Part Two - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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Yahweh - LORD


Ex 20:7
"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."

The Names of God – Part Two

Reading: Ex.34:1-17.

Last Sunday evening we started to think about some of the various names that are used of God in the Bible.

We considered the following ideas:

  • Names are not to be treated as mere labels because they provide us with useful descriptions of the nature and character of the One described.

  • Names are one of the important ways in which God makes himself known and in a measure understandable to us.

  • Jesus expects us to treat God’s name as special – we are to be interested in it and concerned to honour it.

Then we focused upon the simplest of the names "God" (el and elohim) where the emphasis is strongly upon power.

Finally we looked at some of the compound forms where the name God was linked with other words thus providing us with more detailed descriptions of this powerful God. He is not just God but God Almighty, the Most High God, the Everlasting God etc.

Our God is a God of uncontestable, sovereignty whose power is unlimited:

Ps.115:3 "Our God (elohim) is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases."

Now this evening we move on to consider other names by which this awesome God makes himself known to his people.

Yahweh – the LORD
We now come to the proper name of God, the name that appears most often in our Bibles. It is sometimes referred to as the Tetragrammaton ie. the name consisting of four letters. Those letters are YHWH and are translated in most of our English Bibles as "the LORD" (note the use of the capital letters!) We’ll see why in just a moment.

The patriarch, Jacob, returning to the Promised Land yet fearful of encountering his brother Esau had an unforgettable encounter with God on the banks of the Jabbok river. There he wrestled with God and asked:

Gen.32:29 "Please tell me your name."

The prophet Hosea, writing centuries later, referred to this incident and tells us that the God who made himself known to the patriarch as God Almighty subsequently revealed his name to his people as the LORD:

Hos.12:5 "the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD is his memorial name"

This personal name of God derives from the verb to be as in the words of our text: "I am who who I am" or "I will be who I will be". As such the name speaks of the complete self-determining nature of our God. He owes his existence to none and he is dependent upon no-one other than himself. YHWH means then "The Existing One". The name also suggests that he is a God who reveals himself unceasingly.

This alone has great significance for us. God does not need us as he is completely and fully self-dependent. He doesn’t need us to provide him with sacrifices to eat, he doesn’t need us to supply him with company as though he were lonely, he doesn’t need our help to enable him to accomplish his purposes. Whenever he enters into any sort of relationship with us he does so out of the overflow of his loving grace and not because he is under any kind of obligation to do so.

Now how do we get from YHWH to our English form "the LORD"?

The Jews paid serious attention to the 10 Commandments though at times in somewhat strange ways. Not wanting to run the risk of taking the LORD’s name in vain they decided that the best way was to avoid it altogether! That meant that every time they came across "the Name" they didn’t pronounce it but substituted another name entirely – they used the name Adonai which means Lord.

Over time the vowels were lost from "the Name" and no-one now can be entirely sure how it ought to be pronounced. In the 13 th century some scholars took the vowels from the name Adonai and used them with the YHWH and that is how we got to the approximations of ‘Jehovah’ or ’Yahweh’ (or the like). The AV retains ‘Jehovah’ just four times while a handful of other translations will sometimes make use of ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Yah’.

The Greek translation known as the Septuagint followed this Jewish practice of not using "the Name" and replaced YHWH with kyrios. The Latin Vulgate of St Jerome followed suit and used the Latin name Dominus. Both kyrios and Dominus mean Lord.

This name LORD is the personal name of God and his covenant name speaking of his entering into relationship with his people and committing himself to them by means of his self-imposed covenant promises. This God who exists will never change and hence his promises are as sure as sure can be!

Were we to look at every verse that uses this name "the LORD" we would be a very long time. The name appears more than 6,000 times. To put that is perspective it is more than double the frequency of the simple name "God".

The LORD appears as a stand-alone name 4,000+ times and the rest of the time it is used in conjunction with other divine names.

Combining YHWH with the simple name for God and we have the frequently found "LORD God". YHWH is joined with the singular form –el (God) 5 times but with the plural elohim (God) more than 200 times.

Ex.34:6-7 "The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."

Jos.22:22 "The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD!" ESV
Jos.22:22 "The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods," AV

Another of the well known combinations is with another Hebrew word, Sabaoth, meaning "hosts or armies". You might know the word from Martin Luther’s hymn "A Safe Stronghold" for in the second verse we sing:

Ask ye, Who is this same?
Christ Jesus is His Name,
the Lord Sabaoth’s Son;

Our Bibles will usually translate the combination as the "LORD of Hosts" or "the LORD Almighty"

Combining all these three together we find "the LORD God Almighty" or ‘the LORD, the God of hosts".

Adonai – Lord
This name Adonai as we have already seen means Lord. Adonai is a plural form, an emphatic form, and as such it refers to God. (The singular form is also used of God, particularly in the Psalms but it is also widely used of men, where it means something like Master .)

Adonai, like YHWH, is used as a stand-alone name and is translated "Lord" (lower case) and it too is used in conjunction with other names.

As with YHWH it is often used in conjunction with God and this time is gives "Lord God" nb. the small case letters!

All this becomes more interesting and more complex too because we even find Adonai being used in conjunction with YHWH and to distinguish this from the other combinations we have considered this gets translated as "Lord GOD"!

The key is to remember that when you see a word all in capitals YHWH is involved!

More Combinations with YHWH/Jehovah
We will now briefly consider a number of compound names that begin with "YHWH" and which sometimes retain Jehovah in their English form.

This is due to the common usage of "Jehovah" in the English of these compound names in early English translations of the Bible such as the Geneva Bible and the, the King James Version, etc.

Our hymns have sometimes included the name Jehovah and the name Yahweh has found its way into a number of modern songs. Interestingly enough, the papacy in 2008, citing Jewish and early Christian practice, forbade the use of Yahweh in its liturgical services. (I think that includes Jehovah too.)

You may only know some of these Hebrew names because you have heard them in song form.

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
The name Jehovah-Jireh occurs in Gen 22:14:

"So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.""

God sees that there is need of a sacrifice and meets that need. Abraham does not have to sacrifice his son but a substitute takes Isaac’s place. Praise God that he saw and provided a better substitute to take our place – he spared Abraham’s son but not his own!!

Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
This name also appears just once and that is in:

Ex.17:15 "Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD is my banner,"

Israel had just defeated the Amalekites in battle and Moses knew that victory had come about because Israel had fought under the LORD’s banner. So he built an altar named Jehovah-Nissi (the Lord our Banner).  Military or regimental colours gave soldiers a feeling of hope and a focal point. This is what God is to us: a banner of encouragement to give us hope and a focal point.

Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
Here’s a name you’ll recognize! In the Old Testament Jehovah-Raah (The Lord my Shepherd) is used most famously in Psalm 23.

In the Greek version of the OT the focus is placed on what this LORD does for the psalmist "the Lord shepherds me".

A shepherd is one who feeds or leads his flock to pasture. A shepherd is intimately involved with his sheep and this illustrates the intimacy God desires between himself and his people.  This name Jehovah Raah – points towards  the idea that "The Lord is my Friend."

Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
In Ex.15:26
shortly after taking the Israelites out of Egypt the LORD declared;

"If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer."

This idea of God healing the physical and emotional needs of His people re-appears from time to time in the OT and of course surfaces with wonderful force and clarity on the pages of the NT in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus.

Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
Jehovah Tsidkenu is appears twice in Jeremiah.

Jer.23:6 "In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’"

Tsidkenu comes from a word that means "to be stiff," "to be straight," or "righteous" in Hebrew. So Jehovah Tsidkenu it can be translated as "The Lord Who is our Righteousness."

How important this is for us as we do not have a righteousness of our own that is sufficient to please God. The NT again identifies just who is this Lord who is our righteousness:

1Cor.1:30 "Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption."

Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
The LORD speaks to his people in Exodus 31:13 and tells them:

"I am the LORD who sanctifies you."

That is he is the God who sets the people apart for himself.

Again Paul’s letter to the Corinthians attributes such a work to Christ:

1Cor.1:30 "Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption."

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
The angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon at a time when Israel was far from enjoying peace being ruthlessly oppressed by the Midianites. But God’s purpose was to change all that. Gideon was terrified when he realised that it was indeed the angel of the LORD who had met with him but the LORD spoke to calm his fears. Gideon responded by the construction of an altar:

Jud.6:24 "Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom (The LORD is Peace.)"

Hezekiah referred to this great and wonderful God as "the good LORD" praying for him to be merciful to the people. May we recognise too how great and good our LORD is too and may we experience his mercy and grace.


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