I’m reading in Genesis this morning, and two of the chapters are 16, which focuses on the birth of Ishmael, and 17, which focuses on Abram’s name change to Abraham. It is quite interesting, that right in the middle of Abram getting a different name, we see these differences in name when it comes to God.
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”
Genesis 16:13 NLT
The name described in Hagar’s story here is “El Roi“. And we see in chaper 17 that the name “El Shaddai” is given as a self description by God to Abram. In the story of Moses, the name given at the burning bush is the tetragammon, or “Yahweh“. And if we look at the lineage of Ishmael that leads to today’s Muslims, we find their use of the name “Allah“, and Christians have the name of “Jesus” that is given to them.
And many might say, “It’s all the same God and religion is just people fighting over what name to call God and how they can force their own beliefs onto others.” And I’ll agree that the defiled “religion” that most of us think of when we hear that word — it clearly has those problems and a well documented history of oppression, injustice, and wickedness — because man-made, defiled religion is a disguise of self-righteousness that unrighteous people put on in order to hide their own selfish agendas and motives. Yep, I said it, and you’re either agreeing with me right now or you’re offended — and I still love you either way.
“Religion” as we think of it in the “man-made” terms of this fallen world is very defiled. Regardless of which one you pick by name, it won’t take long to dig up a scandal, a horror, a war, an injustice, or a clearly ungodly happening that is directly and undeniably tied to that sect, denomination, world religion, etc.
But just because there are defiled religions, doesn’t mean that there isn’t something greater — an actual “pure religion” that isn’t just a constant war of “mine is right and yours is wrong”, nor is it a careless and thoughtless “abandoning of a singular truth for a multitude of lies”.
So what are we to make of all of these different names?
What are we to make of all of these religious people signing us up for their causes and agendas?
What are we to make of the hurt and pain that man-made, defiled religions have caused and continue to cause today?
Are we to tell them that they must cease and desist all religious activity — just to see it go underground and become more powerful and prevalent than it was when it was mainstream and highly available publicly?
Or are we to insist that they must reconcile their dogmatic differences so that everything fits into a non-offensive, one world order — else we cancel culture them out of business?
The best war that can be waged against defiled religions is not to make direct war with them — like Sun Tzu would say about making war, we must understand ourselves and our enemy. We can’t wage war their way by trying to enforce and enslave — or we ourselves will look up and find ourselves to be those self-same religious demons.
No, we choose pure religion — loving and serving one another, being in awe of Almighty God in His perfection and power, grateful towards Him for His grace and mercy, mindfully repentant and obedient towards His commands, and seeking to prepare ourselves for the after by this life.
Each of the names of God has something valuable to teach us — and the Christian has much they could learn from the Muslim and the Muslim much that can be learned from the Christian. Whether it was the Levites who could be close to the very presence of God, or the nation of Israel who could enter the courts, or even the Gentiles who could pass through the outer courtyards — all could be blessed by God.
I pray that those who are called to close intimacy with God, those who desire to enter in close with Him to praise Him and know Him personally will not fear. Christ has thrown wide the doors so that you might enter into a closer relationship with the Living God — not by your own self-righteousness (which is filthy by God’s standards) but by the Blood of the Lamb — the Lamb that God himself provided, just like with Abraham and Isaac — and just like the blessed waters that He provided for Hagar and Ishmael.
Regardless of the name we have known Him by up to this point, my encouragement is that we can draw closer — and even be called by name, and His name be revealed to us personally. Amen.