We’ve begun looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. This week I want to look at the name that Abraham used to refer to God: The LORD, The Eternal God.’
We see this name when we read Genesis 21:33: ‘Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God’.
We previously examined the meanings of the words ‘LORD’ and ‘God’. So this time I want to concentrate on the word that Abraham used and is translated ‘eternal’.
When God is referred to as the ‘Eternal’ God it tells us something about his existence. The Hebrew word (olam) behind this English translation may refer to ‘a long time’, such as a human lifetime. For example, the Jewish law allowed a servant to become an ‘eternal’ servant: ‘But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life (olam)’ (Deuteronomy 15:16-17).
It may also refer to a long time in the past. For example in Genesis 6:4 it speaks of ‘heroes of old (olam), men of renown’.
The word may refer to the future too. For example, the name of the Lord is described as being put in the Jerusalem temple forever: ‘God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever (olam)”’ (2 Chronicles 33:7).
Thus when God is called eternal it refers to his existence from of old and into the future. We see this in the New Testament when Jesus calls himself by six other closely related names: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End’ (Revelation 22:13). As the Alpha (the first letter of the Greek alphabet), the First and the Beginning, Jesus is of the ancient past. As the Omega (the last letter of the Greek alphabet), the Last and the End, Jesus is of the distant future.
In fact, ‘eternal’ in reference to God refers to his perpetual, infinite existence. God is beyond time as we know it: past, present and future. Moses teaches us this in his prayer: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting (olam) to everlasting (olam) you are God. You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning–though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation’ (Psalm 90:1-7).
And like Moses, we should tremble at the knowledge that God is eternal. The eternal God will sweep us away in our sin all too easily. We are not eternal as he is. So what are we to do? Throw ourselves at the feet of the eternal God and beg for mercy. Thankfully, he is eternally gracious and welcomes us into eternal life if we trust in him. Do you have eternal life from the eternal God?