Nehemiah said, “I beseech You, LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments………O Lord, I beseech you, may your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and the prayer of your servants who delight to revere your name.” Nehemiah 1:5, 11
We may learn a great deal about the love of God if we take a few minutes to examine the Hebrew names of God that Nehemiah uses in these two verses. Let’s begin with the name LORD written all in capitals. This word LORD in the original Hebrew is YHWH, which we translate as Yahweh and means the existing one who brings all things into existence. He is unchanging and pre-existent and through Him all things were created and made to be. It is little wonder that Nehemiah in his hour of great need calls upon the LORD of heaven and earth to hear his prayers.
And Nehemiah is not alone in using the name LORD (YHWH) for it is used over 6,500 times in the Old Testament. Whenever we come across the word LORD we should understand that we are being told by the Old Testament writers that we are encountering the God who creates all things and therefore nothing is too big or impossible for Him to accomplish for those who call on His name.
Nehemiah combines LORD with the word God. We use the name of God continually as Christians to refer to the Father, but we seldom stop to think about what the name God implies. In Hebrew the word God is Elohim and is used over 2,600 times in the Bible. The root of the word means deity, strength, power and might. Elohim can also mean creator, preserver, or the one who is might and strong. But the characteristic of Elohim that I find the most comforting is the meaning, “to keep a pledge, make a covenant.” When God makes a covenant or pledges Himself to us we have absolute assurance that what God has declared will happen.
Throughout the book of John we are assured that those who call on the name of God will be saved and receive eternal life. That is the promise of God and cannot be broken. When we accept Jesus as our Saviour, the promise of redemption and eternal life are no longer in doubt because God says it will be so.
In verse 11 we encounter the word Lord, not all capitalized, and the Hebrew upon which it is based is the word Adonai. Though the word means Master or Owner, the connotation goes deeper with the sense that the Owner is responsible for the provision, protection and guidance of His own. God is not only our ruler but He makes provision for our protection and guidance in life. We can depend upon Him to see us through everything life has to throw at us.
Before we leave verses 5 and 11 there are two adjectives that are applied to God by Nehemiah, great and awesome. The Hebrew for great is gadowl, which can mean immeasurable value. Charles Stanley writes concerning the term great in verse 5, “There is none superior to our living Lord; He has the wisdom and ability to do anything He wishes. And because of His amazing love for us, we know He always has our very best interest at heart.” Prayer p. 31
The word awesome comes from Hebrew term yare and has the meaning of fear. But, it is not fear in the sense of fright but the overwhelming wonder of God that causes us to be awe struck by His magnitude.
One of the great verses in Scripture is 1 John 4:18. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”
Nehemiah can put his trust in God because He knows that He keeps His covenant and promises. He knows that God is the creator of all things and therefore there is nothing in life that can stifle Him in His ability to aide us. He knows that God is our provider, our guide and our protector. He also understood that God is both awesome and of immeasurable value.
As Christians it would serve us well to remember these meanings for LORD, God and Lord. It would also serve us well to put our trust in Johns words that we can trust God’s love and therefore there is no need for us to be frightened because God’s love keeps us from punishment. And if we spend all our time worrying about judgment and punishment then we have not understood the love of God.
Instead of living in fear we are to live in the assurance that we are loved, protected and cared for by the God of the universe and will never break His promises or covenant with us.
* Please remember in prayer those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians