Hey guys! Welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast. So today we're talking about El Olam: the Everlasting God. When I first picked this name to learn, I had misgivings about doing an episode on it. I felt like it was going to be way too short, and there wasn't going to be anything to say, because it's pretty self-explanatory, “The Everlasting God.” I didn't have a quote-unquote angle, like what am I going to talk about? God is Everlasting, duh. But, as I actually started digging in and researching the name, I quickly realized that my first instinct about the name was not what it should have been, and that kind of blew my mind.
The Meaning of Everlasting (00:01:59)
When I thought of the name “Everlasting,”—you know, I looked up the word olam (עוֹלָם) in Hebrew and I saw that it means, you know, from antiquity, forever, everlasting, etc., etc.—eternity. Like I said, that just seems self-explanatory. God exists outside of time; of course He's everlasting. But I scrolled down to see, you know, how many times it's used in the Bible, and of course, where it’s first used, how it's introduced to us as God's people, when the Israelites started using it—all of that good stuff—and I found that it's used 438 times! That's a lot of times. I was like OK, maybe God is trying to tell me something... If He used it 438 times in the Bible, I should probably pay attention and see what the deal is.
And when I opened the Bible to the first occurrence of this name, I quickly understood that I was looking at it from the wrong angle. I was thinking of the Everlasting God as defining His existence. God is Everlasting: He is always been here, He will always be there. But the names of God define God's character, not His existence, which is slightly hard to wrap your head around because His existence and His character kind of go hand-in-hand, but when I read the passage, I realized it’s talking about more than His presence. It’s talking about Who He is. Who He is is Everlasting.
33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. 34 And Abraham lived as an alien in the land of the Philistines for many days. Genesis 21:33-34 CSB
Let me talk a little bit about that particular passage so we can talk about what I mean when I say “Who He is is Everlasting.” So in the passage, the first time it occurs, is in Genesis 21:33, and when you first read that one verse, it doesn't seem that important. Abraham has this well or this tree that he's planted, and he's naming it, and he calls on the name of God and calls Him the Everlasting God. And you're like okay, so what? But surrounding this, we have to remember that this is when Abraham has first come to Canaan, and he is basically staking out an area for himself and creating a home in this foreign land. Meanwhile God has promised him and made a covenant with Abraham that He would make Abraham the father of many nations—one of these nations being a great nation, the nation that would bring forth the salvation of all mankind, and that was the nation of Israel. That's where Jesus would come through, and how we would get salvation and all these things.
When God would bring the nation of Israel, He would put them in the land of Canaan. That was His promise. It's the Promised Land, but that land did not belong to Abraham, so it could not belong to his descendants, yet—minus the fact that God gave it to them. But It wasn’t the next day that these things happened. It wasn't the next week, the next year, the next decade. It was centuries later. Abraham was dead by the time these promises were fulfilled.
That is what I'm getting at. That is Who God is. His promises are everlasting. His love is everlasting. His forgiveness is everlasting. His healing is everlasting. All of the other names of God that we talk about, all of the other attributes of God that we talk about, are everlasting. God does not change. His promises do not change. They don't fade. This is the beauty of that name, and it took me reading that passage to realize that there was so much more depth in calling him the Everlasting God than just talking about his existence. He is—everything about Him is Everlasting. Everything He does is everlasting, which is so comforting, right? ‘Cause I'm not trying to be healed for a second. I’m trying to have eternity for eternity and that's exactly what He's giving us.
Personal Experience (00:06:38)
Now, as I was reading the passage and as I was processing all of this, it actually brought me back to an experience in my own life—and that's the whole point of reading the Bible, is so that we can connect with the past, that we can connect with what's being told in the stories given to us so we can see how they work in our own lives. 00:06:59 The promise that God had made to me or rather the experience that I had that God was bringing me through was similar on a much less painful scale, to that that he'd give Abraham and Israelites—that He would prosper them and He would give them this land. And they had to go through some things. There wasn't a direct route from point A to point B, and it didn't happen overnight. That's what happened to me with grad school.
When I got it in my head that I wanted to go to grad school, and I had my conversations with God, and I decided that I was going to go down that path, I thought I was going to go for four years and I was going to get out—maybe 5—and that was going to be it. I picked the school. I prayed. I got the fellowship, and I thought that was like God saying, “Yes! Boom! This is My stamp of approval. This is where I want you to go. This is what's going to happen. Everything's going to go to plan.” And to be honest, up until that point that was how school had worked for me. I just showed up, and I did the work, and everything worked fine, so I didn't see why grad school would be any different. But that is not how grad school went.
Those first two years were so rough. I'm still mystified I even graduated with my Master's—that's a whole topic and a whole podcast episode of itself, but needless to say I was miserable the first two years of my graduate program, and I wasn't even sure I was supposed to be there, anymore. I didn't enjoy it. I didn't, I mean, I just had serious misgivings, but I was stubborn and I didn't want to quit. One thing led to another thing and eventually I did graduate with the Master's, but that wasn't my plan my plan was to get a PhD from that school. It was supposed to be a one shot, one and done, go ahead and then go on into your future endeavors. But that's not how it worked out, and God took me back to my undergraduate institution after that rocky period.
And when I went back to my undergraduate institution, you know, things started to pep up. I liked it better; I was happier. Everything was starting to look up, and I was like okay maybe God just took me there for a minute to teach me, just like a little lesson. You know this was my Exodus out of Egypt, I was going—I was at the Promised Land! But that didn't go the way I thought it was either. I did not pass my first portfolio attempt and then my advisor quit his job. And I was just like “Whoa! Wait! What's going on? This is not how this is supposed to be going. What am I supposed to do?” And I was freaking out. This was I guess my moment where the Israelites decided that they couldn't fight, that they was not prepared to go and take Israel even though God said that they could take the land.
So I ended up moving schools again because I went with my advisor, and it was when I went with my advisor that God really moved His hand and showed me like “Yeah, you know, you remember I told you that you could have this? I told you you could have this because you're going to have it, but not in your time in My time.” And I got the PhD. And the project that I did, the skills that I learned, none of what happened would have happened if it had not been for that series of events. Every single move that I made, every school that I went to, I learned something that I needed to get to the point that I am now. I made connections that I needed to get to the point that I am now. I built friendships... Even the things that have nothing to do with the field that I'm in—my relationship with Christ, studying the Word, all of these things are directly tied to the experiences I had going through that struggle.
When I look at what happened to Abraham, him declaring God the Everlasting God when God made the promise and before any of this stuff played out, it reminds me of how far I was from God at the beginning of that journey. Because during that process, I mean, before the process I wasn't shouting out El Olam, Everlasting God, and so during the process I had serious misgivings about what was happening. But now, I realize that God is the Everlasting God. Everything about his character is everlasting. He will love everlasting. He will heal everlasting. His promises are everlasting. Everything about Him—His forgiveness. And so now I am fully prepared that when I go through these situations, when you go through your trials, you know, “in bondage” and you’re being brought out and brought into “the promised land”, I know it may not be today; it may not be tomorrow, but when God makes a promise, it is everlasting, because He is El Olam, and that's something I don't ever want to forget and you shouldn't either.
Wrap Up (00:12:38)
Thank you guys for tuning. I hope that you will subscribe if you haven't. Don't forget that this episode’s transcripts can be found on the web site at www.psalmstogod.com/everlasting. You can find a bunch of other content on the website, as well, so you can subscribe and visit there too. I can't wait to talk to you guys again in the next episode, so I will see you guys again on Monday. Bye.
References and Footnotes
- "5769. Olam". Bible Hub; visited February 2019
- The portfolio was basically like a qualifying exam, it was the catalyst to move from PhD student to PhD Candidate (which basically gives you the clear to pursue your research, form a committee, and advance in the PhD process).