The Name of God

Since I have been posting pictures of my journaling Bible online, various people have asked me about my use of the name Yahweh instead of God or The Lord. I’m going to answer a compilation of those questions here. 

Where does the name Yahweh come from?

Exodus 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 

Yahweh is the Hebrew word for I Am

Why use this name?

I visited a church once that used the name Yahweh for God. I thought this was strange and imagined they thought that they had better access to God by using a different name for Him. Maybe they even thought they were holier than me. I didn’t see anything wrong with God or The Lord

Then I started working in home health care. One of the rules was that I was not ever allowed to mention the name of my client to my family, due to privacy laws. So I started saying “that lady” or SHE or HER or “that lady I work for.” It put a distance between her and I, and although I’ve been with her for over six months now, my habit of not being able to mention her name has rubbed off on the time I’m at work with her, and I think I’ve only called her by name once or twice. Even though I spend three hours a day at her house, not being able to use her name creates a formality in our relationship. 

What does that have to do with using the name of God? If you look into it, God and The Lord aren’t names. They are titles. A god is something that is worshipped. And lord is a title used in the nobility even today. Using titles and never using names puts a distance in your relationship with Yahweh that you might not have even realized was there. I wouldn’t want my best friend to never call me anything but Ma’am

Isn’t the name of God too holy to use?

I’ve heard this question a lot. In fact, it’s the reason our Bibles are translated the way they are, with Yahweh replaced by God or The Lord

I wondered the same thing, until I read a little farther on in Exodus. 

Exodus 3:15 – God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, 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 you shall call me from generation to generation.

So is the true name of God too holy to use? Maybe. But He didn’t tell us this was His actual name. He said it was what we should call Him. 

My kids went through a phase where they wanted to call me by my first name. Everyone else got to call me Lisa, why shouldn’t they? I still remember what I told them. “You guys are special to me. You are my kids. Of all the people in the world, there’s only two that get to call me Mommy. That’s the two of you.”

So when Yahweh gave us a name to call Him from generation to generation, it implies a relationship. Just as the names Mom, Grandma, Dad, Uncle, Son imply relationships, Yahweh has given us this name to call Him because he has a special relationship with us. I don’t believe it is His real and only name, but we are special because we get to call Him that. 

Do you use a special Bible?

No, I don’t. I usually use the ESV Bible. But wherever the name GOD or LORD is written like that, all in capital letters, that signifies that the original Hebrew text reads Yahweh. Many other versions of the Bible use the same replacement words and the same capitalization to show where the substitution occurs. 

What benefits come from paying attention to God’s name?

Besides the significance of a relationship, and the closeness that comes from using a name instead of a title, reading the Bible while paying attention to the name of God leads to new insights. I’ve loved reading the stories that I’ve known since childhood like this and discovering new things. 

One example: the story of Ahab and Naboth’s Vineyard. 

1 Kings 21:1-14

Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “Yahweh forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, You have cursed god and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed god and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”

When I read this story before, I always thought it was mean of Jezebel to have false accusations brought against Naboth. However, after reading this story keeping the name of Yahweh in mind, I saw a different facet to the story. Naboth refused to sell his land because Yahweh had commanded them not to sell their inheritance. However, Jezebel was not a follower of Yahweh. Her god was Baal. So her accusations that Naboth, a follower of Yahweh, cursed a god, may well have referenced Baal. And Naboth might have done this very thing since he was loyal to Yahweh. This now becomes a story of martyrdom instead of false accusations. 

I’ve reread many other well-known stories and discovered similar nuggets. Do I think it’s necessary to do this? No, but it is fascinating. 

Have you turned into one of those weirdos that will frown on me if I say God in front of you?

Definitely not. In fact, when conversing with most other Christians I still say God. It’s more familiar to them to say that. And I truly don’t think your salvation depends on what you decide to call God – or Yahweh – or your Heavenly Father – or Jehovah – or The Lord God. But it’s added a new dimension to my spiritual life that I like. 

Traveling…with Prayer

Have you ever had someone tell you, “I’ll pray for you while you travel”? I have, and I’ve said the same to others. 

“I’ll be sure and pray for you to have a safe trip.” I might pray for them right then, but two weeks later, I’d welcome them back at church, never having thought of them after that. 

This year at Christmas time, my husband and I traveled from Texas to North Carolina to visit his parents. I have a good friend that I often refer to as my big sister. She was always checking in with me to see if I was OK, and how far I had gotten. As a convenience for both of us, I started sharing my location with her on my iPhone. 

This is how I discovered “praying by location.” She would look at the map and see where I was, and then was able to pray for me in that particular situation. If I was driving on the freeway, she prayed for safety. If I was at the motel, she prayed for rest. Of course we also texted each other occasionally, but on that long drive, I felt much safer knowing I was being prayed for wherever I was. 

As soon as I returned home, big sister had to fly out of state for an unexpected death. It was a powerful thing to be able to pray for her on the plane, at the motel, at the funeral home, and just on the road. 

I know this will not be for everyone, but if your big (or little) brother, sister, or prayer partner is traveling, you may want to try it. On the iPhone you can share location with another iPhone user through the Find My Friends app. iPhone/Android or Android/Android can accomplish the same thing through the Life360 app. 

Where Are You, God?

I’m going to set this post to publish a long time from now, so we will be removed from the situation by then, but this is too awesome not to share. 

It began with a pay cut. It wasn’t really a pay cut, it was more of a slap in the face. My husband decided to change his work schedule so he could attend church with the family. His boss promised to give him full-time status if he would leave his schedule alone. He’d been working full time for the company for over two years, just under a “part-time” label. He refused. They said they would cut him back to three to four days a week if he didn’t comply. He wouldn’t – his hours were cut. So technically it amounted to a significant pay cut as far as we were concerned. 

It didn’t take long to go through what little savings we had. We were scraping by but some unexpected bills came along. 

One day the situation really began to get to me. By this time we had spent most of a week eating mainly lentils, potatoes, and rice. Sometimes I’d give all the food to my family and just not eat. My birthday was a week away and my six-year old son asked for a couple dollars so he could buy me a present. I had to tell him no. 

That night after my husband went to work, I sat down and did some figuring. With the money we were expecting in pay for the two weeks left in the month, we would have exactly $5 left over after all the bills were paid. That $5 would have to stretch to cover gas, food, and anything else that might come up for two weeks. 

I began to cry. I cried and cried and then I started crying out to God. 

“Where are you, God?” I wept. “My husband stands up for you at work and this happens to us. Don’t you care?”

“Remember My servant Job,” said God. 

I knew right away what He meant. We’d just finished a study on the book of Job at Community Bible Study. God used Job as an example for Satan. Yet Job was not perfect. He complained that God was treating him unjustly. Yet by the end of the book, Job apologized to God. He came to realize that the ways of God are often beyond our comprehension. 

I apologized. “Yes, Lord, I know that you are God and I am not. Help me to wait patiently for your plan.”

After a while I had peace and was able to sleep. 

The next morning I got up and walked the six blocks to Community Bible Study, because one of our cars had expired tags and the other had hardly any gas.

Once I arrived, everything began to go wrong. The Internet was not working, so I couldn’t download the pictures I needed for our guest’s talk. The audio out wire for my computer was missing from the sound system. I went to lead the song and it was to a totally different tune than I was used to singing with those words. 

“Where are you, God?” I cried. 

But the pieces began to fit together. I was able to sight read the music and sing the song, even though I’m not usually that good at sight reading. While I was up leading the music, the Internet came back on just long enough that my email program loaded the pictures. The sound guy came from his office with the missing cable and put it back. 

I started to breathe.

I went home and had an uneventful afternoon doing schoolwork with the kids. Then I left for choir practice and work, using up the last of our gas. 

While I was at work, my husband texted me, telling me that a family member would be able to send us some money for gas and food. I felt better. Things would still be tight but not as bad as before. Then a friend texted me, asking if she could stop by my house later and drop something off.

When I got home from work, I waited for her to stop by. Since my birthday was only three days away, I figured maybe she had gotten me a little something. 

She pulled up in her SUV. “I got a message from God,” she said. She opened up the back. It was full of groceries, and even a toy each for the kids. 

“I don’t know why,” she said, “but God told me to get you this. And when He tells me to do something, I listen.”

We carried all the groceries into the house. The kids danced around and hugged their toys. Finally it was just my friend and I out in the cold. We hugged. “You don’t know what an answer to prayer this is,” I said. 

She got in her SUV and drove out. I went back into the house and pulled the door closed. My phone dinged. 

It was a text from another of my friends. “Would you accept some money from me and my husband as a gift to get your tags?” it read. 

I couldn’t say anything. I stood there with one hand on the doorknob as the tears ran down my face. My heart was full. I knew where God was. He was in my family. He was in my friends. But most of all, He was here, with me. 

The Music of Heaven

i love Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Most likely it is the most beautiful piece of music ever written. If you don’t know what piece of music that is, go here and listen to it now. You’ll probably recognize it. 

Trip saw me crying once while listening to the Canon in D. 

Trip: Mommy, what’s wrong?

Me: Nothing. The music is so beautiful, it must be what the music in heaven will sound like. 

So now Trip and Arya love it too, and every so often they ask for the “Music of Heaven.” Tonight on the way home from church was one of those times. 

As we were listening to an arrangement by Michael Silcerman featuring an oboe with the orchestra, there was silence for a while.

Then Trip said, “Mommy, this almost sounds like a song I already know.”

I was stunned by that statement, although probably not the way he originally meant it. 

I pray I can live my life here in such a way that the song of heaven is one I already know. 

The Faithful GPS

Assignment: Write a modern “Good Shepherd” parable.

I am the GPS on your phone. Those who follow me shall avoid traffic jams and accidents. Yea, though you drive through the perils of the Metroplex, I will be with you. I will guide you to the gas stations with the cheapest gas and find you a place to eat as well. Should you stray from the path, I will bring you back to the way in which you should drive. Surely I will go with you all the hours of your travel until you arrive safely at your destination.

But woe unto those of you who have iPhones and use Apple maps, for you shall wind up on the wrong side of town. The gas station will be to you a mall, and Main Street shall become a street that was never seen on any other map. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

But if you return to me, I will receive you gladly. I will lead you to safety and everlasting joy.

The “Logo” of God

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

At Community Bible Study, we have been studying the first chapter of John. This week, we were asked to define “word” in order to better understand the verse.

1word

noun \ˈwərd\

: a sound or combination of sounds that has a meaning and is spoken or written

: a brief remark or conversation : something that a person says

: an order or command

Then we were told that the word in the original Greek was logos, and we were asked to look up that definition as well. But I didn't look it up right away, I started thinking about Jesus and words and logos. Not the Greek word logos, but actual logos that stand for a company or brand.

According to the dictionary, a word is a sound or combination of letters that has meaning. It is a symbol for something else. For example, if I were to say “cat,” or get a piece of paper and write the letters C-A-T, you would all know what I was talking about, at least if you knew English. What I said or wrote would not be a living, breathing cat. The symbol itself did not even sound like a cat, and the letters did not look like a cat. But the image of a cat would be in your mind all the same.

Then we transition from words to logos. Logos are kind of like words, in that they are symbols that stand for something else. But logos are more powerful than words sometimes, in that they transcend language barriers and can carry with them the image of an entire company. In fact, market research has found that children will often recognize a brand logo before they can recognize their own written name. My children know McDonald's, Taco Bell, Walmart, and many others.

As a graphic designer, I spent several years occasionally making logos for companies. I learned what makes a strong logo. According to What makes a good logo?, a good logo is instantly recognizable, simple in form, relevant to the company, built for longevity, and able to fit different mediums of branding material.

So using these rules, can I look at Jesus as the logo of God?

  1. A good logo is instantly recognizable. We won't confuse it with something else. If you have known Jesus, you know that he is recognizable as he works in your life, and as he speaks to you in his word.
  2. A good logo is simple in form. In order to make a good logo, you must reduce the complex design to its simplest form. Jesus, “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7
  3. A good logo is relevant to the company. The logo must portray the essence of the company. A car would be an inappropriate logo for a pizza company. Jesus did only what his Father told him to do, and came so that we might understand the very essence of the Father.
  4. A good logo is built for longevity. The Coca-Cola logo has not changed since its debut in 1885. The logo should avoid trends and be something that can last. Jesus is still talked about and his words are studied over 2,000 years after he walked the earth. He did not follow the trends of the times, the rulings of the Scribes and Pharisees, but stuck to the truths of God that surpass time.
  5. A good logo is able to fit different mediums of branding material. If the logo is overly complex, no one will be able to read it quickly on a billboard or sign. It also has to be simple enough to reduce down to the size of a postage stamp and still be legible, so that the company can use it on stationery. Jesus took all that was complex and awesome about God, who is far too much for our human minds to comprehend, and reduced it down to the size of a postage stamp, in the form of a human, on this insignificant planet.

I never did look up the Greek word logos and find out how that applied to Jesus as the word of God. But I really like Jesus as the logo of God. He can represent the God of the Universe in such a simple way that my children can understand Him before they recognize their name, but yet He carries so much of the essence of God that I could spend a lifetime studying his various colors.