El ‘Olam

A couple named their daughter Lanesra, and the girl’s mother always loved the name because she thought it was “unique and romantic.”  It wasn’t until the girl was about two that her father told her mother where he had found the name.  He took the name of his favorite English soccer team, Arsenal, and spelled it backwards.  Names have meanings, and parents often look for names with a special meaning to give to their children.  Sometimes the child lives up to this name, and sometimes the child grows up to contradict what this name means.

When we come to the Bible, the names of God are very significant because of the meaning that they carry.  God is called by many names throughout Scripture (particularly in the Old Testament), and those names reveal His character.  We can learn of the character of God, what God is like, by studying His names.

One significant name of God is the name El ‘Olam.  Genesis 21:33 says, “And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.”  Abraham called God “the everlasting God.”  The Hebrew name is El ‘Olam.  El is the common word for God, and ‘olam means “eternity, long time, everlasting.”  So the name means that God is the everlasting God.  God has always been.  There is never a time that God has not existed, nor will there ever be a time when God will not exist.

Not only has God always existed, but He has always existed as God.  There has never been a time when God was not God.  Psalm 90:2 makes this irrefutably clear when it says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”  “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”  Going back into eternity past, God has always been God.  Looking ahead into the eternal future, God will always be God.  There is never a time that God has not been God, nor will there ever be a time when God will not be God.  Truly God is God “from everlasting to everlasting.”

So what is the significance of this?  We can learn the fact that God is eternally God.  That teaches us a fact about the character of God.  But how does it affect us and affect the way that we live?  We find some answers to this question in 1 Timothy.  1 Timothy 1:15-16 says, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.  Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”  Paul had blasphemed the name of Christ.  Paul had persecuted and murdered Christians.  In his own words, he was the chief of sinners.  But the everlasting God showed him mercy and longsuffering (patience).  Paul received mercy and patience so that he could turn to Christ and be saved from his sin, not on the basis of what he did, but on the basis of what Christ did for him (just as we all receive eternal salvation and the forgiveness of sin).  But there was another reason that God showed Paul this mercy.  Verse 16 says that it is a pattern to those who believe on Christ.  If we are a Christian, if we have believed in Christ and our eternal salvation in heaven is secure, then this is an example to us.  Just as God showed Paul, the chief of sinners, this kind of mercy and patience, so should we show to others.  This is how the eternal God (who is also holy, just, merciful, loving, etc), treats people.  He then calls us to follow that example.

But why come to 1 Timothy 1 to apply the idea of an everlasting God?  Why choose that passage and the aspects of mercy and patience to apply the idea of an everlasting God.  We come here because the name is used here in verse 17, which says, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”  When Paul considers the mercy that he has received, his attention is turned to the One who gave that mercy.  That One is called the eternal King, a similar name to “the eternal God.”  When Paul’s attention is turned to the God who showed him mercy, he responds in praise.  The everlasting God has shown us mercy.  We should respond by showing that same kind of mercy and patience to others.  But we also should respond by worshipping and honoring the everlasting God.  God does deserve honor and glory.  A right application to the everlasting God is to worship Him and honor Him for who He is and what He has done.

–Pastor Tim

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