YHWH

There are many names for God. So many I will only give a few examples, but you can do a little research on your own to discover them. They all point to God’s character and people in the OT used them to describe the God they encountered. God’s name is His promise to dwell within His people (John 17:6). His divine name reveals God’s power, authority, and holiness. El, which is commonly prefaced by other names of God is simply a generic term for God or deity, used as a synonym for Yahweh. El-Shaddai: “God of the Mountains” or “The Almighty God”; El-Roi: the “God who sees me”; El-Olam: “God of Eternity”; Yahweh-Jireh: “The Lord will provide”; Yahweh-Me kaddish: “The Lord sanctifies” (reveals His holiness, set apart); I would be remiss not to list others such as King, Judge, Shepherd, God the Father, Abba, and so many more from the NT.

At one time His name was so revered people did not dare to even speak it, YHWH – Yahweh. When writing the Hebrew language, they did not include vowels. Readers supplied them as they read. Reverence for the divine name led to the practice of avoiding its use. This was mostly out of respect and fear. It was too holy to pronounce at all, so they began to use other words such as Adonai, which means “Lord” or the Latin form: Jehovah, but it was not a real word at the time, or the El alternative used above.[1]

After I started writing this message, I watched “Christmas with the Chosen” and they too were explaining the use of the name Yahweh. The speaker said the people were afraid if they spoke it their tongue would rot and fall out. This comes from a couple of passages in the OT and is one of the Ten Commandments given to us by God Himself. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exod. 20:7, ESV). Also, “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death” (Lev. 24:16). (Emphasis added) The NLT version uses the word ‘misuse’ instead of the word ‘blaspheme’- which means to do anything that makes God appear insignificant or worthless.

People in the OT did not take it lightly, and neither should we today. It has become widespread practice to use His name flippantly in everyday occurrences. Which, I believe, is taking His name and making it appear to be worthless. The name of God is Holy – sacred- hallowed. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He began by showing them God’s name is to be kept Holy and exalted (Matt. 6:9). The notes in my study Bible also explain Exod. 20:7, saying it refers to someone taking a deceptive oath in God’s name, involving God’s name to sanction an act in which the person is being dishonest, and it bans the use of God’s name when associated with sinful acts, religious rituals, magic, irreverently, or disrespectfully. In this instance, Yahweh is warning Israel against the use of His name as if it were disconnected from His person, presence, and power.

Some people want to dismiss the OT Scripture and instructions saying they do not apply to us, but I disagree. There are many OT references in the NT that we can take instruction from today. The Ten Commandments are still relevant in shaping our moral character. As we understand the OT better, it foreshadows the coming of the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful love story of God’s redemption plan for His people, who He wants to be in a relationship with…which is us.

My dad, who was a minister, taught me that Reverend is a title reserved for God alone -not man. We tend to exalt ourselves in ways that are only for God, the great I AM, as well as disregard the deity of His holy name in everyday language. If this is a habit you have picked up over the years and not thought much about it, I would challenge you to pray about it. Ask God to help you change any bad habits and reveal to you any areas in your heart that you can clean up to make more room for His holy presence. It is worth the effort, because God is worth it, and He says you are worth it. He values you and wants to be in a closer relationship with you.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3)!

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).


[1] Chad Brand. ed., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: B & H Publishing, 2015).

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