulness meditation can be compatible with a biblical worldview if it is rooted in Scripture and has a vertical focus on connecting with the God who created us and loves us with an unfailing love. Some faith-based counselors use this form of mindfulness meditation as a therapy tool. If you are considering mindfulness meditation for pain relief, make sure you work with a genuine Christian therapist who will guide you to the truths of Scripture. For me, personally, the decision has been made. I don’t want to use any kind of mindfulness medication, because even when it is wrapped in biblical principles it’s still rooted in Zen Buddhist meditation.

Next week, we will be looking at Biblical Meditation, the kind of meditation the Lord clearly calls us to participate in.

How to Replace the Lies In Your Mind with God’s Truth

I grew up going to church every week, often more than once. I even taught a Sunday School class in my local church. But throughout those years, I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.

That changed the year after I graduated from college. I was beginning a career as a kindergarten teacher. Soon after moving to the town where I had a teaching position, I did what was a lifestyle for me – I looked for a church to join. While this church was of the same denomination of the churches I had been a part of, it was very different.

For the first time, I heard the gospel clearly explained. I learned than Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and I was encouraged to surrender my life to Him and accept Him as my personal Savior and Lord. I was told when I did this, that Jesus came to live in my heart through the Holy Spirit. He was now my teacher and guide for how to live as a believer in Jesus Christ. And this began a lifelong adventure was walking the genuine Christian life.

This happened in 1972; it’s now 2022, fifty years later. While I’ve matured in the faith from those early days as a Christ, I’m still learning how to walk in the truth of God’s Word. In fact, I’m currently taking a nine week, in-depth course on renewing my mind in a specific area where I’m not yet walking in victory, which I chose as my “mountain” that I need to overcome.

We choose what we will believe! A belief is something that we either consciously or unconsciously accept as truth. But there is only one source of truth: THE WORD OF GOD!

Most of us, no matter how long we have been Christians, still have a few areas of our lives where we are not walking in victory. These are the areas where we need to renew our minds by recognizing the lies we are still believing and replacing them with related truths from the Word of God.

Renewing the mind is basically rewiring your brain to think like Christ Jesus – to have the mind of Christ. Dr. Caroline Leaf speaks of this in her book Switch On Your Brian: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.

“God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them... You cannot sit back and wait to be happy and healthy and have a great thought life; you have to make the choice to make this happen. You have to choose to get rid of the toxic and get back in alignment with God. You can be overwhelmed by every small setback in life, or you can be energized by the possibilities they bring.

“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.

In physical terms, this is what happens when we choose to renew our minds. The actual structure of our mind changes as we learn to think differently about a specific area of our lives. We learn to recognize our wrong thoughts and replace them with truths from God’s Word… and continue doing this until we have learned a new way of thinking.

An essential step in renewing our minds is understanding our identity in Christ, who we are in Christ. Our minds have been influenced since early childhood by things our family, friends, teachers and other acquaintances have said about us, things which have physically changed the structure of our brains. Renewing the mind includes building new pathways for our thoughts about ourselves.

I’ve learned that renewing the mind takes time and effort. It requires honestly facing the lies we are believing, lies that are keeping us from walking in victory in a specific area of our life. It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in this step, because the very nature of lies is that we often don’t recognize them.

The class I’m currently taking has use begin with a “mind dump,” with listing at least ten thoughts that are currently on our minds. As I did this, I was surprised at the toxic thoughts that showed up. Then, we allow the Holy Spirit to reduce the list, one step at a time, until we recognize the “mountain” God currently wants us to focus on. A question made it easy for me to narrow my list down to one: What does the Lord see as the weighty issues in my life? Suddenly, I knew the area the Lord wanted me to focus my mind renewal on, something I had not even considered before that.

This is just an introduction to renewing our minds. If any of you are interested in a time of intense mind renewal, just leave a message in the comments after this post. I will be glad to give you the name of the study I’ve been doing – for the third time. This is just a taste of what I’m learning about renewing my mind. Each time I’ve done the study, I’ve seen major change in a problem area of my life, an area where victory had always seemed just beyond my reach. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WALK IN VICTORY IN AREAS OF PERSISTENT SIN – AND MIND RENEWAL IS THE KEY!

I AM WHO I AM

“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the sons of Israel and say unto them, The God of your fathers has sent me unto you, and if they say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? And God answered unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel: I AM (YHWH) has sent me unto you.” Exodus‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭JUB‬‬

Today, we are looking at the name that God Himself said is His name, what has been referred to as His memorial or covenant name, I AM. This is the most frequently used name of God used in the Old Testament. First, let’s look at the context in which this name was given.

During a seven-year famine, many of the Israelites had gone to Egypt for food. We know that Joseph’s large family had stayed in Egypt, and it’s probable that many other Israelite families had done the same. Joseph and all his family had died. This is where the book of Exodus begins.

“But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” Exodus‬ ‭1:7‬ (all verses in ‭ESV unless otherwise indicated)

By this time, a new king was ruling over Egypt, a king who did not know Joseph. He became fearful of the Israelites and enslaved them to build storehouse cities for Pharaoh.

“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.” Exodus‬ ‭1:8-11‬ ‭

“During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” Exodus‬ ‭2:23-24‬ ‭

God appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and called him to go to Egypt and deliver His people who groaned under the hand of Egypt.

“And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus‬ ‭3:9-10‬ ‭

Moses was reluctant to accept this call from God, and this was the motivation for the question he asked God. And the name God gave him to take to the people of Israel has been called the memorial name of God, His name to be remembered throughout all generations.

“Then Moses said to God, “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?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. ” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people 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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” Exodus‬ ‭3:13-15‬ ‭

In the original Hebrew of the Old Testament, I AM is written as four consonants, YHWH, known as the tetragrammaton (meaning “four letters”). YHWH was believed by the Jews to be too sacred to be uttered by sinful men, therefore it was written without vowels. In our English Bibles, it is usually translated LORD, in all capital letters to differentiate it from Adonai, Lord.

Some older Bible versions use Jehovah for this proper name of God. A group of Jewish scholars called the Masoretas used the vowels from Adonai, between the initials YHVH, opening the way to a wrong literal translation. The most likely choice for how the tetragrammaton was to be pronounced is “YAH-way,” “YAH-weh,” or something similar. The modern spelling as “Yahweh” includes vowels to assist in pronunciation.

In the Old Testament, YHWH was used most often in passages about God’s dealings with His Chosen people, the Jews. It was a reminder to them of God’s nearness and accessibility. It’s meaning is the self-existent One, YHWH has also been translated I will become whatsoever I will become. God was reminding Moses and the people he was to lead that He would be whatever they needed – the potential was as unlimited!

Kay Arthur wrote about this name of God in her book As Silver Refined.

“When you feel discouraged, when you lack courage, when you think you can’t do it … can’t handle it … can’t survive it … then remember that “with God nothing is impossible.” Remember that “I AM” is our Lord’s memorial name to all generations, including yours and mine! He is everything and anything you will ever need. You can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you; therefore discouragement never comes from God.”

John Piper wrote, “Everything that is not God depends totally on God.Yahweh is a name that reminds us of our dependance upon God. Piper continues, “God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always beautiful and always in accord with truth… God is the most important and most valuable reality and person in the universe.

YAHWEH

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at some of the names that expand on Who YAHWEH is and what He can do. You may be more familiar with the pairing of these descriptive terms with Jehovah, but I’ll be using YAHWEH since it is the most likely translation of the Hebrew word. We will be looking at some names of God that combine YAHWEH with descriptive terms that tell us more about our amazing God. But let’s start today by joining Chris Tomlin and Elevation Worship in worshiping YAHWEH, the self-existent God who is above all other gods.

Immanuel: “God With Us”

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah‬ ‭7:14‬ (all verses in ‭ESV‬ unless otherwise noted)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew‬ ‭1:21-23‬

Both Immanuel and Emmanuel are found in the Bible. The Old Testament was originally recorded in Hebrew and Chaldean/Aramaic, using Immanuel. The New Testament was originally recorded in Greek, with Emmanuel used in the original text. Many newer versions, such as ESV quoted above, use the Hebrew word in both Scriptures. Both words have the same meaning, God with us.

Today’s name of God is one usually relocated to the Christmas story. True, it’s a name that specifically refers to Jesus’ conception and birth to a young virgin girl named Mary. But “God with us” is so much more. The following quote from Charles Spurgeon makes it clear that Immanuel is not just a name to reflect on when we celebrate Christmas.

This is his name, “God with us,”—God with us, by his incarnation, for the august Creator of the world did walk upon this globe; he who made ten thousand orbs, each of them more mighty and more vast than this earth, became the inhabitant of this tiny atom. He, who was from everlasting to everlasting, came to this world of time, and stood upon the narrow neck of land betwixt the two unbounded seas. “God with us”: he has not lost that name – Jesus had that name on earth, and he has it now in heaven. He is now “God with us.”

So how is God with us today? Here are a few of the ways.

  • God is with us as Christians through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John‬ ‭14:16-17‬

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19-20‬

  • God is with us in our times of need.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭

  • God is with us when we face temptation.

“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭

  • God is with us giving us wisdom when we don’t know what to do.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭

  • God is with us in trials and suffering, working all things together for our good.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter‬ ‭5:10-11‬

Jesus’ name Immanuel is so much more than a name to remember at Christmas. God is with us no matter what we may face. God goes before us, He walks beside us, and He lives within us through His Holy Spirit. No matter what we face as we walk through this troubled world, we are never alone.

Immanuel, God With Us

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭

Immanuel is an expression of God’s nearness to us as His followers.

El Roi, The God Who Sees Me

Life with chronic illness can make you feel very alone.

You go to a new doctor and leave the office feeling like you were not listened to. After being diagnosed, your earlier dreams have been sidelined. Your life now feels as if you have been assigned to a place of insignificance, and you are powerless to change it. In other words, chronic illness often causes us to feel marginalized, overlooked.

There is a story in the book of Genesis about a young woman who was very familiar with these emotions. Her name was Hagar, and she was an Egyptian servant, purchased by Abram for his wife Sarai. Her story is told in Genesis 16.

“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Genesis‬ ‭16:1-2‬ ‭(all verses are in ESV‬ unless noted)‬

A woman’s fertility—her childbearing ability—was of great importance in Bible times. A woman gained a sense of value by her ability to give her husband many sons. Those who could not conceive suffered greatly emotionally.

But Sarai had a plan to give Abram the son he wanted. Basically, instead of asking God to heal her barrenness, Sarai decided to take things in her own hands. And Abram went along with her plan. The story continues:

“So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.” Genesis‬ ‭16:3-6‬

Sarai now decided Abram was to blame for this whole situation. Abram’s response: “Hagar is your servant, so do whatever you want with her.”

Sarai mistreated Hagar so badly that she ran away from her mistress. As Hagar flees from Sarai, God reveals to this lowly servant the name of God that is the focus of today’s blog post.

“Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, His hand will be against everyone, And everyone’s hand will be against him; And he will live to the east of all his brothers.” Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?””Genesis‬ ‭16:7-13‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

This is the only time that this name of God is used in Scripture. But we see this name demonstrated if not used in many other portions of Scripture. One of my favorite is Psalm 139, which begins with these words.

“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Psalm‬ ‭139:1-4‬ ‭‬‬

Yahweh is the God who sees us. He knows our every thought and hears our every word, and He is acquainted with all our ways. He is ‘El rŏ’î, the God who sees you and me!

El Roi, the God Who Sees You and Me
The God Who Sees

Elohim, the All Powerful One, the Creator

This English Bible begins with four simple words: In the beginning, God. God was before Creation. He is the Creator. The verse continues:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (All verses are in ESV unless otherwise noted)

The God of Genesis 1:1 is Elohim. Charles Spurgeon said of this verse,

God, the living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, sets forth his own name and title, that there may be no mistake as to who he is.”

Most Bible scholars agree that “Elohim” is derived from “El” meaning “mighty (one), strong (strength).” The Hebrew ending “im” added to “El” indicates plurality, reminding us that the Godhead is in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Dr. Matt Carter, pastor of Sagemont Church in Houston, said Elohim reveals God’s transcendence. Being transcendent means God is holy, powerful, and beyond our comprehension. We may have limited understanding of a specific aspect of His character or nature, but the whole of Who He is beyond our understanding.

The Trinity is one of the aspects of God’s nature that is beyond our understanding. Scripture makes it clear that all three persons of the Godhead were involved with Creation. But the specific “jobs” of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit aren’t clear. What follows is how I see the parts of all members of the Godhead in Creation.

God the Father is the author, planner, and designer of Creation. Or in modern builder’s terms, He is the architect. Some believe He spoke the words of Creation, giving Christ the instructions on how to perform the work. This may or may not be exactly what happened, but various verses in Genesis 1 repeat the phrase “and God said.” One example is God’s ultimate creation, mankind, made is His image, after His likeness.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”‭ Genesis 1:26

The Son, Jesus Christ, in pre-incarnate form, is the agent of Creation. All things were made by and through Him.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians‬ ‭1:15-17‬ ‭

The part the Holy Spirit played in Creation is a little more difficult to explain. Genesis 1:2 makes it clear that He was present at Creation. In Genesis 1:2, we see the earth without form, void and covered with darkness. And the Spirit of God, the rûaḥ ĕlōhîm, the breath of Elohim, moved or hovered over the formless, void and dark earth. Some scholars believe the Spirit made order out of chaos, but Scripture doesn’t specifically say this.

“The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:2

Elohim is one of the most frequently used names of God in the Old Testament. I want to close with a few verses that use this name. I encourage you to meditate on these verses, to see what God will reveal to you about His nature. The transcendent, unknowable God delights to reveal Himself to those who seek Him in His Word. Elohim is the Hebrew word for God in each of these verses.

“To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.” Deuteronomy 4:35

“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:39 NASB

“O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.” Isaiah 37:16

“For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18

“And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” Nehemiah 8:6

Elohim: the Powerful One and Creator

Jahweh râʻâh: The LORD Who Shepherds Me

As I was eating my breakfast this morning, I used the time in prayer. It was a sweet time of prayer, but one part stood out to me: Thank You, Lord, for leading me in paths of righteousness. I recognized this as a part of the well-known twenty-third Psalm, so I turned to this Psalm in my Bible.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

I read this Psalm in a variety of versions, and then opened the Blue Letter Bible, one of my favorite Bible study tools, and did a word study on shepherd. I was surprised at what I learned.

The Hebrew word râʻâh, translated shepherd in this verse, is not a noun as I had expected. It is a verb, an action word that says the LORD, Jahweh, shepherds His children. He tends to my needs, is my companion and special friend.

In 2020, I wrote a Bible study on the Holy Spirit, and as I read these translations of râʻâh I was reminded that these characteristics of the LORD Jehovah are also true of the Holy Spirit. He is our constant companion, the One who lives within us as Christians, teaches us and leads us in how to walk.

I was also reminded that Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd in John 10.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

John 10:14-15

The LORD, Jahweh, shepherds us because we are His children through our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. And when His days of walking on earth were coming to an end, Jesus told His disciples that the Father would send another Helper who would be with them forever.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

John‬ ‭14:16-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yahweh râʻâh, the Lord who shepherds us, is a name of God that clearly refers to all three members of the Trinity. As the One who shepherds us, the Lord faithfully meets all our needs. He provides green pastures where we can rest in His amazing love and be refreshed for the path ahead. He leads us beside still waters, a place of peace. And He leads us in paths of righteousness, so that our lives with bring Him glory and honor.

I want to close with Psalm 23 in The Passion Translation (TPT). This isn’t a word-by-word translation but one that digs deeply into the meanings of the Hebrew and Greek words. While I usually begin my Bible study time with either NASB or ESV, I have found the TPT an encouraging version to close my time studying a specific Bible passage.

“Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd. I always have more than enough. He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss. That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me the right path and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name. Even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near. You become my delicious feast even when my enemies dare to fight. You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit; you give me all I can drink of you until my cup overflows. So why would I fear the future? Only goodness and tender love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!”

Psalm 23 TPT