Summary: Let’s turn to Exodus 3 where we are introduced to the meaning, the majesty, and the mystery of the name Yahweh.
Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d begin with “The Top Ten Lines” that may have been used by Adam when he courted Eve.
10. You know you’re the only one for me.
9. Do you come here often?
8. Trust me, this was meant to be! (I tried this one out on Beth when we were dating – it didn’t work real well!)
7. Look around, baby. All the other guys are animals!
6. I already feel like you’re a part of me!
5. Honey, you were made for me!
4. You’re the girl of my dreams! (See Genesis 2:21)
3. I like a woman who doesn’t mind being ribbed!
2. You’re the apple of my eye!
1. Why don’t you come over to my place and we can name the animals?
As we’ve been learning in this series, a person’s name as used in the Bible is often equivalent to their personality. For instance, in Hebrew the name Adam gave to Eve can be translated something like, “Wow!” The meaning behind Moses’ name is “pulled out,” because he was pulled out of the Nile as a baby and would later pull his people out of Egypt.
A change of name indicated a deliberate and decisive redirection in a person’s life, like when Abram (exalted father) became Abraham (father of a multitude), when Sarai became Sarah (princess of a multitude), when Jacob (deceiver) became Israel (a powerful prince), when Haddassah (myrtle) was renamed Esther (star), and Saul starting going by Paul. In the Bible to know someone’s name is to really know the person. Conversely, if you don’t know someone’s name you don’t really know that individual. We could say that a person was somehow present in his or her name.
After Adam and Eve were created, God revealed Himself using different names. Adam had the authority to name the animals but only the Almighty reveals His names to His people for His purposes. These names help us understand more about God’s personality and His promises. He is One and yet expresses Himself as Elohim, which means that He is the Creator and Designer of the universe. He is to be addressed as Adonai because He is Lord and Master of all. When our problems seem insurmountable, He promises His peace as Jehovah Shalom. And when we’re finally ready to surrender, we will praise Him as Jehovah Jireh, and discover Him as our Provider.
In the Old Testament, to do something in “someone’s name” or to “call upon” an individual’s name was very serious business. When the Scripture directs us to call on the name of the Lord, we are inviting God to come right into our situation. We read in Genesis 4:26 that it didn’t take long in the history of mankind for people to turn to God: “At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.” This is a good spot for us to pause and point out a few things.
Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters, it’s the name Yahweh.
This name is used over 6,800 times in the Old Testament, three times more than Elohim.
This name was considered so sacred that when scribes would write it, they would take a bath beforehand and then destroy the pen afterward.
The Jewish people held this name in such high honor and immense awe that when they would come to it in their reading, they would not pronounce it. In fact, it was so revered that it was only said out loud once a year on the Day of Atonement, and then only by the high priest in the most holy place of the Temple.
As a way to set this name apart from any other name, when it was written the scribes used four consonants and left out the vowels, so that people would not inadvertently take it in vain: Y_H_W_H. This name is also translated as Jehovah.
Your God is Too Small
Part of our problem today is that we’ve become too casual with God. Instead of hesitating to even pronounce His name, we use His name flippantly. God’s name has become part of our slang and is used more often in swearing than in supplication. Many curse His name out loud; denigrating Him by making unfair accusations, or by simply thinking too little of Him. The third commandment, found in Exodus 20:7 is a charge to not take God’s holy name in vain: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD [Yahweh] your God, for the LORD [Yahweh] will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” We are to not treat His name as “empty” or “nothing.” Literally it means that we are to avoid “attaching to it emptiness.”
In his classic book called, “Your God is Too Small,” J.B. Phillips writes: “The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs.” That may be because for many of us, our view of God has not changed much since we were little kids. Some of the images that we may hold include the following: