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. 

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My Life Is Not a Pinterest Page

This is something that has been on my mind for a while, so I thought I’d say something about it. My life isn’t a Pinterest page. Neither is yours. And that’s ok. 

I scroll through my Facebook feed. Someone’s made brownies. Someone else’s kid won a trophy. Someone got promoted. I’m happy for these people, but wonder how their life can possibly be so much better than mine. 

I scroll down farther. Someone’s kid is sick for the fourth time this month. Someone went to the ER because they had a headache. Someone else feels overwhelmed because they don’t know how they will make ends meet. I’m frustrated with these people, because I feel like they are using Facebook to complain or garner attention. 

But at the end of the day, I know it does no good to fuss about social media, because none of us actually live the life we portray to the world. I put cute pictures of my kids on Facebook, and random thoughts and activities, but no one there sees the realities of my life. 

***DISCLAIMER*** Because I am using these examples, please do not think they all apply to my life right now. They don’t. But either I or someone I know has been there at some point. 

I don’t post a picture of my son’s black eye, because someone might think I beat him. He actually ran into a tree while playing tag. 

I can’t say how many times my water got shut off because we couldn’t pay the bill, because I feel like it will be construed as a request for my rich friends to give me money. Seriously, I’m friends with you because I like you, not because I want your money. 

I don’t feel like I have the right to complain about being sick, when I’ve got a friend that’s been in the hospital fighting cancer for months. 

And I can’t just post on Facebook asking for prayers, because in a few hours the whole city will have assumed several different horrible things about me which will then get passed around as facts. 

So I can’t talk about my problems. But I don’t feel right talking about a lot of the highs of my life either. 

I can’t share what a blessing it was to get unexpected help with our bills, because that would necessitate admitting that we couldn’t pay them in the first place. 

I can’t tell you about how we got this blessing after sharing with someone else in need, because then I’ll have people telling me everything from “You should have saved your money and taken care of your own” to “Don’t be boasting about what good you do.”

I can’t tell you about the miracle that let us heat our house for two months for $25, because someone I don’t even know will take it upon themselves to text my extended family saying we must not have had any heat before. 

I can’t talk about how my husband is always there for me through everything because either someone just had a bad breakup and obviously I’m just saying that to make them mad, or someone else will assume that we are on the brink of divorce and I’m just saying that to make things look good. 

I can’t even post a picture of my son’s new bike, because someone will complain about the mess in the background. 

So I’ll keep posting my shiny Pinterest life online, and put my “normal” life on when I go out in public. But I’m not really like that. And neither are you. 

Thankfully I’m blessed with about three friends that I can be totally honest with. I don’t have to show them my front. I pray you also have friends like this. Live. Laugh. Love. And keep it real. 

Meanwhile…continue to watch my Facebook page for cute pictures and random quotes. 

A lesson in perspective

I had an interesting day at work today. I figure there are two ways to look at this.

Day #1:

  • I had to do a lot of chores that someone else was supposed to do.
  • Several people were grumpy.
  • I was forced to stay an hour past the time I was supposed to get off.
  • It was hot in the store today and I was sweating all day.

Day #2

  • I did so many chores today that I met my 10,000 step goal on my pedometer half an hour before I got off work. I'll get to relax tonight.
  • I had the opportunity to cheer up several people.
  • I got to work an extra hour so my paycheck will be larger.
  • Even though it is 106 degrees outside, it didn't feel too hot when I left work.
I was assembling orders together during lunch today, and one of the kitchen staff got my attention.

“Why are you so excited? Are our times really good?”

“No, our times are terrible,” I replied.

“Then why are you happy?” he asked.

“Well, as I see it, there are two ways to look at things. I can be happy about them or I can be cranky. I think it's better on me and all of you if I'm happy.”

He looked at me and shook his head.

But I like day #2 better than day #1.

I think I'll keep it.