How God's Names Reveal that He is Unconditional Love
Names are very important in the Bible – especially when someone names himself. For people in biblical times, a name indicates what you think is most important about yourself. It's the identity that you give to yourself. So for example, if someone calls himself "Bob the Carpenter," it means that the most important thing Bob wants to tell you about himself is that he is a carpenter.
When Saint John calls himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23, John 21:20), John wasn't being arrogant, or acting like Jesus didn't love any of the other disciples. He was proclaiming that the most important thing about him was that Jesus loved him. He believed that Jesus' love defined who he was.
Now take a look at a few of the names for God – Yahweh. Emmanuel. Abba.
"Yahweh" is the name that God gives to Himself when speaking with Moses. In Hebrew, it probably means, "He who brings into existence everything that exists." This name causes us to think not only about a Creator, but also the Master of the Universe, and indicates a very powerful God who controls the forces of nature and even historical destiny. Next to God, everything is creature and is subject to His power.
Later, Jesus comes in the form of a baby. The angel Gabriel announces that God intends him to be called "Emmanuel." This is very interesting, if you think about it. "Emmanuel" means "God with us." So now, you get the sense that God is offering an expansion to the name "Yahweh." It's like He is saying, "Your almighty, all-powerful creator-God is not just hanging around in the clouds, too big and important for you to touch. He wants to be with you, and He's doing it in what seems to be a very non-mighty and non-powerful way – in the form of an infant."
Finally, Jesus grows up and gives God another name – "Abba." That's even more interesting. You probably know that "abba" means "father." But the ancient Israelites used the term in a warm and affectionate way. Kind of like how we would use the word "daddy." "Abba" was the name little children would run around calling their fathers. "Abba, abba, abba!" "Daddy, daddy, daddy!" It was a word of great endearment, and symbolized the complete trust, delight, and love that little children have for their fathers.
So Jesus is now telling us that God is "Daddy." He is using a name for God that no one else in traditional Jewish culture had ever dared to use. People believed that human beings were too puny to be calling the Master of the Universe, "Daddy." They probably would have thought, "Our great, big, powerful God who created everything and is going to kill our enemies is… Daddy? Are you kidding?" But Jesus wasn't kidding. The almighty, all-powerful God is "Daddy" who cares about you and wants to be with you for all eternity. The greatest kind of power is also the greatest kind of love – Daddy.
If God was not like that, then you would probably trust your earthly dad more than you trust God. But that would mean that your earthly dad would be more powerful than God, which means that God could not really be God. He would be more limited that us. So God must be like the most trustworthy, affectionate, and caring daddy. You can trust that kind of a God with your whole heart and your whole life.