Monday, March 21, 2016

Yahweh (1)

I notice that more and more worship songs are using the name Yahweh to describe our God. I like that trend.

God told Moses his name when he met him beside the burning bush in the dessert near Mount Horeb. He told Moses to go back to Egypt and rescue his people. Moses was not sure he would be welcome, so he asked for God’s name.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am (or I will be who I will be). This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The YHWH the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you’ (Ex 3:13-15).
Moses was sent to Egypt on behalf of a God named YHWH. The people of Israel would know he was different from the gods of Pharaoh and the gods of Canaan. Moses was sent by the God of their forefather Abraham, who wanted to rescue them.

In the next verse, God said something important that we have forgotten.

This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation (Ex 3:13-15).
God said that he wanted to be called by the name YHWH forever, from generation to generation. Despite this instruction, God is hardly ever called by his name these days.

In about the second century BC, the Jews decided that the name of God was too holy to be spoken. They started referring to him as “Lord”. In Hebrew manuscripts, they would put the vowels for “lord” under the consonants YHWH wherever they appeared in the Old Testament. Then the person reading the scripture would say Lord instead of Yahweh.

The people who translated the scriptures into English have mostly followed the same practice. Wherever the name YHWH appears, they translate it as LORD, in full caps. Most of us do not notice, and just assume that we are referring to God as our Lord. We forget that we are reading the name of God.

But here is the question. Who should we obey: a tradition of Jews from the second century, whose obedience and understanding was patchy, or God himself. It think that we should obey God. But remember what he said.

This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation (Ex 3:13-15).
The name that God said we should use was Yahweh. I think that we should start obeying him and using his name. If he said that we should use his name, then the claim that it is too holy to use is wrong. The people who go along with that claim are wrong. We should obey Yahweh.

No comments: