Thursday, July 8, 2010

Yahweh: God Relates



GOD’S PERSONAL NAME

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation" (Exodus 3:13-15).

Here are a few facts about the name "Yahweh":
  • "Yahweh" is the most sacred name for God in the Old Testament. It is never used for pagan gods.
  • "Yahweh" usually appears as "LORD" in English translations of the Old Testament (over 6,800 times).
  • In the ancient Hebrew Bible, "Yahweh" was written as "YHWH." These four letters are called the "tetragrammaton."
  • The correct pronunciation of "YHWH" is still debated, though scholars agree that "Yahweh" is closer than "Jehovah."
  • "Hallelujah" means "Praise Yahweh." ("Jah" is a shortened form of "Yahweh.")
  • The meaning of "Yahweh" seems to be "I AM" (Exodus 3:13-15). (The NIV notes, "The Hebrew for LORD sounds like and may have been derived from the Hebrew for I AM.")
  • The ancient Jews would never say the name "Yahweh" for fear of breaking the third commandment (Exodus 20:7). They would replace "Yahweh" with "Adonai" ("Lord"). (Even today, many Jews replace the vowels in the words "God" and "Lord" with a dash—"G-d," "L-rd." This is done when there is a chance that the paper or computer file will be discarded or deleted.)
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham?"

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was, I am!”

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds (John 8:57-59).

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

What does the name "Yahweh" tell us about God?
  1. Yahweh is a personal God. God has a name: "Yahweh." He wants us to know him as a person. It's unfortunate that we aren't sure of the exact pronunciation of God's name. When we read "LORD," we think of a title. (My name is not pastor or father or husband. My name is Jonathan, which, by the way, means "Yahweh has given.") God's name is not "LORD"; His name is "Yahweh," "I AM."

  2. Yahweh is an unchanging God. God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). "It is what it is," voted by USA Today as the #1 sports cliché of 2004. The phrase means, "It happened. We can’t change it. We have to move on." God is "I AM WHO I AM." He can't be changed.

  3. Yahweh is a faithful God. "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished" (Exodus 34:6-7). These words were spoken right after the Israelites built the golden calf (Exodus 32). "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed" (Malachi 3:6). God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant" (Exodus 6:2-5). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not understand the full meaning of "Yahweh." In Moses' day, the Israelites could see that God had not forgotten His covenant with the patriarchs (ten plagues in Egypt, crossing of the Red Sea, provision of manna, quail, and water). But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, " will be [I am] with you" (Exodus 3:11-12). The Hebrew word translated "I will be" is the same as the one translated "I AM" in verse 14.

  4. Yahweh is a jealous God. "Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14). Sometimes jealousy is appropriate. If a man’s wife is being unfaithful to Him, He is right to be jealous for her love.

  5. Yahweh is a loving God. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, "O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity" (Jonah 4:1-2). Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son" (Genesis 22:8). So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided" (Genesis 22:14). "The LORD Will Provide" is "Yahweh Yir'eh" ("Jehovah Jireh"). Jesus Christ became the provided lamb who shed His blood so that that we could be reconciled to Yahweh.