The Name of God
The role of the student is to learn more than the teacher. You (the student) in turn can teach someone else. In the process of teaching, you come to the understanding (as the years go by), that you need to make lots of corrections in your theology. If you started teaching from one book and you are teaching from the same book for years and years, you will discover that your thought processes have changed. As you start to look at words over time, the words start to take on a different meaning.
When one looks at Exodus (6: 2-3), many people may tell you over and over again that this is one of the verses of the Scriptures that is an apparent contradiction. When you read a couple of verses of these apparent contradictions, you may tend to agree (i.e., if you look at it at face value, there may be a contradiction in the Scriptures). But what is the message that the Torah is trying to give us?
In Exodus (6: 2-3), listen to what is said:
“And God spoke to Moses (Moshe) and said to him, I am YHVH (Yud-Hay-Vav-Hay, or YHVH, or YAHWEH, the pronunciation that we use at Ariel); I appeared to Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov as El Shaddai (God Almighty), although I did not make myself known to them by my name, YHVH”.
If you look at that verse in Scripture, you now have formed an idea in your mind that when God talked to Moshe, He said, you’re the first one I am coming to with this name. Now I want you to turn to Genesis (15:7).
“And He said to him,” (i.e., God said to Abraham) “I am YHVH who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land as a possession.”
Now hold on here, if you look at the two verses side by side there appears to be a contradiction, because He did appear to Abraham with YHVH. So you can see that Elohim plainly addresses Abraham here with His name (YHVH). So how can the statement in Torah, that ‘Elohim did not reveal His name, YHVH to Abraham’ be true?
To complicate matters even more in Abraham’s conversation with Elohim about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, we find Abraham specifically addressing Elohim as YHVH four times. So he knew this name (YHVH). It was there in front of him.
To understand what is going on, you have to understand the Hebraic mindset of his day. In Hebrew, a name is the embodiment of the characteristics of a person. In our country, we name people fancy names because they sound good. But in antiquity in all the old countries, they took a name that they hoped that person would become. You named someone something you wanted them to be (i.e., something about the characteristics of that person).
In Exodus (3:14), you see that YHVH revealed His name to Moshe in a way that He had never done before up to this point in Torah. When He met Abraham, He introduced Himself to Abraham with the Name, YHVH, but He introduced the characteristics to Abraham that Abraham needed to see. What Abraham knew about God was that God was a covenant keeping God. What Isaac knew about God was that He was a covenant keeping God. What Jacob knew about God was that He was a covenant keeping God. And you know what? That is all they knew about Him. They did not see any other characteristics of God. But here with Moshe, we see God not only introducing His name, but now He is introducing another characteristic of Himself (i.e., The Savior).
He is now showing His characteristic of redemption. He is going to redeem His people by the blood of the lamb. He is going to now take His people and say, you know me as the God of your fathers’, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You know I kept my covenant with them and that’s why you’re still here.
Today we know God as a covenant keeping God. We have the advantage of looking at the people that God spoke to in Torah and seeing and capitalizing on these characteristics (i.e., on His very name). Moshe is going to see God like nobody else ever saw God before. God was now going to be understood as a redeemer. He was going to be their Savior. That is why the Scriptures can say there is no Savior but God.
He is the God who with His outstretched arms redeemed His people. And that is the reason why the Scriptures can say, this was the first time He was showing Moshe this name. This characteristic of the Name is really where He was going with this.
In Exodus (6:2-3) we can understand that what Elohim was saying was that His Memorial name has always existed. He always gave His people different ways of understanding who He is. Today we need to see and understand all the characteristics of God, while understanding that His Memorial name will not change. His words were “this is my memorial name forever”, yet there are many characteristics that identify who He is. In each generation people have seen the different characteristics of God.
How do we know that God is a merciful God? Because we realize we needed mercy. When we came to God wanting justice, He gave us mercy. How do we know that He is a God of justice? We know this because His justice is displayed throughout the Scriptures. So when God singles out Moshe to be His representative he let Moshe see Him as the God Who redeems and delivers. He would never again be seen in the light of a covenant keeping God outside of being also a redemptive God (i.e., the God of redemption).
Elohim is starting to form a picture of Himself early on in the Torah. He reveals a little bit more of Himself with each new character to which He appears. When He comes into contact with Jonah, we see Him as a forgiving God. A God who called Jonah to do something and Jonah rebelled and went the other way, but He extended forgiveness. He extended mercy, but He is still a God who is a covenant keeping God. Most people are amazed that the Jewish people still exist today until they realize it is because of the covenant that He made with them thousands of years ago through Abraham. The covenant never changed.
Another important point that needs to be addressed is the probation by the rabbinical council regarding the use of the Name of YHVH. For approximately 15 to 20 years I would call upon God the same way the orthodox Jews do, by using the title, “Hashem”. Hashem literally means ‘The Name’. The custom of substituting YHVH with Hashem is in direct conflict with the Scriptures. As you search through Scripture you must be willing to shed customs and traditions that don’t line up with “what does saith” YHVH.
As you look, you will find that 87 times in the Tanakh, it says, “The Name of the Lord”. Those are the words for which we are going to look. We start with Exodus (20:7): “You shall not take The Name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold the one guiltless that takes His Name in vain.” When you interpret this Scripture and you are going from one language to another, the interpretation must always be the same. You can’t decide when you want to change one form of an interpretation. If you are going to interpret one way in one place, if the words are identical, you have to also interpret it the same way in the next passage.
Take that verse and put it back into a little transliteration and English together. “You shall not take Hashem of Hashem your God in vain; for Hashem will not hold guiltless the one that takes His Name in vain.” Do you understand what we just did in that passage of Scripture? We said that you shall not take ‘The Name’ of ‘The Name’ in vain.
Exodus (33:19): “And He said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you and I will proclaim The Name of The Name before you and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious to and show mercy to whom I will show mercy to.”
Exodus (34:5): “And Hashem descended in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed Hashem of Hashem.”
What I am saying is that as we go through the Scripture and we deliberately eliminate YHVH and replace it with Adonai (which is Lord) or replace it with Hashem, we are not calling upon the Name.
Deuteronomy (28:10) says: “And all the people of the earth shall see that you are called by The Name of YHVH and they shall be afraid of you.”
Deuteronomy (32:3) says: “Because I will publish” which means write down, “The Name of YHVH and ascribe greatness unto our God.”
II Kings (5:11): “But Naaman was furious and went away and said, Behold I thought, He will surely come out to me and stand and call upon The Name of YHVH his God, and wave his hand over the place and recover the leper.”
Job (1:21): “And he said, Naked I came out of my mother’s womb and naked I shall return. YHVH gave and YHVH takes away. Blessed be The Name of YHVH.” If you replace it, blessed be Hashem of Hashem, we are missing something.
It says, call upon The Name of YHVH and you shall be saved in the Psalms (18:3). The Psalms are filled with it over and over again.
Look at these verses and see for yourself how we are commanded to call upon The Name of YHVH. See what happens to it as you read the Scripture itself, if you are not replacing it with other words. In Psalms (121:2) it says our help is in The Name of the YHVH.
The Scripture says, when I see my name upon them, I will bless them. Why are we so afraid in many instances; because of our customs and traditions? Are we are afraid to use The Name because we don’t know how it is really pronounced. There is such confusion. Why is there such confusion when from Genesis all the way through the Bible when we are told that ‘The Name of YHVH is to be praised’?
The Name of YHVH is to be praised. Read it as ‘Hashem of Hashem is to be praised’ (i.e., The Name of The Name is to be praised). It does not work and it even sounds silly!
If your name is Cindy and I didn’t want to call you Cindy, for whatever reason, I call you “the name” instead; you wouldn’t like that too much.
I believe that throughout the Scripture and especially in Exodus (3:15), where God says, “This is my memorial name forever,” we have to really pay attention to it. We need to look at it and ask; what does God want from me?
This is not a message to condemn anyone who is not using it. All I am saying is that you need to take a look at it. The preponderance of Scriptural evidence will point to the fact that God wants His name to be used. However, if you do, you are opening yourself up into a whole different area. It is not popular. You are going to fly in the face of everybody.
When you get involved with the Name of God, people will quickly put you into a cultish type movement:
* You are not allowed to use that name!
* His Name isn’t really YAHWEH (i.e., because that is the pronunciation that we use at Ariel)!
* Nobody knows how to pronounce His name!
Well folks, they always pronounced His name in antiquity. In ancient Judaism, His name was always pronounced. You see, if the enemy succeeds in keeping The Name of God off the lips of God’s people, he has accomplished an awful lot.
In Exodus 20:7 it says,
“You shall not take The Name of YHVH thy God in vain.”
The mindset of the sages was that if you never use The Name of YHVH because you don’t know it, you can never take it in vain. This was the idea behind leaving God’s name out of peoples’ conversations and not writing it down.
One of the verses of Scripture we looked at tells us to “publish the Name of YHVH”, which means write it down. But we are told not to write it down because it could be desecrated. If a piece of paper has the Holy name of God on it, somebody could take this paper one day and put it in the bottom of a dog’s cage. The dog can then use it to relieve itself on and people can now say, “Well now you just caused God’s name to be profaned.” The Name of God is not on paper. Paper has nothing do with it. Paper is for us. The Name of God is in your heart and He wants to move it from your heart to your lips.
“Oh God I call upon your name.” When you look at the Scripture every time you see the word “Lord”, understand that in Hebrew it is the Name of God, YHVH. When you replace it with any title (whether it be Adonai, whether it be Hashem), the devil has succeeded in blocking out the Name of God from the lips of God’s people.
How can I be God’s personal friend if I don’t use His name to talk to Him? If I am going to give Him only titles, and I don’t know His name personally, how can I be His friend? Abraham knew it. Abraham used it four times in one passage of Scripture. He called upon His name. The Messiah, Yeshua, knew it. He uses it over and over again, but in the Greek it is translated a little differently, but it is the same thing.
My challenge to you is that if you were around me fifteen years ago; forget what I taught you then. Fifteen years from now, I may be saying the same thing (i.e., forget what I taught you). Teaching is also a process of learning. If I were to be dogmatic and continue on all the beliefs I started with, I would be like most teachers today that teach from the Scriptures, the theological clones that will never change even though they know the difference. They will never teach the people. The Scripture asks, how will they know unless they are taught, and how can they be taught if they don’t have a teacher?
That is why there are so many admonitions in Scripture about being careful if you should be a teacher. It is better to be a servant in the House of God than to be a teacher, because if you teach wrong, it says, “Woe to you.”