In Scripture, God has many names, because He has revealed Himself to us in many ways. He is an amazing Person who desires us to know Him intimately in all of His glory. This name – EL OLAM – reveals Him as the GOD OF ETERNITY … and we need to know Him in this way!
EL OLAM is the everlasting God who stands outside of time. He knows the end from the beginning and answers before we ask. That’s how He can forgive and heal things that happened in the past, work everything together in the future for our good, and enact His sovereign will in the fullness of time.
He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end – and more personally – the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the One who perfects that which concerns us and finishes what He starts in us. It hasn’t appeared what we shall be, but He’s the One who told John that when He appears, we shall be like Him!
He’s the One who has the wide angle lens on our life and all of human history. He is also the One who is shrouded in mystery – until those mysteries are revealed. Paul was one of those to whom He revealed things hidden in with Him in eternity. In Ephesians 1:9-10, we learn that “he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” At the end of time, EL OLAM will draw all of human history together in Christ!
No mere human could know this, unless the One who dwells outside of time revealed it. EL OLAM is GOD – and He’s awesomely HUGE! To know him is to know the “Really Big God” whose will transcends human history! So…. let’s take a look at where we are introduced to Him. Abraham called God “EL OLAM” in Genesis 21, when he and Abimelek made a covenant at Beersheba. In the negotiations, Abimelek learned that some of his people had given Abraham a hard time by filling in wells he had dug. This didn’t go over big. So, as part of the terms of their agreement, Abraham gave Abimelek seven lambs to buy the area where his wells were located. It was then that Abraham “called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God (EL OLAM).”
So – what on earth does this story about a treaty and a well have to do with EL OLAM, the Eternal God? Actually, quite a bit…
Abraham was called out of Ur and sent to Canaan to find a city whose builder and maker is God in a land promised to him and his descendants – forever. (Hebrews 11:8-10, Genesis 13:14-15) As we know, he never found the city and never owned the land, but the writer of Hebrews tells us why: Because EL OLAM was in charge…
Hebrews 11, the “Hall of Faith” cites numerous examples of people who experienced miraculous deliverance and answers to prayer. It lists saint after saint and miracle after miracle, until it takes a drastic turn in verse 35. From there, we read, “… There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:35b-38) And yet, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40, italics mine.)
Abraham, the “Father of our Faith” has the distinction of being in both groups. He is commended for obeying God, because he went where He told him to go. He is also commended for waiting there to inherit a huge tract of land he never owned and a city he never found. This could have been confusing… He and Sarah experienced the miraculous birth of Isaac, but they never found the city or received the land! Like Abraham, the people in the first list were all commended for the faith to overcome great obstacles. Those in second list, however, were also commended for their faith to endure without seeing God intervene – because His plan was MUCH BIGGER than they were and extended WAY BEYOND their lifetime! Both had faith in God.
Whether or not they knew Him by name, those who endured without seeing were commended for believing in EL OLAM. They could not see what was hidden in eternity and clear only to Him – but they trusted Him. He was the One who was with them and enabled them to endure unspeakable things. His plan had to be worked out according to His timetable and could only be seen from eternity’s perspective. He is, after all, the one who dwells in eternity, shrouded in mystery.
So, when Abraham bought the well and the land around it, he “played into the hands of God;” he encountered EL OLAM! Abraham was now a land-owner in Canaan. (Actually, this is all he ever owned – except for the field of Machpelah with the burial cave in it that he bought later from Ephron, the Hittite in Genesis 49:30). This oasis was, if you will, Abraham’s “fist-shaped cloud.” (1 Kings 18:44) Owning this little bit of the Promised Land was a glimmer of hope. It was a token of the fulfillment to come, the down payment on the promise that the whole area would be his and his descendants’ forever!
So, by faith, Abraham moved in and planted tamarisk trees for his descendants to sit under. Isaac had been born, he had water and owned his own property. Life was good. At Beersheba, Abraham saw that the God of eternity, EL OLAM was in charge and would make good on His word. It was by faith that He saw what was unseen, shrouded in mystery with the One who stood outside of time in eternity. Abraham had a glimpse of EL OLAM – who knew the end from the beginning – and that was enough.