November 2015 Final Issue
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Thankful For The Hard Names

This is not a guilt-ridden article on how thankful we should be for what we have. How women in third-world countries are sweeping dirt floors and patching thatched roofs. How children stand in line for a cup of milk distributed daily by missionaries. How we have more than we need and often more than we want. I’ve read those articles…and I am thankful. Really. Lately, though, I’ve been convicted about broadening my gratitude in a different way. Count Your Blessings Remember the old song, “Count Your Blessings”? The lyrics, written by poet Johnson Oatman, Jr., more than one hundred years ago, include the chorus: “Count your blessings; name them one by one, Count your blessings; see what God hath done!” God has done much for each of us. We have material provisions such as food, shelter, and clothes. Relational gifts of family and friends bring us joy. Spiritual blessings, such as salvation and being connected to a church body, help us grow into the women God intended us to be. No matter how difficult life is, we have experienced blessings beyond our ability to count them. However, there’s one blessing we often fail to consider. A gift so huge, it dwarfs every other joy by comparison. What would happen if we acknowledged the Lord as not just the source of our blessings but the ultimate blessing? Favorite Names We praise God for who He is, but we tend to focus on the names and characteristics we want God to exhibit on our behalf. Names such as Yahweh Jireh, our Provider, and Yahweh Rapha, our Healer. Or Savior, Shepherd, and Comforter. We prefer to dwell on His attributes of love, forgiveness, wisdom, and omnipotence. These names and attributes easily lead us from praise to thanksgiving. We praise God for who He is and thank Him for what He has done. When we praise God as our Provider, we thank Him for His provisions. Praising God as our Healer leads us to thanksgiving for spiritual and physical healing. We thank Him for saving us from sin, shepherding us to keep us safe, and comforting us in our suffering. We rejoice that He loved us first, before we thought to love Him. We’re thankful He graciously forgives the sin that so easily entangles us. We gratefully seek His wisdom because we know our own is woefully lacking. We praise Him for His omnipotence and thank Him when He reveals His power on our behalf. Difficult Names But what about the names and attributes of God we tend to avoid? Are there things about God we find difficult to praise and thank Him for? It might be because we don’t understand them. What does it really mean when God calls Himself Yahweh Nissi, our Banner? Or when He says He is our jealous God? It might be because we fear them. While we wish for God to judge those who have hurt us, we want Him to be merciful regarding our own sin. Or we may want God’s holy fire to consume our enemies but not our loved ones, even if they are unbelievers. It may be because we find some of His names unpleasant. Few of us seek out sorrow, yet Jesus is called the Man of Sorrows. But if we only choose names and attributes we like to praise God for, we create a false god. For example, some Christians focus only on God’s characteristics of love and mercy. They don’t want to think about His holiness, righteousness, and judgment. But the result is an anything-goes God who tolerates sin. Others focus on God’s holiness and judgment to the exclusion of all other characteristics. The God they create for themselves is a fire-and-brimstone God who is unloving, unmerciful, and uncompassionate. God is love, and He is holy. He is merciful and just. He is righteous and compassionate. He is all this and more. To truly know Him, we must include all that He is—not just one or two characteristics that appeal to who we want Him to be. So in the spirit of thanksgiving, let’s look at some names and attributes of God we may have been avoiding.

Yahweh Nissi, our Banner Exodus 17:15 tells us the Lord is our Banner. In biblical times, the banner was the king’s standard. It may have been a flag or a metal ornament on a tall pole. The king marched under this standard, and in war, his soldiers were encouraged to see it lifted high during the battle. Why should we be thankful for this attribute?

The Lord My Banner is faithful to lead and protect us in all of our life circumstances. Satan continuously battles to defeat us. But as we march under Yahweh Nissi, we are safe. The cross lifted high is our Banner, and it guarantees our victory.

El Qanna, our Jealous God God called Himself “jealous” in Exodus 34:14.The word jealous has negative connotations. Jealous people are unreasonable and petty. They are consumed by wanting what they don’t have. Why should we be thankful for this attribute?

When God says He is jealous, He is not jealous of us, He is jealous for us. He knows what is best for us. When we choose our own way, chasing after anything other than Him, He knows we will suffer.

Impartial Judge Romans 2:11 tells us God is impartial and Isaiah 30:18 tells us He is just. When we’re wronged, we demand God’s justice. But when we are wrong, we appeal to God for His mercy and compassion. Why should we be thankful for this attribute?

We long for true justice. We get angry at the loopholes in our justice system that allow criminals to skate on a technicality. But someday all sin will be judged. God is an impartial judge, but He gives us the choice as to where our sin will be judged – at the cross or at His throne. And His impartiality means that no matter what we’ve done, no matter how deep the sin, Christ paid for it. His blood covers it all—no exceptions.

Consuming Fire Hebrews 12:29 (NIV) calls God a “consuming fire.” This seemingly harsh name illustrates God’s holiness. He takes sin seriously…and we should too. Why should we be thankful for this attribute?

This fire, which will consume His enemies, will be a refiner’s fire for His children. It will burn away our impurities until we stand before Him, whole and pure.

Man of Sorrows Isaiah 53:3 prophesied this name hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus experienced betrayal, torture, excruciating death, and the isolation of being separated from His Father when He endured our sin on the cross. His pain and sorrow is difficult to even think about. Why should we be thankful for this attribute?

Christ suffered all this—even the Father turning away from Him—so you and I would never have to know the sorrow of the Father turning His face away from us.

These may be hard names and attributes, but they add to the glory of our awesome God. May every name and attribute of God motivate us to praise Him. And may the knowledge of the Source of our blessings and intimacy with the Ultimate Blessing Himself make us truly thankful.

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About Ava Pennington

Ava Pennington
Ava Pennington is an author and speaker. She also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship class. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur, founder of Precepts Ministries.

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