Does that headline underwhelm you? I understand ... but perhaps that says more about our addiction to sound-bites than to sound-thinking. Afterall, what could possibly be more fascinating, compelling, gripping, or life-altering ... than hearing, knowing, and understanding the God of the Universe, who's revealed Himself through His names?
His Names Say More Than the Webb Telescope
Have you seen recent pictures of the cosmos, captured by the Webb telescope? Pretty stunning, right? You know what's even more stunning? The One who made those stars and galaxies. The God of the Bible. He's more stunning. His majesty is not only revealed through a telescope, but through His names in the Bible.
I've been reading the book of Isaiah, and it's fantastic! It's a book for our hard times ... full of reality, judgment, and hope.
Most of all, Isaiah is a book about God – who He is and what He's like. Here are a few data points I've discovered:
- Our Bibles share a delightful coincidence with Isaiah: just as there are 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books (grand total of 66), so Isaiah has 39 chapters (of plight and judgment), followed by 27 chapters (of comfort, hope, and a life-giving Messiah). Isn't that beautiful?!
- 21 times God or Isaiah cry out, "Woe!" Woe means doomed. It's a word of judgment, of Divine disapproval, that should seize our hearts.
- Within Isaiah, I've discovered 26 unique names for God. If you asked, "Dan, what's been your top observation about Isaiah?", I'd say: "the beautiful Names of God." In fact, I've highlighted every name for God in yellow – a total of 174 occurrences, employing 26 unique names.
- Among the 26 Names for God in Isaiah, the Top Four (by frequency) are: Lord of Hosts (or, Lord Almighty, in NIV), Holy One of Israel, Sovereign Lord, and Redeemer. Let's briefly unpack these four.
Top 4 Names of God in Isaiah
1. Lord of Hosts, Lord Almighty (62x)
"Unless the Lord of Hosts (Lord Almighty) had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah." (1:9)
Have you ever sung Martin Luther's famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God? Verse 2 says:
"Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle."
Lord Sabaoth means Lord of Hosts (Lord Almighty). It comes from two OT Words: Yehova (Lord) and Sabaoth (Greek transliteration of Hebrew Saba: of Hosts or Armies). Luther's hymn borrows the most popular name for God in Isaiah: Lord Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts-Armies. So, Luther ends verse 2: "And He must win the Battle." Indeed Jesus, as Lord of Hosts and Lord Almighty, will win the final battle (Revelation 19:11-21)!
The NIV captures the essence of Lord of Hosts, translating it: Lord Almighty. Nothing will thwart him. He is All-Mighty. Isaiah uses this title 62 times throughout the book! What a reminder of the limitless power of God!
2. Holy One of Israel (31x)
"They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on Him." (1:4b)
The second most common name for God in Isaiah is "Holy One (of Israel)," occurring 31 times. This name grips me for two reasons:
- I can't avoid the obvious: God is Holy, Holy, Holy. (Isaiah 6:3). Yet sadly today, we seldom hear this truth. Everyone treats God so casually... like he's merely a good friend. The American church is in denial: God is pure-to-the-core, unquestionably perfect, upright in all His ways. Nearly every time someone encounters God as holy in the Bible, they fall down in reverence and fear (Genesis 17:1-3, Joshua 5:14-15, Revelation 1:16-18). What is wrong with us, that we've lost this awareness about God? He hasn't changed. Perhaps we've fallen asleep, to our shame.
- Liberal scholars falsely assert that Isaiah was written by two different men (or three). Their logic: chapters 1-39 have a different tone than chapters 40-66 (additionally, they don't like chapters 44-45 predicting a king named Cyrus will rebuild Jerusalem – 200 years beforehand!). God's name – Holy One of Israel – argues for the full unity of the book under one author named Isaiah. How? Chapters 1-39 use this name 12x; chapters 40-66 use this name 14x. That's a strong commonality, indeed.
3. Sovereign Lord (18x)
"The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces ..." (25:8)
Isn't it fantastic to remember that God rules over all? He hasn't lost control. He still sits on His throne. He never slumbers. He is the ruler. His day is coming. That's what Sovereign Lord means.
4. Redeemer (13x)
"Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. (41:4)
Finally, God is called Redeemer 13 times in Isaiah. Imagine for a moment you and your people have been subjected to bondage, to exile in a foreign country. One day, a leader gains power and rescues you, setting you free. You would call that person a "redeemer." To be redeemed is to be bought out of slavery, to be set free.
God is our Redeemer in Jesus Christ. He bought us out of our slavery to sin and its end – death – and has set us free to real life, unending. That is unimaginably good news!
Beyond these four Names of God in Isaiah, I've discovered 22 more, which you may recognize below. Reading one after another, my heart is induced into glad worship of our God. May you enjoy these otherworldly names for our Great God!
Branch of the Lord
Prince of Peace
Light of Israel
Root of Jesse
First and Last
High and Lofty One