What's In a Name? (The Third Commandment)
Sermon shared by Timothy Peck
Summary: As followers of Jesus Christ, we carry God’s name with us wherever we go, whatever we do.
Series: Landmarks for a New Millennium
Audience: General adults
Now let’s look a little deeper at the meaning and background to God’s Old Testament name Yahweh. 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. 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 LORD [Hebrew: 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 by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation (Exodus 3:13-15 NIV).
This is God’s calling to Moses from the burning bush, where God summons Moses from out of the desert to confront the Egyptian Pharaoh and to lead Israel out of their slavery. Here God identifies himself as the same God Israel’s ancestors worshipped, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Moses asks for God’s name, God says, "I am that I am." In the Bible a person’s name embodied his personality, so the name was the sum total of a person’s character, authority, power and reputation (Kaiser 321). "I am" is God’s way of saying that he’s eternally existent, self reliant, the living God, who exists in the past, the present and the future. In the context, this is God’s way of saying, "I am he who exists and who will be dynamically present then and there in the situation to which I am sending you" (Kaiser 321).
Now the name Yahweh comes from the Hebrew verb "I am" (Kaiser 324). So whenever a person called God by his name Yahweh, he was identifying God as the eternal one, the one who was, who is and who is to come.
God says that this is his name forever, that it’s not going to change.
Now that causes lots of people to wonder if God’s name did change when Jesus came into the world. After all, the New Testament never uses the personal name Yahweh, not once. And the New Testament seems to put the emphasis on the name Jesus, not the name Yahweh. Christians are told to pray in the name of Jesus, to baptize in the name of Jesus, and so forth. The name of Jesus is identified in the New Testament as the name above all other names, and that a time is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the Lordship of Jesus. So some have wondered if it’s really true that Yahweh is God’s name forever, since the New Testament puts such an emphasis on the name of Jesus.
Look at Matthew 1:21-- "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
God is the one who gave Jesus his name. The name "Jesus" or its Aramaic form "Joshua" is a combination of two words: Yahweh and salvation. So the etymological meaning of the name Jesus is "Yahweh saves." That’s why the angel told Joseph to name the child Jesus, because he would bring salvation. So whenever you say Jesus, you also say Yahweh.
The Bible starts by revealing God by the title "God."
Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
This isn’t a name, but it’s a
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