2.7 God's Name is Yahweh / Jehovah / Yahoovah
(Note: The exact pronunciation isn't vital. The meaning of the name rather than its pronunciation is the essence. It is likely that the correct form would be something like Ya-hoo-wah, including the essence of the three forms of the Hebrew verb 'to be'- past, present and future. For more on this see A.D. Norris, What is His Name?).
To the Semitic peoples, a name stands for the essential identity of a person; to know their name gives access to the power and authority which they have. This is why Moses is so urgent to know God's Name (Ex. 3:13,14). Insofar as we grasp and absorb into ourselves the principles of that Name, we likewise will be empowered by the Father. The Name of God is essentially an epitomy of who God is. God declared His Name to Moses when He declared His attributes to Him. This means that all that God is, we must be. Our attitudes to God are therefore related to our views about God. If we are impure, then we are saying that effectively God is impure- thus God rebukes Israel for having unjust weights: “Shall I be pure with wicked balances?” (Mic. 6:11 RV). We make God effectively impure by our being impure. Especially will our attitude to talking with God in prayer be affected by our view of who God is. If we consider Him to be inflexible, insisting that His will be done over and above our will, then there will be no sense of struggle in prayer, no grasp of the frightening reality that prayer does change things, with all this implies from us in terms of continuance and struggle in prayer. Ps. 44:20,21 state that to remember the Name of God takes place in the secret places of the heart. To remember the Name doesn't mean to remember that oh yes, His Name is 'Yahweh'. We remember the Name in the secret heart- it's such a personal thing. God will search the secret heart to see if we have forgotten the Name or whether those principles still affect our walk. For the things of the Name affect our lives and thinking to the very core. The Lord Jesus fed off the majesty of the Name of Yahweh (Mic. 5:4)- this was how inspirational He found the things of the Name. To fear the Name of Yahweh was to “observe to do all the words of this law” (Dt. 28:58). Meditation and sustained reflection upon the characteristics of God as epitomized and memorialized in His Name will of itself lead to a conformation of personality to that same Name. If we declare that Name to others, they too have the chance to be transformed by it- thus Moses comments: “Because I will publish the name of the Lord, ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (Dt. 32:3).
As a caveat to our rightful emphasis upon the need to correctly know doctrine about God, let's remember 1 Cor. 8:2,3: " If one thinks he knows, he has not yet known anything as he ought to know; but if one loves God, one is known by Him" . In other words, we will never know God to perfection in this life; but what we can be sure of and rejoice in is that He knows us. Paul almost implies that we can easily forget this wondrous fact, because of our obsession with wanting to fully know about Him.
The Reason For Praise
There is a link between the name Yahweh, and praise. Halle-lu-YAH is saying that for the sake of the Name Yah, therefore praise Him. David sat down and designed musical instruments because of the Name (2 Chron. 7:6). The Psalms often make the link explicit, e.g. " ...give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise" (Ps. 106:47). The Name and praise are paralleled. If we know the beauty and wonder of God's Name, His very being, this is of itself an imperative to praise. He alone is worthy of praise because His Name alone is exalted (Ps. 148:13). " Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye [therefore] greatness unto our God" (Dt. 32:3). As His Name is, so is His praise world-wide (Ps. 48:10); beyond the barriers of distance and language, those who know the Name are united in praise. Is. 42:8 speaks as if God's Name is itself His praise, so strong and inevitable is the link between knowing His Name and praising it: " I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" . " Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" (Ps. 29:2) suggests that the Name of Yahweh demands praise from us. To simply declare the Name is of itself to praise (Heb. 2:12). This explains why at least 15 times in the Psalms and often elsewhere, praise is to be given to God's Name (Ps. 7:17; 9:2; 44:8; 54:6; 61:8; 69:30; 74:21; 99:3; 113:1; 135:1; 138:2; 142:7; 145:2; 148:5,13; 149:3). And it also explains why acceptable worship involves having true doctrinal understanding of God (Mk. 7:7). There are similar links between glory and praise.
Who God is, the nature of His Name of Yahweh, of itself inspires our worship. This is important; for we become what we worship (Jer. 2:5). Those who worship idols become like them; and those who worship the true God for all that He is, was and will be, become like Him. This is why worship and the appreciation of Him that underpins it is crucial for every true believer. We have often observed that first principles are all linked in with each other. Because " I am Yahweh" , " the word that I speak shall come to pass" (Ez. 12:25). Because He is, and He will be, therefore the words of the 'I will be', really will be. Thus when Israel saw [and see] God's word fulfilled in their experiences, they will know that He is Yahweh- that this God who spoke really will be. Those who refused to believe that God's word of judgment against sin would truly be fulfilled are spoken of as those who " have belied YAHWEH, and said, It is not he" (Jer. 5:12). This is a clear reference to the fact Yahweh means 'I will be / I am'. To doubt His word in practice is to belie His very Name and being. This is why God assures us of the certainty of both His salvation and also His judgment of sin by saying that " As I live, saith Yahweh…" (Ez. 20;31,33; Is. 49:18; Num. 14:21). As surely as He who is, really is, so surely His words of promise and judgment will be fulfilled. His Name therefore confirms the reality of His words. David reflects upon the link between God's Name and His word in Ps. 138:2: " I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above ['by'] all thy name" . God's word is magnified by the Name, and vice versa- for David praises the Name on account of the mercy and truth revealed in the word, perhaps, specifically, the promises to Abraham ['lovingkindness / mercy and truth' are often used about these]. Because of all this, the Yahweh Name is the most essential challenge to faith. " I will be" is a challenge to believe that what is not yet seen will be on the basis of what has been and what is. We must trust / believe in the Name of Yahweh (Is. 50:10).
Motivation To Labour
The fact God’s Name is carried by us, the righteousness of it imputed to us, should lead us to a greater awareness of His grace. Paul alludes to how he carried the Yahweh Name when he says that “by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10). And his response was therefore to labour abundantly. A theme of Malachi is that Israel failed to appreciate God's Name of Yahweh, and therefore they were half-hearted in their service. They gave the minimum to God, they were partial in their generosity, because they despised His Name. The fullness and richness of the Name, of who God is, a God full of grace and truth (Ex. 34:6 RV), should lead us to a fullness of response. For the sake of the Name, believers labour (Rev. 2:13). To know the name of Yahweh is an imperative to serve Him (1 Chron. 28:9). The greatness of the Name should have led to full and costly sacrifices (Mal. 1:6-8,9-11,14; 2:2). Thinking upon the Name led the faithful to pay their tithes and fellowship with each other (Mal. 3:6,10). Giving unto Yahweh the glory due to His Name is articulated through giving sacrifice (Ps. 96:8). If we know God, we will act and judge as He does (Jer. 22:16). To perceive that Yahweh is indeed so righteous results in us humbling ourselves (2 Chron. 12:6), just as the declaration of the Name made Moses hide in the cleft of the rock, and as it will make men in the last days throw away all their vestige of human pride (Is. 2).
There are a few NT references to the Yahweh Name (1). One of them is in Heb. 11:6: he who comes to God must first [most importantly] believe that He is [a reference to He who is who He is, and will be who He will be], and that therefore, as an intrinsic part of who He is, He is a rewarder of His people. Surely the point is that it's not just knowing the Name theoretically, it is to believe it- that He who is , really is in our lives. Who God is, i.e. His Name, is an imperative to be like Him. If we are His sons and daughters, who He is becomes quite naturally the law of our being. Thus we should love our enemies, because God makes His sun [cp. 'our' goodness] to rise on both His friends and enemies. As we reflect on the massive power that every moment works to move the sun and earth around each other, so every moment we have an imperative to love. This is why belief in God cannot be merely an intellectual act occurring within certain brain cells. Belief means action in some way. Belief and the act of baptism are necessary for salvation; but some NT passages speak as if faith alone saves. This is reconciled by understanding that faith, true faith, includes works. James reasons that there is no distinction between true faith and works. They are part of the same nexus. Thus when we read in the NT of belief in Christ, the normal construction with a dative case was dropped and instead a preposition is used with the verb- belief into Christ is the idea, with implied reference to baptism into Him and an active life in Him as a result of our belief. To be brethren in Christ is not to just believe Christ or God, but to believe into them in practice. R.T. Lovelock comments: " The NT writers felt the importance of this utter trust in God so strongly, that they originated a new construction in their language to emphasise the concept and force it upon the attention of their readers" (2).
Repentance is elicited by an appreciation of God's Name of Yahweh. Joel appealed: " Rend your heart…and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy" (Joel 2:13)- alluding clearly to the declaration of the Name in Ex. 34. Because of how God is, as revealed in His Name of Yahweh, because mercy and forgiveness are paramount within the texture of His very personality…therefore, repent. Thus Asaph prayed: " Help us...purge away our sins, for thy name's sake" (Ps. 79:9). Reflection on the Name inspired his faith in forgiveness and thus helped his repentance. It did the same for David (Ps. 25:11) and for Jeremiah (Jer. 14:7,21).
" What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve [Him]" (Dt. 10:12) is the basis of Mic. 6:8: " What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" . " To love [God]" is paralleled with " to love mercy" . If we love God, we will be merciful as He is. To know Him in truth is to actively be like Him. As God giveth to all men richly, so we should be rich in good works and sharing to others (1 Tim. 6:17,18). The fear or worship of Yahweh is paralleled with " to depart from evil" (Job 28:28); one cannot know / fear Him and remain in the ways of sin. " Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For...Yahweh, the Lord of hosts, is his name" (Am. 4:12,13). Who God is, as expressed in His Name, is an imperative to prepare ourselves to meet Him in judgment. The confession of the Name is paralleled with repentance in 2 Chron. 6:24. There we read that if Israel sin and repent ''and confess thy name' they will be forgiven. But instead of ''confess thy name'' we expect ''confess their sins: the point being that to confess the name is effectively to confess sins. The name is the characteristics of Yahweh. The more we meditate upon them, the more we will naturally be lead to a confession of our sins, the deeper we will sense the gap between those principles and our own character. Likewise in 2 Chron. 12:6 the statement that ''the Lord is righteous'' is effectively a confession of sin. And thus we are not to bear or take the Name of Yahweh called upon us at baptism in vain- the realty of the implications of the name are not to be lost upon us.
To steal is to take the Name of Yahweh called upon us in vain (Prov. 30:9), and therefore we ask to be given only our daily bread and no more (NIV); not so much that if we are found out, the Name will be brought into disrepute, but rather that we personally will have blasphemed the imperative of Yahweh which is heavy upon us [and note how these words of Agur are applied to us in Mt. 6:11. Likewise because " God is true" , therefore it ought to be axiomatic that our words are true, as those bearing His Name (so Paul argues in 2 Cor. 1:18; 11:10). The woman of Tekoah wanted David to show mercy, and so she says: " Let the king remember Yahweh thy God, that thou wouldest not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more" (2 Sam. 14:11). To be aware of who Yahweh is, of the characteristics outlined in Ex. 34:5-7 that comprise His Name…this must surely affect our behaviour, seeing we bear that Name. It is an understanding of the Name that inspires our faith in forgiveness. " Though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many" (Jer. 14:7,9,21). The Name is called upon us in baptism (Jer. 14:9 = Eph. 3:15), and this is why we urge men to be baptized into the Name to wash away their sins.
Manasseh's repentance and forgiveness was associated with his knowing Yahweh. He prayed to Yahweh, but only on experiencing forgiveness did he come to know Him (2 Chron. 33:13). To really know the Name elicits forgiveness, and the experience of that forgiveness leads to knowing the Name yet further. Job went through the same; when he truly saw / perceived God, he repented and 'loathed his words' (Job 42:6 RVmg.).
The Name of God of itself elicits repentance. Faced with the wonder of who He is, we can’t be passive to it. We realize and are convicted of our sin sheerly by the reality of who He is, was and shall be. Heb. 13:15 speaks of the fruit of our lips, giving confession to His Name. The “fruit of lips” in Hos. 14:2 RVmg. to which the writer alludes is clearly enough, in the context, the confession of sin. And the context in Heb. 13:12 is that Christ’s blood was shed to sanctify us. That declaration of the Name elicits a confession of sin, albeit in words of praise, to His Name. Mic. 6:9 has the same theme. When the Lord’s voice calls to the city demanding repentance, “the man of wisdom shall see [perceive] thy name”- i.e. repent.
Forgetting the Name of Yahweh was associated in David’s inspired thinking with a wrong attitude in “the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:20,21). By contrast, remembering / being aware of the Name affects our innermost being, the secrets of our heart, the hidden self which others don’t see.
Manasseh is criticized for placing an idol in the very place where God's Name of Yahweh was meant to dwell (2 Chron. 33:7). He replaced the invisible things- the more abstract things of the characteristics of God which the Name speaks of- by something material and visible. We make the same mistake when we turn away from true spirituality and become lost in physical works. If Judah had not forgotten the Name [and this must refer to their lack of appreciation of it rather than forgetting the letters JHVH], then they wouldn’t have served Baal and other gods (Jer. 23:27).
The Manifestation Of God
God's Name was called upon us at baptism into the Name. This bearing of His Name means that the principles of that Name bear rule over us in our lives: " We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; thy name was not called upon them" (Is. 63:19 AV mg.). The Name is called upon us; and therefore and thereby we are Yahweh's servants, dominated by His principles and character. Because the Name was called upon the temple, therefore it was simply impossible that those who realized this could worship idols in it (2 Kings 21:4,7); whatever has God's Name called upon it, whatever bears His image, must be devoted to Him alone. The Lord pointed out that this applies to our very bodies, which being in God's image should be given over to Him.
Quite simply, who God is should inspire us to be like Him; to copy His characteristics [the things of His Name] in our personalities. We must be " perfect" as our Father is; " be ye holy" , because He is holy (1 Pet. 1:14-16); " kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God forgave…be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children" (Eph. 4:32; 5:1);" merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Lk. 6:36). Prov. 19:11RV uses language frequently applied to Yahweh Himself and applies it to the wise man: " The discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression" . And thus Phinehas was commended for being " jealous with my jealousy" (Num. 25:11 RV)- his emotion at that time was a mirror of that of God Himself.
God's Name of Yahweh is essentially " I am" . If only He is God, it follows that we should never 'play God' but rather seek to manifest Him. We may recoil at the suggestion we ever seek to 'play God'; but every time we judge another, every time we assume we know ultimately best, that we alone see the end from the beginning, that we have to make high level decisions which affect the destinies of others, or when we conclude that a person is not really able to have a part in God's plan, we are doing just that- playing God. I wonder whether or not Elihu fell into this trap in how he treated Job, power-brokering as it were between a man and his God. He describes himself as " he that is perfect in knowledge" , the very title for God Almighty (Job 36:4; 37:16). Grasping the real significance of the Name means we will seek to manifest that Name of Yaweh but not 'play God', even though the two things can appear dangerously similar. ‘God manifestation’ doesn’t mean playing God. Joseph held himself back from being vindictive against his brothers by saying that he could not do so, because if he did, he would be acting ‘in God’s place’ (Gen. 50:19). His fear of ‘playing God’ meant that he wouldn’t presume to judge them. All too easily, a too simplistic view of ‘God manifestation’ can lead us to assume that we are to judge and condemn others, thus arrogating to ourselves what is only and rightly God’s personal prerogative. This problem perhaps is reflected in the way that I observe that those I know who speak the most of ‘God manifestation’ [and misunderstand it] tend to also be the most condemnatory and judgmental Christians I have ever met. It’s not that ‘God manifestation’ isn’t Biblical. It’s rather that we can’t interpret it to mean that we can go all the way and ‘play God’.
There are several connections between there being one Name of God- one set of principles with which He identifies Himself- and unity between believers. David bad his people exalt God's Name " together" , in unity (Ps. 34:3). The fact that there will be one Lord and His Name one in the future will inspire unity amongst the whole world.
Faith In Prayer
The Name of Yahweh / characteristics of God inspire faith in Him. The more we know of Him, the more we believe. There is a magnetism in knowing His character, just as there was and is in knowing the person of His Son. The Hebrew word 'Amen' is derived from the Hebrew emeth meaning truth, trustworthiness, faithfulness. By saying this at the end of a prayer we show our faith in the essence of the Name. Perceiving the implications of the Name therefore deepens our faith in prayer. The Name speaks of the Father's desire to respond to His children. The root word ehyeh from which 'Yahweh' is derived occurs 50 times, mainly in the context of God's help and comfort in real situations. This is the practical nature of the things expressed in the Name.The repeated references to God’s Name in Ex. 3 and 6 had a very practical context. Israel needed to summon all their faith to believe that actually, they were not in a hopeless situation there in the concentration camps of Egypt. Even when they were given no straw and told to make the same number of bricks, the comfort they are given is to remember the Name of their God, who had acted according to that Name in the past, and would do so in the future for them- because He is and will be who He has been.
Endless Inspiration To Seek The Father
Ps. 9:10 parallels knowing the Name of Yahweh with seeking God. To know God's Name is to seek Him. The more we enter into the depths of the Name, the more we will seek the Father; and in this sense, the Name is an endless inspiration to know the Father better and better, closer and closer, world without end.
(1) Another NT allusion to the name may be found in 1 Jn. 3:16,19,24, where we read of us having known [aorist past tense], presently knowing, and knowing in the future- knowing the Father, whose Name spans past, present and future.
(2) R.T. Lovelock, Salvation In Jesus (Notes Of The Central London Bible Class, 1954) p. 39.