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What’s in a Name?

 

By Heath Jarrett

From the burning bush God spoke to Moses commissioning him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses didn’t feel qualified for the task. And he wasn’t. Not without God. That’s when God answered, “But I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12a). Still puzzled, Moses asked “’If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’” (Exodus 3:13).

God answers him with his personal name. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this.

 
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“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM,’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “The LORD, 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 and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’” (Exodus 3:15).

English Bibles distinguish between LORD (all capital letters) and Lord. “LORD” represents the personal name of God which is “Yahweh,” a word directly related to the phrase “I AM.” The word “Lord” translates the Hebrew word adonai, a title of sovereign authority.

While there are many titles given to God in the Bible, He only has one personal name. You may be a mother, a sister, a manager, a blackbelt, and a drummer—all titles which describe something about you—but the people who know you best often call you by your first name. Titles of God, like Savior, Redeemer, King, and Judge, all tell us something about who God is but Yahweh puts things on a more intimate, relational level.

When we praise the name of Yahweh, we communicate that we are on a first-name basis with the true and living God. Glorious! So why not just put Yahweh in the Bible instead of LORD? Unfortunately our English translations have, deliberately or not, carried on a human tradition that avoids using the personal name of God to guard against taking His name in vain.

The name Yahweh appears over 6,000 times in the Old Testament. Far from prohibiting the use of the name, the Bible calls us to speak and exalt it. In the words of the psalmist, “My mouth will speak the praise of Yahweh, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever” (Psalm 145:21).