Matt Chandler on What God’s Name Can Teach Us About Faith During the Coronavirus

Image: Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash

Matt Chandler is the lead pastor of teaching at the Village Church and the President of the Acts 29 Network. This article was adapted from a recent talk at Leader Check-In, an event hosted by Pulse and Year of the Bible.


When a couple finds out they are pregnant, one of the first things they do is to start looking for a strong name that will define and shape their child’s life.

For example, my name Matthew comes from the Hebrew name “Mattiyahu,” which means “Gift of Yahweh.” By naming me Matthew my parents were declaring that my life had value and purpose; it wasn’t random or accidental.

In some ways, a name is the most intimate way of expressing someone’s identity. Names can be so powerful because they say who a person is.

As the world faces this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, I think we can find comfort in the meaning of one name in particular: Yahweh.

Although we tend to call the God of the Bible simply “God,” he has a personal name. You may find this name, Yahweh, translated in your Bible as Jehovah or the LORD in all caps.

This name is unique not only because it distinguishes the God of the Bible from all other deities and gods, but because of its meaning. God reveals it for the first time in Exodus 3 when he calls Moses to free the people of Israel from captivity in Egypt:

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.’”

That’s an odd way to introduce yourself. If you and I were meeting and I said, “Hi, I am …” and stopped there, you would think something was wrong with me, right? I have to fill in the blank: I am Matt, or I am a pastorhusbandfather. So what is God trying to communicate by saying “I am who I am”?

God is doing something here to deliberately blow up our categories for how we’ve learned to think about who he is. “I am who I am” means that God is indefinable; you cannot put him in a box or fit him into some man-made category.

Really, a better translation here would be, “I be who I be.” He is who he is: circumstances and situations do not shape his nature or character. He is saying, “I am consistent; I do not vary. I am not one thing on this day and another thing the next day. I am who I have always been, and I will be the same forever.”

The first thing we observe in God’s personal name is that he is transcendent, meaning he is above us. While we are finite and frail, God is infinite and all-powerful. While to us it may seem like the world is spinning out of control, God doesn’t panic. There’s no triage in heaven.

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Source: Christianity Today