This is part of a new series we’re calling, “Hello, My Name Is… A Series on the Names of God.” Look for the next installments to come throughout February. You can find the latest when you follow Tara’s author archive. We’ll add links to the whole Bible study once it’s complete.
Lesson Three: Yahweh/I AM
Main Idea: God’s eternal, special name is Yahweh. Yahweh is the forever God, with no beginning or end and who never changes. Yahweh saves his people.
Memory Verse: “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.” Psalm 9:10
- Read lesson, Scripture references, and Exodus 20:2-3, John 8:54-59, Proverbs 18:10, Proverbs 3:26, Deuteronomy 28:9-13, Psalm 34, Romans 11:34-36; Isaiah 42:8
- Gather: Bible, lesson plan, dry erase markers or chart paper and markers, index cards, 2”x5” slips of construction paper, glue sticks, markers or crayons, print outs of Scripture for the craft (included at the bottom of the lesson.)
- To help keep track of the names of God learned over this series, write each lesson’s name of God on the board along with the main idea. Tape a strip of paper over the name, and one over the main idea. Use this to review the lesson as you go. Alternatively, use large flash cards with the name of God on the front and the main idea on the back. Create one of these every week and review with the class as you go.
- Take time to meditate on this lesson and apply it to your own life. When I was in college, I took a course on the history of the Old Testament. Oddly enough, it was taught by an atheist. In the class was a beautiful octogenarian Jewish lady, named Rose. She was a Holocaust survivor. On the day that we discussed the story of Moses and the burning bush, the professor used the name Yahweh. He did not profane the Lord’s holy name, but it was clear that to him, Yahweh is about as real as the tooth fairy. Every time he said the eternal name, Rose would cringe in the front seat. Her knuckles whitened as she gripped the desk and the pain the professor was causing her was apparent on her wrinkled face. Finally, this sweet woman could take it no more. With fire in her eyes and her voice, she shouted at the professor, “Do not use the name of my Lord in vain!” The man was quite taken aback. He apologized to Rose and from then on said, “The Lord” in place of Yahweh. I tell you this story to illustrate the point that to many, including many Messianic Jews today, the name Yahweh is the ineffable name of God. You do not write it and you do not speak it out of reverence of the Lord. I believe that God wants us to remember him as the God who saves, as Yahweh, so I freely use the name throughout this lesson. But please remember that I do so with the utmost fear and love and reverence of our God. His name is holy. We are to treat it with respect and awe. Throughout this week, as you prepare your lesson, look into the character of Yahweh, the God who saves, and let yourself be like Moses, who trembled and removed his sandals on the holy ground before the Lord and could not look at Yahweh. May we forever tremble in awe before Yahweh, the God who saves.
- Psalm 9:10
- Exodus 3:1-17
- Matthew 1:21
- Psalm 103:1-13
- Numbers 6:24-26
Game: The Hidden Name
Before class, write the names of all your students on index cards. Write one name per card. Make multiple cards of each name. Have a few extra cards at the ready for guests. Before your students come in, hide the cards around the classroom. (For guests, you’ll have to sneakily hide their cards as the class settles in.) Students must hunt around the room and collect all the cards with their name on them. When they find a card with another student’s name on it, they must quietly put it back. No stealing cards. They may help each other find cards if you want. If you don’t want to bother with the worry of correctly spelling your students’ names or the fear of leaving anyone out, you could make up random names and assign them to students. For example, Emily has to find the name “Susan” hidden around the room. If this game ends earlier than you want it to, play a few rounds of “hide the toy.” Have everyone put their heads down while you hide a specific item, then they have to find it. Be sure to remember however that today’s lesson and craft may run longer than usual, so a short introductory game may be better, then you could play “hide the toy” at the end of class if time allows.
Message: Open in prayer, then say, how are you all doing on your memory verse? We’ll be working on this one for a while. Let’s see how it’s going. (If your class is ready, have them try to say the parts of the memory verse they know. It’s okay if they don’t know it. There will be plenty of time to commit this one to memory. Write the memory verse on the board and work with your class for a few moments on memorizing it.) Our memory verse is from Psalm 9:10. It says, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you.” This whole series is about the names and titles of God. In our first week we discussed that God has many different names he goes by in the Bible, just like I go by many names. My son calls me Mommy, my brother calls me Sis, and you call me Teacher. While I answer to those names, those are not the names that my parents gave me when I was born. When I was born, they named me Tara. That’s my real name. Last week we learned the second most used name of God in the Bible is Elohim, or Strong Creator. That is one of the names of God, it’s true. He calls himself Strong Creator. But it isn’t his real name. Today we are going to learn about the real name in God. It’s used more than any other name of God in the Bible. It’s used over 6,800 times in the Old Testament! We see the real name of God in our memory verse. Does anyone see it? (Allow children to answer.) That’s kind of a trick question. God’s name is in this verse, but it’s hidden. Do you see where it says LORD in all caps? (Underline “LORD” on the board.) This is where God’s name is hidden.
Before I tell you what God’s name is, let me share a brief history lesson with you. God first tells us his name in the book of Exodus in the Bible. He introduced himself to Moses and asked Moses to do something big and scary for him. He then tells Moses his name to help give him confidence. We’ll read that story in a bit. Anyway, God’s people knew his name. But after a while, they decided that the name of God is too amazing and too perfect to be said out loud. So eventually, everyone stopped saying it, including the priests! They even decided that God’s perfect, special, beautiful name was too wonderful and awesome to even write down! So when they would copy down the Bible—remember, this was before copy machines, — they would write LORD instead of God’s name. When they wrote LORD in all caps, like this, (write “LORD” on the board in all capital letters, as it appears in Bibles,) it meant the special, perfect, lovely name of God. When they wrote Lord like this, (write “Lord” on the board,) it referred to another name of God. So what ended up happening is that over time, people forgot how to properly pronounce God’s special name. Now I have to tell you that this name of God is very special. I know people who don’t like to say God’s name or hear God’s name because it is so holy and so special. God’s name is very special. And he wants us to know what it is. So I’m going to read the Bible story where we first hear God’s very special real name. You may close your eyes and relax as you listen to the story. Try to imagine that you are Moses in this story. What would it feel like, smell like, sound like, look like?
Listen as I read Exodus 3:1-17. (Read with good inflection to keep your class captivated by this slightly long passage. I am quoting from the New Living Translation.)
“1One day Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock far into the wilderness and came to Sinai, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the middle of a bush. Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up. 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”
4 When the Lord saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
“Here I am!” Moses replied.
5 “Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. 9 Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”
13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”
14 God replied to Moses, “I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.
This is my eternal name,
my name to remember for all generations.
16 “Now go and call together all the elders of Israel. Tell them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—has appeared to me. He told me, “I have been watching closely, and I see how the Egyptians are treating you. 17 I have promised to rescue you from your oppression in Egypt. I will lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey—the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live.”’
Okay class, open your eyes. Doesn’t that passage just send chills up your spine? Imagine being Moses, and meeting God in the burning bush! Who caught the name of God in there? (Allow students to answer.) God’s real name, his eternal name for people to remember him by forever, is Yahweh. (Most likely pronounced YAH-way. Write “Yahweh” on the board.) Last week we saw that God’s name Strong Creator is seen the most often when the Bible talks about how God is strong and creates. The name Yahweh is seen most often when the Bible talks about the redeeming acts of God, when God works to save his people. Like in the story we just read, God promises Moses that he will save his people from the horrible slavery they faced in Egypt. Yahweh is the God who saves. Like I said at the beginning of this lesson, we see the name Yahweh nearly 7,000 times in the Old Testament. God is always saving his people.
Have you heard the phrase, “boys will be boys?” Well it means that boys will always do boyish things, like have sword fights and climb to scary heights and ride their bikes too fast. It doesn’t mean that girls can’t or won’t do those things. It’s just the way the saying goes. Well God’s name Yahweh is kind of like that. When Moses asked God what his name is, God said “I am who I am.” The Hebrew words could also mean “I will be what I will be.” Basically God is saying that he has always been around, since before time began. He created time, after all. And he will always be around, even after time ends. And he will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever change. God is perfect, has always been perfect, and will always be perfect. That’s why we can trust him. He will always be exactly who he is. In fact, Yahweh means “I Am.” Isn’t that beautiful? The name that God wants us to remember means “I Am.”
I have something really cool to share with you now. You know that Jesus is everywhere in the Bible, not just in the New Testament. Let’s have a sword drill to show us what Jesus has to do with Yahweh. Take all fingers and bookmarks out of your Bibles and hold them above your heads. When I say go, turn to Matthew 1:21. Go! (Read, or have a student read, Matthew 1:21.) “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” In this verse, an angel of the Lord is talking to Joseph about his soon-to-be wife Mary and the baby she is going to have. The angel tells Joseph to name him Jesus, because he will save people from their sins. I’m really excited about this! Do you know what Jesus means? It means “Yahweh saves!” Isn’t that cool! We learned today that the name Yahweh is used most often when it talks about God saving his people. What’s the biggest, most sacrificial and amazing thing God ever did to save his people? He sent his one and only son, Jesusz into the world to die for our sins. Jesus never sinned. He is perfect because he is God. He came to earth as a baby and grew up and then was killed on the cross. He died for us, so we don’t have to be punished for our sins. God loves us so much, that he sent his own son to save us so we can live forever in Heaven with him. Not only that, he even named his son, “Yahweh saves!”
The whole Bible is about Yahweh and what he does to save his people. During our craft time, we’re going to look at a few more passages from the Bible that tell us more about Yahweh. These passages will help us do our craft and to always remember, Yahweh saves.
Close in prayer.
Craft: Paper Chains with Yahweh’s attributes
Today your class will make paper chains. On each slip of paper for the paper chains, they will write one characteristic of Yahweh. Together you will go through the following Scriptures to help you find the attributes of Yahweh. Explain to the class that the links in the paper chain are circles. Circles have no beginning and no end, just like God. If digging through these Scriptures to seek out the character of Yahweh is too overwhelming for your class, choose one of the passages to read to them, then allow them to draw a picture depicting a characteristic that stuck out to them. NOTE: In the following passages, I have replaced “The LORD” with Yahweh to help the kids find the characteristics and to make God’s name more obvious. Reading them with God’s eternal name in place give the Scripture greater impact, I think.
1 Let all that I am praise Yahweh;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
2 Let all that I am praise Yahweh;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!
6 Yahweh gives righteousness
and justice to all who are treated unfairly.
7 He revealed his character to Moses
and his deeds to the people of Israel.
8 Yahweh is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 Yahweh is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
24 ‘May Yahweh bless you
and protect you.
25 May Yahweh smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May Yahweh show you his favor
and give you his peace.’