Theme: God’s Name
In this week’s lessons we learn how David approached God in prayer when he experienced the terrible situation of being betrayed.
Scripture: Psalm 54:1-7
What does David mean when he asks God to save him “by your name” in verse 1? That idea does not have a great deal of importance for us, because we do not often think of the “name” itself being particularly significant. We think of God but not the name of God. For the Old Testament saints it was different. For them names were important. They were understood to sum up the character and personality of the person named. That is why there are so many descriptive or symbolic names in the Old Testament and why we find such significant episodes as God naming one of the Old Testament characters or one of these characters inquiring after the name of God. We remember how Jacob inquired after the name of God when he wrestled with him at the brook Jabbok (Gen. 32:29) and was given a new name himself, or how Moses asked God for his name when God called him at the burning bush: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them? God answered, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you”’ (vv. 13-14).”
This example is particularly important for understanding Psalm 54. For the name God gave Moses, “I AM” (Yahweh or Jehovah, usually translated “LORD” in our Bibles) is the name David is appealing to in this psalm.
Notice how he does it, heightening the importance of the name by delaying pronouncing it until verse 6. The psalm begins, “Save me, O God, by your name.” But the word for God in the opening verse is not Jehovah. It is Elohim, the name most often used for God in the second book of the Psalter. Moreover, this is the name that prevails up to and including verse 4. It is in verse 2, “Hear my prayer, O God.” We have it again in verse 3, “…men without regard for God.” And again in verse 4, “Surely God is my help.” Verse 4 goes a step further by introducing the title Adonai (translated “Lord” in our Bibles). But it is not until verse 6 that the name appealed to in the opening sentence is actually introduced. Verse 6 reads literally: “I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O Jehovah (Yahweh), for it is good.”
Scholars are divided on the exact meaning of the name Jehovah, but that is only because it is so great and so encompassing that nothing we can say ever seems to do it justice. The name is the root of the Hebrew verb “to be,” which is why it is translated “I AM” in Exodus 3:14. It is in the present tense, of course. So it reveals God as the eternal present, that is, as the one who has always existed and who will always exist, the unchangeable God. Eternal existence also implies self-existence and self-sufficiency. Self-existence means that God has no origins and is therefore answerable to no one. Self-sufficiency means that God depends on no one and therefore has no needs. God helps those who call on him, but he needs no help himself. We often find ourselves in situations that have no conceivable human solution. Our circumstances may be impossible, but they are not impossible for God. Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
Explain the significance of God’s name in verse 1.
What is the meaning of God’s name “I AM”?
Application: When you face difficulties, what is your first reaction? Is it to turn to God in prayer?