What’s in a Name? Jesus, Jesus, bo Bes…

09 Aug

Okay, the name of this post was totally just to get your attention. I wasn’t really going to sing the “name game” song with Jesus. I do have boundaries, sometimes.

It does, however bring my straight to the point. There is power in a name. Most of you (and myself) would have been completely shocked and appalled if I finished out the phrase with “bo besus.” Admit it, you would have. That is utter disrespect of the name of the one who left heaven, lived on Earth in a human body, suffered on the cross, bore our sins (which he had lived formerly in eternity separated from and did not even take part in while he was here), died, was buried, and the raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit. In our spirit, we know we can’t treat his name that way. There is power in his name. There is holiness in his name. There is an unspoken need to give the name respect, honor, and glory. “Bo besus” would be a slap in the face to all that Jesus’ name calls for.

That said, now matter how much power and glory is called for in a name, over use and similar use can detract from the strength of a name.  This is what has led to a struggle I have been having and will explain how God, as usual for me, flipped everything around and brought glory back to himself in my life.

If you haven’t read My Time Travel Testimony, go read it first and then come back.  This all takes place in the time after my timeline-shifting life change.

After God showed my that my Christian faith was all in his hands and not the story I thought it was, his love for me drew me closer to him.  The same week as my perspective adjustment, I started reading a book by David Platt called Radical (if you haven’t read it, read it, but I warn you it will change your life and your relationship with God) and I started a study through Setting Captives Free called The Lord’s Table (fat or skinny, if you know your relationship with food is out of whack, you need to check this out…it slowly stopped being about me and food and more about me and God).  Doing both of these at the same time really did completely transform my mind and change my relationship to God.  Both were quite difficult to go through, especially at together, but good.  I have not been the same since.

The Lord’s Table was a daily look in the spiritual mirror.  It really helped me to view Jesus sacrafice and a relationship with him as vital to my every day life.  Radical made me question my motives in my daily lives and asked the question, “Am I seeking the American Dream or Jesus?”  It made me wonder what I was doing for the Kingdom of God.

I finished both of these at about the same time.  When it was over, I was, to use the them of the book, radically changed…but now there was a vaccuum.  What do I do now to keep this fire going?

There are a series of challenges at the end of Radical.  One of these is to read the Bible through in one year.  I figured that is a great place to start.  I had been reading the Bible every day…and after Romans I went to Genesis and started from the beginning.  I found a One Year Bible for my ereader and started where I was in Genesis.  I was behind in the pacing for the year, but that is not what was important.  I just needed to read God’s word, and I wanted to try to do it in a year.

I have struggled every other time I have tried this.  I get a month or two in, get bogged down in Leviticus, skip a day, then another, then another, until I am just not reading anymore.  But this time was different.  It is like I can not get enough of it somedays.  I will write about this another day.  God’s word truly is amazing.

I loved it through Deuturonomy, Leviticus, and even Numbers.  1st and 2nd Kings rocked my socks off.  God taught me so much.  This time, though, it was the the books of Chronicles and the second trip the Psalms that did me in.  It was really hard to get through all of the names for the third time in 1st and 2nd Chronicles, and it was basically a rehashing of the books of Kings, but in a less exciting way.  I made it through Psalms great the first time, but this second time it has been harder to keep my attention through it.  I think one of the major things that got to me was the repetition of “The LORD” over and over through both of them.  The Bible started to become impersonal again.  It felt like I was disconnected from the words.

God must have known this, because a peculiar set of events began just when I about had enough…I was starting to “accidently” skip a day here and there.  And it all started with someone making a statement about God on Facebook, but using the name Yahweh.

I don’t know why I have been bothered by this.  I guess I always felt like when people called God “Yahweh” or even “Daddy” it was more to impress other people than to show honor and depth of relationship with God.  I will probably talk about my “Daddy” issues later (calling God that, that is), but this one is about Yahweh.

It stuck with me, seeing that on FB.  I knew it was none of my business to worry about what other people called God, but I wanted it to be.  I know that I needed to deal with this, so I prayed and asked the Spirit to help me let it go.  He did not do that.  He had another idea.

The message to my heart was, “That is my name.”  Wait, I know that.  That is the name you told Moses to tell the Israelites when they ask who sent him.  “And there is a reason for that, because it is my name.”  I know.  That is why I need you to help me deal with it when people call you that.  “My name is Yahweh.”

I kind of ended with that.  That is until when I came back to reading the Bible that night or the next morning (I don’t remember which).  When I started to read and had glazed eyes with all of “the LORDs” I was reading, I felt the overwelming urge to change them all (in the Old Testament readings) to “Yahweh”.  I wasn’t sure why, outside of the Yahweh conversation he and I just had.  So I did.

I totally changed the direction of Bible reading for me.  Suddenly verses, especially the Psalms, burst to life.  It was personal again.  When people cried out to God, they used his real name.  He is, afterall, a very personal God.  It was (and still is) awesome.  Even the books of Chronicles became lively and interactive.  It became about a God who decided to lavish his love on a group of people in a personal way, how they kept turning away from him, how he left them to their own devices, how they came to a place where they needed him, they turned back, cried out, and trusted him again…and then the cycle would begin again.  It reminded me of my relationship with God.  Call me Israel…call me Judah…we have the same story!

I am know theologian or Bible scholar, so don’t quote me here. but I did a little research.  Apparently, whenever “the LORD” is said in the Old Testament, it is usually in place of Yahweh or Adonai (which I found out that some people think was a replacement for the word Yahweh).  The Spirit led me to do something that goes back to the Hebrew text.  “The LORD” is “Yaweh”!!  How cool!

Just because I have this new practice, does that mean the Bible was not personal before…of course not!  For me, though, over the years and the common use of the word in church and elsewhere, “the LORD” is a word the lost power to me.  I did not see “the LORD” as a personal and intimate reference to God, but a word that made him more distant from me and the world.  I needed “Yahweh” take back the power, glory, and majesty of his name back in my life!  And, boy, did he.

I have not come to the point to using the name Yahweh in prayers, but I think that transformation may be coming.  Think about it.  What other “god” has told us his name?

This is more than a story about a name.  It is about how God, or Yahweh, is a personal and loving God.  He gave us his name.  His name holds power, but more than that, it shows us that he truly cares about us.  He did not tell Moses to tell the Israelites to say “Mr. God” sent him.  No, he told him his name.  All power and glory and honor to the name of Yahweh!

What about you?  Has the name of God lost power for you?  Has God become impersonal?  How has Yahweh become more real and personal to you in your life?

I do challenge you to read something in the Old Testamen and change the “LORDs” to “Yahweh”.  The Psalms are a great place to try this.  Psalm 135.  I hope it is as life changing for you as it was for me.

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3 responses to “What’s in a Name? Jesus, Jesus, bo Bes…

  1. Bill Moore

    August 9, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Some would say that calling God “YHWH” is like my 7 year old daughter coming into the room and adressing me this way, “hey Bill can I have some candy?” Seems a bit disrespectiful The Jews would never dare to pronounce the personal name of God. I’m with you on the over use of “Lord”. Which is why I prefer Abba or in english Dad. But that’s just me.

    • ragamuffinjoe

      August 10, 2011 at 7:00 am

      Thanks, Bill. I actually thought about that, and that is why I have been researching it a bit. I clearly was led by the Spirit to replace “LORD” with “YHWH” (Yahweh) when reading the Old Testament (and on a sidenote, to replace “Lord” with Jesus in the New Testament…unless it is an OT reference).

      What I found out was that, one it is not wrong to use the name Yahweh. God clearly states, over and over, that is what his name is. It was commonly used through a great deal of the history of Israel. For most of the OT, it is, like I thought, the very personal and intimate name of God and he wants us to call on his name. I actually had trouble finding resources on why Orthodox Jews stop using the name.

      Eventually I did come across a couple of theories on the reason the name stop being used (and was not used during the time of Jesus). The biggest consensus that I saw was that Yahweh became a taboo name during and right after the exile of the Israelites to Babylon. It is completely understandable why this would happen. The history of Israel was a constant rebellion against God. God kept forgiving as the people turned back to him, but the next generation would always turn back away and rebel again. Finallly God had to back up his promise that they would not be able to stay in the land and would be brought under the leadership of other countries. Eventually there were only a remnant that stayed true to God while in exile. They called out to him, God heard, and allowed them to return. It did not take long for the rebellion to start back again (they did not even finish rebuilding the Temple before this started), so the ones who stayed true to God became pretty extreme in having people follow the commandments. This is where most of the information I read showed the changing of “not using God’s name in vain” over to “not using God’s name at all”. It was the fear of God, in a good way. The people took God too lightly. So using even using his name became prohibited for all but priests…then it was only the High Priest…then it was only on The Most Holy Day…until it eventually was never said at all. Jesus came to Israel duing the “never at all” stage.

      Basically, YHWH (Yahweh) became He Who Must Not Be Named (forgive me for the Harry Potter reference). The change over happened for good reasons. And I think this was healthy. Reverence for the name was lost. Just like I think reverence for the name “LORD” has been lost for most of us.

      One of the things that Jesus did when he came, died, and rose again was to make God personal again. We do not have to live in fear of his name. He wants us to call it out. He wants us to rely on his name. That is why he told us what it is!

      Now, using Abba, Daddy, Dad, Father, Creator, Redeemer, or any other title for God is great to. We can call him by his role. I am going to write about that soon. The name you use denotes your relationship with him. I believe the Spirit will lead our hearts to call out to him by many of his roles thorughout our life. We call him by the name and role that we need him to be. Sometimes I just call him, Amazing, because I have no better word. I do think Yah or Yahweh is a name he likes for us to use, too. For me it is just in reading. It makes it personal. I have yet to use the name in prayer or in talking to people about him. I may never do that. Who knows. I just want to know God for who he is, and I am striving to do that!

      Here are a few of the websites I found about this:

  2. ragamuffinjoe

    August 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Here is a response to the post from Dr. David Depp, former professor at North Greenville College/University:

    “I think it is appropriate for you to use the name YHWH as you read Scripture. That can make it more personal. In translations like the NASB, anytime the Hebrew text has “YHWH,” they translate it LORD (all caps). Anytime it only has an initial cap (“Lord”), it is the actual word “Lord,” not “YHWH.” Keep in mind that no one really knows the actual pronunciation, but that shouldn’t stop you from using the accepted pronunciation “Yahweh.” I don’t know if you ran into this in your research, but the letters “YHWH” are called the Tetragrammaton, which is just Greek for “four-letter-word.” Hebrew is a consonantal language, meaning that there are no vowels. After the Jews were exiled and, later, when the Hebrew language began to die out, scribes needed to add vowels so future generations would know how to pronounce the words. However, the Bible was considered an unalterable and sacred text. So, they came up with a sort of Morse Code, i.e., a series of dots and dashes, to represent the vowel sounds. The consonantal text remains, but the vowel points are sprinkled beneath and in between the letters. Now, when they came to the sacred name of God, which was never pronounced (out of reverence), they had a problem. When they came upon the four consonants representing God’s covenant name, YHWH, the practice among Jews was always to substitute the word “Lord” (Adonai, which can also be translated “Master,” a title of authority). When the scribes added the vowel sounds, they could not change the consonants. But, at the same time, they did not want some young Jewish boy or inexperienced Rabbi accidentally to pronounce the unutterable name of God. So, their solution was to take the vowels of the word Adonai and superimpose them on the consonants for YHWH. The result was a nonsense word. It was not to be pronounced that way, but was to serve as a reminder for the person to read the word as “Adonai.” What do you get when you take the vowels of Adonai and the consonants of YHWH? The resulting nonsense word was “YaHoWaH” (the “i” in Adonai is a consonant). In many languages (such as German), the letters “Y” and “J” are interchangeable, as are “W” and “V”. Hence, the nonsense word can also be pronounced “JaHoVah.” Someone forgot to tell the translators of the King James Version because the Word was translated as Jehovah! But the word was never intended to be pronounced that way! In Hebrew, when we come across the word “YaHoWaH,” we should say either “Lord” (Adonai) or “Yahweh.” The same is true for the English word LORD (in all caps). YHWH is a pun. It is a play on the words “I AM.” God said, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” (I Am Who I Am). God is the one who IS. He is life and being itself. It can even be translated, “I Am Who I Will Be,” NOT in the Open Theism sense, but in the sense that God’s people will see by His self-revelation who He really is. It is a testimony of God’s eternal, self-existence. And yet, this eternal God comes close to His people and reveals Himself—He communicates with those who derive their existence from Him. So, it can be a very refreshing change for you to read Yahweh in place of “the LORD.” Good blog post!”


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